Ancestors, Level 1, My Parents

To explain: I’ve just enjoyed a new contact with a young man in Miami about my image of the Aztec deity Xochipilli, who appears (above) on the masthead of my webpages and blogs. As the god of homosexuals (and a whole lot more), the Prince of Flowers has long been my patron. Unfortunately, he sits down by the end of the alphabet (with the other x’s), and it’ll be a couple years till I get around to doing his icon for my coloring book YE GODS!

My new friend Walter identifies as a pagan and practitioner of the Unnamed Path, which sounds quite like mine, though I didn’t think to name my path. We’re both on the beautiful paths (as the Navajo would say, walking in beauty) for men who love men. You can find Walter on his splendid path at  Meanwhile, as a headline on his emails, he includes, “The ancestors are speaking. Are you listening?”

Struck by that profound question, I realized that for a long time that I’ve been dancing around the urge to blog about my ancestors. So far I haven’t written much about them, except in that biography: “Ms Yvonne, The Secret Life of My Mother.” I was too focused on my own terribly fascinating self to pay any attention to the sources of my miraculous being.

Understandably, in researching the biography, I learned a great deal about my parents, as well as about my roots in the generations before them. In that writing, I organized the boxes of old family photographs and in the process quickly became an expert photo-restorer. The art is very like painting, just as aesthetically fulfilling, and playing with pixels to reconstruct an ancestor’s face creates intense emotional connections with the subject, let me tell you. Suffice it to say, I now have plenty photo-paintings to illustrate blogs about several levels of my ancestry.

Naturally, we’ll start at level 1 with my parents, who were people I’d never really known before that research and restoration of their images. I was simply a kid, and they were folks who took care of me. There was no discussion of who they were then or in their pasts, and the oblivious child never even wondered, too busy wondering who I was.

My mother, Yvonne Marie Trinité, was born on January 18, 1919 in Baltimore, Maryland. I discovered that she was quite a fashionable young woman in the thirties who led a nicely sociable life with a number of boyfriends. When she was nineteen, in 1938, a beau took her boating on the Chesapeake and snapped a tiny shot of a virtual goddess of the sea. Retrieving it from a miniature print (1 sq. in) in a foggy blur, I’ve put it up on my refrigerator where I can thank her every morning for solving my life.

Yvonne by the sea, 1938

Meanwhile, over in Wisconsin my future father, Raymond John Balthazor, was born on January 30, 1916 in the village of Bear Creek, and the family soon moved to the big city of Fond du Lac. In school he came down with scarlet fever, an often fatal disease from which he recovered—but with a damaged heart. In 1939, after taking courses at a business college, Ray landed a job with Social Security in Baltimore and had a (retouched) portrait taken for the announcement in the Fond du Lac newspaper. He was a good-looking young man of twenty-three.

Ray, 1939

That’s why Ray and Yvonne met, but further details of their romance are unavailable. They were married on Wednesday, June 19, 1940, both dressed up in the high style of the period:

Wedding of Yvonne and Ray, 1940

True to form, kids came along, first me in 1942 and then my sister Judy in 1947. In 1952 the family moved to LaMarque, Texas for Daddy’s job as a tax accountant in a chemical plant. When we’d moved into our new house, a neighbor took a picture of us for posterity. Notice that at 36 Daddy was already going grey:

The Balthazors in LaMarque, 1952

For two years in Texas we had a fairly normal nuclear family life, but then in 1954 Daddy took us off into the woods of Arkansas to a truck-stop café on Highway 74. Thereafter, our familial relations essentially disintegrated, but that’s another story I’ve reflected in my autobiographical novella “Bat in a Whirlwind.” After I left home for college at eighteen in 1960, Daddy only lived another six years, dying of heart problems at only 50.

In 1971, after five years of widowhood, at 52 Mother married a Texan named Bill Tapp, but only a year later was abandoned by that husband. Afterward, she enjoyed single life in New Orleans for another 42 years, her favorite activity being square-dancing. Yvonne’s really big adventure was surviving Hurricane Katrina in 2005. She kept on square-dancing right up to 93, as in this 2011 snapshot by a dancer friend when she was 92. In early 2013 Yvonne died peacefully at 94.

Yvonne at 92, 2011


Ms. Yvonne, The Secret Life of My Mother

Yvonne Trinite Tapp 1938 at age of nineteen

Yvonne Trinite Tapp
1938 at age of nineteen

My mother, YVONNE TRINITÉ TAPP, passed away a few years ago, in March of 2013 to be exact.  Even after relating to her as a mostly negligent son my whole life long, I really didn’t know all that terribly much about her.  Mother never talked about her experiences, ideas, opinions, or feelings, and now that she’s gone, I sorely regret never even thinking to ask.  So her long life has been for all intents and purposes a secret to me and everyone.

But this past January on her would-be 97th birthday, I wondered again about her secret life and realized that I’ve been sitting on cartons of old photographs and decades of her letters.  So I decided to turn detective, ferret out details of her history from the evidence, and write her biography for her many descendants to know about their fore-mother.  I hope other folks will also be interested in her long life well lived.

Those old photographs (and lots of the newer ones) took inordinate amounts of restoration and outright manipulation to be worth looking at. That close work provided me many intriguing clues, mysteries, insights, and new feelings.  It was an intensely emotional journey.

Over the past nine months, I’ve alternated between writing about Mother and drawing three more of my Aztec icons for the coloring book YE GODS! I’m not sure which I spent more time on, but I’ve now finished the pictorial biography:  MS. YVONNE, The Secret Life of My Mother.

Fortunately, Mother left behind two substantial pieces of writing, one of which I made her write for posterity, and the other I found afterwards amongst her effects. So as well as being a photo-documentary, this biography is also in part an autobiography of my mother, with an inescapable element of my own thrown in gratis.

Sorry that I can’t offer you much in the way of thrilling action or daring adventures, of philosophical or social impact, or of romantic or sensual titillation. However, what you’ll find in this pictorial biography is an independent and courageous woman who weathered the often oppressive vicissitudes of the 20th century and early in the 21st survived Hurricane Katrina.

For free download of this biography as a .pdf file, right-click here and select “Save As.” If you left-click, you can open and read it online.  Meanwhile, I may have found a way to convert this and my other books into eBook format (still free) and promise to do so as soon as I can.





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, 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.