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© Robert Sommers 2018

Monday, August 20, 2018

Que lastima.

In the fog of a long excursion begun some two weeks ago I can think of nothing particularly interesting regarding my two day trip getting to Santa Fe. Perfunctory meal at Outback in Flagstaff the first night, decent room at the Super 8 but all together rather, ho hum. Oh yes, I did get saved by Jesus at one point, or ostensibly so anyway.

I was pulling out of a long traffic slowdown near Winslow when the blessed event occurred. Having maintained 55 mph throughout the slow stretch, dutifully so in fact, I watched as the sign reverted to 75mph and I started to speed up. I heard the siren and watched my side mirror fill up with flashing blue lights. I thought about the single doobie hidden in the panel, the one I only use for emergencies.

My friend Bill had warned me about the stretch from Williams to Winslow and I see it myself every year. Arizona cops going through people's trunks and effects like Shriner's going through a Vegas minibar. They seem to really love attacking California plates.

The officer approached the car.

"What is the problem officer? I stayed 55 the whole stretch."

"Yes sir," he replied. "But I clocked you going 67 as you accelerated and you left a second too early. License and registration." I watched his eyes looking around the front seat. "What's that thing you got wrapped up there?"

"It's an antique wooden saint sir." "I'm an antique dealer."

It was at that moment that I saw his eyes alight on the white book on my console, the one without any lettering on the cover and about the same size and shape as a Gideon's bible. His whole demeanor changed, I watched his spirit rise like he was being baptized in the chilly waters of the Jordan River when he saw a copy of the good book touching my right palm. I was saved.

"Going to let you off with a warning this time, brother. Have a nice day." He then spit tobacco juice near his car bumper. I gave him a brief but sincere fatherly lecture on the link between chewing tobacco and oral cancers and advised him to quit, stat, and why not try using Johnny Paycheck's method for quitting heroin? I suggested he pour boiling hot coffee on his arm every time he needed a chew.

Worked for Johnny, something about pain response substitution, need something equally intense I guess. Operant conditioning. I asked Ron Munn if he ever drank from his tobacco spit cup. That would sure make you stop.

Anyway the cool part of the story is that what he thought was a bible was actually my birder's book with the copious pictures of every western species of avian. From the top it looks just like the old King James version and I think it is going to stay faithfully at my side on future trips. Thank you Lord.

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This was not a typical year, the first year in many that I did not do the Great Southwestern Antique Show in Albuquerque. It is a staple but I have been so emotionally spent of late and I just didn't have the energy to do three shows and be gone an extra week.

Everything feels like it has been hanging by a thread lately, including my mental state.


My late brother's headstone was being unveiled in Toronto while I was in New Mexico. The rest of my family was there but I needed to work unfortunately and had to miss the occasion, regretfully. Very painful.

Ask me in person about G.O.T.F.G.

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I spent a lot of time with Barry Friedman this trip. Barry is the foremost authority on native trade blankets, has written two books on the subject. He also used to be a longtime comedy writer for a whole bunch of comics including Phyllis Diller.

Barry is not only very smart, he is wickedly funny. Put us together and you have c-4 explosive. We have a waiting list of people every year who want to have breakfast with us and see the Morty and Shecky show.

Major knowledge of music, great guy I converge with on a lot of intellectual levels.

I have honestly never thought about my comical aptitude but put me around Friedman and we just start writing bits and swinging for the fences.

We came up with some priceless material this year and I managed to alienate pretty much everybody with a fifty foot radius every morning.

Barry was much nicer. He had a normal childhood. Tennis scholarship to ASU. Anyway we had walked to the farmer's market to hear the Yenta marimba band plotz around when I saw the homeless guy brushing his teeth on the bench.

I asked him if he was wasn't aware that flossing was a part of every healthy dental regimen when Barry gave me that look and said he was waiting for the next great part when the homeless guy pulls out the knife and stabs me. Made a lot of friends at breakfast this trip.

Barry reminds me a lot of Buzz. They would have gotten along. I can embarrass both of them. Learned it from me old mither.

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I had a podcast interview with Mark Sublette first thing Tuesday morning. They say that you should never let them see you sweat but my approach is the exact opposite; make sure that the whole place is covered in blood when you are finished. I wish that I could have been more sanguine about the state of current events but I just was not feeling it, was never good at faking.

"Survival is the new victory," I intoned.

"Dark," J. Mark said.

It may have been inadvisable for me to have opened up so publicly, I told him to use his best judgement and not to be in any compulsion to broadcast the thing if he thought it might sully my already tarnished reputation.

I just can't muster a lot of enthusiasm for the state of the profession these days. Dealers, shows, promoters, all falling victim to a new generation that perhaps doesn't care but also works in a transitory gig to gig economy and maybe shouldn't be blamed.

Tough to feather the nest when it is a moving target I guess. I can't figure it out. No art in the schools any more, no art history, no history, reverse flynn effect dumbing population that couldn't find North America on a map if you gave them three chances and an atlas. A lot of people still paying off their neck tattoo and fedora bills.

There will be survivors I am sure but it will not be the same. The people who seem to be surviving all have a heavy web presence, the people that bang out some product to try to tempt you with every day. I hate selling every day and also being sold to on a constant basis but it may be necessary in this brave new world of ours.

Mark asked me to submit a brief bio which became a mini life story synopsis.  I tried to explain to a friend who is a rabbi the other day about this invisible dog named disaster that is usually found somewhere nipping near my ankle. Calamity was such a regular occurrence in our household that you make a sort of peace with it, you expect the whole thing to go to shit any second. I believe that that is what made me so comfortable living near the edge and threading multiple needles. You can make a diet of filling inside straights but when your luck changes, god help you. No birder's bible will even save you.

Will let you know when the hour long interview is live. Mark suggested meds and a shrink.

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First show was alright. Had some nice meals with friends, more on food later.  Rained so hard one day my windshield cracked. My phone also died, got real hot, wouldn't take a charge. Expanded battery, not covered. Leslie's had the exact same demise, the same week. Thanks Samsung. Bought a new Motorola. A third of the price, better phone.

Guess I should cut to the chase, all this fucking whimpering and head shrinking.

I went out to hike Tent Rocks between the shows. Drove out to Cochiti. But the road was blocked.

Flash flood, two days prior. They suggested that I call the BLM and ask them to send a blade so they could fix the road.

I drove to the spillway and shot some pictures of an osprey on the river.

It was soon after that I made a decision that almost proved fateful.

I saw the distant Jemez mountains in the distance and decided to take a dirt road as far as I could towards them.

The sign said Dome Rock Rd, with some additional warnings not to take archaeological artifacts.

I am an expert at driving on dirt roads, have lived on one for thirty years. The first couple miles were a piece of cake but after a couple miles in I saw that this one was really bad. Time slowed down, I had to get out.

Danger, Will Robinson. I was bottoming out on huge rocks from the recent floods and was desperately looking for a place to stop and turn around.

I thought I found it. But on the second point of the u- turn the van sunk past its axle and landed on a huge rock.

I did a brief survey. I was way the hell out there. I had exactly five pints of water, no food. No shovel. It was hot. There was no phone signal.

No one in sight.

I lay on my belly and fashioned a digging tool out of a stout stick. I spent a few hours trying to dig out but to no avail. Car was plain stuck.

I was rationing water, two sips an hour. Wondered if people would look for me at the show when I didn't show up the next morning? But who would know where I had ventured? No one.

I sat on a log and tried to keep my wits. The area is full of all sorts of critters, from bears to lions, I would have to exercise extreme caution.

I decided to try to walk out, leave many thousands of dollars of photographic equipment in the car.

I walked about a mile before I found a knoll where I could send out a 911 call to the Sandoval County Emergency Services. I explained my travails. Did I need police or ambulance? No. But I did ask them to connect me with a tow company.

They called someone in Rio Rancho. They wanted $450 to pull me out. I thought that was robbery, negotiated it down to a guy with a truck and a chain and $250. Not like I was in any position to bargain.

As I walked back to my van I heard a truck and ran out waving my arms. A native and his girlfriend out for a drive. Actually a rare dineh couple in pueblo land. Black sheep clan and painted in Gold stripe. Nice red truck. He said he would go home and get a chain.

Showed up about an hour later. Said it might bend my axle, would need to yank it out. My tires were now toast, were on their way out anyway. Car came out pretty easy and I followed him out. I am forever grateful to Fabian and Allie. They may well have saved me from some awful fate. No telling when another car would have showed up, if ever. I thought I was in for a very long haul, perhaps the last round up.

Gave him something for his help, he didn't ask for it. Thank you Fabian, thank you Allie. I will never forget you. You saved my ass.

(to be continued...)

5 comments:

Ken Seals said...

Awesome stories!! My only quibble is your reference to god. Pure myth. :-)

Anonymous said...

Could you elaborate?

The Phantom Knows said...

What about the one where you were born a poor black child in Mississippi? Don’t tell me that was all bull$hit :(

Isak said...

Honest, revealing, heartfelt retelling of what is most intimate. Your life story in a nutshell moved me a great deal, Robert. And your transition to current day--the challenging life of an antique dealer in twenty-first century America is its poignant counterpart or coda. One of your very most powerful posts. Thank you for sharing it.

Blue Heron said...

Thanks Isak. I deleted the bio portion, a little too exposed. Glad you got a chance to read it.