Saturday, July 21, 2007

Taos to Texas

Gallery courtyard on Ledoux Street (art gallery row), Taos.

Manhole cover on NW corner of the Plaza.

On Thursday, we drove straight from Taos to Albuquerque. Originally, we figured we’d stop back by Santa Fe for lunch, but once we hit the highway, it just made sense to keep on going. We did stop for a very late lunch at the Landry’s in Albuquerque, but otherwise headed straight for the airport, where we turned in our rental and made it through airport security in record time.

Our visit to Taos seems to have been the perfect length--about two and a half days. We had several excellent meals (highly recommended: Graham’s Grille and the Apple Tree), got to do lots of walking (especially at the Pueblo, itself), visited the Nicholai Fechin House (he drew my mother-in-law’s portrait in the early 1940s when she was about 8 or 9 years old and it was fascinating to see others of the same vintage hanging in his restored house), toured the Kit Carson House Museum and grave (Mabel Dodge Luhan is buried in the same cemetery—check out the photo with all the tokens on her tombstone), and did some much needed relaxing at the Hotel La Fonda de Taos. It is right on the Plaza in the historic district and has recently been renovated. Among its current claims to fame are the eight “Forbidden D.H. Lawrence” paintings that were supposedly considered so erotic in the 1920s when first exhibited in London, that they were banned from further public showings by Scotland Yard. Lawrence kept them at his place in Taos and somehow (through a change of familiar hands), they became available for sale to the Greek patriarch of the family that now owns the hotel. Viewing is free to guests and $3 for the general public. Don’t stay there for the paintings (which are pretty mediocre and not even very erotic here in the early 21st century); stay there for the location and great atmosphere. Our room overlooked the plaza, had a shared balcony, a fireplace and a surprisingly comfortable bed. My only complaint is that there was NO coffeemaker in the room. (I know, I know—I’m such an addict.) BUT, there is a quaint coffee shop downstairs that gives hotel guests (willing to drag themselves down there in pajamas or get dressed at the crack of dawn--sorry, not ME!) a free cup of Starbucks—so only the really hardcore coffee drinkers like myself will be annoyed by this one missing amenity.

Of course, the highlight of the trip was seeing Taos Pueblo.

The (newer, c. 1850) St. Jerome Church (above), replaces the original one (below, 1st constructed in 1619), which stands in ruins as an important monument of resistance (the site of the 1680 Pueblo Revolt against the Spanish, which took the lives of more that 150 women, children, and elderly Indians who sought refuge in the church, only to be burned alive). The cemetery continues to be used today. The people of Taos Pueblo now prefer to be called People of the Red Willow (as a complete aside, according to one of the books I am reading on this trip, this is also the name preferred by the Northern Arapaho). Red Willow Creek (see below) runs through the center of the village separating the housing complexes on the northern and southern side. It is the only source of water in the old complex (people can be seen hauling it in to their apartments). Outside the historic walls, running water and electricity are common. The visitor's center, for instance, is completely modernized, but kerosene lamps light the interiors of the pueblos. Occasionally, families will have covered the mud floors of their apartments with linoleum, one of the few concessions to modernity that is allowed within the ancient pueblo walls. I couldn't help wondering how the cultural politics of historic preservation played out in this particular setting.

We visited on both Wednesday and Thursday. The first day we started out with a tour that was guided by a college student. She followed a memorized script of about 20 minutes designed to convey an interesting (and careful) blend of resistance, cultural distinction, and touristic outreach. When it was over, we wandered around the non-restricted portions of the Pueblo on our own, mostly shopping (many units of the residential complex are family shops), making a few small purchases and taking photographs. Since the Pueblo is listed on the National Register and is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is supposedly one of the most photographed places in the world. Because we couldn’t make up our collective mind about some paintings we liked and didn’t buy one on the first day, we returned on the next and bought two. We really enjoyed talking to the artists we visited this second day out there, and I was able to buy a couple little mica pottery bears for two of my grad students. MF-W, I bought you something in Santa Fe at the Palace of the Governors’ Indian Market—contemporary, but very pretty. NOT, however, Chippewa (zing!).

The rental car we got in Dallas (rental #3) is a complete joke. It’s a Dodge Caliber, supposedly classified by Budget as a midsize. It is like a step farther back in time than historic Taos. Crank windows (I had no idea these were even still available!), every door lock is push button and must be individually locked), and it has 20,000 miles on it. It SCREAMS economy-class when you’re driving it; there is no way it is a midsize. Himself is going to call the company and see if we weren’t ripped off or given the wrong car by an over-busy clerk. The look of the car is kind of cute, but the design (especially the window and windshield shape & placement) is terrible from the driver’s perspective.
Except for the car, and the Little Leaguers who were staying (up all nite) on our hall, here, our first night back in Texas, the trip is winding down very nicely. Work calls though—especially for himself, whose Dean is asking Chairs for all kinds of info that requires a daily check-in. I’m wondering how the Provost’s request for a detailed report on office space allocation (including that of retirees and part-timers) will shift (or NOT) some of the office assignments in my department.

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