Check-in: I’m Still Alive…

and I’m in…Taos, NM—home of DH Lawrence and Frank Waters and another author whom I’ll talk about in a minute—perhaps my favorite summer getaway so far. The small town feel of this artistic community reminds me of some of the good things I left behind in Vermont. It is a bit touristy, but then again, so was Vermont. Anyway, when tourists are around, you can be sure there are plenty of things to do, like:

Eat New Mexican food. Not the same as the “southwestern” fare we get in AZ. The red chili here gives me a nice beer-like buzz and brings me back to a time when I played guitar on the streets of Albuquerque.

Sit around enjoying the late afternoon monsoon rains.

Go to the Taos Pueblo and chat with the merchants-inhabitants. I learned a trick from one of the artists: if you want to paint/draw a portrait, turn the photograph you’re painting/drawing from upside-down. You’ll be forced to pay attention to the lines and forms that are actually there, not what you imagine ought to be there. If only I knew this before I attempted a portrait of my husband (which is unfortunately hanging proudly in his office like a finger painting that lingers on the fridge.)

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Walk over the Rio Grande gorge bridge. Or chicken out, like I did. To be fair, Geordie kept sticking his head vertiginously through the railing. And it was windy. Very windy. And there were telephones set up at various points along the bridge to connect suicidal folks to a help hotline. (What happens when you hit the red button? I don’t know. But now I wonder whether they, too, would get stuck listening to elevator music.)

Visit the ranch of D.H. Lawrence. Haven’t done this yet…

Take a writing workshop. Looks like there’s even a master class devoted to Sci-Fi and Fantasy writing.

Take other arty farty workshops (painting, pottery, etc.)

Do the galleries, of course.

Shop at thrift stores, spice stores, gem and mineral stores, etc. 

Drink piñon coffee. 

Visit an earthship. Dream of living off the grid? Yeah, me neither. But I am curious.

I think the sunroom in our rental looks a bit like an earthship:

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From inside the sunroom. We rented a beautiful house with these fantastic carved doors all throughout, some of which are signed by the artist.

Check out a flamenco performance. Well, this would be top on my list except I failed to check the dates on all the flamenco offerings in the area when I booked our vacation rental, and I just so happened to barely miss everything. There’s even a class in Taos, but that’s on Mondays and I found out about it too late. BOO! Also, the huge flamenco festival in Albuquerque is going on right now, but that’s 2+ hours away and booked up for the days we’ll be passing through. So. Next time, next time.

Here’s my awkward transition…

Back in May we had our annual flamenco showcase in the courtyard of what once was Linda Ronstadt’s home. About 100(?) people all in all showed up for our amateur dance performance, tapas, paella and sangria. (The last three items played a crucial role in the turnout, no doubt.)

Here’s a little video of my Sevillanas solo. It’s blurry and awkward—that’s a very long story which involves a shattered iPad screen, an ancient camcorder, and two daffy philosophers who couldn’t manage to do something as simple as hit a record button. Anyhow, I had way too much fun patching together other people’s footage with iMovie. I went for the “vintage” filter—I figure if it’s gonna be blurry, I might as well own it:

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Here we are dancing the Guajira during a rehearsal, but we’re wearing our Rumba costumes—I didn’t get a chance to make a video of this, but this gives you a sense of it. Coquettish indeed. And if you’re thinking it would be very easy to drop that fan, you would be correct.

Now, back to the last Taos topic…

A friend in our book club happened to be coming to Taos at the same time we were, so we met up with him and his wife and had lunch and wandered about town. While we were in a bookstore, he introduced me to this:

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The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols.

Here’s a synopsis in the author’s own words:

Joe Mondragon, a 35-year old Chicano handyman cuts water illegally into his father’s fallow beanfield, and all hell breaks loose. It’s a big novel about a small town New Mexico tempest in a teapot that threatens to start a civil war. With 200 colorful local characters and a ribald sense of humor, it’s probably my best-known novel. Book reviewers called it “funny,” “irreverent,” “poignant,” “wondrously fresh and alive,” “zesty,” “affectionate” “a wholly first-rate comic novel” and so forth, yada yada.

I’m enjoying reading this. It’s light, it’s fun, it’s well-written (and in omniscient, which is hard hard hard to do) and it makes references to landmarks in this area. But more than that, it’s hilarious. I highly recommend it.

Well, that’s about it for me. Still working on the novel…


How are things with you? Any plans for the summer? Do you have a favorite road trip destination? Or a favorite summer read?

11 thoughts on “Check-in: I’m Still Alive…

  1. Welcome back, that was outstanding, Tina, you’re really good!

    I’ve always liked NM. We had a relative who lived out there we sometimes visited. They lived in an old adobe house that was always cool in the heat. Very neat place. I’ve considered NM as a place to live — the great southwest, but off the beaten paths of AZ.

    I’ve heard of The Milagro Beanfield War but never read it. The fights over water are certainly a part of the American southwest experience.

    My summer plans involve (at long last) cleaning the garage. Hard to do in winter, and come summer there’s always other stuff to do (like watch baseball).

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    • Thanks!
      Yeah, the adobe homes are pretty amazing. Our house back in AZ is similarly designed. When we first saw it, we said, “Where are the windows?” There’s a view of the mountains from one, but we wondered why there weren’t more windows on the other wall to open the view even more. However, once summer came around, we knew why. Now we really appreciate the design and being able to keep the windows open at night and closing them during the day to retain that cool air. It really works all the way up until the 90-95 range, then it’s time to turn on the AC.

      I think I’d consider moving to Taos or environs if I were looking into the SW. There’s actually snow on the mountain just outside my rental, but it’s still desert down here. Taos is a bit on the small side, but I’ve lived in small towns and they definitely have their upsides. Really as far as the stuff I’m interested in, there’s actually more going on here than in Tucson. Lots of little bookstores and coffee shops. Lots of dog-friendly restaurants (unlike Tucson). And liberal (which for me can go either way…I don’t like ideological homogeneity). That said, I’m not sure if there’s a Trader Joes anywhere near here. I’m not sure I could live without TJ’s at this point.

      On the Milagro Beanfield book, I think you’d like it. I’m only about a third of the way through so I can’t vouch for the whole thing, but stylistically it seems right up your alley. Literary, but laid back.

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  2. Welcome back! New Mexico sounds like a blast, and that bridge looks awesome.

    That trick about turning a picture upside down works :). I read about it in “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”. Their argument was that we don’t draw because we conceptualize what we’re drawing and thus draw the concept rather than what we see, so the trick is to de-famliarize ourselves with the subject. Turning a picture upside down is one way to do that 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! And thanks for stopping by!

      The upside-down thing is such a clever trick, because often times conceptualizing is the problem. I think it would help, but I’ve never been great at drawing what I see. That’s why I prefer “abstract” painting. 😉

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  3. Good to see you’re doing well Tina. And excellent performance!

    I’ve heard about the water wars in the west. Jared Diamond discussed them in his book ‘Collapse’. But I’ve never heard of ‘The Milagro Beanfield War’. Sounds interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for watching my video! (I don’t expect people to watch videos really, since they take up so much time.) 🙂

      The Milagro Beanfield War was written a while ago, in 1974. I love the sense of place and the awkward political tensions which still resonate, maybe even more so, today. As I drive around town here in Taos (i.e. Milagro), I keep seeing characters and places from the novel. Really ALL OVER the place. And it’s funny because this town is still an awkward mix of hippies and farmers, all mixed in together. (Really mixed in: There are horses in my backyard here. A guy down the street kicking up dust with his tractor. “Hay for sale” signs. Then, about half a mile away, a Chinese restaurant. A couple miles from there, maybe less, Taos plaza with hippy stores and galleries.)

      I just googled “Collapse” and it looks interesting. Would you recommend it?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Don’t worry. Your video was only a few minutes. People sometimes want me to watch 20 minutes, hour long, or even a series of long videos. Those I usually demur on unless it’s a topic I’m already interested in. I actually had only intended to watch yours for a few seconds, but found myself watching the whole thing. Well done!

        I didn’t realize The Milagro Beanfield War was that old. Looking up the book, I see there is a movie. I wonder how faithful it is to the book. Just read the first few pages and found them enticing. Something to keep on my list when I need something to read.

        I enjoyed Collapse and do recommend it. It’s got a definite ecological focus, both in terms of which collapses he chooses to look at and what he things went wrong. But I found it had a lot of insights. I did a post on it years ago: https://selfawarepatterns.com/2014/06/26/collapse-how-societies-choose-to-fail-or-succeed-a-brief-review/
        The section most relevant is the one on Montana, where water rights are an issue. Despite being a beautiful state, it’s agricultural productivity is more limited than I would have thought. Interestingly, if Montana were an independent civilization, it might have already collapsed, but it benefits from being integrated into the overall US.

        Liked by 1 person

      • 1974! That’s why it seems so familiar. Besides being somewhat of local interest (water wars), I was living in L.A. at the time. Had just started college with all the increased social awareness that brings. IIRC, it was kind of a big deal back then.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, I had no idea it was a big deal nationally. I just thought it was some local author who’d published recently. Then I read a few pages and went, “Oh, this is interesting, it doesn’t sound trendy at all…” and I flipped to the front to find out when it was published and…bingo. “Ah, that makes sense,” I said to myself.

          I think nowadays the social justice warriors would attack it, but I found him accurate in portraying the way people really are, minus the rosy glasses. Especially good at understanding the way women think—on that he was shockingly accurate at times. Still not finished reading it, but so far it’s a thumbs up.

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  4. I’m not surprised the book was turned into a movie since it’s very cinematic. I only wonder if it does justice to the book, because much of what I love about the book is the style and voice. The plot is rather comedic: somewhat dark comedy, I would say. Light-dark comedy? 🙂

    Thanks for letting me know about Collapse. I’ll check out your post…I’m looking for book club books to recommend.

    Liked by 1 person

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