First of all, Happy 4th of July to everyone here in the U.S. of A.! Hope everyone has a safe, fun-filled holiday – go catch some fireworks tonight wherever you are as we celebrate the nation’s 239th birthday!
As the final touches are being applied to the Santos EP (and now I have just signed off on it), a look back to July, 2010… literally. A photo essay back to that time… before there was a Nights on Venus.
I took a little trip out to the Mandala Center just outside of the small town of Des Moines in northeastern New Mexico. And when I say small, it really is – the population was 161 in 2010. If you drive from the Panhandle of Texas up to Colorado, you know where this town is; it’s just a place you drive though before you get to Raton and the interstate (25). For me it was a destination and a personal retreat for 5 days that summer.
I had booked the 5 days at the Mandala Center before I got laid off from my job as a web developer at the end of April, the second time that I had been laid off, as an I.T. contractor, in as many years. I could have cancelled my time at the center, gotten my money back, because now I was unemployed again, but I didn’t want to and thought it was important to have those days to myself. I was living in Dallas at the time; I’d already paid for those days and I needed the change of scenery. So I went…
On U.S. 287, the time-honored route through West Texas that every Texan going to Colorado knows because really, it’s the only route. At Dumas, you have a choice: take U.S. 87 and you go through the corner of northeastern New Mexico, the more scenic route. It’s high desert between Clayton and Raton; Des Moines and the Mandala Center is about halfway between.
The first thing about the summer of 2010 is that it was exceptionally hot. Normally, temperatures for this area, once you get up above 6,000 feet, are about 85-90 degrees F. (29-32 degrees C.) in July. Since I was staying somewhere that didn’t have air-conditioning, I had planned for that and figured the nights at least would be cool. That summer the temps were hovering around the 100-degree mark. I was a little concerned ’cause I really don’t do hot weather anymore. Not at all.
Essentially, Nights on Venus came into being during those 5 days at the Mandala Center.
I had begun recording a few songs back in May, the first exploratory efforts after diving into the world of computer-based recording. I had a few songs written and started with them – took my last full paycheck from the job that had just ended and bought everything I needed for recording because I figured at age 53, as an I.T. contractor and having been laid off/unemployed for 7 months the previous year, it was probably going to be the last decent paycheck I’d get to be able to do this. That actually proved to be correct…
There were other people staying at the Mandala Center, 8 of us all total, all there on our own personal retreats for various reasons and staying in the Wolf Lodge. The Mandala Center itself I feel is a very special place; it offers workshops, classes, and a place for personal retreats in a beautiful, remote setting and you can check it out here. It may resonate with you and I highly recommend it. For one thing, the stillness and the quiet here are just overwhelming. There really are no distractions. The stars at night and the Milky Way were as brilliant here as anywhere I’ve seen them, including Crestone (Colorado). And no TV, no cell phone reception (courtesy of my carrier… from Dalhart, TX to Walsenburg, CO, the “cone of silence” was in effect) or laptop – no wi-fi! All of which made for an environment perfectly suited to thinking about “what comes next”.
Which turned out to be Nights on Venus… I settled on the name while I was there. “Nights From a Rooftop” (from the 1st album) was one of the songs from that first set of songs recorded in May. The title “Another Day in Paradox” originated here. That became title and the title track for the album 3 years later.
Every day Capulin Mountain dominated the landscape just to the northwest; behind me rose Sierra Grande. Pages of journal entries written there those 5 days (I’ve been keeping a journal since 1986) could be distilled down to a couple of lines: “No ambivalence. Work on music, work on myself.”
Obviously I took a lot of photographs while I was there… and left with some sense of direction.
The new 4-song EP, “Santos“, is scheduled to be released on 7/8/15 at all the usual online outlets.