A weekend getaway to La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asíssi at the home of my longtime best friend in the town where we grew up was just the tonic I needed for healing thoughts and renewal.
My husband and I are newlyweds and while I am not trained to do so, I have been nursing him through a life-threatening bone infection and the ensuing amputation of his leg. It has been rough. He is a thoughtful man and worries about what he calls "caregiver burn-out." While he is hospitalized for yet another major surgery this week, he ordered me to take a break by visiting my best friend in Santa Fe.
I first met Dr. Jaime Gaskin of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), a fine arts college, in 1966 when I enrolled in the seventh grade at Leah Harvey Junior High, a school that no longer exists and whose building was converted to a courthouse. The pretty girl with the flip introduced herself and invited me to eat lunch with her at a restaurant downtown only a few blocks away because our school had an open campus. We found that we had a lot in common such as musical taste and I was so grateful to have an ally right away at school. It amazes me that we have been best friends now for over forty-five years.
The City Different
The full name of the city is La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asíssi. That means The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi. The gentle holy man is its patron saint. Last Saturday was very busy because of the gay pride celebration and the rodeo parade. The two seemingly diverse populations mingled amiably beneath the old trees on the plaza.
Jaime was concerned that I had cut my own hair and made an appointment to have it re-done by a professional. We had to pick up the owner of the exclusive hair salon at his amazing garden home because he doesn't drive. Both gay and a cowboy, our passenger who looked a lot like David Foster Wallace, pointed out who among the throngs of tourists were dressed so bad as to have nothing to be proud of and we laughed with wicked pleasure at his witty criticism.
In 1967, my girlfriend and I would meet at that same monument in the picture shown above and eat the Frito pies that we bought from Woolworths. Dressed in our Mexican peasant blouses and grungy bell bottoms, we shared a cigarette until we heard the distant tardy bell and ran back to school laughing and out of breath.
Real Santa Fe Style and a Look at Some of My Art
Forget the corny interiors you have seen in the home magazines. Here is the real Santa Fe style. Above is a picture of the side entrance to the courtyard of Jaime's house. It is in a covenanted community that requires strict adherence to style; consequently the neighborhood has an old and established look to it.
Aspen trees and wild flowers accent careful xeriscaping and water usage.
Saint Francis graces her garden.
Here is a wobbly shot of her living room but you can see the handsome leather sofa and mission style chairs. That is an 19th century handcarved Spanish sideboard on the left and there are two of them.
I collect American art pottery at garage sales and there on the very right is the fantastic Mimbres seed pot that I found and gave her a number of years ago.
She bought this amazingly elegant piece by native potter Glen Gomez and I am pea-green with envy over it. It definitely was not garage sale-priced.
As she led me to the guest room, I looked up and saw where she has placed the most recent painting that I made and gave to her. The ceilings are really high because that is a very large canvas.
The perfect guest room that also contains artifacts from Jaime's trip to Botswana last year.
The master bedroom has a theme to which I contributed. Bleached skulls.
Here is a student piece I painted in 1974!
Here is another of my canvases.
I hate the word whimsy, but how cool is this? She added a flower to a real skull mounted on the wall a la Georgia O'Keeffe.
This sign hung at the entrance of the famed Sena Plaza downtown for decades. Jaime's father hand-carved it and years ago, and the owner of the building told her she could have it because he was remodeling. However, at the time she didn't have a way to transport it until one day she and my sister unhooked it and carried it through the streets of Santa Fe to her car. I wonder how no one stopped them!
Above is the current sign at the location. The secluded courtyard used to house offices such as Jaime's father's who was an accountant. I told Jaime I wanted to take a picture of the burbling fountain near the bench where we would serenely do our homework until five o'clock waiting for her dad to drive us home. She laughed, "Oh, you want a picture of the restaurant?"
I didn't understand until I saw this scene in the picture above of the greatly expanded Santa Cafe. There is the fountain. People are enjoying themselves but it was sad to me.
Our destination was The Shed, a popular restaurant for over forty years. Here is the courtyard where patient fans of fine New Mexican cuisine wait. Forty five years ago, I, a girl raised in Maryland, ordered a hamburger and Jaime, the Santa Fean, ordered an enchilada. Saturday, our orders were the other way around. I didn't post a picture because enchiladas while tasty are a messy looking food. The answer to this all-important question: Red or Green? Red chile!
That's me in the middle with another high school chum who joined us, Marie on the left, and that's Jaime on the right.
We went for a stroll through the plaza to see what was there and what was gone. That is the old La Fonda Hotel above. The French Pastry Shop there is superb.
The camera shop is still there. I found the Medicine Man hiding in a corner.
I complained that Santa Fe was overly built up and told Jaime I thought it looked like Hong Kong in spots but she told me I was hyperbolic. You can still see a mountain peaking through the buildings on Water Street.
This area used to be a ladies shop called Ruoff's.
Woolworths was a well-established five and dime and you can see that it has been replaced with--another five and dime. You can still buy cheap souvenirs there that are made in China. I think you can also still buy a Frito pie like we enjoyed so often for our school lunch. It is a small bag of Fritos sliced open so as to use the bag for a bowl then topped with chili and cheddar cheese. They are delicious and portable.
This rather engaging sculpture is at the entrance of the IAIA Art Museum. The place used to be a federal building where my stepfather, a geologist, worked.
Around the corner you will find the Alan Houser Sculpture Garden.
His stylized bronzes are known the world over.
In the center of the sculpture garden is the dome-shaped healing greenhouse. Filled with aromatic herbs, there is a bench where I sat, inhaled their fragances, and meditated until it was time to go back to Jaime's house.
Poems, Prayers, and Promises
Jaime invited an old friend, another professor who also went to high school with us, for dinner. Finger foods of ribs, asparagus, and breadsticks were served along with plenty of wine. Later, the guitar and ude came out and we sang songs from our youth, mostly Beatles songs, the whole evening through just like we used to do. Back then we knew all the words to many songs but sadly we are old and had to look up lyrics and tabs on an ipad. Jaime is an accomplished musician and singer and I was pleased when she complimented my harmonies. I just wanted to find a pretty place to be next to her. I think we really did a lovely rendition of "I Will," also, a rip-roaring "Happiness is a Warm Gun."
Native Americans are the original tobacconists. When Jaime pulled out this pack of smokes, I, a non-smoker of cigarettes for twenty-five years, had to have one. You see they are 100 percent tobacco with absolutely no additives. Right tasty. Don't worry. I'm okay and not going to renew an old bad habit.
The weekend was a most welcome restorative and I returned home refreshed and happy to be blessed with a friend such as Jaime as well as the others in my life. Santa Fe has changed but not so much that I couldn't find myself there. You can read about the adventures of my friends and me on this excellent Facebook fanpage called "You Know you are Old School Santa Fe when . . . here:
Below is a picture of the fire up in the Jemez Wilderness near Los Alamos Scientific Lab that Jaime posted. This is the view from Jaime's balcony. We should have done a rain dance, too. Come rain.
(The above photo by Jaime Gaskin. All other were taken by me.)