Jackson Compaction Dumpster Blues

    There are plenty of left behinds at one of Alan’s rental properties, and, as a favor, I am working overtime to get things cleaned up for the next renter. The last tenants, Section 8, left two weeks after they were supposed too, left food in the frig, a back yard full of refuse, stained carpet, damaged doors, leaky faucets, missing window screens and the smell of dereliction. In the back yard are stuffed animals, clothes hangers, birthday cards, vacuum hoses, unused cleaning rags, baseballs, cardboard boxes and kitty litter. When tenants leave, they leave behind their don’t wants and seldom leave a place as it was when they moved in. Utility bills pile up in the mailbox like unwanted holiday visitors. Jackson Compaction has delivered a dumpster and into the dumpster has gone all the discards we can pack. Their motto is ” You Trash It; We Smash It. ” Robert and I load the trash carefully, to save space, fill the container methodically, then lay carpet over the top to keep stuff from crawling back out. There is no recourse. Ex-tenants, like ex husbands or wives, have already gone their way, found another nest to dirty, and don’t have money or resources to settle. Getting a hundred will cost two hundred. There is painting to do, floors to be replaced, new kitchen cabinets to hang. When all is done, there will be another renter. My brother Alan says Section 8 will never happen again. ” That, ” he says, ” You can take to the bank. ”  

Jug Band South goes West

    The Solid Grounds Coffeehouse is a musical Saturday night on the town at Saint Steven’s Methodist Church in Albuquerque. The music is free, coffee and doughnuts are free, the spiritual tune up after the first set is free, and good friendly spirits are welcome. Featured tonight is the Watermelon Mountain Jug Band, a local group who has performed in Albuquerque thirty years, more or less. Their bio’s show them to be retired educators,their music to be more eclectic than jug band. their performing schedule expansive. They have a jug that sings when you blow across its lips, a washtub bass, spoons and a washboard, kazoo’s, and a  New Mexico champion banjo player. They play Bob Dylan tunes, original compositions, country, folk, rock and roll, blues, Bill Monroe bluegrass, Bob Wills country swing, and even do Happy Birthday requests if they know about the birthday. Two steppers are on the dance floor twirling tonight and the Watermelon jug band serves them a healthy plate of country swing in their first of two sets. Southwest deserts and Southeast ” hollers ” both have experiences with poverty and making do. Jug bands, like this one, say you don’t need fancy instruments or conservatory training to make people tap their feet, dance, sing along, and have a good time.  

Jesus Saves Socorro, New Mexico

    This dark blue Ford Ranger has seen better days. Once, it was new on the lot and a salesman kicked its tires, opened its doors and sweet talked clients into the driver’s seat to take a whiff of its new car smell. Windows opened and closed, air conditioning cooled and the heater warmed. The engine purred. Now, doors are banged and there is rust where its skin has been punctured, windows are rolled down and have cracks that look like road maps. You aren’t going to see Cadillac’s or Volvo’s or Mercedes in a McDonald’s lot. You see old cars, used cars, cars that have things wrong but still get people to work if they are lucky enough to have a job. On this vehicle the message is the same from every direction – Jesus Saves. If someone driving this beat up pickup feels saved, I want to pick up their Bible and see what they have highlighted in yellow.  

Roadside Memorial I-25 south from Albuquerque

    Automobiles can be terminal. They are speeding metal coffins containing mortal bodies that crumple when hit, collapse when rolled over, compress and crush what is inside them when physics takes charge and momentum meets momentum. Along New Mexico highways there are small Memorials built by roadsides to say good bye to loved ones who have become traffic statistics. The crash sites have been cleaned up, bodies interred, obituaries written, tears drained.  All that is left is small remembrances by friends and family planted at the point where a spirit left this Earth and moved into the next world. These heart felt and simple Memorials are often just simple white crosses with a name and date on them. Some are elaborate with photos, dates of birth and death, artifacts from a person’s life like a high school graduation tassel or a string of prayer beads or a quote from the Bible written in indelible black ink on a cardboard sign. i seldom stop but Memorials add up. I pass one at a time, but they have a cumulative effect, cause me to look at my speed, pay closer attention to the road, drink more coffee to stay awake. The vast expanses of New Mexico reach away from the highways and it is hard to figure how two vehicles collide when there is so much space to avoid it? Still, cars are machines operated by humans and human error is unavoidable.. A roadside Memorial is evidence of great pain and great love. One wishes every death had such a Memorial to go with it.

Owl Cafe Waking up

    The Owl Cafe was born in San Antonio, New Mexico, one of many New Mexican towns you zip past on the freeway, not even dots on the state road map. The original cafe doesn’t have an owl on its roof and is a fifties style bar and grill with ancient cheap wood paneling, a bar of soap in the urinals, fly catchers dangling from roof overhangs. The original Owl Cafe peddles green chili cheeseburgers and cold beer and does so well that it’s owners built a new Owl Cafe in Albuquerque, New Mexico’s biggest city. The Owl Cafe in Albuquerque has a menu with all the favorites; burgers, hot dogs, enchiladas, chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy, shakes and soft drinks, cherry pie. There is no attempt at sprouts, kale, broccoli, vegan or low fat fare. Occasionally the restaurant parking lot is full of 1950’s car shows and neon lights on the owl come on in early summer evenings when softball games start at Los Altos Park across the street. Presiding over the Cafe, on the roof, is an Owl that you can see from blocks away as well as from I-40 that takes people across country heading east or west. Owls have a reputation for being wise. It seems, though, that they should be well down on the bird IQ list. When you stay up all night and live off small rodents you are not radiating intelligence. This guy never sleeps and when ambulances blast past on the Interstate, his eyes simply blink. If he were truly wise, he would never be surprised, and, never blink.  

Tram talk Going Up

    The Sandia Peak Tram has been with us fifty years. According to our tram operator there are 600,000 patrons each year and the only time the tram shuts down is when the wind blows over fifty miles per hour or threatening lightning storms are close. The tram has been stuck in the middle of its run a few times when electric went out or a fuse blew, but the operator doesn’t say anything about an incident years ago that had people lowered by ropes from the tram car to the desert floor. In the summer, the ride makes mountain views and hiking easily accessible. In the winter, skiers can go directly to Sandia mountain ski lifts without having to drive the back side of the mountain up winding narrow snow packed mountain roads. The idea for the tram came from a man named Robert Nordstrum, and his friend Ben Abruzzo. Mr. Nordstrum went to Europe and decided to bring a tram to Albuquerque. There were technical challenges but the tram has become a part of our community. Abruzzo started the Albuquerque Balloon Festival that maintains a world reputation and brings thousands to the city each fall. This afternoon Robert, a friend, looks over the edge of the cliff. We are going to hike the trail that goes from the Tram to the top of Sandia Crest. From up here, looking out, like ancient man, –  my issues don’t look as important as I thought they were.  
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