Geronimo and the Personal Monument

Posted: March 23rd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: mike | Tags: , , | 9 Comments »

Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me, for I have sinned and am performing the only penance at hand: a forced mini-vacation in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

This is no sleepy hollow, nor is it but a stop on the Trucker’s Atlas. This is a one-stoplight relic of a town that sits somewhere between Hitchcock’s Bates roadside motel and a sun-soaked refuge for the weary, lost and flotsam of our modern age. There are twelve motels, two museums, one gas station and a 110-degree aquifer that broils the town from underfoot. A ditch in an outhouse is a bath; a ditch in the road is a sidewalk.

But what of the museums?

The repository-cum-reliquary is, by my score, old hat in urban locales (see: Museum of Jurassic Technology, City Reliquary, Proteus Gowanus, et al.) and—if anything—so vainly self-conscious and pompously urbane in its quest to turn the museum upside down and express a pedantic reification of ‘Museum’ that it goes far past lip tearing, surpassing even the self-congratulatory righteousness of the most recent wave of academy-pandering acquisition art. Not that I don’t appreciate them, but their tired message of post-graduate level ‘creation of meaning’ as a mask for novelty is pretty transparent and has worn down to, well, novelty. When will the “/gallery/museum” trend end? Maybe I should just give up and get a job with Bear Stearns—oh wait.

Whereas I’m a tough sell on any new definitions of ‘Museum’ that creep outside the college bookstore and try to manifest themselves inside the Real World, I have nothing but the utmost respect and adoration for the idea and execution of the Geronimo Museum in Truth or Consequences. I’m all for museum interpretation (aspace, personal pet project, awkward moral imperative, public edification, spectacle-in-progress, etc), but what about something with a bit less baggage?

For the first time in a long time, seven codependent rooms called ‘museum’ made me go ‘whoa!’ followed by WHOA. It was as if the closets and garages of the city were turned out and combined with the past ten years of middle school history projects to create an insanely personal monument and narrative of a small town that is so unselfconscious, so naïve that it can’t be dismissed as novelty—and at a (compulsory) four dollars, it’s a far sight cheaper than most museums outside of T or C.

Check it out! There are MAGIC ROCKS!

Check it out! This wasn’t dug up out of some dusty collection in a library! These people really lived here—and still might!

Check it out! Home made mannequins of historically relevant dead people! I read about these guys in college!

Why is there money in his coffee? Why does it seem like someone has had his coffee recently?

The fire is made of a spangled boa!

An Infirmed child really wore these!

This guy had a sweet stage name!

Native American stuff presented as pretty things instead of design objects!

The only other person perusing the eclectic wall panels spent 40 minutes looking at the collection of 70 types of barbed wire. He was unafraid to touch each and every one and ask the woman working the shop what the narrative involved was. She pulled a stapled, photocopied pamphlet from the wall and sold it to him for ten bucks.

After I witnessed this transaction, my tummy started to rumble and I headed for the door. As I stepped back into the sunlight, I turned around and looked back into the museum to say goodbye to the other patron, only to see the shopkeep busily preparing another pamphlet to photocopy. I inquired where the man had gone; she said that the man had gone back to the barbed wire wall with the pamphlet and a pen.

9 Comments on “Geronimo and the Personal Monument”

  1. 1 brosa said at 11:57 am on March 25th, 2008:

    maybe, when you leave truth and consequences, the museum will have an exhibit about the mysterious, mustachioed young stranger (strangler??) riding around on an even more mysterious bicycle.

    so, what will it be? truth or consequences? you can’t have it both ways.

  2. 2 sukjong said at 1:08 am on March 26th, 2008:

    rare indeed is the existence of a museum that can be narrated with this many exclamation points. i think this post has made my day two days in a row. i am still stuck on Gonzales Gonzales.

  3. 3 noriega said at 11:07 am on March 26th, 2008:

    frances bierner’s a total babe

  4. 4 Phillip Nelson said at 5:26 pm on March 26th, 2008:

    TorC is pretty bogus. I don’t even believe the hotsprings at most of the hotel/spas (more like motels) are legit. The magazine in our hotel said that the baths would infuse us with a lot of “positive energy”… this is all fun and games for a born skeptic such as myself, but even my girlfriend agreed that most of the new-age-y stuff was pretty absurd. Good place for a *trip* though.

  5. 5 Ruby said at 5:33 pm on March 26th, 2008:

    I am so happy to see more blog coverage of Truth or Consequences. I myself had a mini semi-forced vacation to the site a few months back. I found it most bizarre, especially the mystical types that are drawn to the towns abundant hot springs. Very strange. LSD recommended.

    xx ruby

  6. 6 brosa said at 8:21 pm on March 26th, 2008:

    i was going to make the same comment about frances, david. let’s track her down- we can show up at the door saying we are the “pool boys.”

  7. 7 mnhs said at 1:27 am on March 27th, 2008:

    i have 40 or 50 shots of those high school grads.
    the only one i sewed into my pillowcases is the enlarged, enhanced cropping of frances.

    hands off, pool boys. hornivore called dibs.

  8. 8 sukjong said at 12:01 pm on March 27th, 2008:

    sorry to interrupt the collective Frances frenzy with such a downer, but i wanted to honor my smarmy reaction to the use of the word ‘personal’ and add that, in the case of Geronimo and company, this personal monument also blends seamlessly with the national memory on this topic.

    i mean, these stoic, propped-up mannequins sitting cross-legged in front of their feather boa fires pretty much sums up how 98.4% of americans conceptualize the history of American settlers and First Nations people in America, isn’t it? but i guess it’s the lack of self-consciousness in this T or C museum that allows it to just put it out there in such a comfortable way. no wonder i get such sweet nostalgia pangs looking at this post. middle school all over again.

  9. 9 frances said at 1:42 pm on May 7th, 2008:

    Thanks for the compliments. I visit T. or C. (Hot Springs) often. I reside in Las Vegas NV. I do have a pool? Glad you enjoyed your visit to my home town. If you visit again,try the local mineral baths/Milagro.

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