by Jim Terr
I had lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico for 23 years before it occurred to me to offer to move back to Las Vegas, New Mexico (the “original” Las Vegas!), 65 miles east, where I was raised, to help care for my mom, aged 92 at the time.
My brother had been doing the honors (living with her, in her beautiful red-brick Victorian we were raised in) for a year, and I thought I’d offer to relieve him. My mom couldn’t believe my offer, recalling that a year earlier, when she had asked me if I’d like to move over there, I had responded “I’d rather slit my wrists.”
My suicidal reluctance had been due to my attitude that Santa Fe was fascinating, culturally alive, hip, filled with beautiful, interesting people and romantic prospects, whereas Las Vegas (population 15,000) was insular, uninteresting, provincial, stagnant.
As I was cleaning up to move out of the place I was living in, my ever-active songwriting mind was generating a beautiful tribute song about Las Vegas, my home town, perhaps as a coping mechanism, a reflection of my deeper excitement about moving back there despite my well-developed bad attitudes about the place.
Now, a little over six months since moving back to Las Vegas, I am able to see more clearly what a tremendous transition was involved in moving back – and in gradually overcoming the horrible attitudes I had developed about my dear little old home town.
Going to shop at Wal-Mart, as I was often requested to do, was grueling. Not only was the store unfamiliar (and also evil, in my political theology), but the shoppers looked bizarre, primitive, a projection of everything I feared and disliked. Learning the routine of taking care of my mom (in truth, nothing too complicated or difficult – and she’s a warm, funny person with whom it’s very easy to get along), was a chore.
(…Excuse me. Madame just rang – literally – we have a remote chime system – for me to go down and horrible green bug from her bed. I told her it was just a big, bright green grasshopper. She insisted it was not, that it was “something different.” In any case, it disappeared before I could capture it.)
I was exhausted, constantly, for months, perhaps just from the many levels of transition involved. Perhaps from, as friends have suggested, just the necessity to be on call, of “keeping an ear out.”
What a difference a few months make. When I went up to the local radio station one morning for the “back fence” forum, a free-for-all for whoever wants to show up, it seemed everyone was there to talk about some local initiative for education, local agriculture, child care, the farmer’s market, and so on. It strikes me that this is as progressive a town as the famously-liberal Santa Fe! Perhaps this is going on everywhere and I just wasn’t aware of it.
The local newspaper is thin, and only appears thrice-weekly, but the editor and the lead columnist write extremely thoughtful, interesting, wide-ranging pieces. The letters to the editor are also thoughtful and articulate. I take a yoga class once a week from among the many “alternative” exercise and healing choices.. There are things I haven’t even gotten around to, like weekly swing and Latin dance gatherings at the university.
I listen to a country “oldies” station, something I wasn’t able to get in Santa Fe, and it has stimulated a tremendous songwriting streak for me. (Or perhaps it’s just my gift to myself for “doing the right thing.”) I see much more of my family, who are always cycling through the house from near and far, including a couple new babies who have joined the tribe recently. I feel much more connected to neighbors and the neighborhood than I did in Santa Fe.
People are real, interesting and attractive (now that I’ve stopped imagining them otherwise). I can take beautiful hikes close to town, and get amazing photos everywhere --like a miraculous series of dragonfly close-ups.
Every shop on my itinerary, including the health food store and the pharmacy, is no more than a five-minute walk away. And the dreaded Wal-Mart ended up inspiring one of my most financially rewarding songs ever.
And now, returning to Santa Fe, going into the Trader Joe’s as I used to do every day in order to shop and socialize, seems a little bit bizarre to me. The little old home town has once again become the norm – and it only took six months!
Jim Terr is a documentary producer, song satirist, video producer, actor, and “free-lance-creative”, whose website is www.JimTerr.com. On that website are links to some of the songs mentioned, such as Mama Don’t Send Me to the Big-Box Store ).