Since I’m in the business of reinventing state mottos (I did Louisiana a couple weeks back), I’ve got a few suggestions for New Mexico, where I now find myself. My frontrunner is: “New Mexico: Where the chairs are uncomfortable and the foliage is dangerous.” (The real one is “Crescit eundo” — “It grows as it goes” — perhaps the most enigmatic state motto ever.)
This is another press trip, and yesterday morning I had an hour or so with nothing on the schedule. If there’s one thing you learn on these junkets, it’s that you should take every possible opportunity to get some exercise, because you’re going to spend the rest of the day sitting around, eating. So I went for a walk.
Growing in front of an office building around the corner from my hotel was a giant prickly pear cactus studded with fruit, which I think of as prickly pears but which are actually known as cactus figs. I had to have one.
The spines on the prickly pear are easy to avoid. They’re large, obvious and evenly spaced, and I reached carefully down between them and plucked a cactus fig. That’s when I discovered that the prickly pear has a second line of defense. The fruits themselves have clumps of diabolical little hairy spines, which I subsequently found out have a special name – glochids.
Glochids are to spines what guerilla tactics are to conventional warfare. They’re stealthy and unexpected, and they get you just when you think you’re in the clear. They detach from their clump readily, and implant themselves in your skin. They’re small enough to be almost invisible, but they certainly know how to make their presence known. I spent half the morning trying to pick at least twenty of them out of my hands.
Once you get past the glochids, it’s all good. The prickly pear (I’m sticking with the name, because other people seem to) has that tropical flavor, like a passionfruit or a starfruit, but is much sweeter. It also has a lovely deep-purple color.
When I asked people what to do with it, just about everyone said “margaritas!” But that seems to be the answer to a lot of questions around here. I think it has something to do with the uncomfortable chairs.