A Meow Wolf Retrospective with Founder Vince Kadlubek
Published on my blog and theirs
The first time I ever met Vince Kadlubek was at a meeting for the artist’s board for Warehouse 21, a committee I served on briefly several years ago. I was clued by some other folks that there was a schism of sorts going on between the management of Warehouse, (led by Ana Gallegos y Rinehardt) and the kids who were the constituents of that organization. Namely, the kids had grown up and wanted to run the show now – and Vince K. was their leader.
He struck me as smart, somewhat surly, and at the time he seemed to lack a certain level of diplomacy insofar as letting people know that it was time for fresh blood at Warehouse, which at that time was in the process of building its new offices after over a decade in a tiny little space nearby. Nevertheless, I found myself in agreement with the things he was saying, and applauded him for his efforts to elevate himself from program coordinator to Program Director, even as there were forces afoot to make sure he never got the position.
Back-story: Vince K. grew up inside Warehouse 21 and had visions as to what to do with the new building, one that was about ten times larger than the previous building and sported a black box theater and a computer lab, among other attributes. It was the primary hang space for the artsy crowd of Santa Fe teenagers and hosted many art shows and music events for the all ages crowd. At the time I met him, Vince was serving as the program coordinator, which gave him certain duties for helping to put together new events at the space, but he wanted a meatier role – and at the time I met him, he was angling to have the Program Committee to change their rules for the position, which required a college degree that the then-21-year-old didn’t have.
“I think there was concern on the part of Rinehardt that if the rules were changed then I would certainly apply for the position and I might actually get the job and then she’d have to work with me.” And at the time, the fight for who might get the position seemed crucial to the future of the organization and may well have been, for today, that building sits almost empty and begging for clientele, while Meow Wolf, the organization that Vince formed after being canned from Warehouse 21, is without a doubt one of the most successful arts organizations in the city.
Since its inception, Meow Wolf has sponsored a great number of major exhibitions, art shows, and dance parties that have put the fun into the arts scene in ways never seen before in this town (in my thirty years experience here.) While Meow Wolf wouldn’t exist without the thousands of volunteer hours that have been put into it by hundreds of different volunteers, it is the leadership and direction of one person that have really put Meow Wolf on the map and made it an enduring part of the community. And that person is Vince Kadlubek.
After getting asked to leave Warehouse 21, Vince K. wasted no time in figuring out what to do next. If he couldn’t take over the organization that he’d been spending his time on since he was a teenager, he’d do the next best thing and start his own organization. He quickly found a space on the corner of Cerrillos Road and Second Street and called on his posse from Warehouse 21 to start putting the pieces together for something new – within a couple of weeks there was a meeting and the drawing of lots out of a hat to come up with the new name – and Meow Wolf was born.
The first show at that space was called Meowzers and featured murals and installations from two long-time Meow Wolf contributors Quinn and Matt. The exhibition also featured a couple of plays and some keyboard music and was launched on Valentine’s Day, 2008.
“That first space was like the chemistry lab where we first figured out how we would be doing a lot of things,” said Kadlubek. “It was there that we determined that we needed to have weekly meetings, which is something that we still do, and to have membership and a lot of other things.”
In retrospect, that first exhibition lacked what would make Meow Wolf happenings worth going to – and that was the collective signature of many artists under the name Meow Wolf without any attention paid to individual artists. That dynamic was first revealed at Biome Neuro Norb, which appeared in the spring and summer of 2008. It was a collective art installation that really nailed the aesthetic of Meow Wolf, which is basically to take spaces and turn them into environments that are other-worldly and all-inclusive.
“Biome Neuro Norb felt like the chill nook of a disco on a foreign planet,” said Kadlubek. BNN took every surface space of their interior building and transformed it into something completely foreign and interesting. I wrote about that space for my blog at the time and used the blog piece to start talking about what Meow Wolf was doing to various people around town. But it wasn’t until sometime later that Meow Wolf really began to concretize what it was that they were doing with installation.
“The success of Biome Neuro Norb got us a lot of attention, in terms of people showing up and also write ups in the blogs and newspapers,” said Kadlubek. But that same success forced the hand of the landlord, who evicted them in the summer of 2008. They soon found new digs at a location just up the street at Second Street and Hopewell Avenue, across the street from Cloud Clift Bakery. Around this time, a schism developed between Vince and collective co-founder Quinn that forced Vince to re-assess his role in the organization and back out of it. Meow Wolf moved on without their leader. The space was trashed and needed work. It took months just to get the space ready for a real show, which finally opened on Halloween 2008 and was called “Horror.” In this installation, the crew took a creepy space and made it much creepier, less of a haunted house than just a downright scary one. The opening night also featured DJs and live musicians performing and it was a great night to watch the evolution of this collective – with or without Vince.
“I was pretty depressed during that period,” recalls Kadlubek. “The organization I had founded seemed to be doing just fine without me and I had nowhere to go with my creative energies. So I took a breather and watched things unfold.”
Around this time, Kadlubek met David Lockridge, a photographer who wanted to do a solo show at Meow Wolf where he would talk openly about his experiences as a manic-depressive. Vince made the connections for David to do the show at Meow Wolf, and the result was a weekend long event that Vince helped to coordinate, involving himself with Meow Wolf for the first time again. The show was called Hall of Fools and it also featured a metal smithing show and then a D-Numbers event. Over the course of the weekend, the hallway in which it was shown began to take on the elements of what a manic episode looks like.
By the fall of 2009, Kadlubek was managing the Flying Star and was approached by Warehouse 21 Program Director Greg Malone about having Meow Wolf do something with Warehouse 21. Though Vince no longer felt connected to MW, he decided he would write a play and get help from some of the members of MW and just call it a Meow Wolf production. The result was the fantastic “The Moon is to Live On,” which sold out all six nights and really woke people up to what Kadlubek was capable of as a creator and leader. The play was a huge turning point for Vince and Meow Wolf as a whole. It shifted the schism within the organization towards Vince’s favor. Soon after, Kadlubek was involved in another MW show called Habitats, and soon after that, Quinn left the organization after a bit of controversy over a contract with another organization.
In the summer of 2010, Meow Wolf got a call from CCA to do a show there. Together, the group began to dream up a show called “the Due Return” which would feature a large ship installation that would be built on the grounds of CCA. Operating out of workshops on Rufina Street, the organization split up into five different groups that worked from Concept to Design to Pre-fab to Installation.
“To put together something like the Due Return required a great deal of integrity and trust that you cultivate within yourself and then can pass on to the other people with whom you are working,” said Kadlubek. In the end, the Due Return had a $50K budget and 150 people working on it. A Kickstarter campaign helped raised money, but things were helped along mightily by an $8K Site Santa Fe spread grant and a $15K grant from the Albuquerque Community Foundation. The rest was raised through music shows and dance parties, which is the organization’s bread and butter for the raising of money since the earliest days. They also got $10K from private donations.
On opening night, the Due Return had a gate of 1500 people and from then on averaged 3000 people a week. Arts writer Rob DeWalt called it “the most photographed event in New Mexico this year. With so much cash coming through the door, it was clear that the organization needed some real organization, and after much debate and discussion, opted to become an LLC rather than a 501c(3).
“An LLC gives us flexibility to make money for itself like a regular business, but it also allows us to perform non-profit work by aligning itself with existing non-profits.”
There are five owners of the LLC but complex documents that we’d rather not read (re: boring) do reveal that the owners are not permitted to take profit from the LLC.
One of the more exciting spin-offs from the Due Return is a project called Chimera that brings Meow Wolf artists into the Santa Fe Public School system to teach collaboration to the students. This was spawned originally from a side project where members engaged children from Wood Gormley school to design the children’s area of the ship, and when Vince saw their pleasure at seeing their own creations as part of the installation, he knew that this needed to be an on-going program for the organization.
“We approached CCA about it and then approached SFPS,” he said. “It took a lot of time and wrangling to get down to the specifics as to how we’d go about it, but eventually we were given the go-ahead to do it the way we wanted to.” Currently, grants surrounding the Chimera project pay Vince and another Meow Wolf members small salaries, and they also have money to pay the individual instructors for their participation in the project. So far, Meow Wolf has worked with Ortiz, Agua Fria, Gonzales, Ramirez-Thomas and a number of other schools on two separate projects, one where they created recycled creatures and another on producing 30-second films. Daniel Werwath is also involved in this project in helping Meow Wolf to secure grant dollars to allow it to grow.
In addition to local projects, the Due Return sparked interest in installations from other locations, including a massive installation at New Mexico State University called “Glitteropolis,” an installation for the Flux Factory in Queens, and an upcoming installation for the Communikey arts & music festival in Boulder, Colorado.
“Right now, this is as many projects going on simultaneously as we’ve ever done,” said Kadlubek. “Generally we just have One Big Thing going on, but now we’ve taken it to the point where we have lots of things happening at once.”
So what is the next big thing for Meow Wolf? Well, they are of course planning to have the town’s biggest New Year’s Eve party this year with Robocalypse, but by now big kicking dance parties aren’t really stretching the envelope for Meow Wolf. No, what Vince sees as the next big thing is a sequel to “The Moon is to Live on,” a great big garish theatrical production that really tickles Vince’s personal creative energies.
“In the course of working with Meow Wolf, I’ve had to take on a lot of different kinds of roles and build lots of different kinds of relationships,” said Kadlubek. “I’d like the opportunity to do something that really feels good to me personally and that’s more live theater.”
A lot has changed in Vince Kadlubek since I first met him vying for a job at Warehouse 21. It is to my mind criminal that an organization with this much talent and accomplishment goes begging for space in Santa Fe while the organization that refused his offer of help has an enormous building with almost no one in it. It can be said at this point that Warehouse 21 and Meow Wolf serves different communities but that misses the point of the evolution of arts organization. Warehouse 21 has not evolved and it has suffered accordingly. And Meow Wolf stands poised to do so much more than Warehouse ever dreamed of – simply because it allowed a lot of people to follow a dream that is still ongoing.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 11, 2011
Writer Gregory Pleshaw Claims First Book Ever Written Exclusively on Facebook!
“Stumbling Towards Enlightenment”
A Live Book Written on Facebook, April – January, 2010
In the spring of 2010, writer and journalist Gregory Pleshaw embarked on an experimental novel written entirely as status reports and Notes on Facebook, the world’s most popular social network. A “live book,” “Stumbling Towards Enlightenment” made use of current technology in social media to treat his 1200 friends to an unfolding travelogue over the course of eight months of travel through India and Thailand.
Operating from a polemic of “total transparency” Pleshaw explored a multiplicity of liminal themes, live on Facebook, including identity, insanity, risk, addiction, internal & external discoveries, liminality, time, space, danger, sex, extreme circumstances, transgressive non-fiction, health, yoga, religion, redemption and the complete dissolution of both the constructed self and the notion of “privacy” through a process known as “pure process transparency” live on Facebook, posting at least thrice daily across India and Thailand.
When Stumbling Toward Enlightenment began, facebook was the #1 website in the world with close to half a million daily readers. Pleshaw would later dub it “the global newspaper,” but long before that point, he saw within it an emergent venue for a new kind of literature – unfolding status report by status report and easily “contributed to” by other random “writers” from one’s pool of “friends.”
“Stumbling Towards Enlightenment” had many themes, but it’s underlying praxis lay in one simple question, “What is a Friend?” a theme that Pleshaw would return to repeatedly as he posted status report after status report about yoga, gurus, street hustlers and World Cup updates from his four-month residence in Dharamsala, the home of the exiled leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama. While the estimated number of status reports from what ended up as an eight-month experiment number between 1500-2500 posts, “Stumbling Towards Enlightenment” offered Pleshaw’s 1200 friends a thrice-updated unfolding of a narrative adventure that even had its own romantic subplot, for prior to heading to India, Pleshaw met Dee Dee Clohessy, a writer from Buffalo, New York, whose seminal work “facebook status reports I hate,” attracted Pleshaw’s attention to the medium in which they were living.
In addition to many many status reports, Pleshaw’s output during this period also included at least a dozen long-form “Notes” about everything from seeing the Dalai Lama to finding a cure for his psoriasis to “burying the meds” one full year after deciding not to take them anymore. Dozens of different friends contributed to the threads that Pleshaw seeded via both status report and “Notes,” “contributing writers” all to both the journey and the unfolding narrative. Off-facebook, hundreds of emails, Skype calls and chats built a broad subtext of the many convergent and divergent notions, ideas, and themes that Pleshaw chose to explore during the course of the “Stumbling” project.
Originally intended to only encompass the period that Pleshaw spent in India, the “live book” format ended up perfecty illustrating the axiom that “sometimes even the best experiments can go awry,” when upon returning to Thailand, Pleshaw’s use of a tantric meditation technique caused him to go astral for nine straight days – a phenomena described by others as a Kundalini Awakening and whose revelatory nature took both Pleshaw and his astounded readership into triple-overtime – with the narrative only coming to a final “Stumbling” halt on January the 1st, 2011.
Pleshaw is currently in hiatus in Buffalo, New York, where he is working as a writer for allfacebook.com, the largest website devoted exclusively to all things facebook. His aim is to eventually compile the eight months worth of status reports, threads and notes into a stand-alone tome as an example of the emerging literature that is happening through Facebook and other social media.
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Georgelle Hirliman died a few days ago, and I am remembering her from Thailand.
Here is my original post from facebook:
“Georgelle Hirliman was without a doubt one of the most gifted writers and witches I have ever had the pleasure to know. As “Writer-in-the-WIndow” in the mid-1980s, she provided a generation of Santa Feans (and visitors from other places without a doubt) with advice that has quite similar to the vein of pop occultism later popularized by writers like Rob Brezny. I used her astrological services on several occasions when it seemed certain that the constructs of modern Western psychology and psychiatry did not contain nearly enough poetry to explain the strange existence that I began to lead as a teenager and continue to wind my way through to this very day. In fact, she is *precisely* the sort of person I would like to be speaking with now. Her death is a loss both to the community and to me personally, but I shall always remember her wry humor and genteel grace in trying to articulate solutions to the twists and turns of minds and heart troubled by the ineffable of the Santa Fe cosmogony, rife with problems both real and imagined, sensed and intuited, visions, notions and strange and dangerous ideas. Were I to attend a memorial for her, I would certainly cry, for she spoke to my heart – and so few people have either the courage or the ability to do that, and if they do have it, they do it so rarely. om nava shivaya, Georgelle – I always recognized the light in you, but without a doubt you saw in it me also and were occasionally able to help me see it.”
The courage of that woman in her Writer-in-the-Window project had just an enormous impact on me as a teenager. She had balls and she had commitment to a community that now no longer exists, IMHO. In any case – her work there was art and politics and philosophy and answers and inspiration and courage and strength and hope, and in the past 24 hours I have come to love her in her death a great deal more than I did in life. She has become an icon in my mind, as great people do when they die, and I am indeed very happy that I actually knew such an incredibly courageous person at least once in my life – but fortunately for me, I have also known a great deal many more…
the very act of sitting down to a blank page or facing an empty studio and making the decision to create is not just a courageous act, but an act of treason in a culture where the dominant discourse rests on consumption and apathy and hiding in your house. To create IN PUBLIC and on display is to challenge authority on its deepest levels. Whatever else Georgelle Hirliman was in her life – and I have indeed, heard many many things that I will gloss over completely in remembering the strength of that project – as Writer-in-the-Window she created a moment of temporal anarchy that resulted in a rich rich discourse that was primarily local (as all good projects should be) but that created global resonance that is affecting me with great profoundity as I sit here typing on the banks of the Mekong in Thailand. Goddess knows how many other hearts and minds she touched with what was essentially a dada exercise in creation for the sake of it. Do not forget her, even if you never knew her. Goddess knows, though I may forget the woman I will never forget the work – on par with DuChamp’s urinal, to a degree, taking the piss at an art culture that was only just evolving in Santa Fe at the time, where creativity and process where trumped entirely by the need to create decorative work that enlivened the expensive homes of the dull-minded and well-monied.
I really could go on and on, but just remember this – it takes tremendous courage and whimsy to sit in a storefront window and present to people the idea that they have questions and you will make a stab at answers. All those AMAZING questions – and her answers – helped define the cosmogony of Santa Fe during the period in which she worked, and for a generation of Santa Fe youth, she was our oracle.. God bless her soul.
Is there an archive – someone should curate a show. Wish I could, honestly.
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30 tips, 30 hours, three currencies and an excellent meal: The trip from Nong Khai to Ventienne, explained in exquisite detail.
What you’ll need: a passport, a pen, a notebook, an overnight bag, a laptop, (not necessary, but there’s a bit of wifi to be had) a couple thousand baht, (depending on your eating, shopping and party needs,) and a place to crash because you will spend the night in Vientiane whether you want to or not.
Yeah, it was time again, time for another Visa Run. So I made one to Vientiane, Laos, without a doubt one of the more pleasant capital cities in southeast Asia.
But that wasn’t why I made the trip to that particular place. Rumor had it across Thailand that Vientiane was the place to obtain a double-entry visa. A double-entry means 90 days times two – for a total of 180 days to hang out in Thailand. For more information on what that means, visit Thaivisa.com.
Caveat: Lots of great info in the forums on ThaiVisa.com – however, posting can be a bit of a bear. People are not terribly kind there. Post delicately.
Here are the basics of making said Visa Run:
1) Get your ass to Nong Khai. There’s a night-train from Bangkok that costs less than 600 baht.
2) If you’re smart, you’ll get a tuk-tuk from the train station to Mut Mee Guest House and hang out for a day or two. Even if they don’t have rooms, there are CHEAP guest houses nearby. Try 150 baht a night for a fan and hot water bungalow, which is super-cheap if you’re coming from the south. Nong Khai is a pleasant little “proper Thai” border town (meaning its cheap and it don’t really cater to farang.) There’s a famous Buddhist-Hindu sculpture garden there that you can ride a bike to and you’ll find out all about it if you go there. If you want tubing or discos, don’t bother with Nong Khai.
3) The Visa Run itself is appromixately a 30 hour process. You need: a small bag with a change of clothes, toiletries, a pen, a notebook, $36 in US cash (available at Mut Mee or any exchange place) two passport photos and enough dough to drink, eat and crash in Ventiane. (budgets will vary, I will reveal mine along the way.)
4) Get a tuk-tuk to Friendship Bridge. Just say it to the tuk-tuk driver. “Friendship Bridge.” He knows what you want and where you want to go and he’ll take you there. From Mut Mee, it cost 50 baht (and it’s a long ass drive, in all honesty.) It may be less from the train station…get off the tuk-tuk, walk past the uniformed Thai Immigration guy and get in line, but don’t forget….
5) Inside your passport is a Thai DEPARTURE CARD. Fill it out before you get in line, perhaps in the slumber-land of the Mut Mee or perhaps in haste on the bus on the way over. (This is where the pen comes in handy, but it will come in handy later, so bring three of them, since others will no doubt have forgotten to bring one, and its fun to share.)
6) At Thai Immigration, stand in line. Prepare to pay 500 baht for each day of Overstay. (ps: Overstay is name of a super-cool guest house in Bangkok that you should stay at if Burroughs and P’Orridge flip your wig. Otherwise…) (They’ll make you pay it, up to 20,000 baht ($600) and they might arrest you if you’ve really OVERSTAYED. So don’t. Get to a border before Overstay.
7) Once you’ve cleared Thai Immigration, it’s time to cross Friendship Bridge. 15 baht will get you a ticket on a bus (walking across is not an option, so just pay and get on the bus) that will take you across the bridge. A hush descends all over the world when you enter Laos. It’s a new country. A new language, though the food is similar – but better. Eat the laab. It kicks ass, but that comes later…
8) Get off the bus before it stops and RUSH to Window #2 and get an application. There will be 10,000 farangs who think, (like you) that hanging out in southeast Asia is better than being in the West. They are both comrades and competitors. You are aiming for the same goal – a visa that will allow you to keep kicking around Thailand.
9) Fill out the application AS YOU STAND IN LINE AT WINDOW #1. Use your passsport as backing to write that app. Just fill it in, whatever you don’t know, leave blank. This is, as are many things in SE Asia, a total shill. They just want your $35 and some kind of effort on your part to show that you want to enter their country. It’s $36 if you need photos, so dress neatly – a torn t-shirt and a ratty pair of shorts is not the best way to ask for entry to another country, but they’ll probably let you in anyway – after a bit of a WAIT. They know you want to get the damn visa in time to GET TO THE THAI EMBASSY BY NOON, but they’ll torture you anyway. Meditate on the pain of their existence and remain calm.
10) Wait like a nervous teenager waiting for concert tickets at Window #3. Efficiency is not the Laotian aim – they have business to do, and it will take at least an hour to get your passport back with your new Laos visa. Talk to the other drop-outs and learn their cover stories – you will see them again in 90 or 180 days somewhere else, and they might have valuable travel information – this is where the notebook comes in handy.
11) Fuck the local bus (number 14) – I would presume its cheap, but it probably takes forever. Bargain for a tuk-tuk – I arranged for the travel of two – myself and an elderly gent from Denmark – for 150 baht from the border to the Embassy – the ride was so freakin’ long and so much like a car chase that I gave the guy 200 baht for effort. A 50 baht tip may be too rich for your blood, but remember, these people live on dirt when you’re not around.
12) Important points: Get to the Embassy before noon or they’ll shut the gates and tell you to come back tomorrow, meaning an extra day in Laos, which really is lovely, but frankly, you’re on business.
13) Arrive at the Embassy – the ABSOLUTE FIRST THING YOU DO is GET A FREAKIN’ NUMBER. Walk up to the main window and there’s a door on your left. Knock gently and someone will open the door and hand you a number. If you’ve forgot your passport photos, you can buy them across the street for 120 baht for eight, (you only need two, keep the other for later runs or give to people you like) a photocopy of your passport is available for 15 baht upstairs at the Embassy, but again, you could do this in advance, but you might not bother. They take your picture, print the photos, cut them up and glue two to the application for you and give you the rest to take home. Just beneath the photos is a slot for entering your request of 2 entries. Writea BIG 2 and pray for rain and that double-entry visa, because you don’t want to do this again for at least six months.
14) My number was 486 – 4+8=12+6=18. 1+8 =9. I was very excited because 9 is the luckiest number in Thai numerological and lottery systems. (it has to do with the sum of the number 108, which is a sacred number in Buddhist and Hindu systems.) Sit and wait for your number to be called. You can smoke in the corner of the Embassy grounds. There are seats under shade but there’s also a lovely patch of grass to sit on. Wait. Smoke. Pray. Meditate. Wonder what you’ll do next if they deny your visa app, (people do a lot of this in Laos – some more than others, certainly.)
15) When your number is called, stand in line (they call lots of numbers at once) and when you reach the front, hand in the application. There is no fee for a Thai tourist visa until March, 2010, but there’s a rumor that will be extended. There are also rumors that they will eliminate the double-entry visa entirely or that farangs will be thrown out of the country. Ignore all these rumors and listen to the last person who did it him/herself – or head to ThaiVisa.com if you really want to see all of them. They wil give you a receipt consisting of a piece of wax paper with a number written on it. Fold it up carefully and stick it somewhere in your wallet. DO NOT LOSE IT. I didn’t meet anyone who did, but I was very careful with mine.
16) FREEDOM! Until 1pm the following day, you are a tourist in Laos. Welcome to this fine country. Ventiane is small, but here’s the route we took:
17) In more or less the center of town, there’s a fountain. Laos word for fountain is “Namphu.” Bargain for a tuk-tuk there – ours was 100 baht for three people and an absurd amount of luggage. (some people carry their whole lives on a visa run – find a place to stash the majority of your crap before you cross the border and travel light, IMHO.) Guest houses can be found all over the place. We stayed at a place called Phone Paseuth for $21 US a night for three and got a big bed (for the two women I was with) and a small one for me. There was a tv we never turned on, so perhaps it worked. Next time, I might ask for a tuk-tuk to the Orchid Guest House – it’s right on the river and it was about the same price. Ultimately, you don’t care – you want a place to stash your stuff & lay your head. This isn’t an extended holiday.
18) Ventiane highlights:
* Around the fountain is the famous Scandinavian Bakery. They serve smela, which I must be spelling incorrectly but it was described as a pastry stuffed with marzipan with whipped cream on top and a “hat” of more pastry. Sadly, they’ve only got it on Saturdays, so I didn’t have one. They have wifi for 6000 kip per hour (less than a dollar.) You pay in advance and they hand you a card with login and password. Coffee includes a REFILL, (otherwise totally unheard of in SE Asia.)
* Riverside: Go there. Proper restaurants along the street-side – street stall restaurants by the river. opt for the latter for some of the best damn laab, som tam, morning glory, noodles and anything else Laos people eat. We went to the one across from the second riverside Wat, (there are two and they sort of mark the beginning and end of the main strip.) A ladyboy served us Beer Lao (the best lager in SE Asia without a doubt – Thai beers are mostly horrific) and we ate like pigs for less than 600 baht.
* The Wats. Pretty. If you’ve been to Chiang Mai, you’ve seen them already, but go have a contemplative moment anyway – you’ve crossed a border after all. Give yourself a moment to collect yourself.
* The Market – happens as the sun goes down and until around ten o’clock. Chock-a-block handmade goods, mostly textiles, dolls, bags, etc. The usual. I bought two beautiful handbags (one blue for a friend, one hot pink for myself) for around 200 baht (50,000 kip, to be precise.) A cool t-shirt with the Laos alphabet for 40,000 kip. A stuffed dog for a new friend (whom we’ve named Kip in honor of the Laos currency) for around 30,000 kip, I think.
* Ventiane does party, but we never found it – there’s a rooftop bar somewhere and we got into an absurd tuk-tuk rally with about 25 Westerners and three tuk-tuks looking for it. It was the most fun I had all night (other than dinner, which was really stellar. Laab Moo is wondrous in Laos. Kow Niou (sticky rice) is perfect. The som tam was a little off – too sour for my taste, but the Morning Glory was the best I’ve had ever.
19) Day Two: Get up and go have coffee and check your email (if you brought a computer) at the Scandinavian Bakery.
20) Loll around until noon. Yes, there will be more lines, but you’ll stand in the sun regardless, so why rush?
21) Bargain for a tuk-tuk back to the Thai Embassy. Three for 150 this time. Your mileage may vary.
22) Stand in line to the right of the entrance. Get a water from the street stall and wait. They open the doors at 1pm and you enter the Embassy in single file.
23) You’d think it would be an Orwellian nightmare – men in camo with submachine guns – but it’s just like queueing up at the bank. There’s an INCREDIBLE picture of the King and Queen behind the counter, with an ornate silver frame featuring an image of Garuda. Kicks ass, this portrait. Look for it. I want it for my bungalow. 😉
24) Did you remember your receipt? The one you got when you turned in your passport yesterday. DO NOT LOSE IT. Got it? Right. Hand it over to the persons behind the counter and glance at the hundreds of passports from dozens of nations arranged on the counter. Yours is in their somewhere.
25) Get the passport – and open it up. It’s kinda like Xmas and a trip to the dentist – you just don’t know if it will be happiness or pain. MINE WAS DOUBLE-ENTRY! I wanted to scream with joy, but I just smiled brightly and we all left the Embassy.
26) Out front, bargain for a tuk-tuk to Friendship Bridge. Again, inside your passport now is a DEPARTURE CARD from Laos. Fill it in before you arrive at Friendship Bridge. 150 baht for three again, I think.
27) Laos Immigration is, again, slow. Slow to enter, slow to go. More torture than coming in because you’ve got what you want and you just want out. Practice patience and breathing slowly. Don’t feel grumpy. It’s really almost done. When you reach the front of the line, hand in your passport and Departure Card. Get them back and walk away. Congratulations! You’ve left Laos. Now – you must enter Thailand. Again.
28) Pick up the shuttle bus over the bridge – 15 baht for a ticket – or 4000 kip. Change your money before you get on the bus. Kip is lovely, but useless in Thailand. (Note: Laos will take any currency – kip, baht or dollars. Probably Euros as well, I didn’t have any.)
29) By now you’re really knackered, honestly, and it’s hard not to be grumpy. Cheer up. Your almost there. Step off the bus before it stops and race to Window #2 and get an Arrival Card. Fill it out while waiting in line at Window #1. Hand it in, get it stamped and bingo! YOU ARE IN THAILAND.
30) Bargain for a tuk-tuk back to the Mut-Mee. 40 baht each for three. Wait patiently as the driver hustles for other passengers. Hold your breath while the tuk-tuk stops for a dog who is napping in the street. Arrive home, step out, grab your bags, pay the man. Tip him. You are done.
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Summing Up: Crystal Dive Resort is RECOMMENDED as THE PLACE to learn to dive in Koh Tao.
Ever since I was a kid growing up in the middle of the DESERT, I’ve always dreamed of learning to SCUBA dive. Similar to surfing, it’s always represented to me the ultimate aquatic adventure & sport. Though one can learn in New Mexico, I was never too keen on taking a class there, since all dives end up at the “Blue Hole,”an extremely narrow “lake” of sorts located in Santa Rosa. Nevertheless, when one is raised on re-runs of “The Undersea World of Jacques Costeau,” (as I was in the 1970s) the excitement of going underwater to breathe is marked by the ability not just to be under water, but to see all the things that live there.
Previously in my travels, I once had an opportunity to try diving in Puerto Escondido, Mexico, but it required a course of 4 days and a $300-$500 outlay. Pricey, particularly if I ended up not liking it. What if I felt too uncomfortable to do it more than once? That would be some real cash wasted and so I never bothered to try it out.
All that changed when I first came to Thailand, where PADI (the Professional Association of Diving Instructors) offers a one-day introductory diving course for less than $100 called a Discovery Dive. If Thailand is one of the cheapest places to try out diving, then it is rumored that the island of Koh Tao, located in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand in a chain that includes Koh Samui & Koh Phangnan, is the cheapest and best place to learn to dive simply because of its small population (1400 people) and numerous dive schools (around 45.) Dive gossip has it that Koh Tao is one of the largest dive certification centers in the world – believed to be around 2000 per day on this one island.
Despite its reputation as a great place to learn to dive, it’s really important, as I learned on a recent trip, to pick a GOOD SCHOOL to go to in order to get the very best instructors for your first time in the water. I define “best” instructors as people who are kind, patient, smiling, polite, and helpful to a newbie who isn’t exactly brimming with youth and machismo. In other words – a diving instructor should be prepared to hold people’s hands – if PADI wants to make diving a sport that everyone can enjoy. Instructors should be more than willing to calm your fears about whatever neuroses you might have about strapping on a tank of air and allowing weights to pull you 30 feet/10 meters beneath the surface of the water and onto the ocean floor.
SCUBA is by no means a trivial exercise, as there are many hazards that can occur through improper training, including but not limited to:
1) lung over-inflation, (caused by holding your breath underwater);
2) pain, discomfort, and even injury to ears and sinuses, (caused by not “equalizing” properly as you descend from surface to floor.)
3) And vertigo, which can lead to panic, which can lead to a very strong desire to rush to the surface, which can lead to “the bends” (i.e. decompression sickness, which can be fatal and often requires several days inside a hyperbaric “recompression chamber.”)
Now, I had to learn the hard way the value of good, kind, warm-hearted instructions who give a shit enough about good diving to hold someone’s hand. And I can’t say I wasn’t warned. When I first arrived on the island, I asked a diver friend where I should go to “lose my dive cherry” and without hesitation, she suggested Crystal Dive Resort. I visited the place in each Sairee Beach location before blithely deciding it was too “rough around the edges”, and I instead (mistakenly) opted for the slickest-looking operation that I saw, a place called Ban’s (which ought to be BANNED, IMHO.)
Ban’s looked the part that I wanted to see – a top-range resort (admittedly, that I couldn’t afford and would never stay in anyway) with a swimming pool in a beautiful garden, a bustling reception area, bar, restaurant, classrooms and lots of important-looking people running around with clipboards. Even better, I had heard (again, gossip, I fact-check little here, rumor is everything to a traveler) that Ban’s was the most popular diveshop on the island by sheer volume, having issued over 9,000 certifications in the previous year – actually making the shop one of the top three in the world. Surely, I would be safe there.
Sad to say, my experience at Ban’s was less than stellar. My dive instructor seemed quite hungover, and was certainly a surly chap, refusing to answer what I considered reasonable questions, but he deemed “outside the scope of this course.” By the time we reached the sea, I had little confidence in either him or my ability to dive, and in my making my first ascent, experienced considerable “equalization” problems with my ears that forced me to abandon the dive. A subsequent complaint letter to Ban’s, once I realized that the problem didn’t lie with me but with less than stellar procedure and training – went totally unanswered – hey, that shit might fly in Thailand, but seriously, you cater to Westerners, so get with the program. Answer your mail, dickhead. (Rumor, again, unsubstantiated, has it that recently Ban’s received an offer of $550 million USD for their silly resort and beach front strip in Sairee Beach in Koh Tao, so I guess they don’t need to care too much about a 2000 baht dive course – something you might also want to keep in mind should you be wanting a decent experience.)
The lesson? Don’t judge a book by its cover – and choose the best dive spot in Koh Tao – Crystal Dive Resort – the first time around.
Shaken, frightened and more than a littel ashamed by my first experience, I went with my tail between my legs over to Crystal Dive Resort, whose main location is on Baan Ma Haad (Mae Haad Beach) near the main pier. I told them of my experience with Ban’s. Much to my surprise, they already had a bit of an idea what had happened with me there. For while there are many dive shops on the island, the main spot for first-time divers is at a place called Twins, located in a small cove on the west end of the beach that intersect the two islands off the northwest coast of Koh Tao. Every day, in fact, that spot resembles a Dive Boat rally of sorts, and the afternoon I went with Ban’s, there were at least half a dozen dive boats hovering around.
“I saw the whole thing, mate,” was the statement of at least three Crystal employees. “You jumped off from the top part of the boat, rather than in the middle, you didn’t have your regulator (breathing apparatus) in your mouth when you dove, your boat was too close to another boat, and no one helped you ut of the water when you came up early.”
That was just the beginning of the “mistakes” that Ban’s made during my inital Discovery dive, but it IS imporant to point out that out of a Discovery class of twelve, I was the only person who didn’t complete the dive. The fact is simple – your first time is SCARY, at least to me it was – check it – you deflate your jacket (BCD) and your eyes drop beneath the surface of the water, and you’re to hold onto a rope that will lead you to the bottom. You see a cacaphony of water, bubbles, and other SCUBA divers, (particularly at Twins, which resembles an underwater rock concert at absolute slo-mo) but the strongest sense may be coming from your ears, which thunder with the sound of your own breath inhale (think Darth Vader) and exhalation which sounds like a stampede of water buffalo.
As you get used to all these sensations – sight, sound, and the incredible feeling of weightlessness, you’re supposed to hold up your BCD hose to deflate fully with the same hand you’re to use to “equalize” your nose by pinching the nostrils together and blowing (gently) as you descend UNDER THE WATER. My first time included perfect visibility (not as ideal as it sounds) because from the surface (I was last in line) I could already see my classmates pooling on the bottom of the ocean floor in kneeling positions and from where I “stood”, it seemed like quite a long way down. I didn’t descend nearly as quickly as I thought I would, and soon a DiveMaster pulled me to the surface to tell me I should face downward and swim for the bottom – not a recommended procedure AT ALL I would find out later, and my ears quickly poppd quite painfully and I panicked and made my way to the surface and went back to the boat alone.
Most people would’ve just said fuck it and assumed that SCUBA was not for them, but I was determined to try with another company – I knew that the people at Ban’s were assholes, I just needed to find another company that wasn’t so lame. At this point, of course, I had significant doubt as to whether I was capable of doing it at all. I spent most of the following day miserably second-guessing myself and since I’ve now managed to dive sucessfully with another company, my advice to you is simple – STAY AWAY FROM BAN’S and pick the right company the first time around – and on Koh Tao, my vote for that is the Crystal Dive Shop.
I visited Crystal and EVERYONE was nice. Dead serious – people are so kind it’s like summer camp. I met a cool guy and asked him if my instructor would be hungover and he laughed and asked if I went to Ban’s – they have a reputation for being party animals too, which is great if you nkow what you’re doing, I GUESS. I was handed over to Mark from the UK for one-on-one pool skills, then over to Laurie from Scotland who literally held me hand on my first descent and guided me through my first two dives – yep, I liked the first one so much (with Crystal, anyway) that I immediately bought another one.) And then I liked that one so much that I took the Open Water Dive Course, a 4-day, 4-dive course that was totally awesome and which I just finished about two hours ago. PADI-certified diver am I now, thanks to Crystal.
My instructor for OWDC was the equally kind, patient and competent Iain from the UK, who got me through all the silly skills I had to master even though it must’ve been clear to him that all I wanted to do was swim with the fish.
All told, the experience(s) cost me a little bit over $300USD. The initial Discovery Dive was 2000 baht (approximately $60) with that 2000 discounted of an Open Water Dive Course (generally 9800 baht, but reduced to 7800baht.) Accomodation is available for dive students @ 200 baht a night in (very) simple (but nice) bungalows. The location is ideal for those coming to Koh Tao just to learn to dive – try 100 meters to the left/north from the island’s main pier – no taxi needed!
If you think you want to SCUBA dive – all I can say is DO IT. It fucking rocks. I don’t have the words yet, but may soon enough. By the end of the Discovery Dive you’ll know if it’s something you want – just make sure you go with the right company *THE FIRST TIME* – and that company for me is the Crystal Dive Resort, located on Koh Tao.
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I’m including this old post because this marks the time of life when my life shifted from writing a blog regularly to writing on Facebook. I’m intending to go back in the other direction. Facebook is a lot of me, me, me and I don’t feel like the nine years I spent writing there was a waste but I do think it runs counter to my abilities and goals as a writer. As a traveler, Facebook just became easier, but I’m out to pull back from it now to showcase more meaningful writing.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been two whole months since I’ve logged a blog post. Mostly, I’ve been focusing on the micro-blogging phenomenon, which for me consists of posting status report updates on my facebook status or my twitter account or both (I’ve got them connected so one updates the other) and mostly doing the updating from the convenience of my Black Berry…The BB upgrade has been an intense leap forward – I still carry my laptop around everywhere, but I open it only to WORK, not fiddle around on the Internet – all of that is now on my phone and it’s been an amazing shift in my use of two devices – the laptop gets used less, the phone even more, which, given my use of the device before it was Internet capable, is pretty amazing. The phone is my CONSTANT companion now, and not just on my ears. My fingers have become nimble on the keyboard (and yes, even when I DRIVE) and I’m constantly in touch with facebook and my email, which for me is excellent, because I am more driven to distraction than YOU – which I’ve realized just means that silence frightens me, making me quite in touch with the true nature of the Western modality of living – keep moving or else you might become AWARE, and who wants awareness when there’s a new update on facebook?
Okay – enough. There’s been plenty of cool stuff going on in the world of New Mexico arts, though I’ve had my head in the sand to a lot of it because I’ve been re-arranging my own world to fit in a movie that I’ve been working on called “I Was a 7th Grade Dragon Slayer.” Produced by New Mexico natives Ryil Adamson and Gavin Gillette, the movie is about three kids who play a role-playing card game called ElixirQwest in the sewers of Albuquerque. In the course of play, they find a real troll (well-played by Albuquerque actor Richard Sellers) who reveals to them that a real Dragon named Darksmoke is in their midst and they must join the fight to slay him. Made for under a million bucks, this scrappy children’s action adventure movie is being made almost entirely with a student crew from the CNM Film Technician’s Training Program (FTTP) but features a name director (Andrew Lauer) and several name actors, (including Lea Thompson, Wendy Malick, Eric Lutes and Amy Pietz, all alums from the television show “Caroline in the City”) as well as a number of child actors including Hunter Allan, Jordan Reynolds, Abigail Victor and Ryan Norris. My job is the Unit Publicist, and it’s been a real educational experience both about how movies are made and how things get done on and off set.
My talented friends: Last Saturday night, the city of Albuquerque became the first city in the United States to designate a “Slam Poet Laureate” position. Determined by public acclamation via the slam poetry process of competition and scoring, the winner of the event was poet Danny Solis, who won with his previously award-winning poem “Song for Solomon.” Solis has been a fixture of the Albuquerque slam scene for over a decade, winning many events and awards and serving as chairman of the National Poetry Slam that took place in Albuquerque in 2005. He has competed at the national level in at least a half dozen National Slam teams, and in 2006 took home the International Poetry Slam individual championship title with “Song for Solomon,” a chilling poem about love, loss, and restraint in the face of the terrors of tragic circumstances.
A proven piece of work by a proven talent, Solis’ win was quickly attacked in the local alternative weekly The Alibi, when writer Gene Grant offered the truly provincial suggestion that the poetry within the event should’ve been about the area in which the poet lives. It’s a shame that universal themes such as the ones offered by Solis failed to cut the mustard with Grant, who conceded that Solis will make a fine poet laureate but that poet Damien Flores may have made a better one because he wrote three poems about Albuquerque. When all was said and done, however, the Slam Poet Laureate of Albuquerque was chosen by Slam Poets rules with judges plucked from the audience – and not by writers like Grant with axes to grind. Grant’s criticisms undermine not just Solis and the Poet Laureate process, but Slam Poetry itself, because it suggests that maybe this time, the judges – the people – are wrong. Grant’s criticism of the event’s lack of criteria towards “local poems” is also a direct assault on the people who determined the rules of the event – namely, organizer Zach Kluckman, without whom there would not have been a Slam Poet Laureate contest in the first place. Maybe next time Grant can can hand-pick the judges himself and whisper his criteria in their ears so that his pal Damien Flores gets the prize. For now, however, Albuquerque’s Slam Poet Laureate will be Danny Solis, despite the sour grapes of writer Grant, who really shows total arrogance in suggesting that both the organizer – and the judges who are the real people to decide – are wrong. Thanks Gene, for your faith in the process – next time we’ll let you decide, promise.
Did I mention Danny Solis is a good friend of mine and a fine-ass poet to boot?
And for another talented friend – this week New York-based artist Josh Schrei came back to New Mexico to screen his latest project, a short film called NM Powered, which was shown at Warehouse 21 in Santa Fe. Schrei, who grew up in Santa Fe, has been many things in this lifetime, including the lead singer of the SFe alt-rock band Mobius Trip; a spoken word artist who once wrote and produced a 90 minute long monologue piece called “Katmandu,” about his experiences in Nepal; the chairman of Students for a Free Tibet and co-producer of the Tibetan Freedom Concerts; a writer, a DJ, a poet, a photographer, and currently the VP of DrillTeam Media in New York City.
The film, titled “NM Powered” was produced in conjunction with New Mexico Youth Organized, (NMYO) and featured camera work by 25 youth leaders, each of whom was given a 15-minute long disposable video camera and told to shoot footage of their lives in New Mexico. The resulting footage was then sliced and diced by Schrei, and shown as part of a fundraising campaign for NMYO. The event at Warehouse 21 also featured excellent performances by poets Hakim Bellamy & Rose Simpson, as well as a special show by human beatboxer Say What?
An interesting exercise in remote collaborative film-making, the finished project highlighted the diversity of New Mexico youth and the potential that our community has in using the arts as a means to organize young people towards positive futures. It’s definitely worth a watch, and can be found right here.
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Green Chile Cheeseburgers Make the Perfect Comfort Food for Santa Fe Meat-Lovers.
By Gregory Pleshaw
The hamburger. One of the most egalitarian of all American foods, the hamburger is a staple of the American diet among meat-eating folks. When you need a burger (and admit, you want one right now) you need a burger, and if you’re a Santa Fean, you probably need one with all the traditional fixin’s, (including ketchup and mustard, pickles and onions and a slab o’ cheese) along a certain non-traditional and local condiment – namely, a big scoop or slice of green chile.
But think about it for just a second – when do you need a burger? If you’re like me, you need one on a day when you’ve skipped both breakfast and lunch and you know that a long night lies ahead of you. Or maybe you need one in the middle of day when life is going your way – or not. There are as many reasons to need a burger as there are ways to have one – and that’s because hamburgers are as American as hot dogs, apple pie, and eating in our cars.
The Origin of the Hamburger
The true details of who made the first hamburger are clouded in history and mystery. It may be that a restauranteur flattened a meatball to make the first burger, or that beef was substituted for pork to make a sausage patty sandwich. According to a 1974 article in the New York Times, the distinction of who is the inventor of what we now know and love as the hamburger goes to Louis’ Lunch Wagon of New Haven, Connecticut. First opening in 1895, Louis’ burger, then as now, was served between two pieces of toasted rather than the venerable bun. First use of a bun that fit the burger may go to White Castle of Wichita, Kansas, whose burgers are square, are known as “sliders” and which are available in grocery chains as well as in their restaurants.
Without a doubt (but don’t ask for conclusive facts) the most common place to buy a hamburger is in a fast-food restaurant, whose beef acquisition processes are well-covered in the hard-to-read but equally difficult-to-put-down book called “Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the American Meal” (released in 2001.) McDonald’s Big Mac may be the world’s top-selling burger, and for many, a hamburger from a fast-food chain may suffice the craving for a burger, despite its uniform patties and carefully measured doses of condiments, but for the true hamburger conneisuer, a thicker burger prepared by hand and usually weighing between ¼ to ½ a pound is the most desired delicacy.
And though a Santa Fean can get their green chile and cheese fix (mildly) satisfied at local Burger Kings and McDonald’s, Santa Fe’s favorite burgers tend to be of the hand-made variety, with local favorites including Bert’s Burger Bowl, Del Charro Saloon, Harry’s Roadhouse and in out-of-the-way but venerable burger and chile sanctuaries such the Bobcat Bite and the Horseman’s Haven. And without further ado – feast your eyes and feel the cravings rise!
1) The Bobcat Bite – Originally built to house a trading post and gun shop, the Bobcat Bite was turned into a restaurant by Bobcat Ranch owner Rene Clayton, and opened for the first time under the operation of her daughter Mitzi Panzer in 1953. I first went to the Bobcat Bite in 1987 on the night of my junior prom – little did I know that my date was a vegetarian and totally sickened by watching me eat their mammoth burger! Since its opening, the “Bite” has been owned by a series of proprietors and is currently run as a mom and pop eatery by John & Bonnie Ercke since 2001. They famously do not take checks or credit cards, close at 7:50pm in the evening, and were not-so-famously immortalized in “The Bobcat Bite” song by local punk rock composer Gregg Turner.
2) Bert’s Burger Bowl – While the claim that Bert’s invented the green chile burger is something we can neither prove nor disprove, we can say with some authority that Bert’s Burger Bowl does serve up one of the finest green chile burger in town. In addition to their fine burgers, Bert’s is well-known for its t-shirt whose memorable tag-line reads – “Since 1954 – One Location World-Wide.” In addition to its standard burger weighing in at ¼ pound and $4, Bert’s also offers give “upscale” gourmet burgers that weigh in at half a pound and whose cost varies. The gourmet burgers include a Kobe beef burger, a lamb burger, a pork burger, an ostrich burger and a bison burger. Each “gourmet” burger comes with its own distinct toppings – but we can only speak for the original, and its danged good.
3) Harry’s Roadhouse – For seventeen years, Harry’s Roadhouse has been serving up one of the finest burgers around – along with dozens of other “roadside” favorites. With a parking lot that’s packed nearly ‘round the clock (in all honesty, Harry’s is open from 7am – midnight seven days a week) Harry’s promises – and delivers – good quality food for breakfast, lunch and dinner all year round. Their burger is made from chuck that is ground fresh daily, and their buffalo burger is LaMott’s Buffalo, local animals who spend their days grazing off of Highway 14. According to Roadhouse owner Harry Shapiro, “the point is to pack the meat, but not too tight, in order to allow for a good ratio of fat to lean.” So exhausted was I from the days’ other burgers that I only ordered a kids’ one, medium and with green chile and cheese it was BIG and a damn fine eat.
4) Del Charro – When Del Charro, (located inside the Inn of the Governors hotel) first opened up, it promised to become one of Santa Fe’s legendary watering holes. In my eyes, it did this almost immediately by offering an affordable bar menu that included a green chile cheeseburger for around $7.50. Add in a pint of Guiness or Blue Moon and you’ve gone a long way towards having a legendary experience…
5) The Horseman’s Haven – Since it opened in 1981, the Horseman’s Haven has served up chile so tasty and fiery that you probably haven’t even read a review – just heard about from a friend whose tongue was still bleeding and whose nose was running like a sieve. It should come as no surprise that the same place with the amazing chile (and don’t you ever THINK about ordering the number two – it’s made up of ground jalapeno peppers and nothing else) has a pretty bitchin’ burger, particular one with green chile and cheese…Now I have to admit, I was to chicken to try it, but I’d bet it as good as the chile they coat it with!
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A Tough Act to Follow
By Gregory Pleshaw
At Indian Market 2008’s Native American Clothing Competition, two contestants – one, age-old Philip “Fuji” Noisecat, the other female, 13 year-old Wakeah Myers – stood out from all the rest to win Best in Show in their respective gender categories. But perhaps not everyone there was aware that the pair were actually brother and sister, and their outfits, resplendent to even the most casual observer – were both made by their mother Jhane Myers-Noisecat, (Commanche/Blackfeet.)
An internationally renowned ceremonial dancer and traditional beader, Myers-Noisecat wears many hats in the Native American arts community, as both an artist and an administrator for a number of prominent projects, including Executive Director of the American Indian National Center for Television and Film. Raised in Lawton, Oklahoma by her Comanche/Blackfeet grandparents, Myers spent her childhood dancing on the pow-wow circuit from one end of the country to the other. She is also a fifth generation dress-maker, and she currently divides her time between Los Angeles and Santa Fe, where she lives with her husband Ed “Archie” Noisecat and their six children.
On the day of the event, both Fuji Noisecat and his sister Wakeah Myers stood on the stage in their respective regalia. Philip was dressed in a traditional chicken dance outfit, complete with traditional bead work and old style colors along with traditional turkey feathers. Wakeah’s traditional dress was a southern Plains buckskin dress.
Throughout Indian Market, you can see hundreds of artists keeping tradition alive through the creation of their art works. Myers-Noisecat does the same, by keeping tradition alive through the creation of historical fashion that illustrate the tradition of her people.
“I wanted to make them both look as if they stepped out of the history books,” said Myers-Noisecat.
When I caught up with Myers-Noisecat, she was sitting in a booth that she shared with her husband Ed “Archie” Noisecat at the Heard Show in Phoenix doing one of the things she does best – educating interested passersby in her regalia’s origins, style, fabrication and meanings.
“There’s a lot of tradition to fall back on when designing a dress,” said Myers-Noisecat.
She points to a dress hanging nearby that is comprised of white buckskin known as a traditional southern competition dress that features what’s known as a “lazy stitch” of red, white, blue and yellow glass beads along the borders and long strands of white fringe hanging from the sleeves. As a final statement, bright yellow tassels hang from the piece, made from dyed horsehair.
“I like my pieces to tell a story with color,” she said, noting that designing the bead stitch pattern is one of the first things she does when designing a dress. The process of designing a dress is complex, but it has certain steps that Myers-Noisecat follows every time. First, she figures out what to make. Then she’ll gather all her materials, which in this case including 2 kilograms of background blue beads, made from Czech glass.
“It’s important to buy all of the beads at once to make sure they come from the same dye lot,” she said. “That’s how you can ensure that all the beads will be of exactly the same color.”
Then, she said, she cuts the front and back parts of the dress from tanned buckskin and stitches the beading into the appropriate spots. Then she sews the dress together. As the finishing touch, she individually sews on each strand of fringe and voila, the dress is complete.
Myers-Noisecat produces a photograph of another fine garment that she wore to the Avi Casino Pow-Wow for the Mojave Nation. It is a beautiful T-dress, comprised of black broadcloth alternated with blue ultra suede and covered with 400 elk teeth. As accessories, the photo shows her wearing elk teeth earrings and conch shell hair ties.
“Nothing is incidental to one of these outfits,” she said. “Every detail is carefully considered in order to reflect good design as well as historical accuracy.”
On a nearby table, there are a number of traditional dance shields designed and created by Myers-Noisecat’s husband, Ed Noisecat. Made of rounds of deer hide painted with Northcoast motifs, and festooned with cedar or sweetgrass ropes, Noisecat started making the pieces when his son Julian Noisecat (15) started to participate in traditional Salish dancing from his home base on the Northcoast.
“Traditional dance shields are worn on the dancers arms while dancing,” said Noisecat.
The Noisecats lead something of a charmed life – and a busy one. With a home in Santa Fe and Jhane’s job in LA, they are also on the go most of the time. When not commuting between the two locations, both Ed and Jhane are busy working on their individual art projects, or traveling from one end of the country to the other going to either art shows or Pow-Wow events – or both.
“She and I are an anomaly that you rarely find – as a champion dancer, she’s a star on the Pow-Wow circuit, while I find my grounding in Native American fine art,” said Ed Noisecat. “So you see this crossover between the fine art world and the traditional Pow-Wow circuit. Together, we can walk in both worlds.”
Because of her steadfast approach in designing her clothing and her experience within the fashion world, Jhane Myers-Noisecat was recently award the position of Chairperson of the Native American Clothing Competition. The Competition is one of the most widely attended events at Indian Market, and is arguably the most photographed as shooters jockey for position to get their lenses fixed on some of the most spectacular regalia seen outside of the pow-wow circuit. Myers-Noisecat has big plans for the event.
“I’m really excited because it’s the most photographed event and one of the best attended,” she said. “We just want to update it a bit, and make it more exciting and accessible. We also want to get more people involved, more sponsors, including at least one Native casino and a non-Native fashion designer.”
As for her own life and all it’s movement and change, Myers-Noisecat had this to say.
“In my house, art is an everyday occurrence,” she said. “But this is the way Commanches have always lived – in a mobile fashion. I am living my traditional Commanche life in a modern way.”
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400th Anniversary Commemoration
by Gregory Pleshaw
In 1610, Don Pedro de Peralta founded the city of Santa Fe under the direction of the Viceroy of Spain. We honor Peralta today with “the Paseo de Peralta,” a street which loops around the downtown district of the city of Santa Fe, as well as with a statue which lives next to the city’s main Post Office on the corner of Grant and Paseo de Peralta, but the entire city is soon to honor the founding of the city of Santa Fe with a year-long party that won’t soon be forgotten.
Today, Santa Fe 400th Anniversary Executive Director Libby Dover sits at her desk in the offices inside the Santa Fe Arcade on the Plaza downtown. Her hands are resting in her lap, clutching a sheaf of papers that contain all the plans – and some of them are still a secret – about the upcoming events.
All told, the commemoration is intended to last for 16 months, from the kick-off events of Viva Santa Fe during this year’s Labor Day weekend all the way through to the “Legacy Ball” closing Gala event on New Year’s Eve 2010. In between will be featured a number of exciting events and activities, including “This is Santa Fe,” a national webcast about Santa Fe to fifth-graders across the country; monthly lectures about Santa Fe arts beginning in September of 2009 through November of 2010; an outdoor cinema series in the summer of 2010; and “the Sounds of Santa Fe: A Musical Journey,” a collaboration between the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra and the Opera which will be presented and performed in September of 2010.
Though all of that may seem far away to you and I, to Dover it is closer than you think and soon to come alive for the entire community to enjoy. But it all begins with the kick-off party, Viva! Santa Fe, which will take place during Labor Day Weekend and feature a number of free and ticketed events on Fort Marcy Park’s Mager’s Field, (the site of Zozobra, for those of you locals who may be confused by the location.) At the time of this writing, the details on the particulars of who will be coming to perform and how much tickets will be are still up in the air, but Dover believes that there will be some hot surprises that will delight audiences of all ages.
“We are in the process of contacting a number of local, regional and national acts to participate in the celebration,” said Dover. “It would, however, be premature to throw out any names until we have some confirmation.”
In addition to commemorating the city’s 400th Anniversary, the events planned also have another agenda, and that is to help promote the city of Santa Fe as an historic – and affordable – destination city in these times of economic uncertainty.
“People aren’t heading to Europe as much as they might during a different economic climate,” said Dover. “Part of our mission is to make sure that we’re also running an effective tourism campaign to remind people about Santa Fe’s multi-cultural roots and to encourage them to come here for a visit.”
In order for that to happen, a lot of funding has to come together from a variety of sources, including local, state, and corporate financing. Maurice Bonal serves as chairman of the city committee for the 400th Commemoration and also serves as the President of the 501c3 that is producing the event(s). A lobbyist for over thirty-five years, Bonal is quick to point out that the current Legislative session is one of the toughest he’s seen in years in terms of available finances, but he is confident that the organization will acquire the necessary funding from this coalition of sources, including Governor Richardson, who is a strong supporter of the commemoration.
“This is a very important event for the city of Santa Fe,” said Bonal. “Not only in terms of commemorating the birth of the city but also as an opportunity to kick-start the local economy.”
Bonal has been in constant touch with the cities of Jamestown, Virginia and Quebec in Canada, both of whom recently commemorated their own 400th Annivesaries. According to Bonal, these events had a return on investment of between 10 to 1 and 13 to 1.
“This is an event that is important for the business community, as well as the city at large in terms of commemorating our local diversity as a multi-cultural place to live and visit,” he said.
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Get ready for another fine dispatch from Mr. Cranky Pants. I’ve been weighing the merits of this decision for minutes, calling friends, talking to various people, and just generally wringing my hands over an experience that I’ve chosen to share with you, my adoring public.
How many of us are carrying cell phones on our person 24 hours a day? How many of us consider our phones an essential and crucial tool for personal communication and expression? How many of us find it woefully ironic that an institution that might claim to be dedicated to dialogue and communication would deny us usage of our phones inside its walls?
I was at the opening for “Pretty Is As Pretty Does”, admiring what is, without a doubt, a thoughtful and well put-together show. And yet my singular most important moment at Site Santa Fe tonight came when I felt a tingle in my pocket and opened up my phone to read an incoming text message. I was about to reply to it when a docent approached me inside the PACKED house and asked me to put my cell phone away, because they aren’t allowed inside the gallery.
“I can’t even TEXT a message?” I said, incredulous.
“No, you need to go the lobby.”
Whatever spell had been laid upon me by the art on the walls had just been broken. Once again, I was treated to the notion that what lies up there – on the walls – is important, but whatever I have to say is unimportant and needs to be communicated elsewhere. Mind you, what I have in my hands is a Personal Communication Device – I could be making a phone call, I could be texting, I could be writing notes for a blog post, I could be posting to facebook or twitter about the wonderful show that Site is having and inviting all my friends to come down and visit it – but I can do NONE of those things inside Site Santa Fe, and I just find it trivial and annoying and reductionist that such a rule exists.*
(* Because let’s face it – the rule exists to keep some annoying twat from talking loudly to their broker in the middle of the “sacred space” that the art world likes to believe its galleries are. And like a million other pernicious laws in our not-so free society, it takes into account only the actions of the lowest common denominator and assumes that everyone is that ungracious. I AM NOT THAT UNGRACIOUS and I resent Site Santa Fe for assuming that I am.)
You can’t have it both ways – make a real LAW that everyone Must Be Aware Of. Post a GREAT BIG SIGN out front that tells people clearly that they can’t use their PCAs inside your building. I could’ve left mine in the car you know. Fuck it – I could’ve just stayed at home and spent my energy promoting something cool like Meow Wolf’s opening tonight, which by the way rocked the house and where I was not once prevented from calling my friends and texting to my heart’s content.
There’s something elitist and fucked up about preventing people from making a call or texting a text. It says that your communication is not permitted here. I’m sure that I have better places to be.
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