Summer Afternoons

Summertime in Santa Fe has been progressing smoothly. Some pleasant ways to spend a summer evening include:

The Santa Fe Bandstand, with live music in the plaza from 6 to 8:30 or so, Monday – Thursday, most of June, July, and August. There’s a mix of music, mostly folk, bluegrass, indi rock, country, hispanic, jazz, and some variation on those themes. It’s pretty fun, and the plaza is lovely this time of year, featuring old trees covered in strings of lights, tourists with fancy cameras, buskers, thunderclouds, and the temperature is usually pretty ideal for the hour leading up to and overlapping with sunset. I’ve been just showing up when I’ve got time and am not in a hurry to get home (because it involves parking about a 15 minute walk away from the plaza). This week I happened upon Lipbone Redding, a blues singer who sometimes pretends to be a trumpet. I think my dad would enjoy him, or at least be amused:

The other recurring free music venue with which I’m familiar is Music on the Hill, — in general I don’t like the music so much, being mostly smooth jazz and jazzified oldies, and there isn’t much shade, but it’s always nice to have an excuse to hang out at the St John’s field for an hour a week.

Last week was the Spanish Market, which is an enormous arts and crafts fair sprawling from the plaza into the surrounding streets, so after church I stopped by Collected Works Bookstore, where I ran into some friends, bought a pair of smallish notebooks, and waited out a brief bot feisty storm, then stalked the rows of vendors lining the streets. If you have a thing for retablos,  a fair amount of money, and a room or chapel that needs decorating, this is the place for you. As it happens, none of those are true of me, and this is not really my thing. In fact, I’m not very fond of religious shops in general. I’m glad that they exist, so that people know where to go if they want, for instance, a hand carved and painted bas relief of the Virgin Mary (and there are some nice ones), you have a place to go. But that doesn’t actually come up very often — perhaps just once — and the rest of the time it makes me a little twitchy, seeing all those crosses for sale.

The weekend before that was the International Folk Art Market on Museum Hill, where I went after church with some friends.  There’s lot of great stuff, and it’s a fun event, but it’s also packed, and tends to be wearing to get through. The Thursday before was a free concert at the Railyard Park (which I didn’t previously know existed), featuring a Tuvan throat singer and a South African band with some charming dancers who were mostly obscured by the crowd (they were mostly standing because the space around the stage is dirt). The throat singer was accompanied by an American anthropologist who had learned to throat sing as well, and his introductions were reminiscent of descriptions of fine wines: they sound very exotic and multi-layered, with floating harmonics and hints of cherry, but when the thing itself appears, I just can’t sense the thing they were describing.

Last Sunday was my namesday, the feast of St Irene of Chrysovalantou. The Dormition Fast started on Thursday, and the Paraklesis hymn to the Mother of God will be chanted at church every afternoon for the next two weeks. So on Thursday I went to Paraklesis, and then to St John’s to enjoy the ambience and read First Things magazine. There was an article by editor R.R. Reno called War on the Weak, which was interesting and suggestive, but difficult to observe personally on account of “social bubbles.” I didn’t write down his terminology, which seemed to be an important part of the article. It was mostly about how our current insistence on teaching an “expanded code” (or whatever he called it) of morality, and sneering at people who use a “restricted code” is most harmful to those who are already the least privileged members of society.

Expanded code morality is the kind that takes volumes of carefully balanced philosophy to explain itself, relies a lot on nuance, and uses phrases like “make good choices.” It’s what his readers, and most educated Americans, are most comfortable and familiar with. We get to say things like “that one night stand was probably not a very healthy decision,” instead of “it was wrong,” and lets us feel more accommodating. Restricted code, meanwhile, is exactly the kind of moral language that will say “it’s wrong because God said so,” and doesn’t worry too much about exceptions. Or at least it doesn’t work exceptions into its moral directives. Reno’s argument was that, in general (he had statistics about this, but I can’t remember which),the educated middle and upper class are able to, by and large, go ahead and make good enough choices this way. Or at least choices that don’t lead to social catastrophe. They can say that it’s not so bad to get drunk now and again, and not lose their jobs on account of drunkenness. They can say that it’s wrong to outright condemn girls for having babies out of wedlock, without doing so themselves. They can say that divorce is sometimes acceptable, but not wreck their children’s lives with serial divorces. They can say that it’s not a bad idea to live with a partner without marriage, but do so in a reasonably stable fashion. They live out a negotiable moral code with a fair amount of self-discipline. Meanwhile, people with less education, family stability, material comfort, and interest or ability for philosophizing are condemned if they maintain simple and clear moral expectations, and at the same time bear the brunt of the social ills that accompany poor choices, such as raising children alone while working at a low paying job. I wonder if Reno’s point, in short is something like: it’s all very well for Ivan to say things like “without God anything is permitted,” because he probably won’t do much about it, but teaching a philosophy like that to Smurdykov will get him into all manner of trouble?

It’s Glen workshop week at St John’s, which adds to said ambience, and is followed by the arrival of 8th Day Books at Holy Trinity. While I’m not much more of a fan of religious bookshops than of icon shops at this point, he does admittadly have an excellent selection. I was sitting in the coffee show, just working up the momentum to move somewhere where the light wasn’t shining directly on my face while backlighting my computer, when a fellow came up and asked me not to move, because he was taking light pictures, and wanted someone’s back in them, for artistic reasons, so I then spent about 10 minutes feeling self-conscious, and trying to read around the glare without looking like a hunchback.

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