June 23, 2012
Having driven thousands of miles as part of Operation Junebug, I decided it was fitting that my final day before the long slog from Santa Fe to Oklahoma City be spent entirely on foot. I left my car in the parking garage next to the Luxx Hotel all day long, spending the entire day tramping about downtown Santa Fe.
Facebook friends had been recommending places to eat and the suggestion to try Tomasita’s caught on because it is located at the railyard, which was in walking distance but which I had not visited before. So I started the morning in my hotel room, editing photos and composing a blog post, but left at 10:30 a.m. to give me plenty of time to walk the 0.8 miles, which Google Maps said should take about 16 minutes.
My Morning Stroll
I pretty much followed the route Google Maps recommended, with a minor deviation. I walked to the Plaza and turned to follow Palace Avenue and pass by several art galleries, where I encountered a version of Cougar by Star Liana York at Manitou Galleries, a bronze of Forever One by Ed Natiya at HueysFineArt, and just down the way a Daffy Duck by Chuck Jones. I would purchase a piece of art today, but not at these galleries. A few steps farther along, at the corner of Palace Avenue and Sandoval Street, is a parking lot where the Santa Fe Society of Artists has a show each weekend. Last year I bought a print of Shiprock by Amadeus Leitner there and today I knew I’d be back to see what was on offer. But the last thing I needed to carry to lunch was a valuable piece of art, so I saved that visit for later in the day.
I stopped to admire the flowerbeds at the Hilton, with a mix of blooms, some purple petunias, and a lovely lavender-shaded bloom catching my eye. I also spotted a flawed specimen of Indian Paintbrush, made infamous to me by my friend Betty: she calls any unidentified flower “Indian Paintbrush.” You’d need quite a paint mixer to keep up with her claims.
On Guadalupe Street I passed a monument of the Cabelleros de Vargas, who each year parade La Conquistadora, the Virgin Mary replica that accompanied the Spaniards in their conquest of New Mexico, from the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi to Rosario Chapel at Rosario Cemetery for a nine-day novena. In an attempt to reconcile her violent past with Native American sensibilities, they now call her Our Lady of Peace. Well, peace did follow conquest, but her original role was hardly peaceable.
I arrived at the railyard, where the Santa Fe depot, and by this for once I mean the depot in Santa Fe, looked a bit run-down. There was a passenger train at the station, part of the Rail Runner service. Tomasita’s didn’t open its doors until 11 and I had some time to kill. So I walked down the tracks to the farmers market.
As I completed my brief walk through the market, a Rail Runner train came charging backwards into the station, disgorging passengers. I shot a video of its arrival, incorporating a pan across a very long panorama of the Rail Runner train which had already been parked in the yard. In the process of composing the panorama, I managed to clone one fellow four times in the process, although he only appears twice in the video.
Lunch at Tomasita’s
I hightailed it over to Tomasita’s doors, knowing that a line would queue up quickly with the train’s arrival, and it did. We all waited in the hot sun until the door opened and we were ushered inside and rapidly sent throughout the large restaurant to waiting tables.
Frankly, I’m no fan of hot chile sauce. I like things pretty mild. So when Mimi, the waitress, asked if I wanted to sample their red and green sauce, I eagerly agreed since I wanted to ensure I had the milder choice. I usually prefer red, as green often reads hotter to me, and Tomasita’s was no exception when I tried their chile on some blue corn chips. So I ordered the Blue Corn Chicken Enchilada special. It was wonderful, but I was grateful for the big dollop of sour cream to help ease the burn in my mouth. My acid reflux was going to get a workout this day! Like at La Fonda, a sopapilla was standard with my order. It was light and fluffy.
My Afternoon Stroll
I decided to return to the site of the Society of Artists show to see if Mr. Leitner was in attendance. So I began my afternoon stroll headed north, this time passing the Sanbusco Market and being surprised to see an old truck, filled with flowers, up on a pedestal. It was a 1941 Dodge half-ton pick-up similar to those used by Sanbusco, Santa Fe Builders Supply Company. A man and woman walked up and asked if I would take their picture in front of the truck with their iPhone. I did, and they asked for a shot in the portrait orientation too, and the lady decided they should smooch. No one volunteered to kiss me in thanks for the photo, however.
I walked on, past a door with the phrase, “What is past is prologue” above it. That’s from The Tempest by Shakespeare, but why put that above the door? Well, the building was a governmental archive. The Cielo Tabletop store had a pretty windowbox of flowers, and then I reached Santuario de Guadalupe. The adobe building dates back over 200 years and is the oldest surviving shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the poor in Mexico. I didn’t make it inside to see the carved images of the saints and various paintings, although I shall do so on a future visit. However, I did admire the roses and see the 12’ bronze outside.
I recrossed the wide dry ditch that is the Santa Fe River. There were colorful plantings on the sidewalk here, but the river was designated the most endangered river in the nation back in 2007. Groups are working to improve things, but I noticed too much trash and too little water in my glimpse down into the river. Oklahoma City’s Bricktown ditch is thriving by comparison.
On the corner of Alameda and Sandoval was an odd sight: dozens of old wooden doors, gates, and columns behind a wrought iron fence, with a smiling Buddha carving at the corner. What a treasure trove! It was the outdoor yard for Seret & Sons, which has 80,000 square feet of display space for its south Asian and Tibetan furnishings. Some day I must explore in there, but first I had a smaller acquisition to consider, at least in physical size.
I walked through the booths at the Santa Fe Society of Artists and found Amadeus Leitner there. He received New Mexico’s highest artistic honor, the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, last year. His Shiprock work, a print of which graces my living room, has such wonderful light and color that guests always ask me if it is a painting or a photograph. Another great work of his is a very wide cinematic version of the Piedra Lumbre view from Chimney Rock, which I’d photographed in my own fashion a day earlier at Ghost Ranch. An enthusiastic amateur of landscape photography like me can certainly appreciate a master at work, and Mr. Leitner, a charming and affable young man, agreed to make a large framed print of his panorama and have it shipped to Bartlesville, giving me a tiny version to treasure until it arrives. I can’t wait to hang it on the wall above my piano, another reminder of the startling austere beauty of New Mexico.
My love for fine art was stirred by the interaction with Mr. Leitner, so my next stop was the New Mexico Museum of Art to see what was on offer. I toured it two years ago and thoroughly enjoyed my visit, including the lovely courtyard. This building was the inspiration for the Santa Fe Style and the power of its elements are on full display when you sit on a bench under the overhang of the courtyard, relax, and let your eye perceive the forms and geometries created by the building’s interaction with the sunlight, wind, and sky. The exterior towers adorning the Saint Francis Auditorium are echoed nearby at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts. While reviewing the exhibit at the museum I could softly hear an orchestral rehearsal going on in that adjoining auditorium.
I enjoyed the exhibitions, particularly one on 14,000 years of art in New Mexico, with a standout piece from Raymond Jonson, with whose art-deco-influenced transcendentalist paintings I was until now unfamiliar. I like his Cycle of Science series, of which the Chemistry painting was on display. Some day I hope to see all of that cycle in person.
Venturing out to the Plaza, past the Native American craftspeople selling their wares on the porch of the Palace of the Governors, I saw pigeons posing on the American Indian War Memorial obelisk. I’m not much of a bird watcher, but people watching is always a fun pastime at the Plaza, with colorful characters of all types in all sorts of dress. Even the trees are interesting.
I shot new photos of the Bell Tower at La Fonda, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha at the Saint Francis Cathedral, and caught two girls walking the labyrinth in front of the cathedral. The shading of the intense desert light as I gazed at the cathedral from the shadows of the trees was quite lovely.
I decided to take a walk around the area for a “found objects” tour where I snapped photos or even video of anything which caught my eye. I snapped a rose with an inner glow, a prancing pony, a tiny hillside shrine, a house with some supporting stone, a secluded example of the Santa Fe Style, and a shot of a contemplative Saint Francis of Assisi who was quite unaware of the playfulness in the background. I wound up back at the Plaza with its old Spitz Clock.
I blogged for an hour or two in my hotel room and then headed out for dinner. I was unable to snag a spot at Café Pasqual’s, even at the communal table, and Tia Sophias was closed, but I did get one of the last free tables at The Shed and enjoyed some blue corn tortillas and another sopapilla. The local food this day was quite tasty, although I wasn’t surprised to awaken in the wee hours of the following morning with rollicking heartburn.
This day closed out Operation Junebug; the remaining days would simply be the dull long drive back to Oklahoma City and then eventually home. I came away from my annual summer vacation refreshed and delighted by the beautiful sights I’d seen and the splendid sites I’d walked, with ideas already forming for my inevitable return to Colorado and New Mexico some future summer. My memories from this trip would help sustain me as I faced a long string of 100-plus degrees days back home as June evaporated into July.