I finished up all the laundry, including stripping the bed, and got it all hung up. I cleaned nad mopped the kitchen and dining room floor, watered the garden, cleaned the cat box, fixed the screen in the kitchen window so as to open it and allow in the nice outside air (it's warm today, but very nice). I vacuumed and spot-cleaned the carpet, watched a few things on Tivo, seriously went through my t-shirts and got rid of a few old ones to make some space in the drawer for some of the stuff I shouldn't have bought yesterday (we went to Last Chance to find clogs for Barb. I spent $200, and we didn't find a pair of clogs). While I puttered, Barb made a rhubarb & blackberry pie (which will be eaten for dessert this evening).
Then we did some grocery shopping for some staples (milk, eggs, potatoes, Diet Coke), and now I veg here watching The Simpsons, the mainstay of my Sunday night.
Whilst watching last week's Bones, Cairo the Insecure wandered the house disconsolant and eventually did something he rarely does, which was come and lay on my lap for a while. Now he's wandering again, letting out with his sad little "mawp" sounds (he's really the quietest Siamese I've ever met) until I call him, when he'll come running, be petted a bit, and then start the cycle all over again.
I haven't done any writing at all, but I did finish two reviews on Friday evening, making my deadline, and last night we went to framefolly's place for a lovely night of food and movies -- ah, a projector is even better than a big screen TV! I did manage to glance through the NY Times, and found
April 9, 2008
The Ghosts of Casa Grande
COOLIDGE, Ariz. — A pair of Brits, a Vietnam vet, a sullen teen and a dozen or so retirees gathered under the Sonoran Desert sun to try to decipher some of the clues left behind by people who lived here nearly 1,000 years ago.
Who were these Hohokam people who thrived in a compact urban village built around a Great House? They knew astronomy and irrigation and how to construct a four-story building with little more than mud. They played sports on their ball courts, fermented wine from cactus fruit and made sure their walls faced the four cardinal points of the compass.
Casa Grande was the nation’s first archaeological preserve, an earth-colored fortress of wonder set aside in 1892. For years, visitors flocked to this desert monument, as much a part of the culture of our land as anything built by bewigged colonists in Massachusetts. But like most other units of the national park system, Casa Grande Ruins National Monument has been a lonely place of late. Last year, only 76,854 people came here — the lowest number of visitors in 47 years. Over the last decade, the number of people who come to Casa Grande has declined by 50 percent.
You walk among these sun-glazed walls, stare at the small circular hole that aligns perfectly with the setting sun during the summer solstice, and wonder not just about the people who were here, but the people who should be here. For the rest of the national park system, it’s the same cry: Where is everybody?
Overall, the number of people who visit national park sites has been on a steady decline for almost 20 years — with a handful of exceptions. For years, the complaint about parks was a variation of that old Yogi Berra line: nobody goes there anymore because they’re too crowded. But now the treasures of original and scenic America have the opposite problem.
Some people say we’ve outgrown the national parks. We’re a nation of sloths who watch “Biggest Loser” while sipping from a Mega-Gulp, the complaint goes. National parks? Dude, that’s so yesterday! Others blame the Internet, or technology. Why bother with bugs or the searing sun when you can get close to Half Dome on hi-def through the Discovery Channel?
We like our soft pillows and Jacuzzi baths too much, it is said. The population is aging. A study earlier this year, from the National Academy of Sciences, suggested that the downward trend included nearly all outdoor activities. They blamed it on electronic media, particularly games.
A few years ago, I was in Monument Valley, home of the Navajo and the great, rust-hued spires that formed the backdrop for so many of John Ford’s iconic Westerns. The place blew me away — the scale, the color, the moods of the sky, the immensity of this scrapyard of exposed geology. There were plenty of tourists, equally amazed — Germans, Italians, Japanese, French, Australians. I was perhaps the only American.
When Teddy Roosevelt was using his bully pulpit to preserve places like the Grand Canyon and Mount Rainier, he often resorted to a blunt appeal to nationalism. We had no great cathedrals or castles to call our own, as the Europeans did. Instead, we had an endowment from nature itself, and the stone and clay mysteries left behind by the original Americans.
Later, parks became our playgrounds. City kids learned to make a fire or recognize the call of a horned owl. The glaciers of North Cascades National Park, the slickrock canyons of Utah or the class four rapids of the lower Colorado — talk about a thrill-scape!
But starting well before the Sept. 11 attacks put a damper on travel in general, the parks started losing visitors. Part of the reason has to be the general disrepair of many of them. There’s a huge backlog of needed upgrades, which President Bush promised to address long ago in a speech in which he said, “the man and the fish can co-exist.” The fish is losing.
Another reason might be costs, and overregulation. Admission to some of these parks is pricey. Many hikers prefer the “free love and anarchy,” as they call it, of other government lands, to the nanny state of the Park Service.
No matter the reason, let me make a pitch for self-interest: the national parks may hold a key to our future survival. It’s not just the water they store or the clean air they provide to lungs soiled by urban smog.
Casa Grande is situated in Pinal County, south of Phoenix — the third-fastest growing county in the nation last year. Since 2000, the county has grown by 66 percent, as the desert has been desert stripped away to make room for tile-roofed subdivisions that get their water from a complex series of irrigation canals.
The Hohokam did something similar, diverting water from the Gila River for their communities. They were “the first masters of the American desert,” as the archaeologist Emil Haury called them. And then, after centuries, it all fell apart. They disappeared. Whether it was drought, or disease, or overuse — no one knows for sure. We may still learn something from them about to get through this century, but only if we spend more time with the ghosts at Casa Grande.
I guess it's time to go back to the National Parks. I haven't been to Casa Grande myself since Sinji was a pup (which, I believe, was some eighteen years ago).
Now I need to bring in the last of the clothes and make the bed, and that will make for a very productive Sunday, indeed.