New Teen Book “Without Notice” by G G Collins
From the author of “Flying Change,” an equestrian novel for teens and up.
Courtney’s life turned upside down when her mother was killed by a drunk driver. Now, they are moving from Minneapolis to her father’s hometown in New Mexico, where he will run an art gallery. Older sister Francine is heartbroken because she has to leave her boyfriend behind. Younger sister Toby just misses Mom.
One thing is particularly disturbing: her dad’s friend Silky. He says they know one another through the gallery, but is that really all? It seems she is always interjecting herself into their lives. Courtney, who is a good cook, took over cooking meals for the family, but lately Silky’s even intruding there. Silky is a terrible cook, but her father eats everything she prepares and compliments it. Being a teen is hard enough, but she doesn’t want a blended family. Courtney’s conflicted emotions cause her to say hurtful things to Silky, and then regret them. She tries to cope with feelings of loss and the need to move on.
Courtney and Francine hatch a plan to sabotage Silky; but soon Francine has found a new boyfriend leaving Courtney alone in the effort. All the while, Silky is trying to make friends with the family. She invites Courtney to tweak her cooking skills with the promise of teaching her how to make pottery. Drawn to Silky’s tales of Native American artists and their search for the best clay, Courtney grudgingly listens even as her interest grows. Silky’s stories are full of intrigue and clandestine journeys to collect clay under cover of darkness. During one of her pottery lessons, Silky shares a painful story with Courtney. Loss does not play favorites.
She meets Audrey, the girl next door, and immediately strikes up a friendship. Audrey is an outspoken know-it-all with a sense of adventure that is infectious. She takes Courtney on new experiences including the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. She and Audrey attend a mass launch which is unlike anything she has ever seen. Courtney is spellbound watching the hot air balloons. Unfortunately, Audrey has a dark side. She makes a mistake that challenges their newfound friendship and threatens Courtney’s delicate relationship with Silky.
Despite her resentment about moving, thirteen-year-old Courtney discovers this strange new city with its brown houses, Pueblo architecture and ancient stories to be as mysterious as it is beautiful. Even as she resists, Santa Fe casts its spell.
A Little Bit of Heaven on an Autumn Day
By G G Collins (Copyright 2014)
As I walked up the steps to the huge courtyard at Museum Hill, southwestern music floated across the breeze to greet me. I could almost pluck the notes from thin air. Although the open space is large between the museums, the courtyard feels intimate with beautiful desert landscaping, en plein air sculpture garden and dedicated spaces. With the Sangre de Cristos as backdrop and storm clouds adding drama but no rain, it was a perfect Santa Fe fall day.
On this excursion I wasn’t covering the museums, but please don’t let that stop you. The “Hill” is composed of the Museum of International Folk Art, Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Wheelright Museum of the American Indian, Museum of Spanish Colonial Art and the Laboratory of Anthropology. You can stay the entire day and see them all. For a time-out, the Museum Hill Cafe provides food, drink, music and a place to rest tired feet.
Two things dominate the courtyard (also known as Milner Plaza), the Mountain Spirit Dancer by Craig Dan Goseyun. The massive bronze sculpture appears to be moving. Look at the fringe on his costume, the feathers caught up in his movement, the lightness of his feet. Throughout the courtyard the art runs from howling coyotes to mother and child. There is a performance circle included here for a cozy outdoor experience with the arts. But at the other end of the court is a labyrinth. Santa Fe is known for its many public labyrinths. This one is contemporary in style and is constructed using stones in the southwest colors of turquoise and coral. Set aside a few minutes and take a contemplative walk. Who knows what you’ll discover about yourself. There is another blog post about labyrinths at https://reluctantmediumatlarge.wordpress.com/?s=walking+meditation
I crossed the parking lot to the new-ish Santa Fe Botanical Garden. Phase 1, the
Orchard Gardens opened in July 2013. Phase 2, Ojos Y Manos: Eyes and Hands, is scheduled to debut in 2015. While wandering the grounds, notice the red bridge. Phase 2 will be beyond Kearny’s Gap Bridge.
While there, I enjoyed “Origami in the Garden” a series of metal fashioned through lost wax casting and fabrication techniques, by artist Kevin Box. Both whimsy and beauty are found in his work. From the his Rock, Paper, Scissors to Painted Ponies, they are all inspired creations with their origins in a sheet of blank paper. For more about his work: http://www.langorigami.com/art/gallery/gallery.php?tag=kevin-box
Coming up next is the GLOW, the winter lights event. It opens December 4, 2014 and runs through January 3, 2015. Along with the beautiful lights will be Santa Claus, music and hot toddies every Saturday evening. Tickets are $7 to $8 (non-members) with children 12 and under, free. To buy tickets: http://www.santafebotanicalgarden.org/events/glow/
There are many opportunities for education and community service. For more information: http://www.santafebotanicalgarden.org/about/
To reach Museum Hill and the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, take Old Santa Fe Trail southeast from the Plaza to Camino Lejo (there are Museum Hill signs along the way). Public transit is available. Please see for directions: http://indianartsandculture.org/directions
Whatever the season, Santa Fe’s Museum Hill and Botanical Garden is a little bit of desert paradise for all the senses.
Christmas Eve in Santa Fe
By G G Collins (Copyright 2013)
It’s Christmas Eve and you’re in Santa Fe. Sunset is fast approaching and the air is frosty. There’s only one thing to do: wrap up warmly and go to the Canyon Road Christmas Eve Farolito Walk.
Forget trying to park. Stay at a nearby hotel or B & B. Otherwise prepare for frustration trying to park. There will be street closures and partial street closures. Last year Santa Fe Trails offered shuttles from the South Capitol Station for $2 round-trip. Check with them for service this year.
Notice the farolitos (brown paper bags with sand and a votive candle) lining the street and sidewalks. Now, in Santa Fe these are called farolitos, but much of New Mexico refers to them as luminarias. To further confuse the issue, in Santa Fe we call bonfires luminarias. Okay, don’t sweat the details; just enjoy.
This can be a shoulder-to-shoulder event with up to 30,000 people—and their dogs—descending on Canyon Road. Santa Fe’s art centre lives right here and many of the galleries will be open late; doorways of yellow light inviting you in. I absolutely love this yearly procession. You never know what surprise waits to delight you. Most of these are provided by the parade you are a part of; people and dogs draped in Christmas lights. Canine friends may be outfitted with antlers in addition to the brightly colored lights. They don’t seem to mind. There’s always a new take on costuming for the Farolito Walk.
Impromptu carolers burst into Christmas songs and spirituals. Music erupts as drummers pound their instruments marching the length of Canyon Road. Notes float across the cold air from a harp or flute gently reminding you of the season. The galleries, shops and restaurants along the narrow thread are decked out with festive lights and bright red bows. It’s a sensory experience of light, sound and delicious scents.
But don’t leave out taste. To warm up, stop and get a coffee, hot chocolate or cider. Usually one can find cookies for munching—you’ll need energy to walk uphill. Take a few moments and warm your hands at a nearby bonfire, and keep going.
When the lights fade and the music stops, just turn around and do it all over. And when you reach the end of Canyon Road, savor the experience, because it will be another whole year before it happens again. This is Christmas Eve in Santa Fe.
— G G Collins
Links to YouTube videos of the Christmas Eve Farolito Walk on Canyon Road:
Whatever holiday you celebrate, may it be happy and peaceful.
Interview with Rachel Blackstone, the “Reluctant Medium”
as told to G G Collins
What is your author like? My author drives me nuts! By the way, her name is G G Collins and I’m her character, Rachel Blackstone. Yes, (yawn) I’m the Reluctant Medium. But back to G G, it’s not the late night writing that annoys me—I’m a night owl too—but all the outlandish stuff she has me do. You know, she thinks it up, but she doesn’t have to do it. I do. In the first book, I had to break and enter, send my car into an arroyo, tramp around Tent Rocks in the middle of the night, all the while coping with bad men and an evil spirit. Geez, and I still had to make all my deadlines. This time, I swear it’s true, she sending me traveling on the astral plane! You know, there is no map available, no app (but I don’t do cell phones anyway) and the auto club has never heard of it. That leaves me hoofing through the whole thing practically in blinders (ooh, too many equestrian references).
Tell me about the place where you live. Santa Fe, New Mexico is known as the City Different, because of its unique adobe architecture. In reality, it’s the city same, because all the buildings look similar with flat roofs and stucco facade. They’re all painted in one of the approved brown colors, although you occasionally see a white house where obviously an independent type lives. But, the high desert climate attracts artists from all over who come to paint the
beautiful vistas that are Santa Fe. It is a place where people who don’t fit where they were born, can find acceptance being different. I love to hike and ski in the Sangre de Cristos. But mostly, I enjoy eating the spicy southwest foods with friend Chloe. We’re especially fond of The Shed and its yummy margaritas. Oh yes, the food is good too.
What is your family like? This gets complicated. Both parents are dead. My father was killed recently in a car wreck and I don’t think it was an accident. Now, the brother is the mayor, but he’s, well, shall we say unpopular. He cheats on his wife with all the lovely young clerks at city hall. I’m pretty sure he’s runs low and fast with the law, but have no proof. He thinks I’m “unbalanced” and “flaky.” I’m married, currently, but things aren’t going well. After my father died, I took a powder and split town for a few months. Anthony is a documentary producer and is feeling the pangs of those first wrinkles and what his Hollywood connections might think. He medicates with alcohol. I’m not sure it’s going to work out.
Who is your best friend in the world and what is she like? That would be Chloe, who might as well be family, but sometimes friends are better. She’s a very, make that very, successful real estate mogul in a city full of them. Although she’s been married a couple times (I’m not sure how many), she kept the last name of Valdez in the divorce settlement because it seemed to help with selling houses here in the southwest. We’re not entirely opposites, but she’s high-fashion and heels and I’m comfortable in flat shoes I can run in. You never know when you might need to make a hasty exit. Chloe loves to accompany me on journalistic stakeouts, you know mixing with the rift-raft—but she caters it! I mean before she tagged along the first time, I did just fine with green chile cheese burritos and some instant tea. Chloe changed that forever. Oh yes, and I must tell you, she’s into everything that could possibly be called New Age. I mean it, everything. She really embraced this medium thing. I’m not going there, no way.
What is the thing you are most proud of? Definitely following in my father’s footsteps, the family business: reporting. He was an award-winning journalist in New Mexico at the Albuquerque Journal. I write for a magazine with serious liberal leanings. Writing is in our bloodlines, but the brother must have had a transfusion. Oh well (shakes her head), moving on. I love to interview. The most important thing is how you connect with a person to help them feel comfortable and get the best story. But I find the research side engaging too. It’s a “wow” moment when I find that infinitesimal scrap of information that ties it altogether. Pulling it all into a readable story that informs or helps the reader is the final touch. I love it all, but lately things have been a bit strange. I’m searching for normal, you know, before the spirit thing. It creeps me out!
If you had a day to do anything you wanted, what would you do? That’s a tough one. I’d sleep late, eat something for breakfast slathered in green chile, call Chloe and go skiing. After an afternoon on the slopes, we stop by 10,000 Waves, get a massage and soak in a hot tub. Then on to dinner and of course, I’ll buy the drinks because Chloe always beats me down the mountain. But this never happens all in one day because there is always another deadline to meet. I’d be real happy if all my interviews were on time and my computer doesn’t lock up.
What is your home like? Anthony and I have a bit of a posh place in the hills north of Santa Fe’s downtown. He makes good money, I don’t. He worries about status and since we have been known to “entertain” Hollywood types, he wanted a certain look. I guess you could call it modern southwest for want of a better term. It has clean lines and we have a lovely woman who comes and cares for it. It’s not my thing however. When I lost my mind one night and fled New Mexico, I found a small house in a once elegant neighborhood. Okay, it’s a bit of a dump, but I like it. I feel another change coming on. If there is one thing I like, it’s a fresh start.
What is your most prized possession? That would have to be my car. I bought it on impulse the night I fled my life. It’s a big, make that BIG, navy Mercury Marquis. The Merc guzzles gas, but is “Ride Engineered” and it is smooth. But oh my, it does not fit Santa Fe’s narrow streets and tight alleys. And just try to park it! Now Chloe hates it. Doesn’t want to be seen in it, and often offers to have it detailed. I admit it is a bit messy. I don’t mean for it to happen, but somehow it fills up with notebooks, tapes (I’m old fashioned, no digital recorders), the remains of meals and whatever clothes might land in the back seat. So there you have it. It’s my declaration of independence.
How would you describe yourself? Haven’t I been describing myself? Oh, I guess that’s kind of rude. Okay, you already know I’m a reporter, with a bad marriage, and a roué for a brother. What you don’t know is that I’m not child friendly and I swear a lot. I eat an awful diet, despite Chloe’s efforts, and I never gain a pound. Now you hate me, right? I take all kinds of risks, professional and personal. That’s probably why I tried to return my father from the great beyond. Unfortunately, I lost concentration for a moment, and another soul slipped through. He’s undoubtedly evil and seems to be angry with my brother. Despite my sparkling relationship with Santa Fe’s so-so mayor, I don’t want him hurt. The disturbing part is that I’m seeing other spirits too. And there is the lone wolf. I don’t know how he fits in. I tell you, this medium stuff is exhausting. I’m sure it’s just a one-time thing. Don’t you?
Where do you work? I write for High Desert Country. It’s located on a one-way street in an old adobe house. It has a fish pond in the yard that we never have time to enjoy, but Julian (my boss) hides the keys to the office in the pond. Everyone in town knows where they are. Julian hired me shortly after he and Stella Dallas (her mother loved Barbara Stanwyck) launched the magazine. The cast of characters includes Shorty, who of course, isn’t, short that is. He’s our photographer and keeps the ancient photocopier working. He reads motorcycle magazines between assignments. But someone new has been added in my absence. Julian’s conservative nephew has come onboard, a product of nepotism, despite the fact that his uncle can’t stand him either. It’s interesting. Stop by anytime, the nice woman across the street bakes goodies for us on a regular basis. You can always watch TV with Stella. She’ll say “hello” when you walk in. Me? I’ll be pounding out a story two desks back.
“Reluctant Medium” available at Smashwords for $.99 with coupon number until December 10th. Enter the coupon code prior to completing checkout at Smashwords: WW77S
Make Like a Tourist
Reluctant Medium Rachel Blackstone’s favorite time of year is autumn. Funny, we’re alike in that way. Since blog posts eat photos like mad, I thought I’d make like a tourist and head out with the camera. Taking pictures like a first-time visitor is actually a little embarrassing, but the journalist urges me onward.
The weather is great in Santa Fe right now, although if you enjoy a high desert climate, it’s nearly always terrific weather. I took off down West San Francisco headed toward the plaza. “I was walking with my feet ten feet off” the street. For those of you who don’t recognize this, it’s from a Cher song entitled “Walking in Memphis.” If you don’t know Cher (US singer/actress), she recorded the song in 1995. It was used in an episode of The X-Files, but wasn’t the hit several of her other songs became. Originally sung by singer-songwriter Marc Cohn, it is about a spiritual awakening in Memphis. Here is a YouTube link to hear the song:
There are days like that in the City Different when the senses are keen and the spirit is awakening. This is such a day. As I pass the Lensic Performing Arts, I marvel at how it was transformed from a 1931 theatre where anything from vaudeville to first-run movies was showcased to a swank new PAC. But the 800-seat theatre was in
danger of becoming permanently dark, when it was saved by a group of visionaries. They saw a new beginning for a building on the verge of losing its groove. There was a multi-story addition to the rear of the building and the interior was carefully restored to its stunning ornate decor. It hosts more than 200 events a year.
Also on San Francisco you’ll find The Original Trading Post. Reputed to have been in Santa Fe since 1603, it is protected by the Historic Santa Fe Foundation Preservation Easement program.” I remember the first time I saw it, I wasn’t at all certain I should enter. It looked ready to collapse. But not to worry, it’s stood many years since then. It has virtually everything you could possibly want for New Mexico gifts to take home: post cards, key chains, worry stones, cups, clothing, Native American pottery, on and on. Beware, the floors squeak unmercifully which is part of the charm. It makes no excuses. It’s kitschy and fun.
Burro Alley (you’ll know you’re there when you see the burro sculpture) was a wild patch in the 1800s: gambling parlors, bars and for the indiscriminate “gentleman,” ladies of the night were available for a price, usually the winnings from the card game. But the street was named after the sturdy little burros who pulled wagons of wood to be sold in the alley. Streets and sidewalks along here—and many other areas of downtown—intersect like the people who settled here.
At last, the plaza comes into view; I try to see it like someone who has never been there. It is sun splashed under a perfect azure sky. The trees are mature and tall. Flowers hang from old-fashioned street lamps. Both the present and
the past occupy the plaza. The monument in the center has had the word “savage” scratched out. It represents the past. In the present, people dot the square, some rushing to their next appointment while others sit on the benches and feed the pigeons or snap photos. The Palace of the Governors’ long portal shades Native Indian artists showing their wares on colorful blankets. At least 30 people browse, ask questions, squat for a closer look and buy a beautiful memory from Santa Fe.
I don’t know if it’s the high mountain air (Santa Fe sits at 7,000 feet) or the brilliant sky. Maybe it’s the aroma of roasting chiles or the aspens that are
turning golden on Mt. Baldy. It could be the abundant creativity in the city. It’s a magnet for writers and artists of all walks. But there is an energy that can’t be denied, and why would anyone want to?
Why not go walking in your city?
— G G Collins
Cutest Cat in the Cosmos
The little tortoiseshell cat came with the house Rachel Blackstone, the Reluctant Medium, bought after her divorce. No one knew she was there. Her first companion died in an accident. When his family came to clean out the house, they didn’t see the cat.
Thanks to actor Logan Masters who was filming in New Mexico and became a friend of Rachel’s, the cat was saved. Rachel wasn’t a cat person at first, but Logan was. He scooped up the cat in his arms as Rachel watched in surprise. A few minutes later, with cat hair all over his expensive jacket, she knew the cat was staying on after she bought the house.
A couple days later, Rachel stopped by to feed the small creature, even before she closed on the house. On one such occasion, the evil spirit appeared and the cat’s psychic intuition was revealed. Chile Pod bristled and headed for the comfort of a tree the moment she noticed the spirit’s presence. Rachel was trying to figure out what was wrong when it became evident.
By the end of the story in the Reluctant Medium, she had decided on a name: Chile Pod. She chose it because of the cat’s mottled fur colors. It reminded her of how chiles change from green to red. The pepper’s skin becomes spotted with different colors as it matures.
Chile Pod realizes her first human won’t be returning, but this new one is growing on her—although this person is a bit strange. Currently, Rachel’s learning about astral projection, and it’s a crash course, because a friend has literally disappeared into a painting at a gallery showing. She needs to become skilled at projection quickly to save her friend from a strange vegetative prison in the forthcoming Lemurian Medium.
One thing’s for certain, Chile Pod will be around helping any way she can. She knows when spirits and other creepy visitors are about to appear at Rachel’s little house in the South Capital area of Santa Fe. But mostly, she enjoys curling up on the warm computer printer and chowing down on spicy burritos her Auntie Chloe brings her.
— G G Collins
The Reluctant Medium
Reporter Rachel Blackstone is the Reluctant Medium. Her father was an award-winning investigative journalist for the Albuquerque Journal. He died working on a story. Reporting must be in the family blood. Although that doesn’t explain her brother, who went into politics and is the mayor of Santa Fe. Perhaps he had a transfusion or another father—the product of a dalliance? Better not to go there.
Rachel left her husband and her hometown on one really bad night, and bought a, shall we say—pre-owned car. Then fled to Interstate 40, made a left and stopped driving in Tulsa. Here she barely made the rent for her faded bungalow working two jobs in what was the Oil Capital of the World, until most of the oil companies moved to Houston. Between the receptionist job where her duties mostly include pouring coffee and making copies, and the reporting she does for a society rag, she just can’t find her bliss.
She had never been satisfied with Santa Fe Police Department’s report on the death of her father. Rachel believed it could be murder. He had been driving to meet her the night he died. Apparently, he had information that would expose those in high positions in Santa Fe. But the proof died with him.
Wanting desperately to talk with him one last time, Rachel attempted a Hopi ceremony to return the dead. Although she followed the steps carefully, something went wrong. Maybe it was because she carried only a small amount of Native American heritage. You know, kind of a built-in fail-safe for people who have no business performing it. At any rate, her father didn’t come back, but someone did, and this spirit was up to no good. It made threats and disappeared, right through her door.
There was nothing to do but chase the spirit. In the middle of the night and back on Interstate 40, strange things began to happen: apparitions appeared. They included a wolf. At first, she thought it a living wolf, but it was white and filmy. Rachel was afraid of it and drove away from the encounter.
Back in Santa Fe, Rachel spoke with her best friend Chloe Valdez. The two women are suddenly caught up in something they don’t understand, and at least in Rachel’s case, she doesn’t want any part of, but it’s her doing that caused the turn of events in the first place. Rachel turns to the kindly Hopi shaman for help and hopes she can rise to the challenge of this evil spirit.
Her persona is one of impatience and exasperation, but with a dash of self-deprecation. She does her best to interject some humor, however dark—or inappropriate—into most situations. She is unconventional and things that are sacrosanct to others, are fair game to her. Her cynical personality is somewhat balanced by her friend Chloe who is a little more polished. Reluctant Medium is a mystery with paranormal elements; but it’s a buddy story too.
The journalist in Rachel struggles with the other-worldly situation. She is a fact-based person trying to cope with things she doesn’t understand and for which she can’t find an explanation.
This reporter never met a story she didn’t like. They are all challenging in different ways. It’s the boring ones that stretch her patience to the breaking point, but she deals with it by making a show of taking notes. That way, no one can see the perplexed look on her face.
Everyone has a story and Reluctant Medium is the story of Rachel Blackstone.
— G G Collins
The Plaza: Heart and Soul of Santa Fe
In the Pueblo Tewa language, the word bu-ping-geh, translates to “center-heart-place.” That describes Santa Fe’s central plaza well. Town plazas were the social network of times gone by—no wireless network needed. This public square was designed by Spanish soldiers a decade before Plymouth Rock saw its first Pilgrims. Originally, it was larger, extending all the way to what would be the location of the St. Francis Cathedral. Not surprising, the plaza is on the National Register of Historic Places
Anything and everything important happened at the plaza. Residents gathered there to celebrate when Mexico achieved its independence from Spain. It was also here that the town’s people learned the United States had annexed them and they were now going to be called New Mexico. The citizens of Santa Fe were not amused.
Today, the plaza is home to the famous Indian and Spanish Markets, fiestas, concerts, holiday lights, and the first place visitors want to see. When a Santa Fe newbie stops me and asks, “Where’s the plaza?” I usually think amateur, and smile remembering when I first looked for the plaza years ago.
For our Reluctant Medium, Rachel Blackstone, the plaza is a special place. While some locals avoid it, because of tourism, Rachel adores it because of the mix of residents and international visitors. It draws her as she walks from appointment to appointment passing by the Palace of the Governors with a quick hello to those she knows. She and friend Chloe loved drinks on the Ore House balcony, before the restaurant closed, and Rachel, along with her co-workers at High Desert Country have pick-up meetings at La Fonda. And of course, The Shed restaurant is a short block off the plaza.
West San Francisco is one of the Reluctant Medium’s favorite streets in Santa Fe. The Lensic Theater is here and has been beautifully restored and transformed into the city’s performing arts center. More on it another time. Restaurant Tia Sophia’s is also along the way. Breakfasts are great and affordable–lunch too. As we walk along this narrow street, the St. Francis Cathedral becomes more and more apparent.
Now, we’ve come to the intersection of San Francisco and Lincoln Avenue. We
have arrived. You’ll notice the plaza shows off Pueblo, Territorial and Spanish architecture. If we make a right and go upstairs, there’s a great place to eat called San Francisco Bar and Grill. It has had several incarnations in Santa Fe, but Rachel Blackstone likes this one best. Rachel’s favorites here are the Tuna Niçoise and Mediterranean salads.
Below is the Plaza Bakery-Haagen Dazs. There’s never a bad time for ice cream and fresh-baked goodies. It’s good to announce the Plaza Café on Lincoln has reopened after a long absence to renovate. This is the first meal for many visitors to the City Different. Welcome back.
Throughout the plaza you’ll find a drug store, jewelry, pottery, clothing and culinary stores, a bank, the New Mexico Museum of Art at one corner and La Fonda at another. Dominating the north side is the Palace of the Governors, although it doesn’t look much like a palace as compared to some in Europe. It has an enthralling history which we’ll cover in the future. The tunnels and holes that were dug in the floor are endlessly fascinating. But the main attraction here for visitors is the American Indian artwork that is sold on the portal (porch) of the museum. Most of the artists are more than willing to talk about how they create it.
But let’s soak up the plaza at the moment. There are a few curiosities. The obelisk in the center is a war memorial. Some of the words are shocking. I was appalled when I read it. We can be thankful that reasoning, caring humans no longer think in such terms.
Music is a frequent accompaniment in the plaza. Not just in the bandstand, but musicians come to play their favorite instruments. One man brings his pets: a dog, a cat, and a rat. They all sit quietly one on top the other. We feel a little sorry for them, but they are well trained and you may take a photo, just ask first. These are the things that make the plaza the place to meet people and enjoy local color.
Two things we miss: the Ore House restaurant that had been a resident of the
plaza for decades. At one time they offered nearly 100 different flavored margaritas and the best place to people watch. Sigh. Also on the missing list are the flagstones the plaza used to have. Alas, it was rumored that people kept stealing the stones, so now it has grass which needs irrigation in this dry climate. During the summer, hanging baskets of exploding color brighten it even further.
The plaza is both a starting point and a jumping off point. It is a good place to just be. Grab a bench and enjoy. Mañana will take care of itself.
For more information on Santa Fe: http://www.santafe.org/
— G G Collins
Ghost Story of the Week
La Residencia, located at Palace Avenue and Paseo de Peralta, has been a convent, hospital and nursing home. It was the location of the first St. Vincent’s Hospital prior to the “new” hospital being built south of downtown during the late 1970s.
During its life as a hospital, a boy and his father were brought in for emergency treatment after a car accident. Sadly, both died. It is said the child died from his injuries in room 311. Reported phenomena include the sound of a crying child in this room. It was heard so often the hospital tried not to use the room.
When museum exhibits were stored in the building’s basement, unexplained sounds occurred there. Nurses described a strange phenomenon, which appeared to be blood oozing from a basement wall.
But it is the cries of a frightened young boy who haunt his third-floor room we find most disturbing.
For the answer, check back next Sunday.
Answer to last week’s psychic question: The 7-minute man. Gotcha! No one answered this one correctly.
The Shed: The Legend Continues
When thinking of Santa Fe, it’s easy to visualize azure skies, crisp mornings and The Shed. Located in Seña Plaza on Palace Avenue, across the street from St. Francis Cathedral, it has a prime location one block from the historical plaza. For almost 60 years, The Shed has been serving the best chile Hatch, NM can grow. Originally, it was only open for lunch. Lines were long, they can still be long, but the waiting is pleasant in the Prince courtyard where both residents and visitors alike wait with anticipation.
Reluctant Medium Rachel Blackstone and her friend Chloe Valdez, are
frequently found sitting at the bar enjoying both the margaritas and the food. Rachel prefers the house margarita (she thinks they’re the best in town), but Chloe gets the pomegranate version claiming it is healthier. It is certainly pink. Whether you chow down on green chile chicken enchiladas or one of Chloe’s favorites, garlic shrimp with calabacitas, all entrees come with garlic bread—not sopapillas. It’s tradition.
Seña Plaza dates back to 1692. After the Spanish reconquest of New Mexico, Captain Arias de Quiros was hailed as a hero. For his contributions he was given land just north of the cathedral. He farmed most of the property and lived in a small house, which no longer exists.
Later, Don José Seña built a 33-room hacienda, situated around a large courtyard. He and his wife Doña Isabel had 11 children and they occupied all but the building on the north side of the courtyard which housed the livestock and servants. The structure was so large that it was temporary home to state government after a fire burned the capitol building in 1892.
There are two other haciendas, with courtyards, in Seña Plaza: Trujillo Plaza which housed the office of the Manhattan Project during WWII and the L. Bradford Prince home which is where The Shed is located, hence Prince courtyard.
William Penhallow Henderson, artist and builder, remodeled the large structure in 1927, enlarging the courtyard, adding a second story to the back of the U-shaped hacienda. In Chris Wilson’s book The Myth of Santa Fe, he writes: “To unify the old and new portions, he developed a stylized vocabulary of light stucco heavy posts and lintels, and a Territorial style brick dentil coping.”
Fast-forward to the most recently completed century. The Carswell family
moved to New Mexico from Illinois, after a stop in Carmel. The artsy family learned New Mexican cooking from their Hispanic neighbors and decided to open a restaurant circa 1952, with an official opening of July 4, 1953. The location was in Burro Alley. It was literally the shed where both burros and wood was kept. There were 22 seats in this first incarnation.
In 1960, The Shed moved to its current location. As time and space has allowed, it has expanded to nine dining rooms, the bar and the anteroom where customers can wait. The entry includes a tiny kiva fireplace which puts out a surprising amount of heat.
Low-down: Watch your head as you enter the purple front door. We’re taller than our forefathers of the 1600s, so duck!
The Shed has garnered a slew of awards, although fans don’t need them to know what we like. These include the James Beard Foundation’s “America’s Classic Award” in 2003. The Food Network’s “$40 a Day” show with Rachael Ray, has featured it and New Mexico Magazine gave it their 2011 “Best Eats” nod.
The reasons for this are many. The colorful restaurant–with original art–is just plain fun, the staff is congenial and adds to the enjoyment, and then there’s the food. Red chile is ground fresh each day and the red chile sauce reflects this. Just try the carne adovado or the pollo adobo. The guacamole is smooth as butter, and of course, there is the award-winning Shed burger. The restaurant also has veggie options.
Don’t forget dessert. Our Reluctant Medium loves the zabaglione, a luscious Italian (yes, Italian) custard with cointreau and white port. Decadent. But oh my, then there is the mocha cake and the lemon soufflé. One can’t go wrong choosing any one of them.
The heart and soul of The Shed, is the three generations of Carswells who have put their all into the restaurant. Today Courtney Carswell and family continue the tradition of New Mexican cooking, blending the old and the new, the Mexican and Pueblo Indian cuisines. The queues show how successful this is. See you in line!
For more information on The Shed: http://sfshed.com/Restaurant.html
— G G Collins
Ghost Story of the Week
La Posada de Santa Fe Resort and Spa has probably the most famous of the Santa Fe ghost stories. Julia Staab who died in her prime at 52 reportedly haunts the hotel. It has been the subject of television shows such as Unsolved Mysteries and Celebrity Ghost Stories, and in print at The Dallas Morning News.
Abraham Staab had the three-story Staab House built in French-inspired styling which included a mansard roof and a ballroom on the top floor. It would become the hub of society in 19-century Santa Fe. But it would not last. The couple’s eighth child was ill and finally succumbed. Julia was never the same and took to her room, which became room 256 when the house was converted to a hotel.
During a construction project, a befuddled crew came to work one morning and found their building materials in disarray. An enlightened worker began leaving roses for Julia. The mischief ceased.
Other encounters have been more personal including sightings of a transparent woman in a long dress and hood. One man reported a woman’s image in the mirror of the men’s room. And in the basement, which retains its earthen floor and stone walls, an employee of the hotel has noticed a fragrance cloud of orange and rose blossoms.
Visitors to the six-acre resort still ask for room 256, but there was the case of one man who checked in, and returned to the front desk in minutes demanding another room.
For the answer, check back next Sunday.
Answer to last week’s psychic question: The Exchange Hotel
La Fonda, the Inn at the End of the Trail
For more than 400 years, there has been a fonda—inn or hotel—at the intersection of what is now East San Francisco and the literal end of the Old Santa Fe Trail. That first inn was constructed of adobe blocks, which were made of mud, shaped by hand and dried in the sun. Some would have had animal prints embedded from nocturnal visits by wildlife. The 1921 floor plans indicate there was a courtyard entrance, but that has since been enclosed. Although the original structure was replaced, and the hotel has undergone several renovations, it maintains the adobe architectural design that predominates in Santa Fe.
For our Reluctant Medium, Rachel Blackstone, it is a gathering place. After a strange and frightening event at High Desert Country magazine office, Rachel Blackstone and her office crew met in the La Fonda bar where they could enjoy the fireplace and sample the Mexican beers.
The lobby of La Fonda is more than a large hallway drawing guests away; it acts as the heart of the hotel with La Plazuela restaurant, the newsstand, the bar and many specialty shops that attract an international crowd. The tile floor has felt the footsteps of both the famous and the infamous: from Spanish conquistadores to the creator of the Santa Fe Trail, William Becknell, to modern-day celebrities such as Shirley MacLaine, Larry Hagman, Diane Keaton and Linda Hunt. And while it is rumored that Billy the Kid worked in the hotel’s kitchen, there is no proof that he ever washed a dish.
La Plazuela was first a courtyard, some referred to it as the back yard. It was the sight of at least two deaths, but more on that in our ghost story segment. Eventually, a massive skylight was built over the courtyard so guests could eat among the sunbeams, a stark contrast to the lobby’s dark handcrafted
beams which are detailed with carvings. The front desk is a treasure of rich wood made by authentic craftsman. The hand-crafted chandeliers are constructed of tin, copper and glass, adding both light and ambience.
Mexican and Spanish influence is found everywhere in the furnishings, artwork and religious artifacts. In fact, several artists, most notably Gerald Cassidy, Paul Lantz, Vladan Stiha, also a resident at the hotel, have added paintings, murals, and painted panels that make La Fonda one of a kind. Ernesto Martinez is the current La Fonda artist. His work is most evident in the creative motifs found on the glass panes surrounding the restaurant. La Fonda continues to be both museum and posada (lodging).
J. Robert Oppenheimer, the renowned physicist of the Manhattan Project, reportedly hung out with his colleagues at La Fonda’s La Fiesta Lounge, federal agents in tow. But you can sip a margarita and listen to music, sans feds.
The Bell Tower on the fifth floor is the perfect place to appreciate beer and stunning sunsets at the same time. The view encompasses Sandia to the south and the Jemez to the west. After the hot colors of the sunset, stay for the indigo sky with a billion stars to keep you company. But should you venture out alone, beware the door. Mind that it’s not locked prior to closing it behind you. I have some personal experience with being locked out. Not a problem until a storm moves in or nature calls.
Like most storied buildings, La Fonda is a place of legend and myth. It has been the site of traders and cowboys, conquerors and native. It goes a long way back and will likely go way forward. It is reputed to have tunnels leading to the courthouse and the Palace of the Governors, and maybe even a dungeon-like room or two. Rowdy cowboys could be hustled away inconspicuously to sleep it off.
La Fonda was a Harvey House for more than four decades. Currently, it is a Historic Hotels of America, a Preferred Hotel Group brand, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Even if you don’t stay at La Fonda when you visit, you must see it, write a post card while sitting in one of those vintage chairs in the lobby, browse the many shops and immerse yourself in the three cultures (Pueblo Indian, Hispanic and Anglo) that exist in this city. It continues to surprise first-time visitors and long-time residents. And like wine, it improves with age.
For more information: http://www.lafondasantafe.com/
— G G Collins
Ghost Story of the Week: Sharpen those psychic skills for the upcoming question.
While La Fonda has stood the test of time, it has also racked up a good number of ghosts. There are so many that we’ll cover just a few this time.
During the 1800s a gambling hall was part of the hotel. As we all know, for every person who wins, there are many more who do not. In one particular incident, a man was hung in the courtyard (sometimes referred to as the backyard). Maybe it was thought he was cheating, but whatever the reason, he was lynched. It has been reported that some guests to La Plazuela have seen the shadow of a man hanging.
The Hon. John P. Slough, who was a chief justice of the Territorial Supreme Court, was shot in the lobby and later died of his wounds. He insulted Capt. Rynerson, also with Territorial government, calling him dishonest. Rynerson took offense and shot the judge. Guests say they’ve seen a man walking the hotel dressed in a long black coat (robes perhaps?).
And yet another man lost his life in what is now the restaurant. Originally it
was the courtyard and in the center was a well. Apparently a businessman lost his company’s money in a round of cards. He was so distressed, he jumped into the well to his demise. Although the well was filled in long ago, you can still see where it was. Look at the fountain in the center of the restaurant. It even closely resembles the look of the well in the postcard shown. Hotel staff and guests have seen a ghostly figure cross the room to the site of the old well and watched as he disappeared into the floor.
The Southwest Ghost Hunters Association conducted an investigation into La Fonda in 1998 and found the strongest suggestion of paranormal activity in the parking garage. During its construction, human remains were found there. This happens from time to time in Santa Fe and environs. All work ceases until the remains can be recovered.
Psychic question of the week:
For the answer, check back next Sunday.
Answer to last week’s psychic question: The Longest Yard, a perfect score by everyone!