New Mexico Road Trip

For the second time in as many months, my wife and I headed back to the high New Mexican desert to see some new sites and find ourselves at some old ones. Every time I go back to the Chihuahua, I leave part of myself behind and I take something different back with me.

New Mexico isn’t really a place people think about. It’s the epitome of flyover country. Round-trip flights from Chicago to Albuquerque rarely fluctuate in price or schedule, and nothing in New Mexico ever really changes. It has its own spirit that’s weathered regime changes and climate shifts for centuries and chances are that it will outlive the looming death of American empire. Fine with me, as long as I can buy some land there before it happens (one of my few life goals, along with eating bear meat and setting foot on Antarctica).

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Some useless satire headlines

Last month, The Whiskey Journal (a usually-funny B-grade version of The Onion) did a call for new contributors and asked to see some sample headlines for consideration. I applied but didn’t make the final cut, so now I have twelve headlines with nowhere to go but here. Enjoy:

  • Report: Almond Milk Found to Have Trace Amounts of Almond Feces

  • Unclear if Actor Having Stroke or Practicing Boston Accent

  • Man Tests “Broken Windows” Theory at Local Children’s Hospital

  • Minnesota Launches “Actually It’s More Like 11,842 Lakes” Tourism Campaign

  • Man Watching Adam Sandler Movie Reminded That He Should Change His Diaper Soon

  • Jehovah’s Witness Double Homicide

  • Everything Roommate Owns Worth Like $100 on eBay

  • Confused Couple Hospitalized for Hypothermia After Watching Netflix

  • Ghandi Reincarnated as Greenpeace Street Canvasser

  • Amazing! This Man Loved Cutting Ribbons So Much He Ran for Public Office

  • Ax Attack Not As Awesome As It Sounds

  • TSA Agent Recommends New Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, Maybe Seeing Dermatologist

The arts are dead. Long live art.

 

The pinch many artists and nonprofits felt after the 2008 recession is now turning into a full-blown garroting. Nationally, Donald Trump has an axe hanging over the neck of National Endowment of the Arts, threatening to make the U.S. one of the few countries in the world without a federal arts program. Locally, the never-ending budget battle in Springfield has neutered the Illinois Arts Council and many other social and educational institutions that have been central to our culture-making and community growth for years.

While the arts community is rightfully anxious about irrelevance in the face of renewed nationalism, military industrialism and political egoism, our moment presents a crucial opportunity for arts practitioners, leaders and entrepreneurs to reclaim the ethos that gives art the power to speak truth and transform culture.

For too long, the arts have spent more time in sidebars than on the front page. This is as much a condition of political complacency as it is institutional obeisance. Now that that the institutions are threatened with obsolescence, it’s time for the artist community to grow back its canines—a process that unfolds in three critical phases:

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Taos, New Mexico

Taos is a small town of about 5,700 people in the high desert of northern New Mexico. It’s home to artists, ranchers, naturalists, vagrants and the oldest inhabited indigenous community in the U.S.—the Taos Pueblo, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, a National Historic Landmark and thousand-year-old residence of the Tiwa-speaking Puebloan people.

Not many people have heard of Taos—including many in the surrounding region—but it’s probably better that way. No major highways run near it (driving through a maze of winding roads it’s about four hours south of Denver and two-and-a-halfish hours north of Albuquerque), it has no major economic influence, it’s about 7,000 feet above sea level and it’s surrounded by expansive mountain ranges, including the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the 13,000-foot Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico. It’s a miniature somewhere in the middle of a massive and mysterious nowhere.

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