Friday, September 21, 2007

US Notes (July flashback edition)

Miki and I spent a few mellow days at my mom's place in Belen, watching films, eating good spicy food, and simply sitting out back in the dark, staring at the stars and sky. One day we took the train up to Albuquerque, wandering downtown and visiting galleries in Old Town. The train was a new thing, having started running a month before and it was a treat to take good efficient public transportation in the States. Another evening we had dinner at Maggie's, while the cottonwoods outside burst into a snowstorm.

I wanted to take Miki to places special to me, so we drove up to Sandia Peak and walked along the crest to the Kiwannis cabin. After finishing university, I used to spend whole days here, reading all my literary giants and writing in my journal, fancying myself one of 'em. This was nearly twenty years ago, before "the outdoors" was a hot commodity, and fewer people went out there. Miki and I sat awhile and looked out over the city and at the clouds playing hide and seek with the lesser peaks out west. Before we left, Miki threw her mala down the cliff face. I'd bought the beads in India for her, but they'd broken a few days before, and she had wanted to return them to nature somewhere. I joked about how in a 100 years, some hiker would find them, and turn them in to an anthropologist at UNM, who'd write a thesis about pre-historic contact between the local tribes and southern Indian Carnatic kingdoms. Truly a history-making day, coupled by the fact that Miki went up the hill a girlfriend and came down a fiancee.

Later, we drove out to Acoma Sky City. We were forced to join a tour, which was quite militant about photos. Fair enough. Our guide Fred had a funny way of speaking his native language, using his whole body. He'd twist and bend slightly as he forced out the more complicated contortions of syllables, as if this language was learned and not innate. We spent a good part of an hour up there, following a drumming shaman along the dusty paths between abode homes, while a heavy monsoon poured down literally just off the mesa. Somehow we were untouched. Just like last time, lightning danced around me as I walked the sacred land of the Acoma.

At the end of our time in Belen, we drove north. After a quick stop in Santa Fe to take yoga with Tias, we continued on to Taos for my niece's 6th birthday. My sister and her boys were already standing around the grill, waiting for my brother to cook the Brats and veggie dogs. Later, we went out to Kimberley's place for pizza, the sun setting over the nearby ski area peaks. It was a mellow day, a vibe no doubt shared by the people attending the Taos Music Festival at that moment wrapping up back in town. The next day we all had a long breakfast, and then a stroll around the plaza. I'd see Kurt and Brigid in Boulder in a few days, but said goodbye to my mom, sister, and nephews. As always, I wasn't sure when we'd see each other again. Miki and I went out to Taos Pueblo, which had changed incredibly since I'd last been there 10 years ago. The admission fee was huge, coupled with a surcharge for photographers. On my previous visit, this place had been little more than a village, but today I noticed that half the homes had been turned into galleries, with the owners/residents selling paintings, clothes, and pots. With every trip to the States, I'm further and further awed by how deep the tendrils of materialism stretch. To see the ever growing commercialism was shocking, though I suppose that since countercultures are quick to be commodified, why not cultures themselves? I don't really known the details behind why a group would sell out so completely, but based on this region's history, I'm inclined to believe that they were forced to. Sad.

We drove south. A short detour to Santuario de Chimayo to look upon the crutches hanging on the wall and wash our hands with the sacred healing earth within. West then, out to Abiquiu, to walk the groomed paths and labyrinth of Georgia O'Keefe's Ghost Ranch. Nearby we found a turnoff and took the long dirt road out to the Church of Christ in the Desert. This one-lane road ran along a beautiful stretch of river feeding a green swath though the desert. We found the monastery at the road's end, its tall chapel of stone and glass a puzzle piece fit to a huge scar in the mesa face behind. It was a very quiet place. Walking the grounds we met Brother Timothy, who is in charge here. He was a kind and peaceful man quick to laugh and he encouraged us to come back sometime and bathe in the quiet of the place. Miki and I kept up the silence on the drive back, a slower pace than the drive out. I kept an eye on the storm clouds marking the horizon, hoping we'd be back on blacktop before the monsoon hit. The weather held, so we followed a different dirt road past the mosque to Piazza Bianco, an incredible group of rock spires made of sheer white sandstone. We walked around in the soft sand awhile, enveloped in silence as we watched these frail spires turn pink in the setting sun.

The next few days we spent in Santa Fe, wandering the Plaza and the galleries of Canyon Road, splitting our meals between cheap-ish cafes and take away from Whole Foods. One morning we went out to Bandelier, climbing around the Anasazi ruins and walking the trails. A few deer grazed just off the trail, and a small bear was being herded back into the hills by the rangers. This bear, being still quite young, seemed to be a little too used to humans. We followed it awhile, then went back to town.

On the third day we drove north, the pavement giving away just past Ojo Caliente. This road was right out of the Aussie Outback, long and straight, with the occasional huge truck looming up to kick stones at us as we passed. San Antonio Mountain guarded the border, its gentle grassy slopes stretching up to blue sky. An old SL train pulled across our path on it's way to Cumbres. Through the flatlands of southern Colorado, running parallel to the lesser Rockies that shelters the sand dunes and sacred Crestone and perhaps even UFOs. The mountains caught us, and we wound through valleys of rushing water overrun by day-trippers enjoying this, the 4th of July. Under the shadow of Red Rocks, to meet Kerouac's Rte 6 at Golden, then down through Nederland's canyon and into Boulder itself. Here we'd spend a few days.

In Boulder, we mostly chilled out with my brother and his daughter, long nights spent dining on his balcony, shaded by the nearby peaks, and watching the lightning out in the distance. One night while walking around a small lake, we got caught in a heavy storm, and had to take shelter in a playground. A few days later, we were caught in another storm while hiking higher-up in the Rockies themselves. I'd never got caught out like this before, and it was terrifying to huddle under a closely-spaced cluster of trees, quickly becoming a true believer in statistics. Another day Miki and I hiked up the notorious trail known locally as "Stairmaster." We lost the trail coming down, and instead took a quick descent down a deer trail which followed a small dry creekbed. Everyone later told us how crazy we were to attempt this in our sandals. In hindsight, I agree. Another day we went to the flea market. I ran into Clarke, the guy who ran my study tour to Bhutan 4 years ago. Other days we spent playing with Brigid at Naropa or CU or on Pearl Street Mall, before meeting up with my brother for good beer and food at random cafes around town. Boulder in the summer truly is a magic place.

The last couple days in country were spent in San Francisco, as usual. I hadn't realized it, but we arrived the day before the All Star game, and baseball furies were everywhere. We dropped our bags at CLo's office which was a block from the baseball Stadium. We quickly left this chaos for the relative quiet of North Beach for pizza and obligatory City Lights browse and Trieste capp. Up to Coit Tower, then down to the waterfront, eventually meeting CLo downtown later for dinner.

The next morning we had a quick breakfast at a local cafe in Potraro Hill, then walked down into the Mission, up Valencia, through the Castro, up and over Corona Heights, then along Height to the Park, hitting all my 'spots' on the way. Miki and I read and played Battleship in a small cafe, sat atop the Corona Heights rocks for the view, had falafel in a Height coop. We continued west through the Park, past the freaks sunning themselves not far from where the posh people played tennis. One guy walked up to me and said cheerfully, "You look like a man who could use some nuggets." Since CLo works in the art world, he got us free passes to the DeYoung museum. We spent the better part of the afternoon here, completely floored by the Oceanic art, later recouping out back in the Turrell sculpture. We walked on, eventually arriving at the windmills and the sea. I dunked my feet in the ocean, as I did a few weeks before in Maine. We had a celebratory beer in a restaurant by the sea. CLo picked us up and we drove up to the Sutro Baths to walk the caves and watch the seabirds trace the coastline. This long day ended perfectly with take-away tacos from the Mission.

The next morning, we'd go back to Japan...

On the turntable: "Asia Lounge"
On the nighttable: Richard Ford, "The Lay of the Land"

1 comment:

Taiko Tari said...

For some reason I thought you and Miki are already married. And then I read this, and now I know about the engagement.

Congratulations, you two!!!