Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Coming Home

New Mexico has felt like home for a long time, although I’ve been elsewhere too long.

In August 1969 I was a New York City cabdriver. I’d dropped out of college in 1967 to work with kids in Harlem, and then started driving the cab to make money. Earlier in 1969 I’d delivered a drive-away car to someone in Arizona. Initially I drove 48 straight hours, on plenty of coffee and cigarettes. At sunset on that second day I hit Albuquerque. The sun was setting. It was beautiful. When I got back to New York, I kept thinking about New Mexico. I decided the best way to move here would be to go back to college. UNM wanted a $10 deposit with an application, but NMSU only demanded $6. Easy call.

I thought I’d be here a year, but stayed until August 1977. I wrote poems and fiction, shot photographs and movies, worked on a Hollywood film, lived out on a farm in Brazito, advocated an end to the Viet Nam War, camped in the Gila, and eventually worked as a full-time journalist, starting a Las Cruces Bureau for the El Paso Times in February 1974. I loved it here. When I left, I figured I’d be back in three years. It was home.

It took a long time to get back, by way of Massachusetts, San Francisco, China and Tibet, Washington-D.C., Perú, and other stops. I’ve worked on films in Kuwait, been a trial lawyer in San Francisco, wandered around various countries on the cheap with a camera, published a few poems, and ridden a lot of miles on motorcycles. For decades I visited New Mexico frequently, always planning to move back here. I only managed it when I finally met Dael. When I returned from Perú in late 2008, we went out together and realized, pretty much instantly, that we wanted to be together ‘til death parts us. She fell in love with New Mexico, too, and is of stronger character than I, so all my babbling about getting back to New Mexico finally got real.

Home is the oldest and probably the smallest home out in Talavera, a stretch of desert I used to dirt bike on my way up to Soledad or Ackenbach Canyon or Cuevas. There wasn’t anything out here then but a few dirt roads and, hidden up in the hills, the Cox Ranch. Now there’s a string of often obscenely showy mansions. It’s sad.

But in late 2009, when we were looking at houses in town, Kevin Wilson showed us this place, and it seemed like us. Small. Unpretentious. Open to the four acres of desert land around it. Breezy. Quiet. And, we could afford it.

We find it hard to drag our asses into town. There is too much to do at home. Besides planting a few trees and just watching the world go by and trying to write the occasional poem, there’s a surprisingly varied world of flora and fauna to keep up with. It’s a full-time job just watching (and, yeah, photographing and videotaping) the comings and goings of hummingbirds, road-runners, woodpeckers, various kinds of birds and snakes, vinegaroons and scorpions, deer, coyote, and the pair of golden eagles we see at a distance now and then.  I find it endlessly fascinating – but will mercilessly edit whatever I write about it here, I promise!

Being back in Las Cruces has engendered a mix of feelings. Of course I’m appalled at how much bigger it is, even as I enjoy some of the benefits of that growth, notably a greater variety of restaurants, a minor league baseball team, a greater selection of food (at the Mountain View Co-Op, Toucan, and the Farmers’ Market), and the extension of water-lines and electricity out to our stretch of desert.

People I drank with or argued with (or both) have become names on buildings or street-signs. Bob Munson, Jake Hands, and others.

The hot spring in the Gila we used to backpack to and camp at for days without seeing anyone has a name, and the Sun-News recently printed a detailed set of directions to it.

A guy I wrote about during perhaps his first trial, when he was a visibly green young lawyer, has been a judge for years.

The Fountain Theater, where I acted in a couple of plays, is now home to a great film society that shows excellent and relatively new films that otherwise wouldn’t make it to town.

Much more, though, is familiar. Particularly the intimacy with some old friends, and the quickness with which new friends sprout and grow out here.

This blog will share, with friends and strangers, some political and cultural observations, as well as notes (and photographs) on the wars and habits of the various creatures that surround us out here – and perhaps other matters, as well.

In a general way, the new blog results from the move. Home again. More specifically, I’m starting it today because I’ll also be starting a column soon in the Sun-News, a fortnightly Sunday column. In a sense, it’s like coming full circle: when I was the Las Cruces Bureau Chief for the El Paso Times (a fancy title that initially referred to just me and my dog – we lived in a school bus and didn’t even have a telephone until the Times paid to install a telephone pole next to the bus - but eventually included a staff and a small office on Water Street) I wrote a column three days a week; so maybe I’m back where I started.


  1. Peter: What monument does Jake Hands have? I'm really curious; I spent many hours with him.


  2. Congratulations on your blog, the move, the wife, and the return to the land of enchantment. Having spent just a little time in New Mexico, I know how it can get in your blood. I'm happy you've found your way to a place you love and look forward to your sharing it through your blog.

  3. Excellent opinion article in the Sun News yesterday. Congratulations on the regular offering. What size system did you install and who did the installation?

  4. Jimmy -
    Our system is 2.4 kW - ten panels.
    I tried to avoid making a recommendation in the column. There are several vendors in town, and which would be best for you might depend on your priorities. I don't want to get into details here.
    However, I'd be happy to discuss it with you. Send me an e-mail at namdoogretep@gmail.com, and include your phone number.

  5. http://yifertw.blogspot.com/2013/06/one-day-in-las-cruces-meeting-peter.html

    This is Ken Su from Taiwan.

    It is my pleasure to meet you at Farmer's Market this morning.

    Please go to watch your pictures.

    1. Ken -
      Enjoyed meeting you, and looked through some of your pictures from Las Cruces. Sorry we didn't get to talk longer. Maybe some day in Taiwan. Trying to ad a photo of you taking one of the photos on your blog.
      - peter