We arrived at Pisa International airport to find our charter jet waiting. Our favorite pilots Rick and Jeff were there to greet us. Each had logged thousands of hours as former military pilots. “Good morning, nice to see you again Mr. and Mrs. Di Carlo”, the pilot, Rick remarked. The Co-Pilot, Jeff, chimed in, “We’re expecting excellent flying conditions back to the States. We’ll see that your luggage is loaded and notify you of take off shortly.” Rebecca ascended the stairway into the cabin. I knew the porters were both miffed but impressed by the amount of Louis Vuitton luggage we packed for the trip. I tipped them generously and made my way up the stairwell into the cabin. We spent two weeks on a Tuscan winery I was considering purchasing. Rebecca spent her days visiting the region while I was learning the winery business.
Our jet was a G650 which has a cruising speed of over 600 mph and a range of over 8000 miles permitting non-stop travel to virtually any point on the globe. It seats 8 people and we can stretch out. The jet began to taxi down the runway and Jeff came on the speaker, “Please buckle up and prepare for takeoff.” I fastened my seatbelt and settled into the plush leather reclining chair. As the jet quickly banked upward above the clouds and leveled off, I poured myself a cognac from the well stocked liquor cabinet within arm’s reach. The “Remy Louis XIII” cognac went down smoothly and complemented the John Coltrane classic, “Love Supreme” I selected to play gently throughout the cabin.
Rebecca asked me to pour her a chardonnay. As I handed it to her, I was struck by her beauty. Rebecca is an Ashkenazi Jew. Her long blond curly hair, angular face, and captivating green eyes made me fall in love with her in high school. I don’t know why she married me. I was a tall, lanky, Italian American kid with a Brooklyn accent and thick mane of black hair I kept combed back with too much hair gel. I wasn’t athletic, scholarly, or artistic but she was drawn to me. The buzz from the cognac made me melancholy and I pondered how two kids from an Italian-Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn could end up so successful. Our lives included a beautiful home on the ocean in Palm Beach and first class adventures throughout the world. We sold our clothing business and had too much time on our hands. Despite our plenty, our lives lacked purpose causing the spark in our marriage to flicker over the years although we remained faithful. We enjoyed our comfortable lives but Rebecca was restless and needed more than travel. I prayed it didn’t include divorce.
Rebecca couldn’t have a baby so she focused all of her maternal energy into running our clothing business. Rebecca had a gift for drawing and an eye for women’s fashion. She was always doodling blouses, skirts, hats, shoes, and handbags. In high school, she was wearing the fashions she designed which become all the rage on campus and throughout other schools within Brooklyn. Because Rebecca started designing as a teenager, she intimately knew the fashion tastes of teenage girls and designed for their fashion consciousness. Rebecca knew she was onto something and asked me to join her in producing a teenage girl’s clothing line. I trusted her instincts and agreed.
We schlepped up and down the East Coast with Rebecca’s samples soliciting every retailer, clothing manufacturer, and department store chain to no avail. Our first sale was to a tough Jewish clothing manufacturer named “Sol Rubin” who owned a retail store chain called “Candies” catering to teenage girls. The “Rivka” line consisting of blouses, jeans, shorts, pants, and shirts was an immediate success and grew quickly and carried by every major retailer across the United States with a growing following in Europe. Years later, I stood on the podium of the NYSE hand in hand with Rebecca as our company; “Rivka Corporation” went public. Ten years later when the stock split, we sold the business, retired, and began to travel the world.
My trip down “memory lane” was interrupted by the co-pilot who came back from the cockpit and informed us, “There’s a hurricane forming off the coast of Florida. It could result in evacuations. You might want to stay clear, folks.” Rebecca looked up from an issue of “Conde Nast” magazine with Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Ghost Ranch” on the cover, and replied, “Let’s go to Santa Fe and Taos, Frankie. We can spend a few days and let the storm pass. I’d like to see why it’s called the “Land of Enchantment”. I took a sip of cognac, nodded, and the co-pilot confirmed, “Excellent decision, we’ll set course for Albuquerque.” It would be a snap decision we would never forget.
Rebecca read about the historic “La Flora Hotel” built in 1922 in Santa Fe. She reached for the satellite phone adjacent to her leather seat and dialed the hotel to make reservations. It was late evening in New Mexico and Rebecca was told by the desk clerk on duty that it was the popular “Fiesta de Santa Fe” weekend, and the only accommodations he could offer was a standard room with double beds. Rebecca placed her hand over the receiver and said, “All they have is a standard room with double beds.” She could see the disapproving look on my face and said, “Remember all those “fleabag motels” we stayed in when we started the business? How bad can it be? We’ll make it an adventure, Frankie”. I nodded “yes”. Rebecca booked the room and said we were arriving by private charter jet and would require transportation to the hotel. She was told the hotel van would pick us up at extra cost. She agreed. I fell into a deep sleep.
I dreamed of my father remarking about our success, “Only in America could this happen, Frankie. Give something back.” I was awoken by the wheels touching down on the runway in Albuquerque. Jeff and Rick taxied the jet to the private jet hangar. They greeted us at the bottom of the stairwell and thanked us for our business. As was my custom, I tipped them generously. The baggage handlers began unloading the baggage and the terminal supervisor approached saying, “Welcome to Albuquerque, Mr. and Mrs. Di Carlo”. He reached for his phone, dialed, and said “The Di Carlo’s are ready for pick up. Meet us at the plane”. Within seconds, a black limousine followed by the La Flora Hotel van approached. The driver of the van directed the baggage handlers to load the luggage into the van. The passenger of the van was a chic, thirty something gentlemen, who approached saying, “Welcome to New Mexico Mr. and Mrs. Di Carlo. I’m Bernard and the General Manager of the La Flora Hotel. I’ve taken the liberty of providing you with limousine service to the hotel. May I accompany you?” Rebecca and I were impressed by the service as we were expecting a simple van to pick us up. Bernard climbed into the front seat of the limousine and waved for the van to follow behind us. He spoke with a French accent saying, “Please permit me to apologize for the confusion last night when you booked your reservation. I’ve taken the liberty to arrange for you to stay in the “El Presidente” suite of our hotel. Is this your first visit?” Rebecca replied, “Yes, Bernard. So, what’s going on in Santa Fe with the Fiesta?” Bernard answered, “You’re very fortunate to pick this time of year to visit. Santa Fe is celebrating the “Fiesta de Santa Fe”. Rebecca asked, “I detect a French accent, is that correct?” Bernard replied, “Oui Madame.” We learned that Bernard was a philosophy student at the Sorbonne and developed an interest in eastern religion. He had met the Dalai Lama and “Amma”, a Hindu spiritual leader, guru, and regarded as a saint by her followers. Bernard described waiting eight hours for the opportunity to spend sixty seconds with Amma which had a profound effect upon him. He felt her “reach deep into his soul and offer guidance on his path through life”. Rebecca asked, “Why did you settle in Santa Fe? Is it really the “Land of Enchantment?” Bernard smiled and replied, “Every day is different in Santa Fe. You never know what to expect. For instance, I feel something is “in the air” this weekend but I can’t put my finger on it.”
When we arrived at the hotel, we were met by a team of bellmen and introduced to the concierge, Elena. Bernard and Elena escorted us to our suite. We entered a beautiful apartment size, southwestern inspired suite with plush western style leather furnishings and a luxurious four poster bed. A basket of fruit, cheese, and wines had been placed within the suite. Bernard excused himself saying, “It has been my pleasure meeting you Mr. and Mrs. Di Carlo. I’ve written my cell number on the back of my card should you require my attention.” Elena remained and inquired about reservations at restaurants, tours, or anything else we required. Rebecca replied, “We’d like to see Taos. Would you make that arrangement?” Elena replied, “Yes, Ma’am. I recommend that you complete the tour tomorrow which begins early and is completed in time for dinner in Santa Fe. I have a wonderful tour guide.” Rebecca replied, “Book it”. Rebecca asked about the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum to which Elena agreed to arrange a private docent tour. Elena had taken the liberty to make a short list of favorite Santa Fe eateries which she handed Rebecca saying, “I highly recommend each of these establishments for breakfast, lunch, or dinner as they will provide you with a wonderful introduction to the Santa Fe cuisine. No reservations will be required. Just tell the hostesses, “Elena” sent you.” Elena and Bernard were some of the best hoteliers we’ve encountered throughout the world. We thanked her with a generous gratuity which she respectfully declined. Our bags arrived and we began our first day in Santa Fe.
It was late afternoon and we decided to head out of the hotel into Santa Fe and get our bearings. We walked a short block down San Francisco Street into “Santa Fe Plaza” which was set up like a carnival. The weather was beautiful and a variety of culinary smells filled the air. A live band was playing and an assortment of food vendors sold everything from giant turkey legs to deep fried Twinkies. The Plaza was full of middle aged and senior tourists but also full of cops. Rebecca found a healthy food vendor and we bought a light dinner. I asked the vendor why the show of force from the police department? The young lady behind the counter replied, “Every year there is a counter demonstration from the Native Americans who protest the Festival de Santa Fe. Don’t worry, the protest is always peaceful.” Just across the street from the park was a historic adobe building named “Palace of the Governors”. It ran the length of the entire block. The sidewalk was covered with a wood and adobe awning which provided shade for the Native Americans who sat tightly packed together with their “backs against the wall”. Their hand crafted jewelry and artwork was displayed in front of them atop blankets. Many of the vendors were elderly. I got the impression many had been selling their wares for decades to Caucasian tourists who towered above them and senselessly haggled over price. Rebecca and I slowly walked down the line of vendors stopping in front of an elderly Native American man, likely in his eighties, sitting upright and his legs crossed. He was dignified and the deep lines on his face depicted a difficult life. His long silver hair was neatly braided. Rebecca was intrigued by his bracelets which were silver and adorned with Turquoise. Unlike the other gawking tourists towering over the vendors, Rebecca knelt in front of the elderly man, looked him in the eye, smiled, and asked, “May, I ask what is your Tribal affiliation?” The man smiled and proudly proclaimed, “Navajo, Miss”. Before reaching for any of the jewelry, Rebecca asked, “May I try this bracelet on?” The man nodded affirmatively. Rebecca placed the beautiful silver and turquoise bracelet on her wrist. It overshadowed the Bulgari bracelet Rebecca was wearing. I saw that “look” in Rebecca’s eye that she had to have it and she reached into her wallet to purchase it asking, “How much is the bracelet?” The man looked up at Rebecca and said, “I’m sorry you are without child. Please accept the bracelet as a gift from my tribe to yours.” The man’s statement floored us and all we could say was, “Thank you”. It would have been an insult to insist on paying.
As we walked around Santa Fe, Rebecca was flabbergasted. “How did he know I couldn’t have a baby?” “It’s remarkable”, I replied, “It was no accident he mentioned “gift from my “tribe” to yours”, honey. He knew you were Jewish.” Rebecca held my hand and I caught her admiring her beautiful bracelet as we walked. We stumbled upon the Georgia O’Keeffe museum which was closing in an hour and approached the ticket counter mentioning, “Elena sent us”. Within seconds, a mature female docent appeared and welcomed us, “Good afternoon Mr. and Mrs. Di Carlo. Welcome to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. We’re so happy to have you join us. Although the museum is closing in one hour, we’re happy to take you through the Museum after closing time.” She handed us each a catalogue and a formal invitation to meet with the Director which was a polite way of soliciting for the Museum. She was extremely knowledgeable and we were able to finish the tour in ninety minutes. We were feeling jetlagged and Rebecca suggested,
“Let’s head back to the hotel and have a cocktail. We have to get up early for our tour in the morning.”
As we entered the hotel lobby, Elena intercepted us and asked, “How was your first afternoon in Santa Fe, Mr. and Mrs. Di Carlo?” Rebecca replied, “Join us for a drink, and I’ll tell you all about it.” Elena walked us to the intimate bar located off the main lobby and we sat in a private comfortable booth. We ordered “Double Margaritas” and Elena ordered a Diet Coke. Within minutes the drinks arrived along with fresh guacamole and warm tortilla chips. Elena told the waiter, “Compliments of the house”. Rebecca told Elena, “The most interesting thing happened. We stopped to look at jewelry where the Native American artisans are assembled and an elderly vendor gave this beautiful bracelet to me as a gift.” Rebecca held out her arm with the bracelet for Elena to inspect. Elena was a beautiful thirty-something Native American woman wearing a wedding ring. Elena was impressed with the turquoise and intricate work of the silver saying, “This is a very fine piece, Mrs. Di Carlo.” Rebecca replied, “He just gave it to me. No charge!” Elena asked, “What did the man look like?” Rebecca replied, “He appeared to be in his eighties and didn’t speak a word except to say “Please accept a gift from my tribe to yours” and somehow he knew we were childless!” Elena replied, “Turquoise means “open communication” and “clarity of thought.” These elders are very perceptive and the quality of this gift tells me he respected you. I’m Navajo and know turquoise has the ability to identify the “way forward.” It is a good color to use when you are “stuck in a rut” and don’t know which way to move.” Rebecca took a long sip from the double Margarita and her hand was trembling. Elena gently held her hand saying, “Don’t over think it Mrs. Di Carlo. You’re in New Mexico and it’s no accident people call it “The Land of Enchantment”. I’ve confirmed your tour for seven am tomorrow with your tour guide who will meet you in the lobby. Goodnight.” We returned to our suite and retired for the evening.
Our tour guide met us in the lobby promptly at seven in the morning and introduced himself as “Jackson”. He appeared to be Native American, over six feet tall, twenty something, wearing faded jeans, western style shirt, cowboy hat, and a pair of worn-out cowboy boots. His black long hair was unbraided and hung low on his back. He looked more like a ranch hand than a tour guide until we got a glimpse of his large silver belt buckle with an inscription reading: “They came with a Bible and their religion, stole our land, crushed our spirit…and now tell us we should be thankful to the “Lord” for being saved. Chief Pontiac (1769)”. Rebecca and I knew we were in for an interesting tour. Jackson had parked his Jeep Wrangler in front of the hotel. The doors were inscribed, “Authentic Tours”. Jackson was a gentleman and opened the passenger door for Rebecca saying, “I believe Mrs. Di Carlo will find the front seat more comfortable” to which I agreed and climbed in back. The Jeep was toasty warm. Jackson commented, “At any time, please let me know and I will adjust the temperature. I suggest you each take two Dramamine if you’re prone to car sickness. Some of the tour will be off road and bumpy.” Jackson reached around to a picnic basket in the seat next to me and removed the top revealing an assortment of bottled water, French pastries from a gourmet bakery we had passed in town the night before, and a bottle of wine from the very vineyard in Tuscany I was considering purchasing! I showed it to Rebecca and she gave me that look, “Don’t say anything, Frankie” to which I complied. Jackson fired up the Jeep and I heard Miles Davis, “Kind of Blue” playing on the sound system. Jackson immediately reached to turn off the music and both Rebecca and I said, “We’re jazz lovers. Please leave it on.” Jackson was an interesting man and we were eager to learn more about him. It would be a three hour tour to Taos and it wasn’t long before we were high in the Desert Mountains far from the City.
During the tour, Jackson made several turns directly into the desert without the benefit of even a dirt road to take us to a mesa with views seldom seen by anybody but locals. It was a bumpy ride but well worth the magnificent vistas he showed us. The wind blew and kicked up the fragrance of the chaparral. In addition to his intimate knowledge of these hidden vistas, Jackson demonstrated a deep understanding of the archaeology and geology of the area.
Back on the highway, we stopped for a bathroom break. I asked Jackson why he chose “Authentic Tours” as his business name. Jackson replied, “So much of our history has been, excuse the expression, “white washed” and it’s my obligation to provide tourists the opportunity to hear the opposing historical viewpoints.” Rebecca replied, “Do the “opposing viewpoints” include what we saw in the square last night?” Jackson replied, “You’re referring to the “Fiesta de Santa Fe?” Rebecca replied, “Yes. The square was festive but loaded with cops. In the distance, we could see Native American protesters kept at bay by barricades.” Jackson answered, “The Fiesta is a celebration to commemorate the anniversary of the 1692 “reconquest” of New Mexico by General Don Diego de Vargas. The Spanish were expelled from the city by Pueblo people in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The King of Spain appointed de Vargas to lead the exiled colonists in their reoccupation of Santa Fe by surrounding the city with cannons and threatening the Pueblo Indians residing inside with death. He re-entered the city on September 14, 1692. The “white washing” of this “reconquest” called it peaceful when in fact the Pueblo people gallantly put up a struggle but were slaughtered by Conquistadors in the very square you visited. The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce has been staging the Fiesta for decades. Native people find a Fiesta celebrating mass slaughter a disgrace.” We were impressed by Jackson’s passionate, telling of the “reconquest”. Rebecca asked, “What’s your background, Jackson?” Jackson was self effacing but said, “I received a Bachelors and Masters in American history with a minor in archaeology and geology from UNM. I’ve applied to the doctoral program and my goal is to write my thesis on the “authentic” history of this region. We’re burning sunlight folks, let’s continue the tour.”
We made several more off-road stops to take in magnificent vistas, crossed the Santa Fe River Gorge Bridge, stopped to see the “Earthship” community, and entered downtown Taos. Jackson parked the Jeep and said, “This is downtown Taos. There are plenty of shops and places to eat. Let’s meet back at this spot in ninety minutes.” I asked Jackson to join us for lunch but he declined having to complete “an errand”. It was hot and we found a Brasserie restaurant with air-conditioning. Just before entering, we saw a “twenty something” young man wearing dark sunglasses with a manual typewriter placed atop a packing crate. His home-made sign read, “Poems Written”. There was no fee but he had a tip jar. I was impressed with the young man’s chutzpah to set up shop in the hot sun and write poetry for tip money. Rebecca complained of being hot and said she would get us a table. I approached the young poet and he looked up from his manual typewriter. I said, “I haven’t seen a manual typewriter in decades. Where do you buy the ribbons?” He couldn’t look me directly in the eye which led me to believe he was blind and said, “I buy them online, sir.” I thought this would be a lovely opportunity to present Rebecca with a love poem and asked, “We’re tourists and made an unexpected stopover in Santa Fe. Would you thank my wife Rebecca for selecting this journey? We’re having lunch inside the restaurant. I’ll see you when we finish. I placed twenty dollars in your tip jar.” The poet replied, “Thank you, sir. It will be ready when you finish lunch. I recommend the Trout Almandine” I returned to join Rebecca who was savoring a tall glass of ice water. “The poet recommended the “Trout Almandine”, baby”. Rebecca replied, “Sounds good to me”. During lunch, I glanced at the poet and saw him pause, reflect, type, and repeat the process again and again. He was giving a great deal of thought to the poem. We heard a car horn and knew it was Jackson waiting. We paid the check and I returned to retrieve the poem. The poet handed me a sealed envelope addressed to “Unexpected Visitors”. I opened the envelope including beautiful stationary which read, “Be mindful of what you witness during your stay and remember the lessons taught. Thank you for stopping by and there is no charge for the poem.” The twenty dollar bill was included. I handed it to Rebecca who simply shrugged her shoulders.
We met Jackson back at the Jeep. He had refilled the cooler with ice and had the air-conditioning set to “high”. Jackson said, “We’re at the halfway point of the tour, Mr. and Mrs. Di Carlo. Some folks like to see the gravesite of Dennis Hopper and I have some other scenic vistas to show you. It’s your choice.” Rebecca replied, “Is it possible to show us how the Pueblo people live?” Jackson replied, “I can take you to the “Taos Pueblo” which is about ten minutes from here.” He set the Jeep in motion for the short trip to the Pueblo. We drove into the Pueblo which was located on the outskirts of Taos. We entered on a dusty dirt road and stopped.
Jackson admonished us, “Please understand that these are the homes of actual residents. You’ll notice some operate as gift stores or markets and you’re welcome to enter those. In the center of the Pueblo, you’ll find the “San Geronimo Catholic Church” which has a tour starting every half hour. If you hurry, you’ll make the next tour. I’ll meet you back here.” Rebecca and I hurried to the Church and made it in time for the tour which was beginning. It was led by a Pueblo young woman who took us inside the old beautiful church. She introduced herself has “Meda” and proudly remarked she had received a scholarship to attend UNM the following year. As she led us through the Pueblo, Rebecca and I were struck by the hot, dusty conditions. The only source of water was a raging stream running through the center of the Pueblo. The pueblos were made of adobe, straw, and were in constant need of upkeep according to Meda. Each had a propane tank for heat and cooking but we assumed the bathrooms were on septic tanks. We followed Meda into several homes and we were amazed at how cool and naturally insulated they were with thick adobe walls.
Meda invited us to complete the tour at our own pace. We heard Jackson’s horn sound and quickly ducked into a souvenir shop before joining him. It was a narrow but deep store full of souvenirs but nothing caught our fancy. We made it to the rear of the shop and mistakenly pulled open a curtain thinking it was another part of the shop. The curtain closed behind us and we interrupted a sitting group of elderly men smoking pipes. The room was filled with an acrid smoke and our eyes watered. The men smiled and we politely excused ourselves. As we made our way to the Jeep, we each felt nauseous. Rebecca found a discrete spot and vomited. My head was throbbing. When we reached the Jeep, Jackson remarked, “You both look “green around the gills”. He opened our doors and reached for the cooler and dampened two clothes with cold ice water and placed them on our foreheads. He handed us each a cold bottle of water and told us to sip water. Rebecca muttered, “What’s happening to me. I feel like I’m on a bad trip.” I replied, “Me too!” Jackson asked, “Did you inhale any smoke fumes which reminded you of pot?” Rebecca replied, “Yes, but it was a different aroma when we walked into the room.” Jackson asked, “Room?” Rebecca replied, “Yeah, there were several elderly men sitting on the floor smoking pipes”. Jackson smiled saying, “You both got a whiff of Peyote. It will wear off shortly. Keep the cool towels on your foreheads and drink plenty of water. We’re about an hour and a half away from Santa Fe and the remainder of the tour is the quickest route back which takes us through the “Santa Fe National Forest”. If you need to vomit, let me know and I’ll pull over. On a positive note, I think you’ll see the forest in “Technicolor”.
Jackson drove slowly up into the mountains. At some point, Rebecca and I asked him to stop and we were able to vomit which made us feel better. We made several stops along the highway through the forest and he was correct. The effects of the Peyote made the trees and the valleys all the more spectacular. The last thing I remembered was seeing Rebecca fall into a deep sleep and I last remembered seeing a Bald Eagle soaring across the treetops before dozing off. I dreamed about being an ordinary Brooklyn kid and heard my father say, “Give something back.”
We were awoken by a gentle nudge and soft remark, “We’re back in Santa Fe, Mr. and Mrs. Di Carlo. You both dozed off and I didn’t want to wake you. This concludes our tour. We’re parked in front of the “Saint Francis of Assisi Cathedral”. It’s quite beautiful. I can drop you here or take you to the hotel.” The nap had rejuvenated both of us although my mind was still a little hazy. I asked Rebecca, “How do you feel, baby?” and she replied, “My stomach is fine but still have “cobwebs” in my head. I’d like to see the Church, Frankie, ok?’ We thanked Jackson for the wonderful tour and I tipped him two hundred dollars for which he was grateful, remarking, “You’re terrific people. Not all of my tourists are curious about the Native Americans and their history. Thank you. I hope to see you again.”
Rebecca held my hand as she was unsteady climbing the stairs. She wanted to view the interior of the Cathedral but I preferred to take in the fresh air and walk the grounds. We agreed to meet at the church entrance in fifteen minutes and find a restaurant for dinner. I came upon the statute of “Saint Francis of Assisi” who was the patron saint of the diocese. The second statue I came upon was very intriguing. It was a statue of a beautiful woman named, “Saint Kateri” who was the first North American Indian to be beatified. She was an Algonquian-Mohawk woman of New York State. At an early age, she converted to Christianity. Kateri was beautiful with long flowing black hair, wrapped in a white robe, and wearing turquoise earrings. As I walked around her statute, it was if her eyes followed me. Her face and smile invited me in close as if to speak to me, and to my astonishment, she shed a tear. I reached for her face, wiped the tear away, and another tear flowed. I looked around and nobody was to be found. I desperately looked for somebody to confirm what I was witnessing. I ran to the door of the church to summon the priest but was intercepted by Rebecca exiting the church. I exclaimed, “Come with me, the Saint is crying!” Rebecca looked at the statute, held my hand, and said, “If you saw tears, I believe you darling. I think it’s time for us to unwind from this long trip over a quiet dinner.”
We walked hand in hand towards the square and found “The Shack” which had been recommended to us by Elena. It was packed but when we told the hostess “Elena” sent us, the hostess remarked, “It looks like you had a long day. Prefer something quiet outdoors?” Rebecca and I nodded in agreement. We were seated in the shady patio. In the distance, we could hear the Fiesta still going strong. Our Margarita’s arrived quickly. Rebecca reached for her
Margarita with both hands trembling and took a long, slow sip. In the background, we could hear the noise of the Festival being drowned out by Native American protest chants, “Don’t
white wash history!” A cadre of horse drawn police officers galloped by the restaurant. Rebecca whispered, “Can’t you hear that?” I replied, “Yeah, it’s the protestors shouting their message.”
Rebecca asked again, “Can’t you hear the Native American war chants? Can’t you hear the soldiers shouting back in Spanish?” Rebecca bolted from the table out of the restaurant and onto the sidewalk. She shouts, “Frankie, the streets are emptied and the stores are shuttered. Look toward the end of the street.” I left a bill to cover the drinks and joined my wife on the sidewalk which was filled with tourists and the Festival was still going strong. Rebecca held my arm, pointed, and said, “The Conquistadores are marching up the square.” Rebecca turned around and looked down the square pointing and shouting, “The Native Americans are dressed in war paint and ready for battle.” The hostess came out and asked if all was “ok” and I said, “My wife had a long day and too much to drink but thank you for caring. I need to take her back to the hotel to rest.” Rebecca crouched and screamed, “The Native Americans are firing arrows which are just bouncing off the armor of the Conquistadores. The Conquistadores have their swords drawn and they’re galloping towards the Native Americans. Men, women, and children are being slaughtered. It’s a bloodbath!” I knew Rebecca was having another Peyote “trip” but all I could do was to hold her and attempt to calm her. A motorcycle cop stopped and asked, “Is everything all right, sir? May I call a paramedic”? I replied, “Everything is under control, Officer.” He tried to console Rebecca and said, “Ma’am. It’s just a peaceful protest.” Rebecca screamed, “The Conquistadores are slaughtering the Native Americans. It’s horrible. Do something, please”. The cop replied whispering to me, “Too much booze and sun. The protesters like to get the tourists riled up. We should get her back to your hotel to sleep it off.” I said, “We’re just across the street at the La Flora Hotel, Officer. Thank you”. The officer replied, “Let me help you carry her across the street into the lobby”. Rebecca screamed, “The blood is flowing down the gutter into the sewer!” She fell into unconsciousness.
We entered the lobby of the hotel and were immediately met by Elena commanding us, “Please carry Mrs. Di Carlo into my private office.” The cop and I laid her on the sofa. I thanked the Cop who replied, “Just in the line of duty, Sir.” Elena returned with cold, moist towels and placed them behind Rebecca’s neck and on her forehead. Bernard entered the office saying, “I’m so sorry for this misfortune, Mr. Di Carlo, may I call the Paramedics or the hotel doctor?” Rebecca
awoke, and Elena was helping her sip ice water from a straw. I said, “We visited a pueblo in Taos today and got a whiff of Peyote. We’ve been nauseous and our heads spinning all
day”. Bernard looked at Elena and smiled saying, “It’s not uncommon, Mr. Di Carlo. It will wear off but its effect is exacerbated by alcohol. I tried it a couple of times and it can carry a real kick”. I replied, “Yeah, she had a double Margarita followed by a hallucination of the
Conquistadors slaughtering the Native Americans.” Bernard replied, “The Fiesta brings out old hurts and many in the community have tried to incorporate the Native American side of history into the Fiesta to no avail.” I replied, “You’re a perceptive man, Bernard. You told us when we checked in you “felt something in the air but couldn’t put your finger on it”. You were right!”
Bernard made a suggestion. “Tonight is your last night in Santa Fe. May I suggest I arrange a change of environment?” I said, “What do you have in mind, Bernard?” “There is a beautiful authentic Japanese spa called “The Lotus Tree” located in the hills just outside of town. I believe a relaxing massage followed by dips in the warm and cold pools will cleanse you both and provide a beautiful prologue to your stay in Santa Fe.” Rebecca perked up and said, “Just what the doctor ordered. Book it Bernard.” Bernard asked Elena to phone the spa and book an evening in their VIP suite and schedule massages. Elena remarked, “You both will love it. It’s like taking a trip to a mountain hideaway spa in Japan”. Bernard replied, “We’ll have our car take you to the spa and we’ll pack and forward your luggage.” I thanked Bernard and Elena for their hospitality and proceeded to hand them each generous gratuities and both declined. Bernard remarked, “It’s been our pleasure to meet both of you. La Flora is always pleased to have sophisticated world travelers frequent our beautiful property and hope you will recommend us to your friends.” I promised we would.
The La Flora limousine made its way up into the hills above Santa Fe. The streets were lined with beautiful Adobe styled estate size homes. We reached a discrete sign, “Lotus Tree Spa” and headed up a steep, narrow driveway to the lobby entrance and were greeted by a short, mature Japanese woman wearing a kimono. She bowed and said, “Welcome to The Lotus Tree Spa, Mr. and Mrs. Di Carlo. Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m “Kiko”. My husband and I own the spa.” She walked us into the lobby and passed the front desk. Kiko replied, “La Flora has already made arrangements for your stay. If you’ll permit me to show you to your accommodations, I believe you will find them to your satisfaction.” Kiko slid the key card and opened a Japanese style sliding doors revealing a spacious, traditional Japanese inspired apartment with a large balcony overlooking Santa Fe. Rebecca was impressed and said, “I don’t think I’ll ever leave.” Kiko was joined by the concierge who introduced herself as “Joy”. Kiko said, “Joy will show you our award-winning dining facilities, spa, and pool.” Kiko bowed and said, “Please contact me personally should you require anything during your stay, Konbanwa”.
Joy guided us through the magnificent spa including a five-star Japanese fusion restaurant, men’s and women’s locker facilities, the massage treatment rooms, and large inviting hot and cold pools. Joy remarked, “We’ve taken the liberty of scheduling you both for a couple’s massage after which you may enjoy the pools. The restaurant will accommodate you for dinner at your convenience.” We thanked Joy for her hospitality and returned to our beautiful suite. The luggage arrived and was folded and placed neatly into the drawers and hung in the closets. Our massage was in one hour so we sat on the veranda and watched the sun set into the West.
We were met by our massage therapists and fell into a deep ninety minute sleep during our Shiatsu massages. We were gently awakened with glasses of cool, cucumber water. We were provided with complimentary bathing suits and accompanied to the lavish hot and cool pools which we had to ourselves. We each took a dip in the ice cold pool and then jumped quickly into the hot pool. Every nerve ending from our heads to our toes were energized. We lay on our backs and stared up at the starry night and I remarked, “The stars are so big and bright as if I can reach into the sky and grab one.” Rebecca remarked, “They’re beautiful. I think the peyote make them all the more magnificent.” Rebecca moved in close to me and I placed my arms around her waist. She whispered to me. “Frankie, I had an amazing dream when I fell asleep during my massage. I dreamed of those poor Pueblo people who were born in this marvelous country and can’t share the same opportunities afforded us. When we get home, let’s have a conversation with our attorney and accountant regarding our estate plans. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to create an educational scholarship fund for those children?” I heard in Rebecca’s voice and saw it in her eyes, the same beautiful obsession she had when creating her clothing line. It felt like the old days discussing our dreams over a milkshake in the Brooklyn drug store. I said, “That’s a beautiful idea, baby. I’m sold.” I drew her close and we kissed passionately. We had found a new purpose which would provide us a worthwhile endeavor outside of our travel. I remarked, “That kid, Jackson might be a good candidate for Director.” Rebecca replied, “I was thinking the same thing. He wants to teach the real history of the southwest and we can help the Pueblo kids get a college education.”
We enjoyed a light dinner of sushi and sashimi and returned to our beautiful room. A full moon hung low in the sky and illuminated the room. Rebecca said, “Leave the lights off, Frankie.” She led me to the bed. We were in love again and fell asleep in a tight embrace.
We were to meet our charter jet at noon. Kiko and her husband graciously invited us to join them for a traditional Japanese breakfast. Kiko’s husband was an American named Albert Wicks. I judged him to be in his seventies. He was athletic, tall, and very comfortable with Japanese traditions. We learned they met when Albert was an Air Force pilot stationed in Japan. After retiring from the Air Force, Kiko and Albert sailed the world in their own sailboat for fifteen years. They were a fascinating couple with courage, a sense of adventure, and still in love after these many years. Al insisted on driving us to the airport which was about an hour away. He was eager to get a glimpse of our charter jet. We said goodbye to Kiko and Al summoned his car.
The valet delivered Al’s red Tesla. “Typical fighter pilot”, I thought to myself, “A fast red car.” Our bags were loaded into a van which followed us to the airport. Al asked, “So what did you think of Santa Fe and Taos?” Rebecca replied, “We’ve been around the world, Al, and our trip here has been like no other.” He asked, “How so?” I replied, “We met interesting people, including you and your lovely wife but we were also exposed to a beautiful State and learned a great deal from the Native Americans.” Al replied, “That’s exactly my take on the place. Kiko and I traveled the world for fifteen years and could have chosen to live anywhere. We discovered Santa Fe on a trip ten years ago and immediately knew it would be our home.” Rebecca chimed in, “It’s been a revelation for us, Al. We were busy clothing executives and our business was our sole purpose in life. When we sold the business, we were fortunate enough to travel the world but without any purpose in life. It took an accidental whiff of peyote to give us a new sense of purpose and rekindle our marriage.” Rebecca reached for my hand and held it tight. I could see Al’s eyes in the rear view mirror watch her every word. Al said, “I heard about your hallucination from Bernard. It’s not uncommon. I’ve seen similar apparitions throughout the world. I’ve given up trying to explain the unexplainable. Maybe it was the peyote or a “message” from the universe. My advice is to remember the magic of Santa Fe and it will either be a beautiful memory or a call to action.”
Al pulled up to the charter jet and had time to talk “shop” with our pilots Rick and Jeff who showed him the cockpit while the luggage was being loaded. It was time to taxi and we said goodbye. Al stood and watched us as we sped down the runway waving goodbye. As our jet climbed out of Albuquerque, Rick came on the speaker and said, “Santa Fe is on your left.” We took one final look at Santa Fe, Rebecca remarked, “New Mexico is truly “The Land of Enchantment”. After we set up the scholarship foundation, let’s pay a visit to Amma on our next adventure.”
Our “stopover in Santa Fe” provided us with a new purpose for living outside of travel and our love was rekindled. The sun’s rays beamed through the windows of the cabin, radiated off the beautiful turquoise bracelet, and “danced” to the Coltrane playing softly throughout the cabin.