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.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Crestone, Part 3

"I like your hat!" I had exclaimed, when I saw her get off the bus in the parking lot, near Guadalupe Church, in Taos.  I was bringing Lindsey and Heather to my parked bus, to give them the ride they wanted back to Talpa Gardens.  They had come to hear me play my vibes on a corner near Taos Plaza, where I had told them I'd be busking, and so I was feeling pretty good, and when I spotted Jodi, I just said what came into my head.  "Thanks," was her natural reply and she beamed an enormous grin.  I was lock eyed goofy while I asked whatever,..  "Know what this is?" I provoked, gesturing to the triangular "gurney" I was wheeling with little effort, and I followed quickly with, "The largest xylophone you have ever seen, called a vibraphone, ...very mellow, or vibes."  "Ohhhh...!", came out of her perma-grin.  "Where are you from?" popped out of mine.  "Crestone."  "Crestone!  I'm heading there in a day or so!"  "Well, I won't be back 'till Saturday.  I have a woofing farm."  "I know what woofing is, I'm at one now.  I'm giving them a ride back..."  I mugged and mimed a little about wanting to play vibes for her right then and there, and having to fulfill my promise to Lindsey and Heather, who were waiting patiently 50 yards away at the bus, and we laughed.  I said "Can I look you up then?"   She gave me two cards, one for Dreamweavers, her weaving company, and one for Grassrootscaregivers, her healing retreat business, both with the same number and e-mail address.  "See you then."  "Ok."  Smile.  Smile.

From Crestone, Part 1

I love Crestone.  I was 5 in 1960, when my parents, artists, moved us to a charming brick and stone Tudor house in a 200 year old village on Long Island.  I remember the excitement and optimism of the move, and in the years that followed, the excitement of the times, my parents love and admiration for the Kennedys, the Smothers Brothers gentle but clever,poking political wit...  Our house was full of painting, music, puppets, drums, and I bonded to the make-the-world-better zeitgeist of the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, The Mommas and the Poppas, over the nihilism of the The Rolling Stones and the Doors.  In '65 my father, possibly influenced by the free-love atmosphere, got involved with my best friend's mom, and his marriage to my mom, his true love, went downhill from there, raging on in fits and spurts for the next thirty years or so.  But one enduring legacy I have, possibly heightened by contrast with the chaos in my life that followed, is a soft spot for the idealism of the '60s and Hippies, and even the naive spiritualists.

And so I love Crestone because I love the reverberations of ancient long lost longings it stirred for me, and I stayed there, entranced, for what I can now hardly believe was only two and a half weeks.

From: Roy
To: Sandy
Sent: Wed, June 2, 2010 4:30:25 AM

Subject: Hi!!!!!!!

Hi Sandy,

Getting a chance to talk with you has been impossible here.  My phone works not at all, and internet access is very, very sketchy.  It seems to be working now, a bit, it’s 4:30 am Wednesday.  I miss you!  Hope you are well.  I’ll keep trying to borrow a phone that works.

Here is a preview of a blog post I’m working on, don’t miss the part about the “debate”!

>     I have had no phone reception since Wednesday.  I’m in Crestone, Co.  It’s an adorable hippie town at the foot hills of the Rockies.  I went to a Full Moon drum circle a few nights ago.  It was great, about 20 people playing hand drums around a fire into the night.  Pot, dancing hippies, and I have enough drumming chops to have made an impression.

I played vibraphone for the town’s Saturday Farmer’s Market.  Made $35, woohoo! 

I’m staying now at Jodi’s farm here in Crestone.  I met her in Taos.  She’s really cute, sort of Julie Christie looking, 40’s I think.  The farm is sort of a religious commune; hippie, Indian, Buddhist, Gayan etc.  We did an authentic Indian ritual cleansing prayer sweat lodge the first morning, Sunday.  It’s sort of a Yurt completely covered in several layers of blankets, with a fire pit in the middle into which the leader, a local guy who knows the ways of the elders, used elk antler pitchforks to place 12 rocks heated to a red glow, after which the door is sealed, water is occasionally poured over the rocks for steam, and in total darkness the 10 participants sitting around the perimeter listen to the leader’s Hopi prayers, and they chant, sing and sweat for a few hours, the hot rocks and steam being replenished periodically.   It’s Hot!  I heard 120 to 150.  Actually, it was quite moving.  The participants pray and sing and speak too, and I heard the woman next to me crying in the darkness.  At my turn, I told the story of Mike H whom I befriended at the Mississippi Katrina Relief place where I worked for 3 months this winter, who at 10 years of age saw his dad murdered, saw his wife blown to bits in an explosion at their warehouse in '92, lost everything to Katrina, including all of his front teeth, now has severe diabetes, and yet in all, remains cheerful, generous, and funny.  I made no religious reference, just expressed my well wishes for my friend.

After the sweat, two attendees, nationally known experts in Hopi prophesy, debated their views for an hour or so, including what will happen to this sacred land when Halliburton gets permission to steal the water beneath it, (apocalyptic volcanic eruption of the Rockies to put Mount Saint Helen to shame), how the CIA has continuity of government shelters built into the sides of the Taos Gorge, unreachable except by their stealth helicopters which only enter at night unseen and in silence, disappearing herds of cows and the 10,000 cow mutilations discovered in the last few decades (the remains of UFO experiments), what the Obama’s think of the info one of them sent them and their appreciative private reply and why they are maintaining public silence, Henry Kissinger’s secret survivalist retreat in the mountains just “over there”, how quantum physics explains the prophesies, what one of them wrote to Obama about what he should tell Netanyahu (“We know you did 9/11), how the gov’t is keeping the friendly UFO’s away and is keeping the bad UFO’s a secret, what Obama should do about the UFO’s, how the couple who crashed the Obama’s party last year were really the CIA telling Obama that they could get to him at any time, like JFK, how Obama’s down fall is predicted by the prophesies in one of the multidimensional history timelines we are on, Obama’s lack of a birth certificate and how the Hopi prophesies predict when his Islamic fundamentalist programming will kick into action, despite his being bought and paid for by BP and Halliburton…

One of the listeners, a healer from Taos, kept saying, “That’s exactly right!” and “The same thing happened to me!”

I’m looking forward to levitation lessons  ;-)  But first, some Mystic Mango.  It’s a Synergy drink.

Were building a green house, so far we are making it out of matter.

(end of draft post)

Sandy, now an Adonis of a mountain climber has shown up.  Great personality, interesting, nice guy, gorgeous.  I hate him, he’s foiling any hope of my crush on Jodi coming to anything.  It’s revolting to watch her going ga-ga.  I hope the Rockies do erupt.

I think I’m leaving on Friday.

I’ll try to borrow a phone.  Hope this e-mail connects…  Write back.

A few days later...

I had made made my feelings known to Jodi a couple of days after I arrived, but it was way too soon, awkward, because I knew she would be leaving at the end of the week, and so I made a little pass and was rebuffed laughingly, but with out more flirting... Then I fumed over Adonis, I mean Andy, but despite my worst paranoia, nothing happened between them (such a Victorian phrase, "nothing happened"..)  Since then, I photoed Jodi and her kids and the farm house (click here), did some hanging around, and even went to a hot spring with her and the kids (no clothes), after which, we actually had a great conversation about our feelings, plans, and so forth...

The fever has passed... sigh, but probably a good thing, a narrow escape from what seems a very difficult situation (single mom, 3 kids, almost no money, starting a farm ["medicinal"], religious retreat, creative center)  We're so different, and yet the thunder clap hit hard.... she is a very sensitive creature, and the scene is so romantic....

I hope we will stay in touch, I'll digest this a while longer, still not completely settled... thunder claps are rare.


Meanwhile I have come to some conclusions about what I want; a creative workshop.  I don't want a job, I want to make things and sell them; furniture, lamps, birdhouses, puppets, I almost don't care or know what it will be, I am inspired by what I have seen people in Taos and Crestone start from nothing.

First step: proof of concept, build Table 1, which I have designed, and sell it.  I visited three woodworkers in Crestone, but none of them nor their shops are up to the job I need.  Perhaps I can borrow shop space or commission what I need near San Francisco, sell it, and then with proof of concept, look for land I can afford, 3 hours north, and over time, build my creative workshop.

A plan.  First time in a long time.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Erik lives in the Grants..

A friend took me to see a workshop Erik and some friends built in the Grants, where he builds and fixes fun vehicles, and also where he previously built "his cave."  Click here for pics!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Crestone, Part 2...

My first morning in Crestone, I parked my bus on a gravel patch across the street from Shambala, got a coffee and a blueberry muffin, and sat down at the picnic table.  Soon, I was surrounded by people and found myself chatting easily, telling the story of my trip, my former life in NYC, and meeting some of the town characters I mentioned in the post below (read that first!), Steve, Rev, Will Omega, another Will with a dark penetrating stare who mostly kept quite, and Loni.  Loni, in his early forties, had been in Crestone for 12 years, I think I recall, and through his general industriousness had eventually opened a little gift shop on the corner opposite Shambala, in a house he had built from an existing little house plus a trailer home, plus other additions, and the whole, though rambling, still has a coherence.  Loni also rents videos at his shop and will pick up odd jobs when the opportunity arises, which I soon learned is pretty much the way of life for many of the residents of Crestone.

Loni sat down on a fiberglass chair near the picnic table, holding a small drum, and after mentioning he had been drumming now for nearly a year, he began to shyly tap out some regular rhythms with his finger tips.  Soon his head began to twist in a back and forth exaggerated "no" motion, flaying his red hair, and helping him keep time and get lost in his musical world.   I joined in a bit, drumming on the hollow plastic picnic table top, which had a completely adequate resonance.  Soon we stopped and smiled at each other.  Rev had joined us and I overheard him ask Loni if he was going to the drumming circle.  "Drumming circle! Whats that about?" I said.  "It's for the full moon, tomorrow night.  You should come" offered Rev.  "Absolutely," I said and got particulars.

Loni also performs in a band on guitar and has a rather public ongoing "thing" with a woman in the band named Deb, who soon joined us outside Shambala.  I knew immediately she was from New York.  "Upper west side.  Sold my apartment and came here 10 years ago."  I may not be recalling the numbers correctly, but people in Crestone often mention their tenure.  Banter continued, and people came and went easily.  After a while, I met a woman who had been sitting there listening quietly like a Cheshire Cat.  But eventually, she joined in, and it turned out she was quite a character herself.  Hearing the story of my travels, she unhesitatingly offered "You can park at my place," and I accepted, of course, and gave her half of my blueberry muffin, mentioning that I have to avoid sugar anyway, to be sure that she would accept it.

The next day, I drove us back to town in my bus, we shared another muffin and coffee, gabbed with the Shambala crowd, took an extended tour of the Baca Grande region, which she narrated generously, and returned to the house so I could get ready for the drumming circle.  I borrowed a drum and off I went.

I took the road through Crestone up a long hill into the beginning of the forest on the mountain and took the first turn off after the cattle guard, as Rev had described, and parked my bus in a clearing.  I followed the sandy trail to a flat nestled between sand dunes and found now as the sun was just setting, a circle of twenty five or so stumps for stools arranged around an already raging fire, with eight or so drummers gathered.  Loni was there, and so were Rev and Julie, and some others I had met in town, and some new faces.  I picked a stump and settled in.  Loni introduced me to the group and quipped that I had no rhythm whatsoever, having played with me a bit at Shambala the day before.  The group seemed to know this was a joke, I think, but I felt I had been challenged, in a good natured way, so I joined right in.  Now, I play vibraphone, which is fundamentally a percussion instrument, and I play jazz which emphasizes syncopation, so although I had not played any drums with others in years, I felt I quite comfortable.  Very soon, I found I could gently help the group establish a good steady pace to a repetitive rhythm perhaps two bars long, and having tons of experience playing jazz solos, I could then slowly depart from the pack and add syncopated accents and tell an even longer rhythmic story on my drum over the pulse of the group.  I was a hit.  It was exhilarating.  And so it went, through sunset and on into the evening, the circle eventually filling with players.  Of course, there was lots of pot passed around and I tried a hit, to remember what that was like, but soon found it was distracting and I remained content with the three beers I brought with me.  The fire leaped, and a few young girls jumped up and writhed abstract improvised dances, and the drumming went on in half or three quarter hour sessions.  Someone would start a pattern, others would join in, and soon the circle would be locked in a spontaneous communal contract, with each drummer contributing, aiding, lifting.  I thought of how you can push a swing with gentle touches which, if well timed to the period, accumulate momentum and achieve a great arc of movement, and how much good musicianship can be like this, and in this sense, the musicianship of this group was great.

Soon an Asian/Indian conga player joined us with two congas.  He had "chops".  Nice long odd numbered rolls that landed smoothly in time to the pulse, interesting departures and phrases, he was great.  And though I could do less pyrotechnics, he soon realized I could play too, and we enjoyed a musical conversation through our drumming, taking turns, supporting, punctuating... it was a wonderful dialogue.  Ultimately, I feel he was somewhat bound to his knowledge of traditional drum phrases which limited his inventiveness.  But he was great to play with and I greatly appreciated his willingness to cede space to me to develop my longer compositional forms.  During a break, I introduced myself, complimented his playing, and learned that he was Tony, from New York, and that he had just moved here permanently.

Eventually, the crowd thinned and straggled away, and I found a moment to say goodbye to those remaining.  One girl said "Thank you!" enthusiastically to me, which felt complimentary, but also made me feel a bit old and outside, but I thanked them all as well and left.

That night, I stayed in the bus in my sandy spot, and the next day, I explored the town a bit.  I met Scott Wheeler, a Brit who was building a restaurant, and I introduced myself as an Architect, and also as a vibraphonist, because I had heard that Scott organized the town Saturday Market.  Scott arranged for me to play for the market, which I did the following Saturday, and also thoroughly enjoyed.  I ran into some of the drum circle players there, and was greeted warmly and I could see that some took note of the vibes and made the connection to my playing at the circle.  I was glad to have filled in my impression in their minds.

After the drum circle night, I spent another few camped at the woman's house, and we talked and ate and drank wine, she gave me a science fiction book, I did laundry and so forth, and we became good friends.

Eventually, though, I prepared to go visit Jodi Tucker, the woman whom I'd met a week earlier in a parking lot in Taos by saying "I like your hat", after which we remained in full goofy eye locked gaze as we chatted awkwardly, exchanging numbers, and arranging to meet again in Crestone in a week.  I was looking forward to seeing Jodi again.

Crestone, Part 1

About an hour and a half north of Taos, at the very foothills of the Rockies, lies the enchanting little town of Crestone where some several hundred people live dreamy, anachronistic lives.  The town itself has four or five streets, forming a few rectangles containing at most a dozen businesses, the most prominent of which is the modest coffee shop, Shambala.  Built in an old house and painted a dark turquoise, Shambala occupies the first corner you encounter as you enter Crestone via the only road leading to the town.  The location and the picnic table outside make this the front door and the living room, and it is the center of daily social life in Crestone for many of the colorful residents.  Groups of regulars gather and chat and gossip, some in shifts according to their own personal schedules for work and so forth, and some who seem to center their activities around the table for most of the day.

Among the full timers is Steve, a completely pixilated elf who lives in a yurt in the compound adjoining Shambala, where he tends the garden on the grounds and in the Lexan Geodesic dome.  When he gets your attention, Steve rambles on with almost schizophrenic incoherence, but with a watchful twinkle in his eye as he seemingly paces his excursions to the near limits of rational attention.  Something is going on in there behind his extroverted, Robin Williamsish free associated preaching about Light and Mother Earth, and the souls of rocks and asparagus.  Under the good graces of the owner of Shambala, Steve and half a dozen other people live in the compound, along with some chickens.  Will Omega is living in his car nearby, having recently arrived from Flagstaff, and he appears at the picnic table frequently, selling his wooden Indian flutes (five hole pentatonic recorders) and offering beginners lessons to facilitate his sales.  Rev, the Reverand, sells pot and is a regular too, his business both benefiting from and aiding the social scene at Shambala.  Jullie, a very pretty usually barefooted girl probably in her later twenties, often wearing a rolled bandanna around her forehead, frequently lends her joyful bright smile to the table, and offers home made cookies to friends, noting with a giggle that they, too, have medicinal ingredients (pot).  It's a hippie town.

It's also a "Spiritual" town.  I resent that that term is often used to refer to any and every far fetched belief system dealing with the human longing for a sense of purpose, with the common and false attendant implication that if you are rational, you are not sensitive to the fullness of life; it makes me feel belittled, and by folks who, in my opinion, are the ones missing the fullness of the "miracle" of scientific reality.  In any event, Crestone owes its large proportion of residents pursuing a spiritual life to a number of reasons, including Crestone's seclusion and natural beauty, it's purportedly health giving hot springs, and, most importantly, the beneficence of a wealthy family who long ago began giving land to not-for-profit spiritual organizations.  And so the surrounding hills have thirty or more retreats for Buddhists and other groups, including a variety of new age healers and so forth.

Nestled into the foothills and radiating outward from the town itself, is a large flat lands in which an enormous development, Baca Grande, was begun in the '60's.  Originally conceived as a residential community for the military at Los Alamos, it was later re-interpreted as a generally populated retirement community, and  in the '70s, owing to poor sales, the project lost momentum.  What remains is a two tiered region, half of which, the Baca, has two to four acre lots with infrastructure for electricity and water, some with houses, and the other half, the Grants, has similar sized pieces of raw land available.  And over the years, some of each portion has been settled on a shoe string by the colorful inhabitants of Crestone.  I will tell about my stays with folks in each in future posts.

I love Crestone.

I was 5 in 1960, when my parents, artists, moved us to a charming brick and stone Tudor house in a 200 year old village on Long Island.  I remember the excitement and optimism of the move, and in the years that followed, the excitement of the times, my parents love and admiration for the Kennedys, the Smothers Brothers poking political wit.  Our house was full of painting, music, puppets, drums, and I bonded to the make-the-world-better zeitgeist of the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, The Mommas and the Poppas, over the nihilism of the The Rolling Stones and the Doors.  In '65 my father, possibly influenced by the free-love atmosphere, got involved with my best friend's mom, and his marriage to my mom, his true love, went downhill from there, raging on in fits and spurts for the next thirty years or so.  But one enduring legacy I have, possibly heightened by contrast with the chaos in my life that followed, is a soft spot for the idealism of the '60s and Hippies, and even the naive spiritualists.

And so I love Crestone because I love the reverberations of ancient long lost longings it stirred for me, and I stayed there, entranced, for what I can now hardly believe was only two and a half weeks.

I'll post more about this magical portion of my adventure, but for now, here is a link to some pictures of the town.  Click here

Sunday, June 13, 2010

UFO bait...

Heading north from Taos to Crestone on 285, I happened across Roy and Ruth's UFO Center.  You couldn't miss it; it's in the middle of a long bleak stretch of dusty nothingness.  They have erected a metal viewing platform... I guess being 15 feet higher up really helps when you're spotting UFO's.  There is also a lot of crap, scrap metal, and UFO paraphernalia laying around on the ground... I suppose it's UFO bait; I spoke with Roy a while, but didn't ask him.  We talked about the economy!  As a trucker, he had made enough to support his family and set this place up, with dwellings for some of his kids and himself and Ruth.  Now in semi retirement, they built and have run this place for about 10 years.  They are both fairly tongue in cheek about it, but when I teetered too close to skepticism, they reeled back, so I guess they are believers.  I prefer that to thinking they were shameless hoaxers.  Roy said business has been off the last two years as tourism in general is way down, and they are hurting a bit.  A little bit of reality at the UFO Center.  Click here for more pics on Flickr.

Two Cute Girls On My Bus

Near the end of May, back at Talpa Gardens, I got to know Lindsey and Heather, whom I met by chance a few days prior at World Cup, a coffee place in Taos.  The three of us took an 83 mile drive around The Enchanted Circle, which circles Taos Mountain and runs through ski towns and beautiful forest.  The two were working as volunteers on the farm as "Woofers", kids who travel and trade their labor for lodging and learning on small farms.  No one has to pay me to take a drive like this, either :-)  Click here for a Flickr slide show.

The Taos Pueblo

Two or three miles from the center of Taos is the Taos Pueblo settlement, the longest continuously inhabited Pueblo settlement in existence.  Tourists have access to the central area, the deeper recesses and perimeter are where the inhabitants still live and these are off limits.  I learned that actually only a handful of people still live here, but there is additional native population living on reservation land outside this Pueblo construction.  These buildings are in amazing shape for mud buildings.  That is to say, they are surviving ongoing water damage and decay pretty well.  Most of the inhabitants keep their distance and don't want their photos taken, except a few who are running the small souvenir and craft shops, who will pose for a small donation.  I photoed one in what appeared to be her home, where she was preparing food on a hot plate for sale on the table outside.  I also photoed a woman sitting outside and when I asked her her name, she answered "Susan" in a startlingly American sounding accent.

This is a sad place.  One can have all the respect in the world for the history and traditions, but it's evident that this is not working, the tourism is not supporting the community, and it will end eventually, except perhaps for some caricatured version that might survive with government funding.  I probably shouldn't go to tourist attractions.

Click here for a Flickr slide show.

The Taos Mesa

I'd heard about the Taos Mesa a couple of times.  The first was from Craig, whom I met at Tannia and Jeff's farm, Talpa Gardens.  Craig is a welder from Columbus, Ohio, who had arrived in Taos several weeks prior, fell in love with both the town and a women, and had decided to stake a claim out on the Mesa where he would build a studio and make art, although he admitted he had no experience or training in art, and only a little in construction, except for his welding, at which he was proficient.  Craig's ironic sense of humor and enthusiasm for his dream on the Mesa were infectious.  He told me it's an area out west on the flat lands, beyond the Taos Gorge, where property is still available for cheap.  There is no infrastructure, no water, electricity, or sewers, only unnamed dirt roads.  Ownership records of the land are murky.  Some large corporation owns a lot of it, and divided it into quarter acre lots long ago, some of which can be purchased for a few hundred dollars, including back taxes.  Other larger chunks are available from private owners.  Craig was in the process of making repeated trips to the Mesa to identify places he liked, and alternating these trips with visits to the town planning department to find records and then trying to contact the owners.  He'd sent out 6 or so letters, but had been told by friends that it often took a hundred tries before success.  Craig was boundless in his energy, and we had a good time a few days later when he helped me weld a broken strut on my bus' door opening lever.

The second time I heard about the Mesa was from Clay, the bus traveler I met at the east end of the Taos Gorge Bridge (May 23rd post below.)  "The Mesa is pretty cool.  Some of the old timers have been there quite a while and they can be pretty weird.  It's pretty lawless, though.  If you call the police, they will only come and meet you at the edge, because the roads have no names and they can't find anything in there."  I of course wanted to know more.  "I can take you out there, if you want" Clay offered.  "What if I just went out to look around?"  "Sure, but just be cool.  A lot of people are out there because they want to be left alone.  If you pull up to the wrong house and they don't know you, you'll be greeted at gun point."  Gulp.  "Thanks, how do I find it?"  "Over the bridge, out past the water tower, first left, then the first right takes you to TP, (I learned later that's Two Peaks) or straight takes you to a sign that says 'Evolve', and go right there."  I figgured anyplace with a sign can't really be trying to keep people away, so off I went.

The only worse roads I have ever driven on were in Coasta Rica, where I cracked a gas tank on a rented 4x4.  These are dirt paths with deep ruts at the sides, potholes a foot deep an d 3 feet round, and continuous "washboard" texture hard packed along the surface, which forced me to keep my speed to about 10 miles an hour.  I rolled along and looked at an amazing array of odd houses cobbled together out of found materials, shipping containers, abandoned cars, buses, campers, and scraps of wood.  Though I remained a bit skeptical about Clay's warnings, as I proceeded I kept my head down, in case of sniper fire.  Then I noticed a few of the homesteads were surrounded by stockade fences, with pointed tops, as I remembered from movie westerns, to keep the Indians out...  "Don't get out of the bus, don't get out of the bus...", I parrodied to myself from Apocalypse Now's "Never get out of the boat..."  I did manage to get a number of photos through my windows and through the open door.

Click here for a Flickr slide show, which includes a friendly encounter.

After a point, I tired of the rough ride, and feared I might damage my suspension, so I turned around and headed back to Taos.  Soon, I saw an old bearded man sitting in a derelict car in one homesteaded compound, so I opened my door and waved.  He waved back.  I felt better.  A little further on, a car passed with a woman in her twenties, with a nose ring, and two dogs.  She looked like she was going home, somewhere here on the Mesa,... how bad could it be?  Finally, an open top Jeep with about 6 twentysomethings comes along, so I slow down and wave, and they stop.  I asked "Who lives out here?" meaning, generally.  The driver answered "I do", somewhat defensively.  So I explained, I'm an architect, and I'm curious who's out her, and what are they building, and I made it sound as chatty and innocent as I could, and the driver said "We're building an Earthship just 100 yards back, you want to see it?"

Ben had saved some money and now was getting help from his friends to build this house.  Suddenly it became clear to me what was happening.  The Mesa, former exclusive home of loons, outcasts, and malcontents, was being gentrified.  As I'd seen Bed Sty in Brooklyn, the East Village in Manhattan, as is happening in Treme in New Orleans, Laptops and I-pods are coming to the Taos Mesa.

I spent an hour learning about their construction, which had been learned by many of them as volunteer's on Mike Reynolds official Earthship projects.  One of the kids demonstrated his skill on the slack line they had rigged next to the mess tent where they ate.  I learned of another Mesa dweller who could help me convert my bus to run on vegetable oil, possibly doing the conversion for a lot less than I'd feared.  I got his number.  Then I said my goodbyes, thanked them, and found my way out of the Mesa and headed back to Talpa Gardens.

I tried a short cut, which led me to a road that meandered all the way down to the bottom of the Taos Gorge, and then back up the other side.  The short cut added an hour or so to my return trip :-)

Thom Wheeler is having fun

Back on May 18, I wandered on my scooter along some back roads winding into the foothills of the Rockies east of Taos.  There are many galleries and studios tucked in here and there, and though rain was threatening, I took a chance and stopped at Thom Wheeler's place, as it seemed particularly over the top and picturesque.

  Click here for a Flickr slide show of Thom's unusual home and studio, which he designed and had built on his income from his art work.

Remember me?

I've been up in Crestone, Co.  It's sufficiently remote that I had no T-Mobile cell phone service and very limited access to internet via my Verizon Broadband dongle.  I'm now heading west again, but have stopped in Taos to regroup a bit, so I'll do a few posts to catch up.  A few quickees from before Crestone, then I'll try to explain Crestone, which was quite remarkable...