The Ugliest Plaza in America?

By: Bill Whaley
29 April, 2018

Greetings to Tourists

You Can’t Put Lipstick on a Pig!

On Saturday morning, April 28, around 10:30 am, I strolled around the Plaza to check the accuracy of recent photos posted on Taos Friction, photos that detail the decadent character of the steward (s) at the historic Mercado de Taos. The photos don’t do justice to the continuing injustice. I suggest you quit reading right now: this polemic is rated “X” for aversion therapeutics. (I am about to offend many friends and do-gooders, who have worked diligently to promote and preserve Taos even as they have, unfortunately added to the “clutter” of “conformity”: “Bad Taste.”)

The Mayor’s favorite dish—roast pig—is embodied by the Plaza. The “little green boxes” tacked to trees remind one of local progressive “Greenies,” who idolize Solarism, but which cost is borne by the poorest members of KCEC (as is Broadband). Electric rates skyrocket at the REA Coop, due to the imperious demands of the CEO and the Traveling Trustees, who have transformed the member-owned organization into the “Guzman Gulag” by borrowing and borrowing and spending and spending. See the balance sheet.

Meanwhile, some of my best and most longtime acquaintances hug trees, plant them, and wander out among them. Indeed, Spud Johnson of The Horse Fly, 1938 and the historic Laughing Horse, promoted arborism along Paseo del Pueblo Norte as did the reprehensible Manby in the early 20th Century at Kit Carson Park, where the father to developers and realtors rests in peace (or maybe not). So I was anxious to see the ” New Native Cottonwoods” on the Plaza, planted next to Taos Pueblo’s 1990s era gift, the dead White Fir (due to “over-watering” by town employees). Press releases say the new trees would be further blessed by former Cacique Pete Concha’s son, Mike.

And there they were: the foreshortened trees about the height of a parking meter, surrounded by silvered aluminum corrals on the grass, next to the dead White Fir Tree, which towered over them like a monument to incompetence or maybe to the Abeyta Agreement and Well No. 5, which pumping mechanism had followed in the wake of the dead White Fir, according to press reports last week.

(Whatever you do, Mr. Mayor, don’t spend a dime on maintenance or new motors while you pave the streets for your re-election.)

Or perhaps the silver-metallic installations on the lately installed green sod contribute to some new artform, like the poster art hanging from the faux London-style “Victorian” light posts, which dot the perimeter of the New Mexican Southwestern Plaza in all their anachronistic glory, even as the decaying black benches, which replaced the handcrafted log seats with wooden legs, where Los Viejitos sat, straw fedoras, white shirts, Khaki pants or Levis, so many years ago. Today’s metallic and painted but peeling black benches have quaint Bavarian figures painted on them (by an artist friend decades ago) and still bubble in their Munich Teutonic display, more reminiscent of Ernie Blake than Padre Martinez.

The elongated fingers of Padre Martinez pointed out and down even as the misshapen statue was troubled by posters above with images seemingly by Larry Bell and Ron Davis, two third-wave contemporaries, whose work requires for viewing a certain mode of light and reflection so that you can see the surface and play of light. The wrinkled Bell canvas did not display to advantage in anything like the verisimilitude of the actual art per studio or gallery. That is if you could even see the work through all the wires and distractions posed by the Mayor and CEO’s love of wiring up trees and faux lamps, while blotting out portions of the sky itself.

The “tone” or attitude of the stewards toward tourists and locals exacerbates the hostility of the commons. Skateboarders and skaters are warned off by signs. Chains and steel guard concrete War Memorial, which plaque mentions veterans of WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, etc. and sits beneath the New Mexican and American flags, the latter flies 24-7, due to the Kit Carson unionists, who kept hope alive during the Civil War by defending said Flag and Taos was recognized for its moral support of Lincoln’s attempt to overcome the north-south schism, the war to end slavery. So, like the newly planted Cottonwood Trees, the Memorial is chained and bound: “Don’t tread on me.” Three small bronze figures representing American soldiers are dwarfed by the symbol of Christianity, a religion currently being undermined by its practitioners, whose twisted progenitors have traded God for Caesar (mammon) in Washington D.C.

Only last week the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, a Catholic Ayn Rand figure, fired the house chaplain, a priest because the latter had the temerity to bring the message of Jesus and the Gospels into a debate re: “fairness” for the hoi-polloi, not just the wealthy, as if he, the priest, were who? Pope Francis? Shame. Shame on those who would criticize Roy Moore for pedophilia, Alabama jurist, candidate, and philanderer.

I left the dirty bricks, the bump and grind, up and down byways and throughways, where clutter is celebrated with yellowed brick and architectural mish-mash, leaving behind the memorial to the Doctor’s lover and a former Mayor’s wife, the foot-high memorial, there in the central park, and headed down Paseo del Pueblo Sur toward the Quality Inn. At the seemingly moribund motel Speaker Ryan and McConnell’s masters met, the Koch Brothers/ ALEC (rightwing smash and grab American Legislative Exchange Council) for a workshop. I remembered that KCEC is an ALEC member, due to their affiliation with the NREA.

But, yes, the troops of the Taos Progressive outnumbered the cult of Koch: there were more pickets than attendees in the former Blair roadhouse, once a hotbed of political meet and greets. Later in the evening of the day, I enjoyed the White House Correspondent’s Dinner on TV wherein comic Michelle Wolf lacerated Trumpers, left and right, media progressives and conservatives, which commentary spoke to the bankruptcy of American politics.

For those of you, who have read my book, Gringo Lessons, you will know that I lived on or around the Plaza every day for about fifteen years, 60s, 70s, 80s. And I have, over the years, kept coming back for more because I love the neighborhood and feel joined at the hip with the ghosts of my homies, like Saki, Tom, Cal, Ruthie, Mike, Gil, Geno, Paulie, Rosemary, Richard, Tano, Jim, Dave, Leo and the kids. So I feel confident in criticizing that which I love. For today “Taos on the Plaza is one butt-ugly art Town.” It wasn’t always thus.

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