Tuesday, August 02, 2011


THIS WAS A DAY OF STRANGE EVENTS AND FEELINGS---I've recorded it as best I can with pictures. I show the ending first to suggest how serendippity pulls me where she will. This is Carmalita---I was "destined" to meet her before the day was over--in a very strange place.
I saw this and got it into my head to go to the other side of the mountain where that rainbow ended.

It's not easy to get there---first I drove the length of this valley---I take my rig with me---I'm not coming back.

I cross a 9,800 ft pass.

On the far side I'm attracted down this gravel road--- something immense on the horizon is drawing me.

A home-made sign gives me pause. I think it says LAND OF DEATH Zapata lives. A warning?

There's the immense thing that's drawing me. And a village of some sort at it's base. Now I'm intrigued.

Nary a soul in sight---an old old spanish village.

Still, not a soul. Houses everywhere vacant.

Abandoned---like the folks just walked away.

Then out of the blue---this strange sight---a little old lady just staring into this unusual building. Of course I want to engage her. I turn to get my hat and turn off my engine----and suddenly she's gone. Must have gone through that doorway. I'll go find her!

Can you read it? LITO'S BALLROOM----can you believe it---a ballroom in a tiny village.

I'm surprised to find the door slightly jammed. I pushed it open and picked my way through the entryway.

Whoa! What has happened here? A major collapse. I see no sign of the lady.

A bandstand stage---pieces of an old piano.

Then on the far wall---Carmelita----that's the name I've given her. With no one to tell me what happened here----I shall have to improvise: Once this was a lively, thriving, frontier town of happy people who loved to dance and so they constructed a ballroom. The best dancer in the village was Raul----devlishly handsome---and when he took the floor---all the ladies swooned. Carmelita especially lost her heart to him---but alas, she had no talent for dancing and just sat and yearned as Raul swirled the other girls round the dance floor.

Desperately in love--she turned to the holy mother for help. A nearby grotto captures the moment Carmelita begs for the gift of graceful dancing. And in an instant knew in her heart the request was
granted-----that her feet and body were now infused with the fire and skill and rhythm of the gypsies. She made herself a dancing dress and when next the ballroom filled on a snowy winter night, she boldly moved to its center and while curious eyes marveled--- began to sway in perfect rhythm to the music. Alone on the dance floor--so graceful that Raul was smitten. Moving onto the dance floor like a toreador, he embraced her and together they did the dance of love. The band seized the moment to play flamenco music. The couple began to stamp----first one and then the other---then both together in such wild abandon that the walls and ceiling began to shake---the crowd cheered---the couple stomped faster and faster---Suddenly a loud crack and timbers began to fall. The people all ran away but Raul and Carmelita---continued to dance. That was the last the town ever saw of them. Some say they slipped out the back door and ran away together.

Bodies were never found. But as a tribute to the miracle dance they witnessed that night---the townspeople placed the shoes they were wearing on the spot the couple danced the flamenco so fiercely that the roof caved in. And there they remain to this day. Some say that after a long happy life together both passed on---but on special occasions---Carmelita's spirit returns to this ballroom to give thanks again to the virgin mother for her miracle.

Search as I may, I never found the lady---but I'm thankful she led me to this dramatic site.


Anonymous said...

Randy, this is way cool!

I had lambasted you a few weeks ago for your remarks concerning old folks, but I'm still reading.

This post about Carmelita captures, for me, in a nutshell the romance and serendipity of traveling around unfettered as you do, siezing moments.

Keep following the rainbows!

- Joe

Ash said...

I love it! You find the most fantastic and out of the way places.

The Tuckerbag

Wayne (Wirs) said...

"I show the ending first to suggest how serendippity pulls me where she will."

It's pronounced She (capital S). :)

I'm glad you're hearing Her whispers --- and thrilled you're listening. :)

Tesaje said...

And this is how myth is made :-)

Good story. I guess the lady was hiding from you, not knowing who or what you were.

Anonymous said...

Tierra o muerte means 'land or death', I think. It's a Land Grant thing.
That place, the mountains, really looks like Monk's Mountains I climbed (0r something like that) off I25 behind Las Vegas, NM.
A Penitente place of self flagelation
and local hispanic religious extremism.
It is a funny place for Flamimgo dancing, but it is always beautiful to see artful expression.
Bushman sends respects.

Jay said...

Beautiful post, friend. Reminds me of a favored poem passage:

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

The whole thing is worth reading. Your shaking is mine, and it keeps me steady. I have to go my own way, but I learn from yours. Your life adds meaing to mine, friend. Keep the adventures coming.

Sweetchops said...

Awesome story Randy! I'm sure it will live on as long as there are seekers such as yourself.


Anonymous said...


You might be grandly missing it, bro. There is a fundamental need that you have not satisfied. No child. No nothing that live on. From you. Nippo. Nada. Zero. If you claim that fact does not bother you, then I suspect you of being disengenuous. If you claim, as I suspect you will, that that fact is of concern to you in some way, I would appreciate hearing how you deal with it. This from a man who has no issue. . .

D.V. said...

Ahhh....Randy....you "forgot" to mention the name of this not so deserted little village of Tierra Amarilla where you sat at the NOT so deserted. Three Ravens Coffee House listening to music and talking with people you have met along your journeys!! This not so vacant village also houses the Rio Arriba county courthouse and jail....among other places and residents. Yes, it was once bustling....but is far from dead! Just ask those who live there...

Randy said...

Thanks all for your input. Knowing I have readers gives me that extra bit of incentive to open the jammed door and go inside to get the story.
Jay: that is a lovely poem--how can I find the rest of it?
Anonymous: I've not forgotten my promise to examine myself--It's coming---but more difficult than I supposed.
D.V. Of course you're right--the sleepy village is Tierra Amarillo and there is another blog coming about the two inspiring artists who chose this out of the way place to practice their art. I hope to show that artist can make a dying town live again. check my blog of 8/6/2010 for a similar story. http://mobilecodgers.blogspot.com/2010/08/who-can-wake-up-sleeping-town.html

Jay said...

It is called "The Waking" by Roethke. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1954. It really is just your speed:

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Barbara and Ron said...

That was amazing! I've always said you are one fantastic storyteller.

Zapata said...

That's exactly what happened.

Anonymous said...

"Tierra O Muerte" - It means "Land OR Death"

Rustedgranny said...

Philosophy to Romance. I didn't know you had such a romantic imagination. Loved the story and your decision to follow the rainbow.

Paxie said...

Downright eery!! Loved the photography! Beautiful...

Anonymous said...

Randy, I loved this. And Jay...loved the poem!

Sandy Driscoll said...

Hi Randy,
I just returned to LA from a road trip to Santa Fe, Taos, Durango, Winslow. I, too, love to take backroads and photograph old buildings. I photo'd this ballroom 3 days ago, and then stopped at the Three Ravens coffee shop for a coffee to go. I was curious about that ballroom, and in googling it, found your photos and blog. Thanks! Sandy Driscoll

Phil said...

Tierra o muerte = Land OR death. Do read about zapata and his good works.

Or indeed the advocators of land redistribution during the English revolution, the "diggers" or "levellers"


Their "theology":