Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

Old Trucks

Men and women alike in New Mexico love old trucks, so much so that we  place them on a pedestal and decorate them with flower pots. This a 1941 1/2 ton delivery truck similar to those used to secretly deliver materials arriving by train in Santa Fe for the building of the atomic bomb in Los Alamos during the last two years of World War II, or at least that is what the sign says.

Sometimes the old trucks themselves end up one big flower pot.







Other trucks are used for every day errands. This truck is waiting for its owner to buy coffee. The owner says the truck has appeared in several movies.





This truck is used to deliver fire wood.

There is a saying here that people arrive in Santa Fe with a truck full of money, but end up hitching a ride back home because they lost all their money and had to sell the truck. I hope that is not the reason Santa Fe has so many old trucks. Maybe it’s just because trucks don’t rust out here. Let’s be optimistic today.

Something Different for Breakfast

A reader asks, “What do restaurants offer for breakfast in Santa Fe that is different from the usual fare in the east?” I say get thee to Harry’s Roadhouse!  I offer the following primer on local breakfasts based on Harry’s menu.

I will start with migas because they make me happy. Migas are cheese scrambled eggs with onion, green peppers, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers and…wait for it…strips of tortilla chips. In sum, migas are spicy cheese scrambled eggs with salty bits of corn chips. Whoever created migas gets a head start to heaven.

Breakfast burritos are a staple out here. Many times they are hand held.  Place scrambled eggs, cheese, potatoes or black beans, bacon if you are a carnivore, and chile in the middle of a warm tortilla and roll up the sides. Personally I think the best time to eat a breakfast burrito is as a passenger on a road trip to Taos in late September or early October  when the leaves are changing.

Huevos rancheros consist of a tortilla topped with eggs to order topped with chile sauce. I almost ended the description there which I am afraid would suggest I am not that thrilled with huevos rancheros. Really, they can be tasty. I do have a problem when people order the eggs over easy. I am sorry, but  the sight of the oozy yellow egg yolk combined with the red chile sauce brings forth a visual ick in me. Your reaction may differ.

Next up are Harry’s “Traditional Mexican Chilaquiles.” These are made with tomatillo (related to a green tomato, the size of a red cherry tomato)  salsa, Queso Asadero (a mild cheese) and Cotija (a crumbly hard cow’s cheese), with eggs to order and black beans. I have never tried this dish, but since it may also have some of my favorite strips of tortillas,  I probably should.

Last but not least, blue cornmeal waffles with honey butter are worth the exercise to follow.

Harry’s is open 7 days a week. The interior is rambling and fun funky. The patio is lovely. Check out Harry’s website for details or call 505.989.4629.

fn   Spell check nearly lost its mind checking the spelling on this one.

Just Smile!

“Breaking Bad” in So Many Ways

Many of us here Under Santa Fe Skies have been shaking our heads violently this week in dismay.

The first nominee in the category of  what could they be thinking is the Candy Lady. The Candy Lady, who owns a shop in Albuquerque, is selling “meth candy.”  The sugar rock candy is dyed blue and sold for a dollar a bag, in tribute to the television show “Breaking Bad” set in Albuquerque. The bags are selling fast to kids and tourists alike. News flash for Candy Lady: We have a drug epidemic in New Mexico. There are better, more life affirming ways to earn a dollar than to glamorize a drug that has destroyed so many lives in New Mexico.

The second nominee: Representative Todd Akin of Missouri who announced that victims of “legitimate rape” cannot get pregnant.

The third nominee: the people of Missouri who vote for him.

Tomorrow I will get back to chiles and curiosities and best places to have breakfast. A person just has to vent on occasion.

“Womens” Beware!: Passport Photo

I had to renew my passport this summer. Renewing my passport always gives me pause. For one, I am forced to acknowledge yet another 10 years just sped by me at warp speed. I should not be old enough to have such a thick stack of old passports.

Also, it means it is time for the every 10 year ritual of creating a new benchmark. I need a new passport photo. I can remember looking at each of the previous ones after the photo was taken and thinking, “Oh, save me, I have to  look at this awful photo for 10 years? Where’s the mercy?” The bad part is I look at those photos now and think I look just fine.

In the past, I sprung for a professional photographer on the theory good lighting is a person’s best friend. This time I needed to be frugal. I found one option: Walgreens. Walgreens, the place with the green over head lights and the beige floors. I never even stood a chance.

While awaiting my turn in the dark corner of the camera section, I read this sign:

This sign is so wrong in so many ways I considered having a contest to see who could find the most errors. Putting aside grammar and spelling, is the content even true? Are womens [sic] not allowed to wear earrings? Must ears show? Must children remove berret’s [sic]? When they remove them are they removing a jaunty French inspired hat or a hair clip?

If I were brave, I would show you the new passport photo. I am not brave. It is awful. It is scary, but there is one thing scarier. As sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, in 10 years I will look at that photo and think, gee, I looked pretty good in 2012. If that is the state of affairs, as God is my witness, I will grab a pillow case, cut out two eyes, a nose, two ears and a mouth, remove my earrings, stick the pillow case over my head and drive straight to a Walgreens for my next passport photo. At least according to the sign, my disguise will not be a problem.

Chile Roasting Time!

I lied. In an earlier post I said I would write one post and one post only on chiles.  I thought writing too many articles on chiles might lead to articles on brightly painted coyotes or broom skirts or five squash blossom necklaces worn at the same time. But I made that statement in the abstract. As I walked toward the Farmers’ Market today I smelled it first. Could it be? Is it time? Woohoo! It’s chile roasting time!

Romero Farms (505.579.0071) has many varieties. These are Joe Parker $4/lb. Just perfect.

These are Joe Parker chiles roasted. Take home several bags at $6/bag.

Freeze a few for a taste of summer this winter. Ah, chile roasting time in NM.

John Trentacosta: KSFR Music Cafe

©Paul Slaughter

John Trentacosta started playing drums at age 11 as a kid in New York. By 14 his future was sealed when he sat in a school assembly and listened to a youth jazz band play Horace Silver’s “Silver’s Serenade.” The harmony just got to him. From that day on it has been all about jazz for John.

After receiving his formal music education, John was for two decades the rhythm force behind jazz greats such as Chuck Wayne, Jimmy Knepper and the Al Porcino big band. He also served as Assistant Arts Director for the Staten Island Chamber Music Players from 1978-1992.

Santa Fe worked its familiar magic on John during a short trip here in the early 1990s. By 1992 he was simultaneously a band director in the Santa Fe Public Schools and stirring up the jazz scene in New Mexico. In 1993 he formed the jazz group Straight Up. They have a  busy concert schedule and have released two CDs, “Live Jazz in the Desert” and “No Need For Words,” which won John a “MIC” award for best producer.

John has been a good friend to Santa Fe. When the 4th grade band  in our public schools was cut and the 5th grade band was next, John educated one and all on the importance of music to these youngsters. John knows. Hearing a band play one song when he was a kid  literally changed his life. Fourth grade band was reinstated.

Another of John’s gifts to the community is his six year tenure as part of the jazz team at Santa Fe Public Radio KSFR 101.1 FM which offers over 25 hours of jazz programming each week to lucky listeners. It’s a free masters degree in jazz.

KSFR programming is largely the work of top notch volunteers like John, but there are hefty expenses to stay on the air. The folks at KSFR decided the radio audience would enjoy the chance to hear some first rate jazz players play some “top shelf” music live and at the same time support the station. This brings me to KSFR’s Music Cafe Series.

The series started in March. Each past performance has been sold out. The next performance in the series will be held Thursday, August 23rd at the Museum Hill Cafe in Santa Fe, with 2 one hour sets starting at 7pm. John will play drums. Albuquerque’s John Maestas, “a young guy who plays like a seasoned musician,” will play guitar. JQ Whitcomb, a product of the band program of the Santa Fe public schools and an “accomplished player,” will be on trumpet. Last but not least, Andy Zadrozny, a long time musician who just settled here from Seattle, will move you with his bass. The jazz band will play standards written for American musical theater (think Berlin, Gershwin, Porter) as well as a few original tunes by John M. and JQ.

Call 505.428.1527 for tickets, which are $20. Contact John at straightupsf@earthlink.com or call 505.412.0765 or check out John’s website  at www.straightupjazz.com.

Thank God for Mississippi

Unfortunately, New Mexico shows up at the wrong end of  many of the “best” and “worst” lists ranking states on issues like child well-being, poverty, injury-related deaths and, I am afraid, others.  It is a terrible state of affairs. We hate it, and things must change. Often, though, we are saved from the ultimate humiliation and can therefore hold on to a shred of pride by one thing…the State of Mississippi.

Over and over again what cushions New Mexico’s ultimate fall from grace is more often than not the more pitiful situation of  Mississippi. It happens so often that a few years ago a state legislator proposed, semi in jest and I suspect late in the evening, that we change the tag line on our license plates from “Land of Enchantment” to “Thank God for Mississippi!” “Thank God for Mississippi!” is our rallying cry. We may be doing poorly on some issues, but by God Mississippi is doing worse.

As a result, whenever the latest ranking of the states is published, I automatically check to see where Mississippi falls on the list. Can our pride be saved again? Can we hold our heads up even just a little?

And so it was yesterday when I read the enticing headline in the New Mexican, “Firm rates N.M. 2nd on list of clumsy iPhone users.” The article begins: “New Mexico has shown up near the top of another list.” It seems the company providing the warranty coverage on your iPhone reviewed the claims filed by over 125,000 owners alleging “accidental damage from handling the devices.” The next line said it all: “New Mexico ranked second, right behind Mississippi.” Woohoo!

Apparently we are clumsy, but Mississipians are clumsier. The article states that between 30-35% of New Mexicans owning iPhones will report they have damaged them in the next two years. Usually we drop them, and often we drop them in water—toilets, pools, coffee, and rain. Let me just point out we are in a drought.

The company also announced the list of clumsiest iPad owners. On that one, Nebraska can thank God for Mississippi. New Mexico escaped the top 5.

Hippo Birdie Two Ewes, Susan

Today is my friend Susan’s birthday. She lives in New York. I don’t. In fact, we have not lived in the same place at the same time for about 30 of the 34 years we have known each other. We could have eaten more meals or taken more walks in the city together had we lived nearby all these years, but we could not be closer.

Before the internet, we wrote each other long letters. Susan wrote her letters on yellow legal paper in her tiny perfect script. Often the letter included a bit of some dialogue she overheard on the subway that morning on her ride to work. Susan is a good listener. And funny.  A few times a year she would send along a stack of pages she cut out, not ripped like mine were, from The New Yorker or the New York Times, articles that amused her or that she thought would amuse me. Made my week when I found a fat legal size white envelope from her in my mailbox stuffed with cartoons from Roz Chast or an article about some poor man who managed to shoot himself with a bow and arrow through his nose and survived or an article about a new vegetarian restaurant we should try the next time I was in NYC. Now we exchange emails which is just not the same but still the best.

After all these years, we have our own language based pretty much on the punch lines from New Yorker cartoons. One of us will tell a story about some hideous wrong someone perpetrated against us and somewhere in that conversation the other will say, “Well, Binkie says throw the rubber boots out the window!,” and we laugh hysterically. After discussing a person who is  actually taking his vacation time much to the penetrating glare of his boss, one of us will proclaim, “Well, which goose won’t make partner?!”

Susan is kind. Susan is thoughtful. Susan is big time brilliant with a memory that won’t quit. She is the friend we all want and are so blessed to have.  I could go on and on, but I will end with our traditional birthday song, based on a birthday card sent maybe 25 years ago:

Hippo Birdie Two Ewes!

Hippo Birdie Two Ewes!

Hippo Birdie, Hippo Birdie!

Hippo Birdie Two Ewes!

And many more!

Happy Birthday, Susan. Love you.

The Invasion of the Mountain Men

Mountain Men invaded Santa Fe this weekend with their knives, furs and a few of their women folk in tow.  These two men are verbally jousting about who is the uglier.

“No, you are uglier.”

The annual Santa Fe Mountain Man Trade Fair, held right off the Plaza in the courtyard of the Palace of the Governors, was chock full of all manner of beards and knives and animal skins.

And more skins.

And more skins.

This man told how he played the banjo for his son when his son was still in his mother’s womb.

The son came out playing a tune.

for Dave the Elder

Now they come out together to these mountain men gatherings and sell old saddles, powder horns and guns.

The blacksmith was at hand making nails on this hot summer afternoon. I took one home for $1 out of appreciation for his efforts. Even the  penny nail has been hit hard by inflation.

I was born too mouthy, too blind, too adverse to the cold and too much the vegetarian to have lasted a day in the mid 1800′s when the mountain men made their mark as fur traders.  So glad I was born in the right place at the right time.