There is art everywhere on Calle Conti, leaning against walls in the 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, which is a good sign for a business that deals in tantalizing the eyes and tweaking the spirit. Outside, by the gallery’s front door are three colorful masks and I can see quickly that there is space inside the gallery to stand back and look at the art 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.To counterbalance her glowing transcendence there are colorful fish hung on an opposing wall, a hummingbird construction towards the back of the shop that draws me, and an entire bookcase full of quaint, colorful wood figures sitting on the edge of each book shelf.
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, I learn, are actually located closer to the city of Santiago, in the Dominican Republic.
The Arturo Fuentes Cigar Club, in Santo Domingo, is mostly 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 hidden 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.
Rum is enough to keep this non-smoker happy as I listen to patrons ramble about their cigars, their love life,politics and their latest business victory.
At the Jardin Botanico in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, it is lunch time.
On the menu is one part indigenous people, one part Europeans, one part Hispanics, one part black Africans. Combine the European, African, Caribbean and Dominican recipe and you have a spicy melody served up with lots of spirit and joy.
The motto here is ” Don’t worry – Be Happy. ”
Most who live here try to live up to this motto.
Whether being happy is a genetic accident or learned behavior is a question learned psychologists are still trying to sort out.
I kept repeating the motto over and over, and, it makes me feel better already.
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 gives 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 is surprising all the cacao products that are sold here.
Business is slow 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 the neighborhood liquor store..
My bar of chocolate is done by the time I leave the museo, but I can still taste it when I get back to my guesthouse and find myself wishing I had bought a few more bars for the road.
I’ve never needed a museum to be sold on chocolate.
Chocolate,as ancient Aztecs believed, does keep Doctors away.
Even back in pre- history, people were often afraid of their health care providers.
Larimar is one of Earth’s creations, formed by great pressures, huge temperatures, great shiftings of the Earth’s crust over millions of years. It is found only in the Dominican Republic where it is mined, cut, polished, and fashioned into fine jewelry.
One of the shops off the Parque Colon in Santo Domingo is the Museum of Larimar which is both a museum and retail shop that sells larimar, as well as amber, another Dominican Republic treasure.
This little upstairs museum has English as well as Spanish descriptions in its history of how Larimar is created, how it is mined, and how it is used by it’s devotees. The sales ladies are low pressure and the soft blue and white gemstone is pleasing to my eye. Any of these necklaces would look well around a dainty woman”s neck, dressed for a nice dinner engagement with the person of her choosing.
There are street vendors in the Zona Colonia who have propositioned me to buy their stones. They hold a cigarette lighter with a flame up to their pieces to show their product is real and not plastic. Buying the gem in this museum gives me a written guarantee and certificate of authenticity for not much more money.
What is hard is seeing photos of tunnel rats who dig deep to find the gem. Their faces in the photos of the exhibit are dirty and their implements simple, shovels and pry bars and bamboo sticks.
Most things we covet have tales of hardship behind them.
Shouldn’t these real gemstones, millions of years old, wrestled from the Earth, polished and turned into jewelry, be worth more than the pieces of paper we purchase them with?
” Rail Runner to Santa Fe: The New Mexico Rail Runner Express zips through ancient Pueblo lands with stunning scenic views and connects to historic Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico. Tickets are available onboard or online. Whether you have a car or not, getting from Albuquerque to Santa Fe is an easy trip…”( from Rail runner info on line)
” The New Mexico Rail Runner is a 97 mile commuter rail connecting downtown Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Construction of the first phase of the project from Bernalillo to Belen began in 2005 on the tracks already in use by Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight trains and the service began in December 2006…. “(from Rail runner info on line )
” Ridership on New Mexico’s commuter rail system has tumbled so far during the past decade that legislative analysts now recommend closing or limiting service at one location -in downtown Bernalillo….. the state should not open new stations and focus on making the Rail Runner Express more competitive with those commuting by car…. ” (from Train ridership continues to fall in New Mexico, Albuquerque Journal, 2019)
” Lat year, the train made 2.8 million on fares, while the cost to operate the Rail Runner was $28.4 million. Plus, the department estimates the total debt repayment over 20 years amounts to $784 million….. “(KRKE News-May7,2015)
This train, Scotttreks suspects, will be here long after Scott is gone.
Closing the Rail Runner and putting the savings into free health clinics would be a better return on taxpayer money.
It’s hard for all of us to find a Doctor in New Mexico, these days, especially when we need one.
Halloween has crawled out of the grave for another year.
At a local Starbucks, Freddie doesn’t have to bone up on store policy, customer relations, or how to work the register. He hands out coffee and keeps his mouth shut because he rattles when he talks. This morning his fellow employees have a close hold on their cell phones, and, right now, are as dead to their employer as he is.
What shocks me is the lack of response Freddie gets. A few customers smile when I take his picture and ask him ” what’s going on, Dude? ”
Mostly, these days, people are into their phones, more dead to the world than Freddie.
Trying to communicate with the living dead is a day to day thing most all of us have learned to endure.
The boneyard, I glean from this coffee break, is closer than I’d like to be.
Rubbing elbows with skeletons is not my cup of tea.
Route 66 is the most famous United States highway that joined others to became the U.S. Interstate Highway system that linked our 50 states, made remote places accessible, let restless spirits roam to where they belonged, spawned a history of music, posters, legends and stories.
From November 26, 1926 until June 26, 1985 the 2,448 miles of highway joined Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico,Arizona and California. It started in Chicago and ended in Los Angeles and brought millions of people to the Pacific Ocean, the end of the line for souls tired of the Depression, the Crash of Wall Street, the Dust Bowl, World War One, World War 2., conformity and financial ruin. California sparkled in their eyes like the gold in its rivers and mountains.
Roads have notoriety in human history. The Romans built roads to link their empire. Jesus rode a donkey on a dirt road into Jerusalem. The Oregon Trail opened the West to city slickers looking for a better life.
If Route 66 kept going, across the Pacific to the Orient, I would put my bicycle on it and pedal all the way till everyone I met spoke a different language.
Roads that take us to new places are hard to say no too.
The saying used to be ” An apple a day keeps the Doctor Away. ”
In 2017, there were 27,339 Starbucks stores globally.
Back in World War 2, coffee kept pilots awake on long flights to targeted cities, helped wives and girlfriends who watched the postman walk up to the front door with fear. On Route 66, coffee was served in diners for five cents a cup to wash down blue plate specials, chicken fried steak with mixed vegetables, potato’s and gravy. Coffee was a working man’s drink.
At a recent European Cardiac Society Congress,however, coffee was recognized as having significant positive correlations with keeping coffee drinkers alive. According to their most recent scientific study, older people drinking two cups a day of Joe had a thirty percent reduction in mortality rates. Coffee was discovered to lower one’s risk for Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, liver disease and Parkinson’s.
This sign, says, with certainty, that ” three cups a day keeps the Doctor away.
With Doctor’s track records, mortality should be on every patient’s mind.
If drinking coffee made us young again, Starbucks would triple in size overnight.