Damn! I wish I could find my fucking reading glasses. But it’s a nice day, and I head out to buy a battery for this pinche little clock/timer I use. The little silver oxide battery is going for $5.99, which seems a little steep for just one, so I buy the three-pack for $10.99. What the hell. Save a few bucks when I need another one. And I buy a package of Walgreens’ faux-Oreos while I’m there. No high fructose corn syrup in these, they taste exactly like the real thing, and at $2.29, they’re a great deal. For some reason a pack of real Nabisco Oreos with the cheap-ass chemical hybrid syrup cost twice as much.
But then things get real good, because there’s a piñón coffeeshop a few blocks away. Now, this section of 4th Street features nothing but shops and restaurants. There’s a KFC and a McDonald’s, of course, but also Bob’s Burgers, Powdrells BBQ, Tacos Mex Y Mariscos, Burritos Y Gorditias, a Church’s Chicken, and a Teriyaki Chicken Bowl, among others. There are money-lenders, the Laundromat, and a car wash, donuts and ice cream. It’s a busy street, so it’s not the greatest place to hang out, but I brought a book with me, and I love piñón coffee. Piñón coffee is always smooth. The cafe uses dark-roasted beans. My large café americano has four shots of espresso, which will make me hyperactive later on. I buy a bear claw too, and sit in a stuffed chair in a sunbeam. The bearclaw is gooey, and so messy that it’s hard to eat it and drink coffee one-handed, while trying to turns pages and hold a book one-handed, so I ignore the really hot coffee for a bit and finish off the bear claw first. Then I have to wash my hands. Finally, I get all settled with the book in one hand, and my coffee can be set on a little table next to me when I need my other hand to turn a page.
The book is excellent! Luis Alberto Urrea is not only one damn fine observer of people, but he can write about it with fine attention to detail, and also be funny. Well, some of it seems funny to me anyway, because it sounds like barrios in California, the South Side of Chicago, and here in Albuquerque have a lot in common, and I’ve heard a lot of it before in my forty years in the southwest. The book is a real treat, but I do wish I had my glasses, because reading without ’em is usually tiring, and it sometimes gives me a headache. Can’t get new ones until I see the optometrist in a week. But the book is so good that I don’t mind, and the sunlight makes it easier to read.
It’s not a real busy coffeeshop, having only opened recently. One old guy, like me, sits reading when I come in. A couple comes in after I sit down, while I’m still strugging with the bear claw. The woman is young, smiling and very attractive. When I try to ogle her, she looks back, but blankly, twice. Her companion, with his back to me, is a young man with extremely short buzz-cut hair. A young woman comes in with a guide dog, orders coffee and something to eat, and sits down six feet from me. She speaks low to the dog from time to time. She is dressed in very plain clothes in muted colors and without any kind of style. Her hair is cropped short and she looks more like a young man.
I read three stories in Urrea’s The Water Museum, and prepare to go. My coffee is not quite finished, so I sit quietly for a few minutes without reading. The man reading a book has left. Another single woman comes in and hits the restroom. The young woman with the guide dog prepares to leave, taking her trash to the receptacle across the room first, which seems to confuse the dog when she returns to her chair for her coat. She chides him, humorously, for sitting as she turns to leave, and I chuckle with her. Moments later, after the woman in the restroom leaves it and walks to the counter, I finish my coffee and head out.
I think about my glasses. I thought they were in the house somewhere, but I’ve turned the place over several times and I can’t find ’em. I was on a movie set near Santa Fe, on Zia Pueblo land, a few weeks ago, and may have had them with me. I vaguely remember that, since I intended to read, I could have taken them with me and stashed them in my green fleece jacket with Applied Biosystems embroided into it. They are a biotech firm I used to order supplies from before I retired. I’ve had it for many years. I remember hanging it on a tree limb at one point, as we rushed to set, and left it behind when we wrapped after dark. No one in the crew had found it when I went back later. The set had moved, and they clean up really carefully, but I suspect my reading glasses were in that jacket, and it’s still hanging in that tree somewhere in the hills south of Santa Fe among the stunted piñón trees.
(FOLLOW UP: I finally finished Urrea’s book in the evening, and it is mind-blowing. The stories bounce around from barrio to rez to border towns and midwestern towns, and the people come in all races and types, and the love and hatred and ennui and dialogue and descriptions and emotions and sharp shots of drama just knock the breath out of your chest. And then I read the title story, about the water museum, and yeah, it’s a museum, because large parts of the country have had drought so long that children don’t know what rain is or what it sounds like, and fear humidity. And, although it hasn’t happened yet, you know, you just know, it will happen just as he described it. And I’d recommend this book to everone.)