Road Trip to Santa Fe Part 2

I’m not sure what I was expecting. Log cabins? Clapboard houses? Architecturally all the buildings are in adobe-style. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before. I thought if I left the historic downtown district the city would morph like most old cities do-the middle stays ancient looking while the outer reaches look like a commercial from Home Depot.   But even new housing developments in the suburbs have the adobe-look.  It’s both interesting and slightly disorienting to see the same earthy exterior everywhere.  You can visually feel lost. But at every turn, you know you are in Santa Fe. It’s beautiful in an unusual way.

For how impenetrable the outside of an adobe looks, I can’t help but feel there is something warm going on inside: people talking, cooking and life’s intimacies happening close to the hearth. I wanted to find out what’s in there. It gave me the sense that Santa Fe has a particular tough sun baked exterior and a very rich private interior. I fall in love with people just like this.  But as easily as I’m drawn to unravel a mystery of the quiet-type, I’m equally confounded by it.   I’m guessing it takes time to infiltrate Santa Fe at its heart, to get beyond the façade of tourism and really know its people but with only 4 days, I wasn’t going to find out for sure.

It’s not the kind of place with hearty handshakes and ‘ C’mon inside!’ (Except for my friends who opened their home to me. Thank you!!) It’s more like a place where the land takes you in first, people second.  There is no denying that the landscape is a character to know.  Maybe the majesty of the Sangre de Christo Mountains (Spanish for Blood of Christ) and the other ranges collectively bind the community together. I can see why people are drawn to this place.

fancy hotel and spa

love the shadows cast on this home

Downtown Santa Fe



Some Kick-ass skull boots


You must cruise The Plaza, at least once, for the magnificent turquoise jewelry, cowboy boots and sparkly belts. I was not prepared for the outrageous price tags that went along with them. The stuff in glass cases, as you can imagine, was thousands and thousands of dollars. It’s good that browsing is still free. I did plenty of that.  I casually picked up earrings and had to blink several times to make sure my contacts weren’t fuzzing up the wrong decimal place. The prices are whistle-worthy.

There were other shops that had more affordable jewelry, but unique certainly carries its own price tag. The high-end designs and craftsmanship were truly awesome, something to behold. I came across a turquoise pendant the size of a Whoopie Pie!

honkin’ whoopie pie size

The Plaza. The oldest church. The oldest house. The miracle staircase.  All of this was really great to see, but you know what I wanted to see more than gazillion dollar necklaces? I wanted to find an honest to goodness antique junk shop. The kind my romantic eye imagined exists in a place like Santa Fe.  You know the kind, a ramshackle house filled with bric-a-brac and the possibility of needing a tetanus shot if you reached into a pile haphazardly. A treasure is sure to be in the midst.

It takes an insider’s insider to know about a good junk shop and most likely a trip to a place not on my map. In Raton, I asked the kindly desk clerk and she pointed to an antique shop next to the Kentucky Fried Chicken. I drove over to it but could see it was closed. I even tried to stop there on my way back to Denver. Still closed. Maybe if I knocked someone would have emerged?  That’s okay, a little disappointment keeps the heart yearning. I know hidden treasures are out there.

What was not to be found at a junk shop, was made up easily with the “Local favorite”  Green Hatch Chili infused Margarita I had on the rooftop of the Coyote Cantina. Spicy! Easy! Gave me the feeling I was wearing those kick-ass skull boots but wasn’t. Likely the kind of drink that gets people in all kinds of predicaments. The food was d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s. Best tacos I’ve ever eaten. You could make food your sole itinerary in Santa Fe and look forward to all your excitement happening on a plate.

There’s so much to write about and hard to condense….I have at least one if not two more installments to write about this trip and it includes my faux pas at a museum. Lord help me. That needs its own post. Stay tuned. Until then, how do you think this necklace would look on me?

self-portrait with turquoise necklace


Road Trip to Santa Fe Part 1

Last Wednesday I hit the road for New Mexico.  I grabbed my little red cooler, two handfuls of cds and forgot to apply sunscreen.  Nothing reminds you of changing skin tones quite like the fluorescent lights of a gas station restroom.  Aside from the toasty face and left arm, the 6 ½ hour ride down Rte. 25 South went roof tapping good.

Once I passed through the morning commuter traffic, I encountered fewer and fewer cars, until it seemed I broke free of my contained life and opened up to the vast yellowy plains with paper mountain cut-outs in the distance. It was serene. People complain that some of this ride can get boring, but I couldn’t have been more dazzled by the changing clouds and the open space.


The posted speed limit is 75mph. I thought about how Sammy Hagar used to sing, I can’t drive 55, olden times, I guess.

I passed by the occasional RV towing a car in the back or a few long haul truckers. For the most part, the road was mine. Two lanes in the open land.

On a road this spare, it’s easy to notice a roadside memorial for those who made an untimely departure in an accident. I see these from time to time in Denver, but out on this almost 400 mile road trip I came to see so many, I started counting.  I think I got up to 17 just in the south bound lane.  Simple white crosses stood knee high affixed with silk flowers and hand lettering; another had butterflies and yet another had a girl’s name spelled out in a curve of metal letters. Each seemed to capture a little bit of personality, like the one yellow safety vest flapping on a cross- a vest just like I saw the road workers wearing.

Most were singular crosses, but then I saw sites that had 3 crosses in one place. Two big. One little. It’s hard not to wince.  I thought about the people who traveled back to these places to honor their loved ones, marking where their spirit left. These memorials gave off both warning and remembrance.

I was listening to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska album on the way down and the lyrics from the song Atlantic City particularly moved me as I drove by these roadside memorials.

“Well now, evrything dies, baby, that’s a fact
But maybe evrything that dies someday comes back”



Sun in my face, arm out the window, the soulful harmonica hammered through me.  I nodded to something unknown. I turned up the volume.

It bears mentioning that one of my first 5 minutes stops in NM was Raton. There are two things worth mentioning. They have old style motels here with old style prices. Maybe people sing I can’t drive 55 here? Look at the pic below. $29.90! When’s the last time you saw that price?  My cable bill is more than that.


Secondly and most importantly, at the Visitor’s Center you can pick up a FREE plastic Deputy Sheriff’s badge. Yup. Believe me; no child was more excited to pick one out than me.  I even said so to the two nice ladies at the desk when I signed their guestbook.  I only wish I could have heard their conversation afterward. What can I say? My new badge was my road talisman. My silver star.  I kept it near my gear shift.

I was so excited to be on the road. To be on vacation. In the several hours I spent on the same highway, I came to recognize some of the same trucks and RVs by color, license plate. I felt like a kid again. As I passed another 18-wheeler, I had the split second urge to slow down, catch eyes with the trucker in the window, push my clenched fist up and down, like when I was a kid and wanted them to sound their horn. If I had a CB radio, I would have gleefully said, “10-4 little buddy. Smokies up ahead.” In this kind of desolation, you watch out for each other.  But I thought better of making eyes at a trucker and yanking a fist up and down on a deserted road. Maybe he doesn’t share my idealism.

To be continued…

How to Take a Vacation


Of Thee I Sing, Winter Park!



I know.  No post last week. What can I say other than my brain was like a faucet with only the slightest drop of water hanging on for dear life at the rim. I figured it was time to fill my creative cup.

Luckily, my two week vacation began on Monday.  I started my re-charge plan by being a zombie on my sofa. I took a walk. I didn’t eat anyone’s brains, but fed myself well and returned back to the sofa for a marathon of reading and snoozing. It’s not exactly a running start for an energy boost but my control panel has been lit up with activity all summer to the point of overload. Sleeping and reading on Monday was like grabbing a horseshoe shaped breaker and shutting down the main power.  It felt zappy, like when your nervous system jolts you awake just as you fall off a cliff in your not-yet-dream.

Disconnecting usually feels delightful when you’re going a million miles an hour, but I actually felt out of sorts with myself. I started feeling what I call Fussy Baby Syndrome. I wanna lie down. No, I wanna get up. I wanna be alone. Maybe I should call a friend to go out?

The last dribs of unsettled anxiety seemed to be trying to find a voice like a nerve ending that’s firing at random.  It finally went away and I woke up on Tuesday a brand new human being.

It takes time to transition into vacation. I’m convinced one day of brainwashing must take place before you can enjoy the rest.


Ahhhhh.  Achieved.

Where the writing and reading magic happened

I drove up to the mountains (Winter Park) to stay at a friend’s place alone.  I brought 4 books, plowed through 2 already, had my 20 minute altitude crushing headache when I didn’t drink enough water and took up residence on the deck.  Who knew being away from my own place (which I love) could feel so good.  Change of scenery really does something. Mental note: must do this sooner next time I feel like a beast.

Is it a wonder that I don’t currently own hiking boots?


I went into the village of Winter Park. I had skied there all winter and wanted to see what it was like with grass. Somehow it was less intimidating.  What I did find intimidating were all the crazy mountain bikers. Not your average 5-K t-shirt wearing Gatorade dudes…these guys were in full Mad Max Turtle gear. They had breast plates and back shields and shoulder shelving that was NFL worthy. They had full helmets with chin guards and iridescent ski goggles that made them look like supernatural heroes on bikes. The palpable testosterone gave me a thrill, you big crazy fellas.


Dudes in bike armor. I swear I’m not taking a picture of you. Don’t run me over.


Getting the bikes loaded on the ski lift


Bye-bye Mad Max Biker dudes. I’m going to miss those chest plates.


I wanted to take a photo of these guys up-close, but was too shy to ask. I pretended I was taking a photo of the mountain instead. I’m sure they thought I was weird.  I spent most of the afternoon reading and people watching. I watched a couple playing with a life size black and white chess set in the town square. I always imagined having one of those as a kid. At one time, my brother John and his friend Tom and I were dreaming up a human chess board, but with only 3 people, we came up short for pieces.  As I was day-dreaming about this, I watched a rogue two year old, come in from the right and run full-force kamikaze into the chess pieces, toppling over with three pieces about the same size as him. The couple playing froze. The harried Mom a few steps behind said, “Sorry!” Just as she picked up the kid (not the pieces) he stretched his powerful little body and solidly kicked another piece down. I laughed my ass off.

A disconcerting sign upon entering the ladies room

I thought I’d make a list of how to take a vacation. Next time, when I am in desperate need of a vacation, I can remember how to do it.

Top 10 Ways to Take a Vacation:

1.) Take a vacation.

2.) Experience Fussy Baby Syndrome. Give baby anything she wants.

3.) Nap to the point of boredom

4.) Read books you’ve been meaning to read

          a) Seminar by Theresa Rebeck (play)

          b) The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert (Biography)

          c) Falling Through Space by Ellen Gilchrist (Memoir/Journals)

          d) Ghostbread by Sonja Livingston (Memoir)

5.) Make new list of books to read when finished.

          a) Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy  (* I vow to read a classic that I pretend to know about… Maybe it will be riveting? and wonderful?)

          b) My Life in Heavy Metal by Steve Almond (Short Stories)

          c) The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage (Fiction)

          d) I have so many to fill this slot, I can’t commit.

6.) Take a walk. Preferably at 9,000 feet above sea level. The two chocolate cookies will feel earned.

7.) Try to get paid while on vacation.

         – It’s like having a banker rub your head until you fall asleep.

8.) Drink water. It’s good to stay headache free.

9.) People watch on park bench.  Make note of other people people-watching. Come up with no particular realization other than it’s nice to pass time among other people who are relaxing.

10.) Look up often into the sky.

All is right in the world.

It’s been a mighty good week reading and writing. I also watched two episodes of Say Yes to the Dress. Did I just say that publicly? I must really be on vacation. Turn up the entertainment, pass me a Stella Artois.

If all goes well, I’ll be reporting to you next week from Santa Fe. I can give you a progress report on Anna Karenina. I think I can guess how this classic Russian novel is going to end. But my road trip to New Mexico? A Mystery.

How Will It End?

The Olympics are on which means I am periodically weeping on my couch. You’d think I was watching The Notebook I get so blubberly.  It’s not that I have a favorite person I’m rooting for, or that world records are being made or that this taps into some kind of competitive animal inside me (only Trivia does that),  it’s the athlete’s sheer  determination and dedication that rips me up.

Olympic Cry-fest!

In the final seconds of swimming, as I crane my neck toward the TV wondering whose fingertips will touch the wall first, my tear canal locks get so full, there is nothing left to do but open the gates for a flood.  I can’t help it.  All those arms are chopping through the water at full force.  The sportscaster’s passionate play by play makes my heart race and every swimmer in their lane seems like they fighting for their lives.  They are giving it their all and that inspires the hell out of me.

Keep going I say to myself. Stay focused. You can accomplish the things you dream about if you stick to your goals. I’m not talking to the TV, I’m talking to myself about writing my book.  There are so many great lessons that play out when you watch the Olympics. For example, I didn’t hear any athlete say, “Oh shit, Phelps is here? I might as well not swim. He’s better than me. He’s favored to win the gold.”  I didn’t see any athletes slow down or give up even if they saw the person next to them advance.  Even when the crowds roared in the ears of the swimmers who were still a quarter pool length away, they still powered their way through on their own clock

What a great thing to remember when I catch myself thinking, how will I finish my book knowing Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt) and Liar’s Club and Lit (Mary Karr) are already the Gold Medal winners?

The gold medal is right on the cover!

Watching the Olympics reminds me yes, I should strive for the medal but there is also pride in doing my personal best no matter who I’m up against.

I was recently notified that I did not win a Writing Fellowship that I applied for, but get this, I was Runner Up!  Was I disappointed I didn’t win? Hell yes! Am I excited I got Runner Up? Hell yes! I worked my butt off on my application for two weeks and gave it all that I had. I had two friends proof it. I wrote out every essay question like it was going to be engraved permanently somewhere and it was, in my own head and heart.  There were moments while I wrote out the application when I thought, okay I can loosen up a little here; good enough can be good enough.  Every time I caught myself saying that, I asked myself am I capable of more? If the answer was yes, I told my seductive friend resistance to take a hike.

I don’t think any of the guys or ladies in the pool are thinking, should I just put in a so-so effort today? Should I not even dive in knowing that Phelps or Franklin wants the same thing I want? No, all the swimmers start strong and end strong. If that doesn’t make your eyes well up, then I don’t know what.

Will you let it intimidate or inspire?


In the end, I felt proud of what I submitted. My personal best. Even though I didn’t win, Runner Up is pretty sweet. I even got a prize and a gracious and generous letter!  Putting in your best effort still counts because you’ll never know if you’ll lose by a long shot or win only by a hundredth of a second.

Shoot, that’s the inspiration that pulses through me in the final minutes of the race, never mind when I see one of the vignettes on the athlete’s life and what it took for them to get here.

Blubberly Blubberly  mess. (insert soundtrack for The Notebook here)

I seriously  wish I could bottle and drink from that inspiration every day and not, for one second, forget it. Right now, I’m in abundance but why is it in human nature to forget?

I’d like to keep an extra vial of it on hand for when I see a friend needs it too.

I know a writer who finished her manuscript and found an agent, that’s like qualifying for the Olympics if you ask me. BRAVO!  You gotta be great to get there. You only need to ask a writer who has a half-finished manuscript in their drawer how much determination and dedication it takes to finish it, much less find an agent who’s interested. It is not an easy process. Hell, one re-write can set you back into a pair of emotional sweatpants from where there seems to be no extrication.

Wanting to write a book is like training for the Olympics. You can have a natural aptitude for writing, but working on craft and trying to expose emotional truths so that others relate to it can be grueling.  12 hours of mind trampoline training a day.   You’re liable to sprain your wrist on the laptop! You have to make it great, not good, not good enough. Then you have to convince a publishing house that it is great. It’s an exhausting road.

Ever wrestle yourself to the floor? That’s what writing can feel like even if you’re sitting by a picturesque window with steam rising from a tea cup and a leather journal by your side.  Every writer knows that some days resemble Fight Club.

inside every writer’s mind Brad Pitt’s abs….I mean the internal battle with yourself!

The fight’s in your head.

It ain’t pretty to train but you do get stronger.

My friend’s manuscript keeps getting rejected (par for the course for all writers) and I’m afraid it’s wearing on her resolve. I’m sure the disappointment is huge and deflating. But I feel fiercely hopeful for her and want to remind her not to give up.  This must be what it felt like for the Russian gymnast who worked so hard to get to Olympics and practically fell on her face during the end of her floor routine. So much hinged on a 1 minute routine. Her tears on the sideline let you know that she felt like an epic failure. But of course we know she’s not. You don’t make it into the Olympics if you’re an epic failure.

You don’t finish a manuscript and get an agent if you stink at what you do. Your determination and skill got you there in the first place. Timing is everything. You give it your best shot.  You fall. You get up. You do it again. When you’re out of steam you need only look at how far you’ve come. You’re in the game.