A Decade Ago

Two weeks into the New Year may be a bit late, but I’m inclined to reminisce about life as I knew it a decade ago. I feel like, you know, doing some spontaneous memoir-izing.  Indulge a few fond ‘memoiries,’ if you will.  Let’s look back on when I was still the Grandfatherly Gay Character around Santa Fe, 2005-2006, sole proprietor and employee of Babylon Gardens Salvage Nursery.  Oddly, of my two previous careers, it was the most wonderful and fulfilling.

Though I’d supposedly “retired” on early Social Security in 2004 from a long career of arts administration, I‘d kept on working half-time in local nonprofit organizations (including education, health care, and philanthropy), for minimal compensation, of course. For some years I’d been happily working on grants and technical assistance programs with the Santa Fe Community Foundation and then in April 2006 decided to move over to manage a new state-wide organization of nonprofits called NGO-NM.  The sad finale to my illustrious administrative career was having to close that worthy effort down at the end of the year.  I still have the incised plastic door-plaque somewhere.

My 2005-6 season (speaking both academically and organizationally) started quite dramatically in August with Hurricane Katrina. Residing in Metairie, my elderly mother (87) lived through it, sheltering at Bonabelle High School.  Of course, that’s a remarkable story in itself.  When she finally made it here to New Mexico—on her own! —to stay with me, I convinced her to write about the historic event for her descendants.  Soon I should type it up and post it for them and you.

In late November 2005 when at least Metairie was back to functioning again, I drove Mother home. Miraculously her home was essentially undamaged, no flooding at all as it stands atop a vestigial ridge between Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi.  A few blocks north or south had been six feet under water.  Personally, I’m inclined to attribute her good fortune to a Kwan Yin I’d given her.  Compassionately, the female Buddha still stood on a console directly across from a thin aluminum picture window to the southeast, having apparently peacefully faced down Katrina, the monster storm of the new century.  Meanwhile the big maple at that corner of the house had snapped off about four feet above the ground and merely fallen on the yard.

As if I weren’t being creative enough with the organization work, soon as I got back to Santa Fe for the holidays with my local family (grandson then just over three), I went back to work on my weird linguistic hobby of some 40 years, a structural definition of the innocuous English verb ‘get.’ By the time I started with NGO-NM, it was ready to publish with http://www.AuthorHouse.com, then under a different name, entitled “Getting Get, the Glossary of a Wild Verb,” which came online in November.  Sometimes since, I’ve humbly suggested to forbearing friends that this absurd little pamphlet could well be my work of genius.  If only anyone but I were eccentric enough to see its simple profundity.


GETTING GET is posted on this website for free download.

Just right click here and do it.

You probably already know, however, that Santa Fe’s notorious for poor folks having to work multiple jobs to get by. Accordingly, besides organizing stuff and defining the wild verb, I spent a miraculous third half of my time as the famous Used Plant Man at the Santa Fe Farmers Market.  In honor of my signature product, in the summers I turned into the infamous Iris Man.

Every Saturday morning, and Tuesdays in summers, I peddled previously-nurtured, restored, or recycled house plants. Not mention that in my spare time I did what I cleverly and artistically called ‘land-shaping,’ which involved terracing, rock walls, and laying flagstone patios.  In other words, I played around digging in various folks’ yards, gardens, and sandboxes.

2005 in the greenhole

2005 in the greenhole

2005 in my booth

2005 in my booth

That greenhouse was of my own design and construction. I called it my ‘greenhole,’ literally a hole I dug six feet deep and slapped a plastic roof over it .

The Greenhole

The Greenhole

The only other infrastructure for the business were folding tables, a portable pop-up tent with the proud banner of Babylon Gardens,

2006 booth at Farmers Market

2006 booth at Farmers Market

And the gallant Grover (the Grey, like Gandalf), a 1970 Chevy C-10 pickup. Grover hauled load after load of plants and paraphernalia through so many pre-dawns and then stood nearby for thousands of touristic snapshots of a typical Santa Fe scene.

Grover the Grey

Grover the Grey

As if doing meaningful work for society, publishing a fantastic book, and selling spectacular plants weren’t enough, in June, 2006 I came out as an artist in an art show for the Santa Fe Gay Pride celebration. I’d earned the gay category 45 years earlier, also in June.  I showed three pieces:  the assemblage shrine Bull of the Sun, the carved sandstone Venus, and my very first piece of digital art, the cover for my novel “Gymnopedie.”


“Gymnopedie” the novel has been withdrawn from publication and

rewritten as a backwoods novella called “Bat in a Whirlwind,”

available for free download by right-clicking here.

2006 publicity with baby jade

2006 publicity with baby jade

While we’re at it, I want to share with you a picture of one of my favorite plants in the greenhole. Soon I really should do a post with more stuff on the wondrous plants I had in there.  This one has an outrageous Latin name I loved reciting to folks:  pachyphytum oviferum amethystinum (fat-leafed, egg-shaped, amethyst).  Here it is in bloom in 2005.

Pachyphytum Oviferum Amethystinum

Pachyphytum Oviferum Amethystinum

The Farmers Market always went outdoors somewhere in late April around my birthday, and in both the 2005 and 2006 seasons that was on the wide-open corner of Guadalupe and Cerrillos skirting the railroad tracks behind SITE Santa Fe. In my humble used plant vendor opinion that point out there in view of two busy streets was the perfect, I mean the ideal, location for our wonderful community market.

In years past we’d simply popped up our tents, if we had one, further north along the tracks across Paseo de Peralta behind Santa Fe Clay. (And in years before my time, it had been in the parking lot of Sanbusco Center.)  Now almost all the vendors, including makeshift Babylon Gardens, flew a white canopy like a flag to be seen from all around.  We were truly a spectacle of folk life that made me proud.

As a matter of fact, it seemed a vindication of the pleasure a certain clueless kid once enjoyed in peddling peaches in a booth beside the highway. It was that splendid interaction with people around a subject you deeply love and the thrilling opportunity to share the work of your own hands with them.  Every day, even the slow ones, I loved the glory of hawking my beautiful plants, talking about them and how they like to be treated.  In a word, it was a trip.

Ironically, the fortuitous move from the hinterlands of the railyard up to this prime spot was caused by big city projects afoot for the neglected old railyard. I believe the powers that be moved the Market out where people could see it to get support for the new building they were preparing in those same hinterlands as an indoor place for us in the winters.

Among other opponents of that project, I felt the current arrangement, as I said before, was ideal. For the winter seasons, we’d been going indoors at El Museo Cultural, and vended there happily, even with poor lighting and no call for flashy tents.  It felt very folksy, local farmer cultural.

But the majority of vendors, or at least the power that were at the time, had their hearts set on a fancy market hall like in Boston or Seattle or wherever. This ambition caused a whole bunch of trouble, but don’t get me started.

(Can’t help it. For just a few repercussions.  Before the building was even done, the Trust for Public Land and other powers kicked the Market off that superb spot on the busy corner to make the new Railyard Park.  I suggested, clearly not vociferously enough, that they design that great space on the corner for a fancy open market plaza for us farmers and for other fairs on other days.  Irony Alert:  My sweet old vending space is now in a rotunda of rose gardens where few people care to walk.  Roses to be smelled and not sold.

Kicking us out made the Market wander for a couple summers around parking lots. The summer beside the DeVargas Center was a huge come-down, but in more levels of irony, our summer of 2008 in the almost ideal PERA lot was the most spectacular in the history of my unorthodox nursery.  To make matters worse for us gypsy farmers, for some reason we also lost the El Museo space and had to spend a winter in a grungy industrial place on Cerrillos Road.  Again the irony, it had once upon a time been a gay nightclub, the Cargo Club, I think it was called.  Or Club Luna?  I’d gone there only a few times to dance.)

At any rate, between Market days Grover and I would tootle all over town and even out to Espanola or Eldorado to grub freely in folks’ iris beds or do plant rescues or paid land-shaping jobs. It was a splendid gimmick, an ingenious concept if I say so myself.  I provided a free, much-appreciated community service and turned my (minimal) physical labor into totally free merchandise.  No overhead except gas for good old Grover.  Good job for an old guy.

Frequently folks gave me way more plants than I could ever hope to sell at the Market. Like 500 lb. of blue iris?  I’d just give them away.  Once I got a whole greenhouse collection from an estate and recycled (propagated) thousands of new plants to give away to garden clubs, school classes, and anybody I could foist them off on.  I always kept a FREE box at my booth, and folks checked it frequently for adoptions.  I joked that I was a “philplanthropist.”

Sometimes I’d simply show up at a business or office building, like that time at the Toney Anaya Building when I marched in and told the receptionist, “I’ve got a giant jade tree that wants to live in your lobby.” A couple times I simply arranged for gigantic plants to go to great spots like at the Capitol complex or other public spaces.  They had to do the hauling though.

A decade ago I was a plant freak in his element, and my only problem was believing what a happy old man I was. Even older now, I’m still a happy fellow—and I believe it.

BAT IN A WHIRLWIND, Chapter 15. Stomped-on Toad-frog

In this last chapter of the backwoods novella BAT IN A WHIRLWIND, Ben has a chance to say goodbye to everyone he knows and loves and then, excited about leaving for New Orleans in the morning, goes to bed on his nest of pine-straw in the back yard.

To read BAT IN A WHIRLWIND, Chapter 15.  STOMPED-ON TOAD-FROG, right click here and select “Open,” or to download as a free pdf file to read at your leisure whenever, select “Save Target (or Link) As.”  You can access the previous 14 chapters for reading or download from the chapter list on the book page.


Excerpt from Chapter 15. – Stomped-on Toad-frog

Maybe it was the moonlight, or the hard work of the day, but I had a long complicated dream—

It’s golden evening, and I go to the river.  Trees in straight rows, but they’re huge tall oaks that make me think Tudor.  The sunset turns amber, rays slanting through the columns.  Standing on the high bank, I say to myself, “It’s too late to swim.”  Below, there are jagged rocks in the bank.  A chorus of voices sings sweetly, “Here are the crawdad towers of shrimp-gulls, here the polyp tubes of ash-clay, and chandelier coral.”

Swift water in front of me, a wide river, and I follow its sinuous channel fast to the sea, which draws back, baring sand dunes and fields of sharp stones.  A rain of powdery shells falls and shatters to blue dust.  I don’t want to stay here, so I fly high, high overhead and away, across the land, a desert-crosser returning, outrunning the river.  Beneath blur rows of honey-green orchards to a blue lake.

Now I’m on the ground behind a big house among dark cedars.  A familiar voice, Danny’s, calls “Annie Over!”  We’re playing that stupid game.  Again I feel desperate to see him.  I run in the back door through an empty kitchen and down a hall past rooms of furniture draped with sheets.  And I know it’s our house, Danny’s and mine, the one he dreamed of.

I open the big front door to let Danny in, but he isn’t there.  So I step out onto the porch of that beautiful plantation house with white columns looking out over the lake.  Suddenly I see him running across the field, waving, and I find myself breathing hard as though I’ve just been running too.  Danny is beautiful in the golden evening, laughing.  I motion him in the door.

Evening sun streams through the windows, swirling around us.  In the parlor, the sheets are strangely gone from the furniture.  Little green turtles sit and crawl all over the sofa, chairs, and tables.  Danny stands in front of me, a blush on his smooth cheeks and a glitter in his eye.  Amber light burns like honey on his shoulders, and my own arm is also gilded.  But my skin grows dark, dark like molasses, like Zaya’s.  Danny’s arms encircle me, and there’s a blinding joy of flowing into one another.

And we slide down, down, like down a boat slide, down a mossy channel into the lake among the reed pools.  The water is thick and soft around us, the warm blood of the ancient living Earth.  Part of it, Danny and I, I and he, we drift slowly around among waving seaweed.  And I know that we, and everything else, are just cells in the body of the giant animal Earth.

Above, the sun glimmers down from a high shimmering circle on the surface, flashing through undulating sea-grasses.  Fish dart about, brightly colored, splashes on the green.  These are the glossons, the threrches, emerald black and leaf-brown birds, and we are they, in plumes and veils of rainbow-feathered fins, floating forever together and one.


Classical Music

I recently carried on about my love for Latin and Greek music, but that was in connection with dancing.  In connection with life, I love classical music.  However, as a teenager I was hooked on the early 45 rpm rock and roll—because I didn’t know any better.  Indeed, my aunt had sent me a big 78 rpm classical record with pretty music called Anitra’s Dance by a Grieg and some Hungarian dances by a Brahms, but for my taste in dancing, they weren’t quite Elvis.

When I got to Tulane in 1960, I totally lucked out to get a roommate named Roger, who was in the band and thus knew a lot about music.  From Roger I first heard about someone named Bach, and the record he played blew my mind.  Then he introduced me to Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, and the sound of my world was never the same again.  I immediately branched out on my own and discovered Vivaldi, Mozart, Saint Saens and a dozen other spectacular composers.

Many of the pieces I discovered way back then are still my favorites.  For example, Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto, the Emperor —I still prefer the performance I first heard over fifty years ago by Robert Casadesus.  Both that and the Saint Saens Symphony No. 3, the Organ have enormous emotional significance for me in connection with my first ever love.

All these many years I’ve kept on exploring classical music and composers and discovered so many treasures I couldn’t begin to list them in any priority order.  In general, if you name a composer I’ll have a favorite piece of his or her composition.  Or more than one.  My latest discovery several years ago was Luigi Boccherini.  His guitar quintets and cello concerti are sublime, for instance Quintet no. 9 in C Nightwatch in Madrid, or Quintet no. 1 in D minor , or hold on to your hats for no. 4 in D major Fandango.

I’ve always lamented not playing an instrument.  There was a false start in the fifth grade when I’d just been introduced to the piano keyboard and then we moved to the woods of Arkansas.  Ever since, I’ve had to make do with records, tapes, or cds and classical radio stations.  At home I live to classical music, and hundreds of compositions have become so familiar that often I can identify the piece from the first or second note.

Apropos radio stations, recently I’ve been so disgusted with the local classical station’s offensive commercials that I now listen online to all-music stations elsewhere—and to Pandora.  I enjoy it a lot because I’ve added stations for merengue and cumbia and can dance whenever I want to.

Speaking of familiarity with compositions, while driving, I’m known to sing along to favorites on the radio with la-la-la, dum-dum-de-doo, and such vocal antics (often with directorial gestures which may confuse or offend other drivers).  One evening last year I caught the tail end of the third Brandenburg Concerto and spontaneously whistled the last snatch of it right on key, like another instrument in the ensemble.  In my several earlier decades, whenever I’d tried to whistle, all I’d ever managed were vaguely obstreperous windy noises.  Imagine my surprise that I’d just made music with my mouth!

The next day on the same stretch of road, listening to a favorite Telemann trumpet voluntary, the Prince of Denmark’s March, the clarion notes of the trumpet made me give a little whistle.  The music grabbed something inside me, and I climbed right on that horn, the notes streaming from my lips without thought.   Part of me marveled at what my tongue was independently doing to change the notes.  The melody itself seemed to come without thought from somewhere in the back of my head.  I made it through most of it with short pauses for breath and at the end literally chortled in glee.

Meanwhile, it seems that without instrumental backup, I can’t whistle two notes of any tune together.  I guess my grandson’s right in calling me a karaoke whistler.  So what?  It’s how I can participate in my favorite music.  I just try not to do it when others can hear.


Another Masterpiece Last Supper

Roll over, Da Vinci!  Not to sound pretentious, but I’ve just discovered another masterwork of the Last Supper.  Apparently from the late 19th century, this one is probably the artistry of an anonymous nun in a Swiss convent, and it wasn’t painted on a wall but embroidered on a liturgical vestment.  Take a look at this baby:

Last Supper embroidery by Fraefel & Co.

Last Supper embroidery by Fraefel & Co.

The photo is high-resolution, so you can probably zoom in to see the incredible delicacy of the stitchery and execution of the figures.

Of course, it immediately begs comparison with Leonardo’s own masterwork.  I’m not sure what similarities there are beyond the groupings on either side of Jesus, with Mary Magdalene on his right.  Both works show “The Twelve” counting her, and the Judas figure clutches a bag (of silver pieces) in both, though less clearly in the painting.

The Disciples are presented as quite different physical types in the two artworks.  (Check out their incredible faces in those almost microscopic threads!)  You can’t really see eye color in the Da Vinci painting, but in the embroidery, most of the figures’ eyes are incongruously blue, and if not grey, in both works most of them have brown or russet hair.  Definitely a Eurocentric view of this crowd of ethnically Semitic types.

As well, the energies of the dinner groups are vastly different.  Da Vinci’s garrulous, talkative, argumentative apostles surround a resigned, pensive, very human Jesus is seated at a table covered with the remnants of the meal.  It is the eloquently human aftermath of the Communion, and just about time to go to the garden of Gethsemane.  The painting is a poignant personal moment in the passion of Jesus the man.

In the embroidery they cluster reverently around the table where a divine Jesus stands (in a glorious aura and halo) to bless their Communion of bread and wine.  This is the sacramental moment when Jesus the god says, “Take this and eat—this is my body.”  This is why I’d really rather call this artwork the New Covenant.

How does all that sound from a life-long fanatical agnostic?  Actually, whether you hold by it or not, you’ve got to respect a big honking myth that’s hung on for many thousands of years.  The myth of the dying and resurrecting god has been, if you will, resurrected several times in as many parts of the world since mankind began.  Often the divine deaths have been much more gruesome than a straight-forward crucifixion.  And at least one goddess came back:  Inanna/Ishtar/Astarte.

In my humble opinion, it’s human nature to try to explain the inexplicable, to embody the ineluctable, to describe the indescribable, to understand the incomprehensible, and to delimit the infinite—by creating myths.  Okay then, if you want to split hairs—by creating religions.

Often beautiful and inspiring (like the present masterpiece of embroidery), these imaginings or faiths, if you prefer, have provided the fabric of all human civilizations, guidance for people to live with one another (or not), answers for life’s unanswerable questions, a focus for spiritual growth and fulfilment, and a sense of the individual’s place (insignificant though it may be) in the cosmos.  You’ve got to give them that.  But please, we must also weigh those blessings against the immeasurable oppression, death, and destruction that reputedly enlightened faiths still cause in the name of merciful, loving deities.  Is that a fair trade?  But then life, like trade, isn’t always fair.

In any case, for purposes of encompassing the divinity, I agnostically think that any faith you care to concoct will be no more effective than spitting in the sea.




The Progenitor

I’ve already written about gratitude being a great attitude.  Well, chief among the blessings for which I am immensely grateful is the incongruous fact that this old gay man is a progenitor.  I’m now something of a patriarch—please, eldest member—of a direct family line.

How that odd situation came about is another story which I’m putting into a memoir, but I now have two lovely daughters, and despite an amicable divorce now 45 years ago, the family is still hanging together, my former wife included.

Maybe I’d better say me included, because the extended family is all hers, and all these years I’ve simply been part of it as first husband and father of two of her children.  Her son by second (and also temporary) husband I’ve always considered to be my stepson, albeit ex post facto.  To my girls I’m Daddy, and to the in- and out-laws, nieces, nephews, etc. (Uncle) Richie.

Though we’ve mostly lived in separate cities, I frequently visited the girls where they grew up in Gainesville FL and very much enjoyed watching them do it.  Over the years the whole family sometimes visited me as well, and the teenaged girls and I once did a two-week camping trip across southern Ohio in search of Indian mounds that eventually led to a book.

Richard Balthazar with older daughter, 1974

Richard Balthazar with older daughter, 1974


Richard Balthazar with younger daughter, 1979

Richard Balthazar with younger daughter, 1979

In yet another layer of blessing, my first and only wife and I are now for all intents and purposes the proud grandparents of four grandsons and two granddaughters.  My, how we do propagate.  Not to mention a new generation of cousins.  Generation—we’re now the third generation!  If the girls hadn’t waited so long to procreate, we could easily be the fourth right now.  Gadzooks!

I regret not having photos of the granddaughters or the Atlanta grandsons, but here’s a more or less  recent shot of my Santa Fe grandson Jammes, now 12.

The Santa Fe grandson

The Santa Fe grandson

My younger daughter moved out here to Santa Fe around 1990, arriving with her boyfriend, whom I liked from the start.  Understandably they’ve been central in my life ever since.  Though they didn’t marry till several years later, he always found it amusing to have a gay father-in-law.  I always tried to be present and available for them without getting in the way.

Also from the start (since we have the same name), my son-in-law started calling me Pappou [pop-poo] having no idea that it was like the Greek for ‘grandfather’ (παππούς).  It surprises ethnic Greeks to hear the grandkids call me that.  Thus my lurid past in the Gin Mill manifests itself anew in this distant present.  Σ ‘αγαπώ, αγάπη μου!

My Santa Fe family expanded twelve years ago with the arrival of our youngest grandson, only a few weeks younger than the twins in Atlanta.  After he was born, I became basically a daily visitor and have since shared in the vicissitudes of his babyhood, toddler-hood, kid-hood, and now pre-adolescent-hood.  It’s been, as we used to say back in the sixties, a trip.  It’s regrettable that living so far away, I’ve not been able to share like this in the lives of my other grandsons.  On the other hand, maybe that has saved what’s left of my sanity.

Pre-Roman Pot from Dacia

Fortunately, I warned you this blog would be about the miscellany cluttering up my mind.  Some of my more dramatic miscellany is a collection of four little items with (possibly) deep historical significance.  This is for the record, so somebody knows what they are when I kick off:

1)  A seashell.  I don’t know the type, but it’s one of those elongated snail types, the kind I’ve seen as pendants on “mound builder” images  with a lengthened bottom and belled top.  I will boldly admit that I stole it from the pre-Columbian shell-heap called Turtle Mound on Florida’s Atlantic coast.  About 40 years ago—so maybe past the statute of limitations?  The point being that this modest little seashell is at least 500 years old.

2) A Roman coin.  I found it in 1967 in the recently turned dirt in the yard of our new little townhouse in Ann Arbor MI.  I’ve since read that such anomalous Roman coins have turned up all over the Americas and in particular at several sites across the Midwest.  I’ve never had it studied to find out which Emperor is shown on it, but obviously it must date before the fall of Rome.  So maybe 1700 or 1800 years old?

3) A fragment of a tiny (about 2 in.) white porcelain figurine, a sexless torso with head and extremities broken off.  I found it in 1984 on the wild slope of a small hill near La Cienega, New Mexico, which hill I’ve since learned sports ancient stone-works on its summit.  That fact alone is intriguing as the historically known early inhabitants of this locale didn’t generally build in stone, but in adobe.  Also, the artifact shares nothing stylistic with local traditions.  Instead, it has a realistic, even classical perfection of form.  I’ve tried to find some “expert” archaeologist to take a look at it but haven’t been successful.  Delusional as it sounds, when I hold it in my hand, it whispers, “I’m thousands of years old.”

4)  A Pre-Roman pot from Dacia.  I have that provenance on authority of the guy who gave it to me, also about 40 years ago.  And here’s the story.  Back then when I had a big Victorian house in DC near Logan Circle, various guys rented rooms, and there were frequent, assorted house guests.  One guest for some weeks was a Czech filmmaker from Prague named Jaroslav (who reminded me of Gerard Depardieu).  When he was nabbed for selling dope on 14th Street, it came out that Jaroslav had smuggled in several items supposedly stolen from museums back home in Czechoslovakia.  He’d managed to sell off all but one, the pre-Roman pot from Dacia, and by default that became my hostess gift.  Make that maybe 2500 years old.

The pot is about seven or eight inches tall, in remarkably good shape, exactly like I got it 40 years ago, with a noticeable but not dangerous crack down from the lip on one side.  I think these details are quite visible in the photos below.

Pre-Roman Pot from Dacia

Pre-Roman Pot from Dacia

What I would like to find is a collector or museum, (maybe even the original museum?) to take this little treasure and give it the visibility, respect, and preservation that it deserves.  For goodness sake, contact me.

at msn.com

at msn.com

Fitness Secrets

I must admit I’m a moderately serious physical fitness freak.  You’ve already heard here about my constant dancing, and I can also report a couple ecstatic decades of running.  Now for the past thirty-some years since the knees gave out, I’ve gone almost daily to the Santa Fe Spa, the one looking out at the vast and expanding National Cemetery where ranks of white tombstones are a morbid motivator for keeping fit.  Truth be told, I religiously take a sauna every day, but I’ve been known to cut myself some serious slack on the workout schedule.

In the sauna I generally stand close to the stove and ‘rotisserate.’  Casually nude, I’m distinguished by my white mustache and what I call my ‘cockadoodle.’  It’s a short steel stud through the little loop (called a phrenem) just below my glans penis, a curious aftermath of circumcision.  (Think about that for a minute.)  A vain old man, I’ve felt that this, my sole adornment (no rings or jewelry at all), is an eloquent secret understatement in this age of tattoos and piercings.  Remind me to do rant about body decoration sometime.

Recently I’ve been virtuous about a daily half-hour on the treadmill, same time on the machines, and likewise in the sauna.  I don’t think it’s unrealistic to credit this physical regimen for a large part of my excellent health.  It has held me at around 160 pounds, and (I hope) kept my pecs, abs, and glutes from sagging.  At 5’ 9+” now, I’ve lost an inch and a half since my prime.

At least as good for my physical well-being, I’m sure, has been my unprocessed diet, heavy on vegetables, salad, and chocolate, which helps maintain a positive outlook.  The only alcohol I bother with is a glass of cheap red wine at dinner (on doctor’s orders).  Beyond nuts and berries, I also swear by a remarkable item which I’ve been consuming it daily for about twenty years; it costs virtually nothing except time for easy preparation; and it tastes good.

Enough with the riddles.  I’m referring to a tea-based drink called Kombucha, which has gained a certain chic in the health-food industry.  I’ve never tried their expensive bottled stuff, doubting it could be as good as my home-brew.  The sparkling taste I compare to a slightly “hard” cider.  To prepare it, you float a slab of yeasts, enzymes, fungi, and who knows whatever (often called a “Manchurian mushroom”) on a vat of sweetened tea for 10-12 days.  That’s it.

I started the symbiosis with my mushroom (Some folks name theirs!), at the ripe age of 52, shortly after my mustache and beard had turned white.  The graying of my head hair apparently stopped in its tracks, still only touching the lower sideburns.  For many years I’d suffered from a testy digestive tract with almost constant heartburn, and that disappeared immediately.  Almost as quickly my energy level ramped up some notches from the middle-aged lethargy I’d been experiencing before, and the energy has maintained now into my seventies.

I won’t claim that this tonic is some miraculous elixir.  But it sure does seem like my aging process sort of stopped, or at least slowed way, way down when I took Kombucha into my life.  Everybody, and I myself not the least, is surprised that I don’t look like the old coot that I really am.  I’m properly grateful to Providence for this blessing, but I could use a nicer nose and fewer hairs in the ears.  And I’m thinking about shopping for a fancier cockadoodle.



[Thanks for and to several compliments on my website (notably chock full of interesting stuff) and my first blog posting about dancing, I think I’m ready to get regular about this thing.  While in my youth I used to have trouble prioritizing inspirations, as I got older it got to be more of a yes or no question.  Now at my venerable age, I’ve got to balance the time and attention I give to several weighty priorities.

My multi-tasking isn’t doing several things at once, but rather synchronously.  I seem to turn focus like a searchlight from one obsession to another, largely by sheer will-power—and calendar-power.  If I’m going to blog, by golly, it better be on the calendar.  So, for the moment, I’m going to mark Thursdays for new postings.  Keep checking in on me!]


Regarding nightlife and dancing in Santa Fe NM, as I mentioned before, for the past few years the Rouge Cat had been Santa Fe’s more or less gay dance bar.  To my horror, without any fanfare or folderol, soon after my first posting it closed.  In fond memoriam of the Rouge Cat, here’s a cursory history of my dancing venues here in Santa Fe.

On visits in the late 70’s, I’d go to the Senate Lounge, a venerable bar just around the corner from the bus station.  It was my first experience of a “mixed” bar.  By the time I moved to Santa Fe for real in 1983, the Senate was gone, and being in a relationship, I didn’t go out very much.  Still, there were a few dance occasions at a great place called Club West on Alameda and another called El Paseo on San Francisco Street.  Then came the Cargo Club followed by Club Luna on Cerrrillos (or the other way around?).  After that my partnered years became a blur, and by the early 90’s I didn’t know from night spots.

Once single again in those early 90’s, I danced at the Club 414 on Old Santa Fe Trail, where I first encountered Oona’s disco wildness.  I found myself dancing on a table, starting a tradition of six or seven tables along one wall as go-go boy stands. Within a year or so the action moved to the Drama Club on Guadalupe Street, with a stage where we danced like wild people and had great holiday parties for hot, shirtless frenzies.  It reigned for a few years, only to be replaced by the same owners’ Paramount, a glitzy space on the corner of Montezuma and Sandoval.  That was a glorious institution for several years hosting Oona’s regular Wednesday Trash Disco, and life was exceedingly good.  But it closed; they tore it down, dug an enormous hole, and built the new Santa Fe County Courthouse.  Sic transit gloria.

With the passing of the Paramount, there was a drought for some time (years?) until Oona started dance nights at the lounge at Rainbow Vision, a gay retirement community, now called something less vivid.  There was a little stage where I shook my beauty with vigor and sweaty abandon.  Then the entrepreneurial Paramount owner opened the Rouge Cat, and the dance scene got a new lease on life.  For about four years.

Since my first posting, dancing this year was really difficult, with an occasional youth party at Molly’s Kitchen with electronic dance music (EDM, which I’m trying to appreciate) or a couple hugely appreciated Trash Disco nights at the Palace Restaurant.  That is, up till a month or so ago when there was a revolution in Santa Fe’s nightlife.  Maybe it had something to do with the election of Javier Gonzales as the city’s new mayor?

Suddenly music events started happening all over the place on the weekend nights, and walking around the (old) downtown almost reminded me of the (old) French Quarter.  What’s more, wonder of wonders, two new dance bars have opened!  First the Skylight on San Francisco, a huge place with a gallery overlooking the dance floor, and then the Blue Rooster, a reincarnation of the Rouge Cat, now as a self-proclaimed gay bar, with the familiar dance floor downstairs and Oona presiding on Saturday nights.

You’d think I’d be in hog heaven, but last weekend it was cold out and I wasn’t really feeling like driving downtown.  Instead, I realized that with that great Pandora online music system it was no problem.  I pulled up a “cumbia colombiana” station and danced shirtless and in slippers in my living room for a good hour and a half.  Dancing with eyes closed, I peeled away a half century and was once again in the mad third room of La Casa de los Marinos.  Maybe tonight I’ll pull up Greek and visit the Gin Mill, but on Saturday I’ll be at the Blue Rooster.  Promise.