Author Archives: Art

Quitting ‘cold turkey’?

Don’t most of us use expressions that mean nothing, that can’t really explain why those combinations of letters come to mean something we agree on but don’t always know why?

I’m referring to the archaic expression “cold turkey.” Where did that come from? When I smoked for 25 years about 33 years ago, friends, family, doctors and others advised me to “quit cold turkey.” By that they meant I wasn’t to hide an emergency stash of Salems in the trunk of my car, or to allow myself just one cigarette in the morning upon arising and just one more at night, or to simply stop buying those cancer sticks.

Although cold turkey has no doubt worked for many, a great number of smokers choose to “taper off.”

I think quitting, when I did, in 1984 was as difficult as trying to ferret out a reason why the term “cold turkey” ever came about. I used to hear it a lot — mostly from adults whose bellows and exhalations filled our house. All eight of us Trujillos smoked for a time. Mom smoked Luckies, Dad smoked pipes and Roi Tan cigars. Uncle Juan bought a pack of Camels every day, and the rest of us smoked — my late brother, Severino, was a smoker, as was I. Our three sisters were no strangers to cigarettes, although my recollection is that they smoked small quantities, and not for long. Continue reading

Snippets of things past

My mom, the late Marie Trujillo, was certainly not a woman of limitless patience. And proof of that were the smiles on the faces of new-car dealers whenever Mom called them to complain that the car wouldn’t start . . . or that the car was out of windshield washer fluid.

The salespeople immediately thought “here comes a sale.”

I knew her for more than six decades (her being some 28 years my senior. I don’t think of her impatience as a detriment, although I never made a big issue of it and merely chalked it up as a way of getting things done.

Many are champions of revisionist history. Notice how those snippets of things past arise, usually when we’re all seated for a Thanksgiving meal.

Here’s one example: Turkey Day usually brings together friends and families who might not have seen one another in months, or years. That reunion makes it necessary to make conversations, to engage in the remembrances of things past, and for all of us to have a good laugh over the exhumed tales of things we did decades earlier. Continue reading

Got to be carefully taught

A 1949 Broadway musical by Rogers and Hammerstein, “South Pacific,” contains a profound song lyric.

The song is “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught.” A few lyrics follow: “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear; you’ve got to be taught from year to year, it’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear; you’ve got to be carefully taught.”

The highly successful musical then lists things we need to hate and fear: “People whose skin is a different shade,” “People whose eyes are oddly made,” and also, “You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, before you are 6 or 7 or 8, to hate all the people your relatives hate . . .” The words, clearly, are ironic.

I first heard those lyrics around 1950. Even at age, 11, I wondered why the lyrics hinted at prejudice — maybe even encouraging it. Hammerstein’s lyrics offended some, particularly music lovers from the Deep South. That didn’t deter the composers, who faced the issue of racial prejudice by keeping “Carefully Taught” as a major part of the musical. Continue reading

Just the tip of the iceberg

Las Vegas, N.M. — where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.

Well, maybe that’s not the perfect description of our Meadow City. But the shock waves are as palpable as if they originated here.

That topic ­— and others of that ilk ­— took up part of the time we news personnel devoted to the increasingly frequent reports of various sexual improprieties around the country.

It’s not solely the province of athletes and other superstars; the names that emerge include celebrities and politicians.

A recent report involves Garrison Keillor, he of an enormously popular program, “Prairie Home Companion.” That avuncular, 75-year-old purveyor of clean, wholesome wit and wisdom, is now gone from his Saturday afternoon PBS radio broadcast. Keillor called the reasons for his dismissal “all kind of bewildering.” Most snippets on the firing are sketchy at best, the most common reason given as “improper behavior.”

It saddens a slew of people who’ve set their radio dial on Saturdays to NPR and laughed at some of the comments of the well-known wordsmith.

I joined with fellow members of the Optic’s editorial board to discuss this strange phenomenon in which so many people in the news suddenly face charges of inappropriate conduct.

This isn’t an attempt to be comprehensive but merely to ask whether the plethora of scandals is merely the tip of the iceberg.

And we needn’t go all the way back to the Bill Cosby matter ­— an issue which needs no further explaining.

There’s the recent Alabama matter in which U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore is determined to stay in the race despite some damning allegations that he molested girls in their teens, when he was in his 30s.

Of course Moore denies the allegations. The almost-even split between those who plan to vote for him, as opposed to his Democrat opponent says much about party loyalty as opposed to doing what’s morally right.

And there’s Matt Lauer, who was fired from his position as host of the “Today” show, amid accusations of sexual harassment.

And also Bill O’Reilly, the erstwhile promotor of whatever is extreme right in our country.
Reports reveal Fox News gave O’Reilly a big contract after he was sued for $32 million by a colleague who threatened to sue him for alleged sexual misconduct. Continue reading

Just how cold was it?

How many times have you played a leading role in a real-life winter pageant? You need to gas up your car on a December night, to have it ready for a trip to warmer climes, like Albuquerque, and rather than waiting till morning, you head out to a station at night.

You insert your debit card, punch the necessary buttons and wait for the pump to read your card. You’re greeted by some commercials, right on the screen, when the first of many arctic blasts hits you, loosening all your back teeth. Then, as another gust arrives, you struggle to thread the pump into your tank while debating whether to wait in the car, despite the chance the pump won’t shut off automatically and you’ll flood the pavement. And pay for the spilled gas.

It seems that Mother Nature holds back her icy gusts until the precise moment that you realize you’ve forgotten to pop open the gas tank. That’s common. But becoming just as common is having to wait for a long time just to complete your transaction at an ATM. Here’s what I’ve noticed only recently.

Somehow, the ATM I use has begun to provide commercials. Rather than 1) Insert card, 2) a list of possible tasks I need help with, like withdrawals, one gets treated to a series of repetitious commercials in which a president of some bank apologizes for some mortal sin committed years ago and vows that it’ll never happen again. Continue reading

A primer on expressions

It’s been only in my adult years that I’ve come across the term “Black Friday.” I’ve heard several explanations as to why it’s called that — some much more plausible than others.

Three of the most common explanations about the term have to do with weather conditions and pollution, the kind we find in big cities, compounded by rain, snow, sleet and sludge, as shoppers rush home with their treasures.

Not convinced? Then what about the opening of the holiday Christmas season, wherein those treasure-seeking shoppers turn their financial statuses red as merchants’ ledgers turn black?

And finally, some contend the term refers to members of the clergy, who wear black in anticipation of Easter Sunday. Continue reading

Lots of zeroes in a billion

Listening to a radio broadcast on population trends in the U.S., I was amazed at how anybody could possibly understand the amount or meaning of figures the announcer tossed out.

That was a few years ago, as we drove through Indiana en route to a reunion for Bonnie’s side of the family. We hold such a reunion every four years and take turns as “hosts.

You see, the Coppock clan east of the Mississippi generally opts for a site for the three-day event somewhere in the east; we’ve been mainly to the Midwest states but have traveled as far east as Ohio and West Virginia.

We westerners usually select a cool spot in Colorado or Utah. A message on radio caught our attention: the announcer gave the then-current world population estimate at just above seven billion. That’s a seven followed by NINE zeroes. Continue reading

They searched in vein

Although it’s now a few days past Halloween, the subject of ghosts, goblins, gore and blood are still relevant.

The blood bank to which I went to make a deposit fittingly had spooky things on the walls of the Santa Fe donation center, and I even received a scary t-shirt for my effort. Recently, on Facebook, I mentioned the visit to the Capital City and received a reply from Rosalie, a former co-English teacher who asked why I hadn’t simply donated blood in Las Vegas.

I don’t know. If there is such a center in this town, I’m not aware of it, and the Santa Fe center remind me of the TV program “Cheers,” “where everybody knows (my) name.” I can joke with the staff there.

As I entered, two phlebotomists greeted me with “Hi, Art.” I told them I was disappointed: “I expected you to greet me with ‘We’ve come to take your blllllooooooodd.” So they corrected themselves and apologized for having forgotten the Bella Lugosi spiel we all remember from Dracula movies. Continue reading

49 cents can be a dollar

A penny was a lot in my youth. As a child, I used to count each one, hoping the number would increase.

Something like that happened when I was around 10 and considered myself the Rockefeller of Railroad Avenue. I was one of zillions of Optic sellers. If I sold 10 copies each day, I’d go home expecting some car company to have delivered my brand new Lamborghini.

Around Christmas time that year, after counting and re-counting all my pennies and stacking them in tidy rows of 10, I eyeballed the stacks and discovered I was missing a penny. That made me “pennic,” a word I coined for that occasion.

I took a handful of the coins and flung them all around the room, an act that startled and then amused my Uncle Juan, who shared the room with my brother Severino and me. I reasoned that after gathering all the coins, the 50th one would magically appear. Maybe the AWOL coin would have gotten lonesome and decided to join the others. Continue reading

‘Mockingbird’ flares up anew

There’s a bit of irony in the following, which concerns a re-heated topic of racism, as shown in the decision of several school districts to ban Harper Lee’s award-winning novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Touching on Lee’s brilliant novel and of censorship leads me to make a couple of disclosures. First, my mother and I were virtual opposites when it came to tolerance for words and images that appeared in books; she favored censorship. Second, even as a child I never believed that learning and even using what we call profanity — such as the f-word — would corrupt me.

But yet, when I lived with my parents in the mid-sixties, finishing up my last year of college, I discovered how diametrically opposed my mother and I were.

Here’s how: I was enrolled in an upper-level class as Highlands, and the professor assigned a book called “A Psychiatrist Looks At Erotica.” The only place that book, containing bold statements on nudity, pornography and profanity was available was in a bookstore on Douglas, which used to be our main business district. Why that book wasn’t at the Highlands Book Store still puzzles me. Continue reading