Joe Bataan - Ordinary Guy (1975)
Joe Bataan - Ordinary Guy (1975) (Photo credit: Soul Portrait)

I WISH I’D TAKEN A PHOTO THAT DAY,  on a gravely, twisted uphill hike to Mt Atalaya  a hike that I’ve hungered for because it looms in the rear view, jettisoned above the city, swooping hills, three of them, you have to criss-cross before you reach the 8,800 foot marker in the sky. The temperature was 70 degrees, the wind was napping. Easter Sunday, sprinkles of holiness on Santa Fe, church bells ringing all day long, restaurants hosts pushing metal carts of glossy preparations down the aisles, and the little children, in Easter bonnets, and patent leather shoes, if they still make them, are squirming at the table.

I had a hunger for universal meaninglessness and to end the chatter in my head. Hikes do that. They just erase all the sirens and alarms, the what if’s and what knots in my head.

Afterwards, we sat on the porch listening to Joe Bataan. You probably haven’t heard of him unless you dig into Salsa, as Rudy does.  Joe is half Filipino and half African. His music touches cords you cannot even imagine-it’s like Afro-Cuban-Filipino fusion rap.  Everyone is hopeful on Easter; motor bikers, wanderers,  the wait staff and valet that trot down the street, talking into their ear phones at one another, and guests, pushing baby strollers, swinging shopping bags, taking photographs of our house, and gazing at the sky. When they hear the music from our porch, they wave at us, and might think, we  have the life, sitting on the porch,  sipping a glass of wine. What they cannot even imagine, is that the entire scene is roman a clef, a fictional imitation! What we are actually doing is avoiding the avalanche. I always have.  Like a gambler, I never grasped the concept of tomorrow is more important than today.



The course we choose to study doesn’t begin in school; it begins the moment we recognize that life is our teacher.  I chose the course of love between a man and a woman.  Yet all I’ve learned from Anais Nin, Joan Didion, and Lawrence Durrell, about love isn’t guiding me.   I   have to start over, and develop wisdom based on my own experiences.

The morning is crisp as iceberg lettuce, a day of clarity and stillness. Outside my bedroom window, the light illuminates portions of the pine tree, and the walls of our neighbor’s home. On my side of the glass, there are shadows and dissonance.  It feels like months since the last column, and unwinding what events took place since, is going to be as piercing as the southwest sun when it shines in my eyes.
A few days before Christmas, I was in the kitchen with two friends, visiting from Boulder.   Aaron, whom I’ve not seen in four years, and Lilith, whom I’ve just met.  Aaron was the subject of one of my columns, the lone man standing on a mountain top, climbing the rocks of life and nature, as he ascends to the distant and dangerous vistas of life.  Lilith, an angelic petite woman, with eyes wide as moons, and uncontrollable affection for what is reachable. I am preparing dinner, and our discussion is about love, about me and John, and about Rudy, whom Aaron has rendered  a mentor since we all met in Saratoga Springs, 2000. We celebrated Aaron’s twenty-first birthday with him.  He was ignited by individual far from conventional thinking even back then.
          “Remember the time you and Rudy moved the farm table outside the window, over the second story roof, and down to the porch. How did you do that?” I said.
          “Ropes. I couldn’t believe this guy– half my size and he’s carrying this eight foot wooden farm table over one shoulder. “
          “ Yea, and now he’s carrying a Dragon. Oh Aaron, those were innocent days weren’t they? ”
          “ Yea.  Was that really eleven years ago; it feels more like a century.”
          “ That’s because you live without any boundaries.”
Lilith picked up the camera and started shooting  a video. I put on a hat and sunglasses for the camera, and began using the pots as instruments.  They frivolity reached a high note, just as the phone rang.
          “ Hi, it’s me. I’m coming back. It’s over.”
          “ I’ve heard that before Rudy. “
          “ I’m almost in Flagstaff, I’ll be there tomorrow.”
 I sat down on the stool, and looked to Aaron for something wise and assuring to settle my  spoon-stirring anxiety.
          He was expressionless. The intervention of  Rudy, who moments ago I was raking with hopelessness was on his way here, arriving the first night of Chanukah, which had a similar mystical tune to it.
          “ John’s coming in on Friday — Oh God! I don’t know, this sounds too much like a Hallmark movie. I don’t believe this. When is it going to end?”
         “ Lue, you amaze me. “
         “ I wish I’d stop amazing people.”
Lilith and Aaron took off the next day and I busied myself with brooms and sponges; the activity most relied upon when life is messy.  I did not want to shell-shock John with the news, because he was in the final stages of his script, and Rudy was on the road, where at any point, the Dragon might reappear, and whisk his tail back to her nest.  Until he drove up, there was still a screen of fuzzy details.
I’d just come from Luminara Lounge where I’d met Jewels, my confidante and baby-sitter through the last four months of Dragonfaire.
    “ Is he here?” She said breathless from rushing.
    “ I saw him pull in the driveway.  I left earlier and drove around until I could reach you. I don’t want to be in the house when he arrives.”
    “How are you going to handle things with Rudy?”
   “ Beats me.  I know I  have to suppress my anger; that’s like suppressing my appetite after a week of starvation.”
   “ Which reminds me, are you eating?”
   “  More or less?”
   ” LouLou. You have to eat! How do you think he’ll feel?”
   “ Like a turkey on Thanksgiving.”
    “What do you think John will say?
    “ He’ll be speechless.”
Jewels lifted her thirty pound life jacket that a mother of two children, wife, business owner, and adventurer swings with the ease of  a dancer and  wrapped her arms around me.
I returned to the garden path at La Posada and in the moonlight, paced the icy walkway waiting for John to answer the phone. “ Hi baby.”
   “ Hi sweetheart–how are you?”
   “ I’m still working.. but it’s going really good.  I got the latest storm report, and it looks like I’ll have to drive out Christmas Eve day.”
   “  I made reservations for five, is that too early?”
“ I’ll be there way before that. Got to get up early and load up the car with presents.”
I grinned, and kicked the stones in the pathway.
    “ John… Rudy’s here. I didn’t want to tell you until he actually arrived.”
    ” John. Are you there?”

How do I word his laughter, a long winded guttural explosion without pause, that struck my humor and I joined him, and our laughter sort collapsed into one, like making love or something, and it felt so good, I didn’t want to stop.

 “ Never a dull moment at Gallery LouLou.”
 “ I haven’t seen him yet, he’s in the house. “
 “ Call me later, I need a drink.”
 You couldn’t cut the tension with a semi-truck head on, as Rudy and I stood feet away in the Staab House at La Posada. I was leaning against the bar, observing his new leather Puma’s.
    “ Well, I’m here.” His crooked smile faded when I didn’t step forward or greet him with a smile.
   “ Yes, you are.”
Then the staff engulfed him in warmth and greetings and I just about threw my head back and howled from the absurdity, and the bedazzlement I felt lifted me out of myself, because I couldn’t really stand there and be a part of the abstraction of life.
    “ Can we have dinner together?” He uttered.
    “ I’ll be here.”
I got through half the dinner, and then suddenly felt the drum beating in my rage cage and dashed out.   The next few days were like waiting for a frozen chicken to thaw out.  I poked at him, and he was solid, I poked a day later, asking questions, and he released a mumble of words, “ I can’t open up yet.  I will in a few days. Just tell me what we need to do.”
    “ John’s not coming out. He changed his mind.”
    “ Why?”
I glared at him with blade sharp eyes.
   “ Because of me. That’s not what I want to hear. I’ll call him.”
   “ NO. Do not call him.  You have no idea what your … dragon episode did to us. Are you sorry Rudy? Are you truly sorry or are you still pining for the Bird. And I would like to know the chances of you going back before I get any ideas about smiling or laughing. ”
   “Yes, of course I’m sorry.  I don’t think I’ll go back.. but I have to be honest.”
I turned my back and kept walking. The next turn came from John, “I’m coming out; I just pray that we’ll have a chance to be together, and have a peaceful Christmas.”
To be continued.




The throw of the dice this week lands on Part Two of Mice and Mayhem.

“John, I found a place! Let’s go tomorrow to check it out. This will be such an
adventure! It’s next to a riding stable, and creeks, and trees… and DH Lawrence lived up the hill.”

Part Two

64 toTaos…

My anticipation smoked from the back seat where I sat, listening to Rudy and John
in conversation, the kind that ripples like a stream, as Rudy evokes his fervor
for New Mexican history, the battles, and bravery, the legend of Billy the Kid,
and Geronimo. The summer scenery galloped past as we headed up the canyon
through Pilar, as bobbing rafters walloped the Rio Grande, as tourists snapped
photographs, as hitchhikers and wayward hobos staggered on the death trap
shoulder turn-outs… a sort of carnival that makes driving to Taos interrupt the
mundane repetition of asking myself questions I cannot answer: Why do I gamble?

“Turn left here, Rudy.”  We were on the last turn into the Writer’s
Retreat in San Cristobal.
It was virgin land, spindly wild flowers, unpaved roads, no-name streets, and
the three of us, searching for some sign of life.

“This is it,” Rudy climbed out of the car,
while John and I remained seated, unbelieving.

“Rudy, this isn’t it.” I shouted. He turned
around and on the edge of hysterics, and said, “Oh yes, it is.”

“LouLou, you threw the dice off the table
this time.” John’s laughter stunned the silence as we viewed the three attached
leaning log cabins, with barred windows, beat up furniture, and week old trash,
glaring back, as if to say, “Well, whatta you expect for $600.00 a week.”

John and Rudy went off in the direction of
the barn, and that was when I had the feeling we needed to get out fast before
the owners approached us with rifles or crack needles.

image of Rudy and John, poking in the field, exploring the barn, two men that
rescued and wrestled with pieces of my persona, were now joined. For most of
life, I went solo, everywhere. There
was in my mind the resolution I would remain unattached, out-of-love because
“love is more painful than lust,” a phrase I took out of this mornings NY book
review of “A Book of Secrets.”

I wandered into the multifarious pasture where
I was greeted with chickens, goats, and manure, and with a sudden rush of
urgency, I shouted: “Let’s get the hell out of here,” and dashed back to the
car. I could hear John and Rudy’s crackling laughter, and that solidified the
momentary disappointment that follows a lousy throw of the dice.

I followed my interior compass, that has been
known to deliver supreme surprises, and we ended up on Kit Carson Road, in a shower of sunshine,
and cotton balls drifting down like snowflakes.

“Turn there. Look Rudy, San Geronimo Lodge.
We made an offer on it, remember?’

I forgot about that one.”

many places have you guys made offers on inTaos?” John asked.

In the course of remembering the different
times we lived in Taos, and the real estate agents, like Linda from Texas who
accused of us being charlatans, until our friend David kicked in and warned
her, “They’re morons, they’re not that smart,” we landed at the cross bridge to San Geronimo.

“Twelve. We forgot about the Martinezplace; the one I wanted to fix up
into polished efficiencies.” I said.

“What were you planning for the Lodge?”

“The Woodstock House, concerts in the field,
performances in the dining room, musician rooms. There was a grand piano in the
main Salon.”

Lodge was devotedly remodeled. The slimy green pool had turned Mediterranean blue, the grounds were riddled with pathways,
the mammoth lobby was now comfortably appointed with antiques, and the grand
piano, well, that was shut-down and used as a plant stand.

The owner, a rugged beauty with brimming
passion for her turf, showed us half a dozen rooms to choose from.

“You must have spent a fortune fixing it up.”
“You have no idea! What we were told
going in, wasn’t what we got.”

I left with resumed faith in my compass, and
knowing we made the right decision not buying San Geronimo.

Decisions about traveling, joining, meeting,
and moving, drop me in the path of mental collision. Instead of applying
academic analysis, calculations, or tried and true pragmatic reasoning, I try
to beat the odds, because I am a gambler.

John and I headed up to Taoswhile Rudy took refuge in a friend’s
casita. I suppose most vacation renal owners have alternate accommodations; but
this is a work-in-progress, like a play that doesn’t have an ending yet.

For the next six days, I wandered from the Geronimo
pool, to the terrace, to Taos on foot, and
during those hours, we rewrote the script in the privacy of our steadily silent
working room, or on the second story terrace, overlooking the fields and the Jemez Mountains.

When Rudy
called and said Mike, our renter, invited us to the reception party at the
house, I called Mike to decline. He turned me down.

“Loulou you have to come, everyone wants to
meet you.”  Everyone is a lot of people;
seventy-five guests inside the house when I am not the host stirred up my

When we arrived, the reception party was
sprouting on the front porch, in the driveway around bistro tables, on the back
porch at a buffet table, and in the garden movie theater.

Suddenly, this face comes at me, up close: “Loulou,
I’m Mike. Come-in… What are you drinking? We love it! Come meet everyone.”  Mike has a light bulb personality, one
hundred and twenty volts of unplugged warmth and sincerity. I followed him into
the living room, and was immersed with questions and praise, at rapid
fire.  Within the hour I wilted and
tugged on John and Rudy to cross the street for dinner. “Why’d you leave?” Rudy
asked. He was eyeing a pretty blonde in the driveway.

“I don’t feel it’s right; presiding in our
house while it’s their house. I’m afraid I’ll start cleaning.”

I returned to the party when a vintage Galaxy
pulled into our driveway, and I was abandoned because John led Rudy over to see
the automobile.

By now, the party was surging and as I
recommenced my socializing the trepidation vanished. In every direction were
handshakes and hugs, conversations zigzagging from Mike’s family to Erin’s, the
bride and groom, and their friends, who came from Los Angeles.
But these were not just friends; they were neighbors.

“Neighbors inLos Angeles?” I jested.

“Oh yeah, we live in the Hollywood Hills. We
have parties every weekend. Are you THE Loulou?” I nodded. “I am THE Carlos,
and you must visit us inHollywood.”

do you do Carlos?”

I sing, act, cook, and make trouble!” In every party there should be a Carlos.
The evening crescendo curled into a wave of anticipation when Carlos took
center stage and sang arias, from Turnadot and La Boehme. His bravura tenor
voice raised the guests from every cavity of the house. Strangers out strolling
stopped to listen and guests from La Posada spilled out in the streets.  The house was transformed, in some ways to
former visions of the artist salons I imagined and once held at Follies House.

were times over the last two years when Rudy and I discussed selling Gallery
LouLou, leasing it long term, and even renting rooms; options that occupied
sleepless nights, and never materialized. Now we know it is a vacation home, a
party house, a reception salon… all the things that I imagined came together
here, even Rudy and John.

Any dice to throw email:


“It has been a time of writing for me. The doctors have all decided that my crippled leg must be amputated. They cannot do it right away because the hospitals are so full. So, in the nights of glare I just cuss out the doctors for making me wait, and cuss out my leg for hurting. I have read Sarah Bernhardt and her superb gallantry and courage have comforted me.” From “Illumination & Night Glare” by Carson McCullers.

More on the adventure in expectations.
I wonder how all of us really accept this incongruity of life. If we experience continuous disappointment, our inner oars, the ones that carry us over the tidal waves, must be accessible so we can bash back at the unsettling news, the absence of truth, the winter storms, the lagging economy, the pain of puttering, and expectations unrealized.
At a window table of Il Piatto, a favorite Italian bistro in Santa Fe, my friend Baron, ( John (no website) and I fervently discussed the state of the people. What we observe, think, fear, and ruminate over at home when the lights are out, the street silent as a meadow, and shadows from winds through the winter branches play like puppets on the walls.
“Baron, if something doesn’t break soon—I’m going to need anti-depressants, or heroin.”
“Have you ever tried it?”
“Heroin? No, never. I tried Prozac for a few weeks years ago. It was ineffective.”
“Look, things are tough everywhere; the shops are closing, and the restaurants empty– look around. This is weird. And where’s the god damn snow?”
“It’s in New York. Rudy was there for a few days.”
“What the hell for?”
“Court. And guess what? He flies across country on Monday, appears in court the next morning, and is asked, ‘Why are you here?’ So you can see Rudy standing there in a cotton zip-up jacket, his face flushed with snow and wind. The judge informs Rudy he didn’t have to come to court.”
“How’s business for you?” I asked.
“Terrible! I keep inventing new prints, new sizes, new shows, a book, you just gotta keep it going, LouLou.”
“I keep it going; but it is beginning to feel like neat little circles.”
John tipped his head, the tip of understanding between two writers whose fingers are bleeding, amongst a country of bloggers, Twitters, and Facebook fetish writing. We wait, as all writers and artists, and in these times, everyone must wait, until our soil is fertile, and the illumination returns.
“Any bites on the script?”
“Yes, we get them, and then you wait, you may wait two or three months to hear anything.”
“Let me explain,” John interjected. “ It’s because ninety-nine percent of the scripts submitted are passed on, and the reason for that is the executive of creative development puts his job on the line when he green lights a script, so it had better be good!”
“In the interim, I repurpose the house as a vacation rental.”
“Then where will you go?”
“I don’t know.”
We talked about Egypt, Fox News, CNN, Tunisia, mobsters, photographers, business strategy, and the next Gallery LouLou event, a work in progress. There is visceral nourishment when you congregate over the same obdurate situations. The singular frustration festering inside is softened when commingled. We lingered over coffee, still unloading the burdens of a questionable wintry month.
That night John and I rushed through the front door, seeking warmth. I was on my way upstairs when I noticed a man with long black hair seated at my porch table. I could see his whole upper body through the drapeless French windows. His hand seemed as close to the door knob as my fingers are to this laptop.
“JOHNNNNNNNNNNN, there’s a man on the porch!”
Five “hurry up’s” later, John came running into the living room.
He opened the front door and announced in his radio deep broadcast voice, “We’re closed.” John nodded several times, and closed the door.
“What were they doing?”
“Attempting to light your kerosene lamp.”
“They thought the porch was charming.”
A few days later, another man appeared on the porch, this one wandering back and forth. After all the times a wanderer has been loose on the porch, in the garden, at the front door asking where someone lived (they do that in Santa Fe), and then the night someone climbed on the porch and ripped off the Stratocaster guitar from the hook on the eaves (a rock n roll prop), I had to apply more caution than negligence. If someone wanted to assault me, my defense would be worthless. When all the girls started learning self-defense, and carrying tear gas in their purses, I started locking the doors. Though I am not expecting intruders and assaults, it feels like it is time to take responsibility for myself. The fear of being alone is more tormenting than loneliness.
“I brought the shot-gun. Are you ready to learn?”