~ If you’re looking for race, this isn’t it.
There is something to be said for places and their associated climates that are wet, humid, moist but not really hot as in “hot and dry”. There is something to be said for living “north”, as in the rainy north woods or the temperate north woods or just the northern plains where there are no woods, but the weather is nonetheless a bit more mild as in not bitten by the constant sun and the ever-beating solar presence. I could go on. If I went on I would not be talking about Albuquerque.
Albuquerque is about sun. The airport is called “The Sunport”; enough said. Albuquerque is the USA home of hot air ballooning; I repeat the words “hot air”, as if I haven’t already made my point. I could go on about “hot” red chile or “hot” green chile and the red or green state slogan which never assumes that anyone ever has an option other than “hot”; we’re talking temperature here, not “hotties” as in New Jersey or Miami or Southern California. Those places aren’t hot – they’re just warm when compared to Albuquerque and New Mexico.
New Mexico is not about wood. It’s not that there isn’t any wood in New Mexico, it is that wood does not do well here. Sure there are the latillas (little lats) that are the younger brothers of vigas (tree trunks that serve as beams). Vigas and corbels are what made New Mexico, well New Mexico and New Spain, New Spain and a lot of other places what they are. Afghanistan was made of mud bricks piled high and roofed over with vigas and latillas although they used different names for the beams and beam-ettes in Afghanistan. The principal was the same. People have been doing it for at least three-thousand years; three-hundred years more or less in “new” Mexico. But, I was talking about wood.
In Afghanistan (which can also be very hot) they do not let the ends of the vigas hang out. It is a pointless exercise in economy if not design. They say it takes any society 1,000 years to learn this; so New Mexico is still new at the game while Afghanistan learned the lesson long ago. It is about heat and weather and freeze-thaw and snow and rain. The point is that the wooden ends rot and break away and splinter into nothing in no time when left exposed to the elements. The “tips” may be good for hanging chilies, but they make no sense as architecture which should at its base be based in practical.
Survivors adapt to their environment, they don’t get “in your face” with it. Which gets us back to wood. Adobe houses do OK in New Mexico. They reflect a tradition, not a science. The native peoples were more inclined to build with rock, piled stones like in Chaco Canyon and numerous other places not overly influenced by the conquerors traditions. Rock is good in New Mexico, it stands up to the sun, the solar flares, the solar excess that constitutes almost every day in Southwest living – rainy north woods this isn’t.
It has taken me what seems like a lifetime to learn this. Rock, stone, fired brick, cement, clay tile, stucco – these are the natural materials of southwest living. Wood is not on the list unless you’re inside. It is not that there are no painted ladies – houses or the other kind – in New Mexico. There are. But, they require constant care and upkeep and a constant maintenance and repainting that most cannot easily afford. The paint fails so quickly in New Mexico. Turquoise is not a southwest color, it is a stone like agate or amethyst, rare and not everyday in use except in jewelry. The southwest colors are sandstones, faded grays and faded blacks and faded reds and browns and cream colored vistas and hints of purple against the sky.
The color of my slate (Home Depot product) is “multi-colored”. Home Depot used to sell a black, but now not so much. There is nothing like the variations of nature in natural stone for bringing out what’s good in life. A palate of the stuff costs only pennies when compared with the price per pound of corn or melons; chicken or even eggs – and unlike the foodstuffs the rock lasts almost forever and it’s been around for a lot longer than any government or political theory has.
The good news is that you can coat just about anything with rock. Rock can cover wood, protect it better than any paint; just glue it on or wire it and bind the two with concrete. There are such good glues available today if you know how to read and where to look. Look at Home Depot. Home Depot is where I live when I’m not at home. I like walking down the empty aisles and watching the falling prices and the ever heightening stacks of unsold stuff. You thought maybe this was a commercial for Home Depot. It is not. It is just a barometer. And the barometer says, “buy rock”.
It kind of puts a new light on the term “rock and roll”. In either case I love it; one for the memories, the other for tomorrow. So, if I’m not writing you know where I will be, on the roof or otherwise outside, laying cement, replacing slate, moving mountains (at least that’s what it feels like at sixty).
So you might ask why if rock is so great, I buy it. Drive any freeway. Rock is everywhere and it seems so free. The ancients built their houses with free rock, warm and comfortable with a little effort. The water was nearby. I ask this question myself. What has gone so wrong that simple rock is now a commodity; something to exchange for cash; something found it stores and not in nature? This is how removed we are from the planet of our birth. But then again; maybe the future begins with “rock on”.
[2009.09.20 / Sunday – Multi-colored]