Sacked by the "downturn", an unemployed architect touring the country in a bus...

I used to live in New York City. I designed homes for the tycoons of Wall Street; Park Avenue, Scarsdale, Greenwich. It was great fun. And, after years of saving up for a down payment, I was just about to buy my own little place in Fleetwood, half an hour north of the city, when the economy fell apart. Architects are like canaries in a coal mine when the economy slows, and true to form, there were massive layoffs in firms all over the country. Devastation of the profession. So, I decided to try to find something else to do for a while. I bought a 23' school bus and I'm on the road to see if I can figure out what that might be.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

10 days

A lot has happened in the last ten days.  I haven't had a chance to post.  My dear friend Sandy, whom I met in Dade County, Florida, working to get the Obama vote to the polls, and whom has remained a great friend by phone and e-mail ever since, came on her vacation to meet me and travel a bit in the west.  We met in Truth or Cosequences, New Mexico and stayed at a hot springs hotel, she in a room, and I camped in my bus in a nice spot down the block.  We soaked, and ate out, and explored the town, and had diner with three guys one night who I learned were priests only after venting my non religious views accumulated and pent up for months through my travels in the south.  But I back peddled a little and they were immediately tolerant of my faux pas, and in the end we had a great time at diner.

Then Sandy and I made our way up to Silver City, a lovely little urban town with a few galleries and lots of young people.  Still, the effect of the downturn was visible every where, with about a third of the store fronts vacant, and a surprising number of homeless people for a small city.

We also stopped in Pinos Altos, a rural town who's name seems to have lost it's tilde, offering opportunity for risque word play which we didn't pass up.  It's a very nice little community, and I learned that there where quite a few larger homes being built in the surrounding hills, gentrification having only begun here a few years ago.  I imagined trying to carve out a carreer as a local architect.

We wound our way up into the mountains of Gila and hiked to the cave dwellings.  They are, of course, amazing.  Thought to have been built in about ten years and occupied for only 40, the full story of what happened remains a mystery.  But looking at the remains, one is struck by the human experience that took place, the intimacy of sitting with loved ones around a fire in this unique place.  I imagined the hands that ground corn in the depression worn in a stone for the purpose.

We went to Gila Hot Springs, four pools diverted from a natural source in an adjacent stream, and maintained by Jim Ransom, a self taught archeologist who fell in love with the caves and the region 30 years ago and returned here ten years ago, to study and live and love after his previous life as a building inspector in Maine.  Jim is sure that the caves were more of a monastery than a community dwelling, and he thoroughly enjoyed telling us about how his theory makes more sense than the mainstream interpretation, though I suspect there is a bit of straw man building on his part here; the mainstream in science is usually not too dumb or even too united on these kinds of theories.  But we loved his story telling, an animated and humorous monologue that he sustained for over an hour and a half, and in the end we were well persuaded and we repeated what we heard to others several times.

We eventually made it to Santa Fe.  This is a swanky place.  It's rich.  It's a Ralph Lauren commercial, with beautiful looking people in western wear made of fine fabrics that drape over there spa toned bodies.  At first I was put off as there seems to be no middle class.  A conventional wisdom is that in Santa Fe you either own three houses, or you wash the floors in three houses.  But having now been here for several days, I am beginning to find that there is an interesting population of craftspeople and artists.  I hope I have time and luck to find them.

Sandy and I had diner with her friends Michael and Sharon, two exceptionally bright folks who live in a lovely adobe style home in an adobe style housing development, in this city where ordinance dictates adobe style everything; banks, gas stations, even MacDonalds all get the treatment.  It looks a little like a set for The Flintstones.  But their house really is a warm and beautiful place, open on the rear with expanses of glass that present a gorgeous view.

During diner, Sandy mentioned she wasn't feel well.  Sandy is very sensitive to her surroundings, with allergies to cats and strong feelings about smells, and careful regard of foods and so forth, so when she later felt she was having chest pains, we didn't know what to make of it.  Sharon gave her one of those 30" exercise balls over which Sandy draped herself in different positions, and breathed, but from which she eventually announced she wanted to go to the emergency room.  Our very generous hosts took this at face value and we loaded into their car and went to the hospital, though I felt it was probably just heart burn or anxiety, but better safe than sorry, and Michael and Sharon probably imagined the same.

Surprise: heart attack.  The first enzyme test showed nothing, but the hospital admitted her and did a second test at three in the morning and found signs of an episode.  Sandy remained in ICU 36 hours more until Monday morning when and angioscope revealed only minor blockage, and she returned to ICU for aanother 24 hours of observation and to learn from the cardiologist about medications she should take, and so forth.  Sandy was amazing throughout the whole affair, never loosing her quirky sense of humor.  I camped out in my bus for most of the hospital stay, in a section of the hospital parking lot assigned to campers.  The South and West have a population of campers and trailer homes of which east coasters are completely unaware.

When Sandy was released, we went to Mike and Sharron's for diner again, and stayed there the night, I in my bus.  Diner conversation was wonderful and, partly due to Sandy's disarming yet probing questions, we all shared intimate stories of childhood.  In the morning we had a breakfast, and talked again, and I discovered my laptop was having problems.  Once again, Mike offered all sorts of help, including a hard wire to the internet which he provided by unplugging Sharron's computer, these are very generous hosts, and I quipped that I was beginning to feel like Monty Woolly in "The Man Who Came to Dinner".  I told Sharon the Ice and the Penguins would be here in the afternoon.  This all started with dinner now 4 nights prior.  Soon Mike gave Sandy a lift to the airport shuttle (nothing keeps her down for long), and Sharon had an appointment, and I was on the phone to HP tech support in India.  When Sharron returned from her appointment three hours later I was just finishing up and was able to leave in about another 20 minutes.  The two of them seem to have tolerated all of this imposition, and I sincerely hope we continue our friendship.

Now I have relocated to the Heart of Santa Fe, in a city parking lot with facilities for campers at $9 for 24 hours, 1 1/2 blocks from the Plaza in the center of the historic district.  This is a perfect set up for my street performing with my vibraphone and I spent most of today in the Plaza, playing in the tranquil setting.  I felt great and was very well received.

So that's the last ten days.  I wrote fast here.  I left out the part about an interesting business development that may be coming up.  And a whole bunch of pictures.  I'll post all of this, later...

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