Bigfoot searches in the nearby Valles Caldera and riot tours at the old Penitentiary of New Mexico have me thinking about the condition of my adopted hometown, Santa Fe.
I still love the place and have thought I would like retire there, but some of the changes since my days at Acequia Madre Elementary School– not the least among them real estate prices, the complexity of walking access to Atalaya and Sun mountains and the fact that the town doesn’t end at Cordova Road anymore — have me wondering about other places.
I am reminded at the same time of an old Santa Fe joke: How many Santa Feans does it take to change a light bulb? One. And three to stand back and say how much better things looked before. (This joke dates to when the city’s Historical Styles Committee was also known as the Hysterical Styles Committee, which might be better known as the namesake of one of the Fiestas de Santa Fe parades).
Then, there is my favorite Santa Fe cartoon, by Warren Miller in The New Yorker, which reminds me not to be too parochial.
And, to keep myself honest on other scores, I have posted on my Placitas wall a favorite passage from Calvin Trillin in a 1974 piece titled, “The Dance of the Restaurant Trotters.”
“We had spent the summer in New Mexico, and, during a brief stop in Santa Fe, we had been grilled on why we live in New York by that group of Eastern-refugee remittance men the place specializes in — people who have retired at forth-two in order to devote themselves to talking about a novel they might write and overseeing the repairs of any cracks that might develop in the adobe walls of their house and discussing water rights their land carries by virtue of the original Spanish land grant and raising a herd of twelve or fourteen particularly elegant goats.”
I’m willing to go along with those who say the prison tours provide important lessons from the past, but here’s what I wrote in an Albuquerque Journal column after the state’s initial announcement a couple of years ago: A Prison Riot Tour.
My predecessor as political writer at the Albuquerque Journal in the early 1980s was a half-blind curmudgeon who in the 1960s had taken a press secretary job in Santa Fe with a zany governor but returned to Albuquerque as soon as he could, saying he nearly had made the mistake of his life. Ever after, he referred to Santa Fe as “Never-never land.”
So, I don’t know. Durango, Colorado, has been way too discovered. Silverton’s winters are intimidating. I romanticize about the pastoral quiet of Dove Creek but know I would go stir-crazy. Locals told me Ralph Lauren beat me to it on that ranch I wanted near Ridgway. A hideaway, vacation apartment in San Francisco it will be if I win the lottery. Maybe Helena, Montana, for a simple, affordable home slightly outside of town, though that probably would scare off my sister, who lives peacefully there now. Maybe I could convince The Murray in Livingston to take Medicare.
For now, I guess, I’ll just tend to my goats in Placitas.
And listen to builders’ jokes about homes going up with vigas protruding from all four sides of the roof.