Tag Archives: Santa Fe

Beauty Brought On the Backs of Southern Brothers

DSCN0286 (2)I used to work in landscaping. Somewhere within my Scandinavian DNA I knew a skill to artfully construct with rock existed, but I chose to stay far away from hoisting heavy rocks – that was hard work. Deadheading flowers was more my forte. I owned up to that, while understanding the real artists in the dry rock trade were hardworking crews comprised mostly of Mexicans.

That was my perspective as a landscape worker in Santa Fe. As I helped beautify countless homes and businesses, I acknowledged the foundation many of these structures had been built upon was rock, and that the identity they all shared was the beautiful and deliberate integration of rockwork into them.

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The workers who labored on those projects have left, their work done, paychecks cashed – many mailed back to Mexico where their families reside – but not before these craftsmen turned thousands of scrambled rocks, many uplifted from the site grounds, into beautiful creations. Rock structures can represent the unique quality of the local area, breaths of fresh air within the imitation and compressed building material world we live in.

DSCN0296A rock worker sees within each stone and boulder its potential to fit within the larger picture of a pathway, wall, patio, step system, etc. Houses and buildings may one day crumble, but the carefully arranged rock constructions remain. I take a moment to salute our southern brothers, the quiet, steadfast artists – many long gone – whose sweat it took to make such enduring assemblies.

Spring is on its way, and rock crews are already out. As I drive around our beautiful city today, I marvel at what’s been painstakingly created in rock through the gifted hands and strong backs of our stone worker brethren.

Not many could handle this kind of labor, working in the elements ten months a year. It’s one thing to do it; another to do it so well. Thanks. Gracias. Bien hecho.


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As Thrift is Joy, the Store is Home

miniature ceramic houses 004Joyful one minute, sad the next, I drive out of the thrift store parking lot a final time. After all these months, what have I learned working as a sales associate here?

While navigating my ride home, I reminisce.

At the store’s back doors, I go through countless articles people have just donated. Immense amount of junk, I think, even for when it was new! Get a load of this crappy little ceramic house. And what about that – the world’s ugliest candlestick holder? And now a plastic cutting board with a zillion cuts in it. No wonder they got rid of these things. Hey – don’t be so judgmental. Your job is to sort the donations, not roll your eyes. Just chalk it up to a “beauty’s in the eye of the beholder” kind of thing.

But then, many of the donors turn right around, enter the front of the store, and buy more stuff. What am I supposed to think? Stuff, stuff, stuff. Buy, buy, buy. There’s nothing wrong with buying, per se, it’s just that I’ve noticed how much people play such a value on consuming, far more than I realized before I started working here.

While cashiering, I basically serve two groups of regulars. The first are dealers here in Santa Fe, buying bargains for their own thrift stores or online outlets. The other group, a far larger one, is women over sixty. They love to shop. And shop. And shop. God love ’em – they make the store go round.

Then there are all the other sub-groups of shoppers. One such group is the needy, people who can’t afford to shop anywhere but a thrift store, especially for clothes. Another group consists of the noticeably ill, disabled, or those challenged in some way, perhaps so strapped by health care costs that thrift stores like this are their only opportunity to buy clothes, furniture and whatnot. And another group – I’ve finally deduced – are here for something quite personal: the comfort they receive from the thrift store experience. Maybe they like the people who work here – regular faces and fixtures in their lives. Maybe they’re lonely. Or maybe it’s as simple as understanding a day just doesn’t feel centered without a visit to the thrift store, a little home away from home.

A thrift store, however, is made up of a wide collection of individuals, many who carry an unfortunate situation around with them. I’ve seen customers walk up to the counter and pay with change, the only currency they have. I’ve consoled donors who’ve broken down at the back door, unable to watch me unload from the car a lifetime of personal items that belonged to their just-departed spouse. I’ve picked up furniture from people who’ve just lost their job.

I’ve watched our manager ask shoplifters to leave the store. I’ve caught people ripping price tags off items hoping to get a better price at the checkout stand. I’ve dealt with hagglers who, with every visit to the store, want to wiggle the price down. Are these people con artist types, or just desperate and down on their luck?

Add to these folks the customers who wait by the front door ten minutes before we open, staring at me through the large glass windows, hoping I might open early for them. There’s those who walk in two minutes before closing, then linger ten minutes before heading to the checkout stand. And there’s those who donate large bags of goods, knowing inside that big black sack is also a lot of trash they’re happy to get off their hands.

To my surprise, many customers speak with thick, foreign accents – not just Spanish – making it crucial we take the time to help them understand the money transaction they’re about to make. There’s the time it takes us to finally understand certain customers really aren’t a threat to the store, only that they want to spend most of the day here to shop, relax and intermittently lie on a couch to read while occasionally nibbling on a snack. And there’s always the time we take to listen to customers talk about how much they know about gold, silver and jewelry – but don’t.

But what customers share most in their thrift shop experience is joy. Yes, joy. When people find what they want, they often bring it to the counter like a kid who’s just opened the Cracker Jack box to find the best prize ever inside. I sense many customers see this store as a house of healing, another home for them within our beautiful city, one that can be humbling to live in. And I am humbled by the joyous smiles I see at the counter, especially from those who’ve fallen on hard times.


In hindsight, I realize being part of these little customer joys was the perk to help me and other sales associates get through long days. Every day was long. Perhaps sorting through thousands of donations made us feel tired (imagine opening up your own garage doors to accept all the neighborhood’s yard sale items that didn’t sell over the weekend). Perhaps cashiering all day did it. Or, maybe it was just trying to make every customer a little happier than when they first shuffled in through the doors.

Anything to see joy.

Anything to  have a job.

Anything to live in Santa Fe.


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Aquarius Astrology and Horoscope in Retrograde

Aquarius signs 002I’ve never used astrology. I’ve never read horoscopes. If it hadn’t been for the Fifth Dimension’s big hit “Age of Aquarius,” I wouldn’t know I was in the age of anything.

However, curious about all the horoscope hoopla, I pick up a local newspaper to check out what people of my sign – Aquarians – should do today.

I’m immediately cautious. The horoscope section in The Santa Fe New Mexican is sandwiched between “Annie’s Mailbox” advice column and “Hocus Focus” puzzles. However, my horoscope for today says Aquarians are going to have a “dynamic experience,” according to astrologer Jacqueline Bigar.

“Recognize that you can’t do more than is possible. You need to take better care of yourself. Make it OK to be a couch potato for now. Tonight: Don’t feel as though you have to go anywhere.”

Not exactly a dynamic outlook, this advice may nevertheless be spot on. Maybe I do need to slow down a little. On the other hand, I wonder what other horoscopes have to say. I get comfy of the couch, go online and check out Newsday.

“It’s the ideal day for getting involved in some negotiations because you’ll be able to play your hand without giving away too many of your tactics or motives.”

I don’t get it. How can one horoscope say, “Be a couch potato,” and another, “It’s the perfect day for getting involved.” Get involved from the couch? How?

I check out what famous astrologer Linda C. Black has to say.

“Dare to speak words of romance and passion right out loud.”

Again, am I supposed to do this from the couch, in my living room, a place where the echo is real bad?

“Declare your heart to someone important,” Ms. Black continues. “Share a bold decision. Write poetry or prose. Send off a message in a bottle.”

To me, this sounds like, “Read poetry and drink heavily tonight, then go online for love.” Geez – I could have written that (and have followed similar advice several times before and got nowhere).

The New York Post horoscope says, “Chances are you want to relax and not take life too seriously this week.”

“This week” – does that mean I take the whole week off from work? Stay on the couch for seven entire days? I need more guidance than this.

The Albuquerque Journal suggests, “You might pull back in your personal life and create some space until you figure things out.”

Figure what out? Do I have a big problem I’m not aware of?

The Journal goes on to say, “Check the ristra.”

What? Do they mean the dried chili pods hanging by my front door? Does my ristra needs replacing? And is that what I’m supposed to “figure out?” Maybe The Journal’s horoscope is too local for such a big Aquarian as me.

I try The New York Daily News.

“Love: You want strong connections, but also need independence. Career: Opportunities for work and money can open up.”

Open up how? I thought I was supposed to be at home this week, on the couch, taking it easy, writing poetry and drinking a lot while looking online for love. Every horoscope for Aquarians today is different. Does the kind of day astrologers predict I’ll have simply depend on which newspaper I happen to read? Which astrologer I think is prettier?

I scan The Albuquerque Journal horoscope one last time when I notice something at the bottom of the page.

“If you don’t like your horoscope click here to change your luck with the stars. These horoscopes are for your entertainment only. They are generated randomly by computer.”

What? You mean I could’ve lost a week of pay because I listened to a computer generated horoscope? I can just see my horoscope for tomorrow: “Pay scale goes into retrograde; love life disappears into black hole; Mars has last laugh.”

The heck with it. I’m going Capricorn from now on. Or Pisces. Or Scorpio – that’s a cool-sounding name.  I don’t care what day I was born on. Aquarians are all wet. Supposed trailblazers of the zodiac, we’re terminally stuck spinning around in orbit as lame Water Bearers, singing hysterically for someone to please let the sunshine in.

I pick up The Santa Fe Reporter. Finally, someone’s got it right – their horoscope is on the next to last page.


All horoscopes were taken from cited newspapers and astrologers on February 22, 2015.


NM road sign, crocus, 007




(The God Aquarius slipping on wet floor.)


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Election Fever

TV political ads 004I adopted an alien son last week. He looks like us, talks like us, but has slightly protruding ears and blueish pallor to his skin. He’s amazingly bright, already knows our language and is a voracious reader. Unfortunately, he’s a fish out of water on Earth, in America, and particularly here in Santa Fe.

From just one week driving around town and watching TV at home with me, he’s observed a lot and rattles off questions like there’s no tomorrow left in our universe. At first, I wondered why all the questions, but realized – unlike me, an eighteen year citizen of Santa Fe – he is still seeing things for the very first time.

As we drove down St. Francis Drive yesterday, he asked, “What are all those signs sticking out of the ground over there?”

“Pictures of people running for political office in our upcoming elections.”

“Oh,” he said. “I have noticed some of these people are very attractive by Earth standards.”

“Well, yes, and sadly, some people vote solely on that criteria.”


“I suppose it’s because voters don’t know anything more about the candidates.”

“How could they not? I have seen 129 ads for political candidates on TV this week.”

“Right, but candidates don’t talk about themselves or the issues they stand for because they’d rather show how the other candidates have screwed up, whether they have or not.”

“Why do people believe these ads then?”

“I don’t really know.”

“When do we hear about what the candidates do stand for?”

“Sometimes in debates and sometimes in the newspapers.”

“Do people here read these newspapers?”

“Not so much.”

“Do they watch the TV?”

“Oh, yes. A lot.”

“Then people must know a tremendous amount about the candidates.”

“No, they don’t.”

“Even with the debates?”

“Well, there’s usually only a few of them, if that.”

“Then how do voters get to know the candidates and the issues, from these signs and all the political TV ads? I ask because New Mexico political candidates are spending 7.7 million on 177 hours of political ads for November’s Election Day.”

“How do you know that?”

“From these newspapers you speak of. I don’t understand who receives the 7.7 million dollars spent for TV and newspaper ads.”

“Advertising agencies mostly.”

“They must know a lot about the issues and what’s right for your planet. With all that money spent on campaigns, they must get a lot of people to vote.”

“No, because not everyone registers and only about half the voters get to the polls.”

“Then how are elections valid?”

“Look, that’s the way it works with elections and our two-party system.”

“You only have two parties, only two contrasting candidates?”

“Well, sometimes three, particularly if that third-party or voice has stumped for enough campaign contributions.”

“What would money have to do with it?”

“Oh ho-ho, let me tell you, without millions in fundraising, no one could win.”

“What is all this money spent on?”

“Advertising agencies, I suppose.”

“These advertising agencies seem very popular and powerful – smart, too. So, who makes these road signs of beautiful people?”

“Print shops, advertising agencies.”

My once stoic, alien son suddenly looked excited. He even rubbed his tiny hands together.

“Is anyone from an advertising agency running in these elections? I’d like to vote for him!”

“What? Even if you were old enough and an American citizen, you haven’t even heard the issues.”

“No one else has. I do not understand your logic.”


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