50 Days to 50 Years, Day 09: Santa Fe Foodie Excursion and an evening with Evan O’Connell

23 07 2016

Day 2 of the Santa Fe Foodie Excursion started with this gorgeous view outside our condo. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to that every morning? Well, at least we have one more morning to enjoy it.

Even though downtown Santa Fe was a mere four blocks downhill, the thought of walking uphill with full bellies was not something either Lynn or I wanted to look forward to; so like the Angeleans that we are, we drove, and paid for parking. You can take the O’Connells out of Los Angeles….

And our bellies were definitely filled to the brim! Carlos of Food Tour New Mexico was our guide for the day’s excursion. He did a great job of mixing the love of food with the love of culture, along with a sprinkling of New Mexico history.

Our first stop on the tour was San Francisco Bar and Grill, in the heart of the Santa Fe Plaza.The Plaza is the central part of the city, hosting Indian and Spanish markets, along with community gatherings and cultural events, so it was a short walk from the center of the Plaza to the restaurant. They served us an awesome Chicken Enchiladas with Chimao Red and Hatch Chiles, commonly known as “Christmas” style.

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Stop #2, and my personal favorite,  was to Thunderbird Bar and Grill, which boasts over 100 different tequila varieties, extensive wine and beer offerings, and other spirits. The Green Chile Pork Soup with Acedero (a Mexican form of Mozzarella) was simply divine. Carlos offered a little foodie tip: To increase the flavor of meats boiled in liquid, allow the meat to cool in the liquid. You could definitely taste the infusion of richness in the pork. I could have had another bowl, but it was on to the next leg of the tour.

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To cleanse our palates, Stop #3 was to The Original Santa Fe Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Company. Carlos made us a “Birthday Cake” combination of Pineapple Balsamic Vinegar and Avocado Lemon Olive Oil. You could have it over ice and drink it, it was that scrumptious!

In between stops we were treated to some historical wonders and spectacular views from the La Fonda rooftop, the rooftop of the 5th Floor Presidential Suite of the Inn and Spa at Loretto, the Rosary Tree, and the Miraculous Staircase at the Chapel Loretto.

We also continued to meet some fun people. A couple of the participants in the Johnny Vee cooking class were there, along with some new faces. Three friends in particular captured my writer’s interest: Brittany, Julie, and Katie decided to take a mini-respite to Santa Fe, so Brittany and Katie drove up from Midland, Texas, and Julie flew in from Florida to meet up. I just love stories, and friendships like that. Katie also won the award for most fashionable, with a great dress and hat combination.

Since we had adequately walked off the burrito and the soup, we headed to Stop #4: Upper Crust Pizza for a New Mexico specialty: Hatch Green Chile Pizza.

Upper Crust Pizza is in an historical building in the oldest part of town. The crust is unique to this region; can’t be replicated anywhere else… kind of like Chicago Deep Dish! I was sold—both the Hatch Green Chile and the Red Chile pizzas were well worth the wait; and I was happy we had walked off the earlier fare so I could scarf down three slices!

And, of course, what would a foodie tour be without dessert! Stop #5 was to Senor Murphy Candymaker, which has been serving Santa Fe for 71 years. We sampled a quartet of treats including Bolitos and Pinon Fudge. The shop specializes in Pinon treats (“Pine Nuts” to the rest of the U.S.) which is a nut found exclusively in the state of New Mexico.

This leg of the excursion ended at Senior Murphy’s, and Lynn and I did a little bit of exploring the open air market, looking at the historical spots along old Route 66, and admiring some of the unique artistic endeavors that characterize Santa Fe before heading back to our condo to meet up with Evan.

One of the nice bonuses of marriage is that you get an extended family. I love Lynn’s brothers and sisters and their kids, and often wished they lived closer; but then, we wouldn’t have an excuse to visit if they did! Albuquerque is an hour south of Santa Fe, so Lynn’s nephew Evan wanted to drive up to see us this trip—so very sweet of him!

Evan met us at the condo, and we drove back into downtown Santa Fe, and stopped at a French restaurant for dessert. L’Olivier (how apropos) had a lovely patio, the manager played Getz/Gilberto in the background, and to add to the magical, Franco atmosphere, it rained!

One of the best features was a quote painted on the inside wall of the restaurant:

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Evan is an exceptionally talented artist, and through his studies, is getting well-versed in architecture. We walked around the Plaza at night, talking about the church structures and unique features of some of the monasteries in the West.

All-in-all, a pleasurable ending to our second day in Santa Fe.

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 11, A CAAN surprise and a Road Trip!

21 07 2016

“One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.” — William Feather

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Day 11 of 50 Days to 50 Years started with dropping off my Nissan X-Terra to Pep Boys for some servicing in the early AM. You see, the first BIG adventure of my 50 Years is a Food Excursion to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and we are heading out today; so I had to make sure the car was in good shape to go the over 800 miles through the deserts of California and Arizona, and mountains of Arizona and New Mexico.

The temperature index in Los Angeles is expected to reach 100 degrees, and at 7:30 a.m. it was already 71. So I trundled from Pep Boys down to the local McDonald’s, got a Caramel McCafe, and enjoyed the A/C until the service desk called me to say my car was ready.

And they completed the service in just the right amount of time to keep my 10:00 a.m. appointment with Miriam Smith, Columbia College Chicago’s Executive Director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving. I have the distinct pleasure of working with Miriam on the CAAN Alumni Board, where she does incredible work and inspires us as we seek to do more for the alumni. I was honored that on her visit to Los Angeles, she wanted to make sure she touched based with me. And even more happy that I had a window of time before we headed out of town.

We went to one of my favorite breakfast spots, The Village Bakery and Cafe on Los Feliz Boulevard. I was actually a few minutes early, and so was Miriam! So that worked out well.

Miriam had the Atwater Village Special, and I had the Village Scramble, both delicious and filling. We had a good talk about my time on the board, and how I’d like to contribute in this next year as the new Southwest Regional Representative! It was a very lovely start to what I was looking forward to being a lovely weekend. We finished breakfast, and Miriam had to jet off to her next meeting. We hugged and looked forward to seeing each other at the CAAN Board retreat in September.

Then it was off home to complete our packing, put it all in the car, and hit the 210 Freeway to the I-15! I do love road trips, and love them even more when someone else is driving. Lynn seems to prefer doing that, so I bow to his road warrior. It is just great to get out of your world, and right now our world is a mixed bag of delight and depression; so for me, getting away from it all has taken on pronounced importance of late.

We got underway around 12:30 p.m., fueled up, and away we went! Save for a rest area or two in between, we made it into Kingman, Arizona around 6:30 p.m., and had our last “official” California meal for the weekend at the quintessential California stop: In-N-Out Burger.

Four hours later, we arrived in Flagstaff, Arizona, where we were set to repair for the night. Motel 6 is our inexpensive go-to place on road trips, usually because we have the Bubbas and Bubbette with us, and Motel 6 is not only pet-friendly, but FREE for all pets; no deposit required. But Motel 6 has also been good to us on our little excursions that have spanned, with a few years’ interruption, over the past five years. In terms of brands, if you are good to me, I am often loyal to a fault; so Motel 6 continues to get our loyalty.

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They did indeed leave the light on for us! We are checked in, and look forward to a good night’s sleep before taking the additional 430 miles to New Mexico tomorrow.

 

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 19, Hope for the next Generation

13 07 2016

“We’re hiring. Get off that protest line and put an application in. And we’ll put you in your neighborhood, and we will help you resolve some of the problems you’re protesting about.” — Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown

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I do not have any children of my own, but I do have grand nieces and nephews; and I mourn for the world we are making for them. Just looking at our two presidential choices lets you know that we lack integrous leaders who can speak to the tragedies we have been facing, and offer an example for our children to look toward.

Like cream, Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown has risen to the top. With the recent murders of four Dallas police officers, his handling of the ongoing situation, as well as his honest and forthright assessment of the role of police in society, and being a black man in uniform has been refreshing, transforming, and has set a much needed tone in the conversation of police brutality and urban violence.

A New York Times article said, “He was hurting, self-effacing and, as he put it, a little fried. At a news conference on Monday, he spoke about the crisis facing law enforcement, his experience as a black man in Texas, guns and division, and what kept him going — ‘God’s grace and his sweet, tender mercies, just to be quite honest with you.'”

Another refreshing thing: someone who speaks of God and actually means it.

I believe Chief Brown will be a voice in these days of unrest. My prayer is that more leaders like him begin to rise; our nation, and the next generation, desperately needs them.





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 20, Prayer for the World

12 07 2016

“Prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

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Found this in a friend’s feed, and it is so powerful. From America to Israel to France, the world has not been a stable, safe or happy place. I do not have words, but I do have prayers; and prayer is what will fuel sound action and proper change. Gandhi knew, many others need to learn; perhaps these times are part of the object lesson.





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 28, Happy Independence Day!

4 07 2016

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow.”
― Thomas Paine

Despite the horrid events of late, and all that is wrong in our political and social processes, I am still grateful to have been born in the U.S.A., and proud to be an American. You want my opinion on those two other things, go look at my page at Communities Digital News or some of my posts here from years past. Today is a day to honor the establishment of the United States as a free nation, and to commemorate our Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, when said document was first read to the people.

Freedom isn’t free. It is bought and paid for by those who have the courage to stand for it. Every point of freedom I possess today was paid for by someone: from Crispus Attucks, to Harriet Tubman, to Frederick Douglass, to Ida B. Wells, to Martin Luther King, Jr., a price was rendered, and a sacrifice was made. What I find most tragic is many of today’s young people go in one of two directions: they either consider the day simply about fireworks and barbecues, or they rail against celebration or denigrate the U.S. because of the dishonest and twisted claptrap they learned in the public school system or a liberal college environment. Yeah, I said it; what they learned is no better than the whitewashed or sterling accounts about the U.S.A. peddled in certain conservative and right-wing circles.

Part of the reason for the social and political ills mentioned earlier is that many people have abdicated their freedoms for security, ease, and perpetual entertainment. Others spend their lives fighting battles that have nothing to do with life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness and wonder why they are unhappy and nothing ever changes. The two likely nominees of both parties are a clear indication that we have lost our moral compass and are far to easily swayed by pablum and promises. But I digress….

I pray a generation emerges that has the courage to right the ship. But while we still have some freedoms left, I choose to celebrate the reason why we can.

Here is the preamble to the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”





Black History Month 2015: Zora Neale Hurston

5 02 2015

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“It would be against all nature for all the Negroes to be either
at the bottom, top, or in between. We will go where the internal drive carries us like everybody else. It is up to the individual.”

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora is one of my favorite writers. Her language is beautiful, uplifting, elegant, and scarcely seen in modern literature. Literacy across the board is becoming a thing of the distant past, much to the detriment of of our people.

I explore this a bit more over at Communities Digital News, Black History Month 2015: Let’s promote a return to literacy:

“Sadly, the richness of literacy exhibited by her and her contemporaries—like Langston Hughes, who would have been 113 this week—is sorely lacking in today’s literature. Do our young people even know the names of these and other great writers, or the titles of their works? If the crisis in our culture is any indication, we are failing our children by starving them of the substantive words and sweeping vision of great writers while spoon-feeding them the steady pabulum of gangster rap and reality television.”

Read more here.





Black History Month 2015: Harriet Tubman

2 02 2015

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“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand
more if only they knew they were slaves
.
-Harriet Tubman

This famous quote by the “Black Moses” could well be applied today. The chains of slavery are evident in the mind, attitudes and allegiances of our race, and are being reflected in the lack of leadership and focus in the modern civil rights movement:

“Seeing the power, presence, and passion of Dr. King artfully portrayed by actor David Oyelowo, as well as the re-enactment of the give and take between Ralph Abernathy and Andrew Young of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and John Lewis of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, merely spotlights the total lack of conviction or moral authority in the civil rights movement of today. In place of an intelligent, articulate, and anointed Dr. King, we have the mush-mouthed Al Sharpton, and the empty bumper sticker slogans of “No Justice, No Peace,” and “Black Lives Matter.”

Dr. King is flipping in his grave.”

Read the rest at my Communities Digital News column: Martin Luther King Day, Selma, and the moral scarcity in modern-day civil rights.