Indian Market, 1989

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I’ve been to Indian Market only once in my entire life. Way back in 1989, I went with my friend, Barbara Ortiz. At the time, I was a Visiting Scholar at the University of New Mexico, studying Indigenous land relations.  I commuted to campus from my studio apartment on Girard, taking the bus each day.  Since it was summer, there weren’t that many people around.  However, since this was well before the era of online courses, anyone attending summer school had to show up in person.  Consequently, that’s how I met Barbara.  She was from Laguna Pueblo and worked for the American Indian Student Services office at UNM.  Lucille Stillwell was the AISSS director, while Barbara served as program coordinator, which was a fancy way of saying secretary.

Anyway, Barbara had a car—a big old giant Oldsmobile—and I didn’t, so she was the one to invite me out for the day around mid-August. I actually didn’t know what Indian Market was at the time, but it sounded fun, so I said, “Sure!” Barbara, as it turned out, really didn’t like driving around Santa Fe, so she asked me to drive us. No problem. Not having a car all summer was kind of a drag. So, I seized the opportunity to get behind the wheel. The open road between Albuquerque and Santa Fe felt good! Upon arriving at our destination, I vaguely remember a dirt lot where we parked that was a bit of a hike from the Plaza. I also remember thinking “This Plaza is kinda small and CROWDED!” when we got to where all the booths were set up.

Not knowing what to do or where to begin, Barbara and I started meandering around, two brown dots in a river of white faces. All the other Indians were in their booths, some dressed up in their tribal regalia, while others looked like Billy Jack, with a few looking like regular people from the Rez. Although I’d been to events at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, AZ before, this was different. From my point of view, as a Pima Indian, the Santa Fe Indian Market was a combination swap meet-and-zoo. I guess as a unique experience, Indian Market was fun and interesting, though I get a bit uncomfortable being around that many white people. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy anything because I couldn’t afford it, neither could Barbara. So, at the end of the day we walked back to the car empty handed and drove back to Albuquerque.

Along the way, we gossiped about people we knew back on campus and what we were going to have to do when Monday rolled around. I remember telling Barbara about meeting Greg Cajete at his office on the edge of campus, where the American Indian Studies program was located. I also told her about the Luci Tapahonso poetry reading that was held outdoors on the UNM campus, and how she started talking to me like she’d known me a longtime, asking me how my writing was going? We’d never met before. I also saw Tony Hillerman that summer. When we stopped for coffee, Barbara told me about her life at Laguna and how she started working at UNM. I found out, after being friends with her all summer, that she’d been married before. As the day turned to twilight, we hit the road again, talking away, as Santa Fe became a memory, far behind in the distance.

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My Heard Museum Experience: A Crossroads of the American Southwest

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Ever since I can remember, the Heard Museum has been a prominent part of the City of Phoenix.  Founded in 1929, the ranch-style complex has sat just north of McDowell Blvd on Central Ave.  Because of its Hopi Kachina collection, Navajo jewelry, and an array of pottery samples, not to mention its changing contemporary art exhibits, the Heard galleries have long been at the crossroads of American Indian art and society in the Southwest.

While the museum has undergone a variety of changes over the years, what hasn’t changed is its place in the Phoenician and local American Indian communities, both of which regard the Heard as a citadel dedicated to Indigenous cultures.  Most importantly, as an Indigenous person, I especially appreciate the museum’s concern for not limiting the portrayal of Indigenous peoples to the distant historic past.  In addition to the ethnographic collections of traditional arts are the galleries honoring the generations of children who endured the hardships of the boarding school system, many of whom went on to create works that are still influencing modern American Indian art.

Equally Important is the recognition that Indigenous nations exist throughout the Western Hemisphere, including various mestizo populations, such the ones in Mexico.  Indeed, the ongoing exhibit “Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera” is a stunning example of the complexities of the Indigenous experience, which exceed notions of tribe, language, and blood quantum.  Indigenous peoples, in contradistinction to popular stereotypes, have recurrently adopted alien influences, creating innovative responses to the rapidly changing world around them.  To see some of what I saw recently, please click on the photo, which will take you to the photo album I posted on Flickr.  Thank you!

When Horses and Bison Ruled Europe: Werner Herzog’s ‘Cave of Forgotten Dreams’

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Watched Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010), a documentary about the oldest known painted images. They were found in Chauvet, which is in Southern France, and have been dated some 25-33,000 years old. This place radiates with beauty. An exceptionally sacred area.  Belying the myth of the “caveman,” the images left behind by these ancient artists are evidence of a spiritually sophisticated culture, which likely possessed a complex oral and ceremonial tradition, in which the great animals depicted on these cave walls were immensely powerful and revered beings.

‘Eye of the Needle’, or ‘The Spy Who Pretended to Love Me’: If James Bond were a Nazi agent and played by Donald Sutherland

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When I recently found a pocketbook edition of Ken Follet’s Eye of the Needle, I was reminded of Richard Marquand’s 1981 film, starring Donald Sutherland and Kate Nelligan. The story is an intimate one, involving a Nazi spy trying to escape with info about the Allied invasion at Normandy, but who gets swept up in the life of a lonely woman and her family off the coast of Scotland. At the same, the film evokes the epic sweep of one of David Lean’s grander endeavors. Richard Attenborough’s work also comes to mind. Obviously, I liked this movie.

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Desert Botanical Garden

For most visitors, the Desert Botanical Garden is a part of the Papago Park area that conjoins Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe.  Moreover, it sits as an oasis, where one can escape the surrounding world of freeways, strip malls, and other features of urban sprawl.  For the Akimel O’odham, or Pima, the Desert Botanical Garden is a reminder of when the land was theirs.  Nearby is the Salt River, or Onk Akimel, which is where the First People—referred to as the Huhugam—constructed one of their many canals.  Eventually, the canal-based civilization that the ancient O’odham created would give way to the more modest villages that Spanish, Mexican, and American migrants encountered throughout more than a century of colonization, which culminated in southern Arizona becoming a part of the United States in 1853, when the Gadsden Purchase was made.  Since then, as the Akimel O’odham land holdings shrunk under the steady flow of settlers entering the Phoenix Valley, the surrounding towns grew into cities, leaving only small pockets of pristine desert behind.  The Desert Botanical Garden, although the product of modern park management, is nonetheless a pleasant diversion, in which one can catch a glimpse of what was once here long before the first subdivision was built.  Please click on the photo to see more images:

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If you ever met your doppelgänger, what would he think of you?

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Spent my evening watching Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Doppelgänger (2003). It’s about an inventor (Kôji Yokusho) suffering from an acute creative block, who encounters his double. What results is a scientific breakthrough, the price of which is murder, not to mention the inventor’s sanity. The story is a dark comedy, which is a complete departure from the kind of films on which Kurosawa built his reputation, namely ‘Cure’ and ‘Pulse’.  At the same time, Doppelgänger clearly exhibits Kurosawa’s fascination with the paranormal.

‘Goth’ (2008): Gen Takahashi’s Ode to Death and Beauty

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Like most adaptations from novel to film, Gen Takahashi’s Goth (2008) is more of an interpretation of Otsuichi’s 2003 award-winning story than a literal representation.  Rather, I should have said stories, as the original novel was more of an anthology of morbid tales than a single narrative, in spite of the recurring presence of its two main characters, namely “Yoru Morino” (played by Rin Takanashi) and “Itsuki Kamiyama” (played by Kanata Hongô).

As such, whereas Otsuichi’s novel recalls a number of gruesome murders that occurred throughout the area in which Morino and Kamiyama live and go to school, replete with the sordid details and an exploration of the killers’ minds, Takahashi’s film focuses more on the relationship between the two main characters.  However, by “relationship” I do not mean anything the least bit romantic.  On the contrary, Morino and Kamiyama are drawn together by their mutual fascination with the horrific aftermaths of killings, a perverse “hobby” that ineluctably leads them onto the trail of a serial killer.

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Even more compelling, though, than solving these crimes is solving the mystery of Morino. She is the antithesis of the cute and exuberantly cheerful Japanese school girl. She is consistently sullen, yet alluringly beautiful in her Black Lolita-style school uniform. As for her relationship with Kamiyama, as mentioned above, it is not romantic, nor is it much of a friendship.  Probably the best way to describe their union is that it is commiserating—they understand each other’s attraction to death.  Consequently, because Kamiyama understands Morino in a way that others before him did not, he becomes the conduit between Morino and her darkest secret.  Indeed, as the story proceeds, even after the serial killer’s identity is revealed, Kamiyama continues to lead the viewer further into what’s hidden behind Morino’s black, melancholy eyes.

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