For a few magical hours last Sunday, downtown Santa Fe went dark. The sun was still high in the robin’s-egg blue sky, and motorists waited politely, treating erstwhile stoplights like stop signs.

But as a long line of Santa Fe’s landed gentry disappeared with a heavy jingle of silver and turquoise into the bowels of the

New Mexico

History Museum, Frances Levine, the museum’s director, became agitated.

“Stephen—do something!” she urged the white-haired author before a darkened auditorium. Stephen Fried was scheduled to talk about

Appetite for America

, his new biography of restaurateur Fred Harvey. (Disclaimer: Fried was this reporter’s graduate school professor.)

Fried opened a copy of his ponderous hardcover, squeezed a tiny flashlight and read a short vignette from

New Mexico

’s outlaw days.

Levine interrupted to tell the packed house to store all plastic bags under their seats—the rustling was impossible—and they laughingly obliged.

Eventually, the lights returned, and 184 lecture-goers ventured, mole-like, through late


to La Fonda, where two old ladies in Mexican ponchos tittered at the parade. A now-relaxed Levine ushered her charges toward the bar, where a couple discussed their missing dinner tickets in German-accented English.

“We are the party crashers!” the man exclaimed in mock horror.

“This line is so long,” the woman grumbled, ignoring him. “They should have pitchers of margaritas.”