A day in Cerrillos, New Mexico Just past Madrid, on the way to Santa Fe

    In the 2000 U.S. Census, Cerrillos had 229 permanent residents. On the road between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and a few miles north of Madrid, another New Mexico ghost town, Cerrillos has even more ghosts than Madrid. The town has a few art galleries, shops, a U.S. Post Office, the nearby Cerrillos Hills State Park with hiking trails, the Cerrillos Mining Museum, a General Store, the Saint Joseph Catholic Church, train tracks, a lot of quiet, and a small town rural New Mexico pedigree. According to a town history, on a board by a little public restroom by the headquarters of the Cerrillo’s Hills State Park, this town started as a tent city for miners,and was once considered to be the location for the state capital. This area has always been big on mining and the original inhabitants, the Tano Indians,way way back, were slave labor in the mines till they revolted. Turquoise, gold, silver, and lead are the main minerals that have brought people here looking for easy riches. There was a movie, ” Young Guns, ” made here, and many of the residents work in Santa Fe and commute, just liking to be away from city life. Highlights of today’s visit was encountering a California  “Hippie Bus ” with its occupants a family who spend their life on the road and were looking for turquoise in town. When they had trouble navigating, the woman would get out of the bus, step back and direct her driver till he got the bus going the right direction. Another place, good for the spirit, was the Saint Joseph Church at the end of a main street. The church goes back a hundred years and there is an open courtyard visitors can stroll through and meditate on the human condition. The Mining museum and trading post were closed but you could still see the camel, goats and birds at the petting zoo, along with mining machines all rusted and inoperable. A local man, waxing his older Volvo, that is a classic, told me his son was living in New York and he and his girlfriend haD to sneak out at night just to get relief from the lock down there. ” No way I’d want to live there, ” I volunteered, and the man, who was a contractor who builds in Santa Fe, agreed. ” We’re still working but you can only have five in the house at one time, ” he said, ” It makes making a living difficult.” This little town used to be full of hotels, saloons, dance halls, shops and short order houses, brothels and boarding houses, but it is now just a sleepy little burg for sightseers and tourists. Cerrillos means ” Little Hills ” in Spanish, and , later IN the evening, as the sun goes down, these little hills will get a pinkish tint that makes them look like some of the art canvases in the shops. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s this little town was feeling it’s oats. Now, Cerrillos is a place to escape the bustle of the big city, revisit the state’s mining history, pick up some rare turquoise mined from this area, hike in the ” Little Hills”, and spend a lazy Saturday petting camels in the petting zoo.  

Waiting in Line Smith's Grocery, Albuquerque, New Mexico

    It is not quite seven in the morning, and at seven the Smith’s grocery opens up for senior citizens, those over 60. We, in this line, aren’t asked for our ID’s and grey hair seems to be good enough to get us in into the store at seven. A store employee tells us that carts have been wiped down and sterilized, and the most customers they can let in the store, at one time, is 150 . Some people in line now wear masks, some check their cell phones, some talk, most shiver as the sun is barely coming up. Waiting in line is something we all do, but waiting at the grocery at seven in the morning, standing six feet apart, wearing masks, watching the economy melt down, is a new experience. We read about riots across the world as people fight against government instituted shutdowns of jobs, livelihoods, businesses. We hear about long lines to buy food, rationing, and lack of food to buy on the shelves, something you can already see inside this store. It will seemingly get more ugly, but, this morning, everyone is patient. Ordinary people will go along with the party line, for a while. When they are pushed too far,however, see their freedoms taken, see their country, as they knew it, stolen before their eyes, then ordinary people won’t be so nice. When the herd stampedes, fences are broken down, people get killed, and you best stand out of the way. Often, cures kill you quicker than the disease. 

Waiting to go on stage making new friends and seeing old ones is the best

    Talking shop is a performer’s best medicine. 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. 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.  

Albuquerque Concert 44th Army New Mexico National Guard Band

    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 fife 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.          

Columbus Wuz Here Columbus Lighthouse, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

    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.  

Just Statues Lincoln and Reagan

    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. 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..  

Frisbee Golf Fountain Hills Park, Fountain Hills, Arizona

    Golf, as invented in the Scottish countryside, started with sticks and a ball. Those old guys hit the little hand made wood ball for a distant hole dug in the ground, added traps and water later to make the game harder. 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 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 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. There are no traps but the goal is the same – get the frisbee 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. 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.  

Watch out above Getting wet on a dry day

    I’m walking, minding my own business, not a cloud in the sky. Water pours down like someone is pouring a bucket of water on me. In the Zona Colonia, water used to mop, or spilled when watering plants, leaves the upstairs balcony through a piece of PVC pipe and falls to the street below. If I had a plug and a ladder, I’d climb up and fix my problem and give these careless people 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. Next time, I’m bringing an umbrella. You can never count on people to do the right thing.  

Arturo Fuente Cigar Club Cigar Expedition Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

    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.    

Hand rolling cigars in DR In the Zona Colonia

    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 finishes. 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.  
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