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Bored in Paradise

Llano Quemado, south side of Taos, New Mexico

Lovely oh yes

When the line to the septic tank clogged up again on Monday, even after cutting down and poisoning the ratty lilacs and a half-dead Japanese plum tree that were surely to blame for the roots, I kind of lost it. One is at least entitled to that. A man who cannot flush is not a happy man, especially when he’s seen it all before more times than he can count. Next you’ll ask me why we haven’t moved.

Fortunately, Gilbert was available. There’s nothing like having your own seventy-three-year old plumber living five minutes away. He may be closer, in fact. We ran the ancient snake up my aluminum ladder and down into the vent to save having to take out the toilet for the umpteenth time, and once again the water flowed. So did the neighborhood news.

Had I heard about the woman who got shot in Ranchos?

No, I hadn’t.

Well then.

It seems there was this older (?) fellow minding his own business when a group of people accosted him in his home demanding money for drugs. (Not strangers, from the sound of it.) The guy didn’t have any and the people wouldn’t leave, so he pulled out a shotgun and told them to git. The woman—part of the group, I think—tried wresting it from him and boom it went off. Meanwhile, the neighbors heard yelling followed by the shot and called 911. The cops arrived in time to find a couple of guys dragging the woman’s body to their truck “to take her to the hospital.” But there was blood all over and she was already dead, so that didn’t fly.

I may have misheard a couple of details because my hearing is awful. When I happened to mention this, Gilbert was hip.

He doesn’t hear so well out of his left ear because he mouthed off to a teacher when he was a boy and she cuffed him upside the head, bursting his eardrum. There was blood running out of his ear, he remembered. He was afraid to go home, because he knew his father would just hit him again for being rude to a teacher! I don’t know how they resolved that, but the eardrum healed and stayed that way for a number of years, only to get broken again by an explosion on a U.S. Navy boat in Vietnam. He realized he could pinch his nose and blow air out of his ear. When he finally got to a doctor, he demonstrated and made the man’s day. “Come on over here,” the doc called to a nurse, “you hardly ever see anything like this!”

There was more, lots more, about Kit Carson Park, Indians and Hispanos and four hundred years ago, things you’d never hear of or fathom unless you’ve been here a long time and somebody trusts you. (He does, so that’s all.) But thanks be to Gilbert, el flusho returns.

And Taos or me just rolls on, and on…

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Why I Never Go to Church

Yours truly and two siblings a long time ago

One dead, one writing, one lost

T his is just me I’m talking about, but let’s cut right to the chase: how about evangelical terrorism and emotional abuse? Yes, I know, yours isn’t like that, and no one is ever made to feel wretched or small. (I even believe you.) By all means go to church if you want to! Even without what I’m about to describe, however, I doubt I’d ever be into it. I do know from Spirit. Direct experience with something greater than oneself is a consequence of being wholly human, after all. I take my numinous encounters as they come, in Nature and real life, and they rock my world.

The above photo shows my sister Teresa, me, and brother Bill outside our apartment building at Rhein-Main Air Force Base in occupied West Germany, probably between my tenth and eleventh birthdays. Pre-puberty, at any rate. You can probably tell we’re heading off for Sunday school and/or church on Easter Sunday. (Yes, Johnny has a bible in his hand. Ever the scholar, that one.) Church and Sunday school for military dependents were non-denominational, although there were separate services for Protestants and Catholics. I don’t remember if there were Jewish observances of any kind.

At Rhein-Main AFB, what religious services there were took place in a school building. My Sunday school class met in a classroom. The teachers were volunteers and could have been adherents of any Protestant denomination. I remember one I particularly liked, a young enlisted man or noncom. He was smooth, funny, and made friends with us all. I remember actually looking forward to Sunday school just to see him, until he lowered the boom…

On this particular morning, he had all of us put our heads on the desk the way kids used to do to take naps in elementary school. At that point his entire demeanor and personality changed:

While we sat there trembling with our eyes closed, he raged about hellfire and damnation. Everybody was shaking and sobbing. But there was a way out, he said: “ACCEPT JESUS CHRIST AS YOUR PERSONAL SAVIOR!” he thundered, over and over again, to a room full of terrified ten-year-olds. “WILL YOU? DO YOU? RAISE YOUR HANDS IF YOU DO!”

You’d better believe we all did. He was so happy.

[click to continue…]

Windshield Wiper

Taos Valley Overlook scene

Tres Orejas volcano in the distance

Not taken today, but that’s where I was. Similar but more grand. There was a large storm with lightning and heavy rain about twenty miles away on the other side of the gorge. It looked like a Portuguese man-of-war with horns and covered half the sky. I could see the rain advancing rapidly in my direction, but then it shifted east and north. You never know out here.

The vista was stupendous, too much for human eyes. Faraway storms covered most of the sky, save for a wide swath of blue edged with blinding while clouds. The sagebrush glowed green in the distance where great shafts of sunlight broke through and tumbled giant black shadows into the gorge. Best of all, I was completely alone, walking across the mesa in the middle of the Taos Valley Overlook with all this around me. All by myself in the middle of 2,581 acres. That’s four square miles. At three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon.

Sometimes Taos itself is the dirt on my windshield. This is what it takes to feel okay.

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New Mexico Weeds

NM weeds

Nature knows best

I swear I never saw these plants before in my life until a few months ago, right here. They’re incredibly tough. They made my Craftsman Brushwhacker cry. All I did was trim them some to make a path. Now they’re turning brown. There’s some outlaw septic tank drainage field work under all that, too, most expertly if accidentally disguised.

That’s the way it’s been this year. The back yard filled up with some kind of cute little green things that were completely new to me, and I’ve been in this location over ten years. They were so cute (and green), I left them alone for the longest time. It now turns out they produce millions of tiny burrs. This same plant also appeared all over the hillsides like some kind of invasion. I’d swear in court I never saw the things before. The cat’s fur is an unholy mess. Meanwhile, my wife complains of “sharp pokey things” in the rug, another kind of burr the cat drags in. I walk around barefoot all the time and never feel a thing.

“Life is tough all over,” I say nice enough to make her smile.

There’s no way to cut these weeds that I’m aware of. They’re like little carbon fiber trees. Not as if it really matters, though. Two adobes side by side in fatal probate, returning to the land… The property’s too small to qualify for a septic system if you knocked them down and started over. Whoever ends up with this place will have to wait until the sewer line gets out this way.

This is New Mexico, of course. I may not be dead yet then, but we will certainly be gone.

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Picuris Peak, 6:16 a.m.

Picuris Peak at dawn

Picuris in back, covered with clouds

Got up at 4:45 a.m. with a bursting bladder. Sky already turning gray from black. Back to bed, obviously, dragging dream baggage. Then that thing where you can’t breathe. Panic attack. Long slow breaths, brain racing for distraction so things settle down. Nope. Shit. Back out of bed, put on bathrobe, out to living room and computer desk. Laptop only (silent), wake from sleep, turn on network. No coffee. Atrocity stream on Twitter takes focus off breathing. Good, but Jesus! Drunk brain-damaged apes in Ukraine looting corpses, etc. Wife wakes up, makes coffee (!), feeds cat, goes off to exercise. How does she do that? Impossible for me. Will also come home cheerful. She lives in moment, I live in dread.

Check book sales at Amazon and iBooks. Huh. Two more since last checked at 2:00 a.m. Could be worse, but motorcycle on hold. Also house. Don’t click on Realtor.com, you fucker. Too late. What’s this? “Only” $170K and right down the road? Oh no, that address! Someone built a spec house there? Frame construction, fake adobe, new but shitty. Anyone could tell. Reeling at thought of newbies buying in deserted area where I used to hike. Why “used to”? Evil vibes. Wife and I walked into violent plein-air butt-fucking where house now sits. (Get a room, right? Now they can.) Realtor copy says “priced below market value to sell quickly.” Usual Taos bullshit. Refrain from gratuitous spamming of listing agent. Back to bed wearing robe.

Time passes. Late morning better, psycho-defensive measures taken. Do. Not. Hurt. Your. Self. Light under bushel still lit. No panic or answers. Moment is everything. Goons not my problem, wherever they are. Roof over head. Food in fridge. Money in bank. Fuck real estate, withdraw projections, get creative. Oddly calm. Take shower, wash hair. Look better in mirror. Don’t think about hearing or teeth.

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