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Dennis Hopper’s Taos

Dennis Hopper was a serious actor with almost 150 movie credits. His first movie was Rebel Without a Cause in 1955. He was also in Giant. These just happen to be 2 of the 3 films made by James Dean before his death in an auto accident. Hopper had his biggest hit when he co-wrote Easy Rider, his 23rd film. About 2 freewheeling, independent cyclists, Easy Rider made 60 million dollars when released. It set a house record in its first viewing and became the 4th best grossing film of 1969. It was nominated for 20 major awards and won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for beginning actor Jack Nicholson in his first major role. Beginning in 1954 Dennis Hopper made 64 TV appearances. His last TV performance was on Crash. This 26 episode series became the first one produced by Starz and was made into the controversial movie that won the Academy Award as the Best Picture of 2005.

Dennis Hopper always loved New Mexico. He saw this state while filming Easy Rider and moved there to live in 1970. He bought the Mabel Dodge Luhan house in Taos. Mabel Dodge Luhan was a major and prickly resident of this New Mexican town by then. She had built a very large and imposing adobe house there that had more than 20 rooms, and she entertained celebrities almost continuously. One of the more famous guests who became a serious friend of hers was controversial writer D. H. Lawrence of Lady Chatterly’s Lover fame. Her house is now a hotel and conference center. Ruth and I saw this house in 1999 and liked it a lot. We also visited the Kit Carson Museum and learned much about this famous Western icon who put down deep roots in Taos.

Dennis Hopper lived in Mabel Dodge Luhan’s house for 7 years. He moved away from Taos but could not get it off his mind and moved back. He had bought the El Cortez movie theater in this town and turned its projection room into his bedroom. Hopper also used the El Cortez as an art studio. Before he died in 2010 in Los Angeles, Dennis Hopper requested to be buried in Taos. He was.

Some consider Hoosiers to be Dennis Hopper’s best film. We plan to watch it for the first time before I report on our return to Taos in 2021. I talked to a verbose man at the award-winning Millicent Rogers Museum in this New Mexican town. This tour guide told me that this was one of his favorite films. We’ll see about that.


PS The 2 small pictures above are from

Living Bears

Over the years, Ruth & I have seen many bears while traveling. Most of them have been foraging at a safe distance. We even went to Kodiak Island once to see Kodiak Bears and saw none. The closest I have come to an actual bear encounter was a video I watched one time in a ski area in Canada. It was so frightening that I avoided being in situations where bears might appear for many years. The closest I have been to an actual bear was, of all places, in Aspen and the attractant was honey. Bear sightings are not all that unusual in Colorado, and the situation in Aspen involving a hungry bear went on for hours.

That’s why I found value in an article called “Wild Lives” in a Summer in Aspen magazine. It was written by Jami McMannes with input from the Aspen Police Department. If any people know how to deal with bear encounters, it’s them; and they have some good advice for anyone who might want to avoid seeing a bear in real life.

I have written about our bear adventures several times. The most recent was “Bear Encounters” in 2019. Others include “Banff Bears” and “Aspen Bear Update”. I know from experience that grizzlies and polar bears are the most dangerous, but black bears like you are liable to see in places like Aspen have killed more humans over time. Brown bears and grizzlies have the reputations of being the most aggressive.

“Wild Lives” says that bears often wander into human terrain and people should expect to see them. Human objectives at all times should be to keep wildlife wild. A bear’s usual diet consists of berries, nuts, plants, insects, carcasses, and last night’s pizza if it’s available. The last one is not a joke and bears do form bad habits like eating pizza that becomes an impossible habit to break. Pizza should never be available to bears. Attractants that are not normally available to bears should be removed and not become temptations. That’s why bird feeders and last night’s barbecue should never be around bears. Pet food should always be fed to pets indoors.

Rule #2 also deals with pets. Letting dogs run off-leash can stress bears and lead to an attack.

Rule #3 reminds humans to keep ground floor windows closed because a bear in a house leads to danger. A bear’s sense of smell is acute and no match for a human’s. If bears can smell food through an opened window or in an indoor refrigerator there is a risk of a break-in. Never leave food in a car when bears might have access to it.


Ten Unusual Holidays

I just learned that holidays have gotten out of hand. Every day of the year has been set aside to celebrate some strange observance in either the United States or the world.

For example, did you know that June 4 every year is National Hug Your Cat Day? My brother and sister will be pleased to know this. I’m serious! There is also a National Hugging Day when we are encouraged to grab another human being and hang on. This was celebrated for the first time in 1986, and the place of inauguration was Clio, MI. There are 5 towns that have been named for the Greek Muse of history and poetry. National Hugging Day was officially moved to January 21st for reasons I do not know. It’s actually not such a bad idea to hug except during a pandemic when we are not even supposed to touch each other or get within six feet of another human. National Puppy Day, a holiday idea with genuine substance, is March 23rd. This has been true since 2006 when Colleen Paige, an animal behaviorist, came up with the idea. Colleen suggests that you either get a puppy on March 23rd or protest puppy farms and puppy mills. At the very least every American should celebrate the deep bond that exists between dogs and humans on this day.

I like the idea for a National Zipper Day. This was celebrated for the first time on April 29, 1913, to honor a Swedish/American engineer named Gideon Sundback, who patented his invention of the zipper on that day. I also like the idea of celebrating Word Nerd Day. That would be on January 9 each year. On that day we should all play Scrabble, do a crossword puzzle, or look up one of the words that the American Heritage Dictionary says every high school graduate in the United States should know. I wrote about this list of 100 words on July 12, 2021, with the title “Words to Ponder”. If you do not know what it means to abrogate, start here. To abrogate is to repeal or get rid of a law, right, or formal agreement or evade a duty. I also like the idea of a National Nothing Day. On this holiday we should honor one of the philosophers who celebrated nothingness. This day was started by Harold Pullman Coffin, who had the right surname, in 1973. On January 16 every year we should learn about nothing. We should also learn about Nihilism by studying one of the philosophers who espoused the belief that life is meaningless.

My birthday, June 18, is also National Picnic Day. I like this. On this day we should either enjoy the outdoors or celebrate nature by planning a picnic with friends and family. Or both. Ruth’s birthday is also National Card Playing Day. To honor her, we should either learn a new card game or host a card game night. Ruth loves to play cards and is good at it. Me not so much. My family was poker players and her’s specialized in bridge. That we got together still amazes both families.

Yesterday was National Peach Ice Cream Day. Did you celebrate by having a bowl of this delicious treat? It was also National Tattoo Day or, oddly, National Yellow Pig Day. Today is National Caviar Day.

Christmas, December 25, is also National Pumpkin Pie Day, so to celebrate Christmas you can also make a Pilgrim’s Pumpkin Pie or invent your own variation while getting plenty of Vitamins A, C, potassium, and iron.


Words To Ponder

Today began badly. Being a man who uses words often and with pride, I took exception to Ruth’s list of the “100 recommended words” that she printed for me to see. This insidious word list purports to fatuously list the hundred words that the American Heritage Dictionary recommends, “…every high school graduate should know.” The first 2 words on this list were abjure and abrogate. By the way, I went back to my very first blog “Irish Christmas” to see if all 2,075 of them are still available, and thanks to WordPress they are. I also must let you know that 2 of the 3 words above in sentence #3–insidious (proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with harmful effects) and purports (appear or claim to be or do something, especially falsely; profess) and fatuously (derives from the adjective fatuous, which means silly)–are not on the American Heritage Dictionary‘s list. Homogeneous is.

I have not used a book-style dictionary for years. It’s far easier to access websites like Merriam-Webster to check on the spelling and definition of hard words like diarrhea. I know that Noah Webster Jr. was the creator of the first American dictionary, but I had no idea who Merriam was so I looked him up. George Merriam was a publisher. He came from a long line of similarly inclined family members in Massachusetts. In his family were printers, book manufacturers, and book sellers in the 18th century. Merriam established a publishing house in Springfield, MA to print law books, books about the Bible, and school texts. Lawsuits followed. One of his smartest moves was to buy the right to publish Noah Webster’s dictionary. By the way, it seems to me that more books are published now than ever before, and word skills have never been more important as people spend their days texting, emailing, twittering, and facebooking.

It has never been more important to define, use, and spell words. Among the most commonly not-spelled-correctly words are such demons as accommodate, colonel, conscience, misspell, and zucchini. It is quite ironic that misspell is one of the most misspelled words in the English language. The Oxford Dictionary, however, says that the most misspelled word is publicly. People often misspell it publically. Go figure. There is a definite difference between words in England and words in the USA. The British spelling of diarrhea is diarrhoea. The word publically that I used 2 sentences ago was underlined with dots to tell me that it was misspelled. The most misspelled word in American English is quarantine.

I did not know until today that in 2003 Merriam-Webster began publishing a list that includes the word of the year. The word selected is usually the most looked up word on Merriam-Webster’s website. In 2003 that word was democracy. In 2020 the most looked up word, surely to no one’s surprise, was the word pandemic. I wonder what 2021’s most looked up word will turn out to be?


Access to see the complete list of words that every high school graduate should know.

Champagne War

The weather in France has been perfect for champagne grapes this year but marketing conditions have been poor. The Corona Virus hurt champagne sales and a reportedly billion bottles of this bubbly wine sits in cellars or warehouses. If you see the word “champagne” on a bottle that means its contents come from the French champagne region. I have never been there but have seen a video about it more than once while peddling away during exercise. I also learned about protected French champagne in Australia near Melbourne where French distributors opened wineries to produce and sell real champagne abroad.

French champagne grape growers must agree to sell only a fixed amount of grapes to make champagne each year. The rest of the grapes are left to rot in the field or are made into champagne and reserved in case future harvests are poor. It’s a tightly controlled system to keep French champagne truly French like only certain British cheese makers legally have the international right to call the cheese they produce Stilton.

But now Vladimir Putin has started a champagne war in Russia. He recently decreed that only the inexpensive sparkling wine made is his country is champagne. He recently signed a new law that states that only the affordable sparkling wine made in Russia to create low priced luxury for the masses can be labeled champagne. Sparkling wine is common in Russia and very popular. Ruth and I learned this on a Russian cruise ship when sparkling wine was served free with breakfast. The night before we were served vodka free with dinner. No one asked if we wanted it, but it was at our place on the table. The name champagne is protected in 120 countries in the world to guarantee its origin in France, and now Putin is calling homemade sparkling wine champagne. According to one online market research firm, Russia imports about 50 million liters of sparkling wine each year but only 13% of it is real champagne. This is unacceptable to real champagne makers in France and could get ugly fast.

This matter is becoming very political. Several big name French champagne manufacturers have threatened to halt distribution in Russia and call Putin’s new law unacceptable. Most local sparkling wine in Russia has traditionally been produced in Crimea. Russia took Crimea away from Ukraine in 2014 in a much disputed annexation.

The Shampanskoye War continues to rage. The photo up top of Putin is from