Monthly Archives: September 2009

Not a hothouse plant

A couple of nights last week might have been the coldest of the season. Whether it froze or snowed depends on whom you talk to. Regardless, many people needed to crank up their thermostats.

There appears to be no time of the year when there’s such a range in temperature variation. I’m a cool-weather fan myself, and autumn is by far my favorite season. Any temperature above 75, regardless of season, makes me feverish. It’s fitting and perhaps ironic that many summers I spent in hellholes, which make Las Vegas seem frigid, even though Las Vegas itself is warming (but that’s a topic for another column).

I do not consider myself a hothouse plant. My mom, the late Marie Trujillo, had the middle name “Remijia,” but it should have been “Triple Bagger,” in that she dispatched all five of us siblings to school dressed not to the nines but to the tons. “That’s so you won’t get cold, Hijito,” Mom would explain, as she placed another layer of clothes on me. She could have performed special effects for Dante’s Inferno. Continue reading

Giving, getting a fair shake

Panhandling used to be the exception; now it’s epidemic. Sure, we all get used to seeing the occasional person holding up a building, or at a traffic light, holding up a cardboard sign containing a plea and a blessing. But it seems to have become big business.

Three weeks ago, we stopped for a red light as we entered Albuquerque’s Paseo del Norte from Interstate 25. It’s not merely a series of lights that manage traffic trying to get on to that street but another bank of lights that greets motorists as soon as they get on to the ramp. There may be as many as a dozen sets of traffic lights in that area.

The red lights we faced held up traffic for a full two minutes, enough time for a scantily clad woman of about 17 to ask for money. One stopped driver honked and beckoned her. He gave her some cash; she performed a five-second shake of the upper regions, waited for the next honk, and did the same for Driver No. 2. Continue reading

Demanding a mea culpa

“I  demand an immediate apology!”

“Awwright, I apologize.”

“Well that’s more like it.”

Have there ever been any more meaningless words than those surrounding a call for an immediate apology? Not likely.

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) heckled President Obama last week by blurting out, “You lie!” when Obama referred to non-coverage of illegal immigrants in regard to the new health reform he’s pushing. By any measure, the congressman was wrong: You don’t heckle the president. The address was the president’s time slot, not the congressman’s. Wilson was wrong.

Wilson had to have known the repercussions of his heckling. Others in the hall surely did, judging from the derisive sounds directed at him. Had the same thing happened, for example, when George W. Bush was speaking, an outburst by a Democratic member of Congress, the disapproval would be just as strong. The speech was Obama’s — not Wilson’s — opportunity to address the joint session and the American public. Wilson’s outburst was more like the highly choreographed Town Hall disruptions, which possess all the pomp and decorum of the Rush Limbaugh talk show shout-‘em-down policy. Continue reading

Coerced into optimism

Much to my surprise and yeah, even annoyance, I’ve come across many people who, no matter what, cannot be coerced into optimism.

I’ve met scores of them, possibly because that trait used to be mine as well. These are the people determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, who become obsessed with seeing the down side of things and who refuse to enjoy the present because, sadly, it’ll end some time.

Take for example friends of ours in graduate school in Virginia who decided not to have any kids. Why? “Well, my sister’s only child grew up too quickly, graduated from college and moved away. And now she hardly ever even writes to her, and I never want to go through that.”

As devastating as Missie’s estrangement may have been, that doesn’t mean the sister’s sister ought never have children. The human race would soon die out if we all believed and practiced that. Continue reading

The price of their toys

Before the days of heightened airport security, I was at the terminal at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and noticed a man struggling with two huge suitcases. This was before luggage grew wheels. I  offered to help.

Because of matters of balance — two trunks are easier to carry than one — the elderly man declined. As he rested, he pulled out a pocket watch unlike anything I’d seen before. It featured a thread-thin antenna for a radio; it announced the time; it had a 24-hour alarm, an adding machine, a ruler, level, altimeter and thermometer.

This was in the ‘60s, in the pre-Bill Gates days, when any such watch would have been a marvel. I had to have it, so I made him an offer, knowing it would probably cost more than a month’s salary.

We agreed on a price, and I removed the watch from his fob and began to leave the concourse. But he immediately called me back. Hefting the huge trunks, the old man shouted, “Hey, you forgot to take the batteries!” Continue reading