("Watching the New Ponies, Yellowman/ At Kiva Fine Art)
So, after a relaxing morning of the hotel gym and swimming in the rooftop pool at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque, my friend Michael picked me up, and we headed out to the Jemez mountains to see the red dirt. Michael was kind enough to stop at Allsup's to pick up some very tasty bean and cheese breakfast burritos (I'm quite sure they were lowfat...NOT, especially considering they were deep fried, but at least they weren't dripping in grease.)
Jemez was so so beautiful. We stopped at the tribe's cultural center on the way to the mountains so that I could pick up some souvenirs for my co-workers and use the loo.
After our pitstop we headed up into the mountains, which was spectacular. As we got higher up, I could hear the sound of a river below and we began heading through short tunnels burrowed into the rocks as the road wound up the mountainside. When we got out of the car, it was so peaceful. The warm sun beat down on us, but there was a cool breeze and the river below calmed me as it rushed against the rocks on the ravine floor. Next to Chimayo, this was probably my favorite place.
After a soothing afternoon between a rock and a hard place (get it???), we headed for Santa Fe, but not before we stopped off for a wine tasting at the Ponderosa Valley Winery and bought a bottle of the delicious Jemez Red wine.It was so good, and the gaggle of dogs and geese there kept us company. This guy couldn't wait to push his head under the fence to pose for me.
We also popped in at the home of pottery makers Sal and Flo Yepa. Flo told us her very moving tale of being involved in bringing healing to families of victims of the 9/11 attacks in New York City. This is a lovely woman--big talent and big heart. I wanted to give her a hug goodbye, but felt a little weird about it. I bought this beautiful and symbolic pottery box which tells of a journey much like the one I am going on in my life at present. I will cherish it.
Finally, we made it to Santa Fe. It was a lovely day for Zozobra and Fiesta was well under way in the central plaza. All the food vendors were setting up and shouts of "Que viva la fiesta!" could be heard everywhere. It was all actually very civilized, in spite of the fact that it was mostly young people doing the reveling.
After checking into the quaint, and unexpectedly small and rustic Hotel St. Francis right off of the plaza (Can SOMEONE please explain how I managed to get a hotel for $100 per night with $5 parking next door during Fiesta in Santa Fe? Pretty incredible!), we headed out to dinner at La Casa Sena, which features fine dining indoors or out on the front plaza, which is situated in the middle of what was once a home built circa 1860. We opted to head into the cantina, which features singing waiters in a cabaret-style review, excellent, world-class cuisine, a LOT of retirees singing along to "On the Street Where You Live" and fantabulous Silver Coin and Cointreau margaritas. (Note: Food is excellent. Service is excellent. Prices a tad inflated, even for NYC standards, but worth it for the ambience, and what the hell...I was on vacation!).
After dinner we headed back to the hotel to change for Zozobra. We joined the droves of people walking up the hill towards the festival site just before the sun went down. By the time we got there, the field was full of thousands of people who had been waiting for the burning since late afternoon. They apparently were entertained by a variety of bands. Kids swung fake lighted plastic swords and vendors were also selling devil ears that lit up. Family after family made their way into the grounds, baby strollers and all, many full of sleeping children who just petered out. What was cool was that the city has turned this into a very nice family event by banning alcohol on the premises. It seems that about six years ago someone was shot and it was linked to alcohol. It was very peaceful, though I definitely smelled pot behind us.
We stood waiting for about an hour and then the burning of Zozobra began with this guy coming out (almost high-priestesque) and talking about the woes of the past year. Then dancing ghosts came out, followed by flame dancers, fireworks and the subsequent burning of the 3-story white puppet with moving eyes, mouth and arms. As he flailed in anger, he growled, which egged the people in the crowd to yell back at him. Imagine a crowd of, what was thought to be 45,000 people, shouting "burn him!" One woman yelled "You're just like a typical man!" I told Michael to yell "Shut your piehole!" an office favorite in my department at work, and he did to the confusion of the native New Mexicans around us. Then, as soon as it started to burn, Zozobra was no more and I suddenly felt a sense of peace. The ceremony, as pagan as it seemed, definitely appealed to my spirit. Definitely a life-altering experience and one I will never forget.
After Zozobra, we made our way down the hill to Fusion, where "Jacks" the sexy and bustier-clad bartendress made us the best cosmos ever. Later, we made our way down to Vanessi's, where we enjoyed great bar service, beautiful art on the walls, the song stylings of Charles on the piano, and I got to bring the house down with my rendition of "Bewitched" from Pal Joey.
The next morning we were off to satisfy our craving for blue corn tortilla huevos rancheros at the Plaza Cafe, while an Albuquerque-based mariachi band Mariachi Nuevo Sonido played. I couldn't get enough of their music. So much so, that we followed them outside to listen to them on the concert stage on the plaza. Everything about them was perfect--from pitch, to being in sync with one another, to the costumes they wore. I'd pay to sit and listen to them for hours.
The rest of the day was spent drooling over art and jewelry. The jewelry in the plaza was way over-priced, but some of it, like the gorgeous hand-tooled and layered silver pieces made by Jeremy and Eileen Rosetta of the Arts of Santo Domingo, caught my eye and had me wishing I had $4k in my pocket. Here is an image of some of the pieces they had for sale. Notice the detail, not only on the outside, but on the inside of the cuffs. Incredible!
We also traversed down another street where there were other vendors hocking jewelry, sculptures and art. One of the most special moments was meeting a New Mexico artist who arrived there by way of Brooklyn by way of Cuba. Her name is Ariela Boronat, and I want her to adopt me! She is an artist and a printmaker and her work is lovely. I decided to buy an original piece from her titled "Dulzura" because the painting's subject has such a wonderful expression on her face. She explained to me her printmaking process, since I had tried to make some linocut prints in the past and had some difficulty. My absolute favorite print was one of women washing clothes in a plaza. I told her that it reminded me of the time I photographed women in Antiqua, Guatemala, who came down from the mountains to wash their rugs and blankets before selling them in the markets. It turns out that she onced traveled all over Latin America for her job and had photographed these women as well in Northern Guatemala. It was a cathartic experience to share a similar sweet memory with a complete stranger, though I hope we don't remain strangers and that I can buy more of her art!
That day was art, art and more art! We visited my new favorite gallery,The Frank Howell Gallery which specializes in the works of master painter Frank Howell and others, including sculptor Bill Worrell, who makes some inspiring clay masks.
There, I also found the ring that I'm going to buy when my ship comes in. It's by Ray Tracy, and it's made of gold, silver and turquoise. I think it was more than $3,000. This photo doesn't do it justice...believe me!
After all the drooling, we headed back to Albuqerque and the Hyatt Regency. Boy, were we exhausted! So many things, so little time to see it all in. Que viva la fiesta!