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Out in the sticks near Tucumcari

Posted by on Jan 16, 2019 in Blog | 2 comments

North of Tucumcari, NM

I was at that trashy rest stop on the Cimarron River, you know the place off highway 54, the one with the railroad span to your right headed south?

I was talking with a tree about how things were and it said it couldn’t complain. Said its mother and father used to be up the road a bit either side of a barbed wire fencing the highway, and they never had it this good. They had full-on wind 365, and the only water they got was what run off the highway twice a year. They made do with what they got and seeded when they could.

This tree said its particular seed blew into this rest stop on a rare north wind, rather than the trades that almost always doomed elm seed to the wastelands, with no chance to sprout and root. Those that did through sheer grit didn’t reach longer than ankle high to a coyote pup before they keeled over and blew away.

The tree said it really liked the community of plants here, they was family, real strong though most every one of’m stunted, starved for love, and cripp’d up pretty bad. But they was alive, that was the thing. The parents never promised them a rose garden, only a chance to root & find out just what-the-hell kinda thing they might be.

That cactus over there found out and’s been complaining ever since, all the time grousing about what a rough deal it was dealt, how it didn’t ask to be a prickly pear bastard, how-come not a yucca with pretty flowers and stuff? Now that yucca was a cactus, not a Mickey-mouse-eared thing everyone talks down to. The elm said the whatever-it-was slept late and got up cranky, you’d think its spines was sticking more in than out.

Now the elm had a real story of deprivation and hard times, being an orphan down the road from its folks’ graves and all, brothers and sisters parched to dust, but you never heard it rankle about it. Elms was tough, they thrived on bad times, they loved bad times because then elms really feel alive and get to dream of turning things around and someday looking like one of them elms down there on the banks of the Cimarron. Runs sand on the surface, but deep down is lots of water. No, up here is good, real good, strong winds, get to see traffic whip by and the train loco-moting cross the span, maybe some horizon even.

I said maybe what that mouse-eared, down-home ugly, bitchy little cactus needed was for another like it to grow nearby, and it’d court it with pollen hauled over by bees and butterflies. Two uglies could make a pretty…

The elm said could be, could be, but… I waved, said I had to get back on the road to Borrego. I went over to the cactus and looked it over. Not bad, really, it had its beauty, the lopsided symmetry, the shriveled-up Mickey-mouse ears and buds and poisonous tiny barbs at the bases of thousands of long sharp spines promising a better yesterday, though not tomorrow. I mean it was saddled. But someone has to be a cactus, y’know. Guess I’d bitch too

Marilyn and The Kids

Posted by on Jan 12, 2019 in Blog | 5 comments

Marilyn & the kids—Heart of the story

Heart of the Story 

The decisions Marilyn and I made in our new life together were based on what was best for the children. Before I really got it I carried around a few Excepts and Buts but in time forgot them. I’d lived by Buts and Excepts and that was okay when I was alone but once we had kids they got tossed out the back door with the dishwater. The Buts and Excepts.

She made sure I kept this credo as my guiding light. I’d run out on my first born son Ben and his mother years before, when he was still a toddler, and Cristina and Zack from their mother 20 years after, so it was clear to Marilyn that this thing called fatherhood and sacrifice were not more than learned lines for me. When I needed reminding she’d say something that made me feel fatherhood, at least as a responsibility if not a heart centered feeling. She could have gotten my attention by raising hell but that’s not her way, she gently maneuvered my infant sense about what is right, to educate me. She is a teacher, in the spirit of Jesus. It was a long haul and so painful for us both that there were times we both would have gladly died instead of going through what we had to in order to make a mom and dad home for the little kids.

It wasn’t that they didn’t have a home with their mother, they did, but she didn’t want to share them much. When I met Marilyn I’d already adjusted to that. Marilyn un-adjusted me to that. She felt kids needed fathers as well as mothers. You’d think I would’ve figured this out with the three of us boys raised by the angeldust of our mother in Santa Fe. But here I was perpetuating an identical drama reenacting the same things as my father. Kids are chameleons, everything goes into them and serves as blueprints for when they can finally think for themselves, and it may be that even their thoughts were downloaded into them. We are tattooed and pierced in utero.

So this is what I was choosing when I hitchhiked into San Diego from the Pacific Crest Trail. I was going to find The Connector who had come to me in a vision as I slept and accepted my prayer for help. That was what we were talking about in that dream meeting, although I didn’t know it till just now. I didn’t know I’d asked for any help. The vision had stayed in my memory as a mystical thing. I totally missed the part about my asking her to come be the straw boss in my life to work on an impossible project—being a full-on father.

The decisions we made, especially in those first seven years in the furnace of family law, were directed by the intent, mainly on her part, of saving Zack and Cristina from a catastrophic dominoing that my choice to walk away from them had set in motion. I couldn’t undo that but together Marilyn and I could redirect some of the lines of dominoes so they all wouldn’t be tipped over. That meant getting shared custody, something I’d signed away in Santa Barbara when their mother came with them from Fiji where they were living. She wanted two thirds of my income and full custody. She needed it to establish residency. I signed the papers. I’d hit bottom, or thought I had. If the legal papers demanded my soul I’d’ve turned over all fragments gladly.

Yah?

Posted by on Dec 31, 2018 in Blog | 1 comment

I was thinking how neat it’d be to die and see what happens next. I’m in my 80s so I have a vested interest. My feeling is nuthin’ ever dies, the spirit that aggravates, also inculcates, whatever that means. But, thing is this whole thing is Love, and Love means good stuff, so how could Death be bad stuff? For the people we owe, sure! But for the long haul, nope, it’s all sweetness and glory and Hallelulia! and Oh God YES! How do I know? I always knew but made believe cuz it’s cheating to have Life with there being no options other than No Life. We are forever. You. Me. That guy over there. C’mon, not him!? Yah, Him.

Woodcutter

Posted by on Dec 30, 2018 in Blog | 1 comment

13. Santa Clara Peak

I met Marilyn in a dream on the Pacific Crest Trail, but only realized fifteen years into our marriage that I’d seen her even before then.
I had a small sawmill and firewood and fencing business out on Airport Road in Santa Fe., where I’d moved after Galisteo. Our main thing was hand-adzing trees into round roof beams we call vigas in New Mexico, or finishing saw-milled beams that we used a broad axe to shave the mill marks from. In the olden days a round tree was made square entirely by hand-adzing. We created the “illusion” of it being handcrafted by using those same ancient tools.
The best trees for this were Engelmann spruce from way high in the mountains. When they die the bark beetles and other critters don’t attack them because the cambium layer doesn’t taste good and the scaly bark clings too tightly to the wood. So the tree slow dries over the years with minimal cracking. An adzed Engelmann viga is a pleasure to look at, eight or ten of them holding up your bedroom ceiling, herringboned in between with peeled aspen or split cedar saplings. You don’t have to read to fall asleep, you just marvel at this primitive roof above you in your casa on the banks of the Acequia Madre where the Santa Fe farmers used to live.
I was driving the logging truck up the Santa Clara Peak one morning in February going for a load I’d decked earlier in the week. It was light but the sun hadn’t come over the Sangre de Cristo across the Rio Grande valley. A dusting of snow had fallen and mine were the only tracks on the dirt road.
A car came around a bend headed toward me just as the sun rose behind me, a yellow Volvo station wagon with a man and woman up front and two children in back. They waved as they passed, all smiles, beautiful people, radiant in the new sunlight. They zoomed past and I followed their tracks ahead of me, wondering what they’d been up here for. They were dressed for summer in bright colors, yet it was below freezing. Had the car broken down? That was the only explanation I came up with because this main road ended at a deep canyon fifteen miles on near Pedarnales Mesa through deep snowfields. There was a one-track, very rough road carved out of the lava, put in a century ago for horses hauling trees. The road wended down to a village that even a jeep couldn’t make it over at this point. Any other logging roads branched from the trunk road I was on.
A few miles along, I came to where their tracks ended, or began—depending on how I looked at them. There were no wide melty spots you usually see where a car’s been parked in the snow for awhile, or footprints. The tracks just appeared as if the car had touched down from flying along.
Here’s the spooky part. When I met Marilyn in 1991, I was driving the old Buick Regal. When we moved from the trailer court at Lake Morena over to Regner Road in San Diego she showed me a classified ad for a used Volvo station wagon at a good price. She suggested I sell the Buick and buy the Volvo, as there’d be more room in the station wagon for my kids.
I ran an ad and a German student came by and paid me in cash that I used to buy the Volvo. I’d never had one before, and never particularly liked their looks. I didn’t think of myself as a Volvo person, which I thought to be dependable, no-nonsense Nordic types who went for solid and honest craftsmanship in their cars, tools, and wives.
But this Volvo was different, long and sleek, with a turning radius where you could do a U-turn on a two-lane and still clear the far curb by a good margin. It was silver with black leather seats, and a reputation for running 200,000 to 300,000 miles. The car got good mileage, had abundant power, and made me smile just to sit there at the wheel, sniffing its good leathery smell and feeling safe and cozy.
The time we moved to Montana with the kids I hauled it on a flatbed trailer behind the U-Haul, and we explored the valleys and mountains aplenty in that fine car. I loved that Volvo and much later rebuilt it to give to Marilyn’s son, Jonnie, quasi-repairing all the things I’d become used to in the 100,000 miles we put on it. Maybe what I’d seen that faraway morning on Santa Clara Peak in my logging truck was a greeting from the future from a woman I’d not yet met, still busy in Owatonna raising her first family, and from my youngest children who were yet to be born, in a car that hadn’t yet been designed and built, driven by a me that I would become.

Santa Clara Peak is sacred land. The Clara pueblo Indians still drive up there for holy ceremonies in their pickups and hike back to shrines only they know of that their people have maintained for a thousand years. The time I’d found those three decks of abandoned spruce way up there I borrowed a bulldozer from Bob Gibbons in Apache Canyon, the operator he sent was Guillermo, and he hauled the dozer in to clear the trenched logging road back to the decks. He told me he used to cut wood up here back when he was a wino and smoker of weed, something he gave up when he met the woman who became his wife, and she told him, “That stuff, or me,” and meant it.
One day Guillermo saw a few pickups park and some Pueblo men walk up a slope toward the tree line. They were there a few hours before returning and driving away. He knew about their shrines they kept energized with ancient artifacts he figured he could sell to unethical collectors, so he went to rob the shrine. While climbing the slope, lightning struck out of clear sky close enough to where he could smell it and feel the heat. He waited, started again and this time the lightning struck next to him. When he came to, he tumbled down the slope running back to his truck. He told me this story in exchange for the one I’d told him about the time up there with Neil Lane when the two storm fronts collided with one another above us and dropped a tornado on our heads.
When Guillermo and I told Bob Gibbons about it, he said he and his crew were spending the night in a ranger cabin on the mountain when a storm hit with such power that when they went out in the morning the old road to the cabin was covered with blow-down debris, and a new one opened where the tornado lifted out a swatch of trees.
It was Bob who sold me his milling equipment and a Bobcat loader when he went into the adobe hacienda-building business with his mother and brother on the eve of the mass migrations of the elite from both coasts to Santa Fe. When he started his wood business he’d gotten the contract for clearing the ties of an old, narrow-gauge track line near Apache Canyon where he lived. He pulled up and loaded the nine thousand or so ties himself. He said that one time cutting trees he was driven into the ground like a spike by a hammer when a tree fell on him and has never been the same since, the main reason he’d moved on. He said he was lucky it fell on his head. He and his mother and brother started the home construction company called Rational Alternatives and were the only ones building true, adobe pueblo-style homes on four-acre lots east of Santa Fe. This part I know to be true, but his being driven into the ground by a falling tree, or the tornado cutting in a new road and covering over the old with the scything, only he knows.

After Bahia in 1990, I returned to San Diego broke and still broken. When everything goes to hell I get a backpack and find a trail, doesn’t matter where it comes from or where it’s going.
Back on the Pacific Crest Trail, I hiked for days with an eighty-pound pack from the Mexican border forty miles into the mountains on my way to Canada. A young woman came loping along and passed me, huffing gently. Then came a man, then what looked like a street person all raggedy, wearing beat-up leather shoes. Then came a few runner-type guys of the sort dropped from the womb in a starting position, then a long line of them. One said they were doing a fifty-miler. He wasn’t even breathing hard.
At the water and juice table at the Sierra Club Lodge five miles along, I stopped to ask a man about this. He said this was a running club he usually competed in but’d torn a tendon and was helping the runners by passing out drinks and slices of orange. He was over eighty.
I said, “You mean you guys run these races every weekend?”
“Yep,” and he said lots of times they ran in the city where there are plenty of trails and bike paths, “but it was good to get out into the country too.”
I said, “You mean these runners will run back to I-8 and drive back to town after covering fifty miles?”
“Yep.”
I said, “There was a man who looked like a homeless person, long, tangled hair and beard, came by me. Is he a regular?”
“Oh, Ted, yeh, he runs with us. He’s sixty-five, I think. He won a few weeks ago, not much of a running style but he can move when he wants to.”
This unhinged me. My worldview shifted. In my youth, for a person to run five miles was, what? Well, if you were a hard-core transcontinental Indian or the Kenyan Abebe Bikila, or Roger Bannister, sure, some sort of esoterica for the gifted; but where did this sudden athletic ability among street people and octogenarians come from?
What was I doing while this was going on all these years? Did a few athletes break through some sort of impossibility standard that we took as ultimate truth when younger, and open the doors to longer, faster, heavier, and higher?
In the wood business I cut and worked trees all day long, muscling 300-pound logs onto the flatbed and chaining fifty of them down at a time. I felt I was It. Now there’s a street person in his sixties running a Sunday fifty-miler on the PCT for fun. I’m not It.
I sat cross-legged by the campfire cooking some quinoa, no sound except the popping of wood. There wasn’t much left of me. I ate and crawled into the tent, zipped the flap shut, and got into the bag, wearing my clothes. It was February in the desert mountains. I’d done ten more miles on the Pacific Crest Trail and was seriously staved in.
In my sleep I meet a woman in a white pleated gown. She is tall, broad-shouldered, her hair a brassy blonde. We aren’t communicating with words but I’m getting that she is the “Connector.” She brings people together on earth who otherwise wouldn’t meet on their own. Though she works in this dimension she is not of it.
There is no time here. She seems familiar. The eyes. It’s a face I’ve always been drawn to in women, starting with Bailey Mott’s when we were three years old in Oswego, New York. I’m trying to place this woman but there is nowhere to take it, I don’t have that kind of memory connected to me right now. We are connected through the hearts and it’s enough.
I don’t understand what she’s saying, it’s not that kind of talk, but know something is coming into me about her and our destinies. I want to fall to my knees and ask her to take me back to wherever she comes from. I don’t want to stay here. She smiles. She can’t.
She introduces me to a weasely little man with thin mustache and slicked-back black hair in a black three-piece suit. He works for her, connecting people through accident. He has started going too far, putting in more suffering than is needed to bring the people together. He has been doing this increasingly. She tells him to stop it. He says he will and then he’s gone.
She looks into me and I awaken lying flat on my back, naked with the tent door flaps pulled back and the sun directly in the middle of the entryway. I am here and still there for a while until I get my bearings. I get up, not remembering getting undressed or tying the flaps back. I eat some cold quinoa, pack and start along the trail toward Canada.
That was no dream. And who was that? I swear I’ll never forget it. By afternoon I’ve forgotten it.

I get rid of half the weight of my pack, storing it in a hole I mark with stones. I won’t come back for it but some hiker might see the duck and investigate. There’s rice and quinoa and hummus flakes. There’s some dehydrated campfire dinners. I leave some pots and pans and clothes to get the pack down to absolute survival weight. I’ve lost forty pounds over the last few months, lost a wife, kids, business, and money, along with betraying everyone close to me and everything I thought I stood for. I am unlovely meat and bones and don’t have the energy to live. Or didn’t until I met the Connector. Something happened last night but I can’t remember what. I didn’t remember what it was for months.

It started to rain the other side of Warner Springs and it rained for a week, ending a six-year drought. Higher up in the mountains above Palm Springs this was snow that closed the PCT until spring. So I called Frank and Barbara Coates from a payphone back in Warner Springs and asked them to come pick me up. I met Frank in the New York City in the early Sixties when we were wannabe actors.
We missed connections so I hitchhiked to their place in San Diego and lived on their boat “Morning Star” for two or three weeks. Down and out at the San Diego Yacht Club.

One day they said they might like to take their boat out now and then, how would I feel about that? At their house I met Tom from Texas and he told how when he came to town he was penniless and went to a roommates finder agency where they hooked him up with a divorcee in La Jolla on the beach. He became her boy toy. She gave him a new car, had his clothes tailored, they moved among the rich and famous, boated on her yacht and, when she grew tired of him, sent him off with a stipend and the car.
I went to the agency and told Joanne that was what I was looking for. She remembered Tom and the divorcee. She spoke instead of a woman in her mid-fifties in Ocean Beach who boogie-boarded, taught college, and was a home healthcare nurse.
I said I was thinking more mid-thirties over La Jolla way with a beach house. She said this gal she was talking about looked mid-thirties and did have a house on the cliffs just south of La Jolla. Ten miles south as it turned out. She was divorced, vivacious, and a whole lot of fun. She wrote down the name and address along with that of another woman renter in Lemon Grove.

I went to Lemon Grove first and arrived in the midst of an argument on the front porch between a man with two suitcases and a woman with none. She was yelling at him and pointing toward the street. He was doing shoulder shrugs with the suitcases and yelling back. She grabbed one of the suitcases from his hand and heaved it onto the lawn. He said something and she took a swing at him. He went to pick up the suitcase and she noticed me halfway out of my car and waved for me to come on over. I got back in and drove away.
The other woman whose name I’d been given was hard to connect with. I spoke with her son, Jonnie, who said she was hard to reach because she had three jobs. There went my tailored wardrobe. I left Frank’s number and went back to Morning Star. I left a message with Jonnie a few days later that I’d be by at noon the next day.
His mother was coming out the door to go to work and only had a minute to show me the room because I was late. It felt good in the house. The rental room was about six by ten with a narrow bed, small desk, and window facing west. There were two bathrooms for five people and I’d be sharing hers. We looked at a quilt on the wall created by an artist in Morgan Hill, showing a circle of seven men and women as if they’d jumped from a plane to skydive, but without parachutes. They were sewn three-dimensionally in different fabrics and one was sewn together from all the others’ personal fabrics. This was the Cristus. He was the only complete one, the others were missing limbs, and one of them his head. The artist was Barbara Baumgarten. Her conception was titled “World,” the story of humanity in one cover.

Marilyn said again she had to go on house calls and I told her I’d think about the room and call her. She later said she had to bite her tongue to tell me not to bother. Instead she said she usually took only women renters but, since Joanne had made an error in sending me, she’d let me rent the room for a month while I looked for something more permanent. She said primly that her women boarders all locked their doors at night, and I said primly that I did, too.

Didja have a good time??

Posted by on Nov 29, 2018 in Blog | 1 comment

Did Jesus Have a Good Time?

My friend Parcival Spellman tells me the missing ten years of Jesus’ life were spent in what is now Tibet and northern India. Par was born Catholic Light, aka the Episcopalian church, but true religion didn’t really grab him until the past few years.
After a few years of out-of-the-box Christianity like Science of Mind, and Engineering Principles of God Inc., he is now more a Hindu. He studies religious texts, listens to Prem Joshua chants on his tablet, attends temple and goes on retreats among monks of his particular calling. I’ve never seen him happier, altho when I see him coming….
Par tells me Christ’s insights came as a result of sitting in caves and temples during those missing years of his life with the great Seers in the Himalayas, tapping into Godhead by way of snow, meditation and chants.
Once Christ had it, he returned to Israel to share what he’d learned, knowing full well this meant his days were now numbered. Priests, merchants and rulers do not like their people getting free wisdom and insight, so someone giving it away to all takers needs to have his shop shut down. And so it was.
But…in those three years of his being a free-range Savior, Jesus had a good time. He set free the most-locked up of them all, the subsistence farmers, fishermen and harlots, the huddled masses that believed they were slaves invented to serve masters. Christ gave them God for free, and taught them how to stay in touch with Him within themselves.
When the big guys shut down Jesus’ shop, it was like absolutely guaranteeing that what he taught by example would benevolently incline humanity forever. And so it has been: a unifying principle.
It doesn’t matter much whether Jesus’ wisdom came by way of India and Tibet, or directly from God on High there in Israel, what matters is that he touched the inner God in the people of his day, and that has come down to us.
My feeling is that Jesus had a blast back then, and he is now. We got it. He sees this, & we see it. What could be better?

Nurse Sally

Posted by on Nov 23, 2018 in Blog | Comments Off on Nurse Sally

Nurse Sally

Sally had a peculiarity in that she only wore one shoe to Surgery. I mean she made sure it was washed and disinfected but the surgeons thought it looked bad having her limp into the Cardiac Unit. She didn’t paint the nails of the bare foot but so many years of wearing too-tight shoes had somewhat deformed, thickened and warped the toenails, so toenail polish wouldn’t’ve really helped even if Sal was to consider it. Sometimes they’d click against the operating table supports and it could be grating if you had an open heart gaping at you.

Best Thing I Ever Did…

Posted by on Nov 19, 2018 in Blog | 1 comment

Best thing I ever did in my life was have that Electrician who raises horses nearby install the stove vent here in the kitchen.

Also the best thing I ever did in my life was start up a magazine that Dusty Arrington saw one day, and got in touch.

Also the best thing I ever did in my life was hike the Pacific Crest Trail, becuz I met the woman who’d become my wife and life.

Also the best thing I ever did in my life was be the daddy of three chilluns who fill my heart and soul with shock and awe.

Also the best thing I ever did was get born so I’d have such a good friend and kids and woman and sensational stovetop fan and light.

Weave of Life

Posted by on Oct 28, 2018 in Blog | 4 comments

The People are the body of Christ.

The clay finds its potter. The potter creates its heroes and villains, its assassins and
saviors, epochs and epics, catastrophes, revolutions and redemptions through players
called into being by the people’s moods and needs.

These selected ones may think they
lead, influence and form the people, but their charter comes from a unified
consciousness. Perfection looking for its genesis.

There is One, a core consciousness that is shared by everyone and
everything. No ‘part’ is any more relevant or important than another.

The target finds its arrow, the arrow finds its bow, the bow its archer, the archer his
cause, the cause its king, the king his people, the People itself.

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.

Hard Heart, Soft Soul…

Posted by on Oct 19, 2018 in Blog | Comments Off on Hard Heart, Soft Soul…

To Meet Mother Love…

When I took Marilyn to meet my mother in Santa Fe I’d forgotten about Marian’s jealousy. For 75 years she was desirable and witty and made people feel good when she was around. Rocking as she walked with a cane tamed her some but her laughter was still strong. And her wicked side. So here’s Marilyn the singing nun and professional nurse, and lover of children, meeting Betty Davis in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, with a drink in one hand and a sword cane in the other, a gift I’d gotten her at the Rastro in Madrid in 1960 as a wall ornament. There was a Sevilla sword hidden inside a hickory wood cane with a carved deer antler handle with a release button. Since her hip operation, one of the first in Santa Fe when St. Vincent’s was on Palace Avenue, she used it for dress-up to toddle around with.

We walked into mother and Betty’s adobe on Calle Paula out by Quail Run at five, and by 5:30 Marian is saying how very much Marilyn looks Black Irish, and how all the servants at the family mansion in Oswego when she was a child looked a lot like her, the cooks and butler and groundskeepers and chambermaids. Marilyn might not know what Black Irish means but she sure can’t miss the twist of the words. Mother prattles on about how Marilyn’s forebears had no doubt boated over during the Potato Famine, and how if her family had only known they might have had the coachman meet them at the docks and offer them jobs.

Marilyn excuses herself and goes out on the porch where I find her weeping. I’ve just told Marian to knock it off or we’re leaving, and she does her bewildered innocence look saying all she‘s doing is trying to make my Black Irish friend feel welcome and at home. I say she may as well have drawn the sword and run her through. Mother laughs gaily and toys with the flower on the bone handle shank of the cane that unlatches the blade to be drawn. She looks up at me coyly.

A few years later Marilyn and I are driving west to our home in San Diego from a visit to Minnesota and she suggests going by to see Marian and Betty. I think her admiration of their turning a local 12 page pamphlet into a five color international glossy magazine overrode her memory or good sense, or maybe she was curious as to whether she’d only caught Marian on a bad day.

It is late summer where in the afternoon a storm usually rolls in from the Pecos Wilderness over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Half the sky to the north and west is turquoise blue and the other stacked with blue-black thunderheads. When we reach the plaza a mortar barrage of lightning hit setting off burglar alarms. Indian vendors under the Governor’s Palace portal throw rugs and themselves over their stuff as straight line winds channel down Palace Avenue into the plaza streets kiting umbrellas, hats, souls, paintings and folding tables.

We’d hear the crackle of the lightning and feel the shock, big hail side-winding in and more burglar alarms coming on; and now the big siren from the fire department just behind us comes on. I’d lived in Santa Fe since 1944 and never seen anything like it.

It is over in five minutes, the sideways hail turning into a hard rain, then a downpour where we can’t see beyond the hood of the car. When it clears the streets are rivers, so we hang a right onto what is now the Palace Acequia and boat toward Albuquerque. Ten miles out of town at La Bajada the sun is out, the sky turquoise blue and the air crisp and warm; Marilyn’s been saved.

The next year we returned with my little son Zachary to spend a day. The relationship Marilyn had with my children was a part of life neither ladies’d had, my mother and Betty’s mothers crisp and cold and proper dames embarrassed by being mothers.

This time Marian isn’t tracking too well, so when she opens the front door and sees Zach she gasps, bends over before him with arms open, ‘Oh, my Johnnie, my Johnnie, they found you, they found you, it’s your mommy, I’m your mommy!!”

On the porch where the piñon firewood was stacked, where Marilyn had wept that first night from mighty hurt, my mother says to her in tears and breaking voice, ‘Thank you, Marilyn, oh thank you. I wish you’d been my mother. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, please forgive me.’ They hug and cry.