Tag Archives: Santa Fe

Mingling With the Savages

A companion piece to Inclined Corners of a Yellow Map and Bite of the Oven Salesman.

Mingling with the savages. Red adobe brickwork ruins beneath a medium blue sky and surrounded by dark green, forested hills.

The Long Drive

I handed the cop my driver’s license: Soledad Smith, 1704 E. El Toro Boulevard, El Fuego, NM. Date of Birth – 7/19/77. Hair – Brwn. Eyes – Hzl. Weight – 165. Height – 5′ 9″. Corrective lenses – None... Former oven salesman in Omaha.

“You were swerving.”


“You were swerving Mr. Smith. Have you been drinking tonight Mr. Smith?”

I looked out the windshield at the great expanse of stars draped across the black sky and I wanted to be drifting in space like a lost robot.

“No. I haven’t been drinking. I’m just very tired. Long day of life, you know.”

Liar …

“Where are you coming from?”

“Santa Fe.”

“What were you doing there?”

“Shopping and mingling with the savages. After I dropped off a friend at the airport. The Sunport in Q-town. You know it? I’m just trying to get home and sleep.”



“I thought you were in Santa Fe?”

“I was… After Albuquerque. It’s hip and super fresh.”

He looked at me like I was some sort of a loon. “Mr. Smith,” he said in a very authoritative tone, “You’re not making much sense and I really don’t feel like arresting you tonight. I just want to finish my shift, go home, and fuck my wife. I suggest you stop at the next motel and get some sleep before you get yourself killed out here. There’s one up ahead in Encino… ‘bout 20 miles I’d say. Not the nicest place in the world, but it’s got beds.”

“I know it… Know of it.”

He handed my license back and I tucked it inside my wallet and looked straight ahead.

He started to walk away back to his patrol car, and I stuck my head out the window into the black veil of night.


I heard his boots come to a dead stop.

“Did you see that wreck back there?”

“What wreck?”

“Isn’t that where you were coming from? The bad wreck some miles back.”

He stood tall and looked back down the road stretched out behind us.

“There ‘aint been no wreck on this road tonight. Nothing. Nothing at all. I’ve been up and down this road all night. Haven’t seen anything. Get some sleep, sir.”

I watched him climb into his patrol car and he drove off.

I started my car, rolled up the window and turned on the cd player. Loud music rolled out of the speakers as I pulled out onto the highway and headed to the motel in Encino.

My room at The Cactus Motel smelled of mold and old cigarette burns. I splashed cold water on my face and looked into the bathroom mirror. The grime and worry on my skin rolled away with the beads of wet and dropped down into the pool of dirty water in the sink. Stopped up. Of course. I grabbed a drab towel and dried my face. Took a deep breath and laid down on the uneven mattress of the bed. It felt dirty. A semi roared by on the road outside. Someone was having sex in the room next to mine. I could hear the woman moan “oh yeah, oh yeah” through the thin wall, could feel the headboard rhythmically knocking against it. It was late. Well after midnight and I felt very panicked and out of it. I tried to close my eyes, but all I kept seeing were visions of the weeping girl walking around the wreck in shock. “There hasn’t been a wreck on this road tonight…”

The words of the cop echoed in my head. Had he been lying? But why? Could I have been so tired that I did imagine the whole thing? Perhaps. It doesn’t matter. I was safe. I was so tired. I had to get some sleep to get up early enough to drive the rest of the way and make it into work by 4 p.m.

Morning came quickly. I rolled out of the bed sore and still sleepy. I got dressed and went to the motel office to check out. My car looked dusty and road weary in the sparkling sun of morning. A tarantula aimlessly strolled by one of the tires. I got in, started the engine, and sped off. Encino dissipated in a flash, and I was once again going 65mph headed south. Another 125 miles to go before I reached El Fuego. It was already getting hot. I rolled down the windows and cranked the volume on the stereo. Oasis – Definitely Maybe – Track 3 – Live Forever. If only we could. But then again, why would we?

The parched, rocky landscape flew by me like a desolate nightmare. The sky so gaping wide, churning blue and cream. The sun muscling its burning power through the stratosphere and into my eyes. Past the sad town of Vaughn I rolled and onto the remaining 95 miles of pure nothingness. Flatness. Openness. Scorched skin on the rocks and dust. Rocky red lands exposing burnt flesh. Stillness. Isolation. Wind and silence and heat. It was the desert. Endless miles of god’s gaping wound upon the Earth. I could see the highway roll on in front of me forever; an asphalt ribbon cooking in the first rays of day. A seemingly endless needle piercing the horizon, and all around it flat and gore and a dry stew of dirt and rocks and cactus. An unending mirage maybe; perhaps if I pulled the curtain aside a bit, I would find Eden on the other side. A paradise of lush, green and magnificent waterfalls tumbling over wet rocks down into the deepest pools of midnight blue. But there was no curtain. There was no mirage. This was the real deal. The great American Southwest in all its desolate glory and me a simple corpuscle pumping my life through the corroded veins of overcooked sanity.

I turned the stereo down to zero just so I could hear the hot wind rip through my car, wrestle my thinning locks and breathe life into my scorched lungs. I pushed the cigarette lighter in and waited for it to pop. I pressed it to the tip of my ninth cigarette of the day and exhaled a ghostly cloud of venomous smoke. I coughed. I always cough after the first drag. I turned the stereo back up just to drown out the din of nothingness and kept driving, my eyes fixed on the heat waves on the horizon.

Inclined Corners of a Yellow Map

This is a companion piece to Bite of the Oven Salesman.

Inclined Corners. A starlit sky is seen above the shadow of an adobe structure in New Mexico.

Cigarettes For a Saint

Once I was west and with the oven selling in Omaha behind me, I set a half-empty pack of Marlboro cigarettes on the stone feet of St. Francis outside the great cathedral in Santa Fe as a sort of offering. It was dark save for the spotlights beaming down from heaven.

I felt strangely safe in the shadow of the church and the tall trees that surrounded it. The tolling of the soothing bells sent shivers up and down my skeleton. I sat on the courtyard wall and looked out at all the rummagers of history, drunks, confused tourists and well-to-do sophistos sparkling around the town square like ice rink skaters high on New Mexico gas and good credit.

I had spent most of the day in the old city, a sort of day trip to quell my very own madness. Just the night before in El Fuego, my new town in the southeast quadrant of NM, I went to bed in a manic stupor and full of brat meat and beans and German potato salad on a pretend Halloween night that brought no spirits to the surface, no goblins to the door other than my own tar-caked demons living in this rattling, oily rib cage. I scared my own self with my innate ability to fall prey so easily to bad habits. Easily. So easily. Frighteningly easily. Addiction to addiction. Lack of self-control. Bent on self-destruction no matter what. A bomb. A nuclear bomb. Love bombed the will to live right out of me. My heart was Hiroshima all over again.

The Nightmare in Clines Corner

It’s a little stop where I-40 and Highway 285 meet up in the great expanse of nothing but wide-open wonder. There were a couple of gas stations, a gift shop, a restaurant, stray dogs, diesel trucks and the dreamy distant sound of traffic zipping by on the interstate. West to Albuquerque. East to Tucumcari. And me in between, slumped over in my ride, head spinning and stomach lurching. I was trying to sleep a bit before pushing on to the more than 100 miles I had yet to go. It was late. After midnight I suppose. Traffic was pulling taffy wide with ghost groans. Zooooomrumble, rumble rumblezooooom. I tried to sleep but I couldn’t. I couldn’t get comfortable. The giant Shell sign perched up high on a tall metal pole was too big and bright. A yellow and red beacon to travelers of the night; my menace at that moment and more.

“Go to sleep why don’t you,” I thought out loud. A big diesel truck rolled into the gas station noisily. I had to get out and walk around. The air was cool enough at night still and maybe a stretch and some air could get me coherent again.

I unfolded myself from the car and walked around the lot a bit. Everything was so bright and stinging my eyes. My head was still pounding. Some juice, I needed some juice. Gatorade, lemonade, first aid. I pulled the door to the convenience store open wide and stepped inside. Quiet but for the buzz of the yellowish lights. A cricket in the corner was making love to the silence as I yanked open the cooler door and fumbled around for some juice. Apple juice is good. Took it to the counter and cleared my throat. The clerkie was rummaging around in the back somewhere, counting cigarettes or playing the French horn. I don’t know. He came out to the counter and mumbled something like, “Izz thut ell for ugh?”

Yes. That is all you greasy bastard. That is all. I have to get moving. Lots of driving to do. Too much empty space to pierce through like a dart with angel wings sailing for the sunken promised land – El Fuego. It will be hot tomorrow. It will be too hot. It is always too hot in El Fuego.

The Desolate Crash

I managed to get the car back onto the road and in motion again. I crossed over I-40 and into the darkness of the less traveled 285. It wasn’t long before I came upon some sort of clamor in the roadway. I slowed down as I came upon the wreck. It was three or four cars; I couldn’t really tell in the twisted dark. Three or four cars wrapped around each other like lovers in an orgy of metal and hissing steam. It was silent mostly, except for the soft groans of people trapped and the tears of a teenage girl pacing back and forth in obvious shock and awe. I rolled down my window. She moved her mouth away from her cell phone; she was shaking.

“Are you all right?”

“We’re fine, we’re fine,” she answered.

“Is anyone hurt?”

“Yes… We’re all hurt. I think someone might be dead.”

I looked past her at the wreckage. Surely someone was dead.

“I can give you a ride somewhere.”

“No. The police. The police are coming already. I called them.”

I looked off ahead of me into the dark distance and could see the tiny pops of blue and red drawing closer. But where did they come from? They weren’t coming from the interstate. There’s nothing else out here. This is a wasteland.

“I’ll stay with you until they come. You can come sit in my car if you like,” I said to the trembling girl. But she didn’t hear me, didn’t notice me. She was crying harder and shaking more violently, mumbling to herself and dragging her feet across the roadway as she walked in tortured circles near the wreckage. I looked off into the distance. The blues and reds were growing larger. I could hear the faint sound of sirens. I put my car in gear and drove away, watching the scene of despair and pain fade away in my rear-view mirror.

The cops blew by me with such speed it nearly forced my car off the road. If they didn’t slow down, I thought, they would bash right into the whole wreck scene and cause even more misery. I watched their lights disappear over a hill. They were gone, I was gone, and the darkness swallowed me whole as I rumbled on.