Lost in Holy Faith City not directionally but existentially in a hotel just off downtown so can still walk in and get a gin and tonic with quinine to prevent malaria and not have to drive though once the sun goes down I feel dumb wearing my new stetson, the black one that most chicks dig (or the chicks that are my friends) too tired to do anything but watch Scarlett Johansson or her shell in some future city. Fortunately she’s the kind of woman other women don’t mind you liking (and I have since Perdido En Tokio). Go to the Cowgirl for nachos and the band which has three women so I figure better odds than last weekend with the fiddler w/sparkling legs but nah just hang out on the patio watching the drama among youngsters thankful I’m no longer young though wistful for one young thing—even her muffin tops are kinda sexy and being alone in a bar is the worst.
The only thing that makes sense in life is to go live on top of a mountain which I will do soon after the snow melts and I can get to my fire lookout tower—just waiting for that instead of moving forward, instead of acting which is what Scarlett Johansson says is all that matters or does she? Or does she end up valuing memories because I’m not sure I do. I’m not sure I believe in ghosts either though I think in Japanese ghost and soul are the same? Just like heart and mind? I like my mind and want to like my heart, I just closed it down a long time ago—safer that way but thus sitting on a mountain, meaning were all those taoist and zen monks and nuns like that? Like me? Does the spiritual practice fit with one’s heart? Do we choose it because it’s safe and won’t force us to confront our heart/mind? Is that why I think compassionate zen is bullshit? Though I’m talking sexual love I think—compassion is being kind to assholes, even those who drop mothers of all bombs.
I tried to go out and be social but I’m just too tired of traveling and sleeping in the back of my truck reading Virginia Woolf: A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas and finding that she’s funny. I don’t like her novels but love her essays which is how I feel about Barbara Kingsolver and maybe what people would say about me but also reading Canada by Richard Ford and finding the voice of the fifteen year old boy familiar—especially all the feelings he leaves unsaid. This after wondering if I even liked fiction anymore when I think I like fictional characters more than I like real people whom I have to talk to which is exhausting though real female ones I could touch even just a little even just their feet while we listen to jazz out of the cloud or who knows prog metal Ukrainians w/female vocalists who sing cookie monster. What does one do in Holy Faith? What do I have faith in? Besides my ability to think too much?
I have faith in the decentness of humans despite everything—despite the assholes who are just scared and probably have small penises but yet they kill people w/big expensive bombs which helps nothing except maybe our ability to perform resource extraction and hurts everything so how can I have faith and how much attention should I pay? Virginia Woolf would say to give no attention but I fear that’s what the capitalist warmongers want is for us to not pay attention, to instead go see Scarlett Johansson in tight body suits fuck shit up, kick bad guys except the bad guys might be good? Is that deep or do I really just care about Scarlett Johansson in her underwear while the crazies are in power in America, except the crazies are always in power. I had a mandatory presentation at the District office about government ethics and had to laugh at the checklist: all the things Congress and the Executive Branch do, like take gifts and money.
Not like I’m a liberal though, or that liberals would like a green-ass motherfucker like me—all the social justice warriors spouting off about how Scarlett Johansson should have been Japanese to which the all the chinese and japanese producers would say no japanese actress can pull in the viewers, to which the SWJs would say that’s horrible, to which the producers would say that’s business. Not that it was a great movie. Blade Runner is a great movie (either version—Director’s Cut better maybe) and deals with the same issues of memory and identity, and the original Ghost In The Shell was animated with an impossibly thin anime woman and didn’t make much sense but then life doesn’t when MOABs are dropped in Afghanistan to kill 38 bad guys—sorry about innocents but that’s war. Their families will be grateful to us because this was a humanitarian mission, nothing to do with an oil pipeline—it’s because of them muslims.
Snow up in the Sangres and Mount Baldy but sunny melting morning. That feeling of safeness having two nights at a hotel, that day in between when you don’t have to worry, you can sleep in and not have to leave. Some people have that feeling all the time, they own houses and have families and I’m privileged to even afford a motel, yes and I’ve been harassed by cops because of my long hair though never beaten or shot and I don’t know, cops enforce the system that’s their job and if you dont like the system—and most of us dont—then that puts us outside if not against, or if you went to Oberlin or Yale above it. Or if not outside, hidden inside, trying not to get noticed though I don’t want drunk drivers and I don’t want people shooting people in the streets and I don’t want my truck stolen like one was once—lost all my possessions all my books and backpacks—wasn’t as traumatic as you’d think, I still only mostly own just what fits in the back of one except for boxes of books I leave scattered. Life would be lighter if I didn’t read.
Wandering lonely as a cloud in the woods in the foothills in the Sangre de Cristos day before Easter seems somewhat relevant and where do all the rich people in Santa Fe come from? Both tourists and residents. I used to live here fifteen years ago it was the same only now seems accelerated? More stucco faux-adobe trophy houses. Where do they come from what did they do to get money except I think they were born with it—easier to make money when you have money, easier to jail the black kid for selling pot because he can earn more than working at McDonalds. Ungrateful bastards. I am sick of Holy Faith I’m bored. Holy Faith costs money—$31 for a pizza except Portland’s the same way—Seattle New York—I’m up for a teaching job in Colorado and I’m not even sure I have faith in edumacation. Bill Gates giving out money to school with stipulations like you gotta choose immediately and stay on track to get student loans so you have to sell your soul oh Holy Faith go fuck yourself.
Holy Faith doesn’t stop for Easter tho: you can still do yoga still get a coffee or tea, still go to the co-op for a breakfast burrito, still listen to the latest american winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Clear blue sky melting off the snow on peaks preparing the way for your hermitage and the Pope delivers another call for peace—we all know what good that will do. Besides who cares about catholics or coptics even—americans all for religious freedom as long as it’s protestant. Holy Faith part of the spanish empire until stolen, though stolen from the natives and what happened to Standing Rock? Bulldozed over for a pipeline just like Afghanistan though I guess bombing our own natives maybe a bit too much for now. All that money spent on violence could be spent on solar could be spent on a green tech jobs program but that would put the generals out of work and any politician that does that gets shot we all know that and yet young men and some women still sign up to serve their country as if their country weren’t run by rich white men—true what other options do they have maybe, and maybe they have faith, maybe even the holy kind, or the appearance of holy, because our presidents appear religious, appear humanitarian, even when dropping bombs.
But everything is perfect dear friend. I’ve got the blues but that is somehow perfect, that is somehow just how life is, don’t listen to the doctors so-called, don’t medicate, take life blue and make it funny, even people you don’t like are funny—though they drop bombs on other people ,which isn’t, so don’t believe me what do I know except the meaning will change, the meaning has already changed, like a punk band covering “Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard” and it’s worse in Kabul and Juarez—be grateful only do things you’re grateful for, only work a job you’re grateful for though say yes if something is offered, not sex necessarily but opportunities—I said yes to Santa Fe for two years and I’ve said yes again to Cerro Pelado Lookout, waiting for my nights on Bald Mountain when Holy Faith is visible, which is when it’s most beautiful.
In Holy Faith men fall asleep to loud televisions in drunk motel rooms on Cerrillos and won’t come out if you bang on the door but will turn it down. The motel blues we’re all just trying to get along, all just trying to sleep a good night so why not compassion for others around you. But compassion I’m not sure exists in Holy Faith, compassion requires thought, Holy Faith does not. Holy Faith surrenders thought to someone else, the Pope or the President or your favorite punk band but my ghost in my shell sees your ghost in your shell, my ghost and shell see the suffering of your ghost and your shell and I feel (I think) the suffering of the ghosts and shells in Syria Afghanistan Iraq and all the lesser American wars. I don’t know what to do about their suffering. I think I could do something about your suffering. I think I could listen though it’s hard when my own shell’s suffering leads me to mountain tops away from the Holy Faith blues. I wish everyone could have solitude if desired. I wish we could all be left alone sometimes but you can’t you have to engage. Find a way to engage.
So leave Santa Fe even for the day. Get out in the woods in mesa country and find a secret canyon all your own to explore, follow the drainage up crossing over snowmelt creek. Watch a snake climb a cedar tree. Reminds me the time I saw a rattlesnake swim across a river. Get to the head of the drainage and sit on a rock, listen to the nothing of birds and wind, no humans for miles which is always nice. No one knows where you are can you feel that? Stop by the creek on way down you have all afternoon, read a book or just sit some more. Cloud buildup way out to southwest, could be rain or even dry lightning. Cumulus puffs and horsetail cirrus streaks. Still april and the pine needles are dry—fire season here even with snow still up on Redondo. Slow walk down sipping agua, cactus scratch on left leg, back to barracks for a shower and change and down to Los Ojos for a veggie burger and fries. New bartender Rachel makes the food taste better. Sun down behind Virgin Mesa. Play some guitar.
Tomorrow to my mountain home far from Santa Fe. Still could see a fire, still could warn the people in Holy Faith if I don’t have my head down in a book, or practicing mandolin scales, hopped up on tea. Doing a food buy for the week or weeks. Cold front moving in—cold even during the day here—at 10,000 feet I’m gonna freeze. Stocked on books and music. Santa Fe blues of waiting: to leave, to go. Waiting to wait, waiting to make the long drive up, waiting for fire season though already here—dry and windy all we need is real heat. ABQ campers already leaving campfires. Stir that stuff douse with water. Caldera calling—get the sleeping bag ready I’m going home.
And what is faith anyways but faith in oneself—you thought I meant santa fe en Dios but faith in oneself requires confidence, confidence in how you live in life i.e. faith comes from ethics i.e. non-violence patience compassion, not rejection of everything which is nihilism, dude. Nor certainly greed because why have you come all this way? To make six figures? Has the money made you any happier? I may not be happy and I’m not sure anyone is all the time but I’m learning to be content, though I still crave things—guitars books and a good four-wheel-drive truck w/a camper shell for my ghost to sleep in at night in the woods but trying to live good and only keep what fits there. Could you cut your life goods down to a truckload? Does that sound scary or freeing or both. Scary because freeing. Though I’d like a house for a guest perhaps, fellow travellers travelling through. Maybe even a woman or two.
Born in Puerto Rico, John Yohe has worked as a wildland firefighter, wilderness ranger and fire lookout. Best of the Net nominee x2. Notable Essay List for Best American Essays 2022 and 2022. @thejohnyohe www.johnyohe.weebly.com