Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sayonara and Adios

Arrived back in Japan on the 8th, closing out my two years in Santa Fe. It seems very appropriate to close out this blog as well.

My history in Japan, known as Notes From the 'Nog, marches on. I'll meet you over there...

Friday, February 17, 2012


Ah, Santa Fe. You sure were a cruel mistress. I mentioned how early on I'd been told that Santa Fe was a place that either accepts you, or spits you out. I just wish I hadn't been chewed on so much first. But were we spat out? Miki and I had remarkable luck the first six months, creating work relatively effortlessly. Then came the plateau.

At the end of each calendar year, the monks at Kyoto's Kiyomizu Temple choose a kanji that best sums up the previous 12 months. I think back on 2011 and wonder what the kanji is for 'struggle' (苦闘). But the struggle served as a fire that tempered many of the things that needed a lot of smithing, things that may never have been worked on had I not left Japan in the first place. And honestly, when I think that our time in Santa Fe was tough, I catch myself and accept that only the money part was challenging. We made some good friendships, had a few fun trips, and created a healthy little girl.

And as important as what we take away with us, is what we leave behind. I think of the whole period as a process of negation, of helping me come to terms with goals and dreams that I've carrying since moving to Japan originally at 27, dreams that no longer fit. There was a lot of pain in this, but I feel leaner, with a greater focus and sense of purpose.

A very important part of this experience was all that I learned about my home state. I was diligent in sticking to my diet of nothing but books about New Mexico, and as a result, I have a greater sense of the place and its people. It took almost a year, but my muse finally caught up, and hopefully I was able to craft words in a way to do justice to this land already painted masterfully by hundreds before me. Also, during the final few months here, I was finally able to 'read' the landscape, signifying a deeper relationship and connection to the land. Just as I was leaving, I had truly arrived.

During my time spent in the aforementioned books, I realized that I most love the writings from the earliest parts of the 20th century, when NM was an exotic place, and to live there meant being an expat in your own land. No wonder it inspired dozens of painters and writers. As if the physical beauty wasn't enough, there was great stimulation in the simple day to day. (A feeling common to all expats.) Sadly, what I read of in those books I see little of these days. It took me awhile to figure out just what exactly felt wrong, what seemed to differ from when I lived here in the '80s. Partly it was the obvious absence of the locals. I knew that in the following decades, it started with the Californians. They brought the money, but at least they brought some culture. And finally I figured out what it was. It was all the Texans, who too brought money, but sadly, they also brought their politics. With a perpetually lousy economy and least-common denominator educational system, this state has always been a sick patient. But the current gubernatorial administration seems determined to turn off the machines. I'm at the point where, as much as I love New Mexico, I don't believe I can ever live here again. To visit, absolutely, but never to live. I don't see much to return to. It reminds me of a great line by John Pen La Farge that says that the Spanish stole the land from the Indians to give to their children; then the Anglos stole it and moved to California...

...While in the Palace of the Governor's Museum, there's a display about Adolphe Bandalier where it states that he lived two years amongst the natives of Cochiti. I think that if I ever need to write an author's bio for myself, I'll paraphrase it: "Ted lived two years amongst the whites of Santa Fe." At Upaya. In the yoga world. Dealing daily with the customers of REI. (Retail is not where you can expect to see the best in human character.) Maybe this is my reaction to being a member of the majority culture again after years as a minority in Japan, but again I cry, "Dude, Where's my Counterculture?"

While those dark years after losing my son were the hardest of my life, these two years in Santa Fe were the most stressful. Yet I leave here without regret. I love the place, despite what one might assume from what I've written above. The place shaped me, changed me, and I'm better for it. I leave the city with words written yet again by 'Pen' La Farge.

"One could not hope to make one's fortune there, only one's reputation."

On the turntable: J. Mascis, "Martin and Me"

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Saying farewell by foot 2

On my last full day in Santa Fe, I decided to take one last walk around town. I was following a book of classic photographs of the city, and it was fun to compare what it looked like 50 years, 100 years ago. While it has since been architecturally gentrified, a few elements can be seen beneath the stucco and fake adobe, the most beautiful being a Corinthian column found beside the Plaza Cafe. And the town grows on, the sound of jackhammers accompanying me at one point.

To retrace a historical walk here is done best in winter, when the town is brown and dusty, recreating the very impression that disappointed so many who'd just arrived after long months spent on the Santa Fe Trail. But the sky, and my mind were clear, joy creeping in to the point that I found myself somewhat sad to leave it behind. Then I remembered that I am now a tourist again, doing what a tourist does. Being a resident here creates an entirely different mindset, one of constant anxiety of how to afford life in such an opulent place, one in which you are so busy committed to simple survival that you have little time to do such walks in the first place...

...and my final morning. I drive south, to walk the La Cienguella Petroglyph Site as the sun comes up. I follow the cloud of my breath, through the fence and up the canyon toward the rim. Befitting the name, there are literally hundreds of petroglyphs up and today I find...none.

I'd heard from more than a few people that Santa Fe is a place that either accepts you or spits you out. I always hated hearing that. It made me anxious and more than a little angry, as if the town itself was elitist. But our luck proved such rejection. Then something ironic happened. From the moment we chose to return to Japan, we lost our connection to the spirit of the place. The fires of summer kept us out of the hills that we love. Then we found ourselves somehow missing all the Native dances we'd hoped to attend. And I no longer saw petroglyphs. New Mexico seemed through with us.

And that felt so perfect somehow. So I simply stopped looking, and turned back to my car...

...Yet on my final walk before leaving the States, the land once again lifted her skirts and allowed me a glimpse of her secrets. I drove from my mom's house up to Albuquerque's Petroglyph National Park. Rabbits jumped through the dawn, grass twitching before their noses in the fog. Here and there were shapes and figures of various shapes and angles, many looking like bizarre sci-fi images. They were accompanied by graffiti of the people who followed, and you find yourself less offended by something scratched in 1910 than by something from 2010. Finding petroglyphs becomes a Buddhist exercise in awareness. If you stop a moment and truly look, the figures begin to pop pop pop out all over the hillside. Standing here I remembered a conversation Miki and I had at the Three Rivers Site, about whether these figures stood alone individually, or whether they were all connected as a greater narrative, the whole landscape like an old Chinese scroll painting. To miss one element was to miss the meaning of the whole thing. It was said that it was predetermined that they be drawn in such a way that they are visible only under certain conditions and only to certain people. To be privy to the whole narrative was a privilege.

And for whatever reason, I was allowed this blessing. As I continued to walk, I found that I instinctively knew exactly where the petroglyphs were. And at trails end, standing before the final wall of volcanic stones etched with figures, I suddenly got such a feeling a sadness at leaving this land that it nearly crushed me. I will return of course, this being where my family lives. But for a brief moment, I revisited all the places of beauty from the past two years, saw once again the faces of those with whom I smiled. I am blessed.

On the turntable: John Coltrane, "Coltrane"
On the turntable: William Least Heat Moon, "River Horse"

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Saying farewell by foot

We arrived at the gate at Tent Rocks prior to its 8 am opening time. It took awhile, but eventually a car drove up and let us in. Pete and I parked in the empty lot and broke trail, moving jacketless through cold shadows thrown by clifftops not yet overcome by a sun still going through its own wake up rituals. We moved through the twisty slot canyon, atop hard-packed snow so that we were walking a foot or so above the actual trail. The canyon fed a bowl ringed by high hoodoo sentinels decked in white. We ascended the slippery path toward the mesa top, finding rocks sticking above the ice just where we needed them, then sat awhile up top with the 360 degree view. When it was time to go, we searched for an alternative route back, hoping to avoid the ice of the way up, but what we saw below was steep and much more perilous. So we gingerly retraced our steps, and slipped back through the canyon to our warm car.

I'd wanted to drive up to Bland and the Dixon Apple Orchard to see how they were faring after the fires and floods of summer. But the road itself was blocked by a tall concrete barricade that looked like it meant business, forcing us to turn back. Past Cochiti Lake, up La Bajada, and through Waldo Canyon to Madrid for burgers and beer. A side road took us out through Gallisteo and Eldorado before we eventually circled south again for a surreal night at Sunrise Springs. My room seemed to have no heat, but they wouldn't relocate me to another, despite us being the only apparent guests. But the place was relaxing as usual, the grounds peaceful. Pete and I spent the rest of the afternoon in the hot tub, before ending up at the Blue Heron with a bottle of South American red... ...early the next morning, I met up with Musai to bounce along an unpaved county road to the Montoso peak trailhead. We bushwhacked our way to the peak in the hoofprints of some wild horses. The top of the mountain is ringed by its bottlecap of volcanic rock, thrown here thousands of years ago in what must've been a helluva roar when the Valles Candera went up. We'd both been quite cold when we started walking up, but we'd warmed significantly with our labors, and sat awhile at the crest beside a small jar that held a pencil and pad for people to write their names. If this evidence is to believed, only two people summited last year, and no one since June. We made our way to the rim of White Rock Canyon, moving across snowfields. The snow was hard for the most part, but all too often we'd break through to mid calf. What was free of snow was muddy and slow going. We found what looked to be the most likely place to ascend to the river, along an arroyo that ended in free-fall. I climbed down a little further, but could find no route that looked safe. It was disappointing, especially since the trail paralleling the river looked flat and easy. We sat awhile here, eating lunch quietly, enjoying the Rio Grande crawling past 800 feet below. Then we followed the rim, trying to find the Pack Trail marked on our map, scouting the route the Musai will take when he returns after the snow is gone. It was a long slog back to the truck, confused by our lack of landmarks but for the surprisingly dense juniper that we were forever pushing through. The excess energy involved in brushing their branches aside, in lifting legs out of snow and mud, exhausted us. Mentally taxing too was the monotony of landscape. Musai and I navigated it differently, he using a GPS that seemed on the fritz, me by heading toward landmarks out on the horizon. Somehow, we both got it wrong, circling somehow to eventually find the truck in a place other than where we'd thought... the morning, I met Taylor and Bernie for an easy hike up La Bajada again, this time following the left fork. A pair of paragliders rode the currents thrusting up the rocky hillface from the hot desert below. Atop the mesa, we cut across the sand, the path mercifully wide and open compared to my battles with low vegetation with Musai on the previous day. We stopped for lunch at a notch that marked the end of the canyon, into which we dropped past the piles of volcanic rock arranged in rows. These may have been the man-made ruins of an old pueblo that had once been in the area, though I couldn't make out anything resembling a structure or kiva. This canyon was also the canvas for petroglyphs, but those too eluded any recognition. It was a reasonably easy descent down to the Santa Fe River. It's river valley was wide and grassy and tempted us into taking a long break. We talked about the nature of living in the wild and the skills associated with it. How hunter/gatherers living more on instinct than those later agrarians that needed to rely on intellect in order to plan their crops. We followed the river out of its valley, jumping it a number of times before walking the berm of an acequia that took us directly to a grove of cottonwoods that threw shadows across the car...

...up to the desert landscape near Abiquiu, whose land took on yet a different character than that of the previous two days. Taylor and I did the brief walk up to Echo Amphitheater, where the Alianza Federal de Mercedes had founded their separatist nation. The path was frozen over, perpetually thrown into wintertime shadow. This walk was just a taste for the greater walk later up Kitchen Mesa. It was a lovely hike, along a path that led through a broad valley before climbing diagonally up the canyon wall to a chimney, up which we scaled, aided by the ropes attached to the notch. From here we walked across the mesa top to the edge, but not too close as it was crumbling away to drop 600 feet. Taylor and I sprawled across the wide rock, taking in the scenery and the warm day, making like lizards for the next couple hours. As we talked, we'd often toss a pebble in the air, which would fall back to earth with a hollow sound. We laughed about how narrow our perch must be, and we laughed harder when, safely below again, we noted the voluminous pile of debris beneath where we'd been sitting an hour before...

On the turntable: Herbie Mann, "African Suite"

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Nineteen thirty eight...

It is probably no surprise to readers of this blog that I worked at REI in Santa Fe for nearly two years. I had initially taken the job as a way to supplement my yoga income, as well as a means to get affordable health care for Miki and I. Little did I know that that job would be my bread and butter.

At the beginning, I was a little worried to work for someone again, having been self-employed for a dozen years. And there were some hiccups early on. At orientation, some of the business jargon made me feel like I was in 'Office Space,' but I eventually realized that I simply wasn't used to it, having spend seven years dealing with language from the spiritual world (which also alarms me, on occasion). I was also surprised at the background check, and how normal it seemed to everyone.

By the third day, I began to feel that this kind of work was actually part of my life work. If I could help a person have a more comfortable and safer experience in the outdoors, then they'd grow to love it more and more, fostering a sense of stewardship and perhaps even a deeper spiritual connection. I kept this attitude during my tenure there, although I wavered a bit when I saw that many of the products are made in some of the poorer countries through which I'd traveled over the winter.

Retail jobs can be a drag a lot of the time, but REI was never that bad a gig. I surprised myself in how much I liked it. There were many days when I went to work in a bad mood, to be pulled out of it within the first hour. Not that the customers weren't a challenge. I was told by some employees that Santa Fe customers could be more challenging than most. Since I'd returned to the States, I'd heard the expression, "sense of entitlement" numerous times to describe Americans, and most frequently I'd heard it from my fellow employees. But we all had pretty thick skins and rolled with it. (I did notice that customers from specific demographics were worse behaved than others, but I won't get into stereotyping here.) I personally have an issue with rude behavior, and certain things triggered me, such as using cell phones during transactions, and throwing things onto the counter before me. I also noticed that the words 'please' and 'thank you' get very little use these days. In a decade or so, I imagine that they won't even be in the dictionary anymore.

Another annoyance at work are those customers who complain about everything being made in China. There seem to be one of these at least once a day. I always want to say to them "Why the fuck are you complaining to me about it? Rather than me, you ought to write to your congressmen as they sent all the labor overseas. Then, you need to prepare to pay at least three times the price for this sweater, since the American you would rather see make it is required by law to receive a living wage. Have a nice day."

It was a very social workplace, and I saw friends from around town just about everyday. It was weird to see people from the yoga and zen worlds there, who'd act as if my working in such a place was so far beneath me, and would look at me with pity in their eyes. But I truly enjoyed my work. The only problem I had with it all was the fact that I'd relenquished control over the amount of money I'd take in. Scheduling was at the mercy of the market, and over time I found that there was no real way to get ahead financially. And though I explored other alternatives, Santa Fe offered few, especially with the current economic climate. Miki and I eventually made the decision to return to Japan.

On my final shift, I had carefully prepared a retort to any of the dozens of entitled customers that grace us in any given week. After weathering whatever rant they might heap upon me, I would say to them, "Do you need a hug? You really seem like you need a hug?" Being Santa Fe, they'd probably take me up on it.

There are many good reasons why REI consistently makes the top ten lists for best Green Companies, as well as Forbes' best companies to work for. I'd recommend it to anyone. During my time in the States, I ultimately decided not to go to grad school. In a strange way, REI became my grad school, teaching me a lot about gear and how to stay safe in the wild.

On the turntable: X, "See How We Are"

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Papers: Chris Wilson

"To the extent that any community shapes its mythic life to please tourists and wealthy newcomers, it will begin to lose sight of it own needs and lack the intellectual, political and spiritual will to address its pressing social, economic, and environmental problems. [...] Much of Santa Fe's substantial artistic and intellectual creativity is absorbed in romantic escapism."

--The Myth of Santa Fe

On the turntable: English Beat, "Wha'ppen?"

Friday, February 3, 2012

Off the Road

Santa Feans drive like rats scurry. They'll hesitate until you're almost upon them, then dart out just before your vehicle. That is if they've even stopped at the stop sign in the first place. Lane changes are equally abrupt. Usually, they are driving well polished German machines. This blitzkrieg makes the overcrowded streets of our city an unpleasant place to traverse. The "rush" in our "rush hour" refers to adrenaline.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the trucks, huge walls of black and chrome that move cautiously through the narrow lanes of downtown as if it were Baghdad, braking at the slightest movement in their periphery. Most often they bear Texas plates. Their country cousins are the pickups, usually F-1-whatevers, crawling along the roads just outside town. There are usually 3 silhouettes across the bench in the cabin, and the bed is piled with shovels and overturned wheelbarrows, looking menacing like some armored vehicle out of Road Warrior. They never seem to be in a hurry, the extra minutes they take as they crawl back to town are of course billable to whatever client decided that the Three-toothed Blazing Star would look perfect beside the lanai. I'm not caught behind these trucks now that I've moved out of moneyed Tesuque. And admittedly, I've always had a prejudice about oversized vehicles. I remember once in Phoenix, I saw a Humvee park not far away from where my friends and I were having an outdoor breakfast, as one does in Arizona. I walked toward the vehicle, in order to ask the driver what he was so afraid of, that he needed to drive such a huge, wasteful machine. As I neared, who should step out but one of the linemen for the Phoenix Cardinals. And I walked briskly past, as if I had pressing business at Blockbuster on the other side of the parking lot. But trucks still rankle. Just the other day, while parked and waiting for a friend, a massive SUV pulled beside me, left idling while the owner popped into the market. I quickly dubbed this Chevy Navigator, "The Irritator".

One of my favorite things about driving in rural New Mexico is how friendly everyone is, how everyone waves. (One exception of course is the ruralites approach to vehicles left at remote trailheads. Many a friend has returned to broken windows and slashed tires.) This friendliness seems to stop at the city limits. Turn signals are ignored, since a turn signal is an expression of courtesy. In todays' America, courtesy is taken as an expression of weakness, and we can't have anyone thinking that they are more important than we are, can we? A simple thank you is seen in the same light. I remember pulling into the Trader Joe's parking lot beside a woman loading a baby into her shiny car. I didn't want to crowd nor rush her, so I waited probably a good 5 minutes for her to get her child, then herself aboard. And then she pulled away without a glance my way.

So, I often chose to drive into town along the backroads, where the traffic is light. And in reading this, the reader is undoubtedly happy that I no longer drive in Santa Fe at all.

On the turntable: "Singles" (OST)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

So Bloody Santa Fe...

My workplace is dog-friendly, and many people bring their animals in. Today, a woman came in, leashed to one of those contact animals that people are invited to pet, in order to have a rare connection with a living thing, therefore having a more complete life or something. What made it particularly unusual was that the woman was wearing a fur coat at the time.

On the turntable: Smashing Pumpkins, "Siamese Dream"

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Overheard at Talin

Miki is shopping at Talin World Market in Albuquerque. Talin scares me. It is like the Bizarro World version of Foreign Buyer's Club. (Though admittedly, this place is a paradise for guys with an Asian fetish.) While Miki shops, I sit and read at nearby Bobo Cafe. It is usually quiet here, but today, a wild-haired guy comes in and starts ranting about how Talin is supported by the military. I kind of get it. Kirtland Air Force Base is nearby, and no doubt many airmen brought back wives after being stationed in Asia. These women probably banded together to import ingredients from their native lands. So in reality, the opposite appears true, and Talin actually supports the military, keeping the wives happy, who'll in turn boost the morale of its soldiers.

All I'm sure of is that Bobo Tea is pretty tasty.

On the turntable: The JB's, "Pass the Peas"

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

At the Aztec

Downtown Subscription was in many ways my favorite Santa Fe cafe in the summertime since I could sprawl out in an Adirondack in their beautiful garden. Sometimes it was like a visit to Mt. Rushmore, surrounded by the stone faces of the moneyed Acequia Madrefuckers. Aztec Cafe was a nice alternative when the weather turned, with an atmosphere and clientele reminiscent of my old pre-Japan boho days, a time when cafes were for tucking into books or passing hours in deep chit-chat. Sad now that most people today are apt to sit alone, with their noses pressed close to a glowing piece of fruit.

It was at the Aztec where I was introduced to many of Santa Fe's characters, though I never learned their names, nor even spoke to them. Behind the safety of my book, I'd sit and listen to their tales and woes, learning a side of the city I rarely saw while kowtowing to the moneyed elite to earn my bread and butter. And I'd see these guys around town: the small guy with the limp; the homeless king with his bicycle and dog; the mustacheo'd 'Zapatista' with his ever present cane. One day I lingered in the toilet of the Aztec in order to eavesdrop on a Tarot reading. Another memory also revolves around the toilet, when I got involved in a rather elaborate game of tug of war with the bathroom door with a woman apparently deep into Alzheimer's. Time seemed to stop, and when the door was finally opened, we stood there looking at one another, caught up in the now.

Yesterday, I intended to drink my final Santa Fe coffee at the Aztec, but arrived to find that it had closed down in early January. I wonder where the truly interesting characters will go now, in a city where eccentricity seems contrived, frustratingly bound to market value.

On the turntable: Soundgarden, "Soundgarden"

Monday, January 30, 2012

Overheard at Downtown Subscription

Out on the patio, a financially-comfortable looking couple has been sitting and drinking their coffee for a while, not speaking. She breaks the silence.

"What'd you buy?"
"A book."
"For Jerry?"
"I don't want to talk about Jerry right now."
"I don't intend to."
"I bought it as an act of kindness."

On the turntable: Treat Her Right, "Tied to the Tracks"

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Papers: Native American Proverb

"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children."

On the turntable: Joy Division, " Substance"

Friday, January 27, 2012

Signs of the Times

Crossing Isleta land. A weathered sign for "Kerry/Edwards, '04." Another sign, one of those obsequious blue "Adopt a Highway" types that extend nearly as far as the roads themselves. This particular stretch is maintained by the "Atheists & Freethinkers of New Mexico." Wonder what they make of that bizarre new Zionist sign outside Bernalillo, the one with the US, Israeli, and New Mexico flags.

And I roll on...

On the turntable: The Who, "Whos' Last"

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Flashing Jetliner,
Cuts across Orion's belt.
Delusions of Eternity

On the turntable: Tommy Bolin, "Teaser"

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday Papers: Hunter S. Thompson

"Politics Is The Art of Controlling Your Environment."

On the turntable: Steely Dan, "Katy Lied"

Thursday, January 19, 2012


As we pack up (again!) and near our return to Japan, I remembered something from a walk on the Dale Ball trail not long after our leaving Upaya. Miki suddenly felt quite sad, thinking that our old Japanese dressers would be forced to stay forever in the States. Born a hundred years ago, they spent their formative years in the home country, then went overseas in late life. Like many immigrants, they underwent a one-way trip to a land where they're destined to live out their days.

On the turntable: Nirvana, "Nevermind"
On the nighttable: John Pen La Farge, "Turn Left at the Sleeping Dog"

Monday, January 16, 2012

Minor Characters

Two days spent tracing the Enchanted Circle, that gorgeous
enso that wraps itself around Mt. Wheeler. Through Taos north, pulling the wheel slightly right just below that old church in Questa. The road is clear but the hillsides clung to the week-old snow. Red River came and went, the hotels a testament to a strong vital town; nightly music in the saloons a testament to a vigorous nightlife. The road to Elizabethtown, ice-covered and bad, makes me table plans for a visit. A few piles of crumbling adobe and stone decorate the hillside. Mt Baldy stands tall across the road. Beyond her, Dawson, Cimarron and the plains.

We stop in Eagle Nest only long enough to drop our bags, then move on to Angel Fire. There's a quick lunch at Zebs before separating. I literally drive up to the slope, snap into my gear, and lift off toward the summit. It's late in the day, so I get in few runs. I start on the backside of the mountain, but this proves to be a bad choice as the hill is icy, the occasional hand grabbing one of my feet from time to time. Somehow I stay up. The sun is still lingering so the front side has slightly better conditions. But the lifts stop early, and I'm in my car again by 4.

I warm up with a coffee, then turn off the road down to the lake. It is thickly frozen over, but I show prudence in following footprints and sled tracks further out onto the ice. I pass a few
viejos, faces dark and weathered after a long day in the cold. One pair pulls a sled loaded with gear. I'm alone on the lake now but for a few crows that are poaching at the holes the fishermen left in the ice. I stop and look around me. But for the wind, all is still, quiet, white. The last of the sun has streaked the sky above Wheeler with yellow and pink. I want to stay longer but the cold comes quickly on a frozen lake after nightfall. I'll find out later that this was the coldest day so far this winter, dropping well below zero.

Back in Eagle Nest, Miki, Sora, and I cross the street to Calamity Jane's, closed for whatever reason. We find that most everything is closed in this the off season, the high season being summer, when we'd seen the town active and lively. The only choice is a pizza joint straight out of a David Lynch film. It's run by an eccentric woman with an oxygen tube in her nose. She has a very expressive face, but her way of conversation is frustratingly arrhythmic, punctuated by long silences that would make John Cage proud. The shop too is bizarre, the walls covered with signed dollar bills and license plates. Rather than order what we like, she serves us hot wings and slices, the latter undercooked and of the frozen supermarket variety. As we eat, the TV news above us is a veritable parade of murders and epidemics and other fearful things. It not only puts us of our food, but attempts to put us off life itself. Before leaving, I open a door that I think is the bathroom, but instead find a small room partitioned the size of the bed it contains. And Director Lynch says cut.

We're traveling with another couple, the husband Kyle and I have a beer in the saloon, passing through the Old West wooden-floored front section to the back, with its 70's ski resort theme of sofas and stone fireplace. I haven't known Kyle long, so it is good to talk a while with him. We are interrupted at one point by the day bartendress, drunkenly trying to engage us as her husband stands behind her looking angry. The fire roaring on, but our beers played out, we make our way back to our cabins... is still quite cold as I walk the empty streets of town, past the shuttered doors of local businesses. I find breakfast at D&D, a place where I'd grabbed a bad coffee on a road trip back in the spring. The food doesn't thrill either, the butter and syrup putting the chill on my pancakes, and the bacon the same color and consistency as my right shoe. The heater is off for some reason, and not even the coffee has enough strength to warm me. The fellow who runs the place is humorous and entertaining, so I do find some warmth there.

The car takes awhile to get up this morning, but soon enough we're heading south. Through the hills to Taos again, then along the high road to Sipapu. The skiing is better here, but then again skiing usually is better in the morning. I like the narrow, tree-lined runs. Two of the lifts aren't up, and many runs are closed off, so I quit early. I find Miki and Sora by the ski school, then take a couple of the bunny slopes with my daughter in my arms.

Drive down to Mora. I'd taken this road back in October, when the fog had obscured the view of the plains stretching away just to the east. Stop in La Cueva to find the cafe closed yet again. This is the third time, and I won't make the effort again. (But it does continue nicely the theme of food misadventure.) We instead have a picnic in the warm sun above the mill. Kyle and Yumiko head home, but Miki and I follow a side road along a high grass-covered plateau, then drop beside the Mora river out to Loma Prada, a town of some infamy. A town that was born with, and died with nearby Fort Union, it served as a place of vice for its soldiers. Now it is a single road flanked by two rows crumbling bricks.

We drive through Watrous, then Tiptonville, both lesser ghost towns, with only a few ruins remaining amidst newer structures. We don't even leave the car. In Las Vegas now, to find the Rough Rider museum closed. Like La Cueva, it is the third time we've made the effort. I give the door a couple of good kicks, Miki throwing me a frown. I love my home state, but am sometimes frustrated by how shipshod many things seem to 'run' here. Nearing my return to Japan, I feel strongly that I'm done here, ready to return to that land which operates with machine-like precision. (For better or worse.). Slightly frustrated, slightly bemused, we turn toward home, bringing to a close our final New Mexico roadtrip.....

On the turntable: Joe Walsh, "You Bought It, You Name It"
On the nighttable: Edward Abbey, "Confessions of a Barbarian"

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday Papers: Hodding Carter

“Two of the greatest gifts we can give our children are roots -- and wings.”

On the turntable: Dave Matthews, "Listener Supported"

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pipe Cacti at the Gates of Dawn

Few things reveal beauty
Like a snow covered cactus

Backlit by the morning sun.

On the turntable: X, "Wild Gift"

Monday, January 9, 2012


Full, pre-dawn moon
A crystalline world

On the turntable: Pink Floyd, "The Division Bell"

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunday Papers: Peggy Pond Church

"The first physicists were themselves poets, sensitive men, as dedicated in their way as the men are in their kiva. But the trouble was, they were not free men; they were controlled by the statesmen, the military. And the statesmen were seeking mastery, knowledge without love."

On the turntable: Jethro Tull, "Live: Bursting Out!"
On the nighttable: Marc Simmons, "Witchcraft in the Southwest"

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Thar be Dragons!



And in those places between...