Time for a quick update, to bring y’all up to speed. Since the last post, I’ve been across the country and back, getting ready to leave for Korea tomorrow. I don’t want to bore you with too many details, so here’s the nutshell account. Let’s see, where did I leave off….oh yes, the Grand Canyon. Okay, so, we’re in Arizona….
I had been driving for hours along the old Route 66 between Flagstaff and Winslow, and I desperately had to pee, so when I saw this funny little unofficial looking sign saying there was a meteor crater at the next exit, I figured, what the heck, there’s probably a bathroom, I’ll check it out.
Six miles down the road off the highway, there’s an asphalt parking lot, with tremendously stimulating signs leading up the hill to the entrance of the aforesaid meteor crater visitor center. They only tell you after you’ve climbed the hill that it’s $16 to get in, which I thought was kind of mean; they should tell you that before you hike your butt all the way up there, because, you know, there might be some people out there who don’t want to spend $16 to look at a big dimple. But, I didn’t want to have climbed that hill for nothing, and the potty situation was closing in on dire, so I paid my sixteen bucks and went in.
Holy cosmic pock marks, Batman, that is one big hole in the ground! After the Grand Canyon, the threshold for big holes in the ground being impressive had been raised quite a bit, I must say. But if you go through the little museum, and watch the short film they have, the significance of the place becomes clear–it’s one of the only confirmed meteor impact sites in the world. Most other craters are the result of a volcanic caldera. I never knew that. Anyhoo, the really groovy thing about this spot is that, in the 1960s and 70s, NASA trained astronauts here, including the Apollo astronauts, because of its similarity to craters on the moon. They even had a lunar landing capsule on site that the astronauts used for training purposes. Very I Dream of Jeannie. Ooh, and remember that 1984 movie “Starman” with Jeff Bridges? The spacecraft impact parts of it were filmed here. Cool, no?
There was a red brick wall around the visitor center plaza, with this open viewing window in it; with the vista beyond, it so reminded me of a Magritte painting. Don’t you think?
A few miles down the road, I had to stop in Winslow, Arizona and, well, you know…stand on a corner. Because of the Eagles song. I didn’t see any girls in flatbed Fords, and the only one to slow down and take a look at me was the guy driving the street sweeping truck. That’s not very poetic, though. There is, however, a loudspeaker on the appointed corner, that blares Eagles music on a loop, into the otherwise unoccupied atmosphere, and there’s an Eagles-themed shop on the adjacent corner, where one can buy all manner of “Take It Easy” t-shirts, etc., but I refrained. I’m told I missed out on the classic gag, though, because I didn’t find a pay phone and crank call someone and sing a few bars of “Take It Easy” to them. Sorry for failing y’all like that! Moving on….
Driving through the southwest, you really do get a sense of how vast the United States is. Miles and miles of open, literally amazing landscapes and endless horizons, with hours between towns. It’s strange, too, how the landscape shifts subtly but so distinctly as you cross state borders. Leaving Arizona and entering New Mexico, suddenly the Painted Desert splashes different colors across the land, and the surface of the earth buckles up in spots to replace the flat desert behind you. It’s quite beautiful.
Zooming along toward Santa Fe, I had to pull over again to see the Continental Divide. That’s got to be something, right? Where the water flows in different directions from a specific cleft in the tectonic plates of the earth? Well, turns out, all there is to see is a U.S. Geological Survey sign, and a truly weird curio shop, that was closed anyway. Still, worth pulling over, just to note the occasion.
Santa Fe and I didn’t get off to a good start. I was in an evil mood from the minute I got there; I seriously think I would have bitten someone in the leg if I’d had the chance. Everything was annoying me, and I’m usually pretty easygoing. Then, I overheard someone in a cafe say something about having trouble getting used to the altitude, and it hit me. I butted into their conversation and asked what the altitude is, and when she answered it was 7,200 feet, I realized, I wasn’t just in a bad mood, I was oxygen deprived! No wonder! This happened to me in Mexico City, too. I couldn’t walk a block without getting winded, and I felt so bitchy and mean for the first few days; it was ugly. But, thankfully, the fix is easy enough. Just slow it down, and drink steadily. So, that’s what I did.
Meet the Pink Dragon: a prickly pear fruit margarita from the Dragon Room at the Pink Adobe in Santa Fe. I plied myself with this elixir until I was restored to my usual state of near equanimity, and then Santa Fe’s charms were more obvious to me. There’s really no disputing that the surrounding high desert is breathtaking. Even if you aren’t a desert person, just stand still and stare and breathe for a while, and the palette of colors, and spectrum of textures will dizzy you. Or maybe it’s just the altitude, I don’t know.
I happened to arrive in town on the eve of the annual Santa Fe Fiesta, which commences with a Burning Man type ritual in which they immolate the “Zozobra,” a 50-foot tall effigy of the boogeyman, intended to chase out the bad spirits for the coming year. The remainder of the weekend hosts a festival, with booths of food and art and crafts and such all over downtown, and several stages of music and local dance troop performances. It was just the thing to sand off my moody rough edges.
Especially, the Navajo Tacos, made with roast lamb and Indian fry bread. Mmm-mmm!
I saw Melissa Etheridge wandering around town that weekend, and heard she was in town giving a concert at the Santa Fe Opera House, which is about 20 minutes outside town out in the desert mountains. I’ve always liked her music, so, I snagged a ticket and went.
What a glorious place that opera house is! The architecture of the theater is open on the sides, so you are basically sitting outside in the desert air, but covered, so it can storm and rain and thunder and lightening, and the show can still go on. A fantastic venue for a Wagner opera, I’m sure. But Melissa Etheridge was pretty good too. I think the sound of her voice is like having whiskey poured down your naked back.
After a couple days’ break in Santa Fe, it was time to hit the road again, for two more days driving to Fort Worth to Dad’s house. I must say, though, the highway through the eastern half of New Mexico is not exactly hard on the eyes. Although, I did accidentally blast past the exit for Roswell, and didn’t realize it until I was almost to Amarillo, because I was singing along with great gusto to Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ Greatest Hits…that’s some good road trip music, right there. Anyway, I had been hoping to bookend the meteor crater report with some shots of the Alien Autopsy and UFO museum for you, but oh well. Sorry ’bout that.
As a consolation, just west of Amarillo, I happened upon the Cadillac Ranch: a plowed field into which someone has upended a bunch of old Cadillacs, nose down into the ground, in a sort of single-file Stonehenge homage. It was very random and definitely hilarious. Graffiti is welcome, and there are squillions of discarded spray paint cans strewn about, for anyone to use to add their mark to the Cadillac canvas. Who says Texans don’t have a sense of whimsy?
As for the rest of my time in Texas, I discovered that macaroni and cheese is classified as a vegetable at the Cracker Barrel (I can get on board with that), and that this song exists:
Next stop, New York City! My friend James and I were lazing about Washington Square Park, and this girl was sashaying around the fountain, workin’ it hard enough to throw her back out, throwing smoldering glances over her shoulder at no one in particular. She was like a living Virginia Slims commercial, and I instantly loved her. So, I stalked her for a while, taking pictures of her….since that’s obviously what she thought was already happening. Hate to let all that catwalkin’ go to waste.
We happened upon a real photo shoot under the steps in front of Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, and I felt bad that Ms. Virginia Slims wasn’t there to jump in on the fun.
I finally made it to the Tenement Museum on Delancey and Orchard Streets on the Lower East Side, which I’ve been meaning to do for the last several times I was in New York.
It’s a well-preserved example of the type of tenement homes that housed thousands of immigrant families in New York in the early to mid- 1900’s in cramped, sometimes unsanitary quarters.
I know the museum and tour were supposed to impress upon us the squalid conditions in which these people had to live, because they had no other options, but honestly, all I could think the whole time was “I know several people who would kill for this apartment!”
Then it was back to San Francisco, to see the doctor, the dentist, the bikini waxer, and basically get everything fluffed and buffed and ready to take off for Korea!