How come there’s peacocks in the front yard?

May 14, 2010

When I woke up after that hellish day in the wind, clean, fed, and a little sunburnt, the wind carried me swiftly with it. A cool, gentle breeze at my back and Santa Fe ahead. I planned to only get halfway to SF from Santa Rosa, not knowing what the wind would do or how much I would feel like riding.

Also, to add to the list of good things that morning, there was a waffle-iron for guest use in the hotel with malted Belgian waffle batter. I ate three. And some eggs. And a muffin. And biscuits. And fruit.

The land began to rise about halfway across the state into mild hills, and then less mild hills, and mountains visible off in the distance. I decided to take the beaten path, 40 to 285. It kept me on gentle terrain, but next time I’m biking through New Mexico I’ll try another route.

By sunset, I was only eight miles outside of the city in Eldorado where I camped for the night.

The temperature dropped drastically overnight, and in the morning the air was frigid and the people bundled and cappuccinoed. I rolled around in my sleeping bag, in no real hurry whatsoever knowing Santa Fe was just around the bin. My dirt floor was crusty and the few plants under me crackled when I shifted. I rode in, passing through an entirely adobe-clad street and found some coffee.

Hello bike lanes!

Coffee, laundry, food, and then I met Jimmy talking to another guy outside of a cafe. They explained Santa Fe to me.

“Santa Fe is where you come to do nothing, and like it.”

“Yeah, I’ve been here 15 years.”

A wealthy art-city, with a large chunk of income from tourism. Building codes; enforced personality in a way.

Jimmy wore boots with bright green laces, an old pair of jeans and an orange shirt with dark-orange stripes. We talked for a little while about whatever topic would arise. Jimmy is an ex-archaeologist who worked odd jobs at the time being to support a simple existence, basically living out of his truck. He offered to show me his favorite site for petroglyphs, out-of-town a ways. I said yes.

He was house-sitting for some friends at the time, and offered me some cactus tea while he got together some things to go hiking. We brought Mojo, a big brown fluffy dogball of sweet love.

Jimmy lived on practically nothing and often relied on help from other people. I couldn’t quite “figure him out” as it were, he seemed to present contentment with his was of life but sometimes, hidden beneath his words, I thought I sensed a strong dis-ease and a quiet panic. Modern life is hell: it can be inorganic and self-limiting, but dropping out leaves you naked and vulnerable, and can throw you into polarization of pleasure and pain.

I saw a reflection of myself in Jimmy. I at once admired him yet feared accepting his way of life. And as is our nature, I tried to pick one or the other, black or white, good or bad, and was left spinning, and I still am on the matter.

On our hike, he took me across streams and through hidden lush oases in the seemingly monotoned New Mexico ecosystem. We would walk and pause and talk, and walk again. We would pause where the sun would cast defined rays on the unspeakably beautiful landscape, and talk about other things, about our lives and dreams, although in a secretly guarded way. We each saw the other mystified by our surroundings, yet our connection was  convoluted one.

He gave me a small synopsis of the rock markings, as well as a few artifacts he picked up. We would be in a space, just sitting and talking, and he say something like “now can’t you just imagine sitting here at the end of the day, pounding seeds or grains up here?”

And on the edge of the cliff where we were sitting there would be indentations in the rocks where he suggested this really happened. His eyes would trace around and pick up a rock, study it, and then pass it to me. It would take me a minute to fully believe him, but I saw the definitive cleaving that I recognized from my anthropology class.

I really wanted to believe everything he said, but had a hard time doing so. Was it because he was poor? His clothes ratty? His hair unkempt and his composure shaky? It must be difficult to retain a solid sense of self-worth when all those around you are in constant conflict. That is of course a little over-simplified, but there are parts of ourselves that we suppress, nature that we ignore, and needs both critical but impossible to hold. In the end, I am embarrassed to have doubted him. His heart is moving in an unstoppable and beautiful direction. The rest of us need to catch up.

We walked until the sunset. I felt incredibly peaceful.

We ate dinner and then it was time to meet the people I’d be couchsurfing with, a couple of miles down the road. I arrived at around 10 and met Jim, Teresa and Crispy.

A brief introduction:

Jim. Bearded, casual and friendly. Juggles flaming machetes. Lived in Mexico City for a while in the higher wealth bracket from juggling said machetes. Intelligent and eloquent, would not stop talking about the oil spill in the Gulf.

Teresa: 3rd generation of travelling women. Lives out of a backpack. Defenses thick, out of necessity. Jeweler.

Crispy: Hippie. On the road for fifteen years. Rainbow gatherer. Lost somewhere between here and there.

A fridge full of dumpstered food and a nice cozy couch. I slept well and gratefully.

The next day was another hike, with another couchsurfer named Maggie. Jim went with me. We hiked the Diablo Canyon. It was hot, sandy, but quite nice. Beautiful, scenic, epic.

The evening brought me to another couchsurfing house, Marie and her roommate Winter. There was a constant energy permeating this house, and my time there. So full of life… and yet only a few details really lingered.

Another couchsurfer, Ish, was travelling through at the same time. We toured the city together and that was nice and all, but learning about each other and sharing stories proved to be ultimately illuminating. There were times where each of us was pushed to misty tears, but not sadness. A welling up. I cannot describe it with proper grace. Not an emotion, not an absolute, not “just right”, but a place in time. A distinct place in time. Something happened. That is all I can say about the matter. Ish has a deep connection with language, so I will let him speak.

Ish was reading On the Road again while travelling.

“The words are like fireworks in my head when I read them.”

He had been travelling for three months, from South America to North, and was trying to hitch to Detroit but was having a difficult time. His goal? To do everything he ever wants to do before he starts med school in the fall.

My last night in Santa Fe was incredible. There was a gathering at the house of five couchsurfers, the two roommates, and two of their friends. Songs were sung and jokes shared. Sometimes we would break through to each other, and sometimes I would be shaken by a kind of strangeness, an unfamiliarity. I would be helped back in by my peers.

We shared drinks on the rooftop in the thin chilly air.

I enjoyed Santa Fe. However, that particular city is not for me.

I left around noon the next day, saying goodbye to Ish.

“I’m sure we’ll see each other again,” I said.

And onward. Into the wind. Again.

I must tell you, I am not eager to repeat that day going to Santa Rosa. Heading to Albuquerque put me in the same type of wind. I booked it. I hustled and groaned. I got 20 miles and hopped on a train. Only thirty to go, but I wouldn’t make it by night. Oh, well. I tried.

New Mexico just recently installed a wonderful train connecting the two major cities. I got on about halfway between. I love train rides. Before I boarded, I took some time to play photographer around the area.

If you will recall, I met Jane Mahoney, a journalist from Albuquerque, at the T4 ranch, or as her daughter calls it: “the cowboy ball.” I called Jane on the train and she invited me out to dinner with her husband, and said her daughter had space in her house for me to stay. She thought we would get along.

Dinner was in an amazing restaurant, with authentic New Mexican cuisine in the “Old Town” area of Albuquerque. I immediately fell in love with this city. It is unpretentious. It is poor and dirty. It has flashes of amazing color, and amazing sunsets and a beautiful mountain on its rim.

I went along with Megan, driving her gunmetal-grey old-school beetle, out to a bar with her friend Sai. A little conversation and I felt at home.

Megan lives with her friend Adam, and they are currently renovating a 100-year-old adobe house. When Adam first bought the house it had dirt floors and cracks in the walls. And only two lights worked. The place looks amazing now.

Megan loves what she does, and she brought me along.

My god, I am having so much fun here.

She has been working with bees for a decade, from lab research to the bee removals she does now. Her and her partner, Mark, have been taking me around the city for the last two days picking up swarms and setting traps. I have wanted to learn about apiculture ever since I made peace with bees working the farm in Greece. They are amazing creatures, and I have even more awe for them now.

The first project was at a suburban house. They had set up a trap weeks before, but the wind blew it “god knows where.” Turns out it was on the roof.

They re-set the trap and weighed it down.

The next stop was on someone’s rear balcony, just a checkup really.

I tried some of the honey from the hive.

Yep. Absolutely love it here.

Then there was a swarm at an apartment complex. Well, an apparent swarm. They had set a trap a few weeks before, but the bees had not moved in to the set hive, and were congregating en masse on an area near where the old hive was blocked. They had been living in the wall. It was a difficult move and we would go back the next day.

Adam planned a barbecue for the night and we were on our way back to the house when I heard from Ish. He couldn’t get a ride out of Santa Fe and was in Albuquerque, by the same train I had taken. He sounded defeated.  A friend of Megan’s offered to have Ish for the night, and we went to pick him up from the station. So I got to see him again, and the night was amazing.

Adam made homemade barbecue sauce: apricots, plums, tomatoes, sugar and vinegar. Brushed on a rack of ribs? Ooh. We ate dinner on his from-scratch kitchen table, shared a few drinks and then he set about painting the floor of one of the rooms in the house. He never stops, really.

Adam was in a fit of laughter when he pulled out the BB guns. “Good, harmless fun.”

I love it here. Oh I do.

Day two, Albuquerque. We went back to the apartment complex, the one with the bees, and they brought the “bee vacuum.”

Megan vacuumed up about ten pounds of bees, brought them back to her house, and set them up in a new home.

Later that day she got a “swarm call.” A family found a bowling-ball-sized lump of bees in their apricot tree. To get them out? Shake the tree. Sure, it requires technique, tools and finesse, but it is essentially that simple.

I’m sitting now at Jane’s house, and the peacocks are being irritating and the wind is blowing and I don’t think I can write anymore.I would like to go on about bees, but it is 4 in the afternoon and I have to live a little today. There is so much to talk about and to write and to do and I wish I could put it all down here. But then you would spend your life reading it and that’s no good. Go fly a kite.

In honor of Ish, and because it is a permeating and clear theme for me in the last week I will quote from Kerouac’s On the Road. As if you haven’t read it a million times before.

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing but burn, burn, burn like fabulous roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!”

Ish, you are indomitable sir.

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2 Responses to “How come there’s peacocks in the front yard?”

  1. It was inspiring to meet you. Good fortune on the rest of your journey. Albuquerque is a beautiful place.

    • andrew said

      Likewise Jared, you’ve got something great brewing with those old folks… I hope Texas is treating you right.

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