We had a wonderful experience of New Mexico in the summer. Cool breezes, rolling thunderstorms, sudden downpours, and glorious sunsets.
Our journey was delayed at the car rental by a rather awful woman who tried to convince us that the car Venetia had booked for $142 was actually going to cost $333. Venetia countered this by canceling the whole reservation and booking a new one at the rental place at the next counter. For $46. Mad Internet skills and Costco travel for the win!
We set off into the beautiful clear morning to my friend Dawn Wilson‘s home north of Albuquerque. I hadn’t seen her or her son Max (now a towering EMT and photographer) since they’d lived in Livermore, California during the big quake, decades back. Her large adobe house, surrounded by cacti and low brush, was impeccably stylish and beautiful. Venetia spent much of the time while we talked examining every single piece in Dawn’s mineral and stone bookshelf. Afterwards, Dawn showed us some of her wonderful jewelry, drawing and painting. We’ll do an entire separate blog about Dawn’s work sometime soon, but suffice to say it was more sublime than ever, and that we’re coming home with one of her very best pictures.
The lunch that followed was fantastic, exactly what each of us needed. Afterward we drove north through New Mexico talking and admiring the clouds. Meow Wolf and the House of Eternal Return was our first goal and we reached it just about at 1pm.
Neither Venetia nor I knew much about it other that it was an interactive art installation and that it came highly recommended. While I had thoughts as to what we might see, and how I would approach the creation of such a place, the actual experience (with so many other people from so many different backgrounds) was always surprising and delightful.
We took a break around 3pm when Venetia had a panic attack and checked in to our B&B. We arrived just before the heaviest downpour of rain and thunder, and Venetia curled up in the window seat with the local therapy cat.
We finished up at Meow Wolf just before closing and headed to Santa Fe Plaza to get the lay of the land and do a little window-shopping (this proved a funny idea after-hours as so much expensive jewelry had been removed from the shop windows). We walked the labyrinth in front of the mission and were treated to an unbelievable sunset, replete with bright pinks and crisp glowing rim light. At twilight we headed up into the mountain east of town to Ten Thousands Waves for a splendid dinner – miso soup (Venetia’s ideal comfort food), steak and… amazing pickles. We well understood why the chef had been a James Beard ward nominee. A perfect meal in a beautiful setting. Then back to the beautiful B&B to soak in the giant bathtub. What a day!
Tuesday started gently (am I finally learning how to relax on vacation, or is the altitude simply too much?) Between binge-watching that season of Game of Thrones and not visiting every single museum in the city, this trip is the most mellow we’ve enjoyed in years. We googled a list of thrift stores in town and set out after breakfast. The first was out-of-business, the second – a Goodwill – was the same as any Goodwill in the US (save perhaps for the number of bright yellow shoes and full sets of ‘Left Behind’ books), the third featured a beautiful lounge jacket for Venetia amid its titanic furniture, but it was with the fourth, ‘Double Take’, that took the biscuit in its enormity and ridiculousness. When we admired the lovely dress just inside the door, we were instantly informed as to its important luxury designer provenance. Turns out that that corner of the building that was all brand names, but the store went on forever – a veritable TARDIS of questionable commerce. As we travelled clockwise through the madness, we passed through the jewelry zone, the cowboy boots, the leather jackets, and the unbranded clothing, before heading upstairs for the overpriced art and furniture. Amid this melange, I was astonished to see something familiar on the stairs – the work of fantasy artist Alicia Austin – a beautiful watercolor showing a Native American man painting birds to give them their colors. The upstairs was large enough to host Johnny Cash in one area and a collection of flaming Disco hits revolving on an ancient record-player in another.
While we were in the neighborhood, we lunched at Tomisina’s – Venetia concluded hers with the spoonfuls of honey necessary to counteract their flavorful (but very-hot) chilis. As we walked around the block to check out the John Cocteau Theatre, we encountered a gorgeous mural of two dragons putting the Tromp in Tromp L’oiel as they broke out of the building. Afterwards, we went back downtown to the Plaza. Much (if not most) of the jewelry was…. well, let’s call it “ostentatious”. But here and there amid the appalling displays of wealth and excess there shone a piece where the artist’s own sensibilities showed through. Our favorite shop was Jett Jewelry – very modern but so simple and elegant.
We were repeatedly bemused by how many people loved and commented on Venetia’s shiny acrylic laser-cut unicorn earrings (by Geek Star Costuming! Check them out!) – especially when we were perusing the most expensive and ostentatious jewelry stores in Santa Fe.
We encountered not just “Buffalo Turquoise” (white stones, set in traditional Turquoise settings) but also “Boulder Turquoise“, whose traditional blue colors exist in cracks and fissures of larger lighter-colored rocks. These reminded us strongly of the “Matrix Opals” we’d seen in Australia – a wise (and to me, genuinely beautiful) use of stones otherwise not deemed jewelry-grade.
Our return to the Plaza also allowed us to peruse the work that independent artisans sell along the Plaza’s northern edge. Amid the small and comparatively-simple jewelry, the beautiful black-on-black pottery work that I so love was well-represented, as were enormous lapis belts, bracelets, and bolos. Having already overspent my budget on Dawn’s art, buying anything else seemed out of the question, until I saw this piece – simple and stylish in a way none of the other work we’d seen had been. The artist himself, Harvey Chavez, was charming and hard-working – the bracelet in question representing a couple long day’s work.
How lucky to have such beauty available for such a reasonable price, transacted instantly by credit card over the Internet. And how lucky I am to get commissions through email, and to sit comfortably at home and do my work in private, never needing to interact with the public in such a way. While I suspect that the licensure and bureaucracy must be appalling, I am curious as to the scheduling issues involved. Is there seniority at play? Are there fees paid beyond taxes? Is it allocated by means of lottery? Are some seasons vastly preferable? How many artists are allowed to display at a time? How many shift are there per day? Per week? Per year? In a world where exposure matters so much, such arrangements are the crucial.
From the Plaza, we retreated to the B&B where we wrote and napped. As evening fell, we walked out to a local Thrift Shop that benefits animal charities and on to dinner at a restaurant called Paper Dosa that Dawn had recommended. Dosas are wide flat crepes, crunchy on one side and soft on the other. Uttapams are a thicker pancake, embedded with other ingredients. They are made with a mix of rice and lentil flour. They are both delicious and gluten free. We had a lamb dosa, a mushroom uttipam, and a cashew calamari dish that just defies proper description. We had never enjoyed Southern Indian cuisine before, but now that we know how good it is we will seek it out.
After dinner we stopped at a stale and horrible CVS to pick up needed supplies (poster board to protect Dawn’s painting, and tape for the box of books). That night we packed it all up and fell fast asleep. The following morning we arose, ate leftovers for breakfast and hit the highway. Instead of the high-speed route we’d driven north on, we took a windier route through Madrid. The drive was smooth and we arrived back at the airport in plenty of time (a good thing since its signage is as bad as the rest of the airport is good).
For all that we managed, there were many things we missed out on. We especially hope to visit Chaco Canyon and other amazing locations with Dawn when the time comes.