On a Saturday morning, Westcliff is closed for business and there aren’t many people out and about.
The local grocery store isn’t open till nine but you can get cash from the bank ATM if you are short.The only gas station is on the highway back to Walsenburg, a few miles south of town. There are several real estate offices with flyers posted in their windows for lookers, and the restaurant at the bowling alley is still asleep with bowling balls still cuddled up in their chutes.
The Sugar and Spice Bakery is one of the few places open in town this early and seven patrons are already lined up ahead of me to get something to eat.
The two young women running the shop wear plain long skirts and blouses with plain bonnets on their head, their hair bundled up under each bonnet. They are Mennonites, who, along with Amish,have settled in this area in the last few years. I saw several girls, dressed exactly like this, working at the bowling alley cafe yesterday and admired their work ethic and modesty when serving overweight middle aged women in shorts and tattoos, ordering chicken fried steak and mashed potato dinners.
In our evolving world, the Mennonites and Amish ,in Westcliff ,might be the only ones in our country saying “no” to progress and the latest party line newspaper propaganda.
While this planet spins, those of us waiting in line know you can’t beat good home made muffins, scones ,and apple pie for breakfast with a hot beverage to warm your hands.
Even in our complicated world, eating hand made muffins, sitting in chairs that have no screws, riding in wagons pulled by carts, and listening to bluegrass music is not without charm.
We can buy our food out of machines but eating that way just doesn’t raise our spirits like eating meals made and served by human hands.
I’ll be back tomorrow too, and their sign on the door tells me they will be open.
In the shadow of the Sandia Mountains, the County Line Barbecue is packed this Friday night. I am on the band’s e mail list, and got my invitation via e-mail. Judging from a plate of ribs on another patron’s plate, on the bar counter next to me, the barbeque doesn’t sound shabby either.
The entertainment tonight comes from the “Radiators”, who are singing and swinging with an upright bass, mandolin, lead guitar and vocalist, playing originals and top 40 hits.
The County Line has Texas longhorns hung on its walls, pictures of cowboys and horses in every dining room, and acoustic guitars signed by musicians who have played here since it opened. The men’s bathroom has a poster with pinups of the 50’s that is nostalgic for guys over ninety. There is an unusual horseshoe chair you can sit in for luck,and, in the front entry of the restaurant, a “Love Testing Machine.”
Barbecue and blues blend well, and, even though their marriage has been tempestuous, they could take the ” Love Machine ” all the way to the Moon.
Next visit, the house ribs will be a must try.
Good ribs, baked beans, cole slaw, cornbread and potato salad all help chase the blues away, and keep them at bay.
At closing, Portillo’s, in Fountain Hills, is almost empty.
The eatery specializes in Chicago food, hot dogs, polish sausage and Italian Beef.
The restaurant is gleaming and has checkered tablecloths, old style movie posters and employees dressed in sporty uniforms. It is a place that Vinnie and the boys would come to eat after taking care of numbers rackets, breaking some arms,blowing up a competitor’s vehicle with him inside it.
There are more employees in the place than customers this time of night, and, as we finish our late dinner, the help is sweeping floors, closing out registers, getting ready to hang the ” Closed ” sign in the front window and go home to late night movies and Chinese take out.
In the parking lot, the bass player, Tom, has backed his car into a close to our table parking space, in plain view, so he can keep an eye on his expensive irreplaceable stand up bass. I watched him slip the big instrument into its custom made case, at the gig, and roll it out to his car like he was pulling a suitcase in an airport terminal. He carefully laid the bass down in the back seat of his small SUV and covered it with a cheap looking Mexican blanket that would hide something worth stealing.
Instruments, like your best set of golf clubs, your best operating scalpels, your best culinary knives, or running shoes, have to be kept close.
Columbus brought the first sugarcane to the new world, and, shortly after, the first sugar cane plantation, worked by slaves, was begun in the New World in the Dominican Republic. A trade route was begun with Europe bringing African slaves to the America’s, trading them for rum, tobacco, cotton and other resources to take back to Europe. A rich European merchant class was built on people working under a hot sun having someone else tell them when they could stop.
Rum is said to increase good cholesterol, combat artery blockages to help prevent heart attacks and disease. Rum is low calorie, strengthens bones,promotes heart health,combats muscle pain,fights the common cold, acts as a sleep aid, extends longevity, reduces the risk of alzheimer’s disease.
Sir Francis Drake gave his sailors a daily shot of rum and pirates drank the stuff instead of water, which was not always available, especially in the middle of an ocean.
The Museo of Rum in the Zona Colonia makes rum on its premises and has a free tasting bar.
I buy myself some coffee flavored rum I hope I can get through Customs and back home, and I plan to implement a daily regimen of rum for all the health benefits that accrue from drinking it.
I will , though, never become a Los Angeles Raider football fan.
Pirates, even Jack Sparrow, are too shady for my taste,
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.
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.
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.