The pros won’t like this image—barely edited Photoshop HDR toning on an originally very dark photo—but I rather do. You’re looking at the “saloon,” where we spend 90% of our time in the winter. Just one room with my office beyond, but it’s always cozy because of the wood stove. This picture says “New Mexico” to me like a club to the head. If I ever see it again, civilization just won’t be the same.
This past Christmas we sent cards and presents to friends and relatives but gave each other peace. Declared that the two of us didn’t need to exchange gifts, in other words. It was a godsend! Instead, we turned the interior of our old rented adobe into a present all by itself: the Mexican “Feliz Navidad” flags, the hanging greens and ornaments, the lights, dishes of candy and cookies…I probably have never enjoyed it more.
Someday I should write a book about our lifetime of Christmas adventures. When we lived in Maryland, we usually drove to Des Moines (Iowa), over a thousand miles away, to spend the holiday with my in-laws. The visits were fine, the trip often hair-raising. Over the years we drove a ’66 VW, a ’67 Saab, a ’65 VW bus, and an ’84 VW Jetta through freezing rain, blizzards, gales, and one mild year, sunshine. Once (?) we had to turn back in Pennsyvlania because of the snow and mailed our presents out to Iowa. It was never easy: the roads and traffic were fairly murderous on the way out until we reached western Illinois and the edge of the plains. Have you ever been to Farmer City? I remember sitting in the old VW bus there, in single-digit cold, waiting for the hardware store to open at 7:00 a.m. so I could buy a propane cylinder for the jerry-rigged open flame heater I hung from the dash. (Worked surprisingly well until my wife burned her raccoon coat…)
We used to know every rest area, gas station, motel, and McDonald’s in the darkest Midwest. There was a cafe just west of Peoria where they served pies piled high with meringue. We’d hit that place about the time the after-church crowd did, breeze in, chow down, and roar off feeling so cool and so special getting to leave Peoria. Every part of the trip was another adventure: the horror of Indianapolis, the last rest area in Illinois, crossing the Mississippi, that funny little restaurant in eastern Iowa. You wouldn’t believe all the things that went down, or maybe you would. I was always having too much fun in one way or another—quite the miracle I never had a wreck or got arrested.