This Sensitive, Lean and Haunted Man – Excerpt from Chapter 5 of Turquoise Interlude 1968

… Towards the end of November, in La Cantina, the crowded bar on the Taos plaza, a tall, gaunt, dramatic-looking romantic poet, Roberto “Bob” Rivera, engaged me in conversation. A cigarette hung from his long, thin fingers, moving in gestures, as we discussed poetry and writing. My writing-self clung to his words, feeling understood and fed by his artistic sensibilities. “My grandfather used to be Mayor of Taos,” he told me. “I have come here specifically, from San Francisco, to explore the land of my ancestors.” His dark hair framed his intense face in curls, his eyes shooting passion above his high cheekbones. “I just rented a small adobe bungalow with a coal stove,” he added, “And no plumbing, but right on Morada Road in Taos itself, near the cemetery.” 

Bob, dressed in black, prowled the graveyard during the day and also at night, searching for his grandfather’s grave, often with me in tow, trying to commune with his grandfather’s energy. Starved for someone to talk poetry with and by that time feeling even more thwarted in my self-discovery and bored with Andy, I fell madly in love with this sensitive, lean and haunted man. But still I stayed with Andy, unsure. 

These were the times of “free love” in the counterculture. We gave ourselves hedonistic permission to indulge our senses, to let the sexual currents, enhanced by our mind-opening drugs, flow through our bodies and guide our actions, the pleasure ecstatic. My innocent sexuality overflowed with joy, exploding in love. …

©2020

“Baile, Maria, Baile” Excerpt from Chapter 4 of Turquoise Interlude 1968

Baile, Maria, Baile” Excerpt from Chapter 4 of Turquoise Interlude   1968

… During the fall, after the tourist season, La Cocina restaurant on the Taos Plaza hosted a weekly, inexpensive, all-you-can-eat shellfish buffet. Every Friday night during the “local season,” Andy and I would go there to eat. With my insatiable appetite for clams and oysters, they lost money on me! If I tired of the clams and oysters, they also served crab, lobster, shrimp and fish, all freshly flown in from New York. This sumptuous feast did draw the people in and so did the entertainment.

After dinner, Antonio, a Chicano from Santa Fe, would play romantic, Spanish-flavored guitar and I would be moved to dance. “Baile, Maria, Baile,” he would call to me when he saw me. At his invitation I would pull myself up and let the music carry me, improvising song after song. I loosened my wavy brown hair and felt the damp sweat at my neck, cooled by my turquoise earrings which swung gently as I danced. My body stretched and turned, reached and drew back in, urged by the tones from Antonio’s guitar, inexhaustible. The trance propelled me until the music stopped and I came back to this world. Everyone clapped and shouted “Ole.”

One night, Antonio surprised me. He brought in some of his hand carved furniture and I discovered that he was a talented woodcarver. Impressed, I bought a low, tall backed, carved wooden chair from him. It was short enough so that my feet could reach the floor, and its high backrest was decorated with simple, hand-carved designs. I proudly placed my beautiful chair in Andy’s and my new living room. This was my second major purchase in the Land of Enchantment. The chair, which I have managed to haul throughout my life, now sits in my current living room, next to the front door. My turquoise earrings now adorn my wall. They have been with me, amazingly, for most of my life. …

©2020

My Welcoming Gift, Excerpt from Chapter 4 of Turquoise Interlude 1968

… He cajoled me with local restaurants and scenic drives, even flying me over Taos in his tiny plane. Green and brown surrounded miniature mud houses, the scene a painting out the clouded oval window, from high in the air. We swooped down low over the Valdez valley and rose up again as we turned away from the high mountains. The Rio Grande river wound like a thread of green through red and yellow. Lines of black pavement cut through fields and trees. I was entranced.

The festival of San Geronimo took place at the Taos Pueblo, one of the oldest original reservations –thick yellow adobe, scrawny dogs with tongues waving in the still heat, blue doors and wooden ladders. A pair of handmade Zuni earrings dangling silver and turquoise called to me from a booth. Typical narrow oval pieces of desert blue, were unique in the tiers, set in silver, turquoise strands dripping daintily from halfmoons.  As I placed them on my ears, I felt a magical power of New Mexico fuse into me. My first southwestern jewelry purchase became my welcoming gift from this land of enchantment. I felt I belonged. My mouth widened to a smile and my eyes, shining, became a little more green in the turquoise reflections.

Later, chatting through cigarette smoke, alcohol and laughter at the dark and narrow La Cantina bar on one side the Taos Plaza square, I met newcomers and seasoned residents in this gathering place for Bohemians, artists and the young hippies just starting to discover Taos. My new earrings reflected the desert sky almost to my shoulders, my fingers reaching up to caress them as I looked into the eyes of strangers soon to become friends.  …

©2020

Without Agenda, Excerpt from Chapter 2 – Turquoise Interlude 1968

… Following my heart without agenda, after saying goodbye to Yvonne, I climbed into Bob’s colorful bus and we headed north along the Rio Grande. “I asked the creator last night to bring me my soulmate,” he told me again later that day, as we drove past Arroyo Seco, a tiny town above Taos. That was when Taos only had one stoplight. Arroyo Seco, of course, didn’t have any and most of its roads were unpaved.

At 7,500 feet in the lower mountains, near the end of the bumpy dirt road, we arrived at a sunny meadow filled with sunflowers and corn, where Bob had pitched his tipi.  His buffalo rug still covered the floor. His two homemade wooden bowls were simple and organized. His fire pit was small. He lived in the now.

We slept on the buffalo hide rug, cooked over a fire, and washed his two bowls in the shallow stream, which ran through the meadow.

The days were filled with outdoor adventure. I remember hiking through a high desert sagebrush-filled plain and then descending a tiny, winding trail through more pungent sagebrush, and climbing down large rocks to an abandoned hot-springs on the Rio Grande River. In the crumbling ruins of a former healing retreat, on the sand by the water, naked in the sun, Bob and I tanned deer hides, smoothing and preparing them with rocks and softening them with cow brains until they became smooth and pliable in the heat. We washed ourselves in the springs and made love on the steaming stones. Later we hauled the tanned hides back up to the rocks and across the sagebrush to the blue bus.

Bob’s long hair and beard softened his face. Brown red hair shone in the sun, hanging down as he worked on his engine, contented and methodical, as if he had all the time he wanted, as if his way of life followed this path of the present.

At a friend’s meadowland in the foothills above the tipi, I took acid and wandered around the low mountains without my clothes, admiring tall shady pot plants, feeling the grasses and the close, clean sun on my skin, breathing the thin air. The bordering piñon forest was soothing and inviting, the ground soft and giving.

Bob and I walked with friends up the mountains above Arroyo Seco in Indian land to a secret waterfall and we picked wild mushrooms in the dawn, in this land of enchantment, the motto written in red on the yellow car license plates.

Through Bob, I met the current young locals, many of whom lived in abandoned adobe houses whose owners wanted them occupied. It was cheap and easy to live in Arroyo Seco and Taos in 1968.

I stayed there, enjoying life without electricity or running water, seduced by the New Mexico slowness of life, for two weeks instead of one. The high desert enfolded me, opening me to the new possibilities.  …

©2020

New Mexico Opens to Me, Excerpt from Chapter 2 – Turquoise Interlude 1968

Through the dirty bus window, lush green eventually turned to sand with cactus standing guard. We bumped along, passing rounded buildings and Indian Pueblos, until the bus finally stopped in a little town of adobe houses and quiet streets. As the doors rumbled open, exhaust fumes and heat greeted me. Grabbing my bag, I stepped out of the station, and after stretching my legs, started walking, following the directions handwritten in neat black ink on a crumpled piece of paper.

Yvonne’s house was in a complex of adobe apartments, with blue painted door trims, its landscape dirt and sagebrush, separated from the unpaved road by an adobe wall with a peeling green door. The high desert air was dry and still. Yvonne greeted me with a smile and a hug, the Zuni turquoise bracelet on her wrist matched the morning sky, its silver reflecting the clear, hot sun. The last time we had seen each other was when we had taken acid and camped at Pyramid Lake, Nevada, where I had walked inside of Bob’s tipi. Yvonne’s green eyes were calm and knowing. I wanted to learn what she knew. I felt grateful to sleep on the cold tile of her living room floor. The piñon tree scented air with the clearing smell of sage entered my body through my breath. A smile spread throughout me. An air of excitement streamed through my being. …

 ©2020