Ocarina, Carlos and Ruby

In Albu-Turkey, way past the dumb ass intersection of I-25 and I-40, for some odd reason, the food gets worse. Just in that corner where snakes of diesel trucks roll off the black top into the potholed truck stops, where the chili is a dirty watery green and nothing to brag about unless you’re from Arkansas.

I was about 13 years old on a strange tour around the southwest of the United States. I was a dancer for many years and I loved hanging with all the adults. Boo, chained smoked Camels without filters. He gave us wine so I was dancing and drinking way too early.

It was on that surreal Hunter Thompson-esk tour that I first got my Ocarina in that truck stop in Albuquerque from a Peruvian-man named Carlos. Carlos was skinny, seemed like a sickly man, as he loved the watery green chili burrito.

Carlos didn’t have a drinking problem. He drank hard stuff and he didn’t stop, no problem. He smiled at me in the early morning as big ole-truckers walked in from the cold and into the greasy spoon. Winter was gonna come soon and the Aspen leaves had turned a shade of brown-ochre. Through his bigger than average teeth, he said, “come here..” Groggy and still a bit drunk he pulled me into his down-jacket to give me a hug. I could feel his bony chest. He liked me.

He was lucky. I wanted to be lucky. Ruby was from somewhere, grew up on some sheep camp outside of Durango and was a beauty with dark brown Hispana mama. She was half his age, however, that was a good thing cause that’s how we rock stars roll. She ran away from the potato fields and the pictures of her past life that collected on her Mamma’s Ice box-refrigerator door.

Where they meet was a wonder. Maybe I knew and maybe I forgot that part. I would watch her hard, strong body in her Peruvian Outfit as she sang songs from the high Andes with Carlos. She could easily drink a sheep herder’s wage at one sitting and still look beautiful. Maybe that was my influence, I can’t say.

He handed me a small pouch as they walked saying their goodbyes as the sky to the east became grey. They were headed out to the west coast…Va ya con dios.

She smiled at me – I tried to smile back. The hard wet snow began and slothing sounds of tire on wet pavement faded in and out of the sounds of air brakes and squeals from 18 wheelers.


Turtle Ocarinas
Turtle, Dragon fly, and Bumble bee Ocarinas in the process…
Famous Box-Turtle Ocarinas getting ready to be fitted together.

Early History 

The ocarina is an ancient instrument, one of the most complex, that encompasses uncertainty in a very small space, for chaos to dwell and be released as melody, the genius of fluid dynamics.

The first known ocarina-like instrument appeared about 12,000 years ago. The ocarina’s origins can be traced back to different places. I prefer it to be in the South and Central America, with the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas performing on clay ocarinas which were often shaped like birds or animals. I love the subtlety  of dancing and playing, so it’s still being used the same way.

Close up of the carved Ocarinas Dragon fly and Bumble Bee.
Almost Finished Box Turtles.

I never saw them again. I heard he died a few years after that. He was sick and he knew it. It was his last tour.
I can’t say if that’s where I learned flute, or Ocarina influences. I can’t recall much in that time. I was 13 bragging about my long hair and girlish face fading into a young man.
Nothing stays the same and that’s a damn good thing.
Come visit me on the pueblo shop, I’m there most days, so I can finish telling the story of Ocarina Carlos and Ruby dear.


12 thoughts on “Ocarina, Carlos and Ruby”

  1. Hello Robert and Kona,
    I met you this weekend at the Taos Peublo, one day before my 40th birthday. I was there from Canada with my two girlfriends, celebrating my milestone day. Both you and your daughter were so warm and kind. Our visit with both of you and our trip to Taos was not on the game plan for the day, but something brought us to you and I wanted to thank both of you for the impact that you have had on all three of us. Our trip to Santa Fe, meeting you and our time at Taos will be a moment in time that was best explained as momentous in each of our three lives and will be marked as more than an adventure, more so a divine moment of unexpected delight and spiritual connection. Thank you!
    Raelene Mercer
    April 23, 2015

  2. Thank you for posting the ocarina story and pictures. I needed a bright spot in a cloudy Illinois day. My cherished ocarina is from your Uncle Tony. He made a note chart for me that I carry with me every day. I was blessed to call him friend for many years. I miss him dearly. Taking care of my elderly mother has kept me in Illinois, but my spirit stays at the pueblo. I will return to reconnect with my spirit and be whole again in due time. It will be a good day.
    Safe Journeys,
    Susie Scott
    Known as “Carol from Illinois” at the pueblo, but that’s another story.

  3. Hey Robert,
    I really do think Ocarinas were designed to summon up mischief, brighten up dark days, call spirits to our side, enlighten our heavy hearts and in general connect us more deeply to the innocent child within us. One really has to let go of their head and play with thier heart. So simple, it is complicated these days. Ocarinas tell stories, can bring you to tears and my make your heart flutter again. My first one came from Peru, a natural clay turtle, it had a wonderful sound. I used it to get my students attention in class. The children loved the sound it made. One day, one of them dropped it, and the child felt so bad. I cried at home that day. I didn’t want the child to feel my pain. I can still hear it’s melody. Just like us, no two are the same. Your Uncle Tony’s are very special to me. They are some of the last ones that he made prior to his new adventure. Made by his loving hands with the upmost of care. Horse tail hair designs on each one. I know that he tested it for sound, fine tuning it to perfection. Breathing his knowledge into it, his spirit is part of it and it becomes part of me when I play it. The Ocarina transports me to Taos every time I play it, I feel the afternoon breeze on my face, see Taos mountain ablaze with the setting sun. It calms my soul, my spirit is at peace. Here’s to Ocarina stories may we have many!
    With love and respect always to you, your family and all of Taos Pueblo!

  4. ocarinas love them! turtle, bumble bee, dragonfly, wow, ok. I got some from Peru and gave them to my friends child. finger chart sounds good, I’d drop by taos pueblo, I am busy right now. . .

  5. So “Albuquirky Chile is Decadent and Depraved” for anybody with enough of a taste to tell the difference between the real thing and just a pale copy? (except for poor folks from Arkansas, may we forgive them for not always having enough of a stomach for New Mexican hotttttttt dishes, especially, I guess, when they are prepared ‘a la mirabal’, haha!) Interesting… Still have to taste chile in so many different places, and I sure look forward to doing that again very soon.
    One never knows what ‘strange rumblings’ will be heard ‘in Aztlan’, week after week, in this New Mexican blog of yours that reflects such a beautiful part of la mágica tierra de Aztlán… Somehow, I had a pleasant taste of something between deer meat and sweet pie, as I read about Carlos and Ruby. I liked to imagine their movie-like, prophetic love, once professed between tall corn stalks and stagnant saints, changed and unchanged forever… I really feel like knowing how the story ends, but I know we must always try to be tolerant, patient, enduring and evolving, and grateful for the beauty of the present.
    As I read the unfolding story, I tasted the sweet earth, earth where sweet men tread, sweet men who know where to find the best clay to turn earth into heart, clay into (musical) key… I heard the sound of the ocarina blended with buzzing bees, dancing dragonflies, butterflies fluttering among corn maidens who, in turn, smiled at the laughter of children flying dragon-like kites in ever-blue skies.
    Thank you for being you, Robert from Taos, because when I read about your home in the mirror of time, I love going backwards to re-read the letters that form T-a-o-s and the rest of the story, to try to know how it must be like to fly together with a majestic bird, and to S-o-a-…R in the beauty of Robert’s words…

  6. I will come visit you, Mirabal _Man…..Would take time for a 70 ish ole woman who would like to listen to your days of life and the farming, and see the beauty of your world.?..
    In return I would accquaint you to some of my history….

    See ya Mirabal_ Man…

  7. Hi Robert, I have a digeridoo I need an opinion about. It’s a heavy, beautifully painted, Australian-looking one. It has a long kangaroo design on one side and a long shaman or spirit man on the other. The painting are on a black paint backdrop. Could you look at it and give me your opinion if it’s real Australian?

    I can bring it by the shop or send you pics of it.


    Steve Fox

  8. Robert – Once again, such a wonderful story and storyteller. You truly have a big heart to share so much with all of us out here. Maybe it is time for me to visit the shop and Pueblo again. I live in Ranchos de Taos and come up to the Pueblo a lot – just taking care of business (volunteering at the Art Center) but I’m still always amazed how just being there calms my Spirit. And maybe it is time that I check out your ocarinas and see if that is where I’ll find my music in me. Something to ponder. Many blessings to you and yours.

  9. Roberto,
    Carlos and Ruby, heavy sigh, heavy sigh. I do love your storytelling.
    You know it might be cuz’ I’ve been nursing a tooth ache – and there’s nothing close to tooth pain, except child birth – that my thoughts turned back to Santiago…that relative of yours. Saw an image in my mind’s eye, Santi in Italian Vogue. Crazy, que no? There’s another story worth telling (or extending). Hilarious vignettes a la ‘1,000,000 Ways to Die in the West’ where that writer and your writing converge and the masses are left laughing out loud and wondering “What just happened here?” Haha.
    Anyway, turns out the toothache was a restoration project. Thank goodness. This one’s pricey, but worth it.
    It’s a good day. I would say pregnant with possibility but delivered and bright & shiny is more accurate.

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