Itinerary: downtown Santa Fe.
Revisit St. Francis Cathedral Basilica. Check.
Locate and visit Georgia O’Keefe museum. Check.
Don’t get lost. Check.
The St. Francis Cathedral Basilica, now, there’s a church. Huge, of course, with brightly-painted columns in the interior and an enormous baptismal font (ironic, since Catholics usually get baptized at birth and don’t do the full dunk) with a black marble font and a waterfall down to a submerged brass grate with the insignia of the four gospels (I think). Very peaceful place…until you take a left turn into the chapel of La Conquistadora. A kneeling rail, maybe five hundred votive candles, and a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM). An informational pamphlet assures you the name comes from her ability to peacefully conquer the hearts of men…
I’ve never seen a really Latin crucifix before. I’d heard of them. “Very gory.” Well, now I’ve seen one. It wasn’t gory. It was a corpse. I’ve seen dead bodies before…and this was Christ the Corpse. No peace, no forgiveness, no redemption…nope. The soul has left, and there’s only the flesh behind. Very striking; in its own way, very moving.
If it sounds like I was seeing this through sardonic eyes, my apologies. It was just so…different. Most of it was almost familiar, but I still felt disoriented. The difference between Norwegian-based churches and Hispanic-based churches? I don’t know. Things were both more colorful and more matter-of-fact than I was expecting. I don’t go around thinking the churches back in South Dakota as being mystical, but in comparison, they are.
The windows are almost, but not quite as good as the ones in Sts. Simon and Jude of Flandreau, SD. I’m having trouble finding pictures of the windows there, which is a shame.
We wandered around for a while and made a half-hearted effort to locate the church with the floating staircase thingy, but eventually just skipped it in the quest for the Georgia O’Keefe museum.
I must say the place, when we eventually found it, was a disappointment. It was small, had walls supposedly painted the color of adobe but really just looking like a bad paint job consistently smeared with fingerprints (what about that perfect shade of gray she had to paint Stieglitz’s place for her first show?!?). The guards were very hostile-looking. Now, Ray is five, and I can understand their concerns. However, most of the time when I bring her with me to museums, the staff (unless otherwise overwhelmed) almost always make a point of being extra-nice to us: it’s better if you start your art-lovers young, you know. (I mean, come on. We were welcomed to the Chihuly (read: glass) exhibit at the FAC in Colorado Springs. Glass. Five-year-old. And yet it worked, and they were happy to see us.) It was a profoundly boring experience for Ray…until we watched the introductory movie that we’d skipped earlier.
You see, the museum was packed with mostly mediocre works of a more historical than artistic value. “Huh. I didn’t know she did that much watercolor”-type of reaction. A few famous pieces, but nothing that made your eyeballs happy. The other artist, whose name I have mercifully forgotten, was dull and pretentious. For example, she’d painted large, well-textured boards with uniform pink spots where the knots should be. Knots of entirely the wrong shade of pink, I might add…a paler pink would have been better. Looking at pieces of wood a few days later, I was struck by the resemblance of wood grain to cosmic shapes and decided replacing all the knots with tiny, delicately detailed paintings of planets would have been much better and altogether more joyful. Rows of shiny deer skulls. Derivative (of Stieglitz) pictures of the moon shining through the clouds, replaced by 4X4 pixels. Yawn.
I like modern art. I think Georgia O’Keefe would have felt her hackles rise at the place…
Anyway, we were only there about twenty minutes, so we sat down to watch the movie, just to feel like we’d accomplished something, I guess. Gene Hackman narrated. It was so good…Ray was just fascinated all the way through it. So maybe I haven’t scarred her for life after all.
After that, we went to the Blue Corn Cafe downtown. Warning! When you see a place that advertises itself as Mexican, check for people who look Hispanic! If you do not see anyone who does, there may be a reason! It wasn’t bad, just eh. It was supposed to be a brewery, too, but I didn’t try the beer, which looked like standard brews rather than anything really fun.
Oh oh oh! We went to the Santa Fe School of Cooking and Market. They had molcajetes! But I did not get one; they were heavy, and I was walking. But I did get a couple of different kinds of chili pepper, chipotle and chimayo. The chimayo is very good hot-chocolate pepper (add a pinch of cinnamon and a baby pinch of pepper. Yum).
The Palace of the Governers is closed on Mondays. The front was lined with Native folks with jewely and whatnot spread out on flannel blankets (lots of Disney characters), which may not be as authentic-looking as might be, but looked pretty useful in keeping the constantly-looming rainshowers off the goods. Ray and I walked by, more curious in the tourists than anything else, and one lady in a blue sweatshirt said, coyly, “You know, you can haggle” as I walked by.
I looked in the windows of dozens and dozens of galleries, but nothing appealed. Therefore, the day quickly turned into a gluttony of book shopping.
Alla is a bookstore (upstairs, past the dinosaur cutouts) that specializes in Latin American books. Talking to the owner (who looks like an alternate version of Kurt Vonnegut, skinnier, fresher-faced), he said he had over 45 thousand titles in his little place, compared to 41K at the local Borders. Personally, I believe him. He’d been very creative in arranging his shelving. It was almost like a movie where you tilt the secret book and a secret passage opens, except there wasn’t a secret passage…just more books. I picked up The Anatomist and The Merciful Women by Federico Andahazi, after explaining to him I was looking more for the South American crowd than anything else. “Ahh….” He seemed like the kind of guy who would have given away all his books for free, because you had to read them, but had (after years and years of soul-searching) had finally come to the conclusions that 1) nobody would read them if they didn’t pay for them first, and 2) he had to eat.
We also went to Collected Works, which is this tiny, hole-in-the-wall place with a great selection of books. Definitely not in the 45K range, but on the other hand, I wanted to buy all of them. I stuck with two Bernstein Bears books (which Ray could not put down) and The Mysterious Benedict Society, a YA by Trenton Lee Stewart with coolio puzzles and, of course, a group of mismatched kids who Save the World. Totally geeked out on that one. I was only stopped on my book march of doom by the fact that I’d have to carry a lot of dead weight around if I didn’t quit soon, and regretfully put back a book on Hispanic black magic, among other things…
Eventually, we ditched downtown. When I lived in and near Iowa City (famed for its graduate writing program), I was annoyed by all the pretentious writing crap. (I miss it now, although I wouldn’t want to go back–we are still talking Iowa here, and I’m just not built for those rolling green hills.) My attitude toward Santa Fe’s attitude toward art may be described as similar. I like art. But I’m better off living in Colorado Springs, really I am.
On the other hand, driving back to the motel (and we stopped at Borders on the way home because I wanted to pick up a movie for Ray but she wanted this wooden set of magnetic dress-up dolls instead, which was much cooler), I realized I actually liked the whole adobe thing. I also liked the fact that you were always about two minutes from getting lost on a gravel road in sight of where you actually wanted to be. There were too many tourists…but once you got off Cerillios, it was okay. It’ll take a while before I figure out what kind of story I’d set here, but there’s one there, I just know it…
Anyway, we ate up the leftovers in the fridge (molcajete!), played dress-up dolls, read books (I finished Uglies, this Ana-something (Anacrusis? Anatopsis?)* book that was very strange and not entirely effective but nevertheless good, and Benedict Society while I was in town). And went swimming. (Was this in any doubt?)