Taos Gorge Bridge

A Site about the Vendors at the Taos Gorge Bridge

The gorge bridge is a place where a group of rugged individualists sell their goods in a setting of astonishing natural beauty. There is no formal regulation, the vending is a free as the nature that surrounds it. It is open to anyone but not for everyone. The weather can be harsh. Wind, rain, snow, extremes of heat and cold are all part of vending at the gorge. There is often conflict and drama between vendors. In spite of numerous attempts to persecute, regulate and evict them, the vendors have perservered and remain at the gorge and the scene there is as open and free as it ever was.

Movement at the bridge, a complicated situation.

Archives

Last month there was a hit and run accident at the bridge near the bridge that resulted in the New Mexico Department of Transportation moving the vendors from the north side of the highway where they were set up very near the road to an area that NMDOT District 5 acting engineer Paul Brasher told me been planned as the new vending area. The vendors cooperated and moved to the area which is behind where the ice cream bus parks. The vendors stayed there for a few days but didn’t get nearly the foot traffic as before which resulted in a drastic drop in sales for them. It was also complicated by one vendor trying to tell others where they could and couldn’t set up and saying different things on different days which caused some vendors to set up where NMDOT had posted no vending signs and had told us that they didn’t want us setting up. After a week had passed, the vendors observed that the safety situation had just shifted and not improved. Tourists were still parking right at the white line of the highway and traffic was moving much faster without the cluster of vendors around the roadside. One vendor talked to the local magistrate judges and found out that the case law involving roadside vending had evolved and that there was a case in Mora where the vendors had won and the case in Taos that I was a defendant in years ago had been used as a precedent. The bottom line was that any citations for vending by the bridge would be dismissed in  court. Upon hearing this, a group of vendors decided to go back to the north side to set up. They have been visited by local law enforcement officers several times and the officers have stated that they have no intention of citing them at present. If the NMDOT puts up no parking signs, they may receive parking tickets but that hasn’t happened yet.

This has shown one of the fundamental flaws in the approach that has been taken over the years in dealing with the vendors at the gorge: Plans are always drawn up without consulting the vendors at all or ignoring any vendor input that conflicts with the proposed plans. In this case, the vendors were part of the safety issue at the gorge bridge but they certainly weren’t all of it and moving them to a rough area with little foot traffic while still letting tourists park right on the white line of the highway didn’t make a very good impression on a lot of them. It has also shown that a planned area that has space for 25 or 30 vendors is totally inadequate. It is insufficient for the current vending community, much less for the growing population of the future. The vendors were overflowing that space within days in a fairly slow time of year for vending. The vendors are stating very clearly where they want to be and it is not where the NMDOT or BLM would like to put them. They want to be on the north side of the highway where there is a lot of foot traffic and they are visible to the tourists, not hidden away in a corner of the rest area. Improving that area and making it safe is what they have asked for many times and that has always been rejected. Maybe it’s time to seriously consider it.

The vendors who are setting up on the north side haven’t been nearly as close to the road as before so far. The picture of the tourists parked on the white line and walking on the other side contrasts with the vendors who are all inside the cutout and away from the road. I’ve also included a picture of how it was before to compare it with.

       

             

Comments

Remembering Lorenzo

Archives

As this year passes and there have been so many deaths of notable and famous people, it is time to sadly note the passing of one of our own small community of bridge vendors.

This past month we lost one of our more memorable vendors, Lorenzo Dodson. He was dedicated to vending at the bridge in a way few others were. He grew up selling at the bridge and it was his livelihood and lifestyle. He was always a notable presence there. He had issues, many and deep, and died way too young because of them. Now that he’s gone, there’s no point in dwelling on them. It’s his good side we should remember. The best quality I remember in him was his love for his own children and kids in general. Kids would always take to him. They would instinctively trust him and feel safe around him. They brought out the best in him, always. He also had many devoted friends and his heart was always in the right place, even if he didn’t always make the best choices in life.

Goodbye Lorenzo, the bridge vending scene will not be the same without you.

Comments

Suicide and the Vendors at the Gorge

Archives

I heard recently about the woman who started The Gorge Bridge Safety Nework being on a local radio program and stating she didn’t understand why there were vendors at the gorge. I didn’t hear the program so I can’t directly respond to what she said but I thought it best to write something about how vendors at the bridge have dealt with suicide and attempted suicide there. It is especially pertinent now that we’ve recently had another local man take his own life at the gorge.

Suicide by someone jumping from the bridge is something that almost all the vendors have had to deal with at some time. We notice the car that has been left there too long or the person acting strangely around the bridge. There have been times when we have been the ones who have called law enforcement to inform them of the suicide and there have been times when we have prevented someone from jumping. Here are a couple of personal experiences I’ve had:

It was a rainy Sunday morning, the Sunday after Halloween of 2014. I came to the bridge as the rain cleared and, as I was setting out my tables, two hikers came up from the gorge area and said there was a body under the bridge. I went with them to where they saw it from and saw the body on one of the pillars that support the bridge. It looked like a manikin and I wanted to believe that it was one that had been thrown there as a Halloween prank. But then I realized that it looked that way because it was broken and smashed. I called 911 and reported it and later filled out a written police report about how it was found.

This second one is from around 10 years ago. It was a cold day in the late fall. There were only a handful of vendors. A woman drove up and got out of her car. She was very distraught looking. She started to look at our stuff but said she had no money. She told us her story. She had a sick dog that had died and the vet bill had taken all of her money. Her car was a rental that was already overdue and if she didn’t return it she would have an arrest warrant put on her. She was a musician and all she had with her was a violin and some CDs. Several vendors bought CDs from her to give her some money and one of our better known characters, Rio Grande George, had his guitar with him and they played some tunes. George needed a ride back to town and got her to drive him there on her way back to return the car. She looked much happier when she left. No one jumped that day. Sometimes, all it takes is someone to talk to. It might have been different if no one was there.

There are many instances of vendors actively intervening in a suicide attempt. A lot of times they notice that someone is acting strange and erratic. There have been times when they’ve called law enforcement and there have been times when vendors have physically prevented someone from jumping. One time, a vendor’s teenage son ran to the middle of the bridge and tackled a woman who was getting ready to jump.

The reason the vendors are at the bridge is very simple: They are there to earn their daily bread. The fact that they are there exposes them to the suicide problem in a way few others experience. There would be more suicides if they weren’t there. There is one trend I have noticed over the years. As there have been more and more vendors, the suicides have been happening more and more at night when no one is there. In the daytime, there is a lively scene, raucous at times. It is filled with life. There is art to be seen, things that are beautiful, people that are colorful and interesting. What could be better to counteract the darkness of suicidal depression than a scene filled with creativity and life?

suicidegrafitti3

Comments

Out with the old, in with the new.

Archives

This is the first blog post on the new Taos Gorge Bridge website. As I said on the main page, the old site was abandoned and I took a long sabbatical from the convoluted politics of vending at the gorge bridge. The direction of the new site will place more emphasis on the positive, the beauty and freedom of vending at the gorge. We, as vendors are so lucky to be able to do what we are doing in such freedom and keeping it is, and always has been, well worth fighting for. These are a couple of photos of the view from my vending spot taken last summer. The gorge in the morning and in an afternoon rain.

gorgemorning2 gorgeafternoonrain2

 

Comments