Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Something kind of fun...

My father was in the restaurant business all of his life. His father owned The Nuway Cafe in Clayton NM where my father worked. Then when he joined the Airforce he was a mess hall sergeant. After WW2 he returned home to the cafe again. He eventually bought Red's Cafe in Clayton and then in 1959 he moved the family to Santa Rosa where he bought and ran Medley's Cafe in the middle of town right on good ole' Route 66. He eventually built two more restaurants - Sun and Sands and Tiffins. He also took a turn running (probably a lease deal) three other eateries in town. Yep my dad was in the food service business.

Back before I came along my family lived in Clayton and had Red's Cafe but each summer my dad would lease a little Cafe in Red River, NM called Tillie's. He and various relatives would run it through the summer and then return to Clayton after Labor Day. (Think "Vacationing Tourist/ Dirty Dancing like...sort of) you get the idea, a summer gig.
Now from what I have always been told, I despite the fact that I had never visited Red River until fall of 2007 (At the age of 50 years old), I was conceived in Red the end of summer dad had been there all summer and my mother had remained in Clayton to run Red's...get the picture?

When Dana and I went home on vacation in 2007 we (Dana, me , my big sister Vicki and her husband Harold) went on a long two day ride through Northern New Mexico and I got to go to Red River for the first time in my life (post conception of course). And I was on a mission.

I wanted to see all the places I had heard about all of my life, especially "Tillie's". Both of my sisters have wonderful memories of Tillie's and Red River and I always felt very left out of that part of our family history.

I have several old photo's, which I'll share with you another time, but this one is really cool. It's of my grandfather standing on the steps of Tillie's Cafe. I knew from the beginning I wanted my picture taken in the exact same spot.

How cool is that? And the Jack Daniel's Banner was just a bonus -
Unfortunately the place was closed so we couldn't go inside but still I was thrill that the place hadn't been torn down or remodeled (in fifty years).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Esteban by Leroy V. Quintana

para Esteban de Bernalillo N.M.

Esteban is sixty-five, on Social Security
Two weeks ago he bought a motorcycle.
su caballo, a Suzuki GS550L.
"I don't know what all those numbers mean,"
he says, "but its got lots of soup."
He wears tennis shoes and carries a slingshot
in his back pocket. "Pa los perros."

When he glued a jar lid on top of his helmet
everybody said he looked like a spaceman.
Nobody could figure out why he had done that
until he walked into the bar, removed his helmet
placing the end with the jar lid on the counter;
now he didn't have to worry about it
rolling around and crashing to the floor.

Every 5 or 10 minutes Esteban gets off the bar stool
walks to the door to see if his bike is O.K.
It's parked across the street
and Tony has parked his pick-up next to it.
Tony has only one good eye and a lot of traffic tickets.
This bothers Esteban.

When he returns, Esteban talks about the time
he was a young kid working in the bakery and
The owner sent him to deliver bread
to the nuns at the Catholic school.
Esteban didn't know how to ride a bike
and he fell, scattering the loaves all over the street;
an incident he'll never forget, he says,
then goes to the door and checks his bike again.

Another time he was riding his bike, heading home
from the grocery store with a package of meat
and a large dog attacked him.
Not knowing what to do, Esteban threw the package
at the dog in self defense, miss him
but the dog smelled the meat and ran away with it.

He gets off the bar stool again, this time goes outside
and cranks up his caballo, getting it as far away
from Tony's pick-up as possible.
While he's gone everybody at the bar wonders out loud
how long Esteban is going to last on his Suzuki
when he couldn't even ride a bike
"Se va a matar," everybody agrees.

This has to be one of my favorite poems. Written by Leroy V. Quintana is embodies the essence of life in a small New Mexico town. You can immediately feel the slow pace that allows Esteban to ride his motorcycle to the bar and sit around swapping old stories with the other men who are more than likely there every afternoon. Mr. Quintana is a Master at endearing Esteban to us from the very beginning. You can see yourself at the grocery store, laughing with the cashier about the jar lid glued to the top of his helmet. You can image the children playing in the street and teasing the old man as he passes. I love this poem.

I first read this poem in 1985 in a book called Ceremony of Brotherhood co-edited by Rudolfo A. Anaya and Simon J. Ortiz. It's a wonderful collection of works by writers from the southwest.