Thursday, February 25, 2010

Beatlick Travel Report: Truth or Consequences

Date: Feb 25, 2010 3:40 PM

“There’s more consequences than truth” is the saying around here, especially when water and real estate might be the topic. Like the elephant bone yard this town is the bone yard for vintage Airstreams and they speckle the landscape. We’ve pulled into the Artesian RV Park and Bathhouse for a month. The Black Cat Bookstore has poetry readings twice a month. There is a radical underground radio station FM 96.1, political rant website (, a good library, grocery store, and cheap diners. A population of mature citizens, young upstarts ready to make a fortune when the Spaceport project of Virgin Airline’s Richard Branson’s gets off the ground, and a constant trickle of bathers and tourists all pass each other in a dusty gauzy throwback to the 1950s.

This is the closest I’ve ever come to living in a trailer park. There are 36 units here with the basic hookups then a laundry room, freezer (where we keep freezing water jugs instead of buying ice) and half-off the soaks. Plus wi-fi so we can just lay around and watch online movies all day if we want. I have a small electric heater we can use at night, plus I got a Mr. Heater portable stove that runs on propane canisters. I LOVE IT. It’s just like sitting around a little hearth. We’ve got the tent attached to the van and have received three visitors since we got here. Once we went to the Pinch and Swallow on Broadway to see Las Cruces’s favorite bluegrass band man Steve Smith. Apparently “Dr. Bob” of T or C hosts these musical soirees in the bar that served him as therapeutic exercise during a stressful time in his career. I don’t have last names or all the facts because this is just what I picked up hanging around the stage. You have to bring your own refreshments, it’s not a commercial operation. There is an enormous mural on the wall, must be forty feet long, tripped out, that the good doctor painted himself as a de-stressor. Steve Smith’s band is fabulous and much of the “mature” audience members broke into groups just like junior high. I don’t know what they put in the water around here but there is a really unique congregation of very cheerful, well-satisfied elders here.

The women danced mostly with each other in the back while the men hopped around in a mild version of a mosh pit up front. Some of their outfits were “which-way-to-the-festival-man style," layers of long and short skirts, odd hats and plenty of jewelry. The men were a little more subdued but most had long beards and looked like old Civil War soldiers. There are a lot of wheelchairs around town, there’s a nearby VA hospital, and many old-timers on their scooters going up and down the street with their flags furling dune-buggy style. I eavesdrop on the conversations around me. A group of residents down at the thrift store agree this winter has been one of the worst for longevity. “You can tell things are changing,” one ancient said, “everybody I know has a cold.”

I guess they are recalling the glory days when all the bath house cottages were new and the WPA had just laid down the town’s concrete sidewalks. Everything is out of an old black-and-white movie now. One voyager up the street who passed by on his scooter told me his parents lived here way back when and he moved here permanently in the early 90s. “Nuthin’s really changed too much around here, but the price of real estate.”

There is this boom town talk that does make me leery. All the young folks are speculators and all the old folks are skeptics. A lot of the promises of glory sound so much like the stories we’ve heard about in New Mexico’s history of boom and bust. The whole town is for sale just about and that lends a real ghost town feel to the place. Too bad somebody doesn’t come in here and set money on fire like they have done in Marfa, Texas.

The trip to T or C has been a good practice run before we turn around and go back to Study Butte. I had to interrupt our plans to have a root canal redone in El Paso. But we are back on track for Survival Camp at Astor Park in Study Butte, Texas, by the Big Bend National Park. They call it Far West, Texas, out there but I call it Far Out West Texas.

Happy Trails
Beatlick Pamela Hirst

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