“John, I found a place! Let’s go tomorrow to check it out. This will be such an adventure! It’s next to a riding stable, and creeks, and trees, and DH Lawrence lived up the hill.”
Highway 64 to Taos.
My anticipation smoked from the back seat where I sat, listening to Rudy and John in conversation, the kind that ripples like a stream, as Rudy evokes his fervor for New Mexican history, the battles, and bravery, the legend of Billy the Kid, and Geronimo. The summer scenery galloped past as we headed up the canyon through Pilar, as bobbing rafters walloped the Rio Grande, as tourists snapped photographs, as hitchhikers and wayward hobos staggered on the death trap shoulder turn-outs… a sort of carnival that makes driving to Taos interrupt the mundane repetition of asking myself questions I cannot answer: Why do I gamble?
“Turn left here, Rudy.” We were on the last turn into the Writer’s Retreat in San Cristobal. It was virgin land, spindly wild flowers, unpaved roads, no-name streets, and the three of us, searching for some sign of life.
“This is it,” Rudy climbed out of the car, while John and I remained seated, unbelieving.
“Rudy, this isn’t it,” I shouted. He turned around and on the edge of hysterics, and said, “Oh yes, it is.”
“LouLou, you threw the dice off the table this time.” John’s laughter stunned the silence as we viewed the three attached leaning log cabins, with barred windows, beat up furniture, and week old trash, glaring back, as if to say, “Well, whatta you expect for $600 a week.”
John and Rudy went off in the direction of the barn, and that was when I had the feeling we needed to get out fast before the owners approached us with rifles or crack needles.
The image of Rudy and John, poking in the field, exploring the barn, two men that rescued and wrestled with pieces of my persona, were now joined. For most of life, I went solo, everywhere. There was in my mind the resolution I would remain unattached, out-of-love because “love is more painful than lust,” a phrase I took out of this mornings New York book review of A Book of Secrets.
I wandered into the multifarious pasture where I was greeted with chickens, goats, and manure, and with a sudden rush of urgency, I shouted: “Let’s get the hell out of here,” and dashed back to the car. I could hear John and Rudy’s crackling laughter, and that solidified the momentary disappointment that follows a lousy throw of the dice.
I followed my interior compass that has been known to deliver supreme surprises, and we ended up on Kit Carson Road, in a shower of sunshine, and cotton balls drifting down like snowflakes.
“Turn there. Look Rudy, San Geronimo Lodge. We made an offer on it, remember?’
“Wow, I forgot about that one.”
“How many places have you guys made offers on in Taos?” John asked.
In the course of remembering the different times we lived in Taos, and the real-estate agents, like Linda from Texas who accused us of being charlatans, until our friend David kicked in and warned her, “They’re morons, they’re not that smart,” we landed at the cross bridge to San Geronimo.
“Twelve. We forgot about the Martinez place; the one I wanted to fix up into polished efficiencies,” I said.
“What were you planning for the Lodge?”
“The Woodstock House, concerts in the field, performances in the dining room, musician rooms. There was a grand piano in the main Salon.”
The Lodge was devotedly remodeled. The slimy green pool had turned Mediterranean blue, the grounds were riddled with pathways, the mammoth lobby was now comfortably appointed with antiques, and the grand piano, well, that was shut-down and used as a plant stand.
The owner, a rugged beauty with brimming passion for her turf, showed us half a dozen rooms to choose from.
“You must have spent a fortune fixing it up,” he said. “You have no idea! What we were told going in, wasn’t what we got.”
I left with resumed faith in my compass, and knowing we made the right decision not buying San Geronimo. Decisions about traveling, joining, meeting, and moving, drop me in the path of mental collision. Instead of applying academic analysis, calculations, or tried and true pragmatic reasoning, I try to beat the odds, because I am a gambler.
John and I headed up to Taos while Rudy took refuge in a friend’s casita. I suppose most vacation renal owners have alternate accommodations; but this is a work-in-progress, like a play that doesn’t have an ending yet. For the next six days, I wandered from the Geronimo pool, to the terrace, to Taos on foot, and during those hours, we rewrote the script in the privacy of our steadily silent working room, or on the second story terrace, overlooking the fields and the Jemez Mountains.
When Rudy called and said Mike, our renter, invited us to the reception party at the house, I called Mike to decline. He turned me down.
“Loulou, you have to come, everyone wants to meet you,” he said. Everyone is a lot of people; 75 guests inside the house when I am not the host stirred up my imagination.
When we arrived, the reception party was sprouting on the front porch, in the driveway around bistro tables, on the back porch at a buffet table, and in the garden movie theater.
Suddenly, this face comes at me, up close: “Loulou, I’m Mike. Come-in. What are you drinking? We love it! Come meet everyone.” Mike has a light bulb personality, 120 volts of unplugged warmth and sincerity. I followed him into the living room, and was immersed with questions and praise, at rapid fire. Within the hour, I wilted and tugged on John and Rudy to cross the street for dinner. “Why’d you leave?” Rudy asked. He was eyeing a pretty blonde in the driveway.
“I don’t feel it’s right; presiding in our house while it’s their house,” I said. “I’m afraid I’ll start cleaning.”
I returned to the party when a vintage Galaxy pulled into our driveway, and I was abandoned because John led Rudy over to see the automobile.
By now, the party was surging, and as I recommenced my socializing the trepidation vanished. In every direction were handshakes and hugs, conversations zigzagging from Mike’s family to Erin’s, the bride and groom, and their friends, who came from Los Angeles. But these were not just friends; they were neighbors.
“Neighbors in Los Angeles?” I jested.
“Oh yeah, we live in the Hollywood Hills. We have parties every weekend. Are you THE Loulou?” he asked. I nodded. “I am THE Carlos, and you must visit us in Hollywood.”
“What do you do Carlos?” I asked.
“Everything! I sing, act, cook, and make trouble!” In every party there should be a Carlos. The evening crescendo curled into a wave of anticipation when Carlos took center stage and sang arias from Turnadot and La Boehme. His bravura tenor voice raised the guests from every cavity of the house. Strangers out strolling stopped to listen and guests from La Posada spilled out in the streets. The house was transformed, and in some ways it harked back to former visions of the artist salons I imagined were once held at Follies House.
There were times over the last two years when Rudy and I discussed selling Gallery LouLou, leasing it long term, and even renting rooms; options that occupied sleepless nights, and never materialized. Now we know it is a vacation home, a party house, a reception salon — all the things that I imagined came together here, even Rudy and John.