Thursday, April 23, 2009

Corrales, NM

Rolling into Corrales on a sun-baked spring morning, the quiet, rural landscape quickly put all thoughts of airports, bag-checks and shuttles completely out of our minds. So intoxicating is the gentle beauty of this place that it's hard to imagine being any place else while walking the winding roads; we walked the short distance from the venue to our director's house, who treated us to a lunch from the Flying Star, and the best Veggie Burger I have EVER tasted. The digestion of said burger was greatly enhanced by a short sit by the pool with Rosie, the chocolate Lab who hung out with me for a little bit. NIce girl. Kinda quiet.

We played at The old San Ysidro Church, no longer functioning as a church but a venue, it dates back to the 1800's, and was restored to it's present adobe and hardwood grandeur in the 80s. With fabulous natural acoustics and an idyllic setting the program of events here draws folks from all over, and we played to an audience that spilled out the doors into the afternoon sunshine .
The arts community here is rock solid and over the years has cultivated an eclectic schedule of musical events. I shared a beer or two with opera nuts, multilinguists , folkies, jazzers, wine aficianados, very friendly dogs and folks who were just plain ol' nice.
Quite a diverse crowd for a town of only 7,000 or so.

As I relaxed in the evening with some locals, I spotted the mountain range that sat in the distance, noticeable at once for the fact that it sits on an otherwise flat landscape, and inquired to know more. "Oh" came the reply, 'the Sandias". When I asked what that meant, I expected something grand and devotional, evoking the romance of early Spanish culture.

"Watermelon", came the response. Maybe it was the beer, or the altitude(same as Denver) or both, but I could have sworn they said "Watermelon", which indeed they had. My new friends must have sensed my confusion because they quickly offered an explanation; at a certain time in the evening, for no more than a minute during sundown, the mountain turns a shade of pink, reminiscent of the meat in a watermelon . The locals refer to this as the "pink moment" . "Pink" for obvious reasons, and "moment" because it really is that fleeting. Apparently, I just missed it. No matter, the beer was good. Our post-gig-reception host, John , kept a good cellar, and was adamant that I try the Northern Cap Winter. I'm glad he made me do it.
My other beer discovery of the evening was the Marble Brewing Company's IPA, and the two adjectives that come to mind are the same that were once used to describe a punk rock band I was in many many years ago - weird but good . It was like no other IPA I 've tasted. the hoppy bite was met in the middle by the citrus tang, and they jostled for first place while i sat back and enjoyed the show that was going on in my taste buds

A short hop from there was our lodgings for the night. Judith and George Newby run the stellar Sandhill Crane B and B in the community. I stayed in The Cowboy Room, a testament to the Western Art indigenous to the area, and also home to a Red Ryder BB Gun as seen in the movie " A Christmas Story ", carefully mounted over a portrait of Red Ryder himself in later life, and not surprisingly to anybody that knows me, that's all it took to send me reelng in childish reverie, re-running in my mind's eye boyhood stories of masked adventures and cowboy hereoes of the ol' west. Hi Ho, Patsy - Wake Up.

Speaking of wake up, breakfast started with a hot cup of eye-opener, followed by a poached pear, fresh muffins, scrambled eggs, locally grown arugula and roasted asparagus, all cooked by Judith's deft hand as we chatted about whatever- everything from baseball ( we're both Cubs fans) to the roadrunner that appeared on the garden wall as we ate .

This wouldn't be the first time, and probably won't be the last time that I wished I had more time to hang around in a place before the airport beckoned, but suffice to say that although I might not make it back as soon as I'd like to , you , dear reader, should pack a bag as soon as you can. You won't regret it.

Ojai, CA

Sitting in an orange grove in the april sun, the scents of lilac, honeysuckle and lavender danced around each other in the morning air. Woodpeckers nested with their young high over head, and the air seemed to teem with life - bees dashed from blossom to blossom. Ladybugs rested on their spot. A butterfly wafted by as lizards(geckos? salamanders? lizardry is not my area) chased each other playfully around the tree trunks.

This was my morning off in Ojai, CA, a couple of hours north of L.A. . "Ojai" is a Native American word fro "nest", and, breathing in all that it has to offer, the logic of the name is clear - with the rolling hills of the Los Padres National Forest keeping a watchful eye, it seems that all life abounds in the valley below.

Some years before, while playing in the Napa Valley region of California, also known for it's natural beauty, a local I befriended made the comment; " Y'know if the pilgrims had landed here in the west, they wouldn'ta bothered goin' East". Again, the logic was clear, and I couldn't help but be reminded of that comment as i strolled around the sun-soaked community of adobe-style, shops, restaurants and coffeehouses that cater to a population of around 8,000 or so, made up of retirees, locals and the extremely well-to-do.

Just before last night's gig in the area, I asked our host if this balmy cloudless weather was a typical spring day in these parts. "Oh yes", he nodded, and predicting my next question he added, " and a typical winter one too."

Yup, it's pretty easy to see why some would come here and make it their business never to leave - it became a haven for those who heard the words of Jiddu Krishnamurti in the first half of the 20th century, who had a retreat here and was visited by the then creme de la creme of the social scene; Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Aldous Huxley, Jackson Pollock, The Beatles, to name a few.
But as both Mr. Krishnamurti knew well and George Harrison wrote about, all things must pass
and soon we too would leave. With our songs sung and our mission accomplished and an outbound flight itinerary in hand, it was time for us to pass through airport security, bringing the memory of the place with us . I reckon Mr Harrison probably liked it here.