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Duke City Enchantment - Memoir (1 Viewer)


Senior Member
To start off - I recently went through a couple of big life transitions and although I am happy with the direction things are going, it has put me into a bit of a slump. I'm feeling anxious about the future and thus I have been nostalgic for the simplicity of the past. This is an area of my life that keeps coming back to me lately, so I decided to write it out memoir style in hopes of helping myself through this process. So, here we go. Critiques are welcome (I didn't do any editing whatsoever so I'm aware there's probably some grammar mistakes), as I wouldn't mind publishing memoir-style nonfiction sometime in the future.


I think about the desert too much these days. The way I used to run back and forth across its dusty trails in my youth. I’m still young, but I was younger then, 19 or 20, right when you start to think you’re figuring things out. A couple years later you realize you don’t know a damn thing.

But I was still at the optimistic stage, ready to start a life fresh from the blue depths of adolescent depression. I was an adult now, at least legally, and I could polish dishes for enough money for a greyhound ticket to Albuquerque to visit my best friend. She was already out on her own, living with a boyfriend, living a life I was envious of, even if underneath it lay all the turmoil and confusion of most first time relationships and unwanted independence.
The greyhound trips were long and lonely; vast expansions of red rock, lilac skies and strange seat neighbors. I kept to myself with my $200 cash tucked away and a switchblade in my pocket, just in case. Once they put me on the autobuses americanos where I was the only white girl and the only non-English speaker for over 20 hours, and it was peaceful.

Once there, there was little we could do. Not old enough to drink but too old for anything else. We spent our days at the little niche corner of Garcia Patio in Old Town, visiting shops where we’d made friends with local artists. One shop in particular was our favorite, because it spoke to our liberal little souls the most. The owner was a jovial gay man who made calacas and shadow boxes inspired by Day of the Dead and the darker parts of the bible. He knew all the Saints by heart, even the strange ones that the Catholic church refused to claim anymore. He made shrines to them with red glitter fire and skull faces, a mixture of macabre and lively beauty. We’d fall silent when unsuspecting tourists wandered into the shop and turned around and left 5 minutes later. He would roll his eyes, and tell us about how many times a day he got asked if he worshipped Satan, “As if they can’t see all the crosses I have in here.”
We’d stay until after dark to hear ghost stories from local paranormal investigators, who took us around town and pointed out all the historical sites where people had died or where rumored bones still lay under the soil. 3 soldiers under the gazebo, a dozen more in random spots throughout the park, moved there by the Rio Grande flooded church grounds hundreds of years ago, and nobody bothering to put them back in their place. We’d come home and light a stick of sage and smudge ourselves like we’d been taught by our Seminole and Navajo family members, to make sure none of them followed us home, seeking our warmth and laughter.

If we were weighted too heavy by the world, we’d visit the small adobe sanctuary tucked away behind the plaza. We’d get on our knees in front of Guadalupe with candles. I was never a Catholic, in fact I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, and my former Kingdom Hall members might have an aneurysm if they saw me bowing my head in front of an idol. But I felt warm in her embrace when I was in this place; she represented the calm emptiness of the desert and how it could hold so much while giving so little. It was the only time in my life I felt anything close to religious.

Despite how innocent it all seems, we had our moments of young infatuation and trouble, as well. House parties with beautiful boys in russet skin who spoke different and saw different than the boys where I was from. They came from mysterious and decidedly non-anglo lineage and that was when I began to figure out I would never end up with someone who looked too much like me. I craved their intensity and sun-scented dark hair. They had soft lips and deep voices. They kissed with everything and spoke of very little. At powwows I always eyed the grass dancers, their braids swinging in their fluid motions. My friend and the other Natives we hung out with called it “snagging”, which was just a clever way to say hooking up. I was the most green of the bunch, so my snags never got into the territory of actual sex, but innocent discovery of words and a few caresses of mouth or hand, and that was enough to send me twitter patted for weeks.

My trips had to come to an end eventually, though much more abruptly than I had hoped. Like most young couples who moved too fast, my friend and her boyfriend had a violent falling out. She moved back to the swamps of Florida and married a white boy, and within a few years she had 2 children. I went to college and fell in love with someone on the East coast, and the only desert I saw after that was the occasionally glimpses from our hotel in Las Vegas, where my boyfriend takes me every year for March Madness so he can make some money.

I don’t get to see that friend as often as I’d like, but I still talk to her every single day. She was and is my sister, my best friend, and we cemented that bond under bright, southwest skies filled with sweetgrass scented smoke. To this day, I feel a yearning deep in my chest for that time and that place, whenever I see a silly kokopelli decoration or get a wisp of desert air through my hair.


Senior Member
I would suggest that you pretend you are writing this for someone, instead of just a rambling of thoughts I would add some more context to what you went through and try to tie more of it together. The experiences you had made you into who you are. There will come a time when you're someone's mom, someone's grandmother and someone' long ago ancestor. I would write in that context

You make some great observations and tell a good story, I think with a long term focus who might read this it good be very good. Just my two cents, I did not comment on SPag based on your intro... Bob