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.  

Decorative Art A Pretty Picture

 

 

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?

Getting Screwed

 

 

 

 

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.

Empty Shelves How did we get here?

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

 

 

No B.S. Handwritten sign

 

 

ATM’s have become many people’s money solution.

They are in countries all over the world and you can get cash in countries where no one speaks English and all the writing looks like hieroglyphics. The ATM’s accept debit and credit cards, let you make deposits, check balances and transfer money across accounts.They are open twenty four seven and have small service fees. There is a phone number to call if something goes haywire but we all hope we don’t ever have to call because talking to customer service techs in India is dicey.

This simple, hand penned sign, by the ATM, is a plea for help. It was left leaning against a wall behind a trash barrel, so one guesses the writer got money and did take his Sister for a nice meal at the local Jack in the Box.

This sign promises your money will be spent on food rather than drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or other vices.

Whether we should trust what we read, because the writer asks us too, is a great leap of faith.

The only thing that seems questionable in this plea for help are the letters, ” No B.S. ”

I wouldn’t have written that, if it was my sign.

When someone tells me ” No, B.S..” there is usually plenty of it that follows.

 

 

Fishing the Rio Grande fishing on rafts on upper Rio Grande

 

 

The Rio Grande river runs through New Mexico and most of the state’s population and bigger cities hug the river’s edges all the way through the state, from north to south. The river is sustained by melting winter snow pack in Colorado and this is a good year with today’s river running fast and high. Along its entire length, Indian, state, county officials, and even private individuals dip their hoses and buckets into the currents and draw off water they need for their life and livelihood. 

By the time our Rio Grande gets to Texas and Mexico, it is shallow enough in places to walk across, and it’s color is a muddy brown. There are packed legal folders full of legal challenges about who owns this river’s water, who gets to use it, and in what quantities. Our Rio Grande  empties into the Gulf of Mexico and has always been the lifeblood of farmers, ranchers, outlaws, Indians, miners and immigrants, legal or not, all co-existing inside our state borders. 

This afternoon, rafts carry fishermen downstream with paid guides maneuvering clients to some of the best fishing spots.

I don’t know what it cost these fishermen for their guide and raft, but it all adds up to an expensive trout dinner.

This guide will give this sportsman a better than average chance to catch something worth catching.

When you come this far to catch fish you want good pictures to show your buddies back home.

A few extra bucks for a trophy fish,you can brag on for twenty or thirty years, even if it seems way too high, is money well spent.

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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.

 

 

 

 

On Stage with Kody and the gang Kody Norris Band

 

 

One of the more entertaining bands at the festival, playing numerous sets over the four days, is the Kody Norris Show.

The Kody Norris band features traditional bluegrass along with dancing, clowning around, comedy, and audience participation tossed in for dessert.

Wearing bright blue and red suits on stage,their group musicianship is high and all our crowd spirits under the big tent this afternoon are in fine shape.

Kody, who is soon to marry the group’s fiddle player, Mary Rachel, asks the audience for tips on making his imminent marriage successful.

One of the best audience suggestions is , ” She is always right. ”

Everyone laughs, when they hear this wisdom,except for the ladies. They all nod their heads in total agreement and give their husbands, boy friends and significant others  stern “You should be doing this ” looks. 

We catch the band several times between Thursday and Sunday, and each performance is just a little bit different but not too different.

Another good tip for Kody, as a soon to be husband ,would be – don’t sing the same song too many times.

Variety is always needed in performing, regardless of what kind it is.

 

Portillo’s In Fountain Hills, Arizona

 

 

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 their 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.

Instruments, like your best set of golf clubs, your best operating scalpels, your best culinary knives, or running shoes, have to  be kept close.

This world is not without thieves.

 

 

 

Greg’s Trio Pizza IS EXTRA

 

 

Escaping Chicago in the winter months, Greg and Judy stay in Fountain Hills, Arizona and perform every Saturday night at a close to their house Fountain Hills eatery. They are joined tonight by a friend from Seattle, Tom Wakeling, who plays bass with Lee Konitz and likes to jam with Greg and Judy when he has the opportunity.

The restaurant is full and Chadd, a student of Greg’s, and my teacher, drove us over from Albuquerque to enjoy Greg, Judy and Tom’s performance. It is one thing to talk about jazz, but the best learning comes by listening to players who know how the music is supposed to be done.

The trio plays standards out of the Great American Songbook, takes requests, and play tight, yet loose, in this small unpretentious Italian restaurant.

The accumulated professional years,of these three, nears a hundred. How do you put a value on an art that vanishes in the air after it is played? They never play the same song the same way. 

Even better, than the music tonight ,is going out for an after closing bite to eat with the gang after instruments have been packed away and the restaurant/bar shuts down for the night.

Jazz musicians, musical God’s that they are, still eat the same kind of food the rest of us do.

 

 

 

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