In the lobby of the Albuquerque County Line Barbecue, there is a special love machine for testing your love potentials.
This ” Love Machine ” costs a quarter for its diagnosis, and, for your quarter, you can see how you measure up on the love chart by putting your hand firmly around a special handle, squeezing firmly, and waiting for your diagnosis to shoot off like firecrackers, Roman candles, or duds.
We humans like to measure. We hook up our cars to diagnostic apparatus, we use dip sticks to check oil and transmission fluids, we use IQ tests to measure intellectual ability, we use polls to decide who to elect to be our next President.
Whether this ‘Love” test is really accurate ,or scientific, is a different kind of measurement.
Most of our science isn’t as true as we think it is, and humans tend to be more superstitious than scientific. Wearing your lucky socks when you watch your favorite team’s basketball game, in a championship series, makes no sense at all, yet fans swear it makes a difference.
For those in love, people don’t need a machine to tell them how they feel.
A better sign of whether you are in love, or not, is to look at your credit card statement.
Albuquerque has just introduced E-Scooters to the Downtown Civic Plaza, Nob Hill, Old Town, and, eventually, other well frequented locations in the city. These scooters are lined up across from the Albuquerque Museum of Art, chatting up a storm and telling scooter jokes.
Two ladies, I talk too, say the scooters are fun to ride but you need an App on your phone to use them. There are about 750 of them, to start, and a private company, Zagster, has exclusive rights to promote in our city.
The scooters are available from seven in the morning till seven in the evening, have tracking devices installed, go 15 miles per hour, and cost the operator a $1.00 plus fifteen cents a minute to rent. The rationale is to address climate change, provide other modes of transport the younger generation will like (18 and older), encourage people to get out, and eliminate traffic in high traffic areas.
One of the big concerns of the Albuquerque Police Department is people driving these scooters while intoxicated, something that has already happened.
One of my issues is grasping how large American bodies are going to balance on these small running boards while going fifteen miles per hour with just hand brakes?
If the city was serious about climate change they would just make us walk in a transportation free zone.
Riding at your own risk, these days, has to be in all of our plans of the day.
We have come now to a place, in America, where adults dress and do what kid’s do,
People want to own a home and homes are assets that, in America, have historically appreciated in value. In retirement communities like this, there are always For Sale signs in yards. People die, move back home to be with the kids, decide they don’t need a second home, look to downsize, decide their second home experiment isn’t going to suit them.
This is typical Arizona suburbia with wide streets,cactus, stuccoed- patio homes with two car garages, covenants,property taxes, newspapers still thrown in driveways, mail delivered daily by mail women driving little white vehicles. looking professional in their white and gray postal uniforms.
There is a rock in a flower bed in this home’s entry way with the word ” Harmony ” engraved on it.
Harmony, as used here, means no crime, living in a gated community, not having noisy neighbors after ten in the evening, good schools for your kids and grand kids.
Marie shouldn’t have trouble selling this home. It is on the internet and her sign gives her phone number in large print.
This house comes with a nesting bird and all the Harmony you bring with you on move in day.
Houses don’t become homes till you move your coffeemaker and tooth brush in.
The occasion that brings us to Arizona is a live jazz performance.
Escaping Chicago in the winter months, Greg and Judy rent a Fountain Hills house, from a musician friend, and play every Saturday night at a close by Fountain Hills eatery. They are joined for the gig tonight by a friend from Seattle, Tom Wakeling, who plays bass with Lee Konitz.
The restaurant is full and Chadd, my jazz teacher, invited me to ride over from Albuquerque to enjoy Greg, Judy and Tom’s free three hour performance. It is one thing to talk about jazz, but the best learning is listening to players do it who know how it is supposed to be done.
The trio plays standards out of the Great American Songbook, takes requests, and play tight, yet loose, in the small Italian restaurant.
The accumulated professional years,of these three, nears a hundred and this is just one gig of many they have played. How do you put a value on an art that is gone after it is played? They never play the same song the same way, and that, is something you can take to the bank. These player’s skill sets are not less complicated than those of doctors, lawyers, athletes, businessmen, but making a living is tough for most musicians. For all those who make it big, there are thousands of others working day jobs at the post office.
Even better, than the music ,is going out for an after closing bite to eat with the gang after instruments have been packed away and the restaurant/bar shuts down for the night.
Jazz musicians, musical God’s that they are, still eat the same kind of food the rest of us do.
Most smoking in America has been banned from public buildings. All tobacco packaging has to contain scientific warnings that tobacco products are not good for your health. Tobacco is taxed at an exorbitant rate. Television advertising of tobacco products has been curtailed drastically. Multi-million dollar lawsuits have awarded money to smoking victims in large class action health related lawsuits. Doctors advise all their clients to quit. Smoking in movies and on television by actors and actresses has trickled to a few puffs each season.
Camel cigarettes are one of the last surviving brands from the 1950’s.
As kids, we thought it funny to see the Camels on cigarette packs and wondered who would smoke them instead of Philip Morris, Lucky Strikes or Marlboro’s. The fifties were a smoking heyday with millions of vets acquiring the habit in the war and continuing when they got home. Our Dad smoked but quit by eating tons of lifesavers he kept high up on a closet shelf where we kids couldn’t reach them. The Camels always made us think of the French Foreign Legion, men wearing funny hats fighting other men wearing funny hats.
In this Santo Domingo airport, on my way home, I meet a plastic Camel lounging in a smoking room. It is cool and quiet here and there are only a few people in the lounge this morning, a cleaning woman and a smoking man puffing intently on his Camel cigarette, his smoke making clouds in room thick enough for the rest of us to walk on.
Camels might truly be cool, but I hear, from people who have lived with them, that they are nasty, have body order, and spit at people they don’t like.
Advertising always gets us to ignore product negatives and buy what they want to make us think makes us more important and sophisticated.
I’m in this smoking room, hanging with a camel, and I don’t even smoke.
This little restaurant is one street north of the D’Beatrice Comida Criolla, another local eating place near my Santo Domingo guesthouse just outside the Zona Colonia.
At lunch yesterday, there was a line backing almost out the front door and all the tables inside were occupied.This morning, its doors are open for breakfast and it is early enough to get a table. It is quiet inside ,at this moment ,and a cool breeze rushes through the room, coming from the Caribbean Sea, a few blocks to our south.
Regulars are just finishing, joking, getting ready to go to work, all men in their forties and fifties going to jobs to support their families.
The beauty of the Zona Colonia is that you find new twists every day. As a traveler, everything begins new, and, by the time it stops being new, it is time to board a plane and fly home. When you get home, the travel spirit is still burning inside you and you see your own home with new eyes and a new heart, fall back in love with the little table you sit at in the morning for breakfast as sparrows squabble on tree branches within your line of sight.
Keeping our spirit alive is a daily responsibility.
I’m not one who wants a dead spirit in my live body and a live spirit in a dead body is a matter for higher authorities than we have on this Earth.
Tobacco farms and factories are actually located closer to the city of Santiago, in the Dominican Republic but you can get a whiff of the industry in Santo Domingo.
The Arturo Fuentes Cigar Club, in Santo Domingo, is a retail smoke shop, but it is also a gathering place for those who love to smoke their cigars and talk about the experience. It is a place, later in the evening, for anyone who wants to shop for fine cigars and accessories, have a drink, book one of the private smoking rooms for a personal party, or just sit in the bar and share cigar stories with people who love to hear them.
Alan, my cigar loving brother, tells me he met Carlito Fuentes at a cigar exposition in Las Vegas, Nevada a few years back and has a photo of Carlito and himself with Carlito’s sister. Alan likes the “858” Maduro’s and appreciates the civic works of the Fuentes family.
This morning the store has just opened. The cleaning staff is still at work dusting and vacuuming and the receptionist is kind enough to show me the club’s premier cigar vault, answer my questions, wait for me to call my brother to see what cigars he wants, if any, and show me some of the Club’s perks.
One of the coolest areas is a little room, off the main lobby, that has individual lockers stocked with their owners own personal stash of cigars so they can have one any time they are in the Club, without waiting. One of the lockers is owned by Angel Jimeniz, a professional golfer you see on television in major international tournaments. His name is written on a nice little card in a slot on the door of one of the lockers.
The sales girl finds me a nice box for the cigars I buy for Alan, rings up my sale and packs Alan’s cigars nicely, calls me a cab, and advises me that the cab ride is ” not more than two hundred pesos ” which turns out to be 100% correct.
Next time back here, I’ll dress nicer,spend more money. and leave her a bigger tip.
People on this island are exceedingly gracious.
If they had this store, in the Zona Colonia, I would be there every evening, cradling a cigar, still in its wrapper, in my right hand, listening to patrons rambling about their cigars, their love life, politics and their latest business victories.
I can think of better addictions to acquire and cultivate than smoking, but I would never talk bad about someone pursuing vices that only hurt themselves.
The little cigar making room, entered through a small corner tobacco shop in the Zona Colonia, has four men inside. One is reading the paper, another is watching the cigars being made, two men are working – making cigars, by hand, one at a time.
” He is muy rapidio, ” I remark.
” He can do 300 in a day if we don’t talk to him, ” one of the non-workers says.
By the look on both men’s faces, who are working, they must be paid by the cigar. They are intent on what they are doing, responsible for making cigars so people that smoke them won’t smoke any flaws.
This workplace smells like tobacco.Tobacco leaves, dry and thin, are clumped around a press on the floor. There are pieces of leaves on the desk of the man in the gold colored shirt, and more on the work table of the man in the blue shirt.. It appears the two workers make a team. One man makes the rough cigars, stores them in a wood sleeve that the other man pulls to his table and finishs. The tools both men use are simple and not any different from what either might have used a hundred years ago to do the same job.
I watch the finish man pick several cigars up from his finished stack to check the smoking end to make sure, once lit, the cigar will draw air and keep its combustion.
These men take pride in their work.
If I was a cigar smoker, I would like to smoke the ones they are making this day I am watching them.
Men will turn themselves into machines if it profits them, but men, bottom line, were never made to be machines.
Every time I pass, I see customers at this little empanada stand – ordering, sitting in these plastic lawn chairs,visiting, stopping a moment in life, standing, moving away, replaced in moments by someone else.
It is all very random. The process is like those parts of the atom scrawled on our high school Biology board – the protons, electrons, neutrons and all the things not up there that we still don’t know about, and may never know about.
The empanada menu here is extensive and all are less than one U.S. dollar apiece. This morning, for breakfast, my order is a ham and cheese empanada, a pollo empanada and two orders of pineapple juice naturale, served with ice in a dixie cup.
I should have tried these empanadas earlier in the trip but stuff always crowds you on trips, distractions and diversions, side trips and just plain not getting around to it. The point is, there are always places to get a quick bite within walking distance of where you are staying, if you look.
I appreciate fine dining with exquisite tastes and beautifully designed plates served on white tablecloths with a candle and the best silverware, but I always regret having to pay for a meal and then having to go buy more food to feel full.
If I lived here, I would be a regular and D would give me the local price, like anyone else.