” You an appraiser? ” the ball capped man, leaning against a pickup, asks me as I stand in the street and take a photo of a house for sale.
” No, ” I say, ” I’m just taking pretty pictures. ”
There are plenty of pretty pictures in Madrid, and some of them are Quirky. Madrid is a New Mexico ghost town about thirty five miles northeast of Albuquerque, closer to Santa Fe, and it has a storied history. Some say ghosts are still hanging out here on moonlit nights with coyotes howling and winds gently blowing the cottonwood trees that line the hamlet’s streets.
Madrid, that had an official population of 204 in 2010, used to be a mining town, and the company town produced anthracite coal for passenger trains because it burned cleaner. The town mostly huddles close to New Mexico Highway 14 and some notable sights to see are the Mineshaft Tavern and Museum, the Old Boarding House that was the only place to get coffee this morning, the Oscar Hubar Ball Field that was the first lighted ball field west of the Mississippi in the 1920’s.
Madrid was owned by corporations and when the demand for coal trickled down in the 1940’s, the town shut down. It was reclaimed by hippies and non conformists in the 1950,60’s and 70’s. There are numerous shops along Highway 14 through town that sell pottery, jewelry, turquoise, art, spiritual counseling, and Tarot readings. The town is a popular destination for motorcyclists, and, in 2007, the movie ” Wild Hogs ” was set and filmed here. In one of the opening scenes of the popular television series ” Breaking Bad, ” Walter White, after cooking some meth, calls his wife, Skyler, and suggests a trip to Madrid for a family lunch.
Today, the town is virtually shut down by a decree from our Governor, and walking the street is pleasant.
Some of the highlights of the visit are having hot coffee in the Old Boarding House, discovering Heaven, finding nooks and niches in the town that shows it’s ” attitude. ”
People, who live here, seem to have long beards, give you an extra long look, and all have three or four dogs around their homestead.
I’m guessing that some of the town’s residents still mine a little coal for their pot bellied stoves on cold winter days when the winds whip down Main Street and even dogs don’t want to be out.
For those with a little extra time, Madrid makes a close place to Albuquerque to see and enjoy.
As the same man who asked me ” if I was an appraiser, ” said, ” Getting out of the city is always good. ”
We don’t mine coal anymore but it sure feels, today, that I’m working for the company store.
When J.B. said he had a painting he wanted to give me, I wasn’t sure where this was all headed. I didn’t need another painting but told him to bring it over, and, if I didn’t want it, I would store it for him in my garage.
The painting, it turns out, is of a desert landscape. It is the art sold in Hobby Lobby, and Wal Mart, and is accepted as ” art ” by many, because it looks like something. In fact, wanting ” art ‘ to look like something is what most people seem to think ” art ” is.
This painting was done by Lee Reynolds, which turns out to be a 1960’s painting factory where house artists cranked out paintings for retail stores to be hung in mom and dad’s living rooms all across America. It was probably some little Chinese woman who knocked this out, in a couple of hours, while John Glenn was stepping on the moon and hitting his golf ball.
Scott has traveled in Arizona and guesses their might be a river just like this somewhere in that state, with saquaros guarding the river, just like this painting shows it.
Till further notice, this atypical piece of art, is going to hang with all the other non-realistic art Scott loves.
I like the desert, like water, and like saquaros.
Why wouldn’t I like looking at them every morning, as sunlight comes creeping through window blinds. and the trumpet from a nearby military base plays reveille and raises the colors?
I’m wondering if the little Chinese lady, who did this “original”, ever made it to the desert herself?
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.
The project is simple enough, putting up a thirteen foot shelf and using the shelf to secure a back privacy wall along a back porch wall. All that is needed is wood, deck screws, a drill, a tape measure, a handsaw, and patience.
A local Home Depot isn’t far from the house and they cut a sixteen foot, 2×8, down to thirteen feet for me. Next, I look for a box of deck screws. The deck screws, incredibly, come to $9.94, for a box of fifty 3 and a half inch deck screws. These same screws, several months ago, were, for the same sized box, in the six to seven dollar range, including tax. Made in Taiwan,the box does include a little drill bit, which I need, because the screw heads have a star pattern and can’t be driven with a normal bit.
The cost of building a house is going up at the same rate as this box of screws, around 30%. Even with an illegal immigration workforce in this state, that keeps costs down, it is going to cost a pretty penny now to put up a house. With supply chains broken and dollars everywhere,the total on my sales receipt is going to keep going up, up, up.
We are told there is no inflation, but, building this simple shelf is getting expensive.
Inflation is sometimes defined as too much money chasing too few goods.
Seeing a simple box of exterior screws, fifty to a box, costing almost ten bucks, hammers the point home.
Most of the workforce in New Mexico don’t make ten dollars an hour.
When an hour of your life gets you fifty screws, you really are getting screwed.
Part of travelling is bringing back stuff.
There are memories and words and photos on all trips, but there are also objects that get packed in your suitcase and brought back home. Maybe it is a piece of art from Uruguay? Maybe it is a recipe? Maybe it is a T shirt or a special cap? Maybe it is a new watch or a pack of seeds to try something new in your garden?
This little insect box, from a market place in Panama, hangs in a hallway at home.
Insects, as most of us know, can be good – like ladybugs, or bad – like mosquitos. Most often, we feel insects before we see them. Casual research suggests there might be as many as five million species on the planet with only a million species identified and described.
There is still plenty for ” bug lovers ” to do on our planet.
My insects on the wall are the best kind. They don’t wake me up, bite me, or talk trash. They remind me of great engineering designs and adaptability. We’re not in this world alone, even if we think we are.
If I were to take a trip into the jungles of Panama, I’d meet all of these guys on a first name basis.
Somehow, I like them on a wall, in a box, the best.
This is a scene from a local Wal-Mart, a scene many Americans are now becoming familiar with.
This is the Russia we used to see on national TV, in the sixties and seventies, and talk about in high school when the benefits of Communism were trumpeted by the hippie in the back row. Now, reality, has come to roost, in our neighborhoods.
In the space of several weeks, ten million Americans have been laid off, private businesses have been shut down and called ” not essential ” by people who have never run a business. Ideas of ” social distancing ” and ” flattening the curve ” are flown from flagpoles, and executed in marching order by federal, state, county and city governments. Hot lines urge citizens to call and report neighbors for daring to keep their business open so they can feed their families.
Where we go from here is unknown, but it isn’t going to be something I accept, or like, and must resist.
!984 took a while to get here, but we are living a good dose of it now.
There is art everywhere on Calle Conti, leaning against walls in pedestrian walkways, stacked deep in little shops along with Dominican Republic baseball caps and knick knacks. The canvases are small, medium, and large, but all seem to have been painted by the same pair of hands.
Bolo’s, on a different street,catches my eye. Outside, by the gallery’s front door are three colorful masks and browsers can see quickly that there is space inside the gallery to stand back and look at the arts and crafts sold inside.
The galleries featured artist this month, Almanzar from Haiti, has displayed a series of self portraits done in a pointillist like style, with subtle girl colors.
The black sales woman has music on, a glowing smile, and is gracious enough to let me take my time and just browse on a quiet afternoon in the middle of the week.
I do wonder about an artist that does a show of self portraits.
Why would someone you don’t know want to buy your self portrait?
Wouldn’t they really just want to buy one of themselves?
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.
Words, bless their little hearts, can say a lot of things. They can take the form of a contract, come firing out of mouths like an old gattling gun . They can make people love or hate us, and, in the right mixture, sooth and calm the most indignant customers.
This afternoon, words escape me, as a young woman carries a basket of baked goods for sale atop her head, past me on the sidewalk.
By the time i turn to get a photo she is past me, only a fleeting mortal being moving across a busy Zona Colonia intersection.
At this moment, the only words that some to mind are ” Poetry in Motion. ”
In my mind, she will always be frozen in time, beyond words.
Cocoa is grown mostly in West Africa but is also cultivated in the Dominican Republic,Grenada and Nicaragua, all located in the same geographical band circling the waist of our planet.
Cocoa is labor intensive to grow and turn into products people will buy, but it brings us chocolate, which tastes good to most everyone and is healthy now, unless you ask your dentist.
This Cacao Museo is located north of the Parque Colon, in Santo Domingo, and it surprises to see all the products that are made with cacao beans as the base ingredient.
Business is slow at the museo this afternoon, but reading the health benefits of unprocessed cocoa is going to send me to a health foods store when I get back to New Mexico, right after I get my healthy bottle of rum at my neighborhood liquor store..
My bar of chocolate goes down sweetly and when I leave the museo, I can still taste the chocolate all the way back to my guesthouse.
Chocolate,as ancient Aztecs believed, does keep Doctors away.
Even back in pre- history, people were afraid of their health care providers, and fear of going to the dentist has always been universal.
Promoting chocolate as healthy is a quite brilliant piece of marketing.
If it tastes so good it can’t possibly be bad for us?