Good reason for those flag-waving trucks in Bloomfield, NM

May 17, 2007 19:16 UTC

flags7.jpgOK it’s true: Bloomfield, New Mexico is actually more than 120 miles north of the path that old Route 66 took across this stark, beautiful state. But sometimes it pays to veer off the beaten path.

You reach Bloomfield from Gallup by taking state route 491 north through the heart of the Navajo Nation’s tribal lands. The journey is one that’s not easily forgotten: stunning natural beauty side by side with grinding poverty.

Bloomfield and Farmington are not just off the Navajo reservation — they’re practically on another planet, thanks to oil fields in the surrounding San Juan basin that provide well-paying jobs to many of the locals.

Which brings us to the subject of the flag-waving trucks. Venture into Farmington or Bloomfield and you’ll quickly see them everywhere: trucks of every size with long, white plastic poles poking up into the sky from just behind the driver’s cab — like CB radio antennas of old, only longer — waving small colored flags.

flags3.jpgThe flags, it turns out, are an informal safety device employed by oil field workers to avoid collisions when they race around in the unpaved, hilly badlands where the wells are located.

Little Water? How about none at all?

May 17, 2007 19:10 UTC

Little-Water3.jpgThe most remarkable thing about the Little Water stream or even river to a newcomer to the desert is that there is no water in it.

Travel across Arizona into New Mexico and at periods along the road you will see scorched, serpentine trenches in the red desert earth and rock that look like they should contain streams or rivers but are bone dry.

Some rivers like the San Juan, which passes through the town of Shiprock about 25 miles north of Little Water, are actually full of water. But many others like Crazy Creek or Dead River in Arizona are as moist as Little Water.

Sleeping on the job in Cannes

May 17, 2007 18:38 UTC

Thanks to the reader who responded to our blog yesterday talking about whether a film’s reception at Cannes was important to its box office prospects. He/she referred to a claim in today’s Times (I must confess I could not find the story during a quick search of their site) saying journalists attending early previews the morning after a long night of partying chose long, foreign films, knowing they would provide a good chance to catch 40 winks.Cannes4.jpg

I certainly have seen journalists and critics sleep their way through movies in Cannes, and in Venice and Berlin for that matter. Not many though, and I hasten to add it’s not something I have tried myself. Of course, there are all sorts of shortcuts and tricks weary reporters resort to during festival movie marathons. One well-respected TV presenter came to me the other day and asked my views on a film he had not had time to watch but needed to report on during a broadcast. Non-professional? In a way, yes, but it’s easy to understand, with so many time pressures. There are other examples of course, and not things that I recommend you try at home. One is to sweat your way through “junket” interviews with stars and directors for a film you have not managed to see. It is that “please-don’t-catch-me-out-and-let-me-get-out-of-this-thing-unscathed” nightmare.

Of course, we are implicitly blaming the audience here. But is the film at fault too? If a film is too long, or boring, or badly made, does the critic or journalist have the right to a bit of much-needed shut-eye? I just came out of a screening of “The Banishment” by Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev, a 2-1/2 hour picture in which very little happens for the first 90 minutes. In fact, the last hour was full of sinister twists and turns that slumberers would have missed, and I’m not suggesting for a minute that the film deserved the pillow treatment. A critic I was sitting next to was less than impressed however.

A rich landscape, an impoverished people

May 17, 2007 18:02 UTC


Take a drive through the Navajo Indian Reservation in New Mexico and youll find plenty of views to wonder at, amazing rock formations that can entertain most new visitors for hours on end.

Contrast this with the poverty of the homes of the Navajo that you see as you pass along the road. Almost all are single-storey, basic structures, many with abandoned, rusting cars out back in the desert scrub.

This is not a wealthy area, nor is life here easy.

Navajo President Joe Shirley said that many people on the Navajo reservation “live in Third World conditions with no running water or power.

Chooshgai, a puzzlingly deserted desert community

May 17, 2007 17:31 UTC


Heading north up state highway 491 from Gallup, New Mexico, the community of Chooshgai appeared on top of a flat hill on the right hand side of the road just a few miles inside the Navajo Indian Reservation.

The tops of street lamps were visible from the road, as were the roofs of small houses which peeked over the rise in a manner reminiscent of shy children wanting and not wanting to be seen.

empty-village4.jpgFrom the road it looked like the perfect opportunity to take some pictures of a Navajo community with rocky outcrops and cliffs in the background and the highway below. A few shots of families and cars outside houses with a desert backdrop that would look good on

View from Bloomfield: Higher gas prices and the war

May 17, 2007 16:24 UTC

We met Remi Nathan, 23, who lives in Albuquerque but hails from Connecticut, at a gas station in the town of Bloomfield in northern New Mexico. Remi sells wholesale perfumes and colognes he said hes a part owner of a company that operates from here to California and he travels extensively to towns like Bloomfield to tout his wares.

RemiNathan.jpgRemi had this to say on life in Albuquerque:

We have a pretty serious problem with gang violence in Albuquerque at the moment, but if you know where not to go, you can avoid trouble very easily.

Education is also a big problem in the city, the system is under-funded and not working well.

At Cannes, it is showbiz as usual

May 17, 2007 15:35 UTC

Talk about showmanship. Jerry Seinfeld and the makers of “Bee Movie” set Cannes buzzing on Thursday — the film festival’s second day — when Seinfeld dressed up as a bumble bee, strapped himself into a harness and rode a wire from Seinfeld performs stunt as bumble beethe top of a swanky hotel down to the beach.

Seinfeld performed the stunt in front of hundreds of photographers, television crews, reporters and movie fans lining the Croisette here. It was, as Seinfeld himself joked, a “movie promotion that smacks of desperation”. (see the story titled “DreamWorks chief downplays ‘Shrek’ record” at

But it was less desperation than the kind of good old Hollywood showmanship that has existed for years here at the world’s top film festival. Jeffrey Katzenberg, who runs DreamWorks, said he had been planning the stunt for a year, and certainly there will be many more promotions to come from other movie makers before the festival winds down.

Southwest cool in Gallup, New Mexico

May 17, 2007 14:54 UTC

elrancho1.jpgelrancho2.jpgGallup, New Mexico is a key embarkation point for travelers interested in visiting the nearby Navajo Indian nation.

It’s also home to El Rancho Hotel, an old school hostelry with an Amerindian-meets-Hotel-California vibe that has served as an irresistible beacon to travelers on Route 66 since 1937, when the brother of film great D.W. Griffith first opened its doors.

The hotel’s debt to the old highway is honored in the shirts that front desk clerks like John Moore wear when they greet guests.

Development pressures and ‘the peaks’ in Flagstaff

May 17, 2007 14:49 UTC

EdgarUqualla2.jpgEd’s note: As Reuters correspondents Nick Carey and James Kelleher journey through America, retracing the path of Route 66, they’re talking with people they meet along the way, asking them to tell us — in their own words — what issues matter most to them.

We met Edgar Uqualla, a 50-year-old disabled member of the Supai Indian tribe, in a park in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he was enjoying a sandwich and beer with Marlene Baldwin, a 79-yearold Hopi.

Asked what issue was most on his mind these days, Uqualla looked toward the mountains that surround Flagstaff and said simply, “The peaks.

Don’t forget Winona… and an orange asphalt sighting

May 16, 2007 21:11 UTC



In the song “Route 66,” Bobby Troup said “don’t forget Winona,” though why, is anyone’s guess. It may be the most unprepossessing piece of real estate celebrated in American song.

It does appear to be one of the places along the route where you can see the orange asphalt — one of the three ways Route 66 was paved over the years. Photo: Nick Carey