The Anecdotal Dead

storefront for rent in Taos, NM

Movin’ to Montana soon, gonna be a dental floss tycoon

The tourists probably don’t notice, but I was just in town the other day, and I did: a few more empty storefronts, missing galleries, easy parking in the downtown lot… The building in the background is also vacant—it used to be a gallery—and there are two more former galleries for rent beside it where you can’t see. This is right in the middle of town, just off the plaza. There’s an empty former restaurant back in there, too, that used to be our favorite. It’s been shut for quite a while, though. Nothing catastrophic, I guess.

I walked around a bit. Nobody was there. Went into a big bookstore. Nobody at all. Scouted out the Plaza. Almost nobody there. Okay, 2:00 o’clock on Wednesday afternoon, but still. What’s supposed to happen to fill the galleries and shops again, never mind go set up new ones? Y’all just show up each year like wildebeests, or what??

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John Hamilton Farr lives in Taos, New Mexico, U.S.A. with his classical pianist wife. “Possibly the only place I can get away with this,” he says. As New York Times best-selling author James C. Moore (Bush’s Brain) put it in a review of John’s first book, Buffalo Lights is the work of a man attuned to the world who sees it differently than you and I and writes about it with a language and a vision of life that is impossible to ignore.” John is the author of BUFFALO LIGHTS, TAOS SOUL, ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE, and THE HELEN CHRONICLES. He has been publishing online since 1996 (Zoo Zone, Farr Site, MacFaust, GRACK!, FarrFeed) and blogs regularly here at JHFARR.COM. See also → John’s Twitter profile, Amazon Author Page, video channel at YouTube, and website photos at SmugMug. To email John, please see CONTACT INFO on About page.  

  • chris ienni February 23, 2013, 2:03 AM

    the only thing missing from the picture is a forlorn tumbleweed rolling across the sidewalk.

    was the late restaurant the one with that awesome chili burger you mentioned in a couple posts from years back, or was that somewhere else?

    • JHF February 23, 2013, 7:41 AM

      I don’t remember the burger, dang it. The restaurant has been dead for several years at least, so not indicative of anything in itself. Kinda curious that such a good location isn’t used, however. Most of Taos looks just like it always does.

      But there are more empty retail spaces than I remember from the last 10 years. Seems like more fancy existing houses are for sale, too.

  • krishna das February 23, 2013, 9:39 AM

    although i am wintering in ‘very southern nm near the border of mexico, it seems from what i am hearing from you and others, that taos and other small tourist communities continue their slide towards oblivion — last winter in taos, i kept waiting for the ‘shoe to drop’, but it didn’t — and even through the summer it didn’t — the parking lots were continually jammed — but seemingly now, ‘the fear of everything’ is seeping in and it is keeping folks addicted to sitting front of their TV sets and not out and about nor even communicating with one another . . . . . and illogically, this makes ‘the shepherds of the hu-man sheeple’ very happy — yes, the flocks are being contained . . . . . things are accelerating — be mindful — be aware — listen — see — (and you will know) — das

    • JHF February 23, 2013, 10:21 AM

      I feel fine myself. Not a doomer like I used to be at all, excited for the next few decades of my life. Being mindful & aware of that is most important, too. But I do love a good melodrama. A lot of people seem intent on staging one, or several—sometimes even me. 🙂

      Eyes open, absolutely. (Thanks!)

  • Shooter February 23, 2013, 10:03 AM

    People are losing the ability to communicate face-to-face, instead just a few clicks on the cellphone and the word is out. Kids spend their youth clicking on gadgets and grow up not knowing how to walk and talk.

    • JHF February 23, 2013, 10:32 AM

      You seen those Google glasses? It’s just gonna get worse for a while!

      • chris ienni February 23, 2013, 2:28 PM

        last year when i went to the dmv to renew my license (needed a new photo), there was an apparently cute girl in line behind me. i say “apparently” since it was hard to tell clearly: literally the ENTIRE time she was there she had her face buried in her iphone, tapping away furiously, to the point where after it was all over she was walking out of the building behind me STILL buried in the device. she literally never looked up once! i was amazed she was even able to walk without tripping or banging into everything & everyone (i guess being a mobile cyber-zombie heightens the peripheral vision?). i almost said something as we left (i did say she was cute), but it didn’t seem worth it (would she even know how to converse with an actual in-person human being?).

        (“grumblegrumblethesedarnkidsthesedaysgrumblegrumble…” 😉 )

  • Marti Fenton February 23, 2013, 10:58 AM

    I worked on the plaza for 16 years and this time of year is always dead, but long ago it would revive in the summer. Since the recession hit four years ago more and more empty galleries appear. I think the Restaurant you’re talking about may be the Apple Tree, it was my favorite too. The word is that another well known restaurant in town ( I won’t mention the name) is planning to move in before long. There are still tourists but they aren’t spending much money. Restaurants fare better than galleries. Alas, its even tougher for artists now and its always been hard to make a living in Taos.

    • JHF February 23, 2013, 11:20 AM

      “Alas, its even tougher for artists now and its always been hard to make a living in Taos.”

      For some reason I feel like taking issue with this conventional wisdom today. I dunno. The world delivers what we ask for, right? Artists should just make art!

  • mj February 23, 2013, 11:27 AM

    Have you looked at the gas prices? No one is traveling to NM because it takes almost $75. to fill up the truck and over $55. to put in the SUV. The rich can’t afford their 5 houses all over the country anymore. Overpriced art is the furtherest thing on everybody’s mind. Guess what the internet has replaced the store. The last art and indian jewelry I bought was online. Yep, I’ll come and looky lou in the summer when I won’t freeze. Do I sound a little fussy? Hey, I don’t know who is painting those beautiful adobe buildings so tacky these days?
    The blue trim ok, painting adobe white! Yucko! What happened to natural. The adobe house with the green porch and rock wall with broken the glass out front. How to deface a historical, haunted house with kelly green! It has beautiful architecture and they ruined it. With a little gardening that would be a real beauty.
    You should try and sell your mountain pictures online. They are exceptional.

    • JHF February 23, 2013, 11:47 AM

      All true again! Love your comments about the house with the green porch. You must be local. (Howdy!)

      Yes, I need to monetize those suckers. Thank you for the compliment. I’m working on some photo ebooks for iPad using Apple’s iBook Author app. Not sure of the best way to sell actual prints, but I’ll ask around.

    • das February 23, 2013, 1:25 PM

      hmmm — kelly green — preparing for saint paddys day early? — das

  • Susan Haubert February 24, 2013, 10:01 AM

    I traveled to Taos twice in the last six months and found that some parts of it unattractive and that there were some empty buildings. That is no different than any other city with the economy. However, there is something very mystical about Taos and a relaxed feeling while staying there. Often we decide to eat at a restaurant and upon our arrival find that it is permanently closed. Many of the shops I visited in Taos the owner would ask if I planned to move there. I took it as a gesture of friendliness but also wondered if they were not hoping that the population would increase there. Unfortunately I am not one of the tourists who visits and does not spend money. I spend it as fast as I can get my credit card out of my purse, load the car down, return home and try to find places in our home for what I have bought and seem to have run out of fingers for the jewelry I have purchased. So many of those beautiful old adobe buildings are so beautiful and one wonders about the history of the people that lived there. Slapping paint on stucco certainly does not help the appearance but I would think that is all some folks can afford. Refurbishing an old home takes mega bucks and a lot of work. There is so much to explore in Taos. After each visit I have a long list of the places I must see upon my return.

    • JHF February 24, 2013, 10:33 AM

      “Relaxing”? No one EVER says that about Taos!

      I think the shop owners asked if you were moving there so they could sell you their stores. 🙂 But seriously, it’s wonderful you visit often and have a good time. The downtown is indeed filled with many beautiful old adobe buildings that give the place a unique character. You sound like the perfect Taos visitor—from Texas, perhaps?—and I’m sure the Chamber of Commerce would clone you if they could.

      It’s somewhat different if you live here year-round, of course. [ahem]

      I’m here for the wilderness and for a certain spirit among those who feel likewise. What you call “mystical” is true but not related to the town. The soul of Taos is very dark, in any case.

      • DAS February 24, 2013, 10:52 AM

        nice conversation/input . . . . . kinda late to add but will and thought i’d throw in what a 2 local taos ‘small biz’ merchants told me (gossip) last year — that even with the economic hardships during this time . . . . . “that the property owners are raising the rents” — this kinda left me with the perverbial DUHHH? (or hello? syndrome) — one would think it would be the other way around — and i am not sure this is the case across the board — but one would think there would be incentaves offered to help local merchants out during hard times — [question here . . . . . since i was not up in taos during the holidaze, did the city/town offer free parking in the taos metered lots? -- i know that 2 seasons ago they did not]. . . . . das

  • Susan Haubert February 24, 2013, 10:54 AM

    You may be psychic. I am indeed from Texas originally. Do I write with an accent? Please explain what you mean by “Taos is very dark”. The one thing that did disturb me was that I bought a painting from a young Indian man close to the square. As I returned to my car, I saw him purchasing something from another man. I decided that is was probably drugs and made up my mind that I would not do that again. What kind of city administrators do you have there? Why do not they try to improve conditions?

    • Ken Webb February 24, 2013, 2:15 PM

      Can’t say anything about Taos. For that I go to the expert JHF. However, I will say, Susan, that we expatriate Texans generally are immune to mysticism in all its forms. Maybe we just don’t know enough about it to detect it where it may actually exist. This has something to do with the hardscrabble Scotch-Irish lineage that lies in the backgrounds of most of us. Mysticism seems like a plaything of the wealthy, a luxury that those who went East picked up at cocktail parties. Give me eloquence, give me honor, give me any number of actions of the soul, but make it real. Maybe mystical experience is an authentic action of the soul, but then again…. well, maybe not.

    • JHF February 24, 2013, 4:42 PM

      You “decided it was probably drugs”? Um. Well, and what if it were?? You’re enjoying the painting, presumably. Relax! I hardly know where to start about the last two questions. If you’re really interested in the byzantine world of Taos politics and sociology, read everything you can find by Bill Whaley.

      The soul of Taos is very dark. Not sure what else I can say except that if you lived here, you would know. I write about it all the time in one way or another. Try “Death at Seven Degrees” in my BUFFALO LIGHTS book.

      • Ken Webb February 24, 2013, 6:34 PM

        C’mon, man, you can’t tantalize us like that. Why indeed IS the soul of Taos so damn dark? And dark in what sense? Sure, there may be other sources for such information, be we on your blog are interested in your take. I reckon it has something to do with those dark gods Lawrence was always going on about – the merciless unforgiving implacable landscape and the pre-civilized rituals of the native peoples inhabiting it. But your own words, please!

        • JHF February 24, 2013, 9:08 PM

          “You can’t tantalize us like that”…

          Actually, I can. 🙂 See my amended comment above. Read Bill Whaley’s local tales and definitely the Hampton Sides book (Blood and Thunder). Go out in the woods and get real scared, then come back and read my stuff. Am I in the right place or not?

          • Tio Canejo March 7, 2013, 9:40 PM

            The “Dark Soul of Taos” exists without a doubt. As an Anglo growing up in Taos (we moved to California when I was 11), I saw a lot of it. It’s not a tangible thing, it’s a deep-seated knowledge that there is an energy there, a deeper story. Only by knowing the long history of the town, and truly feeling the power that flows in the old adobe walls, can you really get the essence of being a Taoseno. I come back a couple times each year to visit family, and see the physical changes in the town; but the soul of Taos remains unchecked, unhindered. It is today what it was a century ago. The spirits still live in Taos, and still lend their power to its life. I don’t think that will ever change, though the Anglos who come to town won’t ever really feel it the way a Taoseno does. (and hey, that’s not always a bad thing; the history of Taos has plenty of not so pleasant along with the good)

            • JHF March 7, 2013, 11:02 PM

              Possibly the most-easily comprehended explanation the dark soul of Taos I’ve come across yet. Thank you, sir! Everybody else, pay attention.

  • Susan Haubert February 24, 2013, 6:11 PM

    Yes, I am enjoying the painting and you are right. Who knows what he was purchasing and none of my business. I will read what you suggested.

  • Susan Haubert February 24, 2013, 7:34 PM

    I read quite a bit of Taos Friction by Mr. Whaley and my head is still spinning.
    Things like cronyism and siphoning off funds are very disgusting. The two quotes by Will Rogers come to mind – “If you ever injected the truth into politics you’d have no politics.” “Be thankful we are not getting all the government we are paying for.” I did like the idea of a greenhouse and chicken coup in every backyard. Having been raised in the country that appealed to me. How sad that so much money simply disappears and is not used to improve the community. How can the citizens possibly make changes under those conditions and the attitude that you simply cannot understand it until you have lived there forty years is ridiculous. I think it is fairly easy to understand.

    • JHF February 24, 2013, 8:55 PM

      You’re not referring to me, I hope! “Lived there for forty years,” etc. But that’s very much the attitude, all right. Taos is one of the most hidebound places I’ve ever been, and certainly the oldest in the USA. Nature and physical isolation are factors, too. The conditions can be so harsh. Some things work and some things don’t. In many respects, this is very much the frontier, even now. The positive side of this is strong and pulls in some for just that reason. You can reinvent yourself and so on, though you’ll never change the place.

      Whaley would be glad to know he set your head to spinning. No doubt this will make your future visits richer for the contrast. I think you’re getting it now. 🙂

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