It’s April 1 again. It’s my favorite holiday, not because it’s Easter this year, which will throw some folks in our heavily Catholic state of Nuevo Mexico. I like today as the day I pull pranks on everyone within reach, and because last year it was the first date that Clare and I had that wasn’t really a date even though everyone else except the two of us knew it was a date.

On April Fool’s Day of last year, Clare Clarissa Nina Castellano and I went on a date into the wilds of New Mexico.

A date with Clare, at least for the two of us, was all about being dickish, it was all about being a human form of Gyro, it was all about being precisely who we are with no effort or hesitation. Get this. How did the journey begin? Well, after an hour in the car where neither of us grew weary of the other’s voice or tales (if you’ve ever been hickjacked into a car with me, you would assume she was deaf or infinitely tolerant), I took her off on a backroad in Socorro County where our first stop was the haunted Escondido School.

I asked Clare, “Want to check out a haunted, abandoned school?”

Her exact words were, “Who wouldn’t?”


Clare asked me if I felt the “cold energy” from the school. Asking her to explain, she said she was very sensitive to energies and auras, and could tell much about a place or person based on this gift. So I levied a challenge for her. I said on our trip, we would be passing by a Hanging Tree, a tree where numerous lynchings of cattle rustlers took place. I asked her to tell me when we got there.

Our next stop was a small fault block of Abo sandstone where Permian conifer fossils can be found. It’s a spot I found in 1988, and it’s a spot no one else seems to have found in all that time.  So I had Clare whack a chisel that I was holding to a rock, and this is what split open.

You know, this article should be seeping with nostalgic merriment and verve. Instead, it reads like a third grade book report on How To Eat Fried Worms. It’s been five months since Clare passed away, and it’s the proverbial “too soon” to be sharing a narrative on our first date that isn’t muted and dulled from missing her still. Clare’s favorite color was blue, not gray.

I spent an hour letting hot water that became cold water roll over me and any wit available just isn’t making it out of my fingertips. Next year, this article will get its happy joy dues. This year, I’ll merely share some photos from the day. That’s a good way to celebrate Clare and commemorate our first date that wasn’t a date.