In the Rearview: An Earthship bonanza, a missing girl and a snobby opera review

By Harrison Blackman
The Taos News
Posted 8/18/17

As part of our weekly series, The Taos News dug into the newspaper’s archives to uncover the top stories of the week from 10, 25 and 50 years ago. This week, we found a story about a …

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In the Rearview: An Earthship bonanza, a missing girl and a snobby opera review


As part of our weekly series, The Taos News dug into the newspaper’s archives to uncover the top stories of the week from 10, 25 and 50 years ago. This week, we found a story about a surge in Earthship sales, a mysterious missing person case and a today-politically incorrect opera review.

10 years ago: ‘Earthships land in conventional real estate market,’ Aug. 23-29, 2007, by Patricia Chambers

“Chalk it up to global warming fuel prices, or the uncertainty that followed Hurricane Katrina,” Taos News reporter Patricia Chambers wrote in 2007. “Whatever the cause, about 18 months ago Earthships became a hot commodity on the open real estate market in Taos.”

In August 2007, The Taos News reported a surge in the sales of Earthships, which comprise a sustainable building style invented by visionary local architect Michael Reynolds. This style involved building into the landscape, processes of harvesting rain and recycling wastewater and incorporating recycled materials, such as used tires and bottles.

“Mike Reynolds really changed the technology and sustainable building is becoming more and more important,” Ted Dimond of Dimond Mortgage was quoted as saying.

Previously, regulations prevented Earthships from going on the open market, but a relaxing of these regulations led to a bonanza of sales.

“So many Earthships are sold here in Taos that we have no trouble providing comparable sales,” Dimond said. “In the last year, I’ve sold a dozen or more.”

Another real estate agent, John Kejr, an associate broker of Dreamcatcher, reported 20 Earthship sales over the course of 2006-07.

But even so, storm clouds were on the horizon. In August 2007, Lehman Brothers failure was just one year away – and the collapse of the real estate market had just begun.

“It’s an interesting time in the housing industry,” Dimond said at the time. “There are always negative things, but there are positive things happening too. This is one of them.”

25 years ago: ‘Police seek girl,’ Aug. 20, 1992, by Jess Williams

On Aug. 11, 1992, 16-year-old Alisa Blessing Snider disappeared. She had been last seen on Taos Plaza. Her mother, Lauren Beaudry, said Snider had planned to see a movie that night, but she never returned to her parents’ motel room. At the time of the report, it was unclear whether Snider had run away or had been kidnapped, though it was noted that Snider had run away for 48 hours once before.

“Taos looked like a fun place to her, I guess,” Beaudry said, adding, “With all the kids playing on the Plaza … I think initially she just wanted to have some fun.”

Police confirmed that Snider did not attend the movie that night, but rode over with some friends to Arroyo Hondo.

“Maybe [she went] to some parties that we wouldn’t have approved of,” Beaudry said. “But it could be after that, someone got hold of her who won’t let her go when she wants to go, if you know what I mean.”

The California family, which was on vacation, had traveled onward to Colorado in the hope that Snider, who knew their itinerary, would join the other members of her family.

By Sept. 10, 1992, The Taos News reported that Alisa Blessing Snider had been found, living under the assumed name Alisa Gomez and attending Santa Fe High School. She was discovered when the high school’s authorities realized she wasn’t actually enrolled in the school. Aware of the outstanding runaway report on Snider, a Santa Fe juvenile probation officer asked for the description and photograph of Snider from Taos Police Department, after which they became certain of the girl’s true identity.

Snider was returned to her parents in Chula Vista, California, and the case was closed.

50 years ago:‘‘Gym’ opera’s just fine,’ Aug. 24, 1967, by Boris Sulyanov

“The charming swindle in which everyone, both victim and perpetrator, smilingly participates at the box office, is made more endurable by the beautiful young high school girls who act as ticket-takers and ushers.” Such was one of the opening (and “interesting”) comments in a Taos News review of the 1967 Santa Fe Opera production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.”

In 1967, the Santa Fe Opera House burned down and the remainder of the season took place in the gymnasium of a local high school. These were the conditions in which musician and newly anointed Taos News reporter Boris Sulyanov reviewed “Figaro.” In hindsight, it’s a sexist, snarky and condescending review that reveals the prevailing, problematic sentiments of the time, as Sulyanov tended to comment more on the appearance of women in the play than on their actual singing.

“The only thing unbelievable about Helen Vanni, in the role of the page, was her superb physical endowment,” Sulyanov wrote. “If one is willing (which I was not) to ignore her obvious beauty, she was perfect in her deception as the page.”

Sulyanov praised many of the performers for their excellence, especially the conductor, with whom he found no fault in his difficulty in wrestling with the acoustics of the gym. Despite this analytical touch, he was not short of melodramatic statements.

“There was one song which was applauded (as always) by the women in the audience,” Sulyanov wrote. “That was ‘Men should be punished.’”

Sulyanov also expressed a sense of disdain toward his fellow audience members who had packed inside the high school gym.

“Within 30 seconds after the closing of each act, the lobby was filled with a thick, generous cloud of cigarette smoke heavy enough to asphyxiate an ox,” Sulyanov complained, perhaps unaware that he was living in the 1960s. “But, still, the air was worse than mustard gas. I was able to claw my way outside, gagging and choking as apparently civilized people blew smoke up my innocent nostrils.”

Despite his sensitive constitution toward smoke, Sulyanov seemed overall pleased with the play. In his conclusion, Sulyanov mused, “If only we could do away with audiences, opera could be a divine experience.”


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