Potted Meat Getaways

My husband and I spent our 16th wedding anniversary in the Charles Motel and Spa in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. This anniversary occurred on the first of August, the day after I had finished temporarily editing my book. The Charles was his idea for a romantic getaway, but I must admit that the ambiance of the place has associations for me that will always bring distraction. Amidst the bottle of cheap champagne and the soak in the mineral baths, I suffered from conflicting desires: they were of that kind, and the other one, the passion that all writers are familiar with.

Nearly one year ago, I spent my very first writer’s getaway at the Charles Motel and Spa–that weekend produced the beginning of my novel, and the Charles will always exist in my heart as the place that I had a first date with my book. It was a beautiful weekend, too. If I could only describe it!

Well, for a start, it’s a 1940s building, and its room are in various stages of updating. The room I stayed in during my writing weekend had a kitchenette and brightly painted walls; most of the furnishing hearkened to the 1970s or, perhaps, the early ’80s. With every night stay, lodgers may take a soaking session in the mineral baths. Of course, long about four o’clock every afternoon, I relaxed deep in the old tiled bath and soaked away my overexcited neurons, my worries, and my wonder at writing Franklin’s Ladder. At 112 degrees, the baths at the Charles are the hottest in town.

I’d always wanted a writer’s getaway, but my husband had never approved it, never accepted my dreamy-eyed wistful answers to his, “What do you want for your birthday this year?” Of course, I’ve answered the same for years: “I want a writer’s holiday, so I can finally, finally . . .” Yes, the answer drifted in the space around us: so I could finally write what was essential to me. I’d do it on the cheap, I always promised him. I had visions in my mind of what an artistic getaway would be like. I would take nothing but a rucksack–a rucksack is much more poetic than a backpack or a suitcase on wheels. I would fill it with cheap foods–potted meat, definitely, because that’s what all artists take with them when they escape the rest of the world. Potted meat has a decidedly poetic feel to it; Libby’s canned corned beef would fit the bill. Add to that some Italian or Spanish wine, and I’d be set.

The moon was low on my Saturday evening, after drinking my wine; the moon was low through the yucca fronds. And the world was a beautiful place.

Could the world have been more beautiful on our anniversary night, when we stayed in one of the roof rooms, when we peered out the windows and saw the empty streets of T or C–the old trailers, the once grand homes, the haven of stillness and blue skies hovering over the river?

My husband must have known what he was doing when he carried me back there. And that’s all I have to say.

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