That was the beginning of my obsession with the Hopi, those Kachinas. I started reading John Water’s book on the Hopi, and I started learning about Kachinas. I would go to flea markets in the bay area and I started seeing these objects all around me, like the ones I was reading about. Nobody was concerned or effected by these pots and rugs created by native people. As I was reading more and more of Frank Waters the more and more I became obsessed with Native America. And here I was raised in northern California, where there are reservations I wasn’t even aware of. We were taught that the Indian was gone, finished, ya’ know? Not like here in the south west, where native people are so alive. As a child, I would go into peoples houses and see these beautiful Navajo rugs on there floors. They didn’t realize that these throw rugs were beautiful pieces of artwork. Every time I would go to the flea market I would find one Kachina. It was always the very last stall to look in and I would find one like fate. And so, I started collecting them, I wound up with about fifty of them I guess.
Finally, when I was a layout designer, I was able to take a vacation to Hopi Land. They had a camp ground there that you’d never know was a campground. They also had a motel there on the second mesa. And so I went to Hopi Land for three or four days and camped. I was learning to play the flute, and so I would go sit on the mesa in the evening and practice. It felt so familiar and peaceful. Later, I went to the restaurant and ate Hopi food, everything Hopi. I was completely obsessed with their culture. I walked through the third mesa one morning really early when everyone was still asleep. Later I found out that it was against their rules. Third mesa is where massu lives, he’s their ferocious protector of the earth. He can be really cool but some times you don’t want to mess around. He lives on the rocks around the third mesa. I figured I could meet the terrible first and get it out of the way.
One day I was driving to the second mesa when I saw an old Hopi man, probably in his eighties, who could hardly walk. There he was trying to walk for miles, so I took him all the way to his son’s place. His name was Warren and his son turned out to live about forty miles away. I was wondering where in the hell does this guy live, ya’ know? So we get there and his son and I both have an RX7, a little Mazda. It was like a mirror trip. Here in this ancient culture his son, who wasn’t home, also owns a Mazda. On the way back we picked up his wife, her name was Zella. She was a wonderful woman, she worked as a cook at the jail, and also at a home for disabled people. So, they invited me up to their house for dinner, I went and became involved in their whole family. It turned out that there son, whom owned the RX7, had just died. They kind of adopted me and we became really close. I would sleep in front of their house in my pick up truck. I even got to go to a few private dances, and old man Warren showed me around. “If anyone asks” he said, “you are my nephew.” I bought a few bowls from some of the people. You hold one and you can just feel the vibration, some really heavy energy.
By the time I got back to work I was totally hypnotized by the Hopi. I was suppose to just go back to the normal grind, back to knock’ in out layouts. All I could say was Hopi, all I could hear was Hopi, and everybody started teasing the hell out of me, making “Hopi Jokes”. Give me a break, you know. I decided to take another trip to Hopi Land with a friend of mine whom was also a Hopi enthusiast, only this time we got a hotel room. About four o’clock in the morning, I was awoken by this whistle. Someone outside was blowing the hell out of this whistle. I go outside and there is this mock kiva there for the tourists, there’s a little kid up there blowing the hell out of a whistle. Then the woman who runs the place comes running over to me and gives me a phone message, it was like a dream. The message was that I was supposed to come back to Oakland immediately, my father had just passed away. That was a weird one, I had just let him go that night in a dream. To make things worse I was with a friend of mine, not even in my own car. So, I’m going a hundred miles an hour back to Oakland, this guy’s like “I know he’s going to fuck up my car, I know it.” Twelve hours later, holy shit, I get back there, and that was my second Hopi experience. How they even knew I was in Hopi Land is beyond me. My brother called, who is now dead. I guess they just wondered “hmm… where he could be”, they always thought I was a total nut-case. His latest obsession was “hmm… let me think, ha."
Moving to Taos was as close as I could get to Hopi Land without being a “wanna-be”, and to be able to still live within my own consciousness. Moving here, I didn’t know that Taos would be more Spanish than Native American. The Spanish influence is so prevalent. I was quickly interested in the folk art, Native American and Spanish. I thought it was pretty amazing, it was naive art. I really discovered this whole place through art, it was the art I was always obsessed about. The Hopi art led me to Spanish culture, which then took me to Mexican folk art, and then to Portuguese folk art, which is where my family comes from. Art just weaved it all together for me, it brought it all back to me.
I was raised in a culture where there were no minorities, because we were all minorities. Where I grew up is the same area my family settled in when they migrated here from Portugal and Spain. My family was a bunch of crazies from the fourteenth century. They lived in a place called “Jingle-town”. Portuguese people keep their coins hidden deep from the banks in their pockets and they jingled when they walked past their Victorian houses. They keep up their family traditions, and the church threw big festivals called “Holy Ghosts”. They carried the Virgin of Fatima through the streets. That was a major part of my childhood, we would pop beans at each other. I actually grew up on the outskirts of Jingle Town, in a suburb mixed with all minorities, everyone was a minority. I never thought about racism, I was care free. I spent a lot of my time just collecting polliwogs, and watching them turn into frogs.
I never had much of a desire to come to the southwest at first, because I thought it was really hot here. Living in the bay area, you don’t go places that are hot, or else you’ll die. On my trips to Hopi Land I discovered what incredible weather there was, the secret was out. When I went there I found out the people are just incredible too, but the biggest lesson was to find out they were just people. Some of the elders and younger people have a real problem with drinking. Warren really knew how to put’em away boy…I’ll tell ya. It was a real problem for his family, for a lot of families. Also, all the young girls have children because the government will give them more money. But the Hopi culture is so fascinating to me, it’s quite simple, their whole life is their religion. Everything is prayer and god.
My Hopi obsession came after the hippie thing ruined my marriage. I started doing yoga, smoking pot and knew things suddenly I hadn’t known I knew, discoveries that woke me up quite a bit. My wife wasn’t really into me wanting to experience the world now that I was awake. I didn’t want to just sit there and decay, nobody in my family understood except me. It might have been selfish, but Janis Joplin was playing for free in the Pan Handle ya’ know? We wore towels as shirts to look like hippies, but we were still just artists. I had moved in with ten maniacs, not in the Height or the Castro, but the artist community known as North Beach. It was a nightmare because we all had different views of life. When I first went to the Height Ashbury I was pretty straight looking. My first reaction was that “you’d think they would at least take a bath or something.” Nobody had ever experienced anything like it, it changed the whole world. Then, it changed me, I jumped right into the party and became the type of guy that sent nuns grasping for their crucifixes. We were eating nasturtiums, drinking wine, popping grapes, everybody was sleeping with everybody. It was quite a period, it’ll probably never happen again.