Sunday, May 26, 2024

Lindsey with Love

Bill Manns and Lindsey Enderby by Bob Dempsey

Bill Manns and Lindsey Enderby by Bob Dempsey

Goodbye Lindsey by Peggy Immel

Big Al Johnson holds court by Steve Immel

Friday evening at 6pm I first heard that Lindsey Enderby would be heading home to Dallas the following Tuesday. By that I mean leaving Taos forever. The move was in the works, we all knew it, but a four-day notice was as shocking as a five-alarm fire. That night I told four of Lindsey’s friends who in turn told their nearest and dearest and the Taos telegraph went into overdrive.

Kim Treiber and Chipper Thompson by Steve Immel

Dick Kimberly, Lindsey Enderby, Greg Moon and Kimberly Casara by Steve Immel

Saturday morning Peggy and I met the same friends for coffee at The Espresso Bar in the Taos Valley Lodge. I picked up Lindsey thinking it could be the last time we’d see him. By then the Tuesday departure had become Wednesday, or did it? Even Lindsey didn’t know when he was leaving.

Dick Kimberly, Lindsey Enderby and Others by Bob Dempsey

Dick Kimberly, Lindsey Enderby, Kimberly Casara and Greg Moon by Steve Immel

Roger Eiteljorg, Alden Cockburn and Mindy Eiteljorg by Peggy Immel 

Mindy Eiteljorg, Kimberly Casara and Pete Wells by Peggy Immel

I’d already decided I’d check in on him at the Taos Enchanted Village every day since there was so much uncertainty about his departure. So, on Sunday at 2pm I went to his room in the assisted living facility and learned that he was at his house. That was no surprise. He’d been at his little rancho three of the last four times I tried to visit. So, I decided to drive to the Enderby spread. I was walking to my car when it dawned on me that I should leave a note. I scribbled a few lines and went back to his room. When I got there I saw Kim Treiber and Chipper Thompson entering and told them, “I don’t think he’s there. He’s probably at his house.”

We’d met on one occasion many years ago, so I reintroduced myself and explained that Lindsey had been at his house my last few visits. Kim said to Chipper, “Let’s go over there right now.”

I replied, “I’ll do the same.”

We drove south on Camino del Medio to Lindsey’s place and sure enough he was there. After quick hellos he told us he wanted to get some things out of the barn. He was driven to find a violin of all things. The case was there but no fiddle. About that time a white haired cowboy found us in the barn. He looked familiar but I had to ask his name. It was Pete Wells.

After sorting through all manner of stuff, Lindsey is a hoarder, we fell into a conversation centered on the realization that Lindsey would be leaving town in two days. One of us, it may have been Kim, responded that we better arrange for a going away for Lindsey tomorrow. We chose 4pm. Yes, that was 24 hours to plan a proper shindig.

Through the miracle of modern technology, we began emailing and texting every person who would want to say goodbye to the most loved human in Taos if not in the western world. Conveniently, Lindsey had a list for us to use.

What happened is hard to fathom. At 4pm on Sunday something like forty of Lindsey’s closest appeared, most with food and beverage to share. That wouldn't have happened with anybody else I’m certain. I called Big Al Johnson, the cowboy’s cowboy, who replied, “Amy and I will be there at 4.” Pete called Bill Manns at his ranch in the Galisteo Basin south of Santa Fe, and he arrived a few minutes after 4. I called Sidney Bender who was in New Haven visiting his son and family. Sidney told me, “We arrive back in Albuquerque at noon. We should be there with no problem.” Sure enough Sidney and Marjorie arrived as the clock struck 4. No way folks were missing the grand adios.

From this outpouring of love for a Taos treasure will come a blurb book to memorialize the goodbye party that should have been impossible to pull off. Between Peggy’s, Bob Dempsey’s and mine I’m sorting through a couple hundred images that I hope will capture the tone and essence of Lindsey’s goodbye soiree. Peggy’s and Bob’s made with iphones are better than mine taken with a so-called real camera. I am duly chastened.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

A car called Otto

Forty years ago, I bought a 1980 Porsche 911SC off the showroom floor of the Porsche dealership in Framingham, Massachusetts. Otto is forty-four years old according to its model year though it was built in October of 1979.

The occasion of the indulgence was the sale of chain of Kentucky Fried Chicken stores in Boston. I was a ten percent owner of the franchises and as part of my deal to develop Pizzeria Uno as a national chain I received my share. Flush with a fistful of buckaroonies I did what any red-blooded American male would do. I purchased a snappy Super Carrera for $22,500 cash. The car had about that number of miles.

Today it has 77,000 miles give or take meaning that I’ve averaged something like 1,375 miles a year on the trim little machine. The miles suggest it’s a vanity item, little used but much loved. In the last 13 years it’s been 125 miles a year. That’s half a dozen round trips to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge from our house in Taos. You could ask, “What’s the point?”

That's the question I’m gnawing on. At issue is whether to drive it a helluva lot more or make sure it’s in primo shape and sell it for, well, a lot. Peggy told me Wednesday morning, “If you do sell it don’t use the money to live on. Do something with the money.” That generally points to the purchase of a Mercedes Sprinter camper van we’ve lusted after for ten years and counting. 

According to Porsche Panorama, the magazine of the Porsche Club of America, the legendary German motor cars are rated 1, 2 and 3. A one is in concours condition, a two is near perfect and a three is a typical specimen. In my view ours is a three yearning to be a two. Cosmetically I think it’s a new carpet and a right front quarter paint job away from being a two.

These images, bye the bye, are precisely 13 years old. The perky beauty is, if anything, better than it was in May of 2013.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

The Vatican of Saloons Revisited

I subscribe to the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. I’d subscribe to the Chicago Times and the San Francisco Times if there were such things.  Why the New York Times? Because it’s The City. Why the LA Times? Because we lived in LA in our earlier married years when our son was a tyke and because he’s lived there since he entered USC in 1984. Lots of connections and first experiences were had in the City of Angels. Oh, and my father lived in downtown LA from the end of WWll till his passing in 1988. 

Anyway, a product of reviewing the highlights from both Times every morning is noticing snippets about somebody trying to find affordable digs. No mean task. A recent entry in the NY Times was about a junior ad exec renting a closet in Manhattan and hoping to buy an apartment in Queens. Her budget was $500,000. One of the spots in Queens was Forest Hills where I lived for a few months in 1970. That was during a restaurant rescue project just down the road in Rego Park. Thinking about that NYC misadventure made me remember my neighborhood bar in Rego Park. In Irish barspeak Walsh’s Pub was my local and Vinny Walsh was my publican. So I Googled Walsh’s Pub and, sure as stout, the venerable establishment is still pouring more than fifty years later and probably decades before that.

But the wrinkle in this tale is while Googling Walsh’s Pub a raft of other Irish Public Houses in Queens appeared, there are many, followed by a blog post of mine from July 2018 entitled The Vatican of Saloons. As a writer of little note I was shocked and a wee bit proud to see my entry about PJ Clarke’s on my monitor. So, that story about my favorite bar in the land, the one read by a few dozen stalwarts six years ago, is out there for intrepid souls who search hard enough. It's one of my favorites. Maybe the favorite. How and why did this one survive among the 900 stories I’ve told since 2006? 

UNDAY, JULY 15, 2018

The Vatican of Saloons

PJ Clarke's at Happy Hour

In the New York years, I drank at P.J. Clarke’s every time I was in the city at the end of the business day. One evening after work Erv Hall and I went to the bar and I suggested, “Let’s just have one and go.” He replied with a grin, “Steve, there’s no such thing as one and go.” Those words proved prophetic.

It was at the old saloon on the northeast corner of 55th Street and Third Avenue that I first learned the 80-20 rule. That’s the adage that says 80% of a bar’s business comes from 20% of its customers. The regulars. In my beer o’clock visits I always saw the same half dozen guys at the front end of the bar by the window overlooking Third Avenue. I figured that if they were always there at 5:30pm and I was just an occasional customer, they must be there every single afternoon. Extrapolation is my middle name.

I first visited the joint in 1970 when I was banished to Rego Park, Queens to fix an underperforming restaurant that I'd opened the year before. I lived in a basement apartment in Forest Hills Estates where I could walk to work and take the subway to The City for recreational purposes. The floundering restaurant was just across from Lefrak City, a huge apartment complex, and 2-1/2 blocks from the long gone Alexander’s Department Store at Queens Boulevard and 63rd Road. The little café was the first place that a newly fired employee threatened me. “You won’t make it through the week,” he warned. That's 2,486 weeks ago. I'm feeling good about my chances.

How I stumbled on P.J. Clarke’s escapes me, but it became a haunt, the first step on a bar crawl up 1st Avenue to Yorktown and back down 2nd to 57th Street. My guess is that I learned about the bar in a bar, the way I learned everything else I know. My neighborhood bar in Rego Park was in Elmhurst or was it Corona? The hell if I know. Anyway, take a left out of my place, walk to Queens Boulevard, hang a right at Alexander’s, walk another couple of blocks and Walsh’s Pub was across the street.

Among the many things I learned at Vinny Walsh’s establishment was how to process 35mm negatives to get prints that looked like they were made with 4x5 sheet film. I was tipping Half and Halfs next to an older guy who, it turns out, was a local portrait photographer. We began to compare notes. I told him that I wanted to produce prints with as little grain as possible. He turned to me and said, “Go to 47th Street Photo in The City (that's what you call Manhattan if you're in the know). Ask for Seymour. Sy knows everything there is to know about the darkroom. He’ll tell you what to do.”

Sy did. On my nightly, I mean next, sortie into Manhattan I walked into 47th Street Photo and asked for Seymour. I told him some barfly in Elmhurst told me to look him up and that I wanted to know how coax creamy acuity out of a 35mm negative. He told me, “Kid, you gotta use Edwal FG7 developer not that Kodak crap. Use it 15:1 with a 9% sodium sulfite solution. Prints like nothing else, I’m telling you. And here’s the kicker, you can push the film. Take Kodak Plus X film that’s a 125 ASA and push it a 400, 500 ASA. I did it and it did. So, when I got back to my darkroom in South Pasadena a couple of months later I started shooting Plus X at 500 and getting prints that looked they came from a Hasselblad at 100 ASA. That Edwal FG7-Sodium Sulfite hack is the process I used till my darkroom days ended in the 2002. Thanks Sy.

I also learned about the Irish bar circuit at Walsh’s which, New York being New York, was epic. My favorite barkeep at Walsh’s, one Jack Kearns, tutored me on the midweek ritual called “busting balls” which isn’t quite what it sounds. It’s drinking tour of Irish bars. On a barkeep’s night off, say Tuesday, he would hit all the bars on his circuit and “be taken care of.” Meaning he’d be treated like royalty by his brethren of the brew. He’d wouldn’t pay for a single drink. On Jack Kearns’s Irish bar circuit were, Peter’s Back Street in Bayside, Patrick’s Pub in Douglaston and the John Barleycorn in Manhattan. Only the John Barleycorn survives.

Back then it was protocol for your favorite mixologist to “buy” every third drink, and in a clearly understood quid pro quo, you’d tip him the full amount of that beverage. All of this was done with the full knowledge of the proprietor who understood the game. The IRS not so much. If Vinny Walsh didn’t tolerate the larceny his star bartender would move down the block dragging his regulars with him.

PJ Clarke’s has been called “the Vatican of Saloons.” PJ was Patrick J. Clarke, an Irish immigrant who tended bar at Duneen’s Saloon which opened its doors in 1887. Ten years later he bought Duneen's and changed the name. The venerable establishment is famous for its longevity, that it hasn’t been replaced by a skyscraper, its celebrity clientele, and for its pews, I mean urinals.

The urinals at PJ Clarke's

You could park your car in those things. They were chest height with an ice block covering the drain. They say you can tell how busy a shift is by the size of the melting block. Easier than counting the drawer I guess. "O'Shaugnessy, go measure the ice."

Wilt Chamberlain walking south on 2nd Avenue between 46th and 47th Streets in 1977 

On one occasion after half a dozen black and tans I stepped into the men’s room directly behind me. When I opened the door to go back to the bar I walked into Wilt Chamberlain’s ass. I do not exaggerate. The man was so big that at 5’-11” I was eyeballing the big center’s pockets. Unlike most “big men” of the day who were storks, Wilt’s 300 pounds was distributed perfectly on his 7’-2” frame. Imagine Lebron James but half a foot taller. Wilt employed a handler to fend off male patrons. I watched his body man collecting head shots from all the women queuing up to meet the man who scored 100 points against the Knicks in 1962 and, according to Chamberlain, 10,000 women. I’m afraid to do that math.

Sunday, May 05, 2024

Truchas means trout. Trampas means traps.

I hadn’t given it a lot of thought until now but nearly all my High Road rambles have been the south to north version. Maybe that’s because heading south to Santa Fe I’m on a mission and with a schedule. But on the return leg I’m free to meander for creative sustenance and boredom mitigation. So, after suffering the gauntlet of Pojoaque Pueblo’s commercial strip I turn right through Nambé Pueblo and onward to Chimayo where the High Road begins in earnest.

Shrine, Santa Cruz Valley

As I turn left toward Chimayo from the Nambé badlands the high desert dips and rises before me and white crosses crown hilltops along my route. The faith that permeates El Norte is unceasing and profound. Nearly every village no matter how small has its own Catholic Church. The Church is the cradle of rural Hispanic life. On every side road lies a rustic village united by faith and a hard life from the land.

Blowing Leaves, Santuario de Chimayo

Santuario de Chimayo in the village of Chimayo has been a place of worship since long before it was built in 1813. Pueblo Indians have inhabited Chimayo and the Santa Cruz Valley since the 12th century. The ancestral Puebloans believed that they shared their land with the spirit world and that the hot springs in Chimayo held remarkable healing powers. The faithful believe that those powers remain in the sacred dirt at the Santuario today. So, on Good Friday each year 300,000 pilgrims walk from all over the Southwest to partake in the healing powers.

White cross at dusk, Truchas

Truchas perches on a rim above a deep valley and gazes back down the valley to Chimayo. The town’s draw is its inspiring site. It is breathtaking. It’s a somnolent and struggling place that yearns to be an art colony. Instead, it feels like it’s withering and not growing. But, its setting is so remarkable it lures me back again and again.

Layers of Meaning, San José de Gracia

Eight miles north on Highway 76 the dirt plaza of Las Trampas is blessed with the San José de Gracia Church which was built between 1760 to 1776. Although San Francisco de Asis at the terminus of the High Road in Ranchos de Taos, is the best-known Spanish Mission Church on El Camino Alto, San José impresses me even more. San José is considered the least altered and best example of a Spanish Colonial Pueblo Mission Church on El Camino Alto and perhaps all of New Mexico. 

Sagrado Corazon, Picuris Pueblo

While there isn’t a Mission Church in Peñasco just west of the town is a picture-perfect church on Picuris Pueblo, the smallest in New Mexico at 364 acres. The pocket size house of worship Sagrado Corazon is the first church that I photographed on the High Road twenty years ago. Sadly, the cross that makes the image is no longer there. I’m confounded by its absence but glad I photographed it while it graced the scene. It’s a lesson that bears relearning. Nothing is forever.

Last light, San Francisco de Asis

If the High Road, El Camino Alto, starts in Chimayo it ends at San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos. The church may be the most photographed edifice in the American West. Iconic is too weak an adjective to describe the famed Spanish Mission Church built from 1772 and 1816. Memorialized by Adams, Strand, and O’Keefe Saint Francisco says northern New Mexico like no other. I am privileged to live a stone’s throw from the holy site and never tire of San Francisco’s moods and seasons.

This post stems from my upcoming article Telling Stories: El Camino Alto in the May-June issue of Shadow and Light Magazine. It publishes May 15.