Grab a cup of covfefe; we’ve got ‘alot’ to cover

During my years of teaching, I don’t believe I ever had students — even at the college level — who consistently spelled “a lot” as two words. To that I say, “’Alot’ of students can’t tell the difference.” I believe the bigger problem is simply using the wrong word. There are, after all, many synonyms for “a lot,” including “many” and “plenty.”

When was the last time you heard someone confuse “compose” and “comprise”? I’ll wager that most people who (mis)use “comprise” do so in a sentence like “The U.S. is comprised of 50 states.” No! The U.S. comprises 50 states, and not the other way around. The country is not comprised of anything.

Yet another form of verbal confusion is using “compromised “when we mean “comprised,” which has an entirely different meaning and takes us in a different direction. For example, when my wife says, “I took out the meat from the freezer to “unthaw it,” I have had to compromise my grammar-cop personality in order to remain married.

Similarly, people often confuse “condone” with “condemn” and come up with something like, “I condone your stealing the money,” when they mean they don’t approve of the theft. Continue reading

OK — Maybe Facebook is addictive

A friend, Luke Phillips, who used to work in the composing room at the Optic, when it was on Lincoln Avenue, dropped a note recently, in which he explained that the city council session he covers in a California town had been meeting for three hours and had yet to finish Item #1 on the agenda.

Ah, the glamour people in the news business can experience amounts to pure splendor!
It’s true that members of the press try their darnedest to keep the public informed, even if the topics are mill levies, referenda, sewage treatment plants and endless processions of proclamations. And yes, I’ve done my share. People who cover government meetings generally receive that assignment the day they’re hired.

Even Jason W. Brooks, our new editor, has already written several items on our government.
I covered public affairs, first in Las Vegas, in the days when we had two municipalities, two school boards and two town councils. That kind of schedule doesn’t conduce to providing quality nightlife. The next batch came when I moved to Gallup and was allowed to cover the Town Council, the Indian Community Center, and the local school board. Continue reading

Their attempt to please

A number of my columns have dealt with food. Growing up in this area, I’ve become accustomed to the real spicy stuff many moms serve several times a week.

But first, let’s define some terms:

  • “Señor Taco” is a term that should never be construed as an insult. It simply refers to a kind of amateurish way of cooking that adds tomato sauce and calls it chile.
  • Sopaipilla is spelled with two “i’s,” not one.
  • “Chile should never be pluralized; it’s chile that’s in your bowl, and yes, if we must put an “s” at the end of the word, we’re referring to individual peppers which add nothing but heat to the meal. So remember, the delectable stuff has only one “s.”
  • And it’s a big offense to spell the stuff “chili.” That’s only for flatland touristers.
  • Chile rellenos should not be confused with the common local surname “Arellano.”
  • Using the name “hot tamales” is redundant. By their nature they’re hot (or should be), and any tamale that is not hot (or calls itself hot, comes in a can.

As an inveterate eater of southwestern cuisine, I’m continually amused when I read recipes for “Hot Chile Sauce.” First, it’s not a sauce; chile is a food in and of itself, and the only modifications can be “red,” “green” or “Christmas, which gifts people with two distinct flavors.” Continue reading

We’re going for Round II

We’ve done it again. Or, to be a bit more accurate, let me change that to “We’ve almost done it again.”

I refer to our second round of hosting young people from far away as our foreign exchange students. The last round, we kept two girls from across the Atlantic, for almost 10 months. They spent the school year enrolled at West Las Vegas High School and stayed an extra month because their schools, in Spain and Belgium, respectively, run weeks later than most American schools.

Readers have probably read about Phaedra Wouters, the one from Antwerp, and Ana Granados, from a suburb of Madrid. They’re close in age to our own granddaughters, Carly and Celina, who live next door to us.

As we played softball with the four girls or picnicked with them high up in Gallinas Canyon, or had them read stories to us, we adults simply “lost” ourselves. That’s our way of saying we almost forgot which of the girls were blood and which were kin, their having blended in so well. I’ll admit going into a funk in early July when we drove them to the Albuquerque Sunport to see them off. I gave each of the teens a big squeeze, as if that gesture would shorten the time till we see them again. . . . If we ever do. Continue reading

License renewal woes

Previous columns have detailed my family’s experiences during our travels since our retirement from teaching. We opted not to buy fancy cars or houses and instead put some funds into travel.

Of course, the fact that our oldest son, Stanley Adam, moved to Denmark with Microsoft several years ago, took himself a Copenhagen bride and sired two daughters has something to do with where and how often we travel.

We’ve been fortunate that our son’s vacation days often coincide with ours, and either we spend days visiting at their home or we find another destination. That’s enabled us to visit much of western and central Europe, and we’ve even gone as far as Austria, Sweden, Nuremberg and the Czech Republic.

We’ve noticed how the level of trust seems to tighten the farther east we go into Europe; the farther we travel from home, the more urgency there is in having the right papers in place. Continue reading

Copping an ID is complex

A friend asked me to go with her to the Motor Vehicle Department in Las Vegas to get her squared away on the Real ID, which, among other things, entitles one to board a commercial airline.

Apparently, the Real ID is a document with bells and whistles that gives the holder added privileges.

It seemed simple enough until she informed me that the name that would appear on her renewed driver’s license does not agree with what’s on her birth certificate. She’s a twice-widowed, once-divorced senior citizen whose current (about to expire) license contains much more than the given, Christian names on her birth certificate.

Before we arrived at the MVD, I assured her securing a new license would be a piece of cake. “In fact, I’ll go with you get my own driver’s license, which is also about to expire,” I told her.
Not so fast. I believe that the MVD officials who listed all the new hoops we need to face didn’t realize how much things change over the decades. But before we go on, let me assured readers that what my friend and I experienced was unique; and trying to use this column as an instruction manual would be foolhardy. Continue reading

You must taste new stamps

All right, students: Raise your hand if you’ve ever had ceviche. Nobody? No, Wise-Guy in the third row, ceviche is not Spanish for a beer.

Then how about sancocho? Still nobody?

Well, don’t feel bad, students. I’d never heard of either of these things either — until I read today’s paper.

We’re talking spicy treats. They’re about to be featured in a dedication ceremony at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque on Thursday. Oddly, Spain is divided, as any country is, into areas of special or local favorites. Don’t try ordering chile in España. And if you order a tortilla, you’ll receive an eggs-and-potatoes omelet. As for the cultural center’s ceremony, I may know when and where it was scheduled to take place, but that doesn’t get me much closer to knowing what I just quizzed you on.

You, Juan, our class clown: You confused “ceviche” with “cerveza,” which is understandable. I remember once when I was your age that a guy who didn’t like being beaten by my team in tackle football, called one of us a “cerviche” — or something like that. In the heat of passion, spurred by an intense football game, we sometimes slur our words, and a word that sounds a bit like “cerviche” almost started a fight. Continue reading

Remember old O.L.O.S. bulletins?

A friend made a habit of collecting and saving Sunday bulletins for Our Lady of Sorrows Sunday church services.

Considering the number of years represented in these bulletins, it’s safe to say she was a faithful church member. Most of the bulletins that she passed on to me date back to the 1960s, and all contain a historical photo on the cover and list a slew of activities: wedding banns, a bingo prize of $230, baptisms and special events. The pastor at that time was the Rev. James T. Burke.

Particularly interesting is the number and kind of businesses whose 1×2-inch ads fill the last page. The issues I’m looking at list the following advertisers:

Gonzales Funeral Home, Louie’s Auto Service, Saibe’s Confectionery, Plaza Jewelers, El Alto Supper Club, Tony’s Dry Goods, Highway Shopping Center, Ludi’s Bakery and Grocery, Model Cleaners, Joe G. Maloof, Priscilla’s Coiffure Salon, Road Runner Distributing Co., Plaza Supper Club, California Store, Northern Hardware, Sal’s Barber Shop, Peterson Insurance Agency, Olivas 7-11, Popular Dry Goods, Art’s Food Market, Plaza Shoe & Dry Goods Store, Guerin’s Food Market and Korte’s Furniture. Continue reading

Dream was no big deal

Last night I had a dream. I could call it a science fiction dream, but that would be redundant, as, in retrospect, most of my dreams turn out to be unrealistic.

No, I didn’t dream about Catherine Zeta Jones (and if I ever do, I’ll make sure my wife doesn’t hear about.) This dream lacked the kind of CZJ excitement others might dream about. Instead it was on a topic that usually causes my tummy to tie up in knots.

But enough suspense:

My dream last night was about an announcement to the effect that taxpayers no longer needed to fill out long, complicated forms. It came from the I.R.S., whose staff deemed that people spend too much time trying to determine what’s deductible and what’s not. Coincidentally, I told my wife, just a few days before the filing deadline, all about how we used to be able to send our tax information on a single card. Does anybody remember that era? I’m not making this up.

Everything went on that card, eliminating the tedious filling in of information on how much we earned, how many zoos are in our home town, and the first and last name of the first girl I kissed. Are humans expected to have that great a memory? Continue reading

Having and losing a Friend

I don’t have any friends. True, there are many acquaintances, lots of colleagues, classmates, neighbors, co-workers, primos and primas, but no friends.

At least not anymore. The only person I believe was my Friend died last week.

I’m going to miss him. My sons called him Vince-Uncle, I suppose because our youngest son, Ben, mixed up the words, and that stuck. I liked our artificially appending “uncle” to our names; somehow that made me feel closer. We go back about 50 years, to when my wife and I joined the faculty at Cuba (N.M.) Schools, where Vince-Uncle had been teaching.

Vince was a gentle giant, standing at 6-1 and 230 pounds in his prime. Most of the rest of us teachers stood at around 5-8. When in Cuba, we heard about the time when, as a class sponsor, Vince arranged to borrow a small car to pull a float for the Cuba Rams’ homecoming parade.

But the car’s owner never showed up, so Vince hitched straps to himself and ran the parade route, much to the thrill of the crowds.

I admired Vince-Uncle. We rode bikes to school. He lived some five miles out; we lived three miles out. We rode to school almost every day, but since I was a smoker then, I struggled to keep up with him. Continue reading