Trouble in Paradise

Lots of folks around Santa Fe, New Mexico consider this little city and its high desert environs to be a very special, natural place, if not actually a paradise. I’ve been living here for some forty years, and though not a believer in heavens on earth, I do think of Fanta Se as a place blessedly removed from the worst evils of modern life.  Or at least until recently.

This past spring I once more watched a splendid cherry tree outside my kitchen window explode in white blossoms.

Cherry Blossoms

After a couple days of such a floral vision, I started wondering why there were relatively so few bees around the blooms in comparison with earlier years. It was disturbing, but at least I got to watch a modicum of fruits forming among the new green leaves.

Now in the past weeks of late spring and early summer, my garden has again exploded in a bumper crop of larkspur. Given a chance, they really do spread like weeds, and if they show up in the wrong place, I simply yank them out.  What’s left seems ample for survival of the species.

In previous years, the zillions of larkspur flowers (that look like birds with little wings), would always be crowded with buzzing bees—even fat bumblebees lumbering around like trucks.

Larkspurs in my garden

This year there are no bees. I do not exaggerate.  No bees!  The only pollinators I’ve seen this year are one hummingbird moth in the dim twilight—once—and one single, solitary tiger-swallowtail butterfly flitting about the flowers most mornings.  Its yellow-striped wings are a beautiful contrast to their purple/blue, but it’s too flighty to work through the masses of flowers.  Now I find many of the bloom stalks not making seed pods.  This is beyond disturbing.

This past week I’ve been even more horrified to see the cherries ripening on the tree next door—and simply hanging there till over-ripe and falling to litter the ground. Always before, as the cherries started to turn red, the tree would be a-flutter with flocks of birds pecking the heck out of them.  Now I’ve seen no more than three or four little birds struggling to reach a fruit or two.

Where have all the bees gone? Where have all the birds gone?  What’s going on?


My Rock of Ages

Indulging in memories of long ago, like those of my parrot Lorro, impresses me with the bittersweet transience of such moments and beings that now are only immanent images in my aging mind. But I woke up in the wee hours of this morning thinking of a memory that still very much exists in the present.  I call it my rock of ages.

At least 40 years ago (curious how 40 years seems to create a natural cycle!), I was even then a “plant freak.” After visiting the stupendous bonsai collection at the National Arboretum (a gift to the US from Japan for the Bicentennial), I decided to try my hand at bonsai and determined to create one in a naturalistic setting.

One Saturday afternoon while sunbathing with the hedonistic crowd at P Street “Beach”, I explored along the banks of Rock Creek and among the jumbled granite chunks found an ideal rock—more like a boulder weighing maybe 75 lb. Balancing it on my bicycle frame, I walked it home to the Four Belles at Logan Circle, lugged it upstairs to my sky-lit conservatory and made  a miniature mountain with a tiny tree growing out of a mossy slope.  Aurora the Aralia.

Aurora the Aralia

Aurora flourished on her mountainside for several years, including a sojourn in the window of a 19th floor apartment in New York.  Then in 1981 the mountain came with me to New Mexico, where I had to lodge it with an acquaintance in his greenhouse. I’m mortified that I cannot recall who the fellow was or where it was, but that winter it got hideously cold, and the host forgot to turn on his heaters.  Poor Aurora froze to death!  The jade tree I’d also left there froze down to a stub, but it re-sprouted and in 25 years grew into a huge beauty.

Rejuvenated Jade Tree and Me

In my grief, I took the honored rock with me to my new home on West Alameda in Santa Fe and set it out in the “yard”—more like a gravelly field. A couple years later, a sculptor friend (Gretchen Berggren) asked to install one of her works along my terrace wall, a metal-grate “river” with boulders like one she’d done for outside the College of Santa Fe’s Fogelson Library.  Seeing my beautiful rock, she wanted to include it in her sculpture, and I was happy to agree.

For at least 25 years, my rock parted those sculptural streams—until I left that place and once again lifted it from its “creek,” which by that time had fallen into serious disrepair. Behind my new apartment was a boulder-strewn drainage/walkway where I built several terraces (for iris beds) and prominently included my rock in one of them as keystone for “Rock Creek Lane.”

Four years later (1 ½ years ago), when I moved to Alicia Street, my rock of ages came with me and has since sat meditating under my almond tree, probably resting from its botanical, artistic, and architectural labors.

My Rock of Ages

I can’t really say if I might set it to another purpose in the future, maybe not, but it will be with me as long as I can lift it. I feel totally blest to have had this special relationship with a mineral entity, or if you will, spirit.  When I’m gone, let it remain as my monument.



More Auld Friends

Arriving in Seattle in the middle 60’s, I found no lasting friends, but my family, about whom I’ll write something soon, found me.  For the rest of that decade, besides my academic career, they were the focus of my life.  I do regret not having even one close friend from those years, just the family.  At least frequent letters to and from Lee in New Orleans were an emotional connection to the world outside the ever-growing family.

In Milwaukee in the summer of 1970 when my wife and I split up, I rather quickly I found gay friends.  Make that lovers, who became lasting friends.  They’re gone now, Ken and Kenny, my simultaneous loves.  Ken and I were close through many decades, particularly the 70’s in DC, until he passed away around 2010.  My dancing boy Kenny only survived until around 1994.  The plague, of course.  Both will be in a future memoire about my Hippie Poet persona.

As far as the 70’s in DC went, Lee/Chas and Ken, from New Orleans and Milwaukee respectively, were my old comrades.  As was Charles from Tulane, my platonic partner in the house and myriad interests.  I had some very special lovers then, but either the affairs or they themselves ended far too soon.  I hope someday that all these lost friends can live again in a memoire about my Courtesan persona.

After a brief sojourn in New York, I arrived in Santa Fe in 1981 as a mature gay gentleman and ran smack dab into my lover/partner of the next 11 years.  That’s also a tale that must await a memoire—if I live long enough and the creek don’t rise.

As you may notice, my two high school friends, Cookie and Dennis, and two “lady friends,” Jane and Frances, all mentioned in the previous post, are my only surviving auld friends. However, you couldn’t really call them close after so long and across all the distance.

Besides my family, here in Santa Fe I now have newer close friends.  Don, now 83, may qualify as auld, or at least old.  He and I met at a gay dinner group years ago and started our own dining tradition most Monday evenings.  We share many opinions, concerns, perspectives, previously married backgrounds, and a healthy appreciation of nubile youths.  Don is amused that I go out dancing and imagines that some night some guy is going to snap me up.  I don’t.

There is one other amigo here in New Mexico you might call auld, or at least viejo, though he’s a bit younger than I.  Douglas and I met back in 1981 when he was the roommate of that partner mentioned above, and our friendly association drifted lackadaisically along through the 80’s.

After I got single again in the 90’s, we forged a real, warm friendship, sharing events, trips, and outings all over the place.  Witness the silly fact that I call him by affectionate nicknames.  He calls himself Doogie, but I’ve gone through Doogaloo and Dugalug to Great Doogly-Moogly (per The Simpsons).  All along I’d considered the Dugless One an appealing and interesting Santa Fe new-age type, not too whacked out, and charmingly peace-love and nature connected.  Doogie’s spiritual enterprise has long been running a program of intercultural outings called Earthwalks, and he’s focusing on it again in his retirement.

Well, I guess that’s it for any auld friends.  Thank goodness I haven’t lost them all yet.  Those lost ones are always with me, be they long-time or only temporary human connections.  Often when this old dame goes out, like I will tonight to Molly’s Kitchen, they’ll come and ride with me in this old but still kicking body, living again in our dance.


Auld Lang Friends

Like always, as I wind down this Old Year, I’m mindful of all the wonderful friends and lovers in my life.  Of course, many of them have gone to their rewards, but they still live on in me.  Fortunately, some from my past still live on in fact.

Just the other day I phoned Cookie, a high school neighbor friend in Arkansas, and we happily reported that we’re both still kicking, though as she said, not very high.  She married my best friend in junior high, who deceased several years ago.  My best friend in high school was Dennis, and we’ve been in loose touch again since our 50th Reunion back in 2010.  After the Navy, he married and, like Cookie, made a full life in those woods I left behind in 1960.  I visited them a year or so ago and hope to do so again this spring coming.

Lasting friends from New Orleans were fewer than one might think, given my social history there.  Those still kicking are actually women friends.  I’ve never “dated” a girl—just “went out” with them.  Gorgeous blonde Jane and I spent most nights in La Casa de los Marinos dancing mad merengues—or resting in the Gin Mill a few blocks away, and saw countless dazed dawns over Decatur Street.  She now lives in San Miguel de Allende and visited with me in Santa Fe some years ago.  We email periodically.

Another from that period is Frances, now living in Seattle.  She was an Art History grad whom my beloved Indian Desai and I met one night in Cosimo’s, a jazz place on Burgundy, and took to the Gin Mill to see the lowlife.  They got together, and I got alone.  Frances and I have kept in touch through the other chapters in our lives with visits, cards, and emails.  Desai went back to India where he married, and we lost touch in the 70’s.  I sure hope he’s still kicking.

I also “went out” to La Casa de los Marinos with another woman, Martha, a student from Southeastern in Hammond with wild blonde hair and arresting blue eyes.  She and I created a leaping dance we called “The President Kennedy.”  Martha lives (I hope) in Arcata CA, a militant vegan lesbian grandmother known locally as Granny Green Genes.  We haven’t been in touch for a few years, but at this late date, I’m afraid to check on her.

A platonic friend from back then was Lee (later Chas).  Faithful correspondents through the rest of the 60’s, we hung out together when I moved back to New Orleans in ’71.  In ’72 we moved to Washington DC together and were close neighbors throughout that decade.  But when I moved off to New York, we lost contact for some fifteen years.  In the late 90’s he got back in contact, and we resumed our old closeness.  For several years he came out to Santa Fe in the summers for the Santa Fe Opera  season and would stay the weeks with me.  He died in 2003.

Not quite so lengthy was my platonic friendship with Charles, a faerie sister from Tulane.  We weren’t all that close in New Orleans but accidentally re-connected in an elevator in a Chicago hotel some years later.  When I went back to Ann Arbor in ’72 for dissertation work, I moved in with him and his lover for a couple months.  Then Charles moved to Washington DC right after Chas and I did, and we wound up buying a Victorian house together at Logan Circle.

1320 Rhode Island Avenue NW--The Four Belles

1320 Rhode Island Avenue NW–The Four Belles

Charles is a special story unto himself, a tragic drama lasting till he passed on in 1992.  On that sad note, I’m getting all choked up, so let me save other memorials for another time.  Sniffle.





[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.