Self-Driving Man

yore pal

Photobombed by raven, excellent!

It hit me after midnight as I lay in bed, wondering about the magic beans I’d lost and where to get some more. All my life looking for a strategy, the key, a miracle to ease the pain and keep me warm.

During my senior year of high school in New York, everyone was choosing universities and plotting out their lives. I ended up choosing one, too, from a pile of catalogs in the guidance counselor’s office. All this undertaken entirely on my own, of course. My parents never offered one word of advice or even mentioned college. Raised me like a plant, they did, and sometimes I got water. But after years of nothing but straight A’s, righteous accomplishments in science, history, English, and sometimes art, blow-out SAT scores, all of this in two countries, five states, and moving over forty times so help me God, there was nothing I wanted to be… (Once upon a time I would’ve flown B-58s, but not with glasses.) Every “occupation” looked restrictive, anyway. I had everything I needed, so it seemed, right there in my head.

You may well imagine how things rolled on from there. One surrendered and adapted, one rebelled. Things were done and said, astonishing scenes were witnessed. Always intuitive, driven by passion, carried along with the tide. No one will ever figure all this out or care, so if I want to see it for myself, I’ll have to write my autobiography. (Or not!) That’s common writing craft advice. Writers, if I am one, are supposed to do a lot of things. I follow a Twitter account that tweets pithy observations and advice from famous authors’ interviews. Some of them are relevant. Some are brilliant. Some are just plain wrong.

One of the best writers I’ve ever listened to in person is Rudolfo Anaya. I was curating a writer’s series for the “Society of the Muse of the Southwest” here in Taos. Anaya was the guest of honor and gave a talk that killed me dead and brought me back to life again. It was all about his struggle to be “normal” and how miserably he’d failed—how he yearned to be an old man in a bass boat with a gimme cap and beer but knew he’d never make it. In the end, he realized he was actually this important thing, an accidental-dedicated-weirdo-medicine man (my words), or as he put it, at his best, a shaman of words… At the time, Anaya was about the same age I am now.

In my own quest to be somewhat normal and survive, I’ve been a college instructor, woods hippie, construction worker, musician, songwriter, office manager, sculptor, painter, bronze caster, cartoonist, and professional loner who sailed the tidal rivers of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. After marrying my college professor wife, I had a high old time doing most of those things all over again, only with less worry and better food. Moving to New Mexico meant it was my turn and I gave it a helluva go, riding the digital content creation wave as a pioneering columnist, news writer, and editor, until that scene blew up with the infamous “dot.com” collapse. Web designing came and went. I wrote some books. Since then it’s been a wild-ass tumble through the years. People died, the world went mad, and sometimes life was fabulous. I mostly twisted and burned, in the process blaming everyone from my parents to my analyst to the dark underbelly of this place and everyone who had it easier than I did.

The former college professor is still my darling wife. (My private room in hell has not appeared.) I love her like a monster and promised us a home. Everything I need is still inside just like it was a million years ago in high school, but there I was in bed with the old familiar terror seeping in and nothing, no one, to depend on. Suddenly there was a shift. I felt a click. The words came into focus: “I am my own guru.” Damn. That’s it, that’s all. That’s how I heard it. Just me standing here, holding the flag. The bag. Whatever. Now I know why I’m supposed to kill the Buddha if I meet him. It’s not out there, it’s in here.

Lock and Key

old adobe interior

Breathing will be easier next time

“Do you really want to leave this place?” the visitor demanded. The question was surprising but perhaps a probe. Both of them, however, spoke of ancient energy that wouldn’t let him go. “I can feel it,” said the visitor again.

Not fifty yards away was an entrance to a kiva that some poor fool had long ago converted to a dwelling with a skylight and a stove. Who could live like that, though, underground, and why? Were there more chambers or a passageway? The surrounding landscape was so full of pot shards, he’d long stopped collecting them. Some weeks before, a work crew excavating for a water line uncovered thousand-year-old human bones. Houses on the road askew on shamans’ graves… What part of him accepted perfect punishment? He’d felt a similar great hurt beside the road in Massachusetts once and entering Ohio underneath a big full moon, but those were in a car and passing through. Living over blood is different. Something seeps into the half-awake, wears old clothes until they fall apart, and no one knows your name.

“Yes,” he said, “of course! But not from this place into nothing…”

“Of course,” the visitor replied.

[To be continued, possibly]

Flight Deck

Rio Grande view

A landscape to provoke the urge to fly

It’s like dropping out of hyperspace onto an unknown planet. This spot is six miles and a thirty minute hike from where we live. The image above, a familiar view but never from this spot before, is actually a video still, which explains the aspect ratio (16:9). I call it “Flight Deck” because not only could you land here, but if you were in this space, if you occupied it with your soul so that right here was your cockpit, you could fly to almost anywhere.

Sky Time

New Mexico sky

Sixty seconds walk from here the Rio Pueblo gorge will blow your mind

When our 2007 Pontiac Vibe was new, it had a tinted windshield—one without the shaded band across the top, what I call “clear”—but that was quickly cracked by stones thrown off the tires of cattle trucks in eastern Colorado. When I went to Santa Fe to have it replaced, the shop installed a shaded one instead and I felt bad for weeks, as was my wont. A lot of people like those, by the way, my wife included. But I had gotten used to seeing big views through the windshield—a point of pride in our new car—and thought the heavy shading was distracting.

Never mind, it’ll just get broken on another road trip, I’d tell myself, and sure, it costs a bunch, but then we’ll have a clear one back again! Except we never did. There were other road trips and other rocks, but no damage bad enough to warrant replacing the windshield. I got used to looking through the narrow view slot of the shaded glass, and life went on.

Then last winter something changed. As if by magic, the dreaded “Taos crack” appeared along the bottom edge of the windshield on the left and slowly worked its way across. I was more or less content to watch the inevitable unfold until the crack extended upward into my field of vision. My wife said fix this, please, so four months later I sprang into action and ordered a new windshield from a local auto glass shop. The tinted one, of course, the one that I call clear. It was supposed to come in by the end of August. (Those are “special order,” see, because apparently the whole world wants to look out through a windshield with a silly blue band across the top.) I finally called on Friday to see what was going on. “It’s still back-ordered,” I was told, “but we have a shaded one in stock…” I demurred and told them I’d keep waiting, thank you.

New Mexico is sky. The mountains are just window dressing.

Saturday Afternoon at the Park

hot rod

All my boyhood dreams

Saw this arrive with wide-open pipes I assume can be closed. (Maybe not, though!) It’s licensed and legal, which tells you a lot about New Mexico, no?

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