Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Santa Fe :: On life, tango, and the universe...

Taos Tree
Photo by Alex :: This is a tree I shot between Taos & Santa Fe - closer to Taos - heading south where the road drops into a narrow canyon and follows the Rio Grande River.

The prior post made some memories bust loose and float to the surface in the primordial sludge in the back of my brain.

The first time I went to Santa Fe was back in 1975 or so. I was 15. My Mom and Dad and I drove out that summer to visit my brother and his girlfriend, Laurel. Laurel is still a very close family friend, as are all of my brother's exes. Except for the sing-song (she didn't talk, she sang) heroin dealer. I think she may still be in prison. In my brother's defense, she wasn't dealing when he was with her. He was into weed, but that was it. You see, my brother has that rare knack for being able to remain friends with his ex-girlfriends. I'm pretty sure they were all at both of his weddings.

My brother had an old blue Dodge pickup truck with a camper top. He and Laurel were hanging out and camping around Santa Fe and Taos for several weeks that summer. I remember riding and bumping along the dusty back roads of Santa Fe in that pickup truck, looking for art galleries. I remember Coors beer and watermelon chilling in the creek. Those were the days.

The summer I turned 18, I passed through Santa Fe and Taos on my way north to Lander, Wyoming for a month long mountaineering course in the Wind River Mountains. I drove a tricked out VW Rabbit in those days. Orange. I was there on my birthday. I hit on a waitress in a restaurant. I got drunk in the bar on a drink called "The Tidal Wave" waiting for her to get off work. I stayed there an extra three days. In bed. In August, when I passed back through on the way back down to Austin, I visited with her again. Joanne. Her name was Joanne. She was 26 and never believed that I was 18. I had to show her my driver's license.

Over the years, I passed through Santa Fe on summer vacations. Being close to Texas, it was drivable - family camping vacations. My daughter learned to ski in Taos. I learned to ski down in Ruidoso, farther to the south past El Malpais, the vast areas of prehistoric lava flows.

I brought my first wife there. I made love with my second future ex wife in a cute hotel there. We were on our first ten day "road trip" date - before we were married. A mountain biking/camping trip. Stucco walls, kiva fireplace in the corner, vigas y latillas overhead. The scent of burning cedar in the fireplace and sagebrush in the air. Hot sunny days. Crisp cool starry nights. Mm. [Uttered with a nasal intonation and rolling your eyes back in your head...Mm.]

When I lived in Aspen, I would "escape" down to Santa Fe to get away from the cold and snowy and long winters. The narrow valleys and box canyons in the thick of the mountains would get to this "southern boy" after a while. Canyon fever. Cabin fever. I needed wide open spaces. I needed a 90 mile horizon. There were times that I would pull over on a lonely road and find a good, warm, flat rock to sit on. The desert has always been a comfortable place for me. Big country. Wide open. Quiet. Some people can't handle the overpowering quietude of the desert. For me, it is always best experienced alone. Pondering the universe. Pondering my universe. Contemplating my navel. Taking photographs.

I spent my first tango year in Aspen perfecting my fucked up walk. Luckily, I recognized that I needed outside help. Professional help. Cecilia Gonzales was doing a workshop in Santa Fe. I was going come hell or high water. Hell bent for leather. Tango shoe leather. I scheduled a one hour private with her. My buddy was envious and excited for me - "I can't believe you're going to dance with Cecilia Gonzales!" he said. "She's 'famous'!"

She was great. Patient. Beautiful. Tiny. At least to me. The group class afterward was nice as well. The dancers in Santa Fe are all very nice folks. At the milonga that night, Luren introduced me around. She even chased me when I went outside to cool off - she wanted to make sure I wasn't leaving. She wasn't going to let me leave early. Now that's personal attention by a milonga hostess.

The Sante Fe dancers have a reputation of being very advanced for such a small tango community. It's a very mature community - one of the oldest I think. As such, I was intimidated, but I did dance with four or five followers. I spent most of my time dancing with a French woman - a French teacher - it was her first time to see tango - no classes, no nothing.

The last time I was in Sante Fe was for a friend's opening at an art gallery there. Roughly two years ago. The Blue Rain Gallery. He's my best friend's brother. Randall LaGro is his name. I remember being smitten by his new girlfriend. She was a typical southern Colorado/northern New Mexico woman. Tan. Beautiful. Outdoorsy. Sexy. Intelligent. Educated. Liberal. With a Manhattan twist. All topped off with a hot bod. I had to contain/restrain my interest in her. Thou shalt not covet thy best friend's brother's new girlfriend. Sherri. Her name was Sherri.

Below is a still life I shot inside Randall's studio in Taos. There's a story behind the building - it's really, really old - but I forget the story. I think it was a famous artist's studio long ago. Another mnemonic burst - a party at Randall's studio a year or so before this. Amazing party, amazing people. Artists, writers, bohemians. Barefoot girls in sundresses. Grilling meat and getting drunk on red wine. Sneaking off to kiss a girl in the darkness. A deep, long, heady, drunken, sweet kiss. A trip to the farmer's market the next morning. Good memories for many, many years. And that, my friends, is a very large understatement.

Still life of an artist's studio :: Taos

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