Time to Trust

9 02 2010

I’m still kind of surprised the officer pulled us over. It was really nasty outside. Bitter, bitter wind and freezing temperatures. But we did have a Florida license plate — good Ol’ Bay County for all to see.

The officer was of Hispanic descent and in good shape. Hell, he had to be — just to be standing out in these conditions. My sneezing had not gone away. The officer asked for Jim’s license and proof of insurance. Jim had it ready.

Now, I’ll have to admit, I have a lot of respect for men in uniform — and women too for that matter. I’m not sure if this guy lived in Vaughn, but if he did, I sure felt sorry for him.  It was pretty desolate and all. If the economy was puttin’ a hurtin’ on Vegas then it had damn near killed Vaughn.

Downtown Roswell

The officer returned to his patrol car with Jim’s information and I continued to blow boogers into my supply of Kleenex, which were starting to run low. I’m here to tell ya, I felt like Holy Shit. Flagstaff seemed like last month.

As we waited for the officer to return, Jim didn’t seem too put off by the state of affairs. He’d been pulled over before on this trip, he said, but that was in Texas. I wondered what ol’ Gabe did? I doubt his powers of persuasion and cock sure attitude work too well on law enforcement.

“I’ll just pay the fine,” Jim said.

And that’s what he did. When the officer returned he handed Jim a ticket and explained the speeding infraction. He also explained that if Jim wanted to contest this decision that another trip to Vaughn was in store.

“We’ll pay,” Jim said.

To his credit, Jim tried to politely engage the officer in conversation, asking how many inches of snow had fallen the night before.

“About nine,” the officer said. He didn’t want to make small talk and I don’t blame him. It was damn near frigid outside. The wind was blowing sand and sheets of snow across the highway. This officer was a real trooper indeed.

So, we left Vaughn a little lighter in the pocketbook, but grateful to be close to Roswell and the cozy confines of another Holiday Inn Express. The place was like an oasis by the time we finally arrived and thankfully a drug store was not too far down the road. Once we got checked in, Jim drove down to the drug store and bought me a pack of antihistamine. It was a mighty noble thing for him to do. Those kind of drugs aren’t real cheap. They do, however, work and my sneezing began to subside.

I’m sure that made Jim happy. Nobody likes to be around someone sneezing all the time. I remember when I was in grade school and would have those sneezing fits. Mom always said I didn’t know how to blow my nose.

That night we had dinner at the Applebees next door. As usual, Jim headed straight for the bar and, like clockwork, we got top-notch service. We both ordered the chilli and a few rounds of beer. The bartender was a young skinny fellow with a slick, freshly cut head of hair. He asked me for my ID.

“You got to be kidding me,” I said. “It’s back at the hotel. You’re not going to make me go outside again are ya?”

“What year were you born,” he asked me.

I told him and he left to get my beer. And that, my friends, like the speeding ticket in Vaughn, is what we call … Trust.





A Cold Is A Brewing

8 02 2010

The drive back, for the most part, was pretty anti-climatic. We had planned to pass through Sedona before bunking down in Flagstaff for the night.

It was getting colder by the hour. When we got to the hotel in Flagstaff — another Holiday Inn Express — we rested in the room and Jim caught up on his daily dose of Fox News.

Although I was not very keen about getting out that night, Stallone, the young server from the Canyon was in town and wanted to see me again. We decided to meet at a historic hotel in downtown Flagstaff, or as the locals like to say, “Flag.” I can’t recall the exact name of the lodge, but they had a live band playing that night and it was a popular hangout for the college crowd.

Stallone was there with a bunch of his Canyon cohorts. They were lounging on the sofas in the lobby. Stallone informed me he had taken a room for the night. No telling how many people were expected to stay, but I didn’t feel like reliving another late night pow-wow with the Canyon crowd.

So Jim and I had a beer and we snapped some more photos with Stallone and his girlfriends. Stallone was very friendly that night. Sitting on my lap at the bar and all. He was so sweet, but it did make me a little nervous. We were in Arizona after all.

The Drive to Roswell

Jim didn’t want to stick around very long. We had quite a drive ahead of us. Roswell, New Mexico was the next destination and, as usual, Jim had the schedule planned out in precise fashion. The old engineer wanted to see the meteor crater and petrified forest on the way.

Temperatures continued to drop that morning. We left at dawn and it was a blistering seven degrees outside. Who knew Flagstaff got that damn cold?!?

Jim was determined from the start. He pushed hard that day. I remember asking for time just to wolf down the complimentary breakfast that morning. We made it to the meteor crater before they opened the gates. We were the first visitors in line. Jim promptly paid our entry fee and we went inside, looked around, snapped some photos and left. I wondered why the hell we even bothered. It was really just a big hole in the desert.

We spent a little longer in the petrified forest. This was much more sentimental to Jim. His family had taken him here when he was a youngster and he still had a faded yellow picture as proof. A skinny preppy kid, with wavy dark hair, sitting atop the petrified tree.

“They won’t let you do that anymore,” Jim boasted.

Indeed, the park ranger confirmed that we were not to be climbing on the petrified logs. Jim showed the ranger his photograph and she was impressed. What a job those rangers have. Must be fun as hell to come to work everyday.

We watched a short film about the forest and the message was clear — don’t take these rocks home with you. It’s a felony. The film also documented the wildlife in the forest. Coyotes, prairie dogs and such. The only creature we saw that morning, however, was a hungry black crow.

From the petrified forest to Roswell was pure hell. I must have sneezed a hundred times. I’m not kidding. The wind was picking up and snow covered the countryside. I drifted in and out of sleep. Not wanting to be a total bore,  like Gabe had been, I tried to stay awake and talk, but my condition was rapidly deteriorating. Jim realized this and he drove faster. Too fast, in fact.

I woke up and the car was stopped. Jim had pulled off the side of the road. We were in a small town a few hours north of Roswell. Behind us were the flashing lights of the law. Welcome to Vaughn, New Mexico.





Ruined?

21 12 2009

If anything, tonight James Cameron taught me to see.

Here I am less than an hour removed from watching the director’s latest cinema masterpiece and I am propelled to write.

Now where did we leave off.

Ah yes, the next leg of the trip was Amarillo to Durango through the heart of New Mexico.

Jim was making great time as usual. We sped through Albuquerque, gased up on the city’s outskirts and stopped for lunch at a diner about an hour northwest in a tiny truck stop called Cuba.

I had a cheeseburger and Jim ordered eggs and sausage. The natives were friendly and I began to notice the blending of cultures. We were not in Dallas anymore. Our white skin made us the minority here.

Jim had planned for a small detour on our way to Durango — Chaco Culture National Historic Park — and it was well off the beaten path.

Jim was determined to see the ruins. Leaving pavement behind, the car rattled and the shocks were put to the test as we motored into Chaco country.

Since he had attained “Golden” status, admission to the park was free for Jim. Perks of senior citizenship in the US of A. Generously, he paid for my entry.

“I’ll get a picture of you in front of the ruins,” Jim said. “We can call it ‘Ruined.'”

This was a surprisingly remark, one that hit it’s target, however playfully intended. Did he really think I was ‘ruined,’ I wondered. Better yet, was he right?

In the past, I had always had some element of control on my adventures. Always had the means to make it alone — on the mean streets of New York, London’s Underground or the hedonism of West Hollywood.

When I was riding high career-wise, I could even manage to bring along a friend or lover. It wasn’t too long ago, Warren and I had traveled to Chicago, in part so I could attend the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association Covention.

Yes, in 2005, I was a panel speaker at the convention. Four years later, I was ‘ruined’ riding along with Jim.

We took some pictures in the park. It was cold and the wind a tad unforgiving. We listened briefly to the ranger give a guided tour and hopped back in the Murano. Jim was ready to get to Durango and he didn’t want to have to drive through a snowstorm to get there.

The temperature was indeed dropping as we climbed in elevation. My ears began to pop. Amazingly, the I-phone rarely lost service. But, just when I thought I had the gadget figured out, Jim would call my attention to the landscape and, nine times out of 10, it was awe-inspiring.

Durango was a tourist town, nestled in the southwestern Colorado rockies. We were arriving during off-season, most of the families had long returned to the rat race. It was just the way Jim liked it.

And he had a point. As precious as children can be, sometimes it can be more work than vacation.

And we were on vacation….rising from the Ruins.