Santa Fe Trail Mix

Madrid, N.M.


First of all, my apologies for the cutesy title. What I mean is, I’m going to offer a mixture of notes on a trip to Santa Fe. Here goes . . .

The trip starts in Albuquerque, about which I’ve always heard one thing: Unbeautiful city, beautiful surrounding mountains. I don’t know whether the former claim is true, because I don’t go into the city: I land at the airport, then leave for Santa Fe. But the latter claim, about the mountains, is certainly true.

Of all the accents in English, I think the Mexican is one of the nicest — musical, pleasant.

The accents of native Spanish speakers in English vary wildly: the Cuban, the Ecuadoran, etc. You can hear them all in New York.

Is not the New Mexican flag one of our most striking? That yellow-and-red western job? As a result, the license plates are very nice too. In addition to the regular, there is a special plate this year: honoring the state’s centennial.

And you can’t praise New Mexico without saying — what a nickname! (The Land of Enchantment.)

No doubt, articles on the state’s woes are entitled “Land of Disenchantment.”

Everywhere you go in the West, you see things named after Cesar Chavez (or César Chávez, if you like). I’m not a big fan, although I could stand to know more about him. Yet I also suppose that people have the right to name things after people they admire.

Too bad (sometimes).

I pass a sign for National American University. Don’t you hear a redundancy in that, or is it just me?

I drive up the Turquoise Trail from Albuquerque to Santa Fe — a passage that’s supposed to be quite scenic. It’s okay, yeah. (I’m being ungenerous, I’m afraid.)

I get a kick out of Madrid, N.M. — such a big name, in a way, for such a dinky town. (I think of Berlin, N.H. Also of Paris, Texas. We could go on . . .) (Have not been to Rome, Ga. Would like to. The first Mrs. Wilson, Ellen, was from there.)

The thought occurs to me, “I’d like to live in one of these little Turquoise Trail towns for a couple of years, then write some stories, à la Faulkner.” But that takes a particular kind of talent, you see. Bummer.

One store has a charming, surprising name: Gifts That Are Just Too Cute.

I see a Lone Mountain Ranch, which, confusingly, is set amidst several mountains. At least it appears that way to me.

Every now and then, you’re invited to use a Scenic Pullout. I’m thinking — more ungenerosity — “Really?” I mean, a Scenic Pullout should be reserved for something that makes you go, “Whoa.”

But maybe whoa is in the eye of the beholder.

Sandoval County reminds me of something: It used to be, when I heard “Sandoval,” I thought of the trumpeter. Now I’m likely to think of the governor of Nevada.

Everyone says that the light in Santa Fe is extraordinary — Santa Fe is famous for light. I believe it. But, on the days of my stay, the skies are overcast.

A sign for the Indian school reminds me: I have the impression that Indians say “Indian” and white people “Native American.” Just an impression, mind you . . .

Funny to see St. John’s College, with Annapolis Harbor nowhere in sight. And the mere thought of the school makes me think I should be speaking Latin or something.

Santa Fe reminds me, in some respects, of my hometown of Ann Arbor, Mich. The hemp shop. “War Is Not the Answer.” “My Other Car Is a Bicycle.” A branch of Project Tibet.

Let me give you an idle question: Is Tibet the only anti-Communist cause the Left, generally speaking, has ever embraced?

I see an older lady, probably early 80s, with one of those big, old-fashioned buttons that say “Keep Abortion Legal.” She is wearing a most self-satisfied smile, too. Makes me kind of homesick: The streets of Ann Arbor are, or were, paved with such ladies.

A lot of the women in Santa Fe have a weathered look — they’ve been out in the sun and other elements for many years. I like that look.

And the people are friendly, very much including the slackers, the hacky sackers. The “Hey, dude” culture can be sniffy or friendly, in my experience. Friendly is better, of course.

Wouldn’t you like to take a trip with Bill and Ted?


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