I stop in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, for no other reason than the name. I like how it sounds. Strange, off beat, unusual. The town, originally called Hot Springs, renamed itself in 1950 to win a television show contest. On the show, contestants had two seconds to answer a “Truth,” hardly enough time to even think of a response, or play the “Consequences,” usually some zany stunt like ridging a unicycle or stacking household appliances atop one another using a crane. It was a big hit in the 1950s and 60s.
T or C, as it is commonly known, is located half way between Albuquerque, New Mexico, and El Paso, Texas, on Interstate 25. There is not much around except desert, low-lying mountains and military installations. The town itself is small, still has dirt streets in some areas and has a barren, wind-swept feeling. As I drive into town, I get the sense that more than one tumbleweed have rolled through these parts.
When I book my room at the Sierra Grande Lodge & Spa, the woman on the other side of the phone says, “Forget coming here! You should play the lottery. We just had a cancellation – something that never happens – there are no other rooms available anywhere in town for this weekend or next.” When I try to explain to her the odds of winning the lottery and how I will save that $1 (though not really), she repeats, “You should play the lottery – you’re clearly having a good luck day.”
I arrive and immediately book a mineral tub soak and massage appointment. The masseuse and I hit it of famously, and we spend the hour bantering back and forth about health, spirituality, and other new age topics. Joy, her name which seems to fit, also teaches yoga and tells me how she ended up here on a road trip in the 1980s. “Watch out if a house suddenly falls on you; it’s how it happened for me.” Images of Oz run though my mind as she works my back.
As we engage in deeper conversation, Joy pulls out a card from a woman who “reads shaman stones.”
“I hate how everyone puts ‘shaman‘ in front of anything vaguely spiritual these days,” I think to myself, but I am intrigued.
“She’ll read your stones and tell you if you are on the right path,” Joy says.
“I could use a little of that,” I respond.
I get over the “Shaman” bit and call to book an appointment with her the next day.
That night I dine at Cafe BellaLuca, a modern Italian eatery a few blocks – walking distance – from the Sierra Grande. Every table is full and the wait is close to 45 minutes. “For a table?” I inquire in disbelief. As a single diner, I am offered a seat at the bar, which overlooks the kitchen. At first I baulk, not wanting to be on display in the adult high-chair section, but the location grows on me. The chef chats me up as he prepares dishes for a birthday party, a group which takes up a very large table behind me.
I don’t recall the owner/chef’s name (or his owner-wife’s), but I highly recommend this place if you happen to be in T or C. He flies in fresh seafood daily and prepares some of the most amazing Italian food I’ve had outside of New York City. I order calamari, but someone else secured his last portion just moments before. I watch the Chef make those small fried rings of delight and look for something else on the menu. I settle on pesto pasta with chicken. It melts in my mouth. For climax, I take homemade tiramisu back to the hotel in a biodegradable “to go” container. I eat it with my hands in bed. Saliva and chocolate run down my cheek as I doze off for the night.
The next morning I wake early, take another soak, enjoy a nice breakfast on the veranda, then prepare myself for the shaman/medium lady. I have no idea what to expect, or what I am supposed to reveal in my time with this woman. As I drive to the address provided, using my trusty GPS, I conjure ideas in my head of what she looks like. I settle on Mrs. Roper from TV’s Three’s Company with flowing floral dresses and wild, curly, supernatural hair.
As I pull into a trailer park just off River Road, where several neighborhood dogs bark indicating they know a stranger is near, I am greeted by Linda. She is a woman in her fifties who resembles a grandmother more than anything else. She seems a little nervous and greets me with a wide smile. No flowing floral dress, no wild hair. She is in plain clothes, which makes me a little more comfortable. Linda welcomes me inside and offers a glass of water, where her two pug children race over to check me out. One has an asthma attack on my shoe and the other appears so overwhelmed it grunts and sneezes all over itself for nearly five minutes.
“They’ll calm down,” Linda says to me, then continues to them, “Or they will be locked outside.” On hearing this threat, both dogs stop, lift their eyebrows in what appears to be concern, then go back to grunting and wheezing. She and I sit and the dogs find something more interesting outside to cough and bark about . . . a bug or tumbleweed perhaps.
Linda gathers up two handfuls of assorted rocks, gems, and crystals and places them in my hands. “Set your intention with the stones and then just drop them.” I think about my journey, the health and healing I seek and then let the stones fall through my fingers like large drops of water. They spread over the black leather tablecloth Linda uses for this purpose, some almost leaving the table completely.
“Very interesting,” she says examining the stones. “You are close with both your parents, who are, I think, both still living.” “Yes, yes, but they’re not like regular parents,” I say. “I see that,” Linda says pointing to a smooth lump of turquoise and another lump of something dark green. “They were kids themselves when you were young. You’ve come a long way with both of them. Good work.”
Linda continues, “How do I say this nicely . . . You have done a tremendous amount of work in getting rid of the old, huh, CRAP in your life,” she says pointing at a small lump of fool’s gold. “But sometimes that shit sticks around because you dealt with it, but haven’t tossed it out completely.” “Yes, that’s true!” I exclaim. It is as if she knows my therapist and all the work I have done over the years. “Now, what do you want to do with that crap?” she asks tapping the fool’s gold with a pen. I think about this, look at her, smile, then pick it up and throw it across the room. Linda cheers and the pugs chase the lump, grunting and coughing. We spend the next three hours reviewing my life, journey, and next steps. I toss several stones off the table and move several others to different areas. It feels good.
After a reading of tarot cards, where Linda tells me I will soon meet a brown-eyed man (I’m still waiting), I say goodbye and climb back into my Jeep. I exit the mobile home neighborhood, River Road, and the town of T or C. I hit the interstate and think about the past 24 hours. I mull over the idea that I have known all along that I am on the right path, especially in taking this road trip, but it is nice to meet people along the way who are there to help me heal. And in the case of Linda, it is sometimes nice to hear from an external source – one maybe more connected to the divine than myself – that I am heading in the correct direction.
About an hour later, I get a call from my mother. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” she says. “I just bought another five pairs of shoes.” I laugh, glad to have her – and her shoe obsession – in my life.