Saturday, September 19, 2015

Chimayo New Mexico

Friday, September 11, 2015

Haven't been in touch for a few days.  Hoping you've noticed.  After a few days in Taos we had enough and were more than relieved to make our way into the remote hill country of northern New Mexico hanging around Truchas with a bunch of displaced New York artists who have found their way to this Shangri-la at the top of the mountain pass between Taos and Chimayo, where the cell phone service was spotty at best, and WiFi is almost nonexistent in this, the second decade of the 21st century.  Electronic communication in Chimayo wasn't much better which left us happily cut off from the outside world for days.  Didn't know such places still existed.  And this coming from a guy whose idea of high tech growing up was when we got a 15 foot cord connecting the telephone handset to the receiver allowing you to walk from one room to another while talking on the phone to get away from other people or just get a snack.  If this makes no sense, that's ok.

So here we are in Chimayo, a small dusty pueblo that is very Catholic and very Mexican.  Been there twice before and love this place.  They love Jesus and they love their chile pepper, red and green, themes that dominate this little town, and the people there would be hard put if they had to choose between the two.

Actually, the only store in town that was not a church gift shop was the Vigil Store/Potero Trading Company which is a lot like the church gift shops of which there are many, dealing in religious artifacts, paintings, statues, icons, etc.  The only difference is that the Vigil Store also sells a wide variety of chile related products, cold drinks, and candy bars to keep the pilgrims hydrated and happy.  I bought a large bag of dried green chile flakes with the intention of continuing to eat green chile salsa well into the fall.  We were lucky to be in New Mexico during chile harvesting season, and I've been eating all the green chile salsa I can, so I hope the flakes are fresh.

A number of families, the Ortegas, Martinezes, Jaramillos, Truillos, Vigils and a few others came up from Mexico over 200 hundred years ago, received land grants from the king of Spain comprising land stolen from the indigenous population, and have dominated the county ever since.  With all the intermarriage between these few families, its a wonder that everyone here doesn't have 6 fingers.   But persist they do, and they preside over this little place that time has forgotten.  To walk around the village is to step back in time 200 years.  Adobe homes, shops, and churches, stray dogs slumbering in the streets chickens here and there, holy shrines, icons and statues dominate the landscape, and belief in miracles and the healing powers of the church are alive and well and seem quite sincere.  The Sancturio de Chimayo...

This building is the center of activity and attention for its architecture and healing powers and is the most famous and iconic of all Spanish mission churches in New Mexico with the exception of the one in Taos which has been ruined by the encroachment of nearby construction that has partially obscured its view and is therefore best remembered in old photos.  This church is the reason people come here, for the history, the architecture and/or the miracles.  It is this building that keeps Chimayo on the must see map and people literally come by the bus load, so you need to work around them.

Surprisingly, in spite of the crowds the shrine attracts, there is really only one or two places to stay in town, both ancient haciendas turned B&Bs and they account for a total of only about 10 rooms between them.  We always stay at the Hacienda Rancho De Chimayo, run by the Jaramillo family.   It is a large amorphous, rambling, single level adobe dwelling built in the mid 1800's and added on to as the needs of the family expended.  It is quite interesting and authentic but architecturally vague and elusive and I couldn't get a handle on it photographically.

But I did get a telling picture of the inside of our room, which is more or less like all the other rooms. Old and cozy, and each with a working kiva fireplace which was the only source of heat back then in a place which does become quite cold and snowy in the winter.

The restaurante run by the same family was also originally a hacienda and was the only place to eat in town.  It was also a large, rambling adobe building that has been added onto a lot over the years, and also did not lend itself well to being photographed.  The food was fantastic but also not particularly photogenic, a burrito, cheese enchilada, stuffed sopaipilla, and/or a chile relleno, all on a plate side by side, covered with an extra helping of salsa verde in a somewhat dimly lit place could not produce a picture conveying how exotically spicy, delicate and delicious their food was.  That turned out to be a problem for me with all my New Mexican meals.  All smothered in freshly harvested salsa verde and all a delicious, amorphous mess.  But, other than my obsession with great pizza where I can find it, this is not a food blog after all.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Taos New Mexico

There was a time when Taos was a magical and culturally important place that drew some of America's great thinkers and artistic talent to its fold, even if just for a season or two.  For millennia before that, the size and expanse of the Native American pueblo, which is still quite active, is testament to the fact that there was something extraordinary about the town.  I remember that feeling when first visiting there 25 or 26 years ago.  But that was then, and this is now.  Now, the most you can say about the place, and a number of people said it, it that it is a great place to retire, and indeed the place is over run with boomers looking for someplace to remain relevant and live out the fortunate fantasy that has been their lives.  It is no exaggeration that absolutely every place of business in Taos is a restaurant, gift shop, boutique, or home decor store.  If this sounds familiar, I did say the same thing recently about Truckee, California.  Once you max out your credit card, there is absolutely nothing to do in Taos.

Maybe I exaggerate a bit, you can also pray. If you are Jewish, Chabad has recently put down roots there.

Other than that, the only place that seems authentically part of the more recent old Taos of the 1930's and 40's  is the Taos inn,  a place that has maintained its charm, aura and sense of place and where you truly expect to see Georgia O'Keeffe, D.H. Lawerence, Ernest Hemingway, or John Reed, or at least Johnny Depp, walk in.  But alas, it was just a bunch of people like me, older and drunker, because the artists had fled years ago.  Still, found myself at home, drinking, eating anything with green chile on it and getting the vibe.

Other than that, there was not much to say except you should check it out if you are in the area and let me know what you think.  Was not really inspired to take many pictures in a place that I have come to find tedious, sorry.  Although I was pleased to find Paul's Bar still there on the outskirts of town .  Took a black and white photo years ago but Paul's still appears closed and still looks good.

Other than that, it was good to see that an old friend like Ricky's is still there.  I had some great green chile and beans which were a meal I remember well, but this time I was kind of full as we passed it on the way out of town and did not stop in.

And last but surely not least was my visit to the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, now a museum and monument to one of the great patrons and supporters of the arts and anything subversive from the 1930's on.  She moved to Taos after her 3rd of 4th marriage, and being quite wealthy and interesting in her own right opened her home there to a wide variety of artists and thinkers who took advantage of her largess with fascinating results, as per her biography.  Check her out, it is quite a story.  Took this picture on the property of one of the out buildings where visitors stayed.  The complex is vast and difficult to catch in a picture or two, but this gives you some idea...

  Other than that, not much to report, except to add this photo of one of the hundreds of galleries selling mostly oversized, undistinguished art at unaffordable prices...

Wish there was more to say about Taos, but the current state of affairs is dismal.  Glad to be hitting the road and spending a few days in Chimayo.  Till then..

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Six Movies I don't want to see, but....

Monday, September 7, 2015
Transitioning from vast mesmerizing landscape of Mesa Verde to Taos, the spiritual vortex of northern New Mexico, we spent the night in a Fairfield Inn by Marriott in Alamosa, Colorado, which was just what you would expect from a middling chain hotel.  But the big surprise in Alamosa to rival any of the sights we've seen so far was the multiplex theater behind the hotel, built is the middle of a large otherwise vacant tract of real estate,  acreage that was formerly a ranch but is now a six screen cinema.  Jackie saw something special in it and cajoled me into doing a shoot which I initially didn't get, but went along with.  As it turned out, the Sky High 6 which apparently caters to adolescent tastes, was an architectural phenomena worthy of high art..

Jackie produced and directed this shoot, and I take no credit for it other that pushing the shutter and being the cinematographer.  The results speak for themselves.  Jackie's instincts and eye for the transcendent in the obvious is as impeccable and as always I am humbled.

Monday, September 7, 2015


Friday, September 4, 2015
Abiquiu's main, and probably only claim to fame and saving grace that has protected it from the fate of so many other small adobe pueblo towns that have been left to melt in the rain and/or implode from the weight of time and neglect, is the fact that Georgia O'Keeffe lived and worked here during the later part of her life.  That she and Alfred Stieglitz treated Walker Evans poorly when he was starting out is all I know of her as a person, but as with any artist, her work speaks for itself.  She is the patron saint of American woman artists, and as such, a pilgrimage to Abiquiu has become a rite of passage that has made the place a bit of a cultural boom town, although the streets remain unpaved and commercial endeavor in the pueblo itself, nonexistent.  In fact, the whole Georgia O'Keeffe thing is so low key, it is almost un-American.  But if not for her, I would not have found the place and its many treasures.  Most extraordinary to this photo archaeologist was the discovery of the El Pinon Theater hidden away in the corner of the plaza.

On the north side of the square, at a right angle to the theater is Santo Tomas El Apostol Church.  Movie on Saturday, church on Sunday, a very short walk. 

This parish hall was on the opposite side of the plaza from the theater.  The plaza was large and appears to have had more buildings around it at one time, but I was unable to get the big picture, just the details which will give you some sense of the place.

Don't exactly know what this building is at this time, but it was on the road down the hill to the highway, and if you look to the left of the steps, you will see the pots in the picture below.

This is the road out of town leading up the hill toward the cemetery and a few more houses which Jackie told me to take.  I was reluctant, but she was right, and it does give some sense of place.

Talking about Jackie, here is a picture of her sitting outside of our room at the Abiquiu Inn at close to sunset.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

A fortunate morning in Abiquiu...

Sunday, September 6, 2015
Just got back from Mesa Verde, Colorado a vast breathtaking (I think I use that word a lot down here) wilderness area of mountains, canyons, cliff dwellings, and mesas, but no cell phone service and no internet.  Don't know how the Native Americans dealt with it.  This is probably why the abandoned the area back around 1250.   This may or may not be the reason they left, but it seems to be as good an explanation as any put forth by the present keepers of the place, the US Park Service, but more about that another time.

Wanted to check in with one lovely photo I took on 9/4 the day we left for Mesa Verde.  It was an overcast, dark and threatening morning in Abiquiu, New Mexico where we spent the night.  Abiquiu is a small dusty photogenic adobe pueblo high in the hills whose main claim to fame was being the home of Georgia O'Keefe during her later years and held great photographic promise for me.

But I was discouraged by the dispiriting weather and settled in for breakfast at the Abiquiu Inn where we had slept, put my order for eggs and toast with green chile when all of a sudden the skies seemed to brighten enough to encourage me to abandon breakfast for a quick dash into town before the skies closed up again.  Got there in time to get the three or four shots I wanted that probably would not have worked out in bright sunlight after all, and I was leaving happy when the sun broke brightly through the clouds, I looked to my left, and standing there in a corner by the steps leading up to an old adobe church were these two old pots shining in the sunlight.

The gods were kind that morning, and some photos are so nice they need their own separate space.  Will try to post the rest of the Abiquiu photos tomorrow.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

New Mexico Dropbox...

Monday, September 1, 2015...
Travelled the length of the Turquoise Trail today from Santa Fe to Albuquerque today, 23 years after we first discovered it in 1992.  Never sure who's changed more, us or them, but its not quite the dusty, rough riding cowboy trail through the rugged Sandia foothills we remember taking back then.  So maybe no one has changed,  just our fond John Ford/watercolor memories of the way it was.  But for logistic reasons beyond my control, and my limited enthusiasm about today's outing, I will get back to it at a later date, but since I did bring the laptop with us this time around, I would be remiss for not posting.

The purpose of this dropbox is to have a place to put the pictures I like, but don't really fit into anywhere else.  For example, Monroe's Mexican Food...

I seem to take a lot of pictures of signs anyway.  A local psychologist interpreted this as an indication of my need for direction in life.  No argument there.  I only take pictures of signs I like, and this one seems to say that if your name is Monroe, and you are in the business of selling Mexican food, it had better be good.  I have had some pretty bad Mexican food in some pretty authentic sounding places.  But no, I have not tried Monroe's and I'm not sure we will have time before we move on...sorry.

This is, or was, the Big Chief gas station on Route 550 passing through the Zia Pueblo in NM.  Last time I was here and took a bunch of pictures (negatives) it was a busy and interesting place.  Now it is closed down.  Saw pictures of it on some flicker feed or other and it looked pretty beaten up and broken down, so I was pleasantly surprised to find it fairly intact although closed.  

Adobe is the architectural standard for New Mexican construction, old and new.  It is everywhere and one quickly becomes habituated to it.  It takes a pretty good example to catch your eye and entice you to photograph it.  This was one along the Turquoise Trail in Cerillos that impressed me.

Started the drop box today and hopefully will be adding to it along the way in addition to more focused posts.

This is me, leaning against some old adobe back in 1992 on our first trip to New Mexico.  Had never been to the Southwest before and it was like living in a dream or maybe a cowboy movie.  I have found over the years that you can never relive the magic of your first experience no matter what it was or how hard you try, and believe me I have tried.

Back to 2015 and for a few days we crossed the border to  Colorado from NM and took some pictures which are being dropped here from Colorado for convenience and because it doesn't really matter. since there are only a few.  After all, it all starts to look the same, same building, different place...

I always like to say that there is something uniquely American  about America, and there is nothing more uniquely American than the motel, a byproduct of the conspiracy between the government and the automobile industry to tear up the railroads and mass transit to pave the way for an America dependent on the car and truck.  Post war Europe was lucky to dodge the bullet in this regard, at least, and has a wonderful railway system that works.  Anyway we have the car and interstate highways and downtown parking lots covering vast tracts of American cities where square blocks of buildings used to be but no longer are, just empty lots covered with some cars with no place to go, because the buildings that housed the businesses they use to serve are gone, torn down to provide parking that is no longer needed...see Des Moine,...Chattannoga,..Omaha...Albany, al to see what I mean...But an interesting by product of this destruction is the motel of which I and others have thousands of pictures, and on which I am planning to compile a definitive volume.  This latest entry was taken is in Durango, Colorado.