Blog New Mexico Travelogue

THURSDAY June 25th – Day 5 – Relaxation, here we come, maybe. (Taos Drum/Earthships)

We all agreed that a trip to a spa would be a good experience after a day of rafting. Taos Spa & Tennis Club – right across the road from our hotel – was an easy choice. I chose the 50-minute massage with a basic facial. This was my first professional massage. My masseur put on some new-agey music that immediately set the tone. What it lacked in musical integrity, it made up for in terms of creating an atmosphere that went with the land and the general vibe of the area we were visiting. The basic facial, while not the full treatment, seemed to help clear up some of my acne, at least temporarily.

It was a lazy morning. After our massages, Audra and I met up in one of the hot tubs to relax until Kristy and Jeff were done. We had the run of the place for the whole day if we wanted. A storm came in off the mountains, scary and fun to watch at the same time. Complete and utter relaxation was imminent.

By lunchtime we returned to our hotel to get a change of clothes. I pulled my cell phone off of it’s charger and noticed a voice mail. It was from my boss. Complete and utter relaxation was no longer imminent.
“Hi Jeremy, sorry to bother you on vacation, but it looks like the parking lot is getting resurfaced this weekend, and Mariano’s is looking at towing your car.”

For this to make sense, I have to step back and explain something. One of the downsides to living in downtown Bloomsburg is the lack of off-street parking. It was one of the only things abut our house that we didn’t like when we moved here, but it has become a thorn in our side, particularly when we need to go out of town. The street sweeping schedule doesn’t allow for keeping a car in one place for more than a couple of days. If we’re away for short weekend trips, we can work around it by juggling where we part the car. Longer trips are more challenging.

In the past, we have left one of our cars in the parking lot at my office on Central Road – a building owned by Mariano’s, a local real estate developer. This has worked out before, and we had no reason to believe it wouldn’t work again this year. In fact, Audra’s car was parked there for the length of our Maine trip with no issues.

So it was actually Audra’s car that was involved. At first no one at work could identify the car, so Mariano’s had the police run our plate to find out who the car belonged to. Thus the phone call from my boss. The parking lot had recently been repaved, so I was confused. What followed was some a ridiculous cell-phone juggling act.

I called my boss back and got more details. We had until Saturday morning to get the car off the lot before they resealed it. The closest people to the situation back in PA were my parents, and possibly my siblings. But it wasn’t just a matter of moving the car. First we had to get the keys to the car, which were in West Chester at Kristy’s apartment (we stayed there overnight before flying west).

At first I thought it might just be better to tow the car ourselves, and at least be in control of where it was going. Audra called AAA to see what they would charge for a tow. Simultaneously, I called my parents to see if they could help us in any way. It just so happened that they were in Delaware, but would be returning prior to Saturday. This worked in our favor because it meant they could potentially swing by West Chester. But that also required getting them directions and making sure that Kristy’s mom could be there to give my parents the car key (Kristy’s mom to the rescue… again!). So Kristy contacted her mom to see if this would work. At that point we ditched the AAA idea.

At one point, Kristy and I both had conversations going with our parents, then switched off to talk to the other party and exchange phone numbers. Later, our parents would work out the specifics on their own. Once my parents had the key, my dad agreed to personally move the car back to our neighborhood to make sure it wasn’t towed. Another crisis averted.

The spa employees recommended Graham’s Grille for lunch, so we took another ride into Taos to eat and catch some of the shops we had previously missed. Jeff and I split off once again to check out some Asian antique shops. One shop owner told us that he doesn’t go anywhere without a gun these days because of all the disgruntled youth that turn to cocaine and firearms in the outskirts of places like Las Vegas. More reinforcement at the wisdom of our choice to pick Taos instead. Another shop, Horse Feathers (, looked like a possible starting point for some family research. The store had lots of memorabilia from old country western entertainers that reminded me of the boxes of stuff I’ve inherited from my aunts in Pittsburgh. They were big fans (maybe even groupies!) for some of those acts and they’ve left me a mystery to unravel that includes autograph books and sheet music from artists who traveled the radio circuit.

With the week coming to a close, thoughts of the flight home started to surface. Though it was close to our hotel, we still hadn’t visited Taos Drum Company, one of my few “must see” stops. Based on flyers and pamphlets we’d seen, it looked like it would be cool to see some drums being made, or at least get a tour of their shop and maybe purchase a drum for my collection. Kristy ran into one of the local drum builders who said the prices at Taos Drum were overblown, which I expected, but I still thought it would be worth while to check out, if only as a tourist.

Yeah, it’s touristy alright. It looked promising for that purpose as we pulled up. A warehouse behind the main building clearly had drum shells stored in it, drying out before skins would be applied. After the obligatory pictures of the teepees near the main entrance, we entered the shop. Taos Drum sells drums, lots of them, of various shapes and sizes. They are beautiful. One pass around the shop, and I wasn’t too impressed with much else. They also sell a lot of other stuff, covering every conceivable angle of the tourist’s desire to bring something Native American home with them. I asked about their tours. An elderly couple was also there and we soon learned they too were interested in seeing the work room where the drums were made.

“We don’t give tours any more. We still get people coming in here with those flyers,” said Carol, the lady at the desk. She was referring to the brightly colored brochures that we saw all over Taos, and at our hotel, advertising the tours.

I asked her why they no longer did tours. I thought maybe it was due to the recession, or insurance concerns. She couldn’t give me straight answer.

“I don’t know, it’s a mystery like so many other things around here,” she replied. She wasn’t being mystical or philosophical with her answer. Let’s just say she brought a certain disinterest to her job which shined right through.

“I can show you the shop, but you can’t touch anything, and no pictures are allowed.” I felt like I was going on an elementary school field trip. This wasn’t a matter of cultural sensitivity. This shopkeeper obviously would rather be doing something else with her time.

She took us back to the work room, which did have drums, but no one building them. There were drums made of tree trunks nearly the size of Smartcars, but I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of them so you’ll have to just imagine that. The workstations where the hides would be applied were empty. About the only thing to see were drum shells in various states of build sitting on racks.

Carol gave us the Cliff’s Notes tour, which consisted of us standing in one place and her pointing to each area of the work room. She obviously did not have a detailed understanding of drum making, nor did she appear to care about the craft very much. We had to stand within a few feet of the doorway. Carol took great care in reminding me and the elderly couple of this.

Having clearly decided that I would not be buying any drums here, I just wanted to leave. I’d find a local merchant, possibly the builder Kristy had met, who would be more appreciative of the purchase. I think the thing that bothered me the most, more than the shopkeeper’s indifference, was the air of cultural sensitivity that she tried (poorly) to invoke regarding the artists. There weren’t any people working in the shop, but even if there were, it’s not like the techniques of making these drums are any secret. Drum making has been passed down for thousands of years, and if you can’t find plans on the Internet, there are plenty of books that document hide treatments and wood carving.

Disillusioned, I was glad to leave. With nothing specific planned, we just drove around looking for photo ops. We followed a road off the beaten path that ended at a cliff, complete with an abandoned vehicle, broken Jagermeister bottles and trash reminiscent of some of the dump sites back in Stockton, PA. Our late afternoon wandering eventually led out US Highway 64, over the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and to the world headquarters site of “Earthships,” eco-friendly homes built into the ground and made from recycled tires, cans and bottles. The visitor center was closed, but we walked around before it rained some more. From inside, they do not look very sturdy, but it was neat to see the in-progress walls and construction.

In some of my postcards home, I noted that the Taos area has retirement potential. That may never come to pass. If retirement finds us returning to Taos, I don’t know if an Earthship is for us. For one thing, they start at $440,000. The good news is that utilities are said to be $100 per YEAR (according to their literature). Earthships use solar and wind power, and there is some sort of green-technology for waste disposal.
Dinner that night was at Guadalajara Grill, a local chain that serves Mexican-American fair in sizable portions. The food wasn’t remarkable, but it was good. The atmosphere of bikers was more interesting.

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By jjdeprisco

Sonic explorer, sound artist, guitarist in Fricknadorable, software designer.