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On a recent Saturday, I drove out to the National Cemetery to see if they had spelled my mother’s name right. She went by her middle name, Dorris, and insisted on the two r’s. My father, who was an Army doctor in World War II, died a few years earlier, so his name was already on the headstone. Now hers — she was a specialist 2nd class in the Waves — has been chiseled in below.

In earlier days when they placed the headstones straight up instead of lying flat on the ground, the names of the wives were engraved on back. As I walked downhill between the rows and columns, I jotted some of them down: the Sadies, Agneses, Irises, and Elsies . . . the Tillies, Idas, Doras, Claras, and Crystals. There were  Irenes and Roses . . . Pearls, Rhodas, Veras, Lucilles — names that don’t get used much anymore. There was even another Dorris, spelled the same unusual way.

Someday, sadly, there will be hills of Chloes and Ashleys, Zoes and Briannas, sharing a stone with their Ethans and Aidens and Dylans and Zacharys. I’ve read that some of the older names — Olivia and Lillian — are making a comeback. George is still hopelessly passé.

January is my least favorite month. (February is close behind.) With snow covering everything and the sky blanked out, even Santa Fe takes on a bleak monotony. It becomes harder to believe in the possibility of change.


I’ve heard nothing more from Senator Udall’s office about the Interior Department’s investigation — if indeed there really is one — of the destruction of the old Santa Fe Indian School. Meanwhile our timid preservationists go after smaller fry like the big electric utility box on the Plaza. I’d forgotten all about it — the thing has been there for more than a year — and was surprised to see the issue back in the news. Maybe the box could have been less obtrusive, but it’s absurd to consider spending between $80,000 and $800,000 for a remedy when there are so many more egregious affronts.

Near Washington and Marcy, the junky second-story addition to the old building across from the library (last mentioned here eight months ago) still sits abandoned, the developer apparently having run out of bucks. On East Alameda a half-finished condominium complex — one that never should have been approved — continues to rot in place. And there is the hillside just east of Paseo de Peralta and Washington that was blasted away for another unneeded, and so far unbuilt, luxury project. All of these should be condemned by the city and turned into urban parks or affordable housing.

Or maybe a shelter — built from aluminum and firmly grounded — for the anti-wifi people with their made-up disability — “electrosensitivity.” In their latest caper, Arthur Firstenberg, the ringleader of the bunch,  has sued an innocent neighbor for exposing his house to her cellphone rays. He might as well be accusing her of witchcraft. The suit will be thrown out of court, most likely, and Mr.  Firstenberg ordered to pay his victim’s legal costs. But that won’t put an end to this nonsense. The same people are still trying to block a plan to bring more public wifi downtown. Just because Santa Fe has a 17th-century patina doesn’t mean it has to limit itself to 17th-century technology.

Enough of this gloom. By the time I finished writing this installment, my mood had lifted along with the clouds. The sun is out, the sky is deep blue. It really is beautiful here in winter.

George Johnson
The Santa Fe Review

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