Pink Floyd woke me – Wish you were here, loud and clear in my mind. Orsi. I had work to do before Albuquerque. I had given my word to the Danzigers, 12.30pm I heard the floorboards creaking above, Lori was up too. I didn’t have much to pack. Jeans I’d patched up last night towel and toothbrush and the clothes I was wearing. There is something about that I find very satisfying. I have wondered for how long I could last out there like that. The made up mattress there in the corner on the stone floor with those heavy felt blankets, had been so comfortable. Lori had just let me be and so I had been very peaceful around her and her cozy rustic mountain hide away
She lent me a felt blanket and a pillow, I was going south and it would be warmer for sure, but you never know and besides I the heaviness of felt will invite a deeper sleep and I’d be returning it after a couple of weeks for sure
Gave her a big hug.
Said “See you in a week or so”
“Rock N Roll” she laughed.
Dust covered boots across the carpet of pine needles to hummingbird, peace and coolness, turned her over. Hummingbird has never failed me at any point on this journey, deeply reassuring. When I think back to how we found her, it all just slots into place. It is at times hard to believe how things unfold, is there magic in these things? It seems to be, out here, it seems to be, sat here, it seems to be when your mind is set. I wonder at times and yet Bandalier did happen and so did Ship Rock, so Hummingbird too? I had known, I was swayed by opinion at the time, but instinct has proved to be absolutely rock solid.
We breezed down into Santa Fe, five sets of lights 4 green one left turn one right turn, it was very nearly one movement from Lori’s to the parking lot at De Vargas Mall. When there is no rush the mundane can take on magical proportions and to be honest it does entertains me. I suppose because I am right there within myself and yet occupied with things other than myself
I worked hard on what had happened yesterday. Starbucks, I’m now a familiar there. Washed my hair shaved and had a tiptoe locked door wash. It’s a freedom and such a good thing to step out clean and fresh and scrubbed, large coffee, jazz playing far away, just behind the scene, Santa Fe rubbing its eyes and stretching, lap top on and writing for, I don’t know why. Something about it stretching boundaries in my head or my mind, finding words for inexplicable things and enigmatic feelings. I don’t think I looked up till 11am, it has no obvious purpose, just for its own sake, just because I wanted to do this, something about it is good for me, I think, I hope, maybe
Doug had been in, I’d asked him what he did all day on that phone he had. He said he was looking for a woman, but then followed that up with, doesn’t want no woman living with him. There seems to be a lot of that about. I wondered what it is people really wanted from somebody else. Had the forgotten how to give. Seemed many people just want.
Doug had said a woman to him was “about as useful as I teat on a boar” I’d said
“Well maybe when that idea changes somebody nice will enter your life”
He meant no harm, he had hurt all around him and wasn’t sure how to be loved, I suspected. There seems to be a lot of that around too.
I’d become cold sat there, I noticed but shut it down hadn’t really registered till I started shivering. I’d had something to finish, I thought it was the air conditioning then looked over my shoulder out the window, it was pouring down. Was quite a surprise considering I had burnt yesterday.
We rolled out onto St Michaels along onto the 1-25 and we were on the road again. Coasting all the way down 7199ft to 4955ft down into the Rio Grande valley
It rained all the way to Cochiti pueblo, there is a great hill called La Bajada or the descent, its a joy downwards and a struggle up to Santa Fe it and had been quite a barrier in its time but now conquered by the Pan American Freeway
We dropped like a smooth stone out of the mist and into the yellow tinderbox valley skimming along the rise and falls of the freeway. I realized I was really tired. So I began looking for somewhere to stop to have a sit up sleep. A top up, I wanted to be present when I arrived.
I couldn’t decide so after a sign Los Rachos de Albuquerque I just turned out of the now heavy flow and rolled up in a Wendy’s Burgers parking lot and after a few moments feel fast asleep
I heard a tap at the window.
“Sorry man I didn’t mean to wake you” said the Tattooed Hispanic face. Must have been about 19 long baggy white shorts, basketball T shirt and I think it was the letter H on his neck something in block on the other side too.
I immediately though well if you didn’t mean to wake me why did you tap on the window? Instant suspicion. I said “What do you want?”
He said “I just wanted you to know I’m selling some clothing”
It took a moment to register and I felt bad for him, he seemed desperate, but he’d woken me with a surprise and I really didn’t need anything. Which is what I said
He just spun round and hurried across to another car pulling in. I looked at the clock it was coming up for 1pm. Time to move. I started her up and rolled back out onto the freeway and was pulling up on Sunningdale Avenue within around 15 minutes.
I pulled up in front of the house with the high driveways the Ponderosa Pine trees surrounded by rocks now mature and looking taller than ever.
The Danzigers; It had been some time. A bright intelligent artistic and clever lot. Jewish and originally from New York. Zelda and Jerry moved to New Mexico in 1957 Jerry the dad had got a job in KOB TV one of the first TV companies west of the Mississippi and had pretty soon ended up being the general manager “the top dog’ Lee would tell me. Apparently gave Glen Campbell amongst many others his first TV break and knew him well. An all round good guy, that’s how it works isn’t it.
Zelda, classic Jewish mum, always trying to sort everyone out had plenty of firm but loving advice about how my world should turn and generally the world around her had listened. Zelda was somebody who it was hard to say no too, but then again you didn’t really want to say no to her, she usually came up with great things to do
You just knew Zelda had enjoyed the world and her life in it. It had been up and down, as lives are, she had things to say that would sometimes jar, but somehow she always found the quality of a person, she enjoyed your journey, she seemed to know that your strengths she knew, enriched hers, Zelda regardless of her reputation was ‘for you,’ when you knew what you wanted, if you didn’t she’d find things for you to do. I liked her from the moment she sat me down at their glass topped kitchen table and interrogated me. I was telling the truth, I was sincere and she liked what she heard
I’d met Lee their son in Pasadena a beautiful leafy suburb of Los Angeles when I’d first arrived in the US. Lee is a very gifted jack of all Artist but particularly good with wood and furniture. Amongst many other things he designed and made the tables you’ve probably all rested your Starbucks coffee on at some point, the circular ones with the three curled iron legs and circular footrest.I had arrived there just after his first order of 7 tables and I think I worked on the second batch of 21. Starbucks weren’t the global phenomenon at that time, not even in the UK just then. They later went on to make thousands. I met him through a mutual friend and was given the job of sanding and smoothing them down whilst I was waiting to get my papers sorted and taking my US driving test. I remember he was quite particular, I learned a lot from him. He was quite a little rock star, I came to realize the Danzigers are all rock stars.
I had been on the road for quite some time, Lee had said if you ever pass through Albuquerque call in to visit his family, I am not sure looking back whether he really meant it and I was planning at the time to drive straight through NM and into Mexico anyway. I’d only heard of Albuquerque from a bugs bunny cartoon, but it would prove of be one of my favorite cities.
It just had the right mixture south western charm, adobe, glass and steel, the stores, book shops coffee shops and restaurants there all strung along or around route 66 hanging out together like beautiful colorful jewels, funny romantic and artistic, an Anglo Pueblo Hispanic melting pot that was still bubbling. I just sensed freedom was still in the neighborhood and if she wasn’t, the city was still wearing her old retro clothes. It affected me very deeply.
I’d been travelling south and gone onto the Navajo reservation stopped in to see Spider Rock at Chinle. I have though back to that period many times and wondered what happened. The guide that first day had been miserable. I’d been sat in Burger King later that evening I had never seen so many Indians, all eating out, the place had been packed for about two hours and then everyone vanished, zero, like a curfew.
I was open and trusting had been chatting to some Navajo’s who’d moved in around my table. I’d visited with the Cheyannne by that time and so presumed they were all cool. Then after an adventure in the dark black desert looking for illegal booze shacks I had gone back to the Burger King irritated and shut up shop happy to be back in my own company. I woke the next day to realize that the guys in Burger King had taken my card
I was really fed up with them, but I was learning. I’d had to cancel my card and been calling the UK from a beaten up payphone, a Navajo had come by hustled me. I remember him clearly, standing behind me dancing from one leg to the other singing “She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes” I’d had enough and told him to back off. He’d gone off but it wasn’t to long before there were 5 or 6 moving in on me, I’d become a nice distraction from boredom and alcohol. But I sized it and thought quickly 3 or 4 quick steps The 72 Chrysler didn’t let me down either started immediately and I was out of there with them chasing me on foot.
I was in a real jam though. The only money I had on me was a bag of loose change I’d been picking up as I’d been going along. It came to about $30 with what I had in my pocket, enough to get me to Albuquerque. I’d called Lee explained and said can I take you up on your offer. He said he’d call them.
I’d rolled into town a day later called his sister and was instructed to drive around to Zelda and Gerry’s to find that Lee hadn’t called. They had no idea who I was. I recall being mortified, basically a total stranger standing on their doorstep with a begging bowl, up the creek without a paddle and absolutely no money to buy one with.
Zelda looked at me I remember and took me straight in. Gerry used to being shrewd and canny looked me over, listened and got a sense of me. They were absolutely great, took me right into their beautiful home. They were relaxed and unaffected and I realized pretty quickly just how bright they all were. The house too was amazing to my eyes, wonderful paintings, Native American original art works, beautiful pieces of sculpture, shells and pottery and even an indoor tropical green house. It was so colorful and easy going. I was awe struck I think. They were the ones who first introduced me to South West art and were my gateway to the Southwest for sure.
They lent me $300 dollars and sent me back up the road to Santa Fe where they told me there was a travellers Hostel and I’d probably just about last. I had contacted the UK and my new card was being re directed to their address and they would call me when it arrived. Zelda
I have never forgotten it and we became good friends. It was from that point that my life in Santa Fe began, the whole Ghost Ranch thing and so my dawning realization about healing there. It is curious and peculiar how some things come about isn’t it, from disaster to something so precious. Had the Black Mountain Navajo not robbed me none of it would have happened. I remember him distinctly looking at me from his pick up as I sat and wrote in the window seat of that Burger King that night. I’d been puzzled as to why he’d sat there for so long staring, looking so anxious, oblivious at that moment that he’d robbed me, I have realized in retrospect that he’d looked so troubled because he’d regretted it, but I have thanked him many times since.I always enjoyed Zelda Gerry and their daughter Syd’s company and when ever I was in town I made a bee line for them and we became good friends they always were and always have been generous with their time and attention with me. They seemed to just have a love of life. Not in the wandering way as I expressed it. But just in a certain brightness, wit, intelligence all wrapped up in some inexplicable creative light around them all. I have always loved being in their orbit, really some of the brightest people I have ever met.
Gerry had died some years ago. I had been back several times to the US and always came to visit with Zelda. It has been some time now though and I had heard that she’d had a stroke. It really was a motivating factor for me coming back to the US and it just so happened that Lee was in town and leaving tomorro
So there I was parked outside their house in a place I had slept many times in my car when they had been out of town simply because I was safe under that large Ponderosa’s accommodating branches, actually and metaphorically.
I went up opened the gate expecting Zak the longhaired Afghan dog to rush me at any moment, then I remembered he’d passed on too. Knocked on the door. I heard a voice peered through the gauze and there she was stood at the end of the kitchen with her back to me
Zelda was always well turned out always had a stylish cut and immaculate hair, she still had, she has a wonderful New York Jewish flavor softened by time in the south but the character etched deeply and indelibly into her voice, just her way of expressing. She’d apparently been pretty sick but was looking good dressed all in blue, perhaps a little smaller and a little fragile.
I called gently “hello”
I realized she couldn’t turn so quickly, she said “I know that voice”
I went up behind her put my arm across her back, looked to the left side of her, she turned slightly, brown eyes twinkled.
“Good to see you” She said warmly. That was all I needed.
“Let me look at your Hayer” she said and spun me round,
“Still there” I said
“Good, love the hayer” she said with relish, she’d always done that to me and I don’t know quite why but it has always touched me, made me feel loved. A dear old friend and who knows, maybe ages old, something warm and deeply reassuring about it.
We went to sit in the spacious cozy front room surrounded by the beautiful works of art and the green house that they had built into the house,
Within about half an hour of being there Zelda had already told me of about 10 different restaurants that I need to go to and again they always knew a great place to eat. Albuquerque is, it was agreed by all, a great city to eat in. Apart from the art world there it is probably a close second to climate why they chose to live here.
Zelda of course wanted to know about my girl, she had always been trying to marry me off and it had always made me laugh. I told her about Orsi and what we had planned when I returned to the UK she listened intently and then said rather tenderly
“Well, it’s about time, you’ll have to bring her over next time you’re here I’d like to meet her”
Alan the older brother came to sit in as well. He’d been out getting supplies for Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, which he observes and would begin that evening Friday until tomorrow’s first three stars appeared on the Saturday evening
Lee was leaving tomorrow Alan was taking over they were looking after their mum. We sat and caught up three hours flew by. Alan more methodical and contemplative to lee’s airy lightning but easy and lively conversation flowed, topics tumbling and falling out across the room as quick and bright as they always had been. I said I’d like to call round each day and Zelda and I could do some work. You don’t tell Zelda what to do, you put it out there and she’ll nod “ok lets do that” she usually did she has I said always been curious with an interest in the life orbited around her.
It was great to be there, to see Lee again after all these years and with a beard. We’d heard of each other through Zelda and Syd as the years have gone on. I always felt like adopted family something about them touched me at a deep soul level.
Lee walked me out to the car, not sure when I’d see him again he passed on a bag of fruit and nuts from the Greek family next door, typical of their hospitality. I rolled up to Carlisle and turned left along route 66 down the hill to the old down town. Albuquerque, flickering colourful warm and familiar. It was already a big day, but there was more to come.