Purple and yellow irises are in bloom in the high desert when I head out on my speed walk, huffing behind my bandana. I saw a wild white poppy today. Ravens and crows are proliferating here in Santa Fe, cawing at 5:30am in chorus with higher-pitched singing birds. It seems to me there are more crows than before the virus. We are also having a severe moth invasion, but let’s not think about that.
Our governor is finally ordering mask-wearing in public places. For weeks she’s been recommending mask-wearing, but half the population here has been ignoring that. At Whole Foods in Santa Fe, some shoppers even disdained the giveaway mask available at the entry earlier this week. Wearing a mask shows respect and caring for others. I live with constant worry about this beast of a virus. Hearing Dr. Bright’s “darkest winter” rebound predictions this week resonated with me. Like he said, let the scientists speak.
I’m calming myself with Fields of Flowers homeopathic remedy. Taking pleasure in how my scallions are sprouting by a sunny window. I was thrilled at how well my so-easy-to-bake Irish Soda Bread turned out. This week I made myself a personal icon on my iPhone. I’m looking forward to the arrival of the floral masks I ordered. I think we will be wearing masks for a long time. Most days, I work on a screenplay I’m co-writing with a partner. It’s a fabulous escape that makes me feel stronger and more productive. I’m grateful that I remain healthy.
My friend Amy Hoban always said, “Only boring people get bored.” It made me realize I should take responsibility for boredom instead of succumbing to it. I’m home for endless hours now due to Covid 19, like most of us who aren’t heroes working in health care, grocery stores, government, and delivery jobs. I’m very scared, but I’m not bored.
I’m finally using the Calm app to meditate. I’m on Twitter following the awesome Gov. Cuomo; on Facebook where friends are sharing Edward Hopper’s solitary paintings; on Instagram admiring Bosque springtime buds from deborahwakshull and cheeseburgers from marketsteersteakhouse; on LinkedIn connecting with movie crew colleagues. I’m baking Irish Soda Bread. Co-writing a screenplay. Rewriting a novel. Doing mini Qi Gong sessions with my iPad. Taking Fields of Flowers calming tincture. Most of all, I’m trying to distract myself from coronavirus fears.
It helps to connect with the people I love. My cousin in Long Island declares with all the conviction of a New Yorker, “This isn’t gonna get us dead, Wolfie.” My friend in Albuquerque advises where to buy masks. Two chums in Connecticut plus my brother in Lake Tahoe recommend online bill-paying. An Eldorado buddy who’s a talented novelist suggests we critique each other. My screenwriting partner who’s also a realtor says we can use this time to collaborate more and maybe change our futures. My Jungian astrologer considers that coronavirus showed up in the stars as a dark collective transit for winter 2020; she thought a war might erupt but now believes the virus is an agent for change to help heal the planet.
My friend Sharona in Sacramento cut to the bone commenting, “If it’s my time to go, at least it’s a fast way to die.” Bleakly comforting, right? Sharona was one of my best pals in our twenties and thirties. We were wild together then, living in LA’s Laurel Canyon, hang gliding in Laguna Beach, taking Quaaludes. We did everything we wanted, including working in the rock music industry. Now she’s got auto-immune problems and is on infusions. And I’m terrified of not being able to breathe on a stretcher somewhere. At least we both know that we’ve made the most of our lives.
It’s August, the high season in Santa Fe. Cars with California and Colorado plates are everywhere. A writer from the Denver Post was at the gym today after reviewing “Cold Mountain” at the Santa Fe Opera last night. Santa Fe is green and verdant with wild sunflowers everywhere, courtesy of all our thunderstorms this year!
I had an excellent dinner of shared small plates the other night at Santa Fe's new Radish & Rye (http://www.radishandrye.com/) farm-inspired restaurant! Fried green tomatoes with sharp cheddar dip, grilled cauliflower with pecans and capers, radicchio salad with anchovy dressing, and hanger steak salad. Everything was super fresh and artfully composed. Radish & Rye is up there with Santa Fe’s other top restaurants like Joseph’s, Restaurant Martin, and Geronimo.
Two movies I recently saw and recommend: the documentary Amy and the YA-leaning Paper Towns based on the John Green novel. And two cool things in Santa Fe that I’m newly hooked on are the rowing machine at Santa Fe Spa (http://santafespa.info/) and the Coffee Date drink with decaf Iconik coffee, dates, pecan milk, kale, carrot juice, parsley, and cinnamon at Verde (http://verdejuice.com/). As for what I’m reading this summer—just finished Primates of Park Avenue and now I’m deep into Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave, which is set in Sonoma and wonderfully atmospheric while delving into the inner lives of a handful of appealing characters. For more about Santa Fe life, follow me @wolfschneider1 on Twitter!
Sometimes the perfect Santa Fe day is the hubbub of Indian Market or the new IFAM spin-off market. Sometimes, it’s the relaxation of a spa day-pass at the lavish Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe, sprawling over 57 pristine high-mountain acres.
First was a restorative slow-yoga class led by the enthusiastic Kat Sawyer, who specializes in Vinyasa flow-oriented yoga. We did eagle and warrior poses, and got into a calming, freeing groove. French doors opened onto the courtyard where a breeze rustled through aspens and birds conducted their subdued conversation in the morning sunlight. “It feels like we’re doing yoga on a lanai,” commented Sawyer.
Feeling grounded and at peace, I climbed onto a shiny Precor treadmill with its individual cardio theater for a 200-calorie burn off in the gym, and then wandered into the immaculate spa where I settled into a chaise lounge by the Jacuzzi to peruse this summer’s popular memoir, My Salinger Year. Lunch followed on the patio of the resort’s Terra Restaurant: splendid Santa Fe Style Chilaquiles with scrambled egg whites, smoked bacon, onions, cilantro, tomato, and green chiles, along with a spicy Virgin Mary with fresh horseradish. Gazing out onto the distant Jemez Mountains, I watched visitors pull up in a silver Airstream with Texas plates, a BMW from Colorado, and a Porsche that was New Mexico’s own. “We’re one of the smallest Four Seasons resorts with just 65 rooms. There’s a perception that we’re like Scottsdale, but our high season is summer,” friendly director of sales Frank Lococo told me. “People know about the art here, but they don’t always know about the fly fishing, rafting, mountain hiking, and mountain biking.”
My mission today was relaxation, remember, so I simply spent the rest of the afternoon stretched out on another chaise lounge, this one by the sparkling pool, watching puffy white clouds amass while reading about life as a literary agent. Calm and content.
Used to be, flying from Santa Fe to LA meant embarking on the long haul down I-25 to Albuquerque Airport three or four hours before the flight. This last trip, I made the easy 30-minute drive across Rodeo Road for the 50-seat American Airlines direct flight out of tiny Santa Fe Airport. An intimate affair, the American Eagle flight is operating four days a week right now. Coming back was even better, navigating through giant LAX to come upon folks I knew at the small satellite terminal for the Santa Fe flight, including everyone's favorite Santa Fean, the gracious Ali MacGraw.
I was in LA for the ICG Local 600 Annual Publicists Awards, where a thousand or so publicists and Hollywood glitterati showed up during LA's biggest downpour of the winter, making their way to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel amid mudslides in the canyons and flooded streets. I feel like this is the best event of the awards season for seeing all my lifelong friends and colleagues in the entertainment media. The Golden Globes, Spirit Awards, and Oscars are the crème de la crème, but at the Publicists Awards Luncheon the glamour quotient is perfectly calibrated at an amiable pitch, this year’s event highlighted by the participation of Tony Goldwyn, JoBeth Williams, and Shailene Woodley. Most of my LA schmoozing this trip took place in Studio City and Sherman Oaks, where I was lucky enough to stay at a friend’s house in the Sherman Oaks hills. It rained the whole time, with the orange trees plumping up while roses, geraniums, and wildflowers bloomed profusely.
Arriving back in Santa Fe, it was so great to get my gate-checked wheeled carry-on in less than five minutes, pull it on over to my car that was parked for $3 a day a few feet away, then drive home and make a big pot of Trisha Yearwood’s excellent chicken tortilla soup recipe, and watch the Oscars. Mixing up a Santa Fe life with an LA life might be the best of both worlds.
Now is the cold and quiet time in Santa Fe, when we stoke our fireplaces with piñon and cedar wood, and reflect on our lives with grounded energy as bare branches shudder outside. Santa Fe often goes its own way. So far we’ve escaped the polar vortex. It’s mostly in the teens and 20s when our days start and we’ve had some snow. We relish our 325 days a year of sunshine now, parking where sunlight streams into our vehicles. In January, town tends to be lightly occupied, mostly with locals in puffy jackets, some skiers, and business-suited legislators here for the session. The opulent Texans and Oklahomans in their sheepskin coats who contribute greatly to our economy were living it up during the holidays, but now they're gone. It's just us, reading new books like Cindy Chupack’s witty The Longest Date, glued to the new season of “Downton Abbey,” and taking comfort among ourselves.
We've got two new restaurants to do that at. At the high end is Joseph’s Culinary Pub (www.josephsofsantafe.com), with rustic fare like the Pumpkin, Kale, Corn, and Local Porcini Enchiladas ($22) and Crispy Duck ($28). Affordable to all is chef/owner Brian Knox’s new Shake Foundation, with a soft opening underway for its green chile cheeseburgers, starting at $3.95. Knox usually veers towards more highbrow establishments, like his legendary Café Escalera, Aqua Santa, and Standard Market, and everything he does is quality (his friend Bruce Nauman designed the logo for Standard Market; yes, that Bruce Nauman). Myself, I’ve developed a jones for the Field of Greens drink custom-blended at La Montanita Co-op (http://lamontanita.coop/). Only movie craft service key Ernie Montoya makes a better green drink. On the horizon is Santa Fe Souper Bowl XX on February 1, with more than 25 restaurants competing with a hot cuppa something imaginative.
A patch of wildflowers in Santa Fe today
Here in Santa Fe, birds are chirping, cottonwoods and elms are leafing out, wildflowers are blooming, and it’s light until almost 9 PM. Almost everybody seems to have a Santa Fe connection, come summer. Did you see jockey Mike Smith win the Belmont Stakes on Palace Malice this weekend? Smith is related to gallery owner Nedra Matteucci, whose lush, green sculpture garden is looking like an elegant little Central Park right around now.
Patio dining is in full swing at Charles Dale’s Bouche French bistro, where gourmands are flocking. At just 6pm all tables were taken during my recent visit. This week, Panera debuts its new Santa Fe location, while last week Bobcat Bite shut down on Old Las Vegas Highway but is soon to re-open downtown at Garrett’s Desert Inn. Santa Fe’s hottest months are June and July, and heck, this week is looking like a scorcher with temperatures soaring into the 90s for the next few days. We hope we get lucky with some rain to help contain the wildfires in the Pecos Wilderness and Jemez Mountains.
Travelers are flocking into town, either on daily direct flights into Santa Fe from Los Angeles, Dallas, and Denver, or the new JetBlue service from New York to Albuquerque. Among the swanky hotel deals is one at the Fairmont Heritage Place El Corazon de Santa Fe, with its viga fireplaces, clay plaster walls, and luxurious monthly stays at fairly reasonable rates, according to a friend who’s booked herself in for the summer. She was lucky to find it, and I’ve been lucky to be working hard on a movie with some great folks these last few months. “Successful people recognize their luck,” Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes just commented in AwardsLine. “Anyone who is perceived as very successful who says luck played no part in it is lying.” I think he’s right.
The spa at Rancho Encantado yesterday
Winter in Santa Fe is all about staying warm despite the snow and ice glistening on adobe walls, crunching underfoot, and the temperatures dipping down to six and seven degrees. Souper Bowl XIX, where chefs compete for best soup awards, is gearing up for January 26. The usual suspects should get ready for some steep competition from two awesome new chefs in town: executive chef Andrew Cooper and sous chef Keith Smutny at Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado (try their chile rellenos).
I’ve loved Rancho Encantado since I first came to Santa Fe to work on the Filmmaking in New Mexico special issue for The Hollywood Reporter years ago. The dude ranch’s founder and then owner Betty Egan reminded us of Barbara Stanwyck in "The Big Valley"– – a commanding cowgirl in jeans and Western boots who was just as at ease on horseback as at an entertainment business reception. She encouraged me to move here. I bought my horse Ryo from a wrangler at Rancho Encantado, and boarded him at Rancho Encantado for years, embarking on exhilarating rides into the Sangre de Cristos. He was a tough little mustang, and made me braver. And then there were the tranquil hours in the barn spent grooming him as the ravens cawed outside. Of course Ryo and I also had fabulous times in Malibu when we lived in LA, riding year-round through groves of sycamores where we often sighted deer darting through the foliage.
Yesterday I was back at Rancho Encantado, which is now the posh Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado (http://www.fourseasons.com/santafe/). It's as gorgeous as ever – – 57 acres of pristine mountain foothills dotted with piñon pine and juniper trees, casitas sprinkled between the trees. Even though the architecture is now more contemporary than Western dude ranch, the ravens still fly through and the resort still exudes serenity, especially in the fabulous spa, where I had a Sacred Stone massage that sent me over the moon – – grounding, soothing, and healing. In the locker room afterwards, I chatted with a local who has a spa membership. "I come here almost every day. I work out in the fitness room, take a sauna or steam, have some apricots and pecans in the warming room, and meet the nicest people. It's a special place," she said. So true.
Up at the Santa Fe Ski Basin on Sunday
Tesuque’s apple trees are full of fruit, the aspens are turning yellow up at the Santa Fe Ski Basin, and by month’s end there will probably be snow flurries. October brings autumn to Santa Fe. It’s time to stock up on firewood, hike at Aspen Vista (I was there on Sunday, along with everyone else and their dogs), and enjoy dinners out on still-warm evenings when a sweater or hoodie suffices. So far, October is living up to its reputation as Santa Fe’s best month. The harvest is in full bounty, with nights dipping down into the forties and days in the seventies.
Last night I went out to Taberna, the new in restaurant just opened by James Caruso, chef-owner of the popular La Boca. Both Taberna and La Boca are Spanish-style tapas taverns, with similar menus (http://labocasf.com/taberna-la-boca/). Despite being located in a tucked-away downtown courtyard invisible from the street (you can enter from Lincoln or Marcy), Taberna was packed last night. Santa Feans can be counted on to turn out for gourmet repasts like this at reasonable prices. Our favorite dishes? The grilled artichokes, salmon wrapped around goat cheese, roasted eggplant, and Spanish sausage.
Meanwhile, I’m gearing up for the Tony Hillerman Writers Conference, taking place November 8-10 at the Hotel Santa Fe (http://www.wordharvest.com/). I helped develop the “Writing with the Stars” workshop where best-selling thriller novelist David Morrell (best known for the Rambo books) and agent Liz Trupin Pulli will take to the stage in front of the crowd to deliver flash critiques of selected works submitted by conference attendees. If Morrell is in as high form as he was last year, it’ll be a savvy and witty affair!
Kenneth Johnson at the gala with friendship necklace
Wild sunflowers are blooming everywhere in Santa Fe and this past weekend was our biggest happening of the year – – Indian Market, with artists’ booths sprawling all over the Plaza and thousands of visitors. At the fancy auction gala on Saturday night, the silver and turquoise friendship necklace collaboratively created by Indian art stars Tony Abeyta, Kenneth Johnson, Cody Sanderson, and others sold for a whopping $60,000!
I enjoyed meeting top-achieving realtor Ann Brunson, who just helped somebody buy a house for $80,000 but usually is wheeling and dealing on multimillion-dollar properties. It was fun to hang out with my Phoenix friends from Native Peoples Magazine, publisher of the in-depth Indian Market Magazine. And I bought a pair of silver earrings with channel-inlaid coral from Hopi-Assiniboine jeweler Steve Wikviya LaRance, who uses all natural stones and materials (nothing stabilized or enhanced with radiation to make the turquoise bluer). LaRance recently moved from Arizona to the Santa Fe area, and has been seen as a background player on the hit TV series “Longmire.”
It's been a busy summer. I spent time in L.A. just off Laurel Canyon at a rustic property a friend is considering turning into a small B&B for entertainment industry crew (firstname.lastname@example.org). The house is nestled deep in the canyon among California oaks and elms, walnut trees, avocado trees, and eucalyptus trees, the trees keeping it wonderfully cool, and the sounds of frogs and an owl helped me fall asleep. Then back in Santa Fe, I happily got busy working on a great indie film! One last thing – – what a perceptive 20-page article on Bruce Springsteen by David Remnick in the July 30th issue of The New Yorker.
Above: My mustang Ryo in Tesuque, NM. Our barn owner in Malibu described him as Ghandi-esque because Ryo didn't fight for the best feed bin like the other horses. When Ryo died in Tesuque, I turned on my car radio to hear John Lennon singing "Imagine"... that was Ryo "living life in peace."
PHOTOS BY WOLF SCHNEIDER