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  Pastel Art of James Southworth


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Santa Fe

By Jean Southworth

February 1998

Piles of laundry sit in the bedrooms, unopened mail on the counter, volunteer school projects approaching deadlines. Oh well, I’d rather catch up on my e-mail. We’re in post-vacation mode in this house. On Monday night Jim and I returned from Santa Fe, New Mexico while the kids rolled in from McCall, Idaho. Mom, Dad, Melanie and Andy bravely took our three on a wild five day ski vacation, a feat almost beyond belief. They didn’t have to do this. Nobody asked them to. They actually SUGGESTED it. Knowing our kids pretty well, Mom and Dad wisely broke up the Zach-Annie fighting combination for the long drive using separate cars, so I know that there was some element of sanity involved.

Of course, the kids had a fantastic time and Taylor experienced his first time on skis. Initially he made great demonstration of his flexibility by (accidentally) contorting his limbs and skis into every conceivable combination. Mom and Dad had to stop and de-tangle him from time to time. By the end of the first day, determined Taylor wanted to ride the big lift, BY HIMSELF. "No," answered Grandma, to which the tired little boy announced, "Then I’ll ask AUNT MELLY!" Back at the condo, Taylor built an ice sculpture out front then passed out from exhaustion on the bedroom floor, fully clothed. By the end of the third day, Taylor was whizzing by everyone in his Olympic snowplow, and said that he wanted to move to McCall, permanently.

Zach and Annie, now relative experts in their second season of grandparent ski camp, reveled in full-time aunt and uncle attention. It doesn’t get much better than that. I asked Zach if he’d had to be reprimanded for anything during the trip. Apparently all he heard was along the lines of, "Be nicer to your sister."

While relieved of parental responsibility, Jim and I explored art galleries and ate countless meals of New Mexican cuisine, which essentially amounts to one word: chile pepper. Most food products are slathered in colorful chile sauce and the question of the day is, "Red or Green sauce?" Outside New Mexican restaurants you’ll find reports on the heat of today’s peppers, not unlike ski resorts listing the day’s snowfall. Jim has never been a fan of Mexican food, especially hot Mexican food, but he gamely ate the spicy New Mexican version to the point of once breaking out in a sweat. He kept on eating. Yes, Jim was truly caught up in the spirit of Santa Fe.

Now a budding acrylic painter, Jim also took on the art circuit of the city, where the number of galleries is unfathomable. Being off-season, we were often the only customers in these expensive and famous galleries, and detected a bit of salivation at our entrance with "tourist" written all over us. Little did they know we weren’t interested in buying anything, just gaining inspiration for Jim’s developing art skills and soaking in the displays.

On our final day in New Mexico, we took a road trip up north. We stopped at a famous Catholic church, the Santuario de Chimayo’, to which people pilgrimage from miles around to collect the "holy dirt" inside, which supposedly has healing powers. We also visited the Taos Pueblo, a 1000 year old multi-level adobe structure still occupied by the Indian tribe. (They are Indians here, not Native Americans.) The Indians charge for admission to their pueblo, as well as requiring payment for the privilege of taking photographs, videos or even sketching. We were restricted on where we could walk, what we could photograph, etc. and found ourselves carefully monitored as we tromped by watchful Indians and resting dogs in the muddy village. Despite this, we found it fascinating. I think I finally got most of the mud off my shoes, too.

Just before our big trip, we enjoyed another unusual party in Salem, given by Jeff and Lori Phillips. While most folks are fatigued by party planning, Jeff is energized by it and looks for any remote excuse to host another celebration, especially if it involves surprises and costumes. Thus the party to commemorate our friend Ed Higgins’ hiring as an FBI agent. We had to dress as our favorite secret agents and Jim and I decided to go as Austin Powers. So we made a visit to the local thrift store, Value Village, where we discovered that the uglier the clothing item was, the cheaper it was. We hardly spent any money.

Using his dental skills, Jim constructed an Austin Powers-like denture with some of the most disgusting teeth you’ll ever see. I frizzed out my uncurled hair, wore funky jewelry and liberally applied blue eye shadow and shiny pink lipgloss. I think I resembled Janis Joplin more than Austin Powers.

Another friend named Wendell, already an FBI agent, dressed as a dentist in an attempt to counteract all the dentists dressing as secret agents. This took me a little while to figure out.

Now we’re back from ancient Indians and 1960 hippies to the modern day, that is, basketball. Zach’s countless game schedule is nearing a close. Only two more out of town weekend tournaments. Seems that kids his age are already feeling pressure to chose one sport and work year-round improving in that sport. Not Zach. He’s a season-only man. Maybe that’s why he’s always "most improved" each year. When you start out rusty you’re open to great progress! This kid never practices one minute more than necessary, although he does enjoy the season while it’s underway. Zach has improved a lot again this year, but he accepts that he’s no all-star. Or as he told Jim at the beginning of the year, "I’m not one of the best players on the team but I get better grades than all of them." We may need to work on the humility a bit, but I have to say I like his general attitude.