MONDAY June 22nd – Day 2 – Taos Exploration
While we were waiting for the plane back in Maryland, I broke the head off of a bridge pin while reseating a string on my Baby Taylor. It wasn’t critical, but I wondered if the change in humidity and temperature might cause the string to pop out, so I wanted to get some spare bridge pins just in case. Luckily, there was an easy to find music store on the way into downtown Taos called Que Pasa. As a music store it lacked what most people would expect to see (instruments). It was more like a record shop with a few musical accessories. But they had what I needed, cheap, and it was a productive stop.
There was ample parking in downtown Taos, near the main center of shops and restaurants. Downtown was easily walkable, though probably best approached on two days, as there are a lot of nooks and crannies.
It was at an intersection of shops and restaurants just off the main square that I first saw some street musicians, including Hambone, a blues player who was very good. I was happy to see that music wasn’t going to be hard to find. Tempo Magazine, put out by the Taos News, turned out to be the best source for local entertainment. There was no shortage of things to do, whether it was live music, theatre, poetry or arts and crafts. I circled a few possibilities, including an open mic at the Alley Cantina.
Jeff and I broke off from the group and went in a separate direction for a while. Walking north along Paseo Del Pueblo, a police car slowed down as it approached us. The officer, in a friendly voice, said what sounded like “be safe” or “stay safe,” then threw something at us both, and drove away. What was this all about?
The projectiles turned out to be air fresheners. On one side, Erik Estrada, in his classic police uniform with the caption underneath: “Drive Sober, Baby!” The other side clarified that this was all part of the local “Be Smart, Be Safe” campaign to reduce drunk driving. Laughing at this fragrant assault, we continued on our way, Estrada’s image forever burned into our minds from this surreal moment.
Taos is also home to Robert Mirabal, a Grammy-winning Native American musician who has done a number of fusion projects. He’s the hometown hero in a sense. Jeff and I met his sister who was working the downtown location of the Mirabal Native Gifts shop. We talked briefly about the state of Taos Pueblo culture in general and how many of the elders do not feel it appropriate to mingle with other cultures, wanting to keep it “pure” while the younger generation is trying to experience new things and, like Robert, fuse influences together.
A sort of cottage industry has popped up around Robert, with a line of flutes, drums and the usual t-shirts and merchandise that most artists have. I think my mom has some of his music. I never really connected with anything beyond R. Carlos Nakai, who is of Navajo-Ute heritage and “the world’s premier performer of the Native American flute.” While I enjoy many types of fusion, the somewhat commercialized fusion of Native American instruments seems to me like just another type of exploitation. While I enjoy so may other mixes of styles (Afro Celt Sound System comes to mind), the Native American (of any tribe) collaborations usually don’t come off very well. I am not quite sure whom I agree with more, the elders or the younger generation. Maybe I just need to hear more.
Over lunch at Ogelvie’s Bar & Grill, we all agreed that moving our center of operations to Taos was a good move. It was much more central and there was more to do in Taos than Las Vegas. As we made small talk with the locals, telling them our story of how we ended up in Taos, almost everyone commented on how Las Vegas was not a great tourist destination.
Satisfied with our first excursion into Taos, we returned to the hotel for a brief respite from the steady heat in the pool. I didn’t wear my strap for my prescription sunglasses. During a swim challenge with Jeff the glasses came right off and went to the bottom of the pool, about eight feet. It was just deep enough that none of us could successfully dive, still acclimating to the change in elevation. Audra was able to use the pool net to retrieve them, now scratched, but still wearable. Later, while playing around with the life preservers, Jeff became stuck in one and we had to help him get out. The irony was not lost on us. It was just shaping up to be that kind of week.
After a brief dip in the hot tub, we went back into town for dinner. We chose Orlando’s on North Pueblo. The food was fine, though their bathrooms proved hard to find. Back at the hotel, Dave greeted us at the bar. Tomas was nowhere to be found. Another round of great margaritas helped us settle into the idea that we were actually on vacation now.