|July 15, 1989: Ignacio and Aztec|
The next morning we got up early and packed lunches. I met Charlie Wang, Seth's third housemate. He told us about an artisan's fair and flea market in nearby Ignacio, on the Ute reservation. So we decided to hitch-hike out there.
Once we were out of the house Seth told me what he thought of Charlie. "I call him Hirohito in my mind, but I'm afraid if I said it out loud, it would be looked on as a racial slur. He's kind of in charge of our house, and he's kind of uptight about everything, like he wants everyone to do their dishes right after they've eaten. I say, EAT MY PUD!"
He turned and shook his fist at the house. Then he grinned at me. "That's short for pudendum, by the way."
We got a ride very quickly. The man who picked us up was friendly enough, but not much of a talker. He said he lived in Bay Field. I asked if he worked there too. "Nope." (Long pause.) "I just took a year-long vacation." I didn't ask anymore after that. He seemed amused that anyone would want to visit Ignacio, and he went out of his way to drop us off there, so that we could "get an early start coming back."
His words were prophetic. Ignacio was a very small town indeed, and there were only nine or ten people at the fair, artisans included, and nothing interesting to be seen. So we stopped at the Ignacio Sky Ute Lodge Museum. A brochure at this lame tourist trap proclaimed it to be "the best-kept secret in the Southwest... You'll find a full-fledged museum with special exhibits..." In reality it was a cramped gift shop. There were a few beads and some moldering rugs in a glass case, and price tags dangled everywhere. I could readily understand why the people of the Southwest would want to keep the place a secret.
[Note: As far as I can tell, the Ignacio Sky Ute Lodge Museum is now the Southern Ute Indian Cultural Center. They still claim to have a "full-fledged museum," now complete with a "multi-media production depicting the early history of the Utes." But I haven't been there since 1989, so for all I know it's become the greatest thing in the world. Check it out yourself if you're in the area, and let me know what you think.]
We decided to hitch out to Aztec and see the Anasazi ruins. The county road we took didn't have much traffic, but we got a ride on a rickety pick-up within ten minutes. The driver was a man of forty or so, a landfill operator. He downed two beers on the way to Aztec and seemed to have trouble carrying on a coherent conversation. (As I learned later in my journey, this kind of behavior is not uncommon on the American highway.)
The ruins at Aztec were fascinating. The Great Kiva had been restored. This was a large room which had been used for religious ceremonies and other gatherings, and we listened to a ranger give a short talk there. I couldn't help but notice the quasi-religious aspects: the crowd was quiet and attentive, focused on the ranger's words and the knowledge she was imparting. Weren't we disciples of the Information Age? I'm sure that no one in the crowd would have called it a worship service, but isn't that the difference between a true religious event and debased superstition?
It was amazing how quickly we were able to hitch-hike back to Durango. I told Seth he must have a magic thumb.
We got back to Seth's house and lounged about for a bit. Laurie was there, and the three of us decided to go out for some beer. (Actually Laurie was too young to drink alcohol legally, so she just came to watch.) I bought a pack of Chesterfield Kings to satisfy my nicotine addiction. They seemed frustratingly mild at the time, but soon my throat was sore.
After a couple beers I felt dopey and sleepy. Seth had only one; he said he was worried he might have an ulcer.
That night I cried out in my sleep again.