Rift Valley Spring

Rio Pueblo gorge

Rio Pueblo gorge, before the river joins the Rio Grande just south of Taos

The acequia out back is running again, a sure sign of spring. I realize that doesn’t mean much to people outside of New Mexico but it’s quite the radical thing to have agua flowing thru the landscape. The technology came from the Moors, who taught the Spaniards, who came to Mexico, then here. In our case the acequia water is diverted from the Rio Grande del Rancho higher up in the hills. There are actual wetlands there because of beaver dams, cat-tails and migrating waterfowl in the freaking high desert. Every spring it blows my mind that all this comes from North Africa.

Not unrelated is the fact that many of the Spaniards who colonized Mexico were Jews fleeing the Inquisition. When the inquisitors came to Mexico City, these Spanish Jews fled north to the farthest reaches of the empire, which meant northern New Mexico… I mean, wow… Imagine having somewhere you could flee to, a place where if you made it past the Apaches and Comanches and the bears and cougars and bandits and didn’t die of thirst, you could build a house of mud, plant a little corn (learning from the local Natives) and have a life. Even before we were a country, before most white people even came to North America, this was a place of refuge and opportunity, never mind the dangers. It beckoned. Welcoming asylum seekers is in the “DNA” of the very continent, the very dirt we walk on and the air we breathe.

I have been traveling. Well, we have been traveling, but I may have gone further psycho-emotionally, since I started so far back. We just returned from Austin, for example, where we’d gone to visit with my brother before his stem cell transplants begin. I did all the driving, roughly 1,500 miles in all, intending to stay for most of the week and then changing plans after my sister and her husband came down from Dallas to join us all for one glorious day and night of reunion, visiting, and touching base. We didn’t need to be there any longer, though. He doesn’t talk that much about his feelings and I’m sure I let him down, but I think he knows my Austin time was in the glory days, when U.T. won all its football games, there were love-ins in the parks, and Austin was less than one-tenth the size it is today. Despite the many attractions of a city I still think of as my home town, I had no wish to penetrate the howling traffic any further than our comfy hotel on the southwest side. He would have driven us, of course, but I was only there for him. The time we had was wonderful, at any rate, and I’ll be back.

Seeing old haunts is tricky for the psyche. The beautiful Texas Hill Country is still something to behold, but “sand mines” for fracking wells and vanity ranches scar the landscape where I least expected. The formerly quiet two-lane country roads we took at the peak of wildflower season were like racetracks with the newer 75 mph speed limit (meaning 80 mph plus). In other parts of Texas, that’s a godsend, but every time I slowed for beauty’s sake, there was truck grill filling up the rear view mirror. I am a sensitive soul. My university years and later were so rich, so powerful, my connection to the landscape of live oak and pecan trees, clear water flowing over limestone beds, grackles squawking on the campus greens, was so direct and formative. I’ll never forget the time I stood beside a lonely back road south of town—that’s now a roaring four-lane highway—and an armadillo snuffled out from a meadow filled with bluebonnets to walk right between my legs as I stood still as stone.

I’m so aware of fleeting time, of aging. That’s one reason why I came here, leaving a settled, comfortable life and dozens of friends in Maryland 20 years ago. One life is not enough! It may be enough to learn just why one thinks that, in the agony and joy one falls through on the way. Take note and never hold back when the little voice says “go.” More than anything else, I see now how the things we tell ourselves shape everything that happens. I also think there isn’t any need to “get” this until we’ve been washed downstream for several lifetimes.

Make of that what you will, and welcome the expanding light.


Muse post image

She was waiting for him when he opened the car door, sitting in the passenger seat smoking a cigarette.

“Hey! What are you doing here? This is my car!”

She turned to face him and smiled, then exhaled and tossed the still-burning cigarette out the partly opened window. “Oh, hi. I’ve been waiting for you.” Her hair was long and black and curly. Her bright red lipstick matched her jacket.

“Apparently! But how did you get in?”

“You don’t get it, do you? I’ve always been here. Well, not in this car, but sometimes…”

“Did you just toss a lit cigarette out the window? What are you trying to do, start a fire?”

“I thought you’d never get it. Yes, actually.” She yawned and sat up straight. “Hey, do you have something to eat? Or are you taking me somewhere?”

“Taking you somewhere? Are you kidding? I don’t even know who you are!”

“Oh, I think you do, but never mind. Oh, well!”

And with that she opened the door and started to get out. The sun was going down, and he was suddenly concerned. Where would she go and how would she get there? The parking lot was empty, save for his ten-year-old Corolla. When he looked again, the door was closed, and he was all alone.

No Kitty Bed for You

cat in closet

You bastards get a dog, I’m outa here, I swear

They finally did the laundry. Okay, there hasn’t been much sunshine for a while. But all they had to do was leave some dirty underwear inside the cheapo plastic thing from Walmart and I’d be all right. Not going to happen, is it. Where’s the goddamn basket?!? Doesn’t anybody care? I’ll just go lie down on the floor and hope they built a fire. Maybe I’ll go use the cat box so a hunk of shit gets caught up in my fur and falls off in the living room. That’ll show them, won’t it. Can’t blame me for an act of God.

Almost Spring

March Taos Mountain photo

Barely cranked telephoto image from Pentax K-x DSLR

This is the view from my desk. If you hunt for Taos Mountain on this site via Search or Tags, you’ll find a zillion similar shots, but I don’t care. There’s an acequia (traditional seasonal irrigation ditch from Moorish Spain that looks just like a stream) at the bottom of the hill. That huge aspen on the left was planted 50 years ago by hippies, and you know it’s happy to be rooted near the water. Dennis Hopper lived less than a hundred yards away back then. I doubt he had a role in digging up the aspens in the mountains and transplanting them down here, but who knows and it doesn’t matter. The point is that this very hillside was completely barren in the early ’60s, and some crazy people made it better. They planted apple trees as well and they’ll be blooming soon.

Sex Pistols in San Antonio

No idea who made this but I’m grateful

Introduction: Early this morning a Twitter friend happened to mention the Sex Pistols. Whenever anyone does this, no matter where I am, I have to tell the story of how my wife and I actually saw them. It almost didn’t happen, either. The above video is from the show. What follows is a slightly edited 2010 blog post from my old FarrFeed site, which lives on in a “local server environment” on my my ancient iMac. (As I write this, I’m remembering that one of my two backup drives on that machine has died. Time to transfer the old site with all its writing to my VPS at Brownrice, yikes.)

If you don’t know about the Sex Pistols, I’m not the one to lay it all out. But I can tell you I was a huge fan of their one and only album. The main takeaway from seeing them play one of their very last gigs was how good the sound was. Not that you can tell from the video, of course. Guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook carried the band, since Sid Vicious couldn’t really play bass. It worked, anyway. I may have permanently damaged my hearing that night, but this was the real deal.

And now from the vault:

* * *

Oh wow. Gotta love YouTube!

On a whim, I just searched for a video of the Sex Pistols’ show at Randy’s Rodeo in San Antonio, Texas on January 9, 1978, and I found one! This blows me away. Naturally, I watched this very carefully, because my wife and I were there

Alas, we’re not in the video, but at least one person I recognize from Austin is. I was standing ten feet in front of Sid Vicious with broken glass crunching under my shoes, loving every second of it. So loud, the loudest music I’d ever heard until that time. If you watch clear to the end, you can see Sid taking off his bass guitar and hitting someone with it just two guys away from me, close enough that I had to duck.

So how did this come about?

We were visiting my sister in Austin over the between-semester break (my wife was teaching at Washington College in Chestertown, MD). To have a little time to ourselves, we’d gone to San Antonio for the day. When it came time to leave, I made sure to take a certain street out of town, but the whole thing was a setup: I’d read in Rolling Stone that the Sex Pistols were on tour in the U.S. and knew full well that they were performing in San Antonio that day at a country-western venue (!) called Randy’s Rodeo. I was dying to see them, but it seemed like an impossible thing to pull off without having tickets in advance, and I didn’t have the nerve to try to add this to our outing. (Idiot.) However, I had looked up the address, and I knew we’d go right past it if I chose a certain route. Oh, I was a devious bastard. As we approached the place, I pointed to the sign and piped up, “Look, this must be where the Sex Pistols are playing! You know, that article I read in Rolling Stone… How about it, wanna go if they still have tickets at the door?” And she agreed. Hoo boy!

I needn’t have been concerned, though. It was our one shot at seeing the Sex Pistols ever, and knowing how much I liked them, she probably would have said yes in advance. There were plenty of tickets, too, which shouldn’t have surprised me if I’d given more thought to where we were. The main thing was, the show was to start at 7:00 p.m., it was already somewhere between 5:00 and 6:00, and we were there. Oh my, oh my.

The Sex Pistols had chosen a raunchy cowboy venue just to piss off the regular patrons, which worked like a charm. They also didn’t come on until almost midnight, five full hours after we’d walked in and had our ticket stubs stapled to our collars by an armed, off-duty deputy sheriff moonlighting as security. There were at least four opening acts, all local, loud, and very bad. From what I read afterwards, the local bands were chosen because they were bad. By around 11:30 p.m., the mood had turned decidedly ugly, and the mixed crowd of rednecks, Latinos, and Austin hippies was ready to crack heads.

Finally, the Sex Pistols took the stage. Before they’d even played a note, the air was full of flying pizza slices, beer bottles, and spittle. Johnny Rotten began by making fun of the “cowboy faggots,” which cranked the tension up even more. Obviously relishing the chaos, the Pistols then launched into a bone-crushing rendition of “God Save the Queen” that transported me to another realm of pure rock and roll joy. It was also the loudest thing I’d ever heard in my life. (Three days later, my ears were still ringing.)

The bare concrete floor was wet with spilled beer and vomit. Tossed beer bottles littered the joint with broken glass. The Pistols were outstanding. The noise was beyond pain. All in all, it was one of the most outrageous, dangerous, wonderful experiences of my entire life. And my sweetheart was there to share it with me, even if I’d tricked us into going. We weren’t married then, but that would have sealed the deal for me, right there. I’ve never been the same since. Certainly not my ears, although the tinnitus I have today is probably genetic. But wow. Just wow.

Watching that video brings it all back home. Enjoy.


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