Stories All the Way Down

G. M. Baker - Author

The Grand Tour 15: High and Low, Wide and Steep

This entry is part 15 of 15 in the series Grand Tour

From the low of a mine to the height of the Continental Divide and from the width of the plain to the steepness of Gallup’s streets, this is a day on the move. And a chat with the ghost of Jimmy Stewart.

May 12, 2018, Albuquerque to Gallup: We begin the day with a tour of Old Town Albuquerque. As seems to be our pattern as early risers, we arrive before it opens and pretty much have the place to ourselves in the cool of the morning. The pattern here is pretty much what we have seen in Santa Fe and even in the Taos Pueblo, a collection of early buildings around a working church. None of the buildings are preserved as historical artifacts. they are all commercial locations. basically souvenir or art stores or restaurants.

There are three types of Old Town, I think. There are the reconstructions that operate as museums, like Upper Canada Village, Colonial Williamsburg, or Fortress Louisburg. Commerce on such sites it usually restricted to restaurants, serving more or less period food in more or less period costume. The only other selling on the site tends to be confined to giftshop in a visitor’s center, usually a modern building slightly off the old site.

Grand Tour 14: Holy Jumble and the Intrusiveness of Tourism

This entry is part 14 of 15 in the series Grand Tour

To travel is to intrude. The intrusion may be welcomed. It may be invited. You may pay for the privilege of intruding. But it is still an intrusion, and sometimes you feel like an intruder even where you are welcomed. But then, there are some places, no matter how foreign, where you always feel at home. 

Friday, May 11, 2018, Taos to Albuquerque: Our day begins with a visit to Taos Pueblo, one of the oldest continually inhabited sites in North America. Being continuously inhabited means that it is inhabited still, and thus I feel like an intruder visiting here. These are people’s homes. We learn that they are now more like a family cottage than a full-time home for most Pueblo people. Only 15 people live here year-round we are told. But each family in the tribe has a house here which is still used for ceremonial purposes and family gatherings. I think my condo association would not look kindly on busloads of Pueblo Indians turning up every day to tour our complex. It feels intrusive to do the same to them.

Grand Tour 13: Holy Dirt and the Sacredness of Real Things

This entry is part 13 of 15 in the series Grand Tour

All through the New Mexico portion of this journey, I have noted how much it matters here what things look like. This is in some small part a reflection of how much things matter. I don’t mean this in the sense of how much it matters to have things. Rather in the sense that things are important in themselves. This is magnified by the sacredness attached to certain particular things (and things cannot be sacred unless things, generally, matter). Nowhere is this very Catholic habit of finding the sacred in real things more evident than in Santuario de Chimayo, which is the second big stop of this day. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018, Santa Fe to Taos (part 2): I will go back now to the beginning of our route from Santa Fe to Taos. I dealt with our visit to the Poeh Cultural center in my last post. Now I will go back to the beginning and start with the description of our route.

Grand Tour 12: The Museum Has Become the Artifact

This entry is part 12 of 15 in the series Grand Tour

The museum has become the artifact. These days one can often tell more about a people from how they structure and present their museums than from what those museums contain.

Thursday, May 10, 2018, Santa Fe to Taos: This was a day mostly about visits to various sites and there is enough to say about some of those sites to warrant breaking it up into more than one post. This post will concern itself with our visit to the Poeh Cultural Center in Pojoaque, New Mexico and the thoughts that it occasioned about the nature and function of museums.

Grand Tour 11: Intimations of Mortality in a Town Too Pretty to be Beautiful

This entry is part 11 of 15 in the series Grand Tour

Wednesday, May 9, 2018, Santa Fe: A day on foot in the heat and altitude of Santa Fe leaves me feeling ten years older and ruminating on my mortality. The themes for the day are towns that try too hard to be beautiful and end up looking contrived, and a reflection on mortality in general and the pioneering spirit and the way time slowly robs you of the capability for adventure.

Grand Tour 10: The Stunning Similarities of Ancient Sites

This entry is part 10 of 15 in the series Grand Tour

Tuesday, May 8, 2018, Las Vegas NM to Santa Fe NM 

Today our Grand Tour takes us to the Pecos National Historical Park where we notice the stunning similarities between the ruins here and the stone circles, Roman, and Medieval ruins of Britain. We also note just how much it matters what things look like in New Mexico, and how different the scenery of the mountains makes you feel from the scenery of the prairies.

Promethean vs. Lapsarian Fantasy

Fantasy literature is often characterized as escapist. I think this misses the point. Fantasy is fundamentally concerned with power, and our relationship to it. The fantastic element in every fantasy is power of some kind, either existing in nature or in the protagonist or the antagonist. It may be power of many different kinds, but it is always power, and with that power comes both danger and possibility.

I suggest that there are two major branches of fantasy, which I will call the lapsarian and the Promethean. They differ in how they deal with the dangers and possibilities of power.

Grand Tour 9: Of Tacky Artwork and Enchanting Overpasses

This entry is part 9 of 15 in the series Grand Tour

Sunday, May 7, 2018, Amarillo to Las Vegas, New Mexico

Today’s theme ranges from the tackiness of a deliberate art installation to the truly enchanting highway overpasses of New Mexico. In New Mexico, it seems, it matters what things look like. In Texas, not so much.

Anomalous Now: Why it is the Present, not the Past, that is Weird

This entry is part 2 of 1 in the series Anomalous Now

The present is an anomaly. We only think it normal because we live in it and don’t know any better. But our failure to see the anomaly that is the present impairs our ability to read or understand history, or historical novels. Or, for that matter, to deal with politics and ideology generally.

As a novelist working largely in historical fiction, I read a lot of published historical fiction, but also, through workshops and critique groups, a lot that is unpublished, and in both I often find places where the author seems to have missed something about the past because they don’t know how anomalous the present is.

Grand Tour 8: A Church Should Look Like a Church

This entry is part 8 of 15 in the series Grand Tour

Sunday, May 6, 2018, Amarillo

Today is a rest day. I go to Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle church and find the building not to my liking. It is a typical modern auditorium-style church with padded pews. The floor slopes down to the altar like the floor of a movie theatre. It is all about making sure that everyone has a good view. If in the pre-Vatican II days we said that we went to hear Mass, now we go to see Mass.

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