Ernie Pyle was a simple Indiana kid who liked to write and travel and found both as a World War 2 correspondent for Scripps-Howard newspapers.
He purchased a house in Albuquerque in the 1940’s and lived in it with his wife and dog Cheetah, till he was killed in the war he reported on. In his memory, his house has been turned into a National Landmark, and, once a year, there is a celebration of his life and achievements.
The house is a simple wood framed, pitched roof bungalow with shade trees around it. When Ernie moved into it, Albuquerque was a sleepy little town and he would have been on the edge of town with an unobstructed view of spectacular NM sunsets. Now the neighborhood is aging and close to the University of New Mexico where he would have taught journalism if he had survived the war that wouldn’t let him escape.
The celebration of his life is low key like he was, and, on a table in the library, where he used to read books by the fireplace, are personal letters to him from Presidents of the United States, military medals, and commendations for his war reporting. His prose is a simple yet strong as the home he built for himself.
This Pulitzer prize winning journalist was killed by a sniper’s bullet in the Pacific and he died as many of the soldiers he lovingly and respectfully wrote about that showed folks back home what their loved ones were enduring.
It is good to have a day to remember, if only once a year, those who have given so much.
Forgetting is all too easy but the wars just keep on coming.
As one group finishes their set, the emcee steps up on stage and introduces the next group. There is a fifteen minute break between bands, enough time for people to stretch, take a walk, find the porta potties, get a burger, stroll the town, pull a hat over their eyes and take a little snooze.
Some of the spectators today are wearing T shirts from past festivals, here and elsewhere, and spend their breaks visiting with their favorite musicians outside the tent before and after each of their performances.
Waiting in the wings to go on stage, this mandolin player practices a few choruses to keep his fingers nimble and his mind alert, rehearsing a song his group will soon be performing. His band mates are joking with a vocalist from the previous band that just finished their set, one of the co-host bands for the Westcliff Bluegrass Festival.
All the groups are good here but we pick our favorites, either by the songs they play, the way they play them, the way they handle the spotlight, the way they make us feel comfortable, or happy, or sad.
When these performers aren’t talking music they talk money, relationships, schedules, aches and pains,all threads in their musician’s coats..
Luckily, we, in the audience, don’t have to know their business, their politics, their issues, or their motivations to have ourselves a good time. Music gives us all a chance to back away from trials and tribulations and kick up our heels.
If we wanted to be propagandized, or depressed ,we would turn on our TV, listen to talk radio, or open tomorrow’s news already written today.
No one comes to a bluegrass festival to have a bad time and we sure don’t pay for bad music.
In the American Civil War, drummer boys led troops into battle and were one of the first to be shot by opposing forces. Paintings in the White House show George Washington surrounded by a drummer and flute player when he was surviving Valley Forge and winning our disagreement with Britain. GI’s in World War 2 were entertained by singing show biz legends at the front when they had a rare break from spilling blood in someone else’s fight. Music and fighting men/women have always had things in common.
Tonight, the 44th Army New Mexico National Guard Band is doing a free concert at the Albuquerque Museum of Art. Food and drink is available, crowds are good for a Thursday night, and the band performs jazz standards, big band charts with solos and lots of rhythm. During the show, a female soldier joins the band on stage and belts out songs for an appreciative crowd.
Everyone has to play their part well tonight to make the whole group sound good. Like the military unit, that they are, the soldiers must play in time, play in tune, play their written and improvised parts in the style and spirit required. Their marching orders are to follow the conductor when he moves his hands in front of them, left and right, up and down.
After the big band plays, a smaller ensemble of brass players march onto the stage, literally, and play rousing New Orleans brass band music.
After the concert, the audience and some of the soldiers, hang out on a nice summer evening, not in a hurry to leave.
Music brings people together,in spite of wars ,and keeps them together, whether they are military, or not.
There is controversy whether this is a lighthouse and whether Columbus’s bones are really inside the not so small ornate iron box in the center of this ornate display.
Columbus found the Dominican Republic on the first of his four voyages to the New World. Interestingly enough, he never set foot on America’s soil but set up his family comfortably in Santo Domingo to give them a good life and claim to lands he discovered for the King of Spain.
He was a visionary, as well as a businessman, and having audience with Kings and Queens is no easy task because, being important people, their time is worth more than ours. Mounting an expedition that was going to the ends of the world was a dangerous enterprise.
The big things I learn today are that, when walking, things you see are much further to get to than they look. Whenever you get lost, call a taxi and pay a few bucks to get where you want to go so you don’t spend your entire trip walking in circles.
It seems odd to celebrate a man who discovered America,but didn’t, and odd I’m standing here taking a photo of what we are told is the explorer’s mortal remains?
He and his beloved Santa Maria , right now, are most likely somewhere north, northeast of Mars navigating under celestial lights on dark dark seas with only a compass, telescope and good instincts to guide him and his crew..
He, I’m sure, is doing in the next world what he did in this one.
His bones might be here, but he doesn’t need them for his new discoveries.
According to Art, this is a Model A,, a ” Phaeton.”
He spells p-h-a-e-t-o-n out for me, this morning, when the two of us are conversing at our usual McDonalds, down the street from the Candelaria street McDonald’s where I saw this classic car yesterday afternoon.
It’s owner was an older man, a car nut, who drives his dream car to car shows and likes to meet with other gentlemen and talk shop about their pride and joy automobiles, and, of course, their pride and joy wives and/or girlfriends.
This convertible, with its white removable top, immaculate paint job, upholstery that smells factory new, and sparkling details, stood out for me in the Candelaria McDonald’s parking lot, way too nice to be there. I took photos for my scrapbook and compared her to newer models in the lot that didn’t compare to her, half as well.
With all comparisons, there is some prejudice involved.
I tend to like old vehicles, old buildings, and, even some old people. They have character and miles on their odometers that proves they run and have lasting power.
Inside the McDonald’s, I complimented the car’s owner and he smiled with pride and nodded his head as he sipped his black coffee with two sugars, now costing a dollar instead of a nickel when his ” Phaeton ” was brand new.
I thought, as I left, that getting compliments is one of the big reasons he drives her to McDonald’s.
You don’t want to keep a show horse like this cooped up in the barn.
At the entry to the Fountain Hills Park are a number of statues, some seated on benches, some standing, all with commemorative plaques and praising comments at their feet.The figures cast shadows, some longer than others. Most of the statues are of men and most have been Presidents of the United States.
Presidents, as we know from watching those we have voted for, have lots of good speechwriters, lots of philosophy and confidence.They enter office with one mindset and leave with another. Leading the United States, on a day to day basis, is like trying to keep water in a glass that keeps springing holes. You enter office believing you can benefit the country knowing that half the voters believe you are aren’t worth the time of day. Presidents leave office hoping they didn’t have to deal with war, a disastrous Depression, or any number of calamities that come upon a nation. You are glad, when your term is up, to let someone else drive the stagecoach.
This morning Lincoln and Reagan look like old friends and it would be revealing to sit on a bench on a moonlit night listening to their stories about unruly cabinet members, hostile Congressmen and women, an unrelenting negative press, and military misadventures.
There are those who would like to cart these two men and their memories away, store them in a warehouse providing props to the movie industry,
We expect far too much from our Presidents, and our Government.
This country will rise and fall on the efforts of us who will never have a statue of ourselves in a park..
Golf, as invented in the Scottish countryside, started with sticks and a ball.
Those old guys hit the little hand made wood balls for a distant hole dug in the ground and added traps and water later to make the game even harder than it is.They created a rule book and came up with tournaments and prizes to keep competition interesting and playing the game seem more noble than it actually is. Hitting a small ball with a stick with a club head, and getting it to go where you want it to, is a devilishly difficult skill.
Frisbee golf, as invented in our time, has recently become popular with the younger crowd. There is a frisbee golf course around this Fountain Hills Lake and it features eighteen designated holes, some par three, par four, and par five. There are no traps but the goal is the same – get the ball around the course in the fewest amount of strokes, or throws.
These guys are practicing this morning for their Sunday tournament today, and, by empty picnic benches, competitors are stretching, taking their frisbees out of Wal Mart tote bags and wiping them down with a clean rag.These two contestants tell me there are different sized frisbees for the different shots they have to make in a round. They let me try my hand and toss one of their plastic plates at a close by practice hole they are using to warm up before their tournament begins soon.
I give a toss and manage to land the frisbee inside the little upright basket where it is supposed to go.
There is room in this world, I believe, for ” frisbee golf. ”
After a round of ” frisbee golf ” I expect all these ” golfers” will easily be found at their ” nineteenth hole ” just as we go there after our rounds on our local courses.
Drinking predates golf by thousands of years, and explaining why your score was so high is always easier with a cold beer, chips and dip.
Whether it is real golf, or frisbee golf, GOLF is still, since it was made up, a four letter word.
Even if golf tests your temper and ego, it easily beats work, still another four letter word we all LOVE to HATE.
I’m walking, minding my business, on a cloudless day.
Water pours down like someone is pouring a bucket of water on me, which they are.
In the Zona Colonia, water used to mop balcony floors, or spilled when watering plants, exits the upstairs balcony through a piece of PVC pipe sticking through the balcony walls far enough that the excess water falls to the street below.
My next precaution is to take an umbrella on my jaunts.
If I had a plug and a ladder, I’d climb up and fix my problem and give these careless horticulturists a well deserved back up of their plumbing.
All they have to do is look down and make sure no one is below before they empty their buckets.
That’s common courtesy, but you don’t have to have courtesy when you live on the top floor.
When you live upstairs, it gets easy to forget those below you.
Tobacco farms and factories are actually located closer to the city of Santiago 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 home, 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 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 and show me some of the Club’s perks.
One of the coolest areas in this shop is a little room, off the main lobby, that has individual lockers stocked with their owners own personal stash of cigars. One of the lockers is owned by Angel Jimeniz, a professional golfer. 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 half dozen cigars I buy, rings up my sale, and packs Alan’s cigars nicely. She, 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.