Santa Fe & Taos

Our delightful adventure at Sparkeys in Hatch had made us quite late, and we lashed Rogue hard, galloping as fast as we could towards Santa Fe.

Near Albuquerque the sun slowly squatted and then poured out of sight over a western horizon; high in the still-light eastern sky a moon began to glow.

Moon near Albuquerque

Miles later we veered off the freeway  to pull up our skirts and pee, and took in the moon. Not quite but almost  full: a flawed coin, bright and beautiful.

Not a Rustler’s Moon, in other words, which is just a sliver in the sky; described by my friend Dana in Durango as: “Bright enough to see by, but not bright enough to be seen by.”

The moon’s a pale sliver in the dark night sky

A sickle’s edge that gleams against the sky

It’s a rustler’s moon

And he saddles up his pony

Her hand trembles as she holds the light

Someone’s going to lose something tonight

Our host in Santa Fe, Sharon Ross, had prepared a lovely dinner for us. She and her mother had already eaten, and late though we were, she served up delicious chicken and mashed potatoes which we ate in her living room with a bottle of chardonnay. However, she’d been struggling with some bad news, and the concert we’d hoped to have in her beautiful home would not manifest. In the morning, Maggie and I headed into Santa Fe for whatever adventure the day might bring. We started at the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, and left with affection for the beauty of wrinkles in a woman’s face.

We browsed the jewelry laid out along the portal of the Governor’s Mansion, especially intrigued by guitar picks made out of brass and silver. We’d thought about busking in the plaza but once we saw the little licenses posted in various violin and guitar cases realized that wouldn’t be an option. But one of the fragments of music floating around the square was coming from an accordion, and we made a beeline to his corner of the square.

Of course we know what happened:

Maggie plays Pedro’s accordion at Santa Fe plaza

Pedro was delighted to watch Maggie conquer his huge instrument, and very happy to have his photo taken with us in various configurations.

Sands and Pedro at Santa Fe Plaza

Naturally we had to have lunch at Café Pasquals.

We shared a delicious enchilada mole and a salad and had a beer.

The maitre’d entertained us through lunch. He told a story: When he was 14 he was standing at a bus stop pissed off about everything and at everyone. And then he had a huge epiphany: They were winning. “They were just going about their lives,” he said, “doing what they were doing, and I’d handed them all this power. I decided then and there to adjust the way I was thinking about it. That’s been true ever since. It’s a choice, how we feel about things. It’s a choice we make every moment.”

Sands and Roblair at Cafe Pasquals

I thought I might be meeting the love of the 3rd third of my life, but alas, we discovered he’d “lost his heart to a woman in a green dress.”

I recovered by buying a beautiful white skirt.

Maggie splurged too.

Senoritas lean against the pillars in the square

She can hear his spurs a-janglin as he rides

It’s a rustler’s moon

He’s headed cross the border

She watches ‘til he’s disappeared from sight

Someone’s going to lose something tonight

Our friend Naima had alerted us to an Open Mic at the Adobe Bar, located in the Taos Inn. To our delight it fit perfectly into our schedule. (15 years on, I still recall the bowl of green chile I ate in that  hotel’s restaurant, Doc Martin’s.)

Sharon, Wolfie, Lula

Monday morning, after fond goodbyes, we headed to Taos, stopping to put our feet in the muddy Rio Grande.

Maggie wades into the Rio Grande

Gloomy day. Gray clouds roiling above the vast landscape, promising rain. And rain it did, a relief, after all the hot aridity. We checked into the Taos Inn, landing a corner room with two twin beds above the Paseo de Pueblo Norte.

Beds, Room 121

With rain rattling on the tin roof I read about the history of the Inn: In the 1890s, “Doc” Martin arrived in Taos and “through rain and snow to set bones, break fevers, and deliver babies” (love that parallel construction!) He purchased the house that is now the eponymous restaurant. After he died, his intrepid wife Helen purchased other houses one of which is now the Adobe Bar, and put a fountain where the town well had once been.

Once the town well, now the middle of the Adobe Bar, Taos Inn

It’s been a center for Taos art and culture ever since.

We donned our new skirts and tied up our hair and selected earrings. Footwear? Black boots, of course! Feeling like senoritas, we descended the stairs and ordered a margarita (no sweet and sour mix, please) and split a bowl of the excellent green chili. We kept an eye on the concierge’s desk, as Stacy had told us she’d put out the Open Mic sign-up sheet at 6:30. So we were first amongst those jostling to get at the piece of paper, landing an 8:30 slot. Perfect!

The excellent M.C., Don Conoscenti, got things underway with a lovely version of “Hallelujah,” an odd and even melancholy way to launch us into what promised to be a multifarious evening, but he’s an excellent guitarist, and sings beautifully. We were all entranced.  We heard from various singer-songwriters and a woman sang torch songs acapella—veering into some Ike & Tina tunes. At one point Don Con, as he dubs himself, asked for a poem. I volunteered Maggie—we’ve been including her recitation of Robinson Jeffers’ moving poem “The Beaks of Eagles”  in our set list.

Maggie recites Jeffers’ “Beaks of Eagles”

Shining away, she did a beautiful job in the jostling loud bar of making them listen.

Just before Hall & McKaig hit the stage,  a wizard on the electric guitar performed,  channeling the screaming guitar riffs of Led Zeppelin and the vocals of Janis Joplin. After about 20 minutes of this—and he went on for 30—Maggie and I wanted to cup our hands over our ears, but the crowd in the bar loved it. It was quite an act to follow, although I forbore from saying so. Out we stepped, we two senoritas, and as Don Con rustled around us, setting up our vocal and guitar mics, the people in the bar quieted and focused. We started with “Leaning into Loneliness,” which received a gratifying round of applause, followed by “Night Rider’s Lament.” We’ve worked hard on the yodels that end the song—Maggie rising to a most satisfying 3rd above me as we finish—and there were loud catcalls and whoops as we finished.

“Rustler’s Moon” was next, and I started with the little story about Dana describing what a rustler’s moon is—”bright enough to see by, not bright enough to be seen by…”

The idea that it might be a perfect metaphor for clandestine love caused the crowd in the  Adobe Bar to nod and laugh. “A few years later I had an opportunity to experience such a thing,” I said, to more laughter, “and the phrase and the idea came circling back to me.” I plucked the G chord that starts the tune.

Maggie’s on the accordion, and sings an evocative harmony under the melody in the second verse, and through the bridge:

It’s a rustler’s moon

It was a rustler’s moon

That night she wore red ribbons in her hair

And she knew where he should be

But she had him on his knees

Now it’s her turn to rail at the moon

He’s riding off again

Beneath a rustler’s moon

As Maggie took her accordion break I watched the crowd watch her—heads cocked to one side or the other, eyes dreamy, smiling with pleasure, and with recognition:

He splashes cross the river down near Smithy’s Ford

She holds his shirt and stares into the dark

It’s a rustler’s moon

And he gallops towards his bounty

She’d rather lose him in a dagger fight

Someone’s going to lose something tonight

We did one more song, “South Coast the Wild Coast,” and after a gratifying amount of applause, hoots, whistles and catcalls said thanks and good night. We stuffed instruments into cases, carried them to our room, and returned to lift a celebratory dram of scotch.

Sands & Maggie toast a great set.

Onward to Durango!

0 replies
  1. traction
    traction says:

    “the sun slowly squatted…” ? otherwise lovely. I can imagine the yearning hearts of attentive rounders in your wake, among the someones losing something those nights…
    “who were those witches?”

  2. hipster1950
    hipster1950 says:

    These keep getting better and better. I love the aleatory touring schedule. I half-expect you two to be playing on the back of a flatbed truck along some borderland highway.

  3. Randall
    Randall says:

    Loved reading this (and earlier entries). Feel like I was there. Given a bit of time, this will be unconsciously spliced into my own memories of New Mexico and I will tell stories of having met Pedro in the plaza, been served lunch and wisdom by Roblair, and listened to Don Con MC at the Adobe Bar. And most of all two mysterious black booted senoritas who mesmerized men with their lovely voices.

  4. sqwrlgrl
    sqwrlgrl says:

    So glad I found your blog. My thoughts are with you ladies as you drift along with the tumbling tumbleweeds. Just imagine you can hear one more voice singing the fifth nice and high…

    • Sands
      Sands says:

      Thank you! I love that you found the blog and are enjoying it. We’re having a wonderful time — and I do like imagining another voice along with ours. Much much love to you, and see you soon!


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