City Different, Indeed

Santa Fe – the City Different, so they say.

If you don't like adobe, this might not be the place for you.

Different from what? Maybe just about anywhere else you might be from. Certainly different from CT, which is probably why the city and the surrounding region have always called to me. CT is, with a few exceptions, mega-suburbia. Santa Fe is about as far from that as you can get.

That observation hit me again, yesterday, as I strolled around town after a productive day of writing (16 pages on the new play! Let’s see if I can repeat that tomorrow…). The sky does seem bluer here, I guess because of the elevation and maybe the time of year. The mixture of the three dominant cultures – Anglo, Latino, Indian – is all around. The city, having just celebrated its 400th anniversary (take that, New England), has a sense of history. And the people – well, you just don’t see the same dress and attitude (and I mean that in a good way) back in CT.

Don't see too many mariachi bands on porches, either.

There are, of course, many characters: aging hippies, aging hipsters, aging cowboys, working cowboys, aging hippie cowboys. Lots of long gray hair, on both men and women. Lots of spiky hair too, and designer glasses. Maybe it’s just the parts of town I’ve been to, but the demographics do seem to skew a bit older and female. I think there might be more than a few women artists tapping into their inner Georgia O’Keeffe. But the overriding sense I get is that Santa Fe is a place where you can be who you really are, no questions asked. And it feels like a city with lots of tight little communities, especially in the arts.

A stroll around the Plaza

Northern New Mexico has been attracting artists of all kinds for decades, of course. Many seem to be multi-talented, not simply a painter, a writer, a musician. Meeting someone who does not have an ongoing creative outlet, whether vocation or devoted hobby, would be the exception to the rule. And it’s a place, judging by a conversation I had today, that many people experience for the first time and decide on the spot, “I want to live here.” Others, my informant said, “just don’t get it.” And that’s fine. CT and Ohio and Florida and North Dakota still have plenty of room for them.

The gentleman telling me this was one of those transplants, one of those triple-threat (or more) artistic types. He knew a couple from England that came for a visit and decided immediately to buy a condo, while still keeping their home across the pond. Of course that kind of impetuosity is reserved for the rich, and while there might be some starving-artist types here, I get the sense some of the folks tapping into their bohemian selves had a good source of income in another lifetime.  Or else they augment their income in other ways. And some, I’m sure, take the hippie ethos seriously, living simply and close to the earth. Something about the wide open spaces seems to make that attitude natural, like there’s really no other way to live. I bet the influence of the Pueblos shapes that too.

The money that seems so prevalent here, at least downtown, at least among many of the visitors, is in stark contrast to New Mexico’s overall financial problems. Poverty is high, compared to the national average, and you see that when you drive through some of the rural areas. Unemployment, though, is slightly below the national average, and the state does have great wealth in its natural resources. Of course, the extracting of those resources often leads to environmental issues, and at times political conflict.

The greatest environmental issue is water; there ain’t much of it. And when I think about moving out here, as I invariably do on every trip to Santa Fe, I worry about the impact I would have on the problem. Yes, I’m just one person, but if all these aging hippies and artists and PhD’s who do research for the government at several notable facilities keep coming, and the water keeps going, where will the state be in 25 years?

My ever moving here will not, I reckon, come down to my guilt pangs about using too much of a precious resource. It will come down to being far from family and friends and to the demands of making such a large move alone. But there is something different about Santa Fe, really good different, and I could see myself here, feeding off the creative vibe that fills the streets, soaking up the scenery, and enjoying the rich bounty of incredible food (more on that next post). Something about this place feels like home.


~ by mburgan on November 6, 2010.

2 Responses to “City Different, Indeed”

  1. good to see you writing…and as I have said more than once “family ain’t all its cracked up to be”….

  2. I know, I know. And you’d have another place to visit, with lots of hiking.

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