Vacation Hangover

Yeah, you know what I mean.

You return from somewhere luminous, invigorating, and no matter how much you tidied before you left, the house you come back to feels dirty, drab, colorless. It fits all stiff like cheap new shoes.

You have a stack of mail to go through and not one whit of it is anything other than bank statements or catalogs or those stupid flyers you can't unsubscribe from no matter how may phone calls you make or junkmail reduction sites you register with. And, viewed through your grouch-o-vision glasses, it looks like an awful lot like a big ol' chunk of landfill, because you suspect your local dump doesn't actually recycle anything.

And, if you live in the godforsaken Las Vegas area, it's freakin' 112 (yeah, I know the news reports it as cooler, but that's just so they don't scare the tourists away). Even getting groceries feels like too much effort in that heat, so you buy frozen crap for a couple days to avoid the commitment of meal planning and a full cart. And then you feel gross from all the preservatives your body is used to rejecting. And everything feels like too much effort; maybe you're just sluggish from the junk food. Or maybe what you really want to do is flee back to where weather was bearable, where hail in July seemed reasonable and fitting.

And why-- WHY-- did you have leftovers in the fridge when you left? Why on earth would you NOT throw that shit out when you were gonna be gone for two weeks? And since cleaning out the fridge in the first couple days back from vacation is even more depressing than finding that stuff there in the first place, they sit a little longer, mocking you with fat, oozy giggles every time you open the fridge door.

Those impulsive time-share purchases don't seem so unreasonable all of a sudden. There's this desperation in wanting to hold onto that iridescent hazy soap bubble, that time of no commitments and long lazy days, of eating amazing food and opening your world.

Can anyone suggest a remedy for this?


Magical, magical Taos

The wildfires thwarted our plans to kick it in Taos for a few days on our outgoing trip to Colorado, so we decided to make up for it on our way back. My long-lost really good friend Deanna  lives there. (PS, she is awesome.) And we're on a mission to get Dan's stuff into some galleries so... you know, why not start that project out at a famously picky mecca like Taos?


I find a place at vrbo.com for rent at the very last minute. It's this 3-bedroom adobe house about a block from the Plaza for the same price as the Super 8.

Original 40's hardwood floors and saltillo tile. Cute little flagstone patio. Two bathrooms. Full kitchen. Casita out back. Dog-friendly.


Of course-- there's this catch. The rental guy tells us the neighbor is a little nuts. He's not specific on what kind of nuts. Loud music at odd hours is implied. We're encouraged to call the cops if we want. "If you don't want to get involved or whatever, just call me and I'll call the cops for you. I know you have kids."

Dan & I are both kind of intrigued about Crazy Neighbor. We get in past dark, but there's no sign of him. In the morning, the dismembered bicycle hanging from the metal fountain is a pretty solid sign which neighbor to watch out for. And the metal fountain itself is a peeing eagle. Sort of majestic, in a urinary kind of way. 

We have to walk past Crazyhouse on our way to get Dan his morning coffee. There's a skinny twitchy guy out front who greets us with a manic cheerfulness: "Hi! Hello! Good morning! I guess you must be the neighbors. You know this guy who stays here, this guy? He's kind of, like, kind of crazy, right?"

It's not clear whether this guy is, in fact, himself the crazy neighbor but pretending not to be, or if he's genuinely schizophrenic. Or, third option, a second crazy guy. 

But, you know, whatever; we're friendly by nature and he seems harmless so we chat for a while. He claims to be an electrician friend of Crazy Neighbor. We make semi-uncomfortable small talk, the less mentally stable of us flashing large tooth-missing smiles throughout, and eventually he shakes our hands and tells us to have a great stay in Taos and enjoy the day. 

We walk to the Plaza and have coffee at this tiny place called World Cup (cute name, right? Tied for cutest with a place called Higher Grounds in Golden, CO). It's about as big as our rental's living room, and the walls are plastered with currency from different nations and lots of bumper stickers. I'm not a coffee drinker (anymore... that's a long, sad story for another day) but they offer some kind of orange zest mocha with an irresistible name that I can't remember at the moment so I make an exception and it is so worth it. 

I love that this is a town where some law-enforcement dude with shiny handcuffs tucked into the back of his belt is getting his morning joe at a place with 'Question Authority' bumper stickers over the door.

After coffee is procured, we walk down to the gallery where, during our initial visit to Taos that lasted less than 24 hours, Dan managed to find a kindred spirit. The place isn't open yet, but next door is a chocolate shop. I recognize the guy behind the counter as the same one who was in line in front of us at World Cup. God, I love small towns.

We make our way back toward the house past an amazing-looking toy store that has a free playground out back looped with enormous kiddie habitrails. This is a sign it's time to wake up the kids.

Back in the driveway, we're greeted by this: 

Dan points at the sage. "That was not there when we left," he says.

I pick it up. The charred ends are still warm. The placement is consistent with having been thrown over from Crazy Neighbor's yard.

Even the tweakers here are nice! 

Later, I tell Deanna the story. "That's so Taos!" she says. Actually, she says that a lot.

Later in the morning, Dan somehow runs into the landlord from next door. He finds out that Crazy Neighbor was in fact arrested the same night we arrived, apparently got into some fight with his brother. So I guess the other crazy guy we met this morning was, in fact, just a random second crazy guy hanging out at the house for no apparent reason while his crazy friend was in the clink.

The next morning we hit up the farmers' market, only a few blocks away in the opposite direction of the Plaza.  We bought homemade chipotle chevre and fresh spinach and a bouquet of purple garlic, then came home and made omelets. 

Then we toured the Earth Ships. 

The sign (predictably) says 'Please do not touch thermometer.'

I'm not sure it's possible to see those things and not want to build one yourself. They are brilliantly constructed and very cool, zero utility bills and recycling of grey water built right in. I love the idea of a dwelling existing in so much harmony with nature. On a related side note: Oh my god, I've become such a hippie. 

You have to cross the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge to get to and from the Earth Ships. It's really gorgeous and terrifying. 

I made the kids go out to the middle of it to take the next few shots 'cause I was too chicken. It's actually embarrassing how few feet I walked out before getting dizzy.

I should've known those last two pics coming the second I handed them the camera.

We got milkshakes at this renovated bus. 

We all agreed they were the worst milkshakes ever.

And we met this cool crusty dude with two milky alabaster feathers he'd carved. 

Then we had to visit his booth and all the other little booths set up over by the Bridge. Some of it was really cool. 

I've seen roadside Native American booths before, especially around the Grand Canyon area, but these have a different feel. In that section of the country, there's a sense of desperation in all those wares lined up. Here, there's a fierce pride. Pride in their craft, pride in their heritage, pride in themselves. There's strength coursing through the desert here.

When we get back to the rental, the Crazy Neighbor's landlord has organized a yard sale of Crazy Neighbor's stuff, clearly evicting while the iron's hot. Or incarcerated, as the case may be.

This is the cleaned up version of the yard. 

Of course we had to check it out. 

I got this great book for only $5!

And now it's our day to leave and I am seriously cranky.

In visiting my hometown, I used to get a sense of "Yes, this!" when I stepped out of the car. I always thought I'd eventually end up there, that nowhere else would ever be home. 

Something about that solidity eroded over the past few years. Something not right, some stale scent of hollow obligation now wafts in under the pine sap and behind the loon calls. It's not my place any more. 

I'm also not at home where I currently live. Not even close. 

Dan and I talk a lot about our Forever House, about where we want to end up after the kids are on their own. Or at least, old enough that custody schedules no longer have to be a factor in our residence choices. We've debated Tucson, considered Colorado. We can't seem to commit to anywhere. Nothing feels right.

Until we pulled into Taos. 

The second our feet hit this ground, we looked at each other with mirroring "Yes, this!" in our eyes. This is our place. Not right now; there's no practical way to fly Miss L back and forth to Reno, and it's expensive and we need to plan for it. But we know it's our future, and it's a freeing, grounding thing to have that certainty in my life again. It's been missing for a long time.

As Peep says, I "cried a biddle from happy" when I found the sage in our drive coming back from our first morning wander here. There is something a little nuts about this place, and even that is so incredibly right.


Um, I suck a little.

Okay, I do realize that I'm over two weeks late posting. Someday I figure I will get the hang of pre-writing posts so there's no interruption when I'm on vacation. I had, seriously, 45 articles to write and while they weren't due till mid-vacation, who wants those things hovering over them while taking long trips and catching up with long-lost friends and chasing toddlers? NOBODY. Anyway, all my writing mojo went (sadly) into those and I ran out of time for other things.

So-- all right. I will try so hard to have an actual post this coming Sunday. Next year I swear I'll get it together. Really.