A La Fonda Adios

Posted by on Oct 23, 2018 in Blog | 2 comments

La Fonda SF Room 40 years later (From THE KID FROM SANTA FE to be published sometime)

It’s almost four on Sunday in La Fonda and the eight mariachis walk past us in the hallway by the patio restaurant to the Santa Fe room in back carrying guitars, guitarrón, violins and trumpet. The violinists are two women in black Charro suits with ornate silver trim and long skirts and flamenco dance shoes. Ben and Rachael have checked out everything and we are okay now, ten minutes to go.

Ben says a lot of Betty’s friends are out of town, even Wally, her closest Santa Fe friend. It turns out few of her friends show up, many have died, many others come to see Ben, my eldest son, and my brother Fred’s daughters, Rachael, Cordelia and her children, and one another. Fred, dead, is there through them, and his best friend, Mac Watson, and our mother through the lusty Mariachi music and laughter. Friends of mine wander in and everyone is happy to be together, there’s embraces and shining eyes but not much drinking going on. The hotel will refund Rachael most of her bar deposit a week later. The laughter and love and shared memories here are all pure-driven by love, music and laughter.

Outside in the hall there’s a woman I think at first is Diane Keaton, looking directly at me. There’s something about the eyes. She knows me but who is she? She laughs at my expression. Me: ‘Judy? Judy Adler?’ She: ‘Didn’t Ben tell you I was coming?’ I say ‘He did, he did, but, but…geez, Judy.’ Ben comes over to introduce his mother to some people she knew long ago when he was a baby, and I take the steps back down into the room where it’s sounding like cicadas on a hot Fiesta day. The mariachis are into Guadalajara with such passion I want to belt it out with them. Marilyn is with two women in their eighties who knew Marian when she was in her twenties, one of them the sculptor Donna, who did the History of New Mexico bronze fountain in the park next to St. Francis Basilica, and the thousand pound brass doors into the church.

Tim, the waiter from The Palace for thirty years, comes over and again it is one of those eye to eyes without recognition for about five seconds, going on for what seems ten minutes, waiting for something to jell in memory. He knows all the stories of all those who were the heart and soul of the Santa Fe Bohemian scene because he got all the renditions each night, so all he needed to do was shake them up later and let the truth bubble to the top. Betty wrote a book called My City Different that presented a condensed version of what only Tim knows the full stories of now. The New Mexico Archives people need to start debriefing this man. I tell him if he ever decides to write his memoirs, Augusta Wind Press will publish it. He suggests we wait a few more years till the rest of the main players are gone. I say I don’t want to risk him being among them. He laughs.

Later Judy returns to thank me for what Ben has become and for Betty taking Ben-of-the-Wind and rebranding him Ben de La Corazon Sacrada. I tell her all I did was ask him to come down from Portland and he took it from there, but she insists gently there was more to it, and that’s what she’s talking about. It wasn’t selfless of me, I say, I was near death myself when Marilyn came in the nick of time from Minneapolis to take over Betty’s care for a week, and then Ben arrived. Betty needed fresh life force, and Ben was it. She treated him well, they stood around the fridge gobbling vanilla ice cream at 2 in the morning, and he made her live longer through laughter and his real caring of her. Now Ben is still jigsawing where she ends and he begins.

When Judy’s said her piece there’s that flash of recognition that first brought us together in the New York City days 30 years before. We hug and she goes over to where Marilyn is dancing and joins her.

A tall, trim and casually aristocratic man standing by the bar asks, ‘Do you know me?’ He has a week’s growth of white beard and mirthful eyes. I ask how many guesses I get. He says he was five when he and his brother Mac and their parents picked us up at the train at Lamy station sixty-five years ago. He says he also came to visit me at 46 Hilárion Eslava in Madrid in 1959 when I was at the Universitária. What?!!! John Watson? John Watson?! It is. I throw my arms around him though he keeps his drink up between us. I haven’t seen him in 40 years. He has kids in their late thirties I’ve not met, we went to Wood Gormley Elementary in Santa Fe. He’s in town from Santa Monica because his father, Jack, died here a few days ago at age 100. We talk for a while and when I leave to go get some air for my soul he grabs my shoulder, nails my eyes and says, ‘Goodbye, my friend.’

I cut onto San Francisco Street and over to Cathedral Park to sit on a bench. The fountain sculpture shows five hundred years of the Spanish and Yanqui occupation of Indian New Mexico. It is a busy piece of work. For two hours I’ve moved among the hundred or so people and talked with them. I haven’t talked with that many people in my entire life. By the time I meet John Watson I am drenched, legs trembling. I’ve done it, whatever it is. A celebration of one life finished and another begun?

People in the park pass and nod my way, some of them smile as if they know me or what I am feeling. It is friendship. Imagine. Am I transparent? From the steeple Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound begins to play where the great bells tolled long ago, sometimes all day on Easter and Christmas when we were kids. It is my favorite hymn, and my theme song. I have to smile. ‘You are really something,’ I say to the treetops.

When I return to La Fonda Marilyn is coming out the door and we cut down San Francisco to Galisteo Street and back to the old Santa Fe Inn. This is how we used to meet whenever we got separated by chance and on some inner timing. She takes my hand and says ‘Oh good, I thought I was going to have to find our motel alone.’ I thought, Not anymore, not any more.

2 Comments

  1. Pretty good

    • Thanks. But I think I misspelled Sagrada. 🙂