The Last Of The Bohemians
December 7, 2015
185 Nogal Canyon Road
Bent, New Mexico
The Last Of The Bohemians
Last night I walked into the hardware store in Ruidoso, New Mexico and asked the clerk, “Do you have a six inch stove damper?” She looked at me and said, “Huh?” I might as well have been the young convenience store clerk I met in Texas on my virgin journey west who asked me, “Wouldyoulikeasack?” My response had been the same and it took me a minute to realize she had meant, in my Yankee lingo, “Do you need a bag?”
In my case yesterday I was asking for something which, with my simple style of living, is all but taken for granted but has seemingly become a foreign language to the rest of the world. I told the clerk that it was for my woodstove pipe and she went to her catalog, still uncertain as to what I was looking for. I pointed it out to her as she was quite clueless and I finally had to call another hardware store, eliciting the same response and ensuing questions. “For what?” Luckily they had one though I had to notice the youngest clerk observing me with wonder as I discussed various means of knife sharpening with a fellow customer. That he was young and I am older had less to do with the fact we came from two different worlds, mine simple and basic, his modern and domestic……
I feel like the last of the Bohemians, (Non-conformist, Free thinker, Hippies) living a life such as others are too class conscious to consider. My children’s father, who was born in old Mexico, once asked me, “You are a hippie, aren’t you?” with an equal measure of fascination and distaste. In his country during the sixties the Hippies were the equivalent of the Hells Angels, a media tact meant to prevent mass revolt from the constraints of their governance. In the end it compromised our marriage as much as anything else. I met with a similar mis-judgement when I arrived here in Bent, New Mexico, when my neighbors informed me they had told our other canyon residents, “We have a new neighbor. She lives in a bus but she is really smart.” Really? If it had been an RV they would have admired me!
Perhaps it is a function of age. My values and principles originated fifty years ago which by any measure is still one half of a century ago. That may be, with any luck, half of my lifetime also. If I live to be one hundred and still live in my bus I will truly be an object of wonder and discussion, though I already am. My neighbors’ daughter (Love you Meg!) idolizes me and when she stopped by she told me, “I love your bus!” So do I and I live very comfortably. A small armload of wood is all I need to stay warm and my rent is cheap in spite of the beauty of my surroundings. I also have the luxury of having a ‘mobile home’ with far more substance than anything I could buy from a conventional manufacturer, mine’s better!
When I was a girl in upstate New York I remember wandering back behind my friend Shari’s middle class housing development to a place called Hippie Haven. There was a cluster of small cabins which had originally been a Jewish Kibbutz where ultra-religious Hassidic Jews had resided. The buildings had deteriorated over time and after they were vacated the Jews then rented them to the local Hippies who we had befriended out of youthful wonder and curiosity. They too had wood stoves, as I do now, and lived a wonderfully simple life. I decided to replicate the same and have never wavered from that choice. I have never returned there but I imagine those houses were condemned and bulldozed many years ago as the land values increased and building codes stiffened. I often wonder where those people went but as with the local Native population I grew up with they were displaced many years ago. I have been fortunate to find my own haven of sorts here in rural New Mexico but I am already becoming a pariah here also. There are many places that prohibit my lifestyle and in time I too may be pushed out by ordinance or regulation. For the moment I am safe, even if I have been reminded once again that the world is changing around me. Someday I too may be remembered as the last of a primitive race. That’s ok, I can live with that.