Misty Mountains, Silver City

When Jim and I left Albuquerque for Silver City last Friday, the weather was overcast with occasional light rain, so we didn’t have much incentive to stop along the way.  Nonetheless, the mists and clouds made our drive through the mountains in the Gila Wilderness breathtakingly beautiful.

Silver City

In addition to lots of lovely mountain scenery we saw deer, wild turkeys, and — crowning glory — a grey fox!

Our hotel was the historical Murray Hotel in the old part of town.  This was definitely a great location to be staying both for the events related to the Southwest Festival of the Written Word itself and for general touring.   When we arrived we were surprised to find that the hotel didn’t have a parking lot, so we parked directly behind the hotel, on Yankie Street, then walked around to check in.

When we did this, I asked about parking.  Veronica, the very friendly clerk, confirmed that the hotel didn’t have any dedicated parking, but added that we were welcome to park in a small lot on the next street.  Because I was concerned about how narrow the street behind was, we did this…  Turns out this was a very, very good idea.

(In a story, the preceding sentence would be called foreshadowing.)

After we had checked in, we walked over to the Festival headquarters.  Despite this being Friday late afternoon in a college town, the streets were almost empty – not only of vehicles, but of pedestrian traffic as well.  Later, as we walked around, we discovered the reason.  Most of the shops closed at 5:00.

We needed dinner, so we reluctantly skipped the Opening Ceremonies and keynote speaker, Stella Pope Duarte’s, talk.  After a nice meal, we walked around so Jim could take pictures and we could get a sense of our surroundings.  A few galleries were open.  When we popped in, we found everyone universally friendly and happy to chat.

That night we were awakened by a thunder and hail storm.  The next day, we learned that –depending on where in town you were – between two and a half and three inches of rain had fallen in about an hour.

Remember the street we’d originally parked on?  The one directly behind the hotel?  Over breakfast, one of the people we were chatting with told us that the street had been at least fifteen inches deep in water.  Veronica’s kind recommendation saved us almost certain damage to our vehicle.

After breakfast – during which we had the chance to make up for missing the keynote speaker’s talk by talking to her over bagels and coffee – Jim and I set out to see more of the historic district.  Jim particularly wanted to take advantage of the soft light for photos.  The destruction from the storm was evident everywhere, including pavement that had buckled under the strain and mud heaped against the curbs.  It was probably a good thing that many of the curbs were well over a foot high, because otherwise the sidewalks would have been buried.  As it was, more than one shop was being mopped out by diligent owners.

Jim and I discovered the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market, where we bought fresh pineapple quinces that were touted by the farmer’s young daughter as “full of tropical goodness” and assorted apples from a farmer who gave God full credit for the quality of his wares.

Once stores opened around 10:00 a.m., we popped into a few of the quirkier ones.  Then, just before 11:30, I availed myself of the Tranquil Buzz Coffee Shop’s kind promise to give free coffee to speakers, and so fortified headed off to the El Sol Theater for my first program item, a chat with local writer, Frost McGahey.

Unlike far too many “interviewers” I’ve dealt with, Frost had really done her homework.  This raised the level of our chat above the sameness that often makes so many “meet the author” type events rather bland.  Perhaps inspired by Frost, the audience also came up with a number of really interesting questions.  We chatted right up to the wire, then I went out and signed books.

After that, Jim and I went to have lunch at the Little Toad Creek Brewery.   Over lunch, we chatted with two other participants: Peter Riva and Sharman Apt Russell.  While Jim and Peter discussed recent archeological discoveries, Sharman and I delved into why writing about the natural world fascinates us both.

Following lunch, since I didn’t have another program item until 4:30, Jim and I set out to continue our exploration of historic Silver City.  By now the sun had come out, changing the quality of the light, so Jim was busy with his camera.  The streets were less flooded now, but Yankie Street behind our hotel still had a creek running down the middle – and this with a storm sewer audibly roaring beneath.

Once again, before my program item, I availed myself of the Tranquil Buzz’s coffee, and then went to the Seedboat Gallery to take part in a seven-author round-table discussion.  Our moderator was J.J. Amaworo Wilson, who – despite having arrived from a book tour in Australia only a few nights before – was well-prepared and very, very funny.  The participants were lively and interesting.   I’ve made a note of several whose works I want to look up in the future.

Every so often, J.J. would halt the flow of questions so that he could quiz the audience.  Many of the quiz questions were built around scathing Goodreads reviews of the works of famous authors, with the prize going to the first person to identify which author had been publicly humiliated.  What amazed me was how fast people in the audience were to catch on.  I’ll admit most cheerfully that, except for some of the most obvious, I was completely lost.

Following the round table discussion, Jim and I retired to our room to rest, then headed off to a potluck dinner at J.J.’s house.  There we linked up with Adrienne Celt, a talented young writer who also does the weekly web comic loveamongthelampreys.  I’ve long been curious as to what it takes to produce a web comic, as well as what sort of person might write one.  Adrienne was extremely patient about my numerous questions.  I hope she enjoyed our chat as much as Jim and I did.

After this very full Saturday, Jim and I were happy to retire to the Murray Hotel to unwind, and finally sleep, this time without a thunderstorm breaking up the quiet of the night.

Sunday morning dawned bright and clear.  After a chance conversation with a newly arrived guest, we learned that the road through the Gila Wilderness was now clear of storm debris, so we decided to take the opportunity to see the Black Range again, this time in sunlight.  We stopped numerous times along the way, including the tiny town of Kingston, and the only slightly larger town of Hillsboro.

We made it home in time to get some groceries, reassure that cats and guinea pigs that we were back, check the garden, and then… Well, it was Sunday night, so we hosted our weekly role-playing game.

Now I’m back behind the desk with my head full of stories.  Time to put some of them into written form.

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