Table of Contents

Salida Colorado

Enthroned. In 1990 Doña and I broke up and I moved from Boulder to The Land, a 50 acre ranch on the Arkansas River, a few miles north of Salida Colorado. The Land had recently been vacated by TH and family when they moved to The Retreat in southwest New Mexico. I say I moved there, but actually I still had my job at The Fez, my foot on the ground outside the cult. I drove into Boulder to work weekends, in winter several hours of white-knuckle driving on icy roads, especially across South Park. I loved my eight months in Salida. I was able to connect more deeply than ever before with the magic in the world. This was a blossoming of all the times in my youth I'd sneak away to be by myself in nature. My sanctuary on The Land was the hayloft, a spot that wasn't used for anything but storing old junk. Everything was encrusted with pigeon shit. I climbed up there one day looking for a place to get away and be by myself. It looked promising, but where to sit? I spotted something in the junkpile made out of plywood with carpet on one side and realized it was TH's former throne, an elevated platform he sat on when delivering raps to the rapt faithful, everyone sitting oh so comfortably cross-legged on the floor but me. I was always uncomfortable sitting on the floor, wishing I had a wall to lean back on. Or a chair, for fuck's sake. Anyway I dragged it to the hay window and made myself comfortable, kneeling seiza style with a zafu turned edgewise under my butt. I would turn the throne back over when I left to keep the carpeted side shit free. I sat there on my throne and looked out the hay window, looking south down the Arkansas Valley. I had looked at that clump of cottonwoods in the river from dozens of spots on The Land and it'd never looked like this. From the hay window that view was a master's class in composition. A work of art. A landscape perfectly composed by time and place. I felt like I could look at it forever. I missed it while I was away. I was only really alive when I could look out the hay window, or run in the badlands on Antero. My throne and its view were my secret. I never took anyone there or told anyone about it until now. It was my own private sanctuary.

Badlands. The elevation in Salida is a little over 7,000 ft, which feels strikingly different than Boulder's little over a mile. The majestic fourteener peaks felt like they were in my back yard, particularly Mt. Antero and Mt. Shavano with its angel of snow. I often went trail running on Mt. Antero up into a patch of badlands. The trail up to and through the badlands felt the same way as my view out the hay window, only up close. I was running through a wonderland, miles of it. I fell deeply in love with that little area in the Arkansas River valley. I mourned it for years after I was forced to leave.

Rapture. TH loved to hear himself talk. Oh did he ever. No doubt still does. He gave raps, as he called them, long rambling soliloquies about how he got enlightened and what we all needed to do to get our own selves enlightened. Sure, he paid lip service to the notion that everyone has to find their own way; that's a big part of what drew me to Harmonizing in the first place. Harmonizing was supposed to be about creating a totally customized unique program for getting each of us on the path to enlightenment. But in practice it was my way or the highway: you're either going to be a runner, or support staff for the blessed fucking runners. The program was customized, all right: how do I turn this particular chump into a compliant, unquestioning disciple? In my case, what he wanted was disciple to help publish his teachings. I was to work in recruitment.

The Bridge. I moved to Salida with four other writers to work on the project of getting TH's raps ready for publication. His raps had been recorded on cassette, starting in the early days before I arrived in Boulder, when he was just rapping to actual Harmonizing students in what became the practitioner group. By the time I moved to Salida he'd accumulated boatloads of cassette tapes. Word processing had fairly recently become possible, and that's what we were there to do: transfer his raps from cassette to digital so they could eventually be prepared for publication. We did our word processing in an upstairs room with a window facing north over an abandoned apple orchard. The combination of a second story picture window and computer screens brought to mind the Starship Enterprise, so that room was The Bridge. I loved working up there. The work we did in Salida was my introduction to computers. We used MS Word 4.0. My first computer was an MS DOS machine, even though Windows 2 was around by then. It had a 4MB hard drive. It only took a few minutes to boot up, though it did require regular hard restarts when it froze up.

Jezebel and Esmeralda. The Salida land was a gorgeous place, in a hard-bitten way. It didn't feel like a farm to me, dry and rocky as it was, with sandy soil water ran right through. But it had irrigation rights: in the summer river water from upstream ran along the Williams-Hamm irrigation ditch, which you crossed via cattle grating right before descending to The Land. The river wrapped around the property like it did at Riverhaven: the clump of cottonwoods I adored sitting on my throne grew on an island in the river's bend. For most of the year Williams-Hamm was just a ditch, but in the heat of summer it became a channel of wonder, transformed by the cold river water rushing silently along. I loved to hunker down beside and watch the water. I did the same along the main channel of the Arkansas a lot more frequently, but when water ran through it the ditch had a special magic. Irrigation was problematic because the pump station was ancient and would really rather be left alone. The pump resisted priming like a champ. It was powered by a huge diesel engine so old it needed a gas-powered donkey to get it going. Donkey diesel pump: all three were crotchety as hell. But we had enough water for a big vegetable garden, and eggs were provided by our flock of barred rock hens. Beside the barn were corrals formerly used for pigs. Someone had the bright idea we raise pork of our own, so two feeder pigs were bought, the eponymous sows. Pigs are famously omnivorous, a quality that endears them to some serial killers, and I soon realized the kitchenados at Mataam Fez were throwing away perfectly edible pig slop every night. We devised a system where both kitchen waste and food left on guests' plates ended up in five-gallon buckets I hauled back to Salida every Monday. The kitchen staff were happy to support out farmer games. Cute piglets soon became big ugly pigs. That fall they got hauled to the butcher, reappearing as parcels neatly wrapped in white paper, the only way pigs are neat. Meat from Jez & Ezz was distributed to all the Community households; we got our share. The idea that the meat would be pre-seasoned by Mataam Fez's richly spiced sauces was just that: an idea.

Chainsawing. As part of my ill-fated get manly program, I bought a 16-inch Stihl chainsaw and promptly fell in love with the sensations of power and risk chainsawing brought up in me. Chainsaws simply reek of danger, and after all that's what being manly's all about, right? Sigh. I wielded my Stihl among the slash. Slash is what loggers leave behind: the branches cut off some forest titan so its naked trunk will fit on a timber hauler. Chainsawing firewood out of slash piles is dangerous. You stand on the stuff you're cutting and there are obstacles everywhere just waiting to catch the tip of your saw. I relished all that, and came away injury free. I got a lot more done with the chainsaw than I did with my dad's .30-06. I took it to an informal shooting range to get the telescopic sight sighted in, but that was the only time I ever fired it.

The Vic. I missed out on most of the weekend stuff in Salida because I was commuting to Boulder, but I did get in on a few weekend outings. The most memorable was going into Salida's downtown on a Saturday night to raise hell down at The Vic: The Victoria Saloon. We all had shots and beers before heading out, and I was raring to go before everyone else, so I left a little early with I forget who and the other three to follow soon. The Vic had a country blues band just kicking it up, so we got out on the floor to shake our booties individually. This was long before my partner dancing days.

Bueny. I was eying a couple of cute girls who were dancing together on the tiny dance floor and one of them started eying me back. We started dancing togetherish that way you do, without touching. When the band took a break I worked up my nerve and went and chatted with them. They were from Bueny. Buena Vista, the next town up valley. The band came back on. Now I was dancing with that one girl for real. It was the last set, so the band earned its keep by settling into a series of buckle polishers: bluesy songs for slow dancing. She and I were suddenly partner dancers. We were all over each other.

Rain. A vertical expression of a horizontal urge. That's what Oscar Wilde called dance, and so it was between the two of us. We started making out on the dance floor. The band was done but we weren't, so we both let our parties know they better find their own rides home. We wandered out into the city park. It was the middle of summer and quite breezy; some kinda weather was kicking up. We didn't care. There was a big old tree with a wooden bench kind of built onto it, right up next to the trunk, and we sat there making out. It started to rain, and then the magic happened. The rain got heavy, but not a drop on us. We were in a tiny dry zone at the base of the tree. Then the heavens opened up. We got the kind of rain you only get mid-continent: so heavy we couldn't see anything but a dense gray wall of rain. Nature had provided us with a private room and we did not disappoint her. We made love right there under that tree. It was fabulous: tender, sweet and unbelievably hot. By the time the rain let up we were both clothed and still kissing. I was smitten and asked for her phone number, but she shook her head and gave me one last kiss. I never even knew her name. The sweetness of that hot encounter lingered long. I can still taste a whiff of it as I write this.

BLM. Those white-knuckle commutes on icy asphalt that sometimes disappeared under ground blizzards were not my first adventures in South Park; I'd been drawn to that severe landscape for years. There was an area on the south side of US 285 that had always called to me: a grassy declivity pointed southeast, where I could see a notch in the low hills bounding South Park on that side. I don't know why it called to me, but one summer I decided to go exploring down an unmarked dirt road heading in the same direction. The land in that area wasn't in the National Forest; I think it was BLM land. That's for Bureau of Land Management. Regulations are looser on BLM land versus National Forests and Parks. You're generally free to camp, hunt, fish, off-road, etc. I often sought out BLM land when I was planning my outdoor adventures. I wasn't disappointed. A clear creek flowed through the notch; I spotted trout right away. I made camp close by so the creek could lull me to sleep, all snug in my down bag.

Squirrels. I went to South Park to pursue manly pursuits. I took a hand line and some flies for fishing, and one time I packed in a .410 my dad had shipped to me. He used it for hunting doves and squirrels when I was a boy. We ate those in my family. Not a lot of meat there in either case, but the doves were tasty. Just be sure you got all the shot out before chomping down on that bite. I took my baby shotgun out into the woods and managed to kill two squirrels. Definitely not worth the effort; I decided to stick with trout. When you're out camping, nothing in the world tastes better than a freshly fried trout. Squirrels be damned. Or rather not: you go squirrel, play and be cute. Ima eat this trout.

RIP Tim. I held a spontaneous memorial service for my brother Tim in South Park. I'd been scrambling on rocks above my camp, another way to test my manly mettle; this was before my idiotic march and big fall. As I was taking a breather I saw a quartz crystal on the ground. Then another. In a few minutes I had a double handful. Tim was the consummate collector. He died of a bad southern lifestyle, done in by alcohol and fat. I heard tales of how his widely admired collection, with many museum-quality pieces, all got sold on the cheap for cases of beer by his alcoholic son-in-law. I decided I wasn't gonna collect anything anymore; I didn't see any good in it. I admired my shiny quartz a moment more, then flung it out, scattering it across the hillside and walked away.