Louise Bryant: "Love? Love?!! No, you don’t love me, you love yourself! Me, you FUCK! When you’re not too busy fucking somebody else!" - Reds, 1981
By Patrick Alcatraz
Santa Fe, New Mexico - The record will show that I wrote a few articles for the Albuquerque Journal, really for its northern New Mexico section up here. Journal North, is what it was called. Not any of the work stands out as being great journalism; it was more the usual stuff to do with the lack of water, the mobs of annoying tourists, the high cost of housing, and the occasional festival - my favorite being the Weekend of Zozobra. That was when some city-sponsored outfit laid-out good cash so that someone else could build a 50-foot, white-sheet-clad puppet for burning. Thousands rode into town at summer's end to join in ridding Santa Fe of bad vibes. Music exploded from giant speakers hanging off a makeshift stage in the middle of the downtown plaza, where an evening dance culminated the torching. It was something to do.
We'd been standing by some tree outside one of the art galleries, watching people amble by when my friend Glenn, a business writer, made note of a woman mingling in the crowd of the small courtyard. She wore a black outfit and I recall I said something about perhaps it being Catwoman. It wasn't. We struck a conversation with her at some point and she told us she was a photographer from New York on assignment. Something about a feature on the outlying towns and their architecture. Anya was her name.
"Nice body, eh?" is what Glenn said when she excused herself for a visit to the ladies room.
"Catwoman for sure," was my lame reply.
This was a time in my life when having one woman at my side just wasn't part of the plan. Glenn's girlfriend, Beth, had left him and was, he'd said a few days earlier, now living with a Black musician in San Francisco. I say musician, but Glenn made a point of noting he was into Jazz. Anyway, we lost track of Anya until much later in the evening, when she walked back to say she was enjoying the Hell out of New Mexico. We knew the answer that would come from these outsider chicks to the question that was a normal part of a chit-chat with a tourist, but we asked: "I'd never been west of New Jersey," she threw back, predictably.
Who knows where Glenn and I ended up that night, but I was at my desk the next day when our receptionist came back with a note for me. It was from Anya and she had written something about getting our address from my business card and adding that she'd left a longer note in an envelope at her hotel. I passed it on to Glenn. He made a face that said, "Well, now..."
Later that day, we walked over to get a drink at Anya's plaza-front hotel. I stopped by the front desk and asked for my mail. Shortly, a woman came out and handed me the business-size envelope with my name on it, written beautifully. Glenn had grabbed a couple of drinks for us by the time I walked into the small bar. "What'd she say?" he asked.
"Taking the shuttle to Albuquerque at mid-morning," I said, reading from the note, adding that she was flying American Airlines back home. "Wrote this note and left a few pictures of myself for you. Hope you like the one of me in my skirt. It was so nice meeting you last night, and I do wish I could stay."
"Is that right?"
"Here," I said. "She takes a good photo..."
"Yeah, but Catwoman's one that got away, son." He laughed for a long minute and I sat there, staring at the lobby 'cause it was nearby and then lifting my Scotch & Water to my mouth, thinking, hey, that one's gonna come back one of these weekends. I never was one for believing Polaroids carried any lasting value, yet looking at Anya's photos made me realize that art is art. And if a frickin' $40 Polaroid camera can take a nice shot of a girl's sexy legs, well, then, yeah, that's art in my book.
I kept her letter and photos atop my desk under a paperweight given to me months earlier by a woman who was making those things out of desert rocks and metal string and thick coats of red and yellow paint. But I never heard from Anya again. The woman from the paperweight enterprise would stop by our office from time to time, walk up to my desk and look to see that I still had her gift right there where I couldn't help but see it everydamned day.
Women are funny that way. All I know is I could've used some cat food that week...
- 30 -