Monthly Archives: December 2014

Shortcut through the house

My family of five siblings, two parents and a bachelor uncle lived in a tiny house on Railroad Avenue: eight of us in a house with two bedrooms and one bathroom. Night-time required a degree in logistics, as the living room needed to remain pristine and was not for sleeping. Severino and I rolled out a foldaway bed at night and wheeled it into the kitchen-laundry room combo in which Tio Juan also slept.

The living room was the first room visitors saw as they knocked on the front door. Remember, in those days, few people had a phone; a text message was decades away, so people just showed up unannounced, sometimes expecting dinner. Mom, who passed away in 2002, used to laugh about the time my classmate at Immaculate Conception School, Johnny Lopez, who lived exactly a block away but across the tracks, used our hallway as a shortcut to school.

Tales like these, on retelling, have a way of being embellished, ballooned out of proportion. The truth is that Johnny absolutely would cut through our yard, but not always through our house. Once I happened to be in the back yard at the time and invited him to walk to school with me — “Let’s take a shortcut through the house,” I said. He agreed, “But may I use your bathroom first?” Continue reading

Yes, there’s a Virginia

When was the last time someone from another state failed to realize that we New Mexicans also live in a state? No doubt at least once you’ve been asked what the rate of exchange is for pesos and real dollars, or whether one needs a passport to enter the borders of this untamed land.

My family has traveled quite a bit, having visited all continuous states except North Dakota and Maine. If we stay anywhere long enough, we’re invariably asked, “How far is Las Vegas from Mexico City?” Once, when I lived in Illinois, I explained that the city we were in, Aurora, was CLOSER to the Mexican capital than was Las Vegas.

A few years later there had appeared a letter to the original Dear Abby. It was around this time of year that a mother wrote Dear Abby a letter explaining that upon her young daughter’s visit with a department-store Santa, the jolly old man asked her what city and town she came from. The girl told Santa she had been born in Virginia. Continue reading

A subtle death wish?

Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014

What were they thinking? They are young — probably pre-pubescent — boys who almost caused my workout partner to reduce Las Vegas’ population by three.

Let me explain:

Always one to believe the pedestrian has rights and drivers aren’t automatically conferred their own rights by virtue of having lots of horses under the hood, I try to be accommodating to pedestrians. Anyone on foot, crossing to Charlie’s Restaurant — and most of them jaywalk — gets the no-problem-go-ahead gesture from many motorists on that slow-moving street.

Wednesday was different. As we headed west on Mills, I noticed the three boys walking from a trailer park on the north side of Mills toward the lot across the street. The driver didn’t snap that there were three — suddenly appearing — potential fatalities waiting, as they sallied across the four lanes. We came perilously close to running over all of them. A shocking, heart-pounding part of the episode was the boys’ obvious lack of concern for their own safety.

Continue reading

Belting out a hymn

A number of years ago, when our oldest son, Stan Adam, moved from Seattle to Denmark to find his way with Microsoft, that created an opportunity for us to travel long distances to visit him.

We alternately flew and drove to Washington State when our son lived there. But soon, after relocating in Copenhagen, he met a woman who’s now the mother of his two daughters, ages 5 and 3. The Danes take baptisms seriously, and accordingly it was difficult for us to turn down an invitation to Ellen’s baptism. So we flew there — some time in the late fall — only three months from our earlier trip that year.

Our visits there amazed me at how well Danes speak English. Often, Bonnie and I stopped strangers on the street to get directions. Without hesitation, the people pulled out their best English and made it clear how we should proceed. But the rest of the time? They seem to speak Danish among themselves. Ask me how many Danish words I know. Danish originated from Old Norse and Icelandic, and that’s quite a distance from the Romance and Anglo-Saxon tongues I’m somewhat familiar with. Continue reading

‘Oremos’ for New Year?

An item I read years ago in Readers Digest concerned the pin-dot community of Costilla, on the New Mexico-Colorado border. Apparently, in the olden days, maps weren’t as precise as they are today, as we lacked satellites. There was a perennial discussion as to which state Costilla belonged to: New Mexico or Colorado?

There were hearings, the resurrection of long-dormant deeds, testimonials and threats of lawsuits — until a court determined that Costilla did indeed belong to New Mexico. One long-time resident of the community was heard to exclaim, “Thank goodness! I couldn’t have spent another winter in Colorado.”

Whether fact or legend, the Digest item made an excellent point. And I hadn’t thought of that little town in years. If I had, I’d have thought of it merely as a place one drives through to get to Colorado from Taos. In Monday’s email was a note from a woman named Patricia Craineu, who was born in Costilla, moved to Barstow, Calif., and more recently relocated to Las Vegas. Continue reading