Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Lone Ranger Gets a Head Trip

A couple of weeks back, Joycelyn (better known as "J"), a friend and longtime critique partner, suggested we go see THE LONE RANGER. Spurred by the fact that another friend, Don DeNoon, had worked a couple of days as an extra on the set, I disregarded the negative press on the movie and agreed to go.

There are things to dislike about the film if you expect cultural accuracies or a respectful treatment of the Lone Ranger saga. This is not your father’s “Hi-ho-Silver, Away” masked hero. To say the script turns the legend on its head is to give the cliché short-shrift.

One of my objections to the film from trailers and advertising was the ridiculous bird Tonto wears atop his head. It is clearly a ceremonial headgear, not something for daily wear. Yet, I soon forgot such a petty peeve when the dead crow turned into a clever and hilarious foil for Tonto…excuse me, Johnny Depp. And that’s a significant lapse. Because during the movie, Depp disappears into Tonto. After the movie, things revert to normal, and we talk about the actor, not the role.

If you go, and I recommend that you do, don’t expect anything except to be entertained, and you’ll get your money’s worth. The movie is funny, exciting, fast-paced, and terribly ridiculous…but by the end you don’t care about that last little detail. It has two outstanding stars: Johnny Depp and beautiful New Mexico…well, and Monument Valley in another unnamed state.

Depp is hilarious, ridiculous, and thought-provoking…sometimes all at the same time. He is a gifted actor, and that fact becomes apparent in this film. He, alone, is worth the price of admission.

But New Mexico! Well, it deserves an Oscar just for being there.

The crew built the town of Colby and laid five miles of functional railroad tracks on the Rio Puerco west of Albuquerque near historic Route 66. A lot of the action scenes take place there.

The rugged terrain of the privately owned Saddleback and San Cristobal Ranches near Lamy is showcased. Lamy (named for an early bishop of the See of Santa Fe) is a small town established in 1869 to serve as a railroad stop for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe (now the Burlington line).

The steep canyons and the magnificent Palisades along Highway 64 between Cimarron and Eagle Nest in the northeastern part of the state see action in the film, and represent us well.

Some of the red-rock country of the Jemez Mountains along the center of the state lend color. We get glimpses of the Gilman Tunnels (two holes cut through living rock) five miles west of Jemez Pueblo. My favorite place on earth, Valles Calderas (See blog of Nov 29, 2011), appears in the movie, as does the 1,500-foot monolith, Shiprock Monument (Blog of Apr 11, 2013). We get a glimpse of the beautiful mountain vistas of Pajarito Ski Area near Los Alamos and the Angel Fire country.

I’m sure I missed some other notable places, but I hope this is enough to encourage you to go drink in the beauty of our great state…and at the same time be entertained by Disney’s and Johnny Depp’s head trip of the Lone Ranger.

By the way, Don’s significant contribution to the movie ended up on the cutting room floor.

Next week: We’re still working our way toward Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Not Really New Mexico…But It Could Be!

This week, I’d like to visit a place in New Mexico that doesn’t exist…but could. My blog post of Jan 17, 2013 details BJ’s trip out of Albuquerque on I-25 past the Rio Puerco, the old Laguna Pueblo, Mt. Taylor (Tsoodzil or Turquoise Mountain to the Navajo), and beyond Grants to the big truck stop called Chesty Westey’s. It describes his lunch at Tia Maria’s Café, but now let’s take a look at the big bar out behind. The following is from the book THE BISTI BUSINESS  (Martin Brown Publishers, LLC):

While waiting for Alfano or his attorney to come up with the satellite positioning information for the Porsche, I had decided to follow the only decent lead I had. Four names had been scribbled on the back of that wrinkled and tattered state tourist map in Orlando’s laundry. The first three were gay bars and hangouts in Albuquerque. The fourth was simply “Chesty’s!!!” The three exclamation points lent that single word importance.

There was no place more likely to capture the imagination of two young gay adventurers than Chesty Westey’s Truck Stop on the Continental Divide just off I-40 in western New Mexico. I had experienced the same titillating curiosity about the place in my salad days. Immediately upon hitting the legal age, I had headed due west with pounding heart and high expectations. Frankly, when I arrived, the place scared the living hell out of me. I had heard about Eagle Bars, and while Chesty’s wasn’t labeled as such, it was nonetheless an out-and-out Bear place filled with bikers and truckers. Now, fourteen years later, I experienced the same trepidation at tackling the place, especially to ask a lot of awkward questions.


Begin to get a feel for the place? After parking, BJ enters Tia Maria’s, the truck stop’s café, for a mouthwatering meal and a short conversation with a truck driver named Tree Trunk before venturing over the arroyo to the gay bar to look up Sweetie, the manager of the joint, and ask about the two missing men.


I left the car where it was and walked across the footbridge spanning a broad, deep gully to a big, ramshackle adobe with a ten-foot neon sign on the roof modestly proclaiming it The Continental Divide Bar. It staggered the imagination to find a real leather and Levi joint out here in the hinterlands of New Spain, but here was Chesty Westey’s notorious sin palace—if you can call a half-acre mud building a palace. They said the Continental gets plenty of uniforms from the Air Force community in Albuquerque and Army boots from Ft. Huachuca over in Arizona, but it was predominately a trucker and the biker joint.

The south parking lot was full of animals, presidents, exotic metals, Swiss auto racers, and American industrialists: Cobras, Mustangs, Lincolns, Mercurys, Chevrolets, and Fords. Towering over them all were the big rigs like Tree Trunk’s long-nosed aardvark. The north lot was given over to two-wheeled chrome hogs, hog-wagons, and choppers. There was no orange Porsche Boxter in either lot.

The atmosphere hit me in the face like a pillow of wet feathers the moment I walked through the door. The air was heavy: smoke-heavy, fart-heavy, beer-heavy, sweat-heavy, with the musk of men on the make permeating everything. After buying a beer, I hauled it around on a tour of the place. The main bar was immense, meandering out of sight in two different directions, one leading to a big patio, the other to a smaller, quieter bar and thence to the back rooms.

There wasn’t a stranger around, blind or sighted, who couldn’t find the right bathroom in the Continental. A big curved brass penis mounted on the door identified the men’s side, and an embossed plaque in the shape of labia marked the women’s. Apparently everyone used the phallus as a door handle; it was worn thin, making the engorged head appear outlandishly huge.

The joint undulated like a den of writhing serpents. The clack of billiard balls and thunk of darts and an outclassed, inadequate, old-fashioned juke box laid down the beat; the talking, laughing, drinking, cussing, spitting customers and blousy waitresses, almost all of them with bolt-ons, as these people likely called boob-jobs, provided a wonderful, discordant rhythm.

Deciding it was time to make my pitch, I claimed a spot at a tiny table opposite a mountainous black man in bib overalls boasting the long, graying beard of an Old Testament patriarch. Tree Trunk had said Sweetie was his handle, but it should have been Sweaty. This guy would have perspired in an icehouse.

“What’s new, Sweet?” I went for the personal touch and lost my fist in the grip of a gigantic coal black paw.

“This ain’t your kinda joint,” he said in a high-pitched voice as effeminate as any swish-queen I’ve ever encountered.

“How do you know?”

His big rheumy eyes gave me the once-over. “Honey, you got a waistline, that’s how I know. Look around at these bozos. Ain’t a one of them even remembers where theirs is at.” He paused and read me with shrewd eyes. “’Sides, I been around long enough to know these things.” He leaned forward, bringing the odor of sweat with him. “You might like to play, but these ain’t your playmates.”

“You’re probably right. But I’m looking for two who are. Okay if I show you a couple of photos?”

He leaned back; making his reinforced chair creak. “You could be fuzz, but the aura ain’t quite right. You believe in auras?”

“Oh, yeah. Auras…energy…whatever you want to call them.”

“Yours is yellow. Goes to green sometimes, but mostly yellow. I’d say that makes you an okay dude except I keep getting a flash of tin. You a cop?”

“Used to be. I’m private now. And I’m not looking to jam up these two guys. As far as I’m concerned, they’ve got a right to live their own lives.”

“Amen to that, brother. All right, show me the pictures.” The giant’s eyes lit up when I handed them over. “Oh, them sweethearts.”


And just like that, BJ has his first lead…one that ultimately takes him all over Northern New Mexico.

Next week: We’re working our way toward Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness. Maybe we’ll get there next week…if something doesn’t interfere.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

My How Time Flies When You’re Having Foolishness

I’ve been promising to get back to the basic intent of this blog, which is to showcase some of the beautiful places in the great State of New Mexico. Today, I wandered back through prior posts and realized the last time I’d done that was on April 25 when we took a look at “Hogans, Homes, and Ceremonial Lodges.” After that, I got caught up in my own foibles and foolishness. Rather egotistical, I’ll admit, but fun at times, as well.

So today, let’s go back to THE BISTI BUSINESS and see what we can discover of interest. We’ve already taken a look at Taos and Farmington and the Navajo Reservation. Rather than a place this time, let’s look at one of the more interesting characters in the book. An eighteen-year-old half-Navajo, half-Anglo kid who also is unabashedly gay and pretty hep.

Jazz Penrod isn’t swishy or obvious about it beyond the fact he’s as beautiful as any woman in town and a tad more graceful than most guys. Men—and women—have been going gaga over him since he hit puberty. Let’s let Melissa, the clerk at The Trail’s End on Main, describe him for us. Our intrepid PI, B. J. Vinson, has tracked the two men he’s searching for to this motel. The “Cruz” mentioned at the beginning of the exchange is a connection from Taos BJ’s trying to run down. The conversation begins on Page 55 of the book:


         Melissa frowned. “I don’t know any Cruz. This was a local kid. Jazz Penrod.”
        “You know anything about him?”
        “I know him,” she said without any inflection in her voice. “Trouble. Has been since he was thirteen.”
        “What kind of trouble?”
        “Maybe you better go ask somebody else. I don’t like gossiping.”
        “Okay, lend me your phone and I’ll call Sergeant Dix Lee at the FPD and have her come ask the questions.”
        “All right, Jasper Penrod is a mixed blood kid who’s lived here all his life. Here and on the Big Rez.” She tossed her head in a westerly direction. “He’s about the biggest competition the girls in this town have. He’s as pretty as any of them—heck, prettier—and he likes the same thing they do, except he’s more aggressive about it.”
        “He’s gay?”
        “Most definitely.”
        “You mean dresses up in women’s clothes?”
        “Not Jazz. He dresses like a man and acts like a man, but he puts the moves on a man just like a woman. Been more than one guy in trouble for fooling around with Jazz when he was underage.”
        “How old is he now?”
        “About eighteen.  He’s a good kid, really. By that, I mean, he doesn’t get anyone in trouble on purpose. But he wants what he wants, and isn’t shy about it.”
        “A kid could get in trouble for that—especially around here, I understand.”
        “Yeah, a lot of the fellas don’t like gay people. And Jazz doesn’t make any bones about being that way. But he does it different. Not faggy or flighty or anything like that. And he’s just so…so pretty.”
        “A pretty face sometimes causes bad trouble.”
        “You’re right about that. But his daddy’s one mean Indian, and he’s got a whole clan to back him up—including Jazz’s brother. Half-brother, I guess. So the word went out, and nobody in his right mind tackles Jazz. His mom’s brother stands up for him, too. He’s white.”

And that is our introduction to Jasper Penrod—any question about why he prefers Jazz?—a lively, curious, and intelligent young man who introduces us to his equally sexy but fiercely heterosexual Navajo half-brother, Henry Secatero. But does BJ make a mistake when he enlists Jazz’s help in locating his client’s missing son? Jazz so enthusiastically throws himself into the role of a junior PI he could be courting danger. And even a street-wise kid may be no match for a brutal murderer.
So does he help or hinder BJ in his quest? You’ll have to read the book to find out…but I will say you might see more of Jazz Penrod in a future novel in the series.

Next week: Maybe some more about THE BISTI BUSINESS, but that depends on how much Stupid I get mixed up in between then and now.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fears Have A Way of Catching Up With You

A few Saturdays ago, I realized my day had gone exceedingly well. I had slept seven hours the previous night (something I am seldom able to do). After breakfast, I got down to work on a final edit on a novel and made good progress. My back was behaving to the point that I took a walk without realizing I was walking…and that’s the best kind because it means it’s not painful or uncomfortable. I had even completed the post for my blog to be published later that week. A major accomplishment for me.

Once I realized all of this, the other side of my nature kicked in, and I desperately hoped the telephone wouldn’t ring. Why? Perfectly obvious. Things couldn’t get much better, so a ringing phone could only bring bad news. Well, the dreaded call did not come, and I finished the day on a high note. My groundless fears didn't come to pass…although I did not sleep as well that night.

Then Tuesday rolled around. Not a good day. Not much sleep the night before. Nonetheless, I got organized and headed out to Sam’s Club for gas and some bacon before the day heated up. (Hundred degree plus days.) I elected to gas up the car before going inside the store. While the hose was feeding $3.34.9 gas into my tank, I grabbed the squeegee and some paper towels to wash my windows…which needed a cleaning badly (See post of June 13 on Haboobs and Verga Bombs). And by the way, why doesn’t anyone have the guts to call gas $3.35 and be done with it? Who’s going to drive to another station for a one-tenth-of-one-cent price differential? A penny, maybe.

Anyway, I got the windows done except for the rear window on the driver’s side. By that time, the squeegee needed to be cleaned and replenished with water. I looked at the hose hanging out of my tank, and I looked at my car. Walking around it would be the safest course (remember, I’m neither agile nor steady since my back operation). But the container holding the water was barely beyond my reach…why walk all the way around the vehicle when what I needed was right there virtually within my grasp.

You guessed it…I took the bold approach. Caught my foot in the hose and went over hard. I crawled around on my hands and knees (scraped all to hell and gone, of course) but couldn’t get to my feet. The attendant tried to help, but all he did was flip me over on my butt. Another customer rushed over, and together they got me upright. Results: I lost a lot more than the time it would have cost to take the prudent course, have earned myself at least one more session with my VA physical therapist, ended up on pain pills, and am walking with a cane again.

Well, that wasn’t the end of me proving to myself and the world that for a fellow supposedly of at least normal intelligence, I can be pretty blessed dumb. In that bit about Haboobs and Verga Bombs, I told you my 1974 Montgomery Ward washing machine died a premature death. I ended up purchasing a new machine, an Amana (about which I know nothing) that is very basic. Pour in the detergent, let it do its thing, and then take the clothes out.
The dealer delivered it on the Friday the 14th. I did my first wash the next day. I intended to stand there and watch the process unfold, but the phone rang and demanded an answer. I left the machine clicking and hissing and filling with water. By the time I finished talking on the phone, the machine was finished. Fast! Great, uses less electricity that way. Plus, the clothes didn’t take much time in the drier because they’d spun so dry in the washing machine.

The next week, I washed again, still intending to watch the parade of little colored buttons detailing the stages of the wash . While the machine filled, I returned to the computer to get a short job done. Lo and behold, before I was finished what I was doing, it had finished what it was doing.

The following Sunday, I washed again, and this time I stood in front of the machine for the entire process…which took about one minute. The green light indicated it filled. And then the blessed machine skipped over things like “Wash” and “Rinse” and went to “Final Spin.” Suspicions confirmed. In minutes, I was speaking to the salesman who’d sold me this dud. He promised a technician (read repairman) would be out on Wednesday.

Before I left for my ill-fated visit to Sam’s for gas, I got a call saying the technician would be available about noon today—Tuesday, if that was convenient. Sure. Earlier was better. Not necessarily, if you’re going to perform acrobatics with a gasoline hose. Even so, I was bleeding and hurting and home by the time the man arrived.

That poor guy worked for almost an hour. I glanced in on him once, and he had pieces off that Amana I didn’t even know would come off. He performed every test, recalibrated the internal timing mechanism, and then told me he couldn’t find anything wrong.

We decided to wash a few pieces of clothing…after all, I had plenty that had gotten dripping wet with Arm & Hammer-laden water and then spun dry with the chemicals from the detergent still in it.

So I showed the technician exactly how I poured in detergent, dropped in the clothing, and started the machine. First off, he told me I was putting in ten times the amount of detergent that was needed and about three times the stain remover. Great, neither is cheap, and they’ll last a lot longer now.

Then I went through the process of setting the water level with hot/cold (explain that one to me, please) water, and then used the last indicator to turn to a light load. Old faithful started filling with water, skipped right over to “Final Spin” and spun.

“See,” I said. I’m sure my disdain for a technician who couldn’t tech competently was fairly obvious.

“I do see,” he said. “I see it did exactly what you told it to.”

Then with the exaggerated patience of one dealing with an idiot, he pointed out I’d used the wrong end of the indicator to select what I wanted. I’d put the blunt end to “Light.” The tapered end, which is what I should have been using, pointed directly at “Drain/Spin.”

He was better at concealing his feelings about a consumer who couldn’t consume competently, but I’m pretty sure I was the butt of several jokes down at Baillio’s…maybe still am.

Next week: Depends on how much "Stupid" I have to report between then and now.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


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