I bought one of these dolls at the airport in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last month. The artist is Sarena Mann.
I bought one of these dolls at the airport in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last month. The artist is Sarena Mann.
I have been busy editing. I have also been organizing and re-arranging the content of this website (mostly in my head) for Vusi, my amazingly creative (and patient!) website design creator. I have also been reading quite a bit.
But for now, I had some photos to share from Santa Fe from my visits there. I don’t doubt there are many better photos of Santa Fe that are closer to the stereotypical images associated with the city but this is what I have.
What can I share about Santa Fe? Also known as Santa Fake or Santa Fee.
New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment. Or Entrapment. Depends who you ask.
Those who have previously read my travel essays on the various cities I have visited know about my tendency (perhaps like most?) to describe cities as if they were breathing entities.
I would describe Santa Fe as a beautiful woman whose parents decided to force her to enter children’s beauty pageants so she grew up thinking how she looks is all there is to her.
Perhaps only when writing fiction can one ever claim to really know all there is to know about a city. I would never assert I know all there is to know about any area, unless I really do, and when I say I really do I have dissected and plunged into every nook and cranny of a city, turned over every neighborhood’s stereotype, and talked to a lot of strangers. A lot. This includes people who are visitors, transplants of years, locals of many generations, businesses, schools etc. It is important to speak to as many different people as possible in order to get the true feel and real deal on any city. Diversity of opinions are attractive until they are so subjective that they are useless, therefore gathering information requires a fine balance.
I can offer much about Lahore, Durban, Johannesburg, Kansas City, Lawrence, Paris, Prague, New York City because I have lived there and visited many times even when not a resident. There are many other places I have visited where I can co-share a subjective authority but only because I have talked to many others who live there.
I have had many occasions to visit Santa Fe for various reasons. The first time I visited Santa Fe was over a decade ago. My mother and I were driving from Kansas to California since my family had relocated to California and I was moving to New York City. It didn’t even register in our minds that passing through Santa Fe was a big deal in any way. We were not familiar with the city having much to offer other than adobe infrastructures, Native-American/Indian casinos, and a few wonderful stops to check turquoise markets (which happened to be outside of Santa Fe, so the one thing that we remembered and liked about Santa Fe wasn’t even in Santa Fe).
We weren’t so taken by the adobe homes which mesmerize most because that is all there was in the Middle East where I spent my younger years. The primary difference being adobes were not glamorized as they are now in Santa Fe for tourism; although, initially they were very much served a necessity to combat the heat and cold in the high desert of New Mexico.
Most people are impressed by Santa Fe because they are not used to so much open space, but having lived in Kansas, having explored Colorado on many occasions, this was not a new landscape.
It was only a few years back that the name of this town was again in my stratosphere. I was embarrassed to admit that I had never, ever, ever associated the place with “art” or having anything to do with art. I was informed that Santa Fe was the 3rd largest art market in the United States after New York City and San Francisco/Los Angeles. I concluded this is probably because I am not a fan of Georgia O’Keefe (who, by the way, is not even from Santa Fe, no different than most “established” artists who live there now, she too resided there because she had the financial resources) and I am not a collector of art as endorsed by the so called gatekeepers of mainstream art. I like what I like until I don’t.
Most people who come to Santa Fe do so on retreats related to art, writing, silence (yes, really!), spiritual, nature and anything you can possibly come up with. Seldom do they talk to locals. Moreover, those who are managing or serving in hotels are not necessarily from there but just transplants working in the hospitality and tourist industry, the primary industry of Santa Fe. The city government does everything it can to ensure this continues, sometimes at the expense of local communities who have been there (and this includes Whites and non-Whites) long before others even knew about Santa Fe as more than a dirt town in the middle of nowhere.
In many ways Santa Fe serves as the extended backyard of Los Angeles’ wealthiest. After all, it is only a two hour flight from L.A.
Most people associate the following images with Santa Fe as per the churning of ‘what sells’ philosophy by the city’s business bureau:
“land of kokopelli” (A favorite character of mine too; it’s just that I am aware that there is more to Santa Fe than this icon!)
“come here and find peace you can’t anywhere else”
(although this was taken in Sunrise Springs, not quite in the city of Santa Fe, I just offer it as an example)
“land of enchantment”
and painting after painting after painting of sunsets, clouds, sky, sunrises, sunsets, clouds, sky, sunrises…
and why not?
It is indeed true: the landscape is glorious and every single time a person looks at the sky (which is hard to miss) it takes one’s breath away.
This has much to do with having the cleanest air in the nation which also makes for a great retirement community which in turn offers very little besides a tourism industry.
Unfortunately, art gallery after art gallery offers much of the same. There is very little original or unique perspective, no real storytelling in the art other than what one is expecting given the myths and preconceived ideas associated with the city. All there is is that which will sell. And anyone with money can open up a gallery regardless of any talent or vision and any tourist with money will buy it so they can say they bought it in Santa Fe so it must be collectable art. This is not true of all of New Mexico but this atmosphere is particularly common in Santa Fe.
This wasn’t always so from what I am told. Once upon a time this was a thriving small town with tiny pockets of powerful opportunities for original creative pursuits for music and art. The aforementioned issues existed but they didn’t necessarily engulf avenues for others to do something different. However, in the last fifteen years, there are hardly any options for those who are actually interested in creating something different.
The above are the least of Santa Fe’s biggest problems. The city has only one main hospital which is known for not treating its employees fairly, especially nurses. The city is by and large owned by a handful of developers most of whom don’t even reside in New Mexico which makes for a very high cost of living for a city that size. This makes it very challenging for the people who were born there to continue living there. Most people who live in Santa Fe are not from Santa Fe.
Here is me holding a shadow in a bottle. : )
Sunny day is a good day to observe frogs play some chess!
This one was taken in Albuquerque back in September. We had a great time there with friends.
These are from Los Golandrinas in La Cienega (20 minutes outside of Santa Fe) which is breathtakingly beautiful and serene.
A pensive me (photo courtesy of The Wizard) who is always thinking there has to be a way to save cities from people who just don’t care where they are given the finite people who do but can only do so much on their own.
This was taken at a spot called Counter Culture. I don’t know what culture they are counter to for there was nothing alternative there and if anything they were counter to quality service. Most of the crowd there was from Los Angeles.
But trees, the trees remind me it will be okay.
Note: Although I truly despise when blog posts at the end state a generic, “And what about you? How do you feel?” so as to generate comments for the sake of comments, I feel compelled to ask. In this instant I am genuienly curious if anyone who reads this has something to share about a place that doesn’t offer much to its local residents but is all about tourism first? Can that even be sustained? Curious, given in NYC the tourism industry is huge but it has much to offer the locals as well.
Yesterday evening I went to have a cappuccino by myself in a small eatery.
This is not where I usually go. I have been there only once before. I just don’t walk in that direction I suppose. East. Two avenues over. When I first discovered coffee here it was in the middle of May and I couldn’t put my finger on the feeling that made me comfortable and uncomfortable simultaneously. Yesterday I could. This neighborhood, two fat avenues east, reminded me of how my current neighborhood used to be before it became this obnoxious, “hip,” noisy space drenched in a bourgeoisie charade where no one is actually participating. Interestingly, this particular avenue and the quarter of a mile encompassing space around it, was also the first street when I began my journey in New York City as home over a decade ago.
Yesterday in this café I was seated on a small table just big enough for two plates. On my right a woman was seated across another woman. One of these women was clearly in a more “supervisory” role than the other who appeared as an “employer.” I would have paid more attention to their conversation if it struck my curiosity better, which it didn’t. I was able to put together that both the ladies were in the field of education and affiliated with the infamous education program known as “Teach for America”. I am not going to use this time and space to opine a piece about “Teach for America”.
Before I could place my order I also heard the conversation, a bit more amusing, from two tables over to my left. There sat two men who were louder. In the beginning they were talking about dating—their preference being men—but they were only friends sharing funny stories about dates gone bad.
Then I had this sudden urge to no longer be inside but step outside and have my cappuccino on a bench provided in front of the café. This didn’t last long.
I came back inside three minutes later and told those working there (two people) that I wanted my table back. “I have been attacked!” is what I exclaimed indignantly. They stared at me for a better explanation.
“There were these creatures, I know they are not mosquitoes, that attacked me from both sides at the same time! Look what they have done in a matter of seconds!” I showed them my “injuries”.
They said I was more than welcome to sit where I was. This lady who was leaving remarked at how much she disliked bugs. “These weren’t just gross bugs!” I exclaimed. And added, “They sucked my blood but differently than mosquitoes!”
With my cappuccino unfinished and now agitated state I had no choice but to hear the bits from the right and bits of conversation from the left. If I had ordered coffee I would have taken it “to go,” but I like to sit down to have tea or cappuccino. The interesting thing I noted was that since I found parts of both conversations boring I only picked fragments.
The excited spirituals were the two gay men seated to my left who were in a deep conversation about the meaning of past lives. The excited teachers working for “Teach for America” (the supervisor and the new teacher to be) were the two ladies on my right. All conversations were unpretentious and were being exchanged with utmost sincerity.
Pretty soon it sounded like this.
I offer you:
In between Past Lives and Teaching America
The first excited spiritual: I see many things. Many!
The excited Teach for America supervisor to the new teacher: I see many things!
The excited Teach for America supervisor to the teacher: What’s your vision?
The second excited spiritual: I have many visions too!
The excited Teach for America supervisor to the teacher: What are your strengths you would say so far?
The second excited spiritual: I was so strong in my past life. I saw myself with super powers I can’t even describe. I wish I could be that way now.
The excited Teach for America supervisor to the teacher: How do you balance what you know is best for the students with what the parents want?
The first excited spiritual: We are both of our parents, mother and father. Let’s say we came into this world knowing we have to be unlike our parents but in the best way possible.
The excited Teach for America supervisor to the teacher: How do you plan on charting your progress?
The first excited spiritual: This is the way we chart our progress, from our past lives.
The excited Teach for America supervisor to the teacher: Do you feel you connect with the students in a manner that is beneficial for all?
The first excited spiritual: Have you ever connected with someone and experienced without even speaking you are speaking?
The excited new teacher joining Teach for America: I think communication is the most important factor.
The second excited spiritual: Don’t we all communicate that way sometimes?
The excited Teach for America supervisor to the teacher: I have here in my notes that you feel the energy levels of the students who need extra help vary tremendously.
The first excited spiritual: Yes, we do! Everything is energy. All this stuff we see hardly compares to what we don’t see.
The excited Teach for America supervisor to the teacher: What is your strategy for closing the standardized test achievement gap?
The first excited spiritual: There is an achievement gap. The past connects to the now, do you see how?
I couldn’t help wondering what if it had indeed been one conversation and not two separate ones…how this would help our education system….
I walked out thinking about this poem by an unfamiliar poet named J. Allyn Rosser and that I couldn’t make up fiction even if I tried.
How do you explain why elephants
appear to move their unwieldy hulks
with greater dignity than most humans do
in their finest moments,
as if they had evolved beyond wanting
anything but what they have?
Why does the field begin to ripple
before the wind arrives in whispers,
as if there were a communication,
as if the landscape were poorly dubbed,
and we weren’t expected to notice?
What butterfly does not dart away from us
as if it could sense our latent cruelties,
and yet return to check and double-check?
Has the night not gotten recently darker,
as if to insinuate that we have squandered
the light that was there?
Have we made too much of our own?
And did you notice afterward the dawn
opening up with a tentative eagerness
as if there were something crucial to illumine,
as if we would wake up early just to see it?
I imagine you reading this now
with an expression of quiet trouble
itself troubled by currents of hope,
as if you imagined me here with you,
as if I might be able to see your expression,
and at least answer it with mine.
I came home to grab lunch since my parents are here (well, right now on their way out to JFK for their trip to Turkey…they arrived late last night from California…unfortunately, not a long stay, but it will be a little longer on their way back from Turkey).
I told them this small story and said I didn’t have time to tweet share with folks. It’s been a whirlwind few days…all filled with magic and joy…but still a bit too fast…
They asked I write it down somewhere. And since this is the most organized space I know as compared to what is on and underneath my desk and shelves, here it goes…
This morning in the number 2 subway train headed to the Bronx the conductor made an announcement.
He said, “Please do your part to keep the subway clean. There just isn’t enough people to pick up after people. You are the ones who have to ride these trains.” No one really paid attention other than the fact that we recognized that this was not an automated message from the NYC MTA. And then he came back on again, “And it is a really nice day. Act accordingly. Make it count.”
Thereafter, I said, carefully, “Must be his first day at the job!” To which another woman replied, “Yeah, I would be happy too if I had a job right now.” We all laughed.
I felt bad. I don’t like like cynicism. I decided I was being funny and sarcastic. I am sarcastic sometimes. But I don’t like cynicism. I decided it was okay just this once.
We all had had a good laugh.
Then another lady said, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if he had been on this job for many many years and he still was this proud of what he did and delivered this message because he thought it was valuable?”
We all agreed. And also agreed we’ll never know. We could think what we wanted.
Then the few of us started talking about knitting since one of the women seated near us was knitting. Where are the classes? Where are the good deals to buy yarn? My sister taught me and I forgot already…
My stop came and I got out and I said goodbye and have a nice day as if I knew these people. They all rejoiced have a great day in return.
When the subway car began again I saw that I happened to have been in the particular subway section where the subway operator was too. The subway train started again. I ran along side the subway and asked, “Hey! Was it you that made the announcement?” He said, “Yes, ma’am!” Now the subway was going faster and I knew I couldn’t keep up. I yelled so he could hear me, “How long have you been working for the MTA?” I could see his smile as he faded away onwards and I heard him very clearly, “15 years.”
It’s been a wonderful day so far.
Mostly because it is a great reminder that we can change someone’s day for the better by just being ourselves.
And although we often can’t control our thoughts we can control what we do with them once they come around.
Forgive and do Forget. Robert-Robert Frost: one question you should keep close.
If you would like to know what Still Sundays is about, please take a quick gander here and just read the third paragraph. Thanks.
There is a stillness that belongs only to the sky. It’s the stillness in between latitudes and longitudes. We can only know it from afar.
This Sunday I am sipping tea in a suburb somewhere outside Nashville, Tennessee, visiting my sister and her fiance who moved here recently for a short project. They were on a break for a week so we all flew in from the East and West coasts to visit them.
We are the Peter Pan Household. Our father couldn’t join us as he had to finish a project but my brother and sister-in-law are here from LA, as is my other brother, Zain, from Berkeley, and of course our mother is here.
I am drooling over a new book I just bought: Soccer in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano.
You can read more about the book here. Having read only a few pages I highly recommend it. The writing is delicious and moves along easy.
He writes, “Years have gone by and I’ve finally learned to accept myself for who I am: a beggar for good soccer. I go about the world, hand outstretched, and in the stadiums I plead: ‘A pretty move, for the love of God.’ And when good soccer happens, I give thanks for the miracle and I don’t give a damn which team or country performs it.”
“The history of soccer is a sad voyage from beauty to duty.”
If you would like to know what Still Sundays is about, please take a quick gander here and just read the first paragraph. Thanks.
Do all cities hold the same silence early on a Sunday morning? Yes. Is the stillness which reverberates from each city indistinguishable? No. No two cities are alike no matter how similar. People often tend to lump the metropolises together: London, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc. They are not the same. If they appear the same it is often because no exploration beyond airports and corporate buildings takes place. If you limit yourself to doing the same things in all cities you will only see the same things: plays, movies, malls, shopping, restaurants, clubs, etc.
I recently told a friend that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but ego.
Then I read this article on Oriah’s website and it really hit home.