Except for one more summer in Denver, I spent most of the next four years in upstate New York, where I attended Hobart College and worked for two summers in the college’s town, and New Jersey, where I lived at home. During this time, my sense of the Southwest, largely unformed to begin with, began to dwindle even more. Nevertheless, that distant land still found ways to seep enticingly into my consciousness. At Hobart, a class in film introduced me to director John Huston’s gritty The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. I especially enjoyed the movie for its depictions of urban and wilderness Mexico, and for Mexican-born Alfonso Bedoya’s memorable performance as a comic, yet cold-blooded, bandito. Another course introduced me to Carlos Castaneda’s The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, a book in which graduate student Castaneda narrates his apprenticeship with a Mexican sorcerer, Don Juan Matus, who prescribes peyote for enlightenment. Castaneda’s “structural analysis” of Don Juan’s “teachings,” which consumes half the book, bored me. But, given that I was now well into experimenting with mescaline and LSD, I devoured the passages in which Castaneda trips on peyote in the spacious, glowing desert of northern Mexico, a place that seemed much more conducive to visions than the cabbage fields and dense, dark woods of New York’s Finger Lakes region, Hobart’s location.
Published by Philip Davis
Raised in New Jersey, Philip Jay Davis has spent 40 years in the West, 25 of them in the Southwest. He has degrees in English from Hobart College and the University of New Mexico. Now retired, he has been a factory worker, carpenter’s helper, miner, community service organizer, day-care worker, bookkeeper, cab driver, computer operator and programmer, college instructor, environmentalist, nurse aide, and licensed practical nurse. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with his wife and two dogs. This is his first experience with a blog. View all posts by Philip Davis