Two days after the official beginning of fall, Fruita held their annual Fall Festival. The Fruita Area Chamber of Commerce puts the event together each year (with the exception of 2020 as we all know). There is a parade on Saturday, but one of the festival’s most anticipated events are the outhouse races. Entrants from far and near come to Fruita to showcase their outhouse movements. Wait. That just does not sound right. The entrants come to race and to take home one of the coveted prizes. The first three places receive a toilet paper holder trophy while the last place team garners the golden plunger. The plunger may not be quite as coveted, but it does come with an ample amount of bragging rights.
For the better part of twenty years, Duane Irwin has organized and run the annual event. This unassuming man does not seek the spotlight. Regardless, once a year, that is exactly where he finds himself. He takes it all in stride while focusing on running a better race each time.
This year’s race saw the introduction of the golden thrones. Something that got rave reviews from the contestants. More on that later.
One of the duties Irwin faces is media. If media are present they seek him out to get a better understanding of the event. The media in turn push that information out to their listeners/readers.
The main sponsor for the outhouse races is Western Rockies Federal Credit Union. They have been sponsors for several years now. Their involvement helps ensure a good experience for the racers and the spectators.
One can blame the thin competitor slate this year to COVID last year. As with so many events across the nation, the outhouse races had to be canceled in 2020. Even though four teams sought to compete in the 2021 event, there were surely other teams out there that were just not quite comfortable to be out and about yet. The 2021 teams include Suds Brothers Brewery, Vintage Common, CC Enterprise, and Camilla’s Kaffe.
Irwin makes sure all of the racers understand the rules-of-the-road as it were. The course is laid out on one city block. One lane is for the designated blue team and the other lane is for the designated red team. When racing, each team must stop at the golden thrones. Those are placed at the mid-way point in the block. At the golden thrones, the contestant riding in the outhouse must get out, open a four-roll pack of toilet paper, and stack each roll on either the blue plunger or the red plunger. Following the stacking, the outhouse rider gets back into the outhouse for the next leg of the journey.
Each outhouse team pushes their entry from the golden throne stop to the end of the block. Once there, the team must turn 180-degrees around a traffic cone. Like any road trip, there must be a rest-stop. The outhouse races are no exception to this rule. The teams must stop again at the “thrones.” This time the team member in the outhouse must get out, go to the properly designated blue or red lane toilet, lift the lid, grab a roll of toilet paper, sit on the toilet (yes, the cheeks must be in contact with the seat), place the toilet paper on the holder, and finally jump back into the outhouse.
From the rest-stop, the team pushes the outhouse to the pedestrian crosswalk that signifies the start/finish line for the race. Once the outhouse crosses the line, the rider jumps out one final time, runs to a stand on which there is a cow bell, and rings the bell to signify the finish for that team.
This year the race was run as a double-elimination event. That allowed a good amount of time for the competitors to rest before each run.
The reader will find several photographs of the different races below. Following them is an accounting of how the teams placed at the end of the day.
Even with the “crash” at the end, the Vintage Common team won the final race and the overall event. Second-place went to CC Enterprise. The Suds Brothers Brewery came in third while Camilla’s Kaffe wound up with the golden plunger. The teams may be tired after the races, but they will no doubt make another showing next year to try to claim that first-place toilet paper holder trophy!
The parade Saturday morning helps kickoff the second day of the festival . There were several political entrants in the parade, but then there are elections coming up later this year. The few photographs below represent the writer’s favorites.
Following the parade, like most other attendees, we walked both sides of Aspen Street to see what the vendors offered. As a group, we did end up making a few purchases. By the time we had finished our walk we found we had quite an appetite. Luckily we were at the food truck area of the venue.
After looking around, two-thirds of the group opted for gyro sandwiches while I decided on a Navajo taco. I had never had one. Instead of a corn tortilla for the taco a fried bread took its place. It reminded me of a sopapilla. The toppings included two types of beans, ground beef, tomato, lettuce, sour cream, and pickled jalapenos. It was good, but now that I have tried one, I am not sure I will go out of my way to have another.
If one is in the Fruita area during the next Fall Festival it is definitely worth stopping to experience.
Now that we are retired, it seems any day is a good day to take a drive. Leslie and I decided it was the perfect time to drive to Gunnison to complete some genealogy research. On the way, we decided to stop at the town of Marble, Colorado. The last time I was there was about five decades ago. Leslie had never visited.
One of the sites along the east side of Highway 133 is Paonia Reservoir. Because of the drought in western Colorado, there was very little water remaining in the reservoir. What was there was very muddy. One has to wonder if there are any fish left in the reservoir or if they have all succumbed to the lack of oxygen.
It took a little more than one and one-half hours to get to Marble. The final leg is about six miles along a beautiful, winding county road. Periodically alongside the road one catches a glimpse of the Crystal River. The air was refreshing, probably due in part to the elevation of 7,950 feet (2,423 meters).
Our first stop in town was at Abstract Marble. There we struck up a conversation with the owner, Gary Bascom. The marble quarried from the Marble quarry is stark white. The molecules and minerals that make up the marble offer teeny reflections of light resulting in a sparkling surface. It is like a very cold, pristine chunk of snow that never melts. The front yard of Abstract Marble held numerous sculptures, birdbaths, and other art pieces. Inside were small pieces of marble tinged with a green hue. Bascom told us the green hue is from copper leaching into the marble. He made several items from the beautiful stone. We came away with one piece.
We then drove to Beaver Lake on the eastern edge of town. If the truth be known, the destination was more for the “blue trees” rather than the view. You see, there are very few public restrooms available.
Backtracking from Beaver Lake, it was time to drive to the marble quarry. At the south edge of town, one crosses the bridge over Crystal River and begins a four-mile ascent to the quarry. In the ever-deepening gorge beside the road is Yule Creek. It seemed to be almost a chalky color. That may be due to the dust from the quarry.
Bascom had mentioned there is a trail near the parking area at the end of the dirt road. The trail is a 15-minute hike to a point where one can see people working in the quarry. We stopped at a parking area at the western edge of the quarry. At about 9,500 feet (2,895 meters), neither of us felt much like hiking. Instead, we sat in the car and enjoyed a tuna salad sandwich Leslie had kindly prepared before we departed home. Once lunch was done, we both enjoyed the view from a small overlook at the parking area. One could see blocks of marble alongside Yule Creek. We also heard machinery, but it was not visible because of the trees.
The quarry, known as Yule Quarry, began operation in 1886. The quarry has provided its beautiful marble to projects worldwide. One notable example is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. See my visit to Arlington National Cemetery here. Additional information about Yule Quarry can be found here.
After the bit of sightseeing, we began our drive back to Marble. We stopped at one final place, the Marble Gallery and General Store. Displayed in front of the establishment were many sculptures. Several were significantly larger than those at Abstract Marble. With significantly larger pieces came significantly larger prices. There seemed to be more zeros in the prices than there are fish bubbles in Beaver Lake! Regardless, we did not leave empty-handed…we now have a refrigerator magnet from Marble, Colorado! Is it a marble magnet? Alas no, it is a printed photograph of Crystal Mill; but, hey, a magnet is good enough for us.
Our final destination was Gunnison, Colorado. Neither of us really wanted to drive back through Paonia, Colorado to catch Highway 92 and then Highway 50 into Gunnison. That was around a 100-mile route or about two hours 15-minutes. Instead, it seemed a much better idea to take County Road 12 over Kebler Pass, drop down to Crested Butte, Colorado, and then on into Gunnison. After all, that was only 80 miles. That ended up being an err in judgment. Before departing home I had looked at County Road 12 using Mr. Google’s mapping feature. In the few places I looked, it appeared the road was two lanes and paved. That is far from the truth. I am guessing less than ten miles of the road are paved. That meant the vast majority of the trip was on a dirt road. That is probably why our GPS kept encouraging me to make a U-turn when possible and return to a more sane road surface.
Nearly four hours later, we made it to the hotel in Gunnison. We passed innumerable oncoming vehicles on County Road 12. If it were not for the incessant bumping and the massive clouds of dust, we might have thought we were on Interstate 70! Regardless of the carping, it was a beautiful drive; however, I was too tired to stop, take a photograph, and then try to elbow my way back into traffic.
That first evening in Gunnison turned out to be Mexican food night for us. The clerk at the front desk directed us to the best Mexican food restaurant in town, El Paraíso Family Mexican Restaurant. Leslie ordered a burrito smothered in pork green chili. I opted for two cheese enchiladas. Both were delicious. We thought the tastes were a cut above the standard Mexican fare. Caveat…make a reservation!
We both realized the following day, 9/11, was the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks at New York, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania. What we had both forgotten was it was also the 50th anniversary of the school bus crash on Monarch Pass that resulted in the deaths of eight high school football players and one coach. Leslie’s cousin, Billy Miles, was one of the players that died in the accident.
The first time we felt God’s presence was when the table next to us at the Mexican restaurant began a conversation. They were well aware of the Miles family (Gunnison is a town of only about 6,500 people) and the tragedy that struck them 50 years prior. We had a nice conversation, but we really did not think much about it.
Later, back at our room, I decided to confirm what time the Leslie J. Savage Library on the campus of Western Colorado University opened the next morning. Another quick check with my friend Mr. Google indicated the library was closed the following day. That threw me for a loop and into a tirade! Prior to making reservations for our trip, I had called the library to ensure they would be open. The person with whom I spoke said the library would definitely be open. I resigned myself to doing my genealogy research on Sunday, instead of on 9/11. The library was to open at noon that day.
Saturday morning, 9/11, I checked on the library opening time again. The list of hours showed the library did open that morning at 09:00. We drove into Gunnison to have breakfast. We selected W Cafe. The Country Benedict seemed to suit us both. It comes with eggs cooked in any style on a homemade biscuit with a sausage patty and smothered in sausage gravy. As if that were not enough to tighten the arteries, one could select from hash browns or home fries. The service was very quick. Unfortunately, neither of us really cared for the taste of the biscuits. Also, the sausage patties were a bit overcooked.
After breakfast, shortly before 09:00, we drove to the campus. As we approached we saw the parking lot was empty. Zero cars! That did not bode well, but parking our car was easy. I decided to walk to the library anyway. On the front door of the library was a sign with the hours indicating the library would open at 11:00. Since it was now shortly after 09:00, and since we were only a couple of blocks from the Gunnison Pioneer Museum, we decided that was our next stop.
As we walked to the front door of the museum we saw the admission price of $10 per adult. That is a small price to pay for all that there is to see and explore. Once inside, we were immediately greeted by a friendly volunteer. In fact, every volunteer we met was very kind, friendly, and full of helpful information. After one of the volunteers learned the purpose of our trip was to track down some family genealogy newspaper articles, she directed us to the rear portion of the Coleman building. She said there were local newspapers there dating to the late 19th century. She also said we were welcome to handle the newspapers and look through them. Another volunteer, noticing Leslie’s cane, went outside and then returned with the key to a golf cart.
Before leaving the main building, we made a walkthrough and looked at the many exhibits. On the wall of the stairs, near the upper floor landing, we located a photograph of the 1923 Gunnison high school football squad. In the photo, we spied Leslie’s grandfather, Edgar Johnson! Returning to the ground floor the volunteers were happy to hear of our success.
Walking outside, Leslie and I made good use of the golf cart as we drove around the museum grounds. Our first stop was the train and Engine Number 268. We were drawn there because of Leslie’s family. Her great grandfather Peter Johnson and her great grandmother Esther (Carlen) Johnson both worked at the Gunnison train depot. Part of her great grandfather’s responsibility as a carman was inspecting the various train cars. It is certainly possible that he inspected each and every train car on display, including Engine Number 268. I climbed up into the engine and pulled the cord to ring the bell. Both activities are allowed and encouraged by the volunteers.
We walked through several other buildings on the grounds of the museum. One of those was the Paragon schoolhouse. The building dates from 1889. Inside we located another copy of the 1923 Gunnison high school football squad hanging on one of the walls.
Following another stop or two, we finally arrived at the Coleman building. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of exhibits in that building. One of the exhibits includes a lot of information about the school bus crash on September 11, 1971. Part of it includes the Life Magazine article that later reported on the tragedy. Leslie’s cousin, Billy Miles, is pictured in that article. This Life Magazine link will take the reader to the original article. This Colorado Sun link will take the reader to an article about the crash anniversary.
Just around the corner from the 9/11 exhibit are the newspaper archives. I am not sure what I was expecting, but I was surprised to see a wall containing dozens and dozens of bound newspapers by year. The collection contains newspapers from at least five different newspaper companies. I was pleased by my good fortune. Instead of pouring through microfiche or microfilm copies at the Leslie J. Savage Library, I would actually get the full sensory experience of reading an original copy of each newspaper. I was as excited as an OCD genealogy researcher possibly can be!
Beginning with 1925 editions and running through 1964, I located several articles dealing with multiple members of Leslie’s family. All totaled, we spent about three and one-half hours at the Gunnison Pioneer Museum. This is by far the best local history museum I have ever toured. It paints a very precise and colorful history of the Gunnison area. I believe it is a must-see for anyone traveling through Gunnison.
The final stop on this genealogy adventure was the Gunnison Cemetery, just east of town on Highway 50. I wanted to look at the Johnson family plot. Leslie and I had to search a bit, but we finally found the plot. We looked at the grave markers and talked about our memories of several of the family members. When we turned around to walk back to the car, I spotted a tall monument stone in the distance. I could see there were a lot of flowers around the monument. I told Leslie I thought that was for the victims of the school bus crash. We drove over to take a closer look.
When we got back out and walked to the monument, my hunch was confirmed. The area has the interred remains of all nine victims of the 1971 bus crash. In front of each grave marker was a small football with the number of the player. Billy Miles’s number was 72. We walked to the front of the monument. Etched into the monument is the name and age of each victim as well as an attached photograph. Billy was 14 at the time of the accident, born just five months prior to Leslie.
Our solitary time at the monument came to an end when three bicycle riders approached, stopped, and dismounted. The three men each wore the same style jersey with the letter “G” in the center of the chest. Soon three vehicles appeared and parked behind our car. Driving each vehicle were the wives of the three men. One of the men asked if we were family. Leslie explained about her cousin Billy. The man replied that Billy was a great kid. Leslie asked him if he knew Billy. He said he had been on the bus, and he was a year ahead of Billy’s class. He was Bill Marshall, 15 years old when the accident happened. Leslie immediately began to sob. The other two men had not been on the bus.
Marshall shared that he and his companions had just arrived from Salida, Colorado. They began their 70-mile ride at the hospital in Salida. That is where the victims of the bus crash were taken 50 years ago. They rode directly from the hospital to the cemetery to honor Marshall’s teammates. While he was talking he began fumbling around with his backpack. He withdrew from it a game ball and placed it at the foot of the monument. The following inscription was on the ball.
1971 GHS Memorial Football Foundation
Memorial Ride Home 9/11/21
Salida to Gunnison – 70 Miles
Billy Miles #72
Ted Maw #77
Mark Broadwater #14
Kent Cooper #85
Tim Dutton #64
Pat Graham #25
Mike Pasqua #12
Brad Hall #36
Coach L. D. Floyd
Marshall related that the ride raised about $13,000 in support of the 1971 GHS Football Memorial Foundation’s mission of advocating for school bus safety and providing scholarships. From the cemetery, he and his companions only had to make it to the Gunnison high school stadium by 14:00 (it was around 12:30 when we met him) to present the game ball to the officials. As we turned to walk back to our car, Marshall said, “I’m sorry for your loss.” In the car, both of us thought how amazing it was that God brought two unknown groups of people together at that exact moment to have such an awe-inspiring exchange.
The September/October 2021 edition of Colorado Life magazine has an article on page 12 about the anniversary of the bus crash. It is titled Survivors remember Gunnison school bus crash 50 years later. The article is written by my friend Sue McMillin. A copy of the Colorado Life magazine can be purchased here.
There was one more aha moment due to us on that amazing day. In our room at The Gunnison Inn at Dos Rios, Leslie mentioned she would really like to see some news on television. I turned on the TV and began going channel by channel to find a news broadcast. Just as I got to the channel carrying 9News, even though it was about 17:10 by then, the reporters began a news story immediately after I landed on the channel. The story was on the 50th anniversary of the bus crash and the game earlier that day. Leslie and I both looked at each other with our mouths agape! By the way, Gunnison high school won the game!
After that, we sat outside our room to enjoy a glass of wine and watch the golfers at the Dos Rios Golf Club play the hole that paralleled the building in which we stayed. That was when I noticed the course’s tribute to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. On each flag-pin flew a miniature American flag instead of the normal Dos Rios flag. American flags were everywhere that day. Three very large flags flew directly above the road at each of the three main entry points to the town of Gunnison. On Main street, there were flags every twenty or thirty feet on both sides of the street for a few blocks. This made us feel very patriotic.
To finish our day, we went to Garlic Mike’s for dinner. This was our first time at that restaurant. What a wonderful discovery! It is situated right on the bank of the Gunnison River. Leslie began with Crema di Funghi (cream of mushroom soup). She loved the rich flavor. For the main course, she ordered the Filetto di Lombardia. It is a filet mignon with artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and roasted garlic with a cabernet wine sauce. I thought her eyes might roll back in her head! She absolutely loved her meal. I began with a Caesar salad and then opted for the Lasagna Bolognese. It had layers of pasta, three kinds of cheese, and sausage. The serving is topped with bolognese sauce. To accompany the meal we ordered a bottle of Pedroncelli merlot 2018. For anyone searching for an upscale restaurant in Gunnison, we both highly recommend Garlic Mike’s!
This blog represents the views of the author. One should not assume or conjecture that the United States Department of State (DoS) holds the same views expressed below. If one feels the need, one can navigate to https://www.state.gov/ to find the views of DoS.
Leslie and I served at Embassy Islamabad from January through November 2015. It was a tough post, but for me at least, it was the best job I held during my entire career with DoS. As a facility manager (FM), this was the only posting at which I felt I was truly impacting the mission at the post. Normally, a facility manager turns on the lights and AC upon arrival, sits in the FM office, peruses Facebook and Home Depot web sites, turns off the lights and AC, and goes home (actually there is a bit more to it than that…maybe I will blog about that in the future).
A portion of my job satisfaction in Islamabad may stem from the fact that while I was there, a massive project was literally changing the face of the embassy. When Leslie and I arrived, the project was about three months away from moving into a new chancery, as well as several other buildings on the “new” side of the embassy compound. It was my privilege to help the coordination of the final project phase and the move to the new spaces.
I knew that once the move-in finished, the “old” side of the embassy compound was ready for multiple machines of destruction to raze the remaining structures. The destruction was necessary to make way for the remainder of the new structures on the compound. With the fully completed embassy compound, Embassy Islamabad will provide diplomatic and consular services well into the 21st century. For those interested, the First Phase Dedication Fact Sheet provides additional information on the project, https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Islamabad.pdf.
With time literally ticking away, I received permission to photograph what I felt to be some of the more iconic parts of the “old” side of the embassy compound. Things that would soon be bulldozed and leveled patches of ground, ready for new buildings to arise.
Built as a brand-new embassy in 1960 when the capital of Pakistan moved to Islamabad, virtually everything I saw on the “old” side was new after the tragic attack of November 21, 1979, on the embassy compound. On that day, numerous protesters overran the compound, setting fire to the buildings. At the end of the afternoon, the human toll was great with the death of four people; U.S. Marine Corporal, Steven Crowley (he was shot); U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer, Bryan Ellis; and two Pakistani staff members, Nazeer Hussain and Sharafat Ahmed.
Several of the men that worked for me while I was at Embassy Islamabad started working with the embassy to rebuild after the attack. Many began as contractors and ultimately hired on fulltime with the embassy. Some of those described to me the reason for some of the discolored bricks on several buildings, the fires of 1979. I found it humbling to have trod some of the same places that were the epicenter of the tragedy.
One of the more somber areas of the “old” compound was the memorial to those who gave their life in Pakistan. Included amongst the 21-plaques are the names of the four noted above as well as David Foy, an FM killed in Karachi, and Ambassador Raphel. The construction crew relocated the memorial to a serene spot on the “new” side of the compound before demolition began.
The “old” side of the compound had a collegial feel due to the aged buildings and the very mature shade trees. It was beautiful, even on those oppressively hot Pakistani summer days. The “new” side of the compound lacked that feel. Surely once the landscaping matures, the “new” side will become softer in appearance.
I hope the reader will enjoy the following photographs of things long past.
I can only assume mongooses and jackals can read. I never saw any on the compound. Now cats, that was a different story. There were many feral cats at the compound.
To deal with the feral cats on the compound, several employees banded together to form a group known as the Cattaches. The group provided medical care for the cats, birth control, and feeding/sleeping stations such as the one below.
Life happens all around us. La Paz, Bolivia is no different in that respect.
After my recent visit to Tiwanaku (see Ancient Peoples or Aliens?), I watched the Ancient Aliens episode about Puma Punku. That episode features a unique bowl found at Tiwanaku. The bowl is located at the Museo de Metales Preciosos (The Precious Metals Museum) on Calle Jaen. Hearing the name of the museum while watching the episode, I recalled being on Calle Jaen with Leslie (see Mamani Mamani). The bowl is unique because of what appears to be Samarian cuneiform writing. I decided I had to personally see this bowl.
Saturday morning at about 09:00 I left my house for the green line of the Teleférico. I was the only rider in my gondola for the entire length of the green line. The same happened on the celeste line, the white line, and the orange line. From the orange line I saw a red building that may be a cholet. I also saw the “illegal” cemetery again.
I got off the orange line at the Armentia station and walked southeast on Avenida Armentia toward Calle Jaen. I stopped along the way to take photographs of some of the shops. Just as I made it to Calle Jaen, I heard some loud motorcycles. At first, I thought they were on the main road behind me. Suddenly, much to my surprise, I noticed two motorcycles on Calle Jaen coming quickly uphill toward me. The motorcycles were from the Bolivian police. A dog barked and chased the second motorcycle. Life happens in La Paz.
After the motorcycles passed, it was just a few more steps to the entry to the Museo de Metales Preciosos. I did not have to pay. I retained my ticket from our visit to the other museums this past February. The guard simple tore off the stub for the museum. That left one museum entry, Casa de Murillo. More on that soon.
At the first exhibit in the Museo de Metales Preciosos (no photographs allowed!) I noticed an abundance of artifacts from Tiwanaku. This theme repeated itself throughout the museum. The artifacts included arrowheads and ceramics.
After looking through the first couple of rooms, one exits into the central courtyard of the museum. Crossing the courtyard, I entered the Gold Room. The first thing I saw was the unique bowl which prompted my journey. Fuente Magna is the name given to the bowl. The museum does not allow photographs; however, one can see and read about the bowl at Ancient Pages. I am glad I got to see the bowl. It was fascinating. Just what was a bowl with Samarian cuneiform writing doing in Tiwanaku? How did it get there? Was there some sort of extra-terrestrial travel involved in millennia past? Life happens in La Paz, but who knows what may have happened at Tiwanaku?
I found two other fascinating things in the museum, mummies and skulls. One of the upper rooms of the museum has three mummies on display. Two of the mummies appear just as the one at Tiwanaku did. The mummies are only about half-height, wrapped with what seems to be a hemp rope. The only thing exposed is the face of the mummies. The third mummy on display is without wrappings. Upon closer inspection, one realizes why the mummies are only about half-height; they are folded. Instead of the arms crossing on the chest, they lay straight up toward the head, one on either side of the neck. Folding the legs at the hips and the knees allow the legs to lay inside the chest cavity. Yes, the knees are in the chest! No wonder they appear half-height!
A nearby room displays five of the distended skulls I saw at the museum at Tiwanaku. These were easier to see. I studied them closely. I could not decipher how the skulls were distended during the life of the individual. Other than the odd shape of the skull, the face and teeth appeared normal.
There is some ancient gold on display in the Gold Room. But my attention went to the items I described above.
Essentially across Calle Jaen from the Museo de Metales Preciosos is Museo Casa de Pedro D. Murillo. Pedro Domingo Murillo is a revered patriot, freedom fighter, and martyr. In return for plotting and fighting for Bolivia’s independence from Spain, the Spanish executed Murillo in 1810 in the plaza that today bears his name. The museum is in the home once occupied by Murillo. Unlike the other museum, I was able to take a couple of photographs.
After the second museum, I decided I should have a coffee. Music drew me into the Hanaq Pacha Restaurant. Like so many of the old structures on Calle Jaen, there is a central courtyard. That is the seating area for the restaurant. While drinking my coffee I noticed the upper floor had a lot of art for sale. Finished with my coffee, I went upstairs to explore. In addition to the art, some of my favorites appear below, I found a unique view of Calle Jaen. Life happens in La Paz.
I departed the restaurant and almost immediately walked into the Kullama Gallery. During our February visit, Leslie and I bought some gifts and a magnet in the gallery. One of the items was a llama leather coin purse. The coin purse has a painted accent. Today, I met the accent painter, Inti! He proudly proclaimed his name is Aymaran. I bought a couple more gifts, took his photograph, and departed. Life happens in La Paz.
As soon as I stepped back onto Calle Jaen, I noticed a director and photographer working with a model. I remember seeing something similar on my last visit. I took a few of my own photographs and continued toward the Mamani Mamani Gallery. I was happy that the sky was so blue today. I ended up with a much better photograph of the gallery building.
Turning the corner, I saw more models and more photography in full swing. I immediately sat on a nearby bench to watch all the activity. Not only did I see what was happening with the models, I also watched all the people walking past. Some of the pedestrians included one of my favorite subjects, cholitas. Life happens in La Paz, so I just watched life unfold for a while.
From my previous visit, I thought I remembered seeing a large church a block or two away. I left the company of models to search for the church. While I walked, I took photographs of the neighborhood and the people I saw. I did not locate the church. Instead, I headed back to the photoshoot. Life happens in La Paz.
As I neared the area, I recalled the photoshoot troupe often walked farther west on Calle Indaburo. I decided to go that way to see what was there. There is essentially a set of stairs down to the next street. The walls did have a lot of color and graffiti, so I understood why the photographer chose to shoot in that area. I saw a uniquely painted metal door. I am not sure if it led to a shop or a home. I opted to not find out, just to enjoy the art. Across from the door is a sign for what I assume is a nightclub, Bocaisapo (mouth and toad). Near the door advertised; coca, art, and culture. Life happens in La Paz; however, I do not think I will return to experience the club.
Walking back, I found a small café with a couple of outdoor tables. The café is in the Mamani Mamani Gallery building. I went inside and inquired if they had beer. With an affirmative answer, I went back outside, a smile on my face, and sat at one of the two tables. Soon the server brought my beer and a small bowl of peanuts. The beer was very good. It is an artisan brew I have not seen before, Cobriza.
The table was almost directly across from a door the photographer used as a backdrop for several shots. I took advantage of the location and took a few shots myself. Additionally, the models walked back and forth from their staging area to the various locations on Calle Jaen and Calle Intaburo. I am not sure how they were able to walk in those “ankle-buster” shoes. It appeared to me to be a challenge to walk in the shoes in the best most level and even sidewalk imaginable. Add some cobblestones to the mix and it seems nigh impossible to walk. In fact, they often escorted each other; one in “ankle-busters” and the other steadying model in flat shoues. Regardless, because of my location, the models walked by frequently.
Soon I saw a familiar man approach the models’ staging area. I realized it was the artist, Mamani Mamani. He greeted the troupe. He ultimately ended up in front of his gallery, posing for photographs with the models. Afterall, he is a very famous artist in Bolivia. I was happy to just be sitting there and watching life unfold. Life happens in La Paz.
Finished with my beer, I decided I would start my journey back home. Instead of retracing my steps to the orange line, I decided I would walk to the celeste line. Luckily that direction is all downhill.
Along my route, I kept seeing a political sign. I finally stopped to take a photograph. The slogan in Spanish reads, “Insurrection Brigade. Elections and the referendum are a submission to the corrupt bourgeois dictatorship and selling the homeland.” People in Bolivia are definitely able to express their views.
A little farther along I came to a yellow building. It is striking, not just because of the color, but because of the architectural style and details. I am not sure what the building is, but it is eye catching.
I made it to Calle Comercio, a street familiar to me from previous treks through the city. The bustling street meant it was Saturday. The Mega Burguer sign touts, “nobody does it like us.” In front of the fast food restaurant is one of many vendor stands. One can see many cardboard boxes under and near the stand. One of the aspects of life in Bolivia is that many of the vendors set up and tear down their stands each and every day. I am sure that is because they do not have the funding to have a brick and mortar store. I continued southeast on Calle Comercio toward Plaza Murillo. As I may have noted, life happens in La Paz.
I made it to Plaza Murillo with my newfound knowledge of the history of the plaza. It struck me that there were a lot of people around the plaza. At first, I thought that was because it was Saturday. As I walked a bit farther, I noticed two reasons for the throng of people. At the steps of the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace I saw a wedding couple posing for photographs. In addition to the wedding guests, several people were boarding a bus. I am not sure if that was part of the wedding or something separate. It is very obvious that life happens in La Paz.
Next to the basilica is the Presidential Palace. On this visit I got a much better photograph of the guards wearing period uniforms. The platforms on which they stand bear the inscription, “Presidential Escort.”
Two police officers walking up Calle Socabaya.
After watching life happening in La Paz, I continued my walk to the Teleférico. Along my path, I saw some new sights. First was a building with the sign, “Vice President of the State.” I assume that building houses the offices of the Vice President of Bolivia, Álvaro Marcelo García Linera. Near that building is the 1668 Saint Agustin Shrine. Beside that is the La Paz city hall.
Across from city hall were several protest banners and a lone woman selling items, presumably to raise money for the cause. One of the banners read, “Mayor enforce the constitutional decision to LPL.” Another reads, “Revilla, order your company LPL to comply with the constitutional ruling of reincorporation.” The third sign reads, “Revilla is a liar does not comply with the justice of our reincorporation justice is fulfilled do not negotiate.” The mayor of La Paz is Luis “Lucho” Revilla. Life happens in La Paz.
A few minutes later, I made it to the celeste line. A fitting end to my trek that day was the beautiful mountain, Illimani.
I enjoyed walking around La Paz today and watching life happen.