Its 2.57am I haven’t been able to sleep, I’ve got into a routine you see, I’m enjoying the writing but it takes a certain ambience to unlock the flow to let my thoughts become ink, so to speak. Since I got into Albuquerque it’s been a whirl of sights sounds and good fun. It has been a few years since I’ve seen Mary Dezember my great friend, confidant, poet, English professor, author, dizzy blonde, formidable feminist, Mum of two, Sean & Elaine, an infuriating law abiding citizen and an all round really good laugh.
Mary has to be at school tomorrow morning and was fast asleep back in Bloomingdale grove. I’d crept out of the house, Sam the cat watched blankly as I tiptoed to the front door and noisily worked out how to lock the door behind me.
I don’t know why but it feels delicious to be able to get into a car in the middle of the night and go in search of a plug and a coffee.
Up on central avenue to an old haunt called The Frontier one of my favorite places, an American classic 24 hours 7 days a week, the nocturnal clients, students, strippers, homeless, cowboys and Indians. But things change and it has new hours 5am – 1am. It was closed, you should have seen my face. Stood there for a few seconds all my plans a pile of broken dishes on the pavement in front of me, smile now open mouthed disbelief. The only things open were gas stations and the 24 hour Adult Video -Porn emporium. It was a Sunday night everywhere was quiet.
Then a light bulb went on in the darkness, ‘Denny’s!!’ Deep in my subconscious I remembered I’d seen one here long ago, my compass knew how to find it, perhaps one of the family had decided to come out with me, because I just started driving. Something said
“Turn round and go right on San Mateo and just keep going.” So I did
The old scrolled map imprinted on my mind all those years ago was dusted off,
Mercury said “Just keep going over the I-40 north” I was just about to start arguing when, there was that familiar sign
“There she blows” I said “Good job Mercury”
We pulled in the manageress, Willow Wood, was a big smile, big belly, baby due I’d said to myself “4 or 5 weeks.’ Old time rock n roll and 70’s rock drifting through the empty room. Excellent. Love that stuff. Coffee and fries and down to business
Willow had some cool tattoos, she’d been telling a guy about the python she has had done
“The python is the friendliest snake on the planet” she’d sai
He’d said after a gulp of coffee “Oh Ok, I’ll take your word for that”
Willow was pouring me coffee. She said her baby is due in 11 days it’s going to be a girl and will be called lovine, shows how much I know. She noticed the Tarot cards I’d put on the table, she asked me if I’d do a spread for her, just to practice
She’d said “I always got the hanged man at the end of a reading. It’s kind of freaky”
Turned out willow had been a track star back in her high school days and broken all the school records and so was eligible for college. She’d planned to go there and then onto the military. She came from a military family and had seriously wanted to be a black ops sniper but due to an argument she’d had with her mum had walked out of school, so not gone to college and so life had taken a different route. Willow and her boyfriend were ironing things out she had a lot of worries that didn’t let her rest, but was pouring water on those dancing flames, putting things in order. She got the universe for the birth, she and the baby are going to be fine
She is the Queen of pentacles and guess what the hanged man was the last card. By letting go lightening up she’ll get what she wants.
Much later a big drunk Indian guy and his little weasily woman from sky city came in and started scanning the restaurant for attention. Wouldn’t leave me bee, it was t6.30am time to go anyway
I’d rolled down Knob Hill from The Danzigers yesterday to Downtown where Mary lives. She’d seen the car pull up and come out of the house waving immediately funny immediately comfortable. She’d wanted to go to White Sands but to be honest I wasn’t up for a 6-7 hour round trip, just wanted to be in this city so she’d pulled bicycles out of the garage, pumped up the tires, it was a beautiful sunny day so off we went instead wobbling but getting steadier as we peddled down the leafy streets. I’d wanted to see the Rio Grande so off we went via the old town.
I really like the old town area, I hadn’t spent too much time there before but Mary now lived literally around the corner. The old adobe neighborhood looked cool just about every house seemed to own a beautiful old cotton wood tree in their front garden, lovely relaxed easy flickering atmosphere.We’d been for breakfast in a city farm, both of us I think just getting used to me being there. Then followed the cycle path by the Acequia across to the river, chatting and breaking off as runners and other cycles came towards us, the two of us just moseying along in the fresh air working the legs.
The Rio Grande looks to have shrunk. They have damned it up stream. I always like to see a river, I like to swim them when circumstance or when I’m allowed, looking out across the river I reckoned I could paddle right across. On another day I would certainly have given it a go
We were stood leaning just chatting, the conversation as easy as the flow in front of us, I looked up and coming down the path to the banks were a group of what looked like Hispanic gangsters on a day out. They were all turned out immaculately. They looked great, peacocks enjoying the cut of their cloth, long steps, long coats, big wide brimmed hats, sexy voluptuous ladies in red dresses and high tottering shoes, a flock of exotic birds descended on the banks of the river. A couple told us it was a wedding, that they were dressed in Pachuca style, ‘our culture man’ just having a breather before the party later on, they were surprisingly open and friendly and as they left they said ‘goodbye’ and say hello to London for us. Really sweet.
New Mexico is awash with Indian jewellery some amazing and some not so amazing and I’ve never bought any. I’d mentioned to Mary that I quite fancied a ring. I’d looked around Santa Fe but nothing had really struck me. Mary knew a place that might be interesting in Alburquerque. So we floated back along the cycle path to the old town and had some lunch. I’d wanted to sit and open up, Mary knew a beautiful little church called “Capilla de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe” where we found out later a mysterious figure has quite often been seen weeping on the far right bench of the chapel, she’d often been mistaken for a real person until she mysteriously disappears. I’m not sure what happened but something did. I had gone a little too deep again had seen something flickering had eventually come out and we stepped out of the shady little chapel into the late afternoon sunlight
In retrospect both of us were dreamy and high after the church, we were laughing earlier because it took us an age to figure out the bike locks. Maybe it was the sun, maybe the bottle of IPA maybe the mysterious lady in the church maybe all of them. I have a feeling though that the family were waiting to dance, I’d had a ring on my mind for a long time, I but right then neither of us were expecting anything, our guards were down, it was almost as if we were expected.
We’d walked dreamily around the corner to the shop called the “Deja Vu Refinery”
On first glance inside the dim muted shop it seemed full of hippy shirts clothes cloth’s and hats bits of western memorabilia. Mary had been in before and so guided me to the back of the shop where two guys were sort of hovering.
The more flamboyant of the two with a pair of loose baggy faded blue jeans and a piece of denim tied around his head, a big knot on the back Japanese style, hair swept back. Around his neck were hung great big chunky pieces of silver, turquoise and bone necklaces, a blue hand woven cowboy shirt and a buckskin waistcoat, We’d both noticed he had a pistol stuck in his right pocket, it was loaded. He turned out to be Jason the owner of the shop. A 2 or 3 day old beard, trimmed on the cheekbones and the deepest mischievous brown eyes. His accomplice a slim quiet and shy looking Native American assistant, with slicked back neatly cut black hair white trousers and Black shirt, big sensitive brown eyes looking out from thick black-rimmed glasses, Michael Caine style. They were instantly entertaining and likeable.
It wasn’t until we emerged an hour later, Mary wearing a beautiful necklace of silver and eggshell amber and me with what I had been looking for put to one side. Jason knew he had the sale and was I am sure happy to let this fish sit on the line over night.
We looked at each other Mary said “What just happened, did we just go down the rabbit hole”
The thing about buying a ring is, for me anyway, is it has to come to me with a good memory, a story, a history of some sort, because you’ll be wearing it hopefully for a long time. Jason was magical dramatic and theatrical, something that was obviously natural and something he obviously relished, he loved what he was doing, and that is of course irresistible. Drama and theatre rolled of his tongue and off the ends of his ingot weighted turquoise fingers
I am not sure what we brought in with us but something seemed to happen in there, Jason moved around us mercurially, gracefully, elegantly, introducing velvet trays of rings onto the counter with panache, dropping a bracelet finely across our wrists with finger and thumb and with little finger raised in salute to the spirits that seemed to fill the shop. His hands covered in a dizzying assembly of different silver antique rings, that he used like a wand to cast the spell.
There were also two dogs that seemed in retrospect to be the shops greeters. One a beautiful Grey Weimarana
Called, Jason Said “Prophet of profit, It’s a double edged name because when ever I call him in to my door I am calling both into my life”
Prophet seemed to get into the dance we were all dancing, I put my hands on him energy flowed, talked to him with hands and eyes and whispers, he responded delightfully and playfully. There was also a very cute little white Chihuahua with big wideopen eyes and tuft of braided dreadlocks on his head that Jason had dyed Bright pink.
Mary had said “Oh hello little dog what’s your name?
“He’s called Little Dog” Jason said dryly “Because he’s a little dog.
Little dog came out appeared to nod approval and then stood watching from the sidelines
Déjà vu Refinery is a long shop, rather like a chapel with at the far end the apse with the glass alter full of sliver amber and turquoise that seemed to glow with in the half-light
Every symbol on every ring was joyfully and flamboyantly explained every stamp on every bracelet expounded upon. Jason appeared to hide nothing and yet you couldn’t quite put your finger on Jason.
He sincerely told us “These are genuine American Cultural artifacts 1860’s to 1930’s are my area of interest” His fingers were literally dripping beautiful silver south western history.
He’d say “Incredible” Almost lost for breath himself as we all at times crowded in onto ring or bracelet with a particular marking or stamp or “Amazing or ”Beautiful, Anglo Indian mix, nobody else makes this stuff like this, nobody”
Jason and Tony wanted you to love this stuff, not just because they were selling it, but because actually, it really was beautiful and it really does have a certain magic to it and they really did love it all.
At one point he, seemingly carelessly but all the same dramatically, held up to his side a box of silver Afghan rings set with exotic red and blue glass laid casually in amongst smoothed rocks and pebbles.
“Here” he said “Any piece for fifteen dollars”
I dipped in. I noticed he felt every movement I made in the box whilst he held Mary’s attention with some quip whilst selling her the sunglasses.
“I remember everything” he said, I believed him
He really worked on Mary trying to get her to buy a pair of debonair sunglasses, it wasn’t that they weren’t excellent and cool looking, it was that Mary hadn’t really wanted to buy, Jason guided her in and out of the shop she she could get a better look in the sunlight outside, Jason holding back what ever he was feeling behind those deep penetrating eyes, drawing passers by into the scene and discussion every time they went out the blue the cream of the black ones. He really was excellent and Mary was spinning
Tony the young Native American assistant helped me out with what ever my eyes fell upon. I am sure the family were in there with us I thought they had connected with another powerful family everyone was dancing, and it really was a great time. Though Tony was much more reserved he was also genuine and sincere.
Jason ‘confided’ in us that Tony had walked 20 miles to some chapel on a Pilgrimage at Easter
“Chimayo?” I’d said
“Yeah, 20 Miles” Jason said “Can you believe it”
There were whirling swastiksa, great chunks of blue and green Royston turquoise, Fred Harvey pieces, lightning bolts and arrows, twisted silver ingot bracelets, heavy historical 1800’s aged silver pieces, glowing golden amber, original Zuni, Navajo, and Santo Domingo pieces, tomahawk peace pipes, 1600’s pirate knives, Deep blue azure Russian trade beads, African Trade beads that shone green and yellow with their own strange light, peyote birds, sun birds and thunderbirds. He even opened up a wonderful aftershave called Moonshine, suggested I rub it onto my wrists
“Like this” He said and spread his hands like a flower opening, the air was heady in there. It was a dazzling display.
Mary and I, Jason and Tony danced a dance, we were obviously enjoying them and they seemed to be enjoying our laughter. I’d spotted a couple of things, Mary got away with a just a beautiful amber necklace
We went back over the next couple of days the necklace Mary had bought had a broken stone and all credit to Jason he was genuinely hand on heart wide eyed mortified. He immediately sent Tony off on a quest for the same amber. Tony was gone out the door in seconds. There was a phone call a little later
“Are they the same ones….” Jason said staring into space.
The answer was obviously yes
“Ok get them” he said dead pan “bring them here”
Tony arrived back after about half an hour with the exact same stones. Jason then dramatically tested to see if it would crush, and cast them clattering across the glass counter top. We left the bracelet there whilst they fixed it, no charge, I’d had to go and visit Zelda and Mary had had to go back on her own to pick it u
“Please don’t let me go in there alone mick” She’d said “I just can’t afford it”
Later when I got home there were a pair of black Debonair sunglasses on her front room table. He’d sent her off with them to wear. Knowing full well she loved them and once lived with would be hard to let go off.
“Pay me when you can” he’d said which was also incredibly trusting, and flattering. The music too by a strange but atmospheric young girl called “Rosa Francesca” added to the whole ambiance which if a person is so inclined can check out and follow on their website and Jason’s playlist.
I’d had to get the ring I liked resized; I’d been redirected by just about everybody in the old town to a chap called Michael at the Village Goldsmith shop tucked away in the warren of little streets of the plaza. Jason shall we say had been more than a little dismissive of him personally. But I found him to be gentle and kind, he’d actually been closed when I called but had interestingly forgotten to put the closed sign on again it was as if I just walked in as if expected, once in the shop he relented and said he’d do the job as we’d already crossed his path a day or so earlier.
We’d liked him instantly as we’d chatted briefly in another shop, good feelings had been unconsciously exchanged, these things can be done just standing next to somebody, somehow everyone knows and it’s all unsaid. Sometimes we may never see the person again, but the thing that was had been passed between, a feeling was in place, it would open a door later on or would be carried with you and will touch you in a time of need, sometimes when you least expect it. These things are very real, subtle, but in fact fill our lives with beauty.
He’d looked at the ring hadn’t batted an eye lid just said very slowly
“Yeah I can do that”
It was amazing to watch him work, so casual and matter of fact and finish the ring off in literally 10 minutes with out even the mark of a join. I had seen quite a lot of rings over these last few days, you could see the join of the band on a lot of them. Within 10 minutes Michael had it all done and beautifully finished.
He said ever so slowly. “I’ll tell you what seeing as we officially are closed today I‘m not going to charge you the tax, so that will be 15 dollars”
I said “Michael, it’s all about good feelings and here’s 20 and you can keep the change”
He smiled a beautiful smile and actually blushed, such a sweet man and such a beautiful job.
There have been some funny moments with Mary and really you’d have to be there so I’ll spare you, but she’d told me about a course she was creating but has sworn me not to “publish any details about it” as it is going to be a book. That is typically Mary as well. Pity
We’d been over at Java Joes café made famous in the Breaking Bad TV program ate burritos as Low rider cars rumbled by outside and every now and again the breaking bad RV tour bus sailed by too. Mary marked her course work and I tried to concentrate on writing but a disturbing out of tune acoustic guitar player with a searingly sharp harmonica had me more focused on my teeth and jaw. I’m sorry but it wasn’t great and I’m being kind because I have stood where he’d been standing,
Mary had been still been at work whilst I’d been here working on her course at one point she’d slipped me a book “You might like to read” called ‘Tongues of war” by Tony Barnstone. Really thought provoking and disturbing poems written from extracts from peoples letters, soldiers civilian from that time. Mary had been reading over the statistics of the civilian and military death toll from World War II, Russia alone were 27 million. It sure stopped me in my tracks. That alone is unimaginable.
I’ve driven around the city these last few days, just enjoying the car, dipping in and out of the traffic in and out of pawn shops and junk shops coasting along the wide boulevards down the smaller cottonwood lined streets, their branches now finally faintly acknowledging spring with little green shoots, just loving the warm subtle but distinctly individual square adobe houses under the playful flickering shadows, clear wide open blue sky’s, the city really beautiful to my eyes. The great Sandia Mountains to the east and the raised horizontal volcanic horizon to the west. Watched the sun set on the western horizon from a roof top bar, a straight line right across the skyline that sits slightly strangely above the city to the west dotted by ancient volcanic cones. playing pool, eating NM food, sipping IPA and getting up at 6am to write. I have loved this time here.
I had decided when I started writing this that I would try to be as real as I could. Nobody wants to listen to hours of ‘Oh I went there and oh I did this’ we want to know how it feels, real and authentic. So Honestly? My road to this point in my life i have been a little rough on myself, painful at times and perhaps that is how it has to be and there is still work to be done, of that there is no doubt. I am using my friendship with Mary and the US as an example because that is where I am right now, we are friends, not of lovers, we never have been. Mary gets to talk affectionately about Tobias her boyfriend and I about My girl too, a real affection and openness that comes with a trust and a growing confidence in oneself, doors have remained open to me across this beautiful country from California to New Mexico because of this trust and openness,
At one point over the last few days I’d looked up and above a door was written ‘What is passed is Prologue.’
Mary had said “And the past is not justification for the action we take now and in the future
To true Mary too true