NEW MEXICO TRIP REPORT


A couple of months ago She Who Must be Obeyed issued an Imperial Decree: before my classes started in the Fall semester, we were going to Santa Fe, NM. This was, ostensibly, to visit my god-daughter who moved there 2 years ago, when her husband got a faculty job at St John’s College; but also because it was one of five states She hadn’t yet been to, and She wants to hit all 50 of them.  Not that I needed too much convincing, since it was a chance to see Carolyn and her family in their new home.  Though it's very different from their last home ( Boston) and where they grew up in northern Virginia, they seem to like it.  I was amenable, and besides, I know some people out there who may be able to arrange some hunting for me one of these days.


We flew into Albuquerque, arriving late in the evening, just barely in time to have dinner and go to bed. The flight out was—hmmm, how do I say it?—enlivened by two 4- or 5-year old brothers, one of whom was named Mason (the other I assume, was Dixon) who never once stopped moving nor yelling the entire trip.  Thank God, neither was on the return flight 8 days later...because they were off duty. Their place was taken by two 11-month old employees of Squalling Brats, Inc. one behind me and one in front of me. Why the airlines don't have at least one baby-free flight per day, or at the very least, make kids ride in the cargo compartment, I can't imagine. I mean, after all, a dog has to ride as cargo, and nobody objects. Put the kid in a roomy cage, give him some kibble (OK, Cheerios, maybe) and a bottle of water or fruit juice, and pick him up at the baggage claim. Problem solved, everybody wins, right? Parents get a nice relaxing flight knowing that Junior is well cared for, and so do the other passengers.


We stayed mostly at Best Westerns, a chain we’ve used for many years: but I will state here and now that I heartily advise anyone contemplating staying at a Best Western facility to reconsider.  In the past five years or so their hotels have really gone downhill.  The rooms we got were shabby and the hotel and grounds maintenance lousy.  It was hard to find hotel rooms for the dates we wanted, so with some misgivings we booked at a BW in Santa Fe for the first night and in Taos for two. No more:  unless necessity compels it we’ll opt for some other places.  After returning to Santa Fe from Taos (see below) we stayed at a place called "Camel Rock Suites," which takes its name from...a rock shaped like a camel, which of course is nowhere near the suites. However, they were very nice and modest accommodations, with (thank God) a spanking clean guest laundry.


The next day after arriving in Albuquerque we did the tram ride up to Sandia Peak, where I didn't die from oxygen deprivation, though there were times when I wondered if I would. I've been higher than that in Switzerland and Italy, but I was less dissipated by a life of sin at the time. Still, I lived. After coming down in the tram we drove the Turquoise Road to Taos, stopping along the way Los Alamos, a very pretty and pleasant town that was much smaller than I expected it to be (as, it turned out, was everywhere we went).  I wanted to see the place where the atomic bomb was developed.  You can't actually access the National Labs of course, but there's a very fine museum on The Bomb that gives a detailed history of its creation, and many excellent exhibits, including mock-ups of "Fat Man" and "Little Boy," the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombs, respectively. 

Regrettably, they also have had to concede space to a cadre of "peace groups" who have posted a wall-sized display on Why The Bomb Was Inhumane And Should Never Have Been Used, and Why Truman Was A Murderer, and Why It Was All Really Unnecessary, and how We Should Give Peace A Chance, and All Join Together To Work For Peace, All Join Hands And Sing Kumbaya, and similar left-wing bullshit.  Anyone who has read anything at all about the Pacific War knows perfectly well that the Japanese would have died to the last woman and child rather than surrender, absent an order to do so from the Emperor; and that Truman's decision shortened the war by at least two years and saved at least 2,000,000 lives, American AND Japanese. The museum was strong-armed into mounting this idiotic display, but to give them credit, there's an even better one right next to it explaining what exactly was going on before and during the war, detailing the many Japanese atrocities and the fanaticism of the Japanese militarists and cabinet who simply didn't concede the possibility of surrender and refused to contemplate it; and explaining why the decision HAD to be to use the bombs.


After this brief diversion into a place that changed the world, we went on to see Bandelier National Monument, to understand how the Anasazi Indians lived.  The answer was "Pretty much like animals, but with stone tools."   Bandelier Monument is an ancient collection of cave dwellings, carved into cliff sides in soft volcanic rock.  The remains of a village are at the base of the cliffs.  I imagine the rich Anasazi lived in the caves, relatively safe from predators and enemies, while the plebeians lived in the lower town, where they may have had access to water (one of their jobs would have been to carry it up the cliffs, no doubt) but were far more exposed to being killed or eaten.  You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs, and sacrificing a few low-status Anasazi to the mountain lions so that the high-status Anasazi could have the chance to breed, well, it’s perfectly understandable, isn’t it?

You could climb ladders into the caves, which Susan dutifully did, but inside each was just a hole in the rock; even if it was "uptown," the Anasazi equivalent of a Park Avenue penthouse.

Imagine a life with no metal: these people had to chop down trees and shape stuff with rocks, skin animals with flint chips, and carry water in dirty skin bags.  They had fire (so long as they didn't let it go out) and some primitive "technology" but it was so hard a life (even if you were one of the high-roller Anasazi) that at no time did the population of the area exceed 700.  Usually it was far lower. 

They died from everything except old age: snakebite, animal attacks, Navajo arrows, falling out of a cave while trying to take a piss in the night, childbirth, infections, incapacitating injuries, starvation, overwork, insect-borne disease, rocks falling on their heads, parasites, poisonous plants, you name it.  Life span was on the order of 35: a man 45 years old was probably the Tribal Elder, whose memory was as far back as their history went.  Infant mortality was likely 80% in the first year.  No doubt there were more men than women because the women died in childbirth or were worked to death and a man would change wives about as often as he'd have changed shirts, if he wore shirts, which of course the Anasazi didn't.

By the way, you're not supposed to call them "Anasazi" anymore, that's Politically Incorrect.  “Anasazi” is a Navajo term that means "Nasty Old Ones," and it's a no-no.  You can call them "The Old Ones," or "The Ancient Ones," but no impression of nastiness can be attached to them, even though there aren't any left.


Somewhere along the way between Santa Fe and Taos we had stopped at a wide spot in the road named Madrid (and pronounced MAAD-rid).  I understand it was once a mining town, and when the mine played out the town was abandoned, becoming just one more western ghost town; but then it was “discovered” by “Artists” who “...moved in” (did they buy the buildings or just move into them?) and “...turned it into an oasis of Art.”  Art, of course, is a big deal in New Mexico, as will become obvious later on in this travelogue.

It was in Madrid that I had my first inkling that the population of Northern NM contains a large proportion of aging hippies. The entire village was plastered with anti-Bush stickers and Peace Signs. At a cafe I had a delicious iced coffee, which, I was assured by the menu and the wait-person, had been made with Organically-Grown coffee beans, obtained in a Fair Trade purchase from Native Peoples, who absolutely had produced the bean using Sustainable Agriculture Methods.  The wait-person was a woman about 5 years younger than I, wearing a tie-dyed skirt and copper bangles, looking as if she'd been transported through time from the Greenwich Village "coffee houses" of my long-dead youth.  No doubt she was wearing the same clothing in 1967.

New Mexico apparently has a law establishing a minimum number of tattoos that women are required to have.  That's the only way to account for the fact that there wasn't a single woman in Madrid who wasn’t tattooed. No doubt many of them had additional tattoos in places I couldn’t (and didn’t want to) see, with, in addition, miscellaneous sharp metal objects thrust through body parts visible and invisible.  What on earth do these people do when they go through an airport security screening?  A stainless steel bauble in an unmentionable place would surely set off the magnetometer; do they just say, “No sweat, man, I have a pierced (deleted), it’s cool.”  Would the security guard believe them?  Would he/she/it make the offender drop trousers and display the object to assure its innocuousness?  Inquiring minds want to know. 


We stopped at a place that is barely beyond my ability to describe adequately. It was the life's work of a gentleman who could have been the Poster Child for both Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Tourette's Syndrome. This incomparable place, this Tourist-Trap-To-Top-All Tourist Traps, the trappo di tutti trappi, is Tinkertown. Honestly, no mere verbal description can do it justice, but I'll try.

Tinkertown is a vast collection of hand-carved objects, all of them made by one amazing man, Ross Ward, who must never have slept, since he must have been carving 24/7. Thousands upon thousands of his folk-art figures are arranged in miniature dioramas of western towns, circus scenes, mining camps, most of them animated. Push a button and the blacksmith hammers a horseshoe, the horse stamps his hoof, the loafers on the porch of the saloon hoist their beer, and the necktie-party Guest of Honor drops through the gallows trap. Dogs lift their legs, mules kick, and dance hall gals flirt.

Quite aside from being a skilled carver, Ward was a world-class pack rat. The wall around the place is made of old bottles. The floors are somewhat uneven, so where there was a slope he nailed old license plates. Everything got used somehow, even if he had to collect more junk to make a place for the original junk. One end of the complex is dedicated to the preservation of a sailboat, Theodora R. Some zany spent 10 years sailing around the world in the 1930's. Ward bought it for his collection and it's proudly housed in its own annex, in Perpetual Drydock.

There's a wonderful collection of side-show and amusement park games, such as Fortune-Telling Gypsy Grandmother Robots, Strength Testers, Love Meters, and carousel horses. Ward was "into" Circusiana as well: his collection of hand-made stuff is matched in size by the circus-related toys, games, objects, and paraphernalia that take up one "wing" of this ramshackle place. Ward died in 2002, but his family carries on his legacy by maintaining (and, I suppose, increasing the size of) the collection. Si monumentum requires, circumspice: Tinkertown is a memorial to one man's dream and his lifelong obsession.


Taos...well, it was a very pleasant place, too, containing many, many individuals of both genders (sometimes both at once) like the ones we'd seen in Madrid, but richer. My god-daughter calls them "crunchies."  Old-fart retired hippies living on Social Security and the trust funds their Robber Baron fathers left them; numerous zombie-like youngsters dressed in imitation of their parents' style of 40 years ago, engaged in "finding themselves" among the local Native American population (who largely ignore them).  I used to see this same sort of kid—and alleged adults, too—wandering around India with the same vacant stare, also looking for something and never finding it, if they even knew what it was.  Taos is a pretty tolerant place, so no matter how weird you are no one will bother you.  We stayed in another down-at-heels Best Western on the north end of town that was convenient to the Taos Pueblo.

The pueblo (aka a reservation) was very interesting.  It’s a World Heritage Site, and could be fairly called the nucleus of New Mexico in some ways.  The oldest part of it contains numerous adobe buildings which the Taos natives (oh, what the hell, I'm just going to call them "Indians," damn it) have decided will remain authentic. 

The buildings in the old village have no modern plumbing, no electricity, and they’re made of authentic adobe, not the Pseudobe used everywhere else.  About 50-60 people actually live in this part of the pueblo, in houses that have been in their families for hundreds if not thousands of years.  Many of them are simply private residences but many more have been converted to souvenir shops selling articles made on the pueblo, authentic foods, etc. to the White Gawkers who have come to see the Simple Native Peoples in their Idyllic Harmony With Nature. 

Our guide was a very handsome and well-spoken young man in his early 20's who was studying at a university (Art, what else?) but who was articulate, knowledgeable, and a full-blooded member of the tribe, destined some day (when his grandfather died) to become an Elder on the Tribal Council.  No defensiveness in him, either: he was proud of his people and their history, and made no bones about it, but neither did he shove it down your throat.  If the Indian schools he attended could produce such a fine product through their basic education program, I have to wonder what we White Invaders are doing wrong, because I haven't encountered many 20-somethings who were nearly so well-spoken and polite among the recent products of our schools.

Taos isn't just hippies, of course.  A lot of it is rich people.  Very rich people, who have a lot of disposable income, who like expensive Art, and expensive restaurants.  Taos has both in abundance. We ate in at least one restaurant that even by DC and New York standards was pretty pricey, and no, I’m not going to say what we paid.  I don't like to think about it. That said, we had excellent food: Susan had duck and I had elk, though of course it was farmed, not wild.


After two days in Taos, it was back to Santa Fe.  On our way out we stopped at the Kit Carson House and Museum. Old Kit was a real rip-snorter, and had the reputation of being an "Indian killer," though the museum insists he only did it in self-defense.  Nevertheless, the nice Taos Indian docent said that she got flak from her family for working there, and was called a "traitor" by some.  The victors get to write the history but the Vanquished get to be the docents and can tell you whatever they like.

I was surprised to learn that Santa Fe has only 65,000 permanent residents: there are probably twice that many tourists in the high season at any given moment.  It's a very attractive city, though driving there is something of a challenge because the streets weren't laid out with automobiles in mind (or anything else in mind, so far as I can tell) and there are lots of places where you can't make a left turn when you need to.  Parking is a nightmare: we gave up and used the municipal lots, and paid through the nose to do so.

Santa Fe has an architectural standards ordinance that requires virtually all new buildings to be constructed in "Adobe Renaissance" style.  Hence all buildings look pretty much alike: sort of pinky-brown, with rounded corners and edges, much like what we saw on the Taos pueblo.  Nowadays the builders don't use mud and straw, of course: they make the buildings out of "Pseudobe," concrete blocks with stucco covering in the proper pinky-brown shade.  So in Santa Fe everything pretty much looks the same and it’s easy to get lost.  Actual brick buildings are so rare they startle you when you come across one.  I was told that any such brick building would pre-date 1912.

Shopping centers are made of Pseudobe; fast-food restaurants (I swear it, even McDonald's) are made of Pseudobe (I thought it worked well for the Taco Bell, actually); Wal-Marts are made of Pseudobe, and of course everyone's private home and/or apartment buildings are made of Pseudobe.  I don't know how Carolyn and her husband find their house, it's indistinguishable from all the other houses in their subdivision.  If they took the numbers off the mailboxes, no one could find his way home.

The core of Santa Fe is The Plaza, ringed with gift shops, Art galleries, jewelry stores, and on one side the Governor's Palace, dating back to Spanish colonial times and allegedly the oldest public building in continuous use in the USA (Santa Fe isn't the oldest city in North America—that's St Augustine, FL—but it claims to be the oldest capital city in North America and it may be right.)  The Plaza is a nice green square with some statuary commemorating the Spanish and the animals they brought to the New World. In return for the gifts of horses and sheep and smallpox, the Indians gave the Spanish corn, beans, tomatoes, and syphilis; a fair trade.  The Plaza has fountains, a few food vendors, and some nice ironwork fences.  It’s understated and well-laid-out; if there hadn't been so many fat people in shorts wandering around and so many hawkers of glittery baubles, it would have been damned near elegant.

Santa Fe and to a lesser extent, Taos, are both cities devoted to pointless expenditure.  Two-thirds of both cities' businesses are Art galleries, most of the rest being restaurants (which in Santa Fe are even more expensive than in Taos).  There is so much Indian jewelry for sale, everywhere you go, that it inspires visions of enslaved Native Americans hammering out turquoise earrings and necklaces and bracelets, lashed by the whips of overseers employed by the Middle Eastern and Japanese owners of the jewelry stores to meet their quotas. I was told by one store manager that his owner was from Jordan , and that the Jordanian Boss had "a string of people in the Four Corners area” cranking out jewelry for his shops.  It's one way to get your money out of the Middle East.

Under the actual Governors' Palace arcade, however, the vendors are all allegedly Authentic Native Americans selling their own Authentic Native American Handicrafts. Susan bought a bracelet for herself from one of the putative Indian vendors, and also a pair of Santa Clauses made from chili peppers, at a place named (I swear it) "Susan's Christmas Store."

We'd done a tour-bus ride around town the first day to get an eye for the lay of the land.  We saw the "End of the Trail" statue at the place where the Old Santa Fe Trail terminated, and a bunch of other stuff.  Using that as a basis for The List, we began Day Two by ticking things off: the Loretto Chapel with its "miraculous" unsupported two-spiral staircase, the Cathedral that would have had spires like Notre Dame's had Father Lamy not run out of money, and similar stuff.

One day we visited Governors' Palace, which was indeed interesting, if a little disorganized with respect to exhibits and narration.  Even better, in the center courtyard, there was a "Mountain Man Swap Meet," which was great fun.  About 40-50 guys in Funny Clothes displaying their crafts and their wares for sale, and doing their Living History Thing.  One young woman, demonstrating how to scrape an elk hide was entirely dressed in skins, and cut a very fine figure in them, I might add; but damn, it was hot that day. She probably omitted the Traditional Indian Buckskin Underwear, or she’d have died for sure. 

And then there were the guns. A lot of the buckskinners had brought guns to sell: rifles, shotguns, and handguns.  These were mostly, but not all, black powder flint or percussion guns.  I started dickering with a guy for a .36 caliber Uberti Paterson Colt replica, under Susan’s disapproving stares, but after schlepping around after her in about 200 gift shops and buying two red-pepper Santa Clauses, I was going to at least look at the guns.  In the end I opted out because his price was $100 more than I was prepared to pay.  I also eyeballed a really fine M1858 Remington that had been "faked" by removal of the Italian markings and "aged" so that it looked authentic.  It looked so damned authentic it would have fooled anyone who wasn't pretty conversant with the characteristics of the Italian guns. The dealer was open about its nature as well, which in my experience isn’t always the case. I mentioned to one buckskinner that I knew I was in the West, because it would have been inconceivable to see these things on sale on government property, anywhere east of the Mississippi.


Of course, we HAD to go to the Georgia O'Keefe Museum.  To be honest I was surprised to find that GOK wasn't being touted all over town: she has to be the most famous figure associated with Santa Fe's modern history.  The museum has a nice collection of her Art, if you like Georgia O'Keefe's work, which personally I don't. 

I have no idea why she's so revered: I've seen paintings as good or better than hers at any street festival I've ever been to, her abstracts are pedestrian and about as subtle as a brick in the back of the head, and her representational pieces are representative of…well, I’m not sure what they represent.  I mean, painting cow skulls is all very well, but painting cow pelvises and what you see through a cow pelvis when it’s sitting on the sand…it just doesn’t speak to me, I’m afraid. 

It's also clear from the secondary exhibit of photos of GOK herself that she had a monumental ego, one to dwarf that of Bill Clinton.  Why the museum hasn't commissioned a 19-foot-tall bronze statue of GOK, done in Socialist Realism Style, is beyond me: she'd have approved heartily, as nothing more than her due respect.

Speaking of Socialist Realism, we spent a half-day walking up Canyon Road.  This is the location of innumerable Art galleries, and probably the most expensive bit of real estate in the West, not excepting LA's Rodeo Drive.  The street is lined with Art galleries, and Sculpture galleries, and God-Knows-What-It's-Supposed-To-Be galleries, hundreds of them, each one more expensive than the last.  One of these is devoted entirely to "Russian Moderns," among which school of painting the Soviet Realism influence is obvious.  I saw one portrait of a very fetching young woman (presumably Russian) that was every bit as realistic and as well-done as a Coca-Cola advertisement or a Portrait Of A Heroic Labourer For the Motherland except the subject was a Babe in shorts, and if she'd been working for The Motherland it would have been as a KGB "Swallow," if you get my meaning.  It was priced at $85,000.

The owner/manager of this gallery was gushing in her enthusiasm for Russian Modernism, and was taken aback when I interrupted her Ode To Russian Art by asking if she had any Native American Matrioshka dolls.  Susan later told me I had probably offended her, imagine that.

If Santa Fe as a whole is a place where the sale of expensive Art is a holy pursuit, then Canyon Road must be, without doubt, its very soul and center.  One gallery owner told me that Santa Fe is "The second largest Art destination in the world in sales, after New York City," with a clear hint in her voice that in a few years, those Philistines in New York were going to be taken down a peg or two, just you wait.  Maybe so. 

There is indeed every variety of Art a man could wish, from very realistic sculpture (there's so much sculpture on sale that there simply has to be a huge foundry somewhere on the outskirts of town, doing nothing else) to abstracts worthy of the Hirschorn Museum; paintings ranging the gamut from Complete Abstract to gum-wrapper cartoons, and as mentioned, Socialist Realism clones.  Leaving aside the billions of dollars' worth of jewelry that's sold in Santa Fe every year, the Art sales by themselves probably exceed the Gross National Product of most countries in the southern hemisphere or eastern Europe.


We visited St John's College, a "Great Books" school where there are no majors, and everyone reads the works of Aristotle, Plato, Kant, etc.  There are no professors, only "tutors," according to Andy (my god-child-in-law) and everyone is expected to teach everything.  The only texts are The Great Books.  They teach biology by having them read Galen and Aristotle and Harvey.  They teach physics by having them read Newton and Galileo.  They teach philosophy by having them read everyone but Ayn Rand, it seems.  Andy, who knows less genuine science than my Labrador Retriever (he majored in English at Kenyon and took a PhD in Philosophy from Boston University) has been assigned to teach the Freshman science class.  Well, not "teach" it, exactly: he's supposed to "lead the discussions" of the readings.  He is forbidden to provide answers to questions; only to ask more questions that will lead the students to the answers.  Whether the answers are correct or not hardly matters.  What matters is the questions.  According to Andy, St John's is "teaching them how to learn," which I'm sure is true; but on the whole, if I go to a doctor I'd hope that before attending medical school he’d had a somewhat more up-to-date grounding in Biology than Galen.  Maybe it's too much to ask that St John’s students actually read Watson and Crick's papers, but perhaps Paracelsus?

St John's is said to produce the best-educated waiters in the world, and so far as I can tell from the curriculum outlines I saw, this would surely be true.  If you were a restaurateur who needed a waiter able to discuss Plato’s Cave or Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason with diners, you’d be on the lookout for a recent St John’s graduate, without question.  St John’s students are educated in a classical sense, very much so; but they will come out of it lacking training to DO anything at all. 

Speaking as a life sciences professor who sometimes despairs at the ignorance of modern students of the classics, I have some sympathy for what St John’s is trying to do, and if I had my way, I’d develop a program under which they’d go through 4 years of The Great Books, so as to become genuine Scholars who "know how to learn"; and THEN put them into a 5-year European-style professional curriculum in, medicine or something similar.  God knows I'd love to have some of those in my first-year DVM classes.  But turning these poor babies loose on the world knowing a lot about Hegel and Schopenauer and Herodotus, but nothing about Mussolini, Einstein, or Saddam Hussein (to say nothing of Watson and Crick or even Darwin) is...ummm...doing them a disservice.

St John's classrooms—excuse me, their seminar rooms—are almost totally devoid of Internet connections.  Each has a large conference table and BLACKBOARDS.  Not marker boards, honest to God blackboards.  I started teaching on blackboards nearly 30 years ago, and they were already obsolete then.  Hardly anyone in the real world of higher education still uses them: even secondary schools have marker boards, for Pete's sake.  I think St John's prides itself on this quirky bit of obsolescence in educational technology.  Their labs are primitive, to say the least: their lab apparatus isn’t quite legitimate antiques but what minimal apparatus they have plainly came from government surplus sales in the late 1950's and early 1960's.  Perhaps it’s just as well they stick with Galen.



The last day we went to the Santa Fe Opera.  Now, I know many people don't like opera, and I expect most of those who don't have never been to a live production.  Opera on stage is an entirely different proposition from opera recordings, and I never miss a chance to attend a live performance, even at the ruinous prices SFO charges for seats.

The SFO’s setting and facilities are incomparable.  The amphitheater is more or less outdoors (there's a roof with acoustic tiles but no walls) and you look THROUGH the stage to the mountains west of town, where the sunsets are nothing short of spectacular.  On one side of the facility you can watch the spectacular sunsets; on the other you can see the blood-red color that sunset imparts to the Sangre de Christo mountains.  Really impressive, I must say.  People who attend the SFO wear everything from jeans and cowboy boots to tailed coats and tiaras, so I was pretty much in the middle of the pack dress-wise. 

Performances begin at sunset because the lighting technicians can’t compete with the sunset that you can see from your seat, so they have to wait until dark.  We saw Daphne, a Richard Strauss work from the mid-1930's.  Strauss had to live in Nazi Germany so he was being very careful when he wrote it to avoid offending Hitler and his gangsters.  It’s been described in opera guides as “a bucolic tragedy in one act,” and so it is. While Daphne is a more or less inconsequential opera with a plot that's even sillier than most, the SFO cast was excellent, the staging simple but elegant, and the performance as a whole very, very well done.

The story is that of a simple, good hearted girl who Loves Nature, and who lives at the base of Mount Olympus (which of course isn’t in Germany , so Hitler couldn’t take exception to it). There also live her family, various shepherds (the production actually had live sheep in it, a nice touch.  I don’t know how they did it, but the sheep were trained to walk across the stage accompanied by the shepherds in the chorus, and not one of them pooped.  I wonder if the sheep have to share dressing rooms with the actors?) and her childhood companion, Leukippos.  Leukippos is in love with the beauteous Daphne, but Daphne tells him that while he Will Always Be A Friend, her only true love is Nature, and the Trees, and the Flowers, etc. (though one has to wonder if her love for nature included insects and poisonous snakes).  In the opening scene Daphne mourns the passing of day, because at night she can't see the trees.  Leukippos, wounded and chagrinned at his being rejected, wanders off to try to Forget, which of course he doesn't.

Along comes Apollo, who has fallen in love with Daphne, himself.  Being a god, Apollo naturally chooses to appear to Daphne in disguise, that of a simple herdsman.  He woos her, promising that if she hitches up with him she will ride his chariot and never see the night again.  This suits Daphne just fine, but when she finds out that Apollo's interest don't just include having her ride in his chariot, but to...ahem..to be ridden herself. Well, of course the chaste and totally asexual Daphne is aghast.  She rejects Apollo's advances.

Just then there is a village festival, during which Leukippos appears in drag, hoping to win Daphne's love by pretending to be a girl.  (I told you the plot was silly.) Apparently Daphne doesn't swing that way, either, so it's to no avail.  Apollo is also at the festival, though the simple, happy peasants don't realize who he is.  Nor does Leukippos, but of course, Apollo, being divine, knows perfectly well that that “girl” isn’t a girl, it’s Leukippos, and exposes him as being in drag. 

Once unmasked and mocked by Apollo, Leukippos becomes outraged that Apollo is trying to steal Daphne's affections and...ahem..virtue.  He still doesn’t know who he’s tangling with, though, and despite several warnings from the god, Leukippos gets into a fight with Apollo. This is most emphatically not a good thing to do if you are a mortal, since Apollo isn't.  Apollo (still disguised as a herdsman) kills Leukippos.

Daphne, having finally figured out that she passed up a Good Thing in rejecting Leukippos, begins wailing her agony at his death, not that it does Leukippos any good at that point.  Apollo, chastened and guilty at having killed Leukippos and thus upset Daphne, decides to make amends.  Since he knows she loves trees (she told him that when she rejected his advances) he does so by turning her into...a tree.  No kidding: in the final scene, Daphne climbs into the tree on the set, and the lighting transforms her into part of it, even as more trees spring up (literally) from the stage.  Presumably this indicates that the Daphne Tree is sending out shoots.  Finis, curtain, bravo, time to leave, it's 10:45 PM and we have to get back to the hotel.



We drove 868 miles in that week, one time going out to the bridge that crosses the Rio Grande Gorge (a 600-foot deep chasm that scares the wits out of you when you think how easy it would be to fall into it).  We went to a few wineries (I didn't even know there were wineries in New Mexico) and at one point we wandered through the Kit Carson National Forest on a dirt road that switchbacked down into the Rio Grande gorge and came out south of Taos.  We did that at night, and night in New Mexico, when you’re down in a steep river gorge, is NIGHT, with a capital N.  It was as black as Hillary Clinton's heart down there, and more than little scary at some points, but we survived. We drove through a lot of pueblos and on a lot of roads marked as Open Range, and saw one enormous roan cow that had been killed by some unfortunate motorist.  I thought it was a buffalo at first, it was so big.  Surely it must have wrecked the car.  I saw a mule deer in the Carson Forest, several bird species I'd never seen before (including a buff-bellied hummingbird and one other I have yet to key out but I think it was a blue-chinned) and many other interesting things.

Unfortunately we timed our visit to Santa Fe wrong.  Two days after we left, a mountain lion found his way into the Plaza and chewed through the door of a jewelry shop, holing up in the men's room.  A Santa Fe police officer darted it and it was taken to the hills and released.  There's no way in Hell I would go into a confined space with a pissed-off cat that could rip my face off with one swipe and deliberately irritate it with a tranquilizer dart.  That guy deserves a medal and a wheelbarrow to carry his manhood around in, I think. 


Then there was the spa.

Susan had found out about a spa called Ojo Caliente, about an hour of Santa Fe.  She decided we had to go there for the day to "take the waters" and get massages.  It has numerous hot springs and has for many years been a spa: it is fantastically expensive, but for a day trip, not totally unaffordable when you're flinging money around like we did on this trip.  The various springs have iron, soda, lithium, mud, arsenic (yes, arsenic) and God-knows-what-else in them.  It's very New Age, with soft music and so forth, scented oils, aromatherapy candles and hushed voices.

Now I'm not a particularly "skeevy" person.  I will go in the ocean and wade in the New River, things that Susan wouldn't do if you threatened to pull out her fingernails.  She won't go into water where she can't see the bottom, because she's scared she'll encounter a fish or a snake.  Once in Mexico we were chest deep in crystal clear water in the Gulf where she could see fish and wasn't happy.  I pinched her thigh, and she came out of the water like a Polaris ICBM, never touching down until she'd covered the 50 yards back to the safety of the hotel beach.  The point is that she is very finicky about "dirt" and on the whole I am not.  If a fish nibbles on me, if a mud turtle swims by, or if I step on a river dog (one of those gigantic salamanders we have in the New) I don't mind.  A little Giardia never hurt anyone, either.

Nevertheless, she was willing to do something I wouldn't have done: get into what amounted to murky bathwater, along with 50 or 60 total strangers whose medical histories, diseases, and backgrounds were unknown.  New Age "health resort" or not, the Ojo Caliente Spa is the most unhygienic place I can imagine.  The coolest "pond" was 90+ degrees; some were up to 107 degrees.  Just perfect for incubating infectious organisms.  There were kids in these pools, and no one can make me believe that a 9-year-old boy immersed in hot water will not, at some time, pee in it surreptitiously. Nor can I be convinced that everyone did in fact, as the rules demanded, take a shower before entering the pools. 

I flatly refused to do more than dangle my legs in one pool, spending three hours watching her expose herself to miscellaneous loathsome diseases.  Eventually I had a massage, from a muscular gay guy who practically pulled my legs off. He also played flute music and used oils that left me smelling like a cake of urinal deodorant.  He was deeply disappointed when he didn't get a tip, but I maintain that any time I've had to pay nearly a C-note to be physically pummeled and stretched out like a dead toad on asphalt, well,  he's just going to have to settle for his cut from the spa operator.