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 music tonight comes from the “Radiators”, and they sing and swing with an upright bass, mandolin, lead guitar and vocalist. They play blues, country, rock, and even do a bossa nova for folks in the audience still looking for the ” Girl From Ipanema.”
This restaurant is the home of ” The Big Rib” and a huge fake rib hangs on one restaurant wall with a big sign above it. The rib is way too big for anyone to eat, and, by itself, would feed a high school football team, if you could swallow the plastic.
I also like the real Texas longhorns on the walls, pictures of cowboys and horses, and acoustic guitars signed by musicians who have played here since it opened. In the men’s bathroom is a poster with pinups of the 50’s that is nostalgic for guys over seventy..There is an unusual horseshoe chair in a passageway to a back dining room, and, in the front entry of the restaurant, a “Love Testing Machine” only costs a quarter to test the strength of your passion.
In the shadow of the Sandia’s, the County Line is the place to be on a Friday night,enjoying a Pabst Blue Ribbon, and listening to tight four part harmony and popular songs.
Live music is always a treat and good barbeque makes it sound even better.
Barbecue and blues go well together and even though their marriage has been tempestuous, they would take the ” Love Machine ” all the way to the Moon.
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.
The mood is up and the music tonight was a joy.
They are all jazz pro’s.
Pro’s always give their best and make what they do look like I could do it.
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.
At lunch yesterday, there was a line almost out the door and all the tables inside were occupied.This morning, its doors are open for breakfast. It is quiet and a cool breeze rushes through the room from the Caribbean Sea, a few blocks to the south.
Regulars are finishing, joking, getting ready to go to work, all men in their forties and fifties going to jobs to support their families.
The bill is one hundred pesos.- less than morning coffee and a cherry pie back home at McDonalds.
The beauty of the Zona Colonia is that you find new twists and turns every day. As a traveler, everything is new, and by the time it stops being new, you go home. When you get home, the travel spirit carries over and you see your own home with new eyes and a new heart.
Keeping your spirit open is a daily responsibility.
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.
Before seven in the morning, a kid passes me on his bicycle, carrying a five gallon plastic bucket, with bait and tackle inside, and a fishing pole resting on his handlebars.
When the kid, who just whizzes past me, makes a left turn towards the water, a block further down, I know he is going fishing and joining another fisherman where the water meets the land.
There are fishermen on this jetty every morning, just at sunrise, and sometimes in the evening, at sunset. While you can catch fish other times of day, fisherman tell you when the time is best to bait a hook, cast out, and wait for the fish to bite.
This Santo Domingo park, by the Napolitano Casino, will soon have its walkers and exercise people. City crews are putting down new sod and walkers, taking fresh air on a cool morning, can use a new swing set installed the other day by the parks and recreation department work crew. I watched some of the workers test the swing out, laughing, happy because it was almost quitting time.
At the end of the concrete jetty I am heading for, these two compadres already have their lines in the surf and are watching the sun come up over a not too distant shipyard.
Fishermen are eternally hopeful.
If you don’t try to catch anything, you won’t catch anything.
The kid’s bicycle is laid down close to him, and, if he is lucky and is using the right temptation, he will take some fish home for breakfast this morning, in his five gallon bucket.
Paying high prices for food, that no one but tourists can afford, is not our idea of travel. Our idea at Scotttreks is to find healthy, well prepared food,served in good surroundings, where locals eat, for local prices.
This neighborhood cafe is a six minute walk from the La Puerta Roja Guest House.
At the intersection of Calle Santome and Jose Gabriel Garcia, this neighborhood eatery has no flashing lights, not even a sign on the outside of the building to identify it. I didn’t know it was alive until I looked inside open doors and saw people eating, spotted the sign above the cash register, saw that Google maps said I had arrived by flashing me an arrow.
Next trip back I’ll try some of the potato dishes, cole slaw, beef, plantain, and other Dominican Republic specialties. This trip I’m sticking with rice, chicken and okra cooked like my Dad liked it.
There are all ages here today, from working men, to kids and families, to men in suits with their wives, or at least I hope they are their wives.
To my south is George Washington Avenue that runs along the water south of the Zona Colonia and is one of the toughest streets to cross in the world because there are no stop lights and I don’t trust people to stop for me in the walkways. Video games are changing people’s contact with reality and they might run me over for points. . No way am I going to step out and hope traffic yields to me.
The Caribbean water sparkles in this afternoon sun and the palm trees remind me of Los Angeles, Padre Island and Belize.
After a number of trips, places start to cluster together, similarities become more clear, and differences become obvious.
I have my favorite places.
Most of them are warm, by an ocean, and in the Caribbean.