Friday, June 30, 2017

The Chinese Lewis and Clark

It was 10 a.m. and I had just come into the trading post from doing the morning line/quality check at the Cafe. I parked myself in one of the heavy duty 2x4 chairs we have resting in the center of the store and took up a conversation with Rick Bell. Rick was working the trading post from the tall stool behind the counter. As we sat and talked, he and I thumped on Trump, worked through a bus load of British, Welsh, and Scottish travelers, and talked with a grumpy septuagenarian couple traveling the states in a 20-foot motor home. As the cantankerous pair departed, Rick commented on how we had not yet met anyone truly fun and interesting today. No sooner had he made the statement than a gregarious Asian couple crossed our threshold.

As they entered the building, the slight and lively, 60-something-year-old woman was talking to her husband in rapid-fire English accented with a Chinese twist. She was complaining bitterly about, “The outrageous cost of access to our national parks.” Her husband looked to be of a similar age, heritage, and opinion. His head bobbed about in agreement and a huge amiable smile was plastered across his seamless face. Rick and I greeted the couple and began to gently interrogate them. Working the trading post sometimes allows us access into the unique lives of people we meet and a small window into the philosophy they embrace. If we are subtle and perceptive enough, we are able to become . . . acquainted. Rick and I were immediately impressed with this couple, especially the outspoken woman. She had personality.

We learned that they were Chinese-American business people from San Francisco, Chinatown to be exact. They dealt in Chinese collectables and conducted ninety percent of their business in their native language. They lived in a 6,000 square-foot home in the heart of the city by the bay. They bought the house in the early 1970s for $120,000, and it was now valued at $1.5 million. “How crazy is that?” questioned the woman. “Am I right?" As we spoke to the couple and got to know them better the lady became more comfortable and found her voice. In other words, she became much more animated, opinionated, and . . . louder.

I looked to Rick who was smiling brightly, as he was having fun now. He nodded in my direction as if to say, “This is getting better by the minute.” We learned that the couple were planning on moving out of the city, leaving their bay-view mini mansion to the kids and traveling the country to see each and every national park, monument, and roadside vista out there. "Because we take pictures of everything and put on slide shows for our friends and neighbors they call us the Chinese Lewis and Clark.” said the lady, “You know Lewis and Clark?” she asked. “I think so,” I replied, “friends of Sacagawea?” “Yes, yes, that’s them." our Chinese adventurers assured us. “We have traveled to 36 states so far."

The couple had a passion for the parks and monuments of this great land. “My husband loves the parks, he wants to go, go, go all the time. Me, I take pictures, hundreds of pictures. I lie down in the road and take pictures of the long desolate roads we travel.” “I think I have heard about you,” I quipped, referring to the people who do the same on Forrest Gump Hill on Highway 163 through Monument Valley. The woman never broke stride, and her volume increased with the continued explanation. "We get home, I throw a party. I take pictures everywhere we go, hundreds of pictures. Our friends think we crazy because we go everywhere, take too many pictures. They love it, am I right?” she said nudging her husband hard in the side.

“The problem is,” said the lady, climbing on her soapbox, “The parks and the government are broke!” The husband nodded knowingly and said, “Not if she is running them, she is smart."

The woman had found her stride though and was on to how the national parks could be improved. Her husband opened his eyes wide and nodded knowingly, as if to say, “She would definitely get their attention.” "I would have a two-tier pricing structure. Because we pay taxes, I would charge us Americans less to get in and the foreigners more, way more.” she said, "Am I right?”

Rick and I nodded in agreement knowing it would do no good to argue with this singular force of nature and hoping her energy would soon dissipate. Then, almost as soon as it had begun, the encounter ended. The woman stopped her tirade, looked upon her husband and said, “OK, we go now. Am I right? Bye, bye.” “So long.” Rick and I said in unison waving good-bye. As the couple walked out the Kokopelli doors, Priscilla walked in and said; “What did you guys say or do to get that woman so wound up? I could hear her from the parking lot.” “It was nothing we did,” said Rick. “Well,” I replied, “Rick asked for a character and the powers that be delivered, in a big, loud manner.

“Hey,” I said directing my query at Priscilla, “why are you getting here so late? You should have been to work two hours ago.” Priscilla gave me a sour look, pointed a crooked finger in my direction, and in a loud surly voice said, “Don’t give me a hard time. I have already had a bad morning. Oh, and by the way, I’m retiring soon.” 

I got up out of my chair and headed for the Cafe where the tone was much less amplified. Rick jumped off his stool and headed upstairs mumbling something about checking on Susie. “Am I right?” Priscilla said as we went our separate ways.

Talk about a force of nature!

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