I saw him with my own eyes.
No fake beard.
It had to be him.
I had an appointment in Abiquiu (the village an hour north of Santa Fe where Georgia O'keeffe lived) to smoke a ceremonial Cuban cigar with artists/friends Joe Hall and Doug Coffin.
Upon arriving in Abiquiu I stopped at Bode’s (pronounced Bo - dees) General Store to do some immersive-culture stuff, like ordering a green chile cheeseburger.
Famous green chile cheeseburger at Bode's.
Bode's slogan: "Here a long time."
Since 1919 to be exact.
Near the cash register they were giving away free homemade cookies and punch, and taking free photos with Santa. An old-timer was playing guitar and singing Christmas songs.
The line of people with their kids and Santa’s friendly smile made it pretty dang obvious that this was the real deal. Either that or Bode’s went to Central Casting in Hollywood and paid big bucks for a character actor to come to Abiquiu. So which explanation is more believable? Anyone? Anyone? Exactly!
Santa Claus at Bode’s General Store in Abiquiu.
After eating two-thirds of the giant green chile cheeseburger I drove across the Rio Chama and up the dirt road to Joe’s adobe. Joe and I walked across the dirt road, carrying three Romeo y Julieta Cuban cigars, fresh from London, to meet Doug at his studio, a journey of about 100 feet. Doug brought out a bottle of Port, then we went to the studio patio that overlooks Plaza Blanca, an awesome white canyon landscape made famous in several Georgia O’keeffe paintings (also known as The White Place). Since I brought the cigars, I got the patio chair where Doug’s pal Dennis Hopper would sit when they were smokin’ and chillin'. So we smoked and, as they say in Hawaii, talked story. A beautiful day. Maybe the last really perfect day before Winter sets in, Doug observed.
Doug Coffin y Romeo y Julieta y Port
Soon after our chat turned to opera (specifically, the opera Otello that Robin and I attended in Germany), Doug gave me this LAOpera hat that he modified by adding a “heartline” to it. Very cool, I think. Very.
Since it’s gift-giving season I gave Joe, Teresa, and Doug a Happy Whatever drink coaster,
featuring a self portrait. Note the nice mermaid wine glass.
No, I didn't give them a nice wine glass, just a cheap coaster.
We finished the cigars, and the afternoon, inside Doug’s studio, chatting and feasting on his eclectic collection of art, artifacts, drawings, and photos. Joe and Doug were enthusiastic about my idea to organize a drawing event in Abiquiu, for which I’ve already talked to a couple of the Tuesday Night Drawing Group models who are interested and willing to make the trip. That'll be a project for early next year.
Joe and I walked back to his side of the dirt road where his-wife/my-friend/artist Teresa joined us in their studio, which is also full of amazing and beautiful art: metal art, jewelry, and wearable art. We discussed ideas for artistic collaboration, coming away with some very enticing ideas.
As I drove back toward Santa Fe after dark, I barely missed getting caught up in the Española Parade of Lights. Hundreds of cars parked on each side of the highway, bonfires, tents, families, all waiting for a parade of lighted floats that must be a local secret, since I’ve never heard of it down here in Santa Fe.
Recap: a Cuban cigar while enjoying the view of Plaza Blanca; a glass of Port; art; green chile cheeseburger; a hat; coasters; friends; and yeah, Santa, who, up until today, I thought was a fairy tale.
Quite a memorable December day.