Thursday, May 10, 2012

Truth or Consequences

Rabbits, Truth or Consequences, NM


About a decade ago I spent a summer traveling through Europe with a buddy of mine. We didn't have a car,  just public transportation, our feet, and our backpacks. We were broke, but we figured out that once we got across the ocean, we could live on practically nothing, so we made compromises. Most days we splurged on good coffee, then ate some Tesco peanut butter spread over fresh bread. We filled our water bottles from town square fountains, hitched rides to and from the trains and buses with kind strangers, and slept on trains and shared rooms in hostels.

We were out there in the world so long and living so light and tight that it was easy to forget the day and the place. It was easy to forget that I had a life in America at all. I started to feel like we were on the run from something.

Since it’s been years, I can’t remember how long we wandered. I just remember when it hit me, suddenly: I missed home.

Somewhere on the outskirts of Munich after being on a train all night, my buddy and I were waiting to catch a bus to a campground. There were these old drunks hanging out at the stop drinking beers and smoking. They had these ratty, wire haired mutt dogs that kept circling our legs and making us giggle. We played with the dogs for a long time, and the drunks sang to us. At some point, we realized the bus wasn’t coming, so we decided to walk. I was tired, so tired that I didn’t care when we did end up somewhere in a tiny, humid, dirt encrusted popup trailer on the edge of a river in somewhere Germany. It seemed more like a place to cure meats than to rest one’s head, but it didn’t matter. I just crawled into my sleeping bag and fell asleep.

When I woke up, I wanted to be home. I wanted to be home so bad, it hurt. I looked over at my buddy sleeping on the other side of the trailer, and I said: I feel like I’m running from the Feds. Let’s go home. 

So we did.

Every traveler should be lucky enough to enjoy such art.

I feel like I’ve gotten to the point where this trip has become “going home,” as opposed to being out here in America. Something is off. I’m think this project has taken a turn. I’m not sure where it’s going. I’m not sure, at this point, if I care. I’m sitting in a purple themed room at the Charles Motel in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Something about this place makes me feel like I’m on the run. Something about this place feels like a truer America than we’ve seen so far. I’m not sure what it is.

Dude, where's my motel?


In the morning, it was raining, just enough to make a pretty, sleepy noise. I walked outside and stared up at the misty mountains rising over up the Dude Motel and the liquor store across the street. I still felt like going home. I also felt like I was there. I still felt like we were on the run, and also that M and I were both very unimportant and who we are or what we did meant nothing at all.

I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to be that kind of bath house.

M and I decided to check out the bathhouse attached to the motel. The whole town is built over a hot spring, and you can’t spit without your phlegm landing on one of those places. After receiving instructions from the attendant, I let my tub fill with hot spring water and climbed in. I laid back and floated for a while. I tried to meditate. There was something transcendent there, with the plonk, plonk of rain, and birds singing just outside the window. There was something that felt timeless there, and placeless, too. I could have been anywhere in the world. I let air fill my lungs and my body float up to the surface tipping this way and that.

Man, it was great. Then, I heard some noises drifting in from the adjoining tub room. “Noises,” if you catch my drift, not, scrubbing the tub or derobing or getting settled noises, but you know, sounds of a Sapphic variety. I started to fret: I hope it’s not that kind of bathhouse. Not that I begrudge anyone their personal enjoyment, but I was having a transcendent moment, after all.

The moment had passed and rather than become a reluctant voyeur, I let the tub drain and got out. It was a good thing I did, because a few moments longer, and I probably would have fainted anyway. The heat had turned my bones to jelly, and I went back to our strange room to sleep.

They said it was a safe area, but you can't take Oakland out of the girl.

Later, M and I drove into town, which revealed itself to be a charming queer friendly mix of old timers, new comers, artists, weirdos and regular folk. Of course, I wanted to buy a house there right away, and had already done so in my head before coming back down to earth. I guess it’s easy to forget you have a life somewhere when you are out on a meta-run.

Section Art, Truth or Consequences, NM

We stopped at the post office to take pictures of the art and wandered around downtown for a bit. At the Geronimo Museum and Gift Shop, the clerk, a local, was insistent we sign her guest book, as if we were stamping a passport for her with which she could dream of other places than where she was. I told her I liked the town, and she said it was a "special place," in the way a person might speak about an old person type relative that they aren't particularly fond of. She asked us where we were going. When we told her we were headed for Tucson, she said she wished she could go too, and I think she meant it. Funny, because I wished I could stay in Truth or Consequences for a good long time.

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