Tag Archives: New Mexico

Don’t Wear Flip-Flops in Española Because You Might Stub Your Toe and Catch AIDS

Española, NM – If I have a major pet peeve it’s wearing socks. Hate’em. Absolutely. Positively. Instead I wear flip-flops. The cheap Old Navy brand that sell for $2 a pair. Because they’re cheap they don’t last long and I end up buying several pair over the course of a summer. According to my projections, however, I’m going to save a little money on flip-flops this summer for a couple of reasons. First, I’ve been informed after three months of doing so that I’m not allowed to wear flip-flops to work. Apparently this is codified in the employee handbook or… Continue Reading

Exercises in Self-Sufficiency

Ghost Ranch, north of Abiquiú. Both places were made famous by artist Georgia O'Keefe. Abiquiú, NM – One of the most admirable qualities of Rio Arribans is their self-sufficiency, necessitated in many cases by extreme poverty and a climate and topography that are both inhospitable. Self-sufficiency has always been part of the cultural fabric of Rio Arriba. The area has slogged along the fringe of American society since 1848, just as it had as a backwater of the Spanish Empire from 1540 until 1821, the year Mexico won its independence. In many ways, northern New Mexico continues to be pioneered… Continue Reading

Seeing the Past From Atop the World

Part of the ancestral pueblo village of Tsankawi. Los Alamos County, NM – About 12 miles from the main section of Bandelier National Monument is the Tsankawi section of the park, a gem hidden along State Highway 4. It’s worth the hunt because the 1.5 mile walk along the rim of this mesa is like striking sensory gold. Because it’s so far removed from the main attraction you can count on having the mesa to yourself, especially during a weekday. The mesa is covered in tuff, a soft volcanic ash that over eons became a soft white rock with a… Continue Reading

Snapshots and National Security Breaches at Los Alamos

Los Alamos, NM – The birthplace of the atomic bomb is a mere 20-miles southwest of Española, yet the two cities are worlds apart. You won’t find in Española any million-dollar homes perched atop the mesas. I haven’t met any residents in Española who hold Ph.Ds. The foods sold at the grocery stores are of different qualities. And the roads and parks in Los Alamos are pristine and well maintained while the poverty of Española is inescapable. Residents of the two cities aren’t particularly fond of each other, but are linked by the 69-year-old Los Alamos National Laboratories, which has… Continue Reading

City of Broken Dreams

Española, NM – Stick around any place long enough you’ll begin to recognize those people and events that encapsulate its fundamental absurdity, moments that in your mind come to define a place and its people. My hometown of Madison, WI, is characterized by the cartoonish lunacy of otherwise normal people going out of their way to look and act weird. Philadelphia had its share of weirdos, but over all it was moments like glancing sideways to see some street urchin in the park shitting in full view of an indifferent public that captured essence of a city that refuses to… Continue Reading

The Land Where Nothing is Everything

Rio Arriba County, NM – Land of Enchantment is a supremely apt description for New Mexico. As someone last night said of the landscape, It really draws you in. Indeed, northern New Mexico is otherworldly. Once a week I drive 66 miles from Española to Tierra Amarilla, the county seat. Highway 84 north, paved along an ancient seabed, snakes across pastoral valleys before entering the red rock canyons that you can see jutting above the horizon from miles away. But there comes this point when these sheer rock cliffs begin to rise rapidly toward the sky. In an instant the… Continue Reading

To The Death (In Pictures)

Española, NM – Yesterday a minor ruckus erupted outside my house. An inattentive bee had flown into the web spun by a spider that had hunkered down in the corner of the adobe’s doorframe. It thrashed and buzzed wildly, trying to free itself. What unfolded was an epic battle between two gnarly insects that both can cause pain to the human body with their stings and bites. But this was a battle of life and death for both creatures. Being a spider hater, my sympathies were 100 percent with the bee, though, as an observer, I kind of wanted to… Continue Reading

The Good Friday Pilgrimage

Chimayó, NM – After two weeks in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, I’m still fascinated daily with how different life is here. Were it not for the Post Offices and English-language road signs no one could fault you for wondering whether you hadn’t somehow slipped out of the United States without realizing it. Here, things like the Declaration of Independence or places like Philadelphia have little significance. The Mayflower and Jamestown mean nothing, either, because residents of this area have a very different origin story, one rooted firmly in Spanish and Native cultures. Española, the city in which I live,… Continue Reading

Notes From Nowhere

Yesterday on my way back from Tierra Amarilla, I picked up a hitchhiker on one of the pueblos. It was the middle of the day and he was wearing a tucked in, button-up shirt with a clearly visible ID badge clipped to the pocket. On his way to work, I figured. I was really flying down the highway and so came to a stop a considerable distance away. He seemed to take forever to catch up to the van. It took me back to my days as a younger man when I hitchhiked through northern New Mexico to Silver City… Continue Reading

Everybody Knows This is Nowhere

Española, NM – Nested in northern New Mexico’s Rio Grande Valley, between the Jemez Mountains and Truchas Peaks, is a ramshackle town, just north of Santa Fe, called Española. Founded in 1598 by Spanish conquistadors, the city is one of North America’s oldest. But to call Española impressive stretches credulity. Big box stores with expansive parking lots, chain restaurants, and gas stations, call out from the roadside as lives unwind behind coyote fences, many  bearing little rectangular signs warning visitors to “KEEP OUT.” In my head I sing the verses of Neil Young’s Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, as I… Continue Reading