Friday, June 30, 2006

Santa Fe NM - May 2006 part 3

If Tent Rocks is a naturally formed, supernaturally looking, still-life sculpture park that demonstrates the consequences of evil, then Tsankawi is a living, breathing manmade obstacle course of survival - disguised as a life-sized children's board game.

A frequently overlooked portion of Bandelier National Monument, Tsankawi is like a prehistoric life-size Chutes and Ladders board.

This traditional children's game, which in my recollection I never actually played either as a child or parent, is an Americanized reformulation of an ancient East Indian pastime known as "Snakes and Ladders". Kind of a child's version of Hindu, players in this contest traverse the squares on a board by means of ladders (representing good acts that allow the player to move closer to Nirvana) and snakes (on which they slide into evil).

At Tsankawi the chutes, being permanent, are considerably more common - the result of the steadfast, albeit incidental, efforts of a prehistoric people to simply go about their business. Rather than being the path to hell as in the game, they are instead the main streets of everyday life.

The ladders, of which there were only two on our visit, are of the Kiva style and nowadays are located at the beginning and end of the small mesa at the top of the Tsankawi area.

The former is a ten foot tall alternative to just staying on the inbound trail and the latter ladder (twenty-five feet in height) is the only means down - short of going back and down the up-ladder. In prehistoric Anasazi times, according to what I've heard, the ladders were put up in the morning for the farming and hunting natives to descend into the valley below, retracted during the day, let down again for the evening commute, and put away at night to provide safety from the bad guys.

The major amount of traveling back and forth, both then and now, however occurs via the chutes - footpaths that were actually worn away into the soft volcanic rock of the mesa by the repetitive travels of the early inhabitants. These bipedally created grooves are (ironically) as much as two feet in depth.

Impossible to fathom - the number of steps it took to carve a twenty-four inch deep channel into a piece of rock. I've seen the tiny indentations in the stairways at my former place of employment and other older buildings. And other parts of the Tsankawi and Bandelier National Monuments exhibit the caves that were intentionally dug out of the same soft volcanic tuff. But such a significant wearing away of rock, no matter how soft, as a simple byproduct of the everyday travels of a small group of people is simply beyond my ken.

There were dirt portions of the trail and some loose stuff inside the rocky footpaths that captured the footprints of the modern visitors. Mostly they showed the treads of contemporary running shoes - brands recognizable to the serious student of the art of the sole, or to an experienced forensic expert (the modern day tracker). Hiking boots, identifiable by their deeper, more definite lug imprints and wider shape, made up the rest. There were no indications of cowboy boots or Manolo Blahnik stilettos on the mesa.

Mars, Sandy and I wore our hiking boots on this trip. From our perspective the footwear that we had was just fine - maybe a little wider then necessary in some of the more tapered trenches - but sturdy enough to keep our ankles upright and our tender little feet comfy and safe. And light-years better for this environment then the Teva and Birkenstock sandals that Mars and I wore for our retail hiking in Santa Fe - even though from an historical re-creation point of view either of these pieces of footwear would have been more appropriate.

The original inhabitants either were barefooted or wore sandals which I remember reading about in a New Yorker article. The piece talked about recent attempts to recreate the footwear, which it said was surprisingly comfortable and durable for such walking about. I found a similar article at a web site called

Recent work by archaeologists reveals that Native Americans from 1,400 years ago wore a sandal with a sole so well-designed they're the technological equivalent of modern-day Nikes and Adidas. Two hundred of these yucca sandals, finely woven by artisans using 22 different textile techniques, were discovered in 1930-31 by Earl Morris, an archaeologist for the Carnegie Institute, and his wife, Ann.

Their soles have the perfect tread depth for gripping and the edges point out so that water squirts away, as it does with modern tires. The soles also have multi-directional ridges to reduce slipping, and the yucca gives them flexibility.

"The Anasazi had deer, badger and elk to kill so they could easily have relied on leather moccasins, but they didn't," says Morris, a retired Colorado archaeologist. "In a country of cactus spines and sharp rocks, they mostly wore these open sandals. They must've known something we don't."

The three of us walked the one and one half mile trail with little difficulty except for the extreme care that needed to be taken in negotiating some of the more narrow foot furrows. At the end of the mesa we met a group of Elderhostelers as they were descending the second of the Kiva ladders. Properly shod and positively attitude-ed they practically scurried down the ladder in their eagerness to explore the area.

We talked to a few of them walking back to the parking lot at the beginning of the trail. None had been to New Mexico before nor, like us, had they experienced any geography even remotely like the foot worn furrows that we all were hiking through.

The ancient footsteps of the Anasazi have left a lasting impression on much more than just the soft rocks of Tsankawi.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Look at me way up high, Suddenly here am I, I'm flying!

On Father's Day Mars and I did our first Flying Forward Bend. We weren't alone. There were ten other couples - nine of them also neophytes. And there were Elysabeth and Rex who showed us all how to do it.

Actually they did much more than that.

First Elysabeth got on top and directed me on how to do it with her. Then Rex got on the bottom and I learned what it felt like to be in the upper position. Then, with Rex's guidance, Mars got on top and we did it together.

Partner Yoga is a little like the Cirque de Soleil - without frenetic music. Two people do things that (a) are impossible to do by themselves and (b) look impossible to do under any circumstances.

Which may be the point of the whole exercise anyway. Or at least it was for me. Too bad I didn't know that when we had to tell what our intentions were.

This ritual frequently happens at the beginning of Yoga classes. Usually each participant is asked to just think about what they hope to get out of that day's class. In this workshop, instead of keeping our intention private and (at least in my case) unformulated, we had to go around the room and tell our fellow students what it was.

At this point we were sitting in a small circle - self organized in that traditional boy-girl-boy-girl setup that couples seem to instinctively adopt when asked to arrange themselves into that configuration.

Rex was first to tell his intention and then, thankfully, the baton was passed left to the female half of the adjacent couple. I sighed relief internally and snuck a glance around the room at the ten other guys - most of who seemed to share my easing in tension. I mean its not that guys don't have intentions - of course we do - the path to Hell isn't paved with nothing. We just don't articulate them as well as, for example, our female partners at whose request most of us were sitting in this circle to begin with.

I was here because (a) Mars had given me this class as a Father's Day present, (b) it would be a new experience that we would do together, (c) I (presumably) would get to touch her (maybe even a lot), and (d) do some Yoga - all of which seemed like good things to me. The gift (a) was the cause of me being here. The others (b, c, and d) were possible reasons that flashed through my mind (along with "it was too hot for golf") as I was frantically trying to come up with a good Yoga-sounding intention.

But mostly I was hoping that Mars would say something that would allow me to say "Yeah - What she say! Doubled!"

Unlike us, married thirty-nine years plus a few more together, most of the couples seemed to be relatively new to their partnering arrangement and were looking to "connect". Or at least the women were. The few men that were connecting seemed to be verbalizing a more Yoga-savvy version of "Yeah - What she say! Doubled!"

All too soon it came to be our turn and Mars mentioned "doing something different for Father's Day" and I fumbled through "trying a new experience together" - both of which must have been acceptable intentions because we weren't asked to leave either the circle or the class.

(This photo is copyrighted and taken from the book "The
Pleasures and Principles of Partner Yoga". Used with permission from the authors.)

Next came the demo.

Elysabeth and Rex didn't say much about what they were about to do. They just turned on some surprisingly up-tempo New Age music, sat back to back, and began twisting and stretching themselves, and each other, with a dizzying array of hand-to-hand, hand-to-wrist, hand-to-rib cage, hand to you-name-it movements.

Then he lay prone and she bent him backwards with the aid of various methods for holding him down - foot on foot, sitting on legs, etc.

Next, using a handheld strap, they sat facing each other, placed foot sole to foot sole, lifted their legs up straight, and leaned back to form a living, surprisingly stable, "W".

At this point I figured that this demo was actually a performance of the more outre possibilities of Partner Yoga. Then they did the Flying Forward Bend, first with her on top, then him, and now I was convinced that basically none of what we had just seen were we about to attempt.


They had shown us the "foundation". Now we were to do it.

And we did. In spite of our individual and collective physical limitations. In spite of the ninety plus degree heat in the room. In spite of the fact that if we had thought about any of these movements while we were doing them we would have immediately realized that we weren't really doing them because they simply couldn't be done.

And then it was time to fly.

(This photo is copyrighted and taken from the book "The
Pleasures and Principles of Partner Yoga". Used with permission from the authors.)

Mars and I decided for various reasons not to attempt it with me on top. But try as we might we just couldn't get her up into the air. (I say "we" because Elysabeth and Rex had told us that this was not a matter of the bottom lifting the top but rather of the lifter and liftee together reaching a point of balance where they both coordinate to get the flyer up with minimal effort from the holder.)

We asked for help.

First, while Mars observed, Elysabeth settled her hipbones onto the bottoms of my feet, leaned forward and with amazingly little effort on my part I straightened my bent legs and held her aloft. Next Rex guided my pelvic area onto his soles and I too soared.

And then the denouement - with Rex's verbal guidance Mars and I found the right balance point to allow us to jointly elevate her off of the floor and into the yogic stratosphere. Twice!

To me one of the best things about having the right partner is that you become quite brave about trying new, even unthinkable things, as long as you are doing them together.

So remember - and feel free to use this as your own intention - it's actually quite easy to pick up a really good-looking woman at a Partner Yoga workshop.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Grow West Young Man

Recently we spent two weeks in northern New Mexico, the first week in Santa Fe house-sitting for friends one of whom (Joa) happens to be a Master Gardener - something it might not be real easy to be in that part of the country.

For example, while we were out west the Santa Fe newspaper reported that the year-to-date rainfall for that area had gone up from 1.44 to 1.46 inches. By contrast, at home during those two weeks we acquired about four and one half inches of additional precipitation in our own front yard rain gauge.

(As I reread the above sentences I find it interesting that I refer to our local precipitation in approximate terms whereas the Santa Fe-ans celebrate the arrival of two hundredths of an inch or rain.)

By itself that should have told me that there were significant differences between gardening in the northeast and in the southwest - but that realization didn't begin to sink in until I was about halfway through cutting the fourteen days worth of grass that had grown in my yard. And it continued to develop as I completed my traditional Memorial day vegetable and annual plantings, and then got back into what has become, over the years, my weekly routine of plant maintenance.

In fact the only relief that I've had from my seemingly nonstop regimen has been the five-plus inches of rain that arrived this past weekend. Apparently there was a deluge in northern New Mexico also - the online version of the paper reports total year-to-date rainfall as of today at 1.62 inches - an eleven percent increase in just two weeks!

Still I don't think the newfound moisture will do much to mitigate the extreme differences in horticultural practices between these two regions. So here are my conclusions.

In the southwest pretty much nothing blossoms by itself, so gardening in that region consists almost entirely of planting a small number of flora and nurturing them - in other words growing plants. Key concepts = drip irrigation and incredible patience.

The vast majority of Joa's considerable property is classic native high desert - lots of dry white dirt, a few prickly pear cactus, and several low-growing juniper & pinyon pines (easily distinguishable from each other because, due to drought-induced stress and bark beetle infestations, most of the latter are dead). Can you say NO MAINTENANCE?

Her several separate garden areas are close to the house and connected by a complex network of self-installed, system-controlled, narrow drip hoses. While we were house-sitting, her Irises were flowering and lettuce was beginning to appear above the ground. The other homegrown vegetation - each of them likewise a stop on the drip railroad - looked green and full of promise. In addition there were three pots of annuals that we were asked to hydrate each morning with some of the leftover water from the dog's outdoor pails.

In the northeast pretty much anything will not only sprout but actually flourish, so gardening back here in CT is principally composed of eliminating or cutting back what you don't want, in order to see what you do - also known as fighting an insurgency. Key concepts = pruning shears and the ability to remove the same unwanted, invasive plant from the same place over and over and over again, and still feel like you are actually doing something.

Which is exactly what I've been up to.

Our organic lawn care service doesn't get rid of all the broadleaf weeds from our yard so I use my trusty snake-tongue weeding tool to purge the area of the dreaded dandelions and others of that ilk.

Our several perennial beds have filled in nicely over the years, but still, even with shoulder-to-shoulder Hostas and blossom-to-blossom irises seemingly hogging all of the vertical space, ground-ivy, grass and other weeds still somehow pop their irritating little heads into the picture. I rip them out and toss them away.

I also spend a lot of time eliminating:

- the armada of False Dragons given to me by former club member Harvey Miller (he swore they were Cardinals) that spend their entire growing season attempting to overrun and smother the Daisies, Rubekia, real Cardinals and other butterfly attractors I am trying to grow in that garden.

- and the Tansy, given to me by my friend Judy, that arose from basically nothing to a height of seven feet and a width of four feet at least three times last year - and which this year, after having been totally removed, has reached about half of its previous size in the first few weeks of the season.

- and the Flowering Crab branches, again from trees that have been eliminated from my landscape, that continue to pop up everywhere in my yard.

- and the patches of sunflowers growing from bird seed with the help of its mobile ingestors.

Then there are those really annoying orange weeds with flowers shaped like lanterns that actually aren't called Japanese Lanterns, even though they look like they should be, because a Japanese lantern is really a Plumeria with huge pendulous clusters of red flowers, and our "flowers" don't look at all like that but rather look like the paper Japanese lanterns especially in the autumn when they loose their color and become pale and translucent - well anyway they were also given to me by a club member (I don't remember who) but the damn things just keep coming back year after year and popping up everywhere (like the floor of the office on the second floor and the trunk of the car) and they're going to take over everything no matter how often I rip them out, and stomp on them, and stomp on them, and....

Sorry, I think that I just need to sit down, take a deep breath, and center myself. And then move to New Mexico and do some gardening that involves actually growing things.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Aga Saga Continued Even More

When we last left the Aga Saga, Mars and Sandy were still awaiting the delivery of one set of earrings each - a new set for Mars and the replacement for Sandy's lost one. (Sandy had given Angelique the surviving earring for matching purposes).

Now another package has arrived from the Aga conglomerate containing Mars' earrings, a bill, and a note saying that Sandy's pair would be shipped next month.

Apparently all this time when we were hearing the word "tomorrow", the Aga-phytes were really saying "manana". And in Santa Fe manana doesn't mean tomorrow - it just means "not today".

We now suspect that "next month" might have a similar meaning.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Santa Fe NM - May 2006 part 2

There are many things in northern New Mexico that simply take your breath away - leaving you momentarily unsure as to whether your inability to inhale and exhale is a function of the oxygen-deprived high-altitude air, or the utter otherworldliness of the light and the sparse geography on which it shines.

Mars and I recently hiked in four such places - Tent Rocks National Monument on the Cochiti Pueblo, the Tsankawi Cave Dwellings and the Falls Trail (in two vastly different parts of Bandelier National Park), and the Valles Caldera National Preserve in the Jemez Mountains. It would be our first time at Tent Rocks and the Caldera, our second at Tsankawi, and we have walked all or part of the the Falls Trail more times than it is worth remembering.

In order to see things as if for the first time, we brought new eyes with us on each of the treks: our Friends Kyoko and Ron (visiting from Phoenix), Sandy who was vacationing with us, and Monica and Bram (our daughter-in-law and son who live in Santa Fe); and our own orbs, changed by intervening years and events and a new post-retirement outlook.

Of the four sites Tent Rocks (which we hiked with Kyoko, Ron and Sandy) was easily the most unearthly in appearance. Also known as hoodoos, the tent rocks are natural constructs formed from ash, pumice and tuff deposits that were generated seven million years ago by explosions at the Jemez volcanic field (resulting in the Valles Caldera). Some of the rocks are protected by erosion-resistant boulder caps made of sandstone or other hard materials that cause the softer lower portion to be worn away into a conical shape. The height of the tent rocks at Cochiti varies from a few to around ninety feet.

Hoodoo is also the name of a religious or magical practice brought to North America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by black slaves of Hausa origin. In America the word came to mean "to jinx or to cast a spell on someone" and ultimately to refer to any evil supernatural force or creature. In the mythologies of the Native Americans these tent rocks were evil giants who the Great Spirit had turned into rocks as punishment for their diabolical deeds. Non-indian settlers apparently translated this native American concept as "hoodoo".

Mars and I knew what to expect having seen photos of these rocks and heard descriptions from Monica and Bram. The trail at the National Monument is well marked and maintained. And we walked in the safe company of friends. It was a warm sunny day. We met other groups on the trail - including a large bused-in band of tourists two of whom we had met the day before on walking tour of Santa Fe.

Still, it was spooky.

At times I felt as if I were a tiny person wandering through labyrinths of maniacally sculpted sand, delicately balanced and ready to crumble at the slightest touch.

Or that I was walking inside an artfully designed high-desert terrarium with white rock walls decorated with pine trees and cactus carefully placed in impossible-to-grow locations.

But mostly I felt like I belonged here. Personally I am most at rest when I'm moving. And to me sculpture, architecture and nature are best experienced in motion among them.

Several years ago Mars and I visited Barcelona and Sagrada Famiglia church - the possibly never-to-be-finished attempt by the architect Antonio Gaudi to transubstantiate the organic shape of the world into a manmade monument to his God. The texture and shape of that edifice has been described as looking like melting wax or sculpted sand.


I doubt that Gaudi had ever seen hoodoos - I'm not sure that there are any in Europe and anyway the architect seemed not to have traveled too much beyond his native Catalan - but to me, now that I've viewed the tent rocks, the difference between these natural tuff constructs and the stone-masoned basilica spires is in the subtleties of the carved designs rather than the architectural effect of the conical columns. (Maybe in this case it's not the Devil that's in the details.) For me the feeling of supernaturalness was the same in both places and seemed to emanate from the over towering organically offbeat shapes that somehow manage to be both unsettling in their harshly atypical structure and at the same time comforting in their soft lines and colorless color.

This is not to say at all that I think Gaudi in any way failed. In fact, at least in the latter portions of my adult life, I find most ecclesiastical edifices to be almost uncomfortably assaulting with their size, darkness and mainstream iconic advertising. I feel this most strongly in the more formal churches, and least in the folk-art ones such as El Santuario de Chimayo and the San Geronimo Chapel at Taos Pueblo.

Sagrada Famiglia - a place that by its sheer overwhelming size should have made me feel more discomforted and maybe even a little afraid - is the only religious construct that I've been in lately that has generated that frisson of unease and simultaneous sense of belonging that I would call "spiritual".

Exactly the way I felt at Tent Rocks.

Of course to me and other twenty-first century people strolling through this relatively new National Monument, hoodoo is just a spooky sounding epithet rather than an omnipresent living, breathing threat. And nowadays colossal fiends turned to stone is a charming tale instead of a cautionary moral belief.

So it is truly a tribute to the power of the shapes themselves at Tent Rocks and Sagrada Famiglia that even if you are not a true believer you can still feel their power.

to be continued...

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Aga Saga Continued

Act IX - The Package. Two weeks and one day after the latest encounter (Act VII) a package arrives at Sandy's home in CT. Inside are two sets of earrings - exactly one-half of the expected order. That's it - no bill, no explanation.

The next day at about 1:30 p.m. New Mexico time, Sandy calls the cell phone number listed for Aga on her business card.

"Hello." says a sleepy sounding voice

"Is this Aga?"

"No this is Angelique." (Aga's sister)

Sandy explains who she is, what she is expecting from Aga and what she received.

Angelique says that she remembers Sandy and knows the story, and then asks "Do you like the jewelry?"

Sandy says that she does but is wondering when the rest of the order will be arriving.

"And there wasn't any bill included." she adds.

Angelique asks again if Sandy likes the jewelry she has received and Sandy assures her once again that she does - BUT...

Angelique says that the rest of the order and the bill will go out tomorrow's mail and says good-bye.

Sandy tells this story to Mars and me at a local restaurant where we are dining before attending a performance at the Hartford Stage Company. Soon thereafter we spend ten-plus minutes getting our tab from the waiter and hostess so that we can be at our play on time. This seems to be becoming a more common occurrence at eating establishments that we frequent. Why is it that the hardest part of a sales transaction is finding out the cost so that you can pay for it?

But the bigger question is, will we soon be seeing a "Dateline NBC" or Nancy Grace special about the mysterious disappearance of an attractive East European jewelry designer and the conspiracy to use her name to fuel the fashion fantasies of several of her female friends? And would it be called the Aga Con?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Aga Saga

Since we were in Santa Fe it was only right that we experience another chapter in the ongoing "Aga Saga".

Act I - Genesis. In the late summer of 2003 Bram and Monica (son and daughter-in-law) visit Santa Fe and go to the vastly misnamed Santa Fe Flea Market on the grounds of the Tesuque Pueblo.

My online dictionary defines a flea market as "a market, typically outdoors, selling secondhand goods." Not!!

It is out of doors. And there is a modicum of tag sale items. But the vast majority of the merchandise is not secondhand or second anything. Here is how the market's web site, quoting author Richard Mahler quite accurately describes itself.

“Sooner or later, everybody in Santa Fe shows up at 'The Flea.'" This declaration by the late abstract Santa Fe painter, African art dealer and bon vivant Don Fabricant stands the test of time.

Sprawled across several acres owned by the Tesuque Pueblo, about 6 miles north of Santa Fe on U.S. 84/285, Tesuque Pueblo Flea Market is an eclectic institution where one can buy anything from used, plastic ice-cube trays to antique Tibetan religious artifacts, with plenty of chile ristras, fresh pinon nuts and silver-turquoise jewelry thrown in for good measure. There's a surprisingly good collection of antiquarian books, Latin American textiles, folk art, Persian carpets, precious gems and even house plants.

"The Flea" is the closest thing to a Moroccan bazaar you are likely to find in North America. And as in Morocco, the buyer is expected to bargain, haggle and beware.

"The Flea is not about making money," opined Fabricant, who supplemented his irregular artist's income by trading goods at The Flea. "It's about socializing and observing humanity in its infinite variety."

And it's where the Aga Saga begins.

Aga is a designer, maker and seller of jewelry - primarily creations of amber and turquoise. Recently from Poland, from where she brought the amber, she is trying to get started in the states selling her own creations of Euro-Southwest bling from a small booth at the outdoor marketplace.

They purchase necklaces from her that are subsequently given at Christmas to each of their mothers (Mars and Ange).

In giving the gift to Mars Bram and Monica (but mostly Bram) are effusive in their praise for the workmanship, salesmanship and genuine interest exhibited by Aga. Bram seems considerably more emotive about the experience than Monica - partially at least because Aga was apparently quite taken with the notion that Bram was getting this gift for his mother. But, if I correctly read the subtext of Bram's and Monica's stories, it is also because, most likely, she is young, quite pretty, possibly overtly sexy, and definitely charming.

Act II - The Pilgrimage. During the 2005 year Monica and Bram move to Santa Fe and Aga upgrades her sales location from a booth at the market to a newly built "mall" along the downtown center square. Mars, Sandy (our longtime friend) and I visit the New Mexican capitol in May and Bram insists that we go see Aga's new store and meet the woman behind the name.

This is an easy sell on Bram's part because Mars is looking for some earrings to match the Christmas necklace and also a shorter version of that arrangement of beads; Sandy is looking for bling for herself and her daughter-in-law Diane; and I am interested in meeting the phenomena known as Aga.

None of us are disappointed.

The store is small, maybe twenty feet wide and twice as deep, open to the small shopping center, with a "U" shaped counter arrangement, and jewelry (the vast majority amber) arrayed on the side and back walls. Aga is alone in the shop when we enter, quietly arranging some of her work. She is thinnish, perhaps five and one half feet tall, mid to late twenties, short black hair, attractively made up, with a suitably tight black pants, heels and low cut blouse. She sees us and suddenly is everywhere at once, talking rapidly and seemingly being all things to all people.

Bram begins to tell his story of why we are here and Aga says she remembers him and Monica - and the necklace - from the flea market. "They are such a cute couple." she says in a lilting Polish accent. Bram laughs nervously. Monica smiles but looks as if she might start rolling her eyes in bemusement. As she continues talking to M & B she also begins speaking to both Mars and Sandy in a way that makes me think she's talking to two longtime girlfriends - pointing out and pulling out pieces that she thinks might be of interest to them. She seems genuinely excited about getting them into what she feels is the right adornments for them, and totally convinced that she knows what they would be. Occasionally she looks at me, smiles, and shows a little decolletage.

Two men in their mid to late twenties come in, one of them looking for a gift for his girlfriend who -and I can't tell which - Aga either actually knows or feels that she knows from what the young man is telling her.

In either event she tells him not to buy the item that he, with his friend's concurrence, was intent on purchasing - "It would be all wrong" - and instead "suggests" a less expensive piece. When he hesitates Aga sends him on his way to ponder the correctness of her position and returns to servicing Mars and Sandy, with whom she still keeps up an ongoing dialog even during the other transaction - while also periodically smiling and flashing at Bram and me. (Interestingly when I asked Mars after the fact what she thought of Aga's exchange with the two men she was totally unaware of it.)

Mars ultimately buys earrings and the shorter necklace that she was looking for and Sandy also purchases some things. Aga remains as enthusiastic after the sale as she was before. Just before we leave she says to me in passing "I like it for men to remember me."

Act III - The Stand-in. Mars and I return to Santa Fe for Christmas that year and drop by Aga's store. It‘s eleven a.m., one hour after the store's posted opening time and, while the rest of the mall is open, this venue is closed. As we're walking away a women, older and thinner than Aga appears on the scene and unlocks the door. She tells us that with the holidays and all Aga is quite busy designing and making her jewelry and needed someone to be at the store in her stead. This is a great job, according to the woman, because she gets to wear "all this jewelry" during the day - which she tells as as she arrays herself in several long amber necklaces and bracelets. She is, she says, around fifty with no retirement savings, on her own, selling her own creations occasionally, etc. etc. etc.. Mars purchases some earrings for a former business colleague for whom she had offered to shop in Santa Fe and we leave.

All of which sets the stage for the most recent chapters in the Aga Saga.

Act IV - The Surrogate. Tuesday and our first full day in Santa Fe, second day in New Mexico. Mars, Sandy and I visit Aga's shop - Mars is looking for a retirement gift for a former coworker and something similar for herself, Sandy once again is looking for something for herself and her daughter-in-law. I'm hoping that this time Aga will be there.

She's not.

And neither is the clerk from last Christmas. This time the store is being serviced by a woman a little younger than Aga with what I think is a slight Polish accent (Mars disagrees) who, although she is equally bedecked in Aga-bijoux as the Christmas clerk, seems more interested in Mars' and Sandy's gem-quest than her own appearance.

Because my two companions are on something like a mission from God (or Goddess) and because there is no Aga to entertain me I wander off with the camera and check back periodically. This will also be the case in our subsequent visits (to be related below). As a result my version of this part of the Aga Saga is a little choppy and disjointed - but here it is.

Mars and Sandy finds necklaces that they like but both want matching earrings. The Aga-surrogate contacts Aga by phone and it is agreed that Aga will create these items and have them in the store by the end of the week. Sandy also purchases some amber earrings but other than that no money changes hands and little is written down.

Act V - Not MY Job. We return to the store, now with Kyoko and Ron, friends of ours from Phoenix who have come to Santa Fe for a few days. Aga's is one of the main stops on our guided tour of the "City Different".

Once again Aga is not there (Ron doesn't realize it but he is disappointed) - instead the jewelry-wearing-Christmas-clerk is running the store. Mars and Sandy start to explain about the order that may be awaiting them and the j-w-C-c explains that she only works there and doesn't know anything about what goes on. Another customer wanders in and the j-w-C-c rushes to involve herself with that new person and remove herself from Mars' and Sandy's transaction. The customer leaves. The j-w-C-c excitedly reiterates her lack of knowledge and finally hands Mars a business card, points at a phone number, and tells her to call Aga directly.

Mars goes out into the Mall as another customer enters the store. Kyoko and Ron are leaning on a railing observing the scene. Mars calls the number. The phone rings in the store and the j-w-C-c answers it saying "I don't have time to talk now, I'm busy with someone." at the same time as Ron mouths to me that "She (Mars) just called the store."

Mars concludes the same thing and calls the cell phone number for Aga also listed on the card.

Aga answers, admits to not having completed the work yet and says it will be at the store before we leave New Mexico for home - a little over a week away. That afternoon Sandy, who has been wearing the newly acquired amber earrings, loses one - possibly at the State Capitol while we were viewing the New Mexican artists whose works are displayed on virtually every public space within that building.

Act VI - A Reasonable Substitute. We take Kyoko and Ron to the Tesuque Flea Market, another stop of the tour. Mars, Sandy & Kyoko separate themselves from Ron & me and we cross paths several times during our travels - one time at a small booth operated by two women. One of the pair appears to be the Aga-surrogate from Ac t IV and the other is a thinner, taller and younger variant of Aga herself, complete with a barely more modest decolletage - and, when I hear her voice, a similar Polish accent and sense of certitude.

Mars and Sandy are engaged in earnest conversations with the sales duo when we arrive. They are totally aware of the work that Aga was to complete and the fact that it isn't. The Aga-wannabe (who Mars later tells me is in fact her younger sister) is assuring Sandy that they could also make a replacement for her lost amber earring and still have them all ready and at the store in a week and a day - in time for our trip home.

Act VII - Strike Two. Although the store opens at eleven a.m. we decide to have brunch first at Pasquel's to give Aga a little extra time to get the stuff there. At around twelve-thirty we head over to the store and find it unoccupied except for the jewelry-wearing-Christmas-clerk. She remembers Mars and Sandy, realizes that she doesn't have the goods, immediately attempts to call Aga, and somehow gets her sister. After mangling the story - among other things she somehow compresses the event into two consecutive days, one at the store and one at the market - she hands the phone to Mars who in turn passes it on to Sandy.

I walk into the store at that point ask Mars who Sandy is talking to.


"Who's that?" I ask, it being a name with which I was not familiar.

"A tall girl with blondish hair." says the jewelry wearing Christmas clerk.

"Aga's sister." says Mars.

It seems that Aga has completed all of the work and was supposed to have dropped it off "first thing". She hasn't.

Angelique agrees to ship all of the jewelry to Sandy in Connecticut and we all leave, not quite satisfied but reasonably believing that we will be soon.

Act VIII - Still Waiting. Two weeks later and no package yet. But there is one "Lesson Learned". A smile, a flash of boobs AND a quality product delivered on time is a better business model than just the first two items by themselves - unless it is that all you want to be is remembered.

Act IX - To Be Continued.