July 23, 2014
I may not really remember the plot of a book, but I always remember the character as well as where I read the book. Raymond Chandler’s “Farewell My Lovely” was read in Taos New Mexico sometime in 1974. Which means I was somewhere between the age of 19 and 20. I remember reading this book because it was the book I took for this trip to Dennis Hopper’s ranch in Taos, for a family vacation. At the time, Dennis wasn’t around, I think he was on location making a film, but what I do remember was the hostility between Dennis’ camp and the citizens of Taos. At the time, it felt like to me that I was placed on the border of the West Bank and Israel. I can’t remember their names, or the main host or person taking care of Dennis’ home, but what I do clearly remember is our first night in Taos, and trying to locate a restaurant for our first dinner in Taos with the Dennis camp. It seemed when we went into a restaurant, it became closed. It was on the fourth try that we found a place that would serve us. I think it was Fonda hotel that served us dinner that night. After dinner, we all got in a van and drove around the town. The citizens of Taos who were on the street sort of gave a dirty look to the van whenever we passed them. We even went past the neighborhood movie theater, which ironically enough belonged to Dennis. It seems like he booked Bunuel films for the theater. What was really noticeable was the gunshots and holes throughout the building, including the lighted marquee. Dennis' friends didn't seem to notice or cared about this fact, but I thought for sure this couldn't be a good sign.
When we got to the house later that night, and prepare for sleeping, I became aware that everyone living there was armed. It seemed that there have been gunshots towards the house over the last few months, and luckly no one was hurt, but the feeling was that there was consistent danger of someone coming into the household and killing everyone. At least that was my thought as I tried to enter a world of sleep that night. A few days before I left for Taos, I purchased a used copy of "Farewell My Lovely" from a used bookstore in Santa Monica. It was a cool mass market paper back from the UK and according to the copyright page it was published sometime in the late 1950s. The edition and author were perfect for the car trip as well as something to read at the Hopper compound. Well, that was the first thought, the truth is I held on to that book as something that may either save me from being shot to death, or better yet, an escape route from this hellish family vacation.
Dennis’ home used to be owned by Mabel Dodge, who was a wealthy patron of the arts, and eventually moved to Taos to start an arts colony. She died in 1962, at her home. One of her famous guests was D.H. Lawrence, and they had a fraught relationship. She wrote a memoir about her years with Lawrence called “Loreno in Taos.” So one could feel the vibrations of the house but it was in total conflict with the outside world. My mother mentioned that she saw an old woman standing by the drive-way one day while we left to pick up breakfast. She later recognizes her as Mabel Dodge, due to a photograph of her that was in the household. There is something very spiritual about the Taos landscape that I personally find terrifying.
I picked up one other book that I found in the Hopper residence, and that was "The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception" by the Christian occultist, astrologer and mystic, Max Heindel. I was drawn to this book because I found it in my bedroom, and it was obviously ancient. When I was looking at the copyright page, it was dated 1909. I read bits and piece of it, but it wasn’t Raymond Chandler, that’s for sure. The most interesting part of the book is when he wrote about the “invisible plans, ” which there are many. There is our life on this planet (i.e. Taos) and then there're different forms of consciousness that transcends the known physical universe. Nevertheless it did seem to me at the time to be the perfect book to have in Taos. I gained the impression that I was living among a cult or worst yet, several cults. The only place that I felt safe was the Fonda Hotel, just because it appears to attract people from outside the state and they seemed (to me) perfectly normal.
I counted the moments and seconds till we left the area. I never felt more secure and alive when we headed back towards Los Angeles, a city of dreams, and a city that Max Heindel spent a great deal of time as well.