Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

Chili today, hot tamale

January 27, 2022

Sun’s out, but my guns are still in.

I don’t remember when or where I first heard that old gag. “Chili today, hot tamale.” It sounds like something the old man would’ve said.

He picked up some Spanish down in Panama and he’d toss fragments of it at me and my sis as a call-and-response joke come bedtime. We had to repeat each phrase after he uttered it. (“Repitan ustedes.”)

“Hasta la vista.”

“¿Como se llama?”

“Buenos noches.”

This last became “Buenos snowshoes” at some point. Lord, what white people will do to someone else’s language.

Anyway, it’s chilly today, so I plan to make chili today, from a Pierre Franey recipe. No tamales, though. Eso es demasiado como el trabajo.

A Monday mooning

January 17, 2022

A smattering of Oliphant from the Mad Dog library.

A few observations under the Wolf Moon:

• A Puck in the gob. The Albquerque Journal has a little piece on my favorite political cartoonist, Pat Oliphant, who spent 60 years pantsing the powerful before failing eyesight finally pushed him away from the drawing board. I met Oliphant in the Seventies, when the Fine Arts Center in Bibleburg hosted an exhibition of his work. He was very gracious to a dumbass hippie kid who claimed he was a cartoonist too, enduring a bit of grilling and even volunteering a few tips.

• Dave’s not here. Hal Walter’s dad, Dave, recently passed away. The two had had their differences over the years, as fathers and sons often do (see O’Grady, Harold and Patrick), but Hal took a moment to remember the good times with the man who introduced him to the great outdoors.

• And The Biggest Midget in the Room Award goes to. … The Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame. Every niche needs its shiny object, I guess. But if you can get to it via paved road it’s bullshit.

Rise and shine

January 8, 2022

If you sleep in, you miss stuff like this.

Marriage, freelancing, and New Mexico gradually turned me into a morning person, kinda sorta.

I spent the bulk of my newspaper career working nights on various copy desks scattered around the West. Clock in around 3 or 4 in the p.m., clock out when the presses start running at stupid-thirty. If you’re lucky, there’s a bar still open somewhere.

But when Herself hitched her little red wagon to my jackass in Fanta Se there were accommodations to be made. I was on the usual night shift at The New Mexican, but she worked like normal people, running the B. Dalton Bookseller in the DeVargas Center.

She was asleep when I came home; I was asleep when she went to work. We saw each other at dinner and sometimes on the weekends, if I wasn’t chasing commas or racing bikes. Our wedding vows may have included the endearment, “Shut the fuck up, I’m trying to sleepI”

In case you’re wondering, kids, this is how you make a marriage work.

Miss Mia Sopaipilla insists on sunlight as soon as it becomes available, if not sooner.

In 1991, when my mom developed a hitch in her gitalong and we moved to Bibleburg to deal with it, my routine went out the window. Herself found more retail work, but I was trying to freelance, and the first thing you learn in that racket is fear. You fear that the last dollar you earned will be the last dollar you earn.

So I said yes to every job, worked a lot, and all the time, not just from afternoons into the dark of the night. In point of fact, I was compelled to embrace the early morning hours.

It wasn’t awful. Not nearly as bad as I remembered from having a paper route. For starters, I was working indoors, and I was writing the news, not sidearming it onto stoops.

Nor was I restricted to a copy desk, where the routine is … well, routine. Daily editorial meeting, editing copy, writing headlines, sizing photos, writing cutlines, laying out pages, drinking dinner, overseeing pasteup, proofing pages, taking a quick look at the paper hot off the presses as they began rumbling up to speed, and going home.

Going freelance took me off that daily merry-go-round. When the deadline was every other week, or once a month, I found I could squeeze the work into my life instead of my life into the work.

Yeah, I worked almost every day, and at all hours of every day, but I did it in bite-sized pieces and a lot of different flavors. Cover an early morning Tour stage for VN.com, go for a ride. Write a column for Bicycle Retailer, do the grocery shopping. Edit some copy for Inside Triathlon, drink a beer (editing triathlon copy would make a stewbum of a Seventh-day Adventist). Draw a cartoon for VeloNews. And so on.

True, I was not always at my best in the early morning hours. Old habits die hard. And Mom had her own routines, which included wandering the house at night while chatting with the voices in her head (yeah, that shit runs in the family). But you get used to it, or at least learn to manage it.

Eventually she passed, leaving only one of us to argue with his invisible friends. And the mornings got a little easier, whether sunup came in Weirdcliffe, Bibleburg, or The Duck! City.

My paying chores have drifted away one by one, but the mornings have not. Herself rises earlier than ever, working four 10-hour shifts as a librarian for Sandia National Lab. But I insist on sleeping in, until 6 a.m. if I can manage it, before dragging the old bag of bone splinters and bad ideas out of the sack and into the kitchen.

Somebody has to make breakfast and inspect the sunrise, make sure God’s on the job. Some days one wonders.

Early morning watermelon at the foot of the Sandias.

Yellow fever

May 27, 2021

The DogShi(r)t circa 1999, from VOmax.

Beats me how I wandered off into the garment district. But here we are, so let’s just roll with it.

I was searching various hard drives for background on my soon-to-be-history Voler jersey racket. Then I was telling someone the bee-in-the-jersey story from Back in the Day®, when we lived in Crusty County and VOmax made my team garb.

Anyway, at some point in the excavation I unearthed a Bicycle Retailer column from 1999 that discussed this very kit. And as Le Tour is due to kick off next month, I thought I’d brush off the dust and cobwebs and trot it out for inspection.

• • •

 

Maillot Jaune vs. Yellow Jersey

— The First Draws Cheers,

Bui the Other Prompts Jeers

 

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.Mark Twain

With Marco Pantani, Jan Ullrich and Bjarne Riis skipping the Tour de France this year, look for yours truly to be wearing the yellow jersey.

OK, not the yellow jersey. But a yellow jersey.

Specifically, the new Team Mad Dog Media/Dogs at Large Velo jersey from VOmax Team Apparel. It just happens to be yellow. Bright yellow. A vitamin-C-megadose, kidney-stone, construction-vehicle kind of yellow, festooned with black and white graphics. Perfect camouflage for ambushing Californians from a meadow bright with dandelions.

“Bumblebee,” said my wife.

“Hope ONCE doesn’t sue you,” said VOmax’s Adam Myerson.

“Cool,” said I.

Sadly, not everyone shares my fashion sense in this rustic backwater, where “going for a ride” typically involves a hay-burning quadruped or a rusty pickup and a sixpack of Rocky Mountain brain marinade.

Trying to outrun The Man with the Hammer.

You Look … Marvelous? I badgered a couple of friends into riding with me the other day. When I rolled into their barnyard, clad in my new finery, they commenced to hooting and clutching their sides like hillbillies suffering from a bad batch of white lightning.

Mary phoned my wife, chortling, “You let him out of the house like this?” Hal, a retro-grouch prone to the literary gesture, declined to ride anywhere in the Rocky Mountain West with me unless he could wear his woodland-camo’ jumpsuit and street-hockey helmet as a counterpoint to my flashy Lycra and visored Giro.

These, mind you, are people whose idea of fun is burro racing, a form of dementia peculiar to central Colorado that causes the victim to run marathons on mountain trails while tethered to a jackass. Doesn’t matter what you wear — people are going to shake their heads when they see a guy doing that, whether he’s wearing a T-shirt and shorts or a thong bikini and spike heels.

A Jackass of a Different Color. I tell Hal and Mary that they might find a bike ride a pleasant respite from jackass rambles now and then if they’d acquire some of the new-fangled doodads that make cycling more fun — clipless pedals and shoes designed for riding rather than running; suspension forks to soften our corrugated county roads; garments that wick a little better than a beach towel. But they’d rather be uncomfortable than funny-looking.

Me, I’ve been funny-looking for years, clad in unnatural-fiber garments from Rio Grande Racing Team, Sangre de Cristo Cycling Club, Rainbow Racing and Dogs at Large Velo. Each new jersey always made me feel as though I were a part of something special, somehow set apart from the other Day-Glo geeks wobbling around on two-wheelers. A racing jersey was a garment not just to be worn, but to be lived up to.

So when my sunny new DogShi(r)ts and summery weather hit the Wet Mountains more or less simultaneously, it was if a light had clicked on in a cartoon balloon over my head: “Hey, dude … if you want to look more like a banana and less like a grapefruit in that jersey, you’d better start riding your bike.”

Here Comes the Sun. First, I got a neighbor to brush-hog my rabbitbrush-clogged cyclo-cross course and started hitting it once or twice a week. Between ’crosses, I rode laps on my favorite 10-mile circuit, half pavement and half dirt, with plenty of gradual climbing. I even dusted off the road bike, which sees less daylight than Charlie Manson, and went for a few dirt-free rides to Wixson Divide and back.

It wasn’t all golden. Headwinds and hills reminded me that I’m in OK shape for a 45-year-old libelist, but entirely unfit for racing; no point in shaving the legs for a couple thousand miles yet. A cattle-truck driver played mirror tag with me on a potholed, 45-mph descent to Mackenzie Junction. And a bee who thought I was his mama dove inside my brand-new jersey on a shoulderless plummet down Highway 96, causing me to fishtail to a halt on the gravel shoulder and start peeling like a stripper on speed.

Still, there have been moments. The other day, while I was doing some artless laps on my ’cross course, a passing sport-utility vehicle slowed, then stopped; whoever was inside stayed to watch for a couple go-rounds.

I’ll never race the Tour. But for a few minutes there on a summer’s day, I was in the yellow jersey, people were watching, and no one was laughing.

The Salon Back East (Part II)

March 31, 2021

The album My Bloody Valentine released prior to Colm Ó Cíosóig’s visit to our little chateau in B-burg.

Back in 2013, when Herself and I were still Airbnb tycoons in the scenic Patty Jewett Yacht & Gun Club, we rented the House Back East to a young Mick name of Colm Ó Cíosóig, who was coming to Bibleburg for an international film festival.

Well, sir, Colm turned out to be the drummer for My Bloody Valentine, a group that pioneered a dreamy style of music dubbed “shoegaze.” And sociable fellow that he was, when the festival went all pear-shaped he popped round to ask if he could invite a few attendees back to the HBE for a bit of a bash.

We said sure, got invited to the do, and had a high old time.

Which brings me to my point: According to The New York Times, My Bloody Valentine will be making the majority of its catalog available for streaming, and reissuing it on vinyl. The group also has a new label and plans to release two new records, says Mother Times, in an interview with bandmate and co-founder Kevin Shields.

Look for the first to be “warm and melodic,” with the second more experimental. The time frame is uncertain, but Shields sounds like he’s ready to rock.

“Time is a bit more precious,” he told the NYT. “I don’t want to be 70-something wanting to make the next record after ‘m b v.’ I think it’d be cooler to make one now.”

Can’t buy me brains

February 7, 2021

The Fab Four arrive in New York.

On this day in 1964 The Beatles came to America.

Two days later they appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and I was watching, like 74 million of my fellow Americans.

My parents were appalled. My sister was entranced. And me? I remember thinking something along the lines of: “Hmph. These guys will never be as big as Elvis. And look at those silly haircuts.”

Mall rats

December 19, 2020

The Citadel’s logo. Herself worked there during our first tour of duty in Bibleburg, at the Eagle’s Nest.

Remember shopping malls?

They were becoming a Thing about the same time that I was. Bibleburg being behind the curve on pretty much everything (“a cemetery with lights,” as one newspaper colleague would come to call it), my town didn’t get a proper enclosed mall until 1972, when I had relocated to Alamosa to lower academic standards at Adams State College.

In the late Sixties our “mall” out east of Constitution and Academy was the Rustic Hills Shopping Center, which had a small enclosed area with a typical strip mall attached on the west side, with a liquor store, a pinball arcade, Tandy’s, 7-Eleven, and like that there. Major tenants were (I think) a Gibson’s on the eastern corner and a Safeway on the western end. In between was … well, not much that I can recall. I got there by bike, via a dirt path paralleling a drainage ditch.

There was a Duckwall’s. A Roffler’s Sculpture-Kut shop where a Mexican barber told me he could cut my hair in such a way that my parents, teachers, and swim coach would never know I was turning into a faux hippie unless they took a whiff of my personal fragrance (Eau de Ditch Weed). A western-wear shop where I acquired through dubious means a black, flat-crown Resistol a la Lee “Liberty Valance” Marvin that, with the addition of a band of silver conchos, went nicely with the rest of my Woodstock-wannabe garb. No, don’t ask; just thank Cthulhu that no photographs survive.

Until 1972, when the Citadel Mall sprang to hideous life, with its acres and acres of parking that in the first heavy rain flooded residential basements for miles around, anyone wanting to experience an actual enclosed mall had to motor up to Denver, where Cinderella City was the Big Kahuna. Not just a whim, a destination, particularly around Christmastime.

The Citadel and the Chapel Hills Mall, which opened a decade later, arguably helped croak what little downtown Bibleburg had. Now, neither is exactly crushing it, the pack rats are stripping malls’ carcasses nationwide, and “everybody knows” that you can’t have a vibrant modern city without a thriving downtown. So it goes.

R.I.P., Chuck Yeager

December 8, 2020

Chuck Yeager and Arthur Murray with the Bell X-1A.

Chuck Yeager has finally flown west. He was 97.

An airplane mechanic from West VirginIa who went on to become a fighter ace in World War II and retired as a brigadier general after 127 missions in Vietnam, he flew almost anything with wings, including the Bell X-1 that broke the speed of sound on Oct. 14, 1947.

Dad, whose Air Force nickname was O’Toole, was something of an autograph hound, and this was his biggest score. It reads: “To ‘Hank’ O’Grady (O’Toole). Best Regards and Good Luck, ‘Chuck’ Yeager.”

You may know him from “The Right Stuff,” first a book by Tom Wolfe and then a movie directed by Philip Kaufman.

We first heard about him from Dad, who likewise was a pilot at Muroc Army Air Base, later renamed Edwards AFB.

The family legend was that Dad was invited to join that famous test-pilots program at the Air Force Flight Test Center but that Mom forbade it, telling him something on the order of, “You can be a test pilot or you can marry me, but you can’t do both.”

The old man thought the world of Yeager, and we have a few pix of him, two of which you can see here. They’re both undated, but depict Yeager with the X-1A, the plane he flew to more than double the speed of sound in December 1953, just a few months before Harold Joseph O’Grady and his wife, Mary Jane, were to have a son name of Patrick Declan on the other side of the country.

Godspeed, General.

From one pilot to another

November 11, 2020

Harold Joseph O’Grady, from the 1941 edition of the Seminole yearbook.

Behold The Colonel, before he was a colonel, or even a pilot.

Harold Joseph O’Grady of Foley, Florida, was a freshman at the University of Florida in 1941. By February of ’42, he was a private in the U.S. Army Air Corps, having enlisted at MacDill Field “for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law.”

He stayed on a little longer than that. The old man retired as a full bird in 1972, when I was a freshman at Adams State College in Alamosa, getting grades that were even worse than his had been. And mind you, I was taking stoner classes, not elementary physics, organic chemistry, and motorized artillery.

I didn’t last long in college, either, but not because I was going to war to save the world from fascism. I was going to be a push-broom pilot, saving banks from stanks.

Oh, well. As Will Rogers observed, “We can’t all be heroes, because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.”

R.I.P., Sean Connery

October 31, 2020

James Bond finally retires for good.

For those of us of a certain age, there was only one James Bond.

Sean Connery has gone west after being unwell for some time, according to his family. He passed in his sleep, in the Bahamas, but no doubt Scotland was on his mind and in his heart; he had long been a staunch supporter of Scottish independence.

As a squirt in Texas I read every Ian Fleming Bond novel there was, and I always pictured Connery as 007. Everybody else was just play-acting.

Connery won his only Oscar for playing a Mick cop in the Kevin Costner-headlined remake of “The Untouchables.” But then he turned up in a lot of interesting places, as King Agamemnon and a fireman in Terry Gilliam’s “Time Bandits,” and as Daniel Dravot, an ex-soldier likewise bound for a crown in “The Man Who Would Be King,” a John Huston film based on a Rudyard Kipling story.

No matter who he was playing, or in what, you just knew he was having a whole lot more fun than you. Enjoy your work and the paychecks will keep coming, he seemed to say.

And it goes without saying that he was an inspiration to the rest of us handsome and charismatic bald fellas.

So fill to Sean the parting glass, and drink a health whate’er befalls. …

• Addendum: Here’s The New York Times obit, the one I always think of as official. Talk about your rags-to-riches story:

He was born Thomas Sean Connery on Aug. 25, 1930, and his crib was the bottom drawer of a dresser in a cold-water flat next door to a brewery. The two toilets in the hall were shared with three other families. His father, Joe, earned two pounds a week in a rubber factory. His mother, Effie, occasionally got work as a cleaning woman.