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Heading For Bohemia

Okay, last time, I had us on the way to Placitas, New Mexico. You’ll remember I went on (and on) about the Hippie Communes there in the 1960s, and the mysterious life ...and death... of Ulysses S. Grant, real name, Donald Waskey.

The Hippies, with a few noteworthy exceptions, have been gone a long time. Though, Placitas still has a pretty seriously Bohemian vibe. Artists, film makers, writers, all these and moved into the area as the “long-haired, freaky people” moved on with their lives.* I wonder how many of them ended up on Wall Street or selling bonds. But that’s fine. It’s even traditional. I remember reading that many of New York’s Trotskyites of the ‘40s and ‘50s ended up selling real estate in the ‘60s and ’70s ...and made rather a lot of money at it, I might add.

Anyway, today the community is a kind of mixture of many things. Little houses that date back decades intermix with large and trendy haciendas. Somehow everyone seems to get along reasonably well.

I’m not sure how we ended up there on that particular morning. Maybe Martha saw an announcement in the paper or on the web. Or maybe we just noticed signs and followed them. But, anyway, there was an Estate Sale in town, and we decided to visit.

About the photos: Three today. I didn’t have any photos of Placitas, but I do have these, which give a taste of New Mexico. First, two of the landscape in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains just outside of Albuquerque. The first is of the land itself.

The second is not, as you might be excused for thinking, a landed UFO. Rather it is one of the several huge water tanks just outside the city that keeps Albuquerque hydrated. Both of these shots are from 2018.

And, third, Martha on one of our visits to the same area. But, this is from a year later, or 2019.

We wound our way through the town and finally came to an isolated adobe house that was at the end of an unpaved stretch of road. It was quite large...a villa, if you will, rather than a normal home. We parked in the front and entered.

Inside, we found a considerable crowd, but the house itself was fascinating. It was adobe...real adobe rather than simulated adobe-look that you see in so many places. It was also clearly old--not ancient, not dating back to the town’s founding or anything, but probably not built any earlier than the 1960s or 1970s. So, maybe it had been here at about the same time as the Communes. Maybe U.S. Grant/Waskey had been there once.

It was white -- white plaster had been applied to the walls and ceilings... and it was enormous. Rooms ran on and on forever. And it was furnished well--heavy wooden tables and chairs were in each of the rooms. There was quite a bit of art, much of it very good, and some of to put this? Homoerotic.

We wandered into a kind of upstairs area. It was full of exercise equipment--virtually a private gym. Beyond that was a room full of large, dark wooden tables on which there was more art--prints mostly. There was also a welter of sculpture and ceramics. And, beyond that, books, lots and lots of books. Whoever had owned the house, we realized, had had remarkably good taste--and, an enormous amount of stuff.

In that room, too, we encountered a woman who was doing her best to get things organized, no easy task given all the stuff in the room and the enormity of the crowd. She was a little younger than we were, clearly in charge, and clearly part of the company that organized the Estate Sale. Somehow, we ended up in conversation with her. Once more, I don’t quite remember how. Maybe she heard us talking about the books. In any case, she said, “Oh, and don’t forget to go downstairs. The basement is...amazing. That was where he kept his library. Well, his main library, anyway.”

We said okay and duly drifted downstairs. Sure enough, it was amazing. It was a vast space filled with books and books and books. There were hardbacks and paperbacks. There were magazines and pamphlets. There were scholarly texts on psychology and physics and the history of the Southwest. There were periodicals on body building and weight lifting. There were paperbacks and magazines about UFOs and psychic phenomena. There were texts on human evolution and Bigfoot. It was a great and glorious mess, and we could have stayed there all day.

But the real kicker came a few minutes later. There was a sort of alcove and I went into it. There, scattered on yet another table, were a number of the deceased owner’s papers. They were letters mostly. And some of them were to and from a man I knew!

Specifically, Bernarr Macfadden (1868 – 1955)...

A man who was himself a glorious mess...combining showmanship with body building...politics with business acumen...a calculated capacity for outrage with a deep cunning...and most of all, a weird sincerity mixed liberally with sheer lunacy.

He was the sort of man, in short, with whom I can identify.

Well, except for the muscles part. And the business acumen. But the lunacy?

Got that down pat.

More to come.


*From the Five Man Electrical Band’s hit single “Signs.” Remember that one?

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