Why We Live in Taos: Random Acts of Kindness

By: Bill Whaley
15 March, 2020

El Viro

Years ago, the Generation of the Apocalypse in Taos (the Hippies of the 60s) predicted the visitation of the mythic four horsemen: Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death. Today we hear and see the embodiment of that challenge in Coronavirus, the silent, invisible, and airborne enemy, aka “El Viro.”

The essence of Taos resides in its neighborhoods, its vecinos y La Familia. We must cooperate first and criticize only in an effort to learn from our mistakes, which are multiple and legendary. Though we are playing catch-up, thanks to the slow learners in D.C., we Americans have always been good at coming from behind, whether in response to the Great Depression or WWII.

See the historic photographs at the County Complex depicting a community surviving the 30s and 40s in the fields and, particularly, the image of the community gathered in the Plaza, while listening to the radio, announcing FDR’s response to the attack on Pearl Harbor. We’ve been through this before. That’s why we have the Bataan Memorial. Historically, the Flag flies 24/7 above the Plaza in response to President Lincoln. The old San Geronimo ruins at Taos Pueblo memorialize man’s unfortunate inhumanity to man. Never did the course of human relations run smooth.

So, let us applaud Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham for acting quickly and shutting down public schools as a painful but necessary decision. The history of the “Spanish Influenza” in 1918 validates “containment” and social distance i.e. saving lives.

We should thank our hard-working grocery clerks for putting up with panic-buying. On a more curious note, nobody has connected the dots for me between apocalypse and the unending purchase of toilet paper. I grew up in the era of outhouses in Nevada and in Taos. Then the use and misuse of slick magazines (ugh) and newspapers (better) was common if an unpleasant necessity. The memory, seared in my mind, reminds me that any brand of commercial toilet paper seems a veritable luxury.

From 1969 forward we had lock boxes on toilet paper in the stalls (and the light bulbs) in the bathrooms at the Plaza Theatre. Some of us each day silently cross ourselves in gratitude for delivery from poverty and improved access to resources. We have the experience and appear to be returning to a taste of that prior existence.

Let us remember the kindness of the average Taoseno/a, who slows down his or her vehicle and allows an anxious driver admission to the traffic parade on the Paseo. Generosity is also part of the culture. Meanwhile, according to the news advisories, the experience of China and Italy suggest we mostly must stay home. When we do go to the store, we must practice with our neighbors and grocery clerks but more so during the coming days “random acts of kindness.”