A Tale of Two Towns

By Maggie Van Ostrand

 

taos-new-mexicoI’m the type who thinks the great outdoors is the distance between my front door and the car. So what am I doing in Taos, New Mexico, where it’s still sometimes snowing at the beginning of May? Simple. I came because my dogs like to run in the snow and there isn’t any in Ajijic. Not that I spoil them, as you know, but I do consider it my responsibility to insure their happiness. (After reading Shirley Maclaine’s books, one never knows who the dogs used to be, do one?) And probably the annual appeal of snow is that I can come to it, rather than the other way around. Kind of a poor man’s weather control.

Then there are the appealing similarities between Taos and Ajijic. Taos has Indians, Mexicans, and Anglos, while Ajijic has Mexicans, Canadians and Texans. The men here look like either Jesus in Bermuda shorts, or the guy who posed for the buffalo nickel, and the women look either like an old Cher, or Roseanne.

The people of Taos decided to stop time a couple of decades ago. For example, the biggest news is not the balanced budget; rather it’s the death of Allen Ginsberg and the fact that Marshal Herf Applewhite once made Kosher sandwiches at Taos’ “Sunshine Eating Establishment,” a now-defunct eatery popular in, you guessed it, the early 70’s. The new tail on Comet Hale-Bopp has enormous significance here, as you can well imagine. I’ll bet you one of those Indian Head nickels that Cult leader Applewhite will soon channel his recipe for great pastrami sandwiches through Shirley MacLaine. On the local radio station, Artist of the Week is Bob Dylan, while the winning group is The Mamas and the Papas for the second week running. 

Taos is a mecca for artists and writers, which brings me to D.H. Lawrence. No matter where I go, he lived there and he wrote something there. For instance, he, too, lived in New York, and Los Angeles. I moved to Ajijic, only to find that he once lived in Chapala at Calle Zaragoza #4 where he began writing The Plumed Serpent (completed in Oaxaca). Now, wonder of wonders, he also lived here in Taos in, not one, but two places: The Laughing Horse Inn (where he “plotted the next issue of the maverick “Laughing Horse” magazine, with Spud Johnson), as well as The D.H. Lawrence Ranch between Taos and Red River, where he wrote, among other things, A Cow Named Susan. He sought primitive communities still relatively unspoiled by industrialism. His nomadic feet could probably tell even better stories than those told by his educated other parts.

I should travel to all of his homes world-wide, maybe I’ll run into Mr.Chatterly. Or should I hold out for that gardener?

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