” You an appraiser? ” the ball capped man, leaning against a pickup, asks me as I stand in the street and take a photo of a house for sale.
” No, ” I say, ” I’m just taking pretty pictures. ”
There are plenty of pretty pictures in Madrid, and some of them are Quirky. Madrid is a New Mexico ghost town about thirty five miles northeast of Albuquerque, closer to Santa Fe, and it has a storied history. Some say ghosts are still hanging out here on moonlit nights with coyotes howling and winds gently blowing the cottonwood trees that line the hamlet’s streets.
Madrid, that had an official population of 204 in 2010, used to be a mining town, and the company town produced anthracite coal for passenger trains because it burned cleaner. The town mostly huddles close to New Mexico Highway 14 and some notable sights to see are the Mineshaft Tavern and Museum, the Old Boarding House that was the only place to get coffee this morning, the Oscar Hubar Ball Field that was the first lighted ball field west of the Mississippi in the 1920’s.
Madrid was owned by corporations and when the demand for coal trickled down in the 1940’s, the town shut down. It was reclaimed by hippies and non conformists in the 1950,60’s and 70’s. There are numerous shops along Highway 14 through town that sell pottery, jewelry, turquoise, art, spiritual counseling, and Tarot readings. The town is a popular destination for motorcyclists, and, in 2007, the movie ” Wild Hogs ” was set and filmed here. In one of the opening scenes of the popular television series ” Breaking Bad, ” Walter White, after cooking some meth, calls his wife, Skyler, and suggests a trip to Madrid for a family lunch.
Today, the town is virtually shut down by a decree from our Governor, and walking the street is pleasant.
Some of the highlights of the visit are having hot coffee in the Old Boarding House, discovering Heaven, finding nooks and niches in the town that shows it’s ” attitude. ”
People, who live here, seem to have long beards, give you an extra long look, and all have three or four dogs around their homestead.
I’m guessing that some of the town’s residents still mine a little coal for their pot bellied stoves on cold winter days when the winds whip down Main Street and even dogs don’t want to be out.
For those with a little extra time, Madrid makes a close place to Albuquerque to see and enjoy.
As the same man who asked me ” if I was an appraiser, ” said, ” Getting out of the city is always good. ”
We don’t mine coal anymore but it sure feels, today, that I’m working for the company store.
You wouldn’t think playing a simple blues would be hard.
You have an instrument, a backing track, some music lessons behind you, and no one in an audience is cracking up, holding a conversation, or talking on their cell phone. The musicians on the backing track are pros, some of the best.
This is a simple Blues in A major , and, working on roots is the theme of this practice session. What comes out, is, most of the time, a revelation. Repeating it would be difficult, and probably not necessary with an improvisational art form.
Playing four minutes of music and making it sound smooth, inventive, interesting, takes all my attention, and relaxation.
When I’m playing, I’m not thinking about anything else.
Why would I want to?
Back in ancient days, cave men only had fires to keep them warm, and the skins of animals fashioned into clothes. We doubt all the women looked like Raquel Welch, but then the men weren’t Brad Pitts either. Both sexes must have found something to like about the other though because we are still overpopulating the planet.
Last night, the electricity went out and all I had was a phone that worked on batteries, a flashlight with batteries, and some matches. Sitting in the dark, I Googled the Public Service Company of New Mexico, after checking my circuit breakers in the garage, and confirmed there was a power outage in my part of the city.
Sitting in the dark without electricity, not hearing your refrigerator work hard to keep your stuff from spoiling, the living room was very very dark, I kept thinking about those old ancients huddled around their fires, back in caves, looking out the door of their homes, with no doors, at a great star filled sky with no plausible answers for what created it, except for a God, or Gods.
The only thing I know about electricity is that it works when you flip a switch, or plug something into an outlet in the wall. It runs our world.
Sitting in the dark with cell phone in hand, I read about coronovirus and realize we could have it much worse.
When the power goes off, we aren’t a whole hell of a lot better than those cave men.
The news we have these days is apocalyptic.
Across the world, an unseen virus, emanating out of China, is obsessing people and governments. Daily, we are shown body bags and stressed hospitals, see death totals that are not yet of the Black Plague category.
Total economies are shut down and we are told our jobs and businesses are not essential, but you can still buy pot and alcohol. Some people, driving the same streets they have driven for decades, are fined for being on the road and neighbors are told to call a hot line to tell the government who is not following orders. Banks are closed and you have to make an appointment for most services, and you are questioned if you want to take your money out of the bank. Congress magically finds 2 trillion plus dollars when we have been arguing about healthcare for decades, and bails their crony’s out, again.
Walking, quite by chance, out my front door, I am greeted by a rainbow masterpiece. This double rainbow, just fading, has the right proportions, right colors, and a gorgeous, rich lustre. It is quite breathtaking, radiant, and rejuvenating.
Troubled times will pass and then talking heads will analyse and tell us what they want us to believe has just happened, politicians will claim they fixed the problems they created, and life, will go on.
In a year, most of this will be forgotten, but the precedents created will live with us, forever.
Inside Meow Wolf, there is a house, a mysterious house whose owners are no where to be found. They have their left artifacts; an old desk, an old saggy comfortable couch, a bathroom with toothbrushes still in the cup, closets with clothes hanging, a washer and dryer with clothes to be cleaned. As you roam through the house you find rooms just like you would find in a normal home, but, here, the rooms don’t look like our houses and it has secret passageways, and tunnels and challenges.
In a performance area of the installation, these two young men juggle and do acrobatics for their modern audiences, much like they might have done for ancient kings when the castle was dreary and the king threw a party for some of his political allies.
When this performance is done, we wander through the rest of the house, getting lost, finding rooms we have already been in. Finally, sensory overloaded, we leave the house and its ghosts and go find a green chili burrito and cup of coffee.
Getting lost in someone else’s house is okay, but you never want to be at a point, in your house, that you can’t find the bathroom.
Meow Wolf is an immersive, interactive, art installation in an old bowling alley in Santa Fe, N, M. It has become a tourist destination and once you enter you will be challenged. It was started in 2008 as an art collective. This is what the creators, with over 400 employees, and installations in Denver, Las Vegas, Santa Fe, and eventually Phoenix, say about their effort.
” Meow Wolf creates immersive and interactive experiences that transport audiences of all ages into fantastic realms of story and exploration, This includes art installations, video and music production, and extended reality content….. Inside, guests discover a multidimensional mystery house with secret passages, portals to magical worlds, and an expansive narrative amidst surreal ,maximalist, and mesmerizing art exhibits….. Meow Wolf champions otherness, weirdness, challenging norms, radical inclusion, and the power of creativity to change the world…… ”
When I came out of the installation, I was glad to be back to my pedestrian reality.
This, I’m certain, is just preparing the way for the dystopian, not so distant, world, of artificial intelligence and technology.
I’m missing days when you sat in a rocking chair on the front porch and watched storm clouds rolling in over the freshly plowed and planted fields.
We can’t stop technology, and as easy as it makes our lives, it comes with costs.
At this point, with almost seven hundred posts, thousands of photographs, almost a hundred videos, and five years on line as Scotttreks, it seems like a Dedication is due.
Many, if not all, literary works, art, music, drama and dance presentations have dedications, moments at the front of the effort that recognize significant influences on the person who has taken the time and effort to put things out there for others to enjoy, analyse, pan, or profit from.. Sometimes it is a wife, children, teachers and mentors who get the nod. Sometimes it is personal secretaries and editors who help ideas get to a place they can be loosed on the world, Sometimes dedications are to God, Muses, spirits and traditions
There are plenty of places and people to dedicate Scotttreks too,but it seems right to thank my parents for giving me their name, their attention, their love and concern.
While they haven’t put the words in my mouth or on paper, haven’t suggested what I do or don’t do, they always wanted the best for us that we could make for ourselves.
This little blog, with places still to go and time left to go there, is dedicated to Julia Ann and James Lowell.
I like to think they are reading the blog, wherever they are, happy that I am happy writing it.
Halloween creeps closer as leaves start to fall, pumpkins appear in windows, hot air balloons arrive for the annual Balloon fest in Albuquerque, creepy spiders turn up in school cafeterias and jackets become more than optional.
It is a sparkling day and these three skeletons, in an Albuquerque North Valley front yard, don’t dress up, worry about hair style or designer clothes. They look content in their birthday suits without the excess weight, blemishes and imperfections that the rest of us have to carry wherever we go.
Next holiday season, I will set up my front yard like this too, but give my skeleton family a television to watch Netflix, game shows, soaps, or Dr. Phil.
In a few weeks this congregation will put on their Pilgrim outfits and be chasing turkeys around the yard with hatchets. A few weeks after that, they will be hanging Christmas lights in these front yard evergreens and singing carols by a manger,surrounded by animals and angels, Mary and Joseph, welcoming Baby Jesus to the planet nuthouse.
Bones keep popping up in Scotttreks, and, to be honest, we all need one day a year when creepy stuff camps in our front yard and ghosts and goblins have their say.
The last thought that hits me, between my ears,as I speed away in my car, is that if we had to wash each of our bones, our showers would take all day and family members would rightfully want to kill us.
R.I.P. is not bad advice, whether we are skeletons, or not.