Books

Authors take a raw look at 1970s' Taos

Phaedra Greenwood and Jim Levy to read from their entwined creative lives

By Tamra Testerman
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 5/28/19
Taos writer John Nichols remembers first meeting Phaedra Greenwood. "I drove up to my old-new house and found this woman sitting there in my driveway playing her guitar. She …

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Books

Authors take a raw look at 1970s' Taos

Phaedra Greenwood and Jim Levy to read from their entwined creative lives

Posted

Taos writer John Nichols remembers first meeting Phaedra Greenwood. "I drove up to my old-new house and found this woman sitting there in my driveway playing her guitar. She introduced herself," he said. "This wasn't an unusual event to happen in Taos in 1969." And so began a 50-year friendship between Nichols, Greenwood and her life partner, writer Jim Levy.

Nichols will be on hand to deliver the introduction for a reading by Levy and Greenwood from their new memoir, "Those Were The Days." The reading is planned Sunday (June 2) from 4-5:30 p.m. at SOMOS, 108-B Civic Plaza Drive. Admission is free.

Levy said the book is taken from letters, journals and memories of the 1970s in Taos. Greenwood said, "Expect the raw truth about life in the '70s in Taos, New Mexico."

Nichols described the unusual structure of the book. "There is a back and forth - one paragraph written by Phaedra, then another by Jim. There is a rhythm to this structure, and it works. The book is funny, it's sad, it's tragic, it's evocative and it brings back thousands of memories."

When Nichols talks about Greenwood and Levy, he uses the word loyal. "They are extraordinary, original personalities that got together and are amazingly loyal in a complicated world. They are Taos originals who came at a stage in migration to Taos when 9 out of 10 people left town with their tail between their legs. Both are really smart, really funny and they didn't compromise and take straight jobs where you punch your timecard. They are survivors; they are loyal friends. Every Christmas, Phaedra bakes and delivers me a cherry pie."

Tempo asked Greenwood and Levy a few warm-up questions for the reading.

What can our readers expect from your reading?

Greenwood: It would be better if you came with no expectations, so we can surprise you. But that begs the question. I will allow you to expect the raw truth about life in the '70s in Taos, New Mexico. Some earthbound experiences such as a 22-hour Northern New Mexico labor and birth; insightful overviews of the community by Mr. Levy; and a few raucous laughs just for the heck. His version of reality and [my] version are sometimes in harmony and sometimes at laughable odds.

Levy: The book is taken from letters, journals and memories of the 1970s in Taos. We will alternate reading sections from it, about how we met and came to live together, [about] hippie life in the valley and in communes [and] how raising our children forced us to grow up.

Anything else you think is important for people to know?

Greenwood: Storytelling is the most important gift we pass on to the next generation. Stories are a teaching tool, our mythology and oral history, the deepest part of who we are and who we might become.

Levy: Phaedra is the author of "Beside the Río Hondo," "North with the Spring" and "Drinking from the Stream." All on Amazon if you want to see them. I have published 10 books which can be found on my Amazon author's page.

Who would you invite to a literary dinner party?

Greenwood: I'm afraid inviting these three passionate and opinionated people to the same table for the evening might end in spilled wine and slammed doors. Instead, I would love to take a woodsy walk with Annie Dillard, row a boat across the lake with Peter Russell or walk the beach with Edna St. Vincent Millay. (John Nichols and Scott Archer Jones, you're invited to dinner any time. Just name the day.)

Levy: Antonio Machado, Li Po and Phaedra Greenwood.

What is your idea of a good book reading?

Greenwood: Well, John Nichols always pulls it off. He makes them think, makes them laugh. He tells it like it is, with passion and compassion, with lust and levity. And always packs the room. I've even heard him say, "There's a donation jar around here somewhere. If you don't put some money in it, I will hunt you down and break your kneecaps!" So break out your quarters.

Levy: Better short than too long. Snacks, but we don't plan on having any.

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