Taos Trap™ Explained and Busted

Chamisa blossoms

I thought this was a metaphor but now it’s not

[Note: be sure to read the whole thing. This started as a rant. As I wrote, the anger drained away and something shifted. – JHF]

It’s easy to wake up at 4:00 a.m. and fumble for the pistol in your nightstand. (Flashlight, buckles, old eyeglasses clatter in the drawer.) Doom and hopelessness will do that to a person, which is why I’d never have one. Telling symptoms of the Taos Trap™ syndrome!

Several varieties of this condition may be found. A common one is purely psychological and manifests as delusion born of myth and marketing, wherein the victim feels that simply being here confers a certain edge. (Now ask me how I know this.) It’s a great place, by the way. But the self-referential nature of the syndrome blinds one to a few things. Years ago, Bill Whaley explained it to this newcomer, noting that wealthy people come to Taos for the hype, build second homes in the sagebrush, then get bored and leave because there isn’t anything for them to do except take art lessons and go skiing. The result is empty homes that cost too much because “it’s Taos,” cue the myth, and lo the churn rolls on. An old saying goes that “only crazy white people live out in the sage,” but there seem to be a lot of them, and God knows we have dirt.

The essence of the actual trap or bind at any rate, at least as I perceive it— speaking as one who’d like to be re-acquainted with central heat and pavement—is having just enough resources to 1) buy a better home if one you really want exists, 2) keep paying rent until they sell it out from under you or it collapses, or 3) get the hell out of Dodge and spend it all on moving, which leaves you right back where you started from, all of this with little or no overlap among the three and damn few Taos choices, sadly—or so it would appear…

But as I said to my wife this morning, “The most important thing is being happy living here with you right now,” which she appreciated greatly, having said the same thing her own self for years for purposes of telling truth and keeping me from being mean and crazy. And what if the perpetual “housing dilemma” that’s tormented this former Air Force brat for his entire life, beginning with forty moves in the first sixteen years, has been too long tied up with “other matters”? [koff] This just occurred to me today, in fact, and somehow I feel better. Maybe all we have to do is find one, duh—once the thing’s untethered, see—and what if I can really do this shit? Did I not believe before? Suddenly I feel it in my bones.

Good Lord!

And now the whole damn post is blown to hell.

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.  

  • Sherry September 20, 2016, 2:30 PM

    Its been a while since I’ve commented, but I still read your posts. Seems we have the same ongoing, never changing, frustrating wish to get the hell out of Dodge (my Dodge being the wasteland of Oklahoma), but neither of us ever seem to make it. My latest excuse is that our son, now living in Japan, will be there for probably five years and its only five years until I retire, so why not stay here until he makes a decision about where he wants to live – because Lord knows he’s smart enough not to come back to the wasteland of Oklahoma. He even got out of the wasteland that is America and moved to a foreign country!!! Oh, to be young, single and childless and free to go wherever the hell I want. Why didn’t I move to Austin when I had the chance back in 1975 – oh, and again in 1984. Oh, yeah, my husband called for our first date and the rest is history. sigh……

    • JHF September 20, 2016, 2:41 PM

      Hi Sherry!

      Well, we did move to New Mexico, you know. Ten years before my wife reached full retirement! She gave up half her future income for adventure while we were still young enough to pull it off. I’m filled with awe remembering. It’s beautiful here. We’ve experienced incredible richness in our lives despite my inevitable grousing.

      Gotta watch out what one tells oneself. I think that’s the most important thing.

  • Rita September 20, 2016, 2:49 PM

    My youngest daughter, the one who embroils me in her complex and volatile family drama, refers to Ashland as “the waiting room.”

    I agree with Sherry. I might as well wait here while the principal actors in this drama figure out where they will end up. Lawyers may well abscond with whatever funds could have been used to escape anyway. Maybe it does not really matter where I am. Everyplace has its dark underbelly, it seems.

    • JHF September 20, 2016, 2:59 PM

      I used to worry about where everyone “will end up,” but then they died or moved away to silly places. (Freedom!) My only problem here has been the things I couldn’t see. You’re right about the underbelly. I think it definitely matters where we are, though. In the deepest spiritual or psychological sense, it doesn’t, but we’re human. I hate crowds and being stinky hot, for one thing.

      Each of us is different. Maybe waiting is a good thing. Maybe both of you should move! 🙂

  • Rita September 20, 2016, 3:19 PM

    I also hate hot and crowded and bad air, water, chemicalized food, aggressive cops, meth heads, over-bearing relatives, noisy, nastiness, etc, etc. So yes, I guess I meant it does not matter except for the above. 🙂

    Actually, she did leave. Unfortunately, she was served papers by the baby-daddy a few hours before getting on the plane, on account of three non-refundable tickets (two kids) and no where else to live but back in Hawaii. I am waiting to see if he can force her to live here. Since he is one of those fabulously wealthy grower dudes, and she is a penniless single mom, he probably can. I bought the tickets. I figure when a little boy is wetting the bed, pooping his pants, stuttering and afraid to go to his Daddy’s house because of the new (and pregnant) girlfriend yelling and shaming him, It is worth it to buy a little time in Paradise and hope something clever can be done.

    • JHF September 20, 2016, 3:28 PM

      GOOD LORD! I didn’t know the details. You do have an exciting life, and certainly your daughter does. Poor little guy! I’ve never been to Hawaii and would probably love it. Now you’ve got me thinking. What a day.

  • Rita September 20, 2016, 3:59 PM

    Oh good idea. You would probably love it. They are in Puna, which is not un-like Taos. It is cheaper than Maui by far, but has many of the same characters as Taos – creatives, people hiding out, off-gridders, woo-woos, tokers. Only the weather is amazing, but punctuated by occasional hurricanes. Oh wait. No symphony. And the humidity would be murder on a baby grand.

    I spent 4 months with them there three years ago and love it. My daughter and her daughter lived there 5 years. It is their home. We could probably live there and ignore the legal situation because the police hate to get involved in domestic (white) issues. In fact, they don’t. Sometimes it is nice to have cops that do not do their job. The cops are all Hawaiian natives.

    • JHF September 20, 2016, 7:28 PM

      Someday we’ll go there for a visit. Maybe sooner than I think!

  • Marti Fenton September 20, 2016, 4:47 PM

    I’m trapped in Taos because I have a Habitat for Humanity home that I can’t sell or rent but its a pretty decent house. Sometimes (like now) I just want to be somewhere else. I’ve come to realize that this is about starting again without the old problems around me. Alas, I must deal with my house karma whether or not I want to. I think its just human nature to want to make a fresh start somewhere else under the illusion that old habits can accommodate a fresh start. By the way, I went to a barbecue in Talpa on Saturday and while we were looking for a place to park I recognized your house, car, truck and outdoor furniture. One of our friends is house-sitting next to your famous dilemma. What a strange community we live in. Sometimes it reminds me of Mad Max Beyond Superdome and at other times its bucolic.

    • JHF September 20, 2016, 7:38 PM

      Yeah, I agree with all of that, especially about old habits. Something really shifted as I wrote this piece, however. I don’t feel trapped any more. Maybe I can finally sit down and write.

      In the neighborhood, eh? That’s kind of amazing! Good characterization of this town. I’d say way more Mad Max than bucolic, though. 🙂

  • GAP September 21, 2016, 8:55 PM

    I have been a long time reader and fan of yours, but have never participated. Tend to be a free rider. Love your writing and observations, particularly w/r/t Taos. Please keep it up. BTW, I’m one of those second home guys, but I look forward to being fully Taos trapped-God granting long life.

    • JHF September 22, 2016, 1:55 AM

      Very glad to hear all this! Rest assured I’d never hold your home against you, either. (Surely you can read between the lines— this whole piece is so transparent, but it took me somewhere as I wrote it.) I came for the Nature. That’s it. And extended years of sitting in the corner, as is now apparent. Glad to see you’re serious. That means you’ll be fine, and now at long last we’ll be, too.

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