Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Leaving Santa Fe: 1984

Before I left Santa Fe, I took Joel and Mike out to dinner. We ate Mexican, of course. My treat. It was the least I could do for them for letting me live on their couch. Then I went out with my local Santa Fe friends I'd met while there, the people I associated with the most: John and Alex. (Okay, I did say good bye to Halley, who I'd been sleeping with, and I think John saw us kissing in the car. Yikes. She was John's girlfriend, essentially.) We went out with a cast of others who we knew and drank--of course--smoked--of course--and then ate mushrooms (not of course). Seems like some girl was with us, maybe Holly (not to be confused with Holly from Iowa City/Grayton/Seattle). But we ate shrooms and went up around the university and climbed Monte Sol and Monte Luna in the dark. Then we came down and they raided a dorm at St. John's College, opened a fridge where there was a lot of beer and a hand-written sign that asked PLEASE DON'T DRINK THIS BEER.
We drank the beer.
We got screwed up pretty good then wandered back to my place on Camino de la Luz and--as I recall--Bill was there. Bill from Des Moines.
Bill was the reason I'd decided to leave. He wrote me and said he was going to come down for a visit. Wanted to know if I wanted to go to the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon and such. I wrote back saying, sure, "Throw in Vegas and I'll ride all the way back to Iowa with you." So, that became the plan. Which meant my Santa Fe adventure would come to a close.
So, Bill was there, standing next to his Chevy Lumina in the gravel drive at the adobe where I lived on the couch. It was good to see him. (I know about, what, four or five Bills. Know three Mikes and a couple of Jims. But this was Bill from Des Moines, the 1st Bill, who I'd known--still know--since about 8th grade.) He stayed with me--with Joel and Mike (make that four Mikes I know)--and we had a good time roaming Santa Fe and meeting the people I'd met. But the night before we were to leave for the Grand Canyon, there were a couple of French girls in town that a friend of Joel was hosting. These girls were Parisians and they wanted to go to the Grand Canyon. So I said we could give them a ride--they were going to take the bus--and they agreed, in French, through that mutual friend.
So I said a final good bye to Santa Fe without too much sentiment (I was going to Arizona and Utah and Nevada, with French girls to boot) and off we went. 
It was a long drive. We had camping gear (Bill's) and the girls sat in back, quiet, talking only in French, claiming they couldn't speak English. We drove, seems like we stopped in Gallup for the night--Bill and camped and the girls slept in the car (it was cold at night, we must have gotten a late start) and the next day we stopped in the Petrified Forest/Painted Desert. The girls--who completely ignored my attempts to speak to them in my terrible French--began to warm up to us a little. They seemed to like Bill better than me. Anyway, we found out that they could indeed speak English. But they were still rather cool. (Can't blame them for being wary--they didn't know us any better than they knew the country.)
Anyway, we drove into the Grand Canyon and when we parked and walked out to the viewing ledge they were blown away.
"Magnifique," they said. It was the first time I'd seen them smile. They wanted to get a room at the lodge and we dropped them there, but it was full. We got a camping spot topside in the park (our plan was to hike down to the Colorado River and camp the next day) but we let them stay in the car since they were without shelter. They warmed to us a bit more, but there was still no connection. (Bill even liked the one that I didn't, so it would have been fine if they'd only liked us too.) But I wasn't really interested in a connection. The next day they did find a room and Bill and I made the plans for the hike down--getting a permit and watching a film with dead bodies, supplies and such. We couldn't camp at the very bottom--it was full--but got the next spot up. we saw those girls one more time, as we were descending the trail--Angel Trail, I think--and they were coming up. They looked tired and dehydrated, but actually appeared happy to see us. But by then, we were on our own way and had grown un-fond of them (but in a nice way). So, that was it. That was my last touch with Santa Fe: seeing those two Paris girls on the trail at the Grand Canyon. Bill and I went and had a great time (we skipped Bryce Canyon but not Vegas) and I got back to Des Moines and then went to Iowa City, stayed with Matt and dave and Wally and others. Back in good old Iowa City with tales to tell.
I felt very close to New Mexico. Santa Fe rivals Grayton Beach as my favorite times in my travel days. I did make it back once, years later. I'd gotten a ride from L.A--where I was visiting after leaving Grayton on one of a few occasions--and we stopped there. I got to look around some, but saw no one I knew. Joel was in Albuquerque at that time. I always thought I'd make it back for a long nostalgic visit.
But I have not. But for many years, when I was having a hard time falling asleep at night, I'd remember Santa Fe. In particular, I'd remember the walk from the adobe on Camino de la Luz down to the Plaza and to work. As I laid there with insomnia, I'd start very slowly in my mind, coming out the never-locked broken door, to the little porch, the hill of pinons and juniper, the track out of the gravel drive to the gravel street, the view of Mt. Baldy and other, closer hills, the other houses and beaten trucks, the two dogs in the neighborhood, then the main road and on, all very very slowly. And I was usually asleep before I ever made it to the Plaza.
My months in Santa Fe--like the majority of my time in Grayton--were the most relaxing and calm in my life. I do believe it.

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