They leave in twos and threes

Famous people die in threes, as in Ed McMahon, Farah Fawcett Majors and Michael Jackson. Important people, not necessarily famous, pass away in pairs.

Two people who have been close to my family, though probably unacquainted with each other, are Robert W. Johnston and Nea Escudero.

First Bob.

The name Johnston in Las Vegas is much less common than Johnson, without the “t.” Robert K. Johnston, a prolific writer of letters to the editor, for a time was confused with the Robert with a W in his name. I know both.

Robert W. had a background in journalism and advertising, even having worked briefly for the Optic. He lived two doors from my house at Camp Luna. He’d come to my house with his Welsh corgi “Tigger” and invite me on walks. I’d take along my whippets, “Moosa” and “Watsita.” Soon, Bob would come to the house and announce, “Tigger asked me about Moosa and Watsita and wondered  if they could come out and play.”


Once, Bob called me about a crisis at his house, a trapped bird in his chimney, about to fall into his wood-burning fireplace. It was summer, and the stove hadn’t been lit, but the bird, dancing on a small ledge inside the stovepipe, still needed rescuing. We climbed Bob’s roof, saw the bird and wondered how it could leave peacefully. Finally, we ran the business end of a hoe down the chimney; the bird hopped on to the makeshift elevator, and we lifted it out.

About a month later, the same thing — different bird — happened and we used the same techniques to free it. Tired of the old-men-on-the-roof routine, we placed chicken wire around the opening of the chimney and never needed to perform a rescue again.

Now Nea.

The building that houses Price’s Furniture used to be Newberry’s, a 5-and-dime with a snack bar. One could almost set his watch to the punctuality and reliability of two women, Nea and Marie Trujillo, my mother. They had a “sitting” date to have coffee there every Saturday. Nea, as manager of the former Sorority Shoppe, had hired my mom to do clothing alterations.

The pair could almost always be seen enjoying their Saturday morning cafecito, and once, when I was about 10, my failure to see Nea and Mom at the Newberry’s lunch counter made me wonder if it really were Saturday.

It would be hard to compute how many cups got consumed during the 50-plus years they ran this coffee klatch. They outlived Newberry’s, moved their appointments to the Spic & Span, then to the Hillcrest and other places. Along the way, they picked up a friend, Mary Armijo, and the three were among the most durable of coffee companions anywhere.

Mom died in 2002, Mary a couple of years later, and Nea in May. I have no doubt they’ve reunited “up there.” And we can all imagine the dialogue taking place:

“Let me pay for the coffee.”

“No, Hijita, you got it last time.”

“Quiet, you two. I already took care of it.”

• • •

That film issue has gotten lots of press. I believe the city made the right decision in going against a moratorium on films being Las Vegas. However, in all the coverage, little is written about the regular guy who lives and shops in town. Almost all the emphasis is on business owners — one of them even suggesting having the movie companies pay each affected business a thousand dollars a day during filming.

Sure, we can sympathize with merchants whose business is actually fazed by closings and street blockages, but the local resident also faces inconveniences. It’s a bother driving several extra blocks on the way to work because of main arteries closed without notice. What if we miss the half-price sale on that coat because we couldn’t enter that store? What if an important transaction, such as paying a bill, got delayed? Even when companies are not shooting, it’s often difficult to scoot around some of the signs and merchandise merchants place on sidewalks.

As a regular resident, I resent seeing huge vans, trailers and generators parked for weeks in areas we would get a ticket for. Let’s stop thinking about movies solely in terms of how local businesses are affected. Customers are part of that commercial symbiosis as well, and non-business-owners have a voice too.

It’ll be interesting to see how city officials go about determining exactly how people get selected to decide whether a movie company gets to come to our city.

• • •

Ah, to be among the 15,083 Manny-Mania fans in Isotopes Stadium in Albuquerque to watch Manny Ramirez strike out in an underwhelming poorformance. The Dodger superstar was suspended for 50 games for drug abuse but was allowed to perform penance by playing with a minor league team.

And of course, a wet playing field on the last day caused management to yank the suspended Dodger for fear of an injury. It’s not as if the regular Isotopes players play risk-free.

Baseball players of yesteryear broke records too. And they did it without the benefit of anything even as innocuous as Advil.

• • •

Highlands’ anthropology department ought to consider teaching workshops in Egyptology during the summer session. The students could fly to Egypt to conduct some quite specific research: the plumbing system that was operating inside the pyramids many years before Christ.

I guess that would make the students Pharaoh Faucet Majors.

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