Friday, November 22, 2013

Too Jazzed To Be Trusted

Here in Bluff, the winter season is upon us. We have experienced precious little moisture in the last month or two, but the mild weather and lack of rain are expected. We realize we live in the high desert, but cannot help wishing for snowy white accents on our red rock cliffs. On average we now greet fewer visitors than we did throughout the summer months. When the temperature climbs above 50 degrees and the slanted sunlight filters through the barren branches of the giant, gnarled cottonwood trees and graces the antiquated stone homes with an appealing golden glow, the scene does draw a few passing vehicles. The look of a quaint and quiet village has its own special appeal. Steve, Priscilla and I enjoy this time of year because we get to spend more time with our guests. We often receive a widely varied menagerie of characters that make life more interesting. Our families assure us the reason we meet so many unique individuals is because, "like attracts like." Whatever the case, we feel the law of attraction is working in our favor.
Navajo Ceremonial Basket - Mary Holiday Black (#347)

And, speaking of interesting people, I met one last Monday. That afternoon I was busily working in my office. Okay, I admit it; I was in there planning an after-Christmas getaway with Laurie and the kids. I was working on the entertainment component when I heard the door chimes ring. Priscilla was vacuuming upstairs, Danny was communing with his computer and Steve had gone to his rock house for a bologna sandwich, so I got up and went into the store to meet a forty-something woman and her twenty-something son. They were from Phoenix, and the woman was still exhilarated after jumping from an airplane over Moab. She and her son were "spending quality time together” before the young man married and moved away. I learned the woman had been born and raised in Sawmill, Arizona, had gone to school at Arizona State and was working as a journalist for the East Valley Tribune. She was dark skinned, had a pleasant face and an extremely outgoing personality. Her son was tall, lean and reserved. The two were traveling home after spending nearly two weeks together. Their skydiving adventure was just one of many they had experienced.

The woman explained that shortly after she jumped from the small plane, tightly strapped to an instructor, she had been "reborn". This somehow reminded her of giving birth to the young man. Before the boy or I knew what was happening, the dear lady began explaining the experience; in graphic detail. Please understand I am familiar with the birthing process. I was alongside Laurie for the birth of each of our three children, and found the experiences both amazing and beautiful. For some reason, however, hearing someone else's story made me queasy. I must have begun taking on a green cast, because the young man stepped in and said, "Mom, he does not want to hear this, nor do I." "Sure he does,” said the woman, he has kind eyes and a good heart, I can tell just by looking at him." Then she looked closer. I must have failed the second scan, because she paused. My look of shock and awe gave me away, because the lady stopped and said, "Oh my, maybe that is too much information." "Indeed," said the young man, taking his mother's arm and leading her from the building. As they left, I stood there shaking my head in frustration; I had failed the test. Rubbing my temples, I tried purging the images she had placed in my mind.

After her work was done Priscilla, wandered back downstairs and I told her about my uncomfortable conversation. She shrugged off my discomfort and told me such things were not a big deal to the Navajo. She said that in her mother's day women had their children in a Hogan and the entire family attended the labor and delivery. She said it was a great teaching tool for the children. Priscilla understands because she was born on the Rez, right-on the Utah/Arizona line. Recently, our dear friend and associate have spent many days on the telephone with federal, state and tribal offices attempting to rebuild her past. She needs to find her birth certificate. Master basket weaver Mary Holiday Black was also born under the wooden framework and mud interior of a Hogan, so we can only guess her age. Priscilla and Mary only scoff at my shy nature. "Anyway", Priscilla commented, "you say things you shouldn't."

To be fair, I know how wonderful giving birth can be, and how painful, disturbing and unpleasant too. Experiencing the beginnings of life, however, is truly amazing. That was the message this woman wanted to share. I am sorry I did not better receive her storytelling. She was opening her heart to me, and I failed to understand. Oh sure, she might have selected her words better, but she was still too jazzed from the jump. Later that day I was speaking with my daughter Alyssa, who recently turned 22. She is a wonderful child, and I remember the day she was born as clearly as if it were yesterday. In my mind's eye, I can see the event in its entirety. Out of respect for my wife and child, I will not share the intimate details. As mentioned, I retold the woman's story to Alyssa. My daughter is in the nursing program at BYU, and doing labor and delivery clinicals at the University of Utah Medical Center. She assured me the birthing process can be less than appealing, but the end result is altogether moving. Alyssa stressed that one day she too will have kids. "Not yet!" I quipped, "You are too young to be burdened with a man." I often tell my daughters 32 is a good age to marry, but they disagree. "Speak with your mother about spending too much time with a man"; I advise them, "She will tell you how disturbing that can be."

With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve, Priscilla and Danny; the team.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Minister's Wife

It was a late autumn afternoon when the minister ambled into the store. Barry had thrown open the Kokopelli doors, and Priscilla, Danny and I were delighting in the cottonwood leaves that tumbled across the gravel parking lot and shimmered like hammered gold in the brilliant sunlight. At Twin Rocks Trading Post, we often brake to admire Mother Nature’s handiwork. In fact, we generally break at any time, for almost any reason, sometimes no reason at all.
Cottonwood Tree

The minister’s church is on the Navajo Reservation, so he has acquired a fondness for rugs and turquoise. Consequently, he often stops by to admire our jewelry and weavings. He’s in his middle 60s, and his blond-gray hair is always perfectly combed, his denim trousers crisply pressed, his conservatively patterned button-down shirts wrinkle free and his monotone pointed-toe cowboy boots brilliantly polished.

The parson and I bonded a few years ago, when I asked how things were at the mission. “Well,” he responded gravely in his slightly southern accent, “there’s a lot of sinnin’ going on down there. Nothin’ too interesting or unusual, nothin’ we haven’t seen before and nothin’ to be too concerned with; mostly just your garden variety sinnin’. You’d think if folks were goin’ to sin they’d at least be creative about it.” I nodded my head knowingly, appreciating his frankness, and agreeing that a little creativity goes a long way when it comes to religion. We both recognized a little sinnin’ created job security for the minister without seriously jeopardizing his flock’s ultimate salvation. Indeed, he thought it might actually be “good for business”. That was something I understood, so at that moment we formed a kinship and I began to look forward to his regular visits.

On this particular day, his attractive wife and five or six missionaries accompanied him. Retirement was on his mind, and he informed me that in only a few months he would end his career. He went on to explain that, as a Lutheran preacher, he had built up more than enough credit to ensure his successful entry into Heaven. It was, therefore, time to step aside. He went on to say that he had been on the right path since his youth, and hadn’t done much to offend the Creator.

Obviously concerned for the minister’s spouse, Barry asked, “What about your wife? Does she have enough credit?” “Well, she is a Presbyterian”, the minister responded. Noticing the uncertain look that flashed across Barry’s face, and apparently trying to reassure him things would most likely be okay, he added, “She’s a pastor too.”

At that point I began to fret, and asked if the minister could transfer some of his excess goodwill to his wife, so she could be saved as well. “Kinda’ like trading carbon credits”, I explained, “One person sins a lot, the other not so much. You have abundance and she may not have enough. In the end it all balances out, right?” He seemed to think there might be merit in the proposal and indicated he would take it up with his boss.

Overcome by curiosity, I could not help asking, “What do you think God has to say about having a Lutheran and a Presbyterian in the same church?” “Well,” he laughed, “I can tell you this, when we met I wasn’t thinking about her religion.”

By this time the missionaries had finished their inspection, and it was time for dinner. As they walked out into the evening glow, the minister’s wife turned back and with a knowing smile said, “I think God understands.” I believe she’s probably right.

With warm regards;
Steve, Barry, Priscilla and Danny.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Down Under

Several weeks ago I was doing a stint as manager at Twin Rocks Cafe when I had a harrowing experience. Only recently have I recovered enough to comfortably speak of the incident. The episode began simply enough; my crew and I were scheduled to serve an early lunch to a British coach tour that had been thrown off schedule by our latest federal government shutdown. A couple days earlier the tour director had called in the entire order, so we were already set-up and fully prepared for their arrival. The troop of elderly travelers arrived on time, off-loaded the bus and quickly entered the cafe. I noticed right away the pack was miffed by their rerouted and rescheduled tour. In fact, I overheard several barbs aimed at our dear President and Congress. Not wanting to get into a political debate with the grumbling group, I maintained my distance. Unlike my brother-business partner who thrives on dissension, and seems to be testing the waters of political commentary, I prefer to steer clear of that quagmire. As the boisterous Brits filed in to be seated, I greeted them with an all-American smile and directed them to their tables.
Tara, Janelia and Barry Simpson
As they sat down, Tara began bringing forth the repast our cook, Janelia and her staff had so professionally prepared. The Brits settled in and began to loosen-up. I was helping deliver meals and making certain all was satisfactory when a tetrad of matronly English ladies flagged me over. "A question", one queried, "Might it be possible to balance this table?" The old girl emphasized her point by wiggling the table to and fro on the uneven floor. "Certainly", I said with a smile, "I will be right back." Turning to go for the plastic wedges, I heard the eldest of the group say with much aggravation, "And bring me tea, Earl Grey, hot . . . with lemon!" The old girl was tiny, wizened and feisty. Her silvery green eyes met mine without blinking. She was both serious and intense. My wife Laurie will be the first to tell you that I hate, with a passion, to be bossed. It is clear I have been in this business far too long, because I often say what I think without first considering the consequences of my actions. I remind Laurie that I only spout-off when someone is ornery to me. So, without thinking, I turned, looked down on the 90-something year old girl and said with a broad smile, "Now don't be mean spirited you little sprite, I will get you your tea, just behave."

Most of the people in the group must have heard my retort, because, as if on que, the entire room went silent. The spitfire and I looked deep into each other’s eyes. After a moment, a great grin spread across her wrinkled face and she let out a gleeful cackle. "Well then, get after it my boy", she said with a toothy smile. The tension in the room dissipated in an instant, and everyone began to recount the story to those who had only heard a portion of our interaction. Laughter filled the room, and I turned to walk into the kitchen to fetch the tea and table wedges, thinking to myself, "That could have gone very wrong! Here I am picking a fight with a little old lady. This is going to look great on Trip Advisor." Gathering up my tea service, I took a deep breath and headed back into the crowd. Granny was still in a good humor and obviously waiting for an opportunity to even the score. I laid-out her tea then looked beneath the table to correct the imbalance.

Because of the foursome's abundance of Bermuda shorts, chubby legs and knobby knees, it was hard to see just where the correction needed to be made. I dropped the wedge to the floor and tried pushing it into position with my toe. Having missed the mark several times, the ladies began giving me a hard time about my failed attempts. "It looks as if you are going to have to go 'down under'," said Granny with a crooked smile. Looking into their encouraging faces, then under the table with its abundance of bulky legs and bony knees, I knew that was one place I did not want to be. Groaning inwardly, however, I bent to the task. The women above me began giggling like schoolgirls, and started bouncing their knees in excitement. My head felt like a volleyball stuck between strikes at the top of the net. I was trying to keep my Twin Rocks Cafe T-shirt from riding up my backside and my jeans from slipping off my bottom-side with one hand and attempting to place the wedge with the other. I heard one of the bouncing broads say, "Ooh, I love a man on his knees!" Everyone within earshot busted-up laughing at my obviously uncomfortable position, and I am certain every part of me turned a bright red.

Feeling an emotional trauma coming on, I hurriedly slipped the wedge into place and escaped from "down under". As I walked by another table, one of the ladies called out in a brisk British accent, "Our table is rocking as well, can you fix it?" More laughter. Our catering manager, Tara, saw my distress, grabbed an over-large wedge and slapped it into my hand like a baton at a track relay. I dropped the wedge to the floor and booted it into place with a smooth, even motion. An "Ooh" emanated about the room as the group displayed their dismay at being denied another show at my expense. British humor, you gotta hate it! The remainder of the meal was only slightly interrupted with jibes and catcalls. But for that, all went well. As the old guys and gals departed, I received hugs all round, and a kiss on the cheek from Granny Spitfire. The tour director thanked me profusely for the entertainment, saying I had made her life easier and caused the group to relax. Hopefully they would enjoy the rest of the ride. "Happy to help", I replied reddening once again. I am not certain I will ever recover from playing the clown, but my therapist informs me that telling the tale and admitting embarrassment is where true healing begins.

With warm regards;
Barry, Steve, Priscilla and Danny; the team.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Shaft

After the recent Tied to the Post article regarding my thoughts on the federal government shutdown, Barry and Priscilla became concerned I may have angered our conservative customers, neighbors and friends. They are less accustomed to friction than I, and felt the heat was more than they could comfortably tolerate. Consequently, they recommended I not write another story focusing on that specific topic. “Stick with turquoise, ceremonial baskets and Navajo rugs”, they advised. After due consideration, and significant arm-twisting from this dynamic duo, I caved in and gave them my word. Therefore, the “focus” of this editorial will be relationships, mining and music, not politics.
Our wallets are "slammed" and it seems to make everyone down even Buffy.

Shortly after that story ran, I was sitting at my desk reading USA Today, listening to a country station and trying not to think about how slow business had become since October 1st. On the front page of the paper was a headline declaring, “Economists: Growth slammed by shutdown.” I sure didn’t need a Ph.D. to arrive at that conclusion. Indeed, I didn’t even need a sixth grade education to know the statement was true.

As I read how jobs and economic growth had been stunted by the closure and looked out on an empty trading post, Jerry Reed came over the airwaves singing, “Well, I guess it was back in sixty-three when eating my cooking got the better of me, so I asked this little girl I was going with to be my wife.”

Now, I have always enjoyed Reed’s homespun, rockabilly style of music, and under present circumstances this particular song seemed unusually pertinent. After describing the well-known stages of honeymoon, loss of lust and separation, Jerry crooned, “She got the gold mine, I got the shaft. They split it right down the middle and then they gave her the better half. Well, it all sounds sort of funny, but it hurts too much to laugh. She got the gold mine, I got the shaft.”

I began to wonder, “Isn’t Jerry’s experience just like our relationship with Congress?” Hadn’t we married ourselves to these Congressmen and Representatives thinking we would be better off with them than without them? Hadn’t we had a brief honeymoon, and hadn’t the mystery and wonder all too quickly worn off? Hadn’t they broken their promise to love, honor and cherish us, to always have our best interests at heart? Hadn’t they made things difficult for us while maintaining their own comfortable lifestyle? Indeed, hadn’t they stopped caring for us altogether? Hadn’t they in fact become antagonistic to our wants, needs and desires?

The song continued, “Why, they gave her the color television set. Then they give her the house, the kids and both of the cars. See, then they started talking about child support, alimony, and the cost of the court . . . I’m telling you they have made a mistake, ‘cause it adds up to more than this cowboy makes.”

After the mortgage crisis, the bail out of the car companies, the Great Recession, bank failures, sequestration and now the federal government shutdown, this Indian trader’s wallet is empty too. Like Reed, Barry and I are working two shifts, eatin’ balongna and askin’ ourselves, “Why did we let those guys to move in?”

Ever the optimist, however, Jerry summed it up for himself and the rest of us too when he concluded, “Well, I don’t have to worry about toting a billfold no more . . . I’m gonna be carryin’ food stamps . . .. ”

It’s time to move them out of our House (and Senate). Oh yeah, did I mention turquoise jewelry, ceremonial baskets and Navajo rugs?

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry, Priscilla and Danny; the team.