while we were attending a colloquy and Q & A yesterday between some of Santa Fe's better known writers -- Michael McGarrity, Douglas Preston, and Forrest Fenn. It was at Dorothy and Mary's Place -- Collected Works. I've developed a habit since moving to New Mexico of describing practically everywhere we go -- at least if we know the owners or proprietors -- as "So and So's Place" rather than using the commercial name or official location. If we don't know the owners/proprietors, it's a different story.
It snowed the last time we were in Santa Fe on Christmas Eve for the Canyon Road Farolito Walk, too. We realized we had not been in Santa Fe since then, somewhat surprising since we've been to Albuquerque seemingly every week or even several times a week. And as everyone knows, no one goes to Albuquerque unless they have to; one goes to Santa Fe because one wants to.
When we were driving up toward the Sangre de Cristos yesterday, the sky was mostly cloudy, but right over the Santa Fe National Forest -- and perhaps in town, too -- we could see clouds dropping precipitation which I took to be snow. From our distance, though, I couldn't be sure. When we got to town, the air was still pretty warm, but there was a chill breeze blowing, and by the time we sat down for the chit-chat, snow was falling outside the window and late-comers had to brush fresh, fat flakes off their shoulders.
Heh, "latecomers." Jeeze, the place was packed. Some of the cowpunchers were sporting their six-shooters, chaps, and handlebar mustaches the way they do, as if they were the real thing instead of characters in a movie -- or more probably a music video or TV commercial. I would think they'd turn out for Max Evans (who I rather like a lot...) But there they were for McGarrity -- who introduced himself as named "New Mexico's Most Popular Writer -- while Tony Hillerman was still alive!" He's obviously been angling for the Hillerman Chair since well before the Old Git died, and no one seems to begrudge him when it comes down to it -- except maybe Ann though that's another story, but I'm more into Rudolfo Anaya if I have to pick among the local codger-writers.
I've mentioned it before: New Mexico is filled with art. But it's also full of writers, chock a block. In fact, next weekend, there is supposed to be a literary event right here in our little corner of creation, featuring some two dozen local/regional writers. Yeek. Of course, it's primarily to sell books, but still, even an event as large as that -- out here in the middle of nowhere no less -- just scratches the surface. And I'm sure a lot of books will be sold. As I've said, people in New Mexico have home libraries -- and they actually read, too. Yes, they do.
Forrest Fenn is a character more than he is a writer, though I am lusting after one of his books, The Secrets of San Lazaro Pueblo, and I am determined to add it to my collection. Well, when I win the lottery. Or find his Treasure. Oh, the treasure hunt for Forrest Fenn's jewel box! That was the actual topic of discussion and what drew the enthusiasts -- as opposed to family and friends of the writers -- to attend the event. We went because of McGarrity and Preston more than Fenn (knew them previously), though the whole treasure hunt subculture and Fenn's book about the treasure in gold and gems he hid somewhere "north of Santa Fe" is one of the regional charms. The Fenn character -- Crusty Old Collector and Trader in Beautiful Things From Long Ago, Indun Stuff In Particular -- is one of the standard local types since the days of the Old Santa Fe Trail, and I think it is probably a permanent cultural thing. You cannot "do" Santa Fe without encountering the Traders. Fenn has been at it for many a long year, and though I think he's retired now, he still has a formidable collection of Beautiful Things and apparently will part with some of his items for the right price.
What did he say during the chat? "Having enough money is better than having a lot of it." That drew a round of applause. Though I'm not exactly sure what under the circumstances he meant. This man is a multimillionaire many times over, as were some of the others in attendance. The wealth of some of the inhabitants of Santa Fe is mind-boggling. This includes some writers and artists. But for most, no matter what their calling, it's a hard and often dreary slog just to survive. The struggle -- "the thrill of the chase" if you will -- is supposed to be good for the soul, in the Catholic sense of suffering I guess, and for many, it is about the struggle not about the end reward. But I wondered who Fenn was communicating with when he mentioned "enough."
We are talking about a man who has hidden a treasure estimated to be worth millions somewhere "north of Santa Fe" after all, a treasure many thousands of enthusiasts are eagerly seeking. There was a question yesterday about avarice and its consequences for some of the treasure-seekers. And Fenn was asked if he was concerned at all about it. The answer was "No." I wasn't sure he grasped the nature of the question, or that he could grasp it. Not that he's necessarily unaware, just that in his mind, it has nothing to do with him. He, after all, isn't driven by greed and possessions; it's only dumb luck he's survived at all and gotten where he is. Avarice? Consequences? It probably doesn't enter his mind. All he's after, he says, is getting kids out from what he calls the Game Room and exploring the mountains, learning about Nature, appreciating the Earth and What's Real. The Hunt for The Treasure is reward in itself. Besides, the kind of people he says he wants to find it have a pickup truck, live hard scrabble in West Texas with their 12 kids... and they really need it.
Someone asked, "What would you think if some billionaire hired a crew to go out searching and they found the treasure? Wouldn't that lead you to think maybe someone who didn't fit your ideal treasure finder was more likely to find it all along?"
He said, "Well, they wouldn't have a pick up, would they?"
Maybe he can't even imagine it...