April 30, 2010

Grant’s eyes are the color of espresso.

I noticed that while I was making him a macchiato this morning.

I’m glad he ordered a macchiato. I make killer cappuccinos, but when a man with eyes the color of espresso is standing in my lobby, I want to dazzle him … and as impressive as my cappuccinos are, they just don’t hold a candle to a shot of espresso with a delicate rosetta of milk floating on the top.

I’m amazed I could pour a rosetta at all with my hands shaking the whole time.

I have no idea why this man should have that effect on me. Gorgeous dark eyes aside, he really looks fairly ordinary: average height, toned-side-of-average build, average voice. (Well, maybe not totally average. He actually sounds sort of like Kevin Costner, which might explain some of the attraction: As far as I’m concerned, Bull Durham is the best baseball movie ever made, and I’ll stand on Robert Redford’s coffee table and say that. But I digress….)

Anyway, aside from those eyes, there’s nothing particularly striking about Grant. He’s kind to Joey, but so is Dr. Scherer. He’s great with Harvey, but so is Bill. You don’t see me mooning about after Bill or Dr. Scherer. Why should Grant be any different?

Maybe I can figure it out tomorrow. Grant has asked me to give him a guided tour of Sangre Mesa. I’ve only hiked it a couple of times myself, so I doubt I’ll be able to add much to the information on the trail markers, but I wasn’t about to tell him that. If I run out of geological details, I can always riff on the legend, I suppose.

— Sierra

Points of light

April 29, 2010

About two hours ago, a 1967 Volvo P1800 with Arizona tags pulled up in front of the office, and a dark-haired man in Levis and an Angel’s Barbershop T-shirt got out.

Harvey, who is an excellent judge of character, nearly knocked the man over in his effort to make friends. The man responded by dropping to one knee, scratching Harvey behind the ears, and baby-talking him while Harvey nuzzled him and leaned against him with one paw on his foot.

In the midst of this charming scene, Harvey’s frantically wagging tail somehow got caught on Joey’s map and sent it crashing to the floor, scattering pins everywhere.

Chaos ensued. Harvey, frightened, took a wrong step, came down on a pawful of pins, and went into a blind panic. A split-second later, Joey walked into the lobby, took one look at his map and his dog, and went into full-on meltdown mode.

I ran to get Harvey’s muzzle. When I returned less than 30 seconds later, a much calmer Joey was coming back from the kitchen with a broom, and Harvey was lying quietly on the couch, a makeshift muzzle wrapped around his snout, while his new friend — minus one Birkenstock (!) and his left sock — gently extracted the pins from Harvey’s pawpads.

As he worked, the man was talking to Joey: “It’s OK, buddy. We can get all your pins back where they belong. Just sweep them up, and we’ll put the map back and fix the pins as soon as I finish taking care of your puppy.”

I stood there staring at them for a moment, not sure what to do. I had never seen this man before in my life, but he had just witnessed a disaster in my lobby, taken charge of the situation, and restored order in less than 30 seconds. Apparently he was Superman.

Before I could catch myself, I blurted out the first thing that came to mind: “I really hope you’re the guy interviewing for the principal’s job.”

The man laughed. “Grant Loucks,” he said. “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

I sat down beside him and helped him pull the remaining pins out of Harvey’s feet. When we finished, he handed me his credit card, released Harvey from his makeshift muzzle, and pulled his sock back on while I rang up his room.

Then he took the guestbook from the counter, hung the map back on the wall, and stood in front of it for the better end of an hour and a half, helping Joey figure out where all 87 of his pins belonged.


— Sierra

Tourist season!

April 28, 2010

Wow. We’ve been booked up for two consecutive nights, and three of my rooms are booked for tomorrow night, too.

Despite my unpleasant experience with the last guy, I’m pretty excited about the fact that one of tomorrow’s guests is another candidate for the principal’s job. I really hope Dr. Scherer can find somebody good. I get the feeling Joey is becoming kind of a litmus test for these guys: If they’re nice to him, they’ll be considered, and if they aren’t, they should probably take care not to let the door hit them on the way out.

Speaking of Joey, he is beside himself with glee over the number of visitors we’ve had from other countries. His map is really perforated with all the pins he’s been sticking in it lately.

It’s clear, windy, and warm tonight. According to the Weather Channel, the current temperature is 64 degrees. It’s twenty minutes to midnight here in Coldwater, but all of our guests are still sitting around the chiminea, drinking beer out of somebody’s cooler and making s’mores and swapping road stories. It still amazes me that complete strangers will get together and throw impromptu parties like that as soon as they see the chiminea and the lawn chairs.

— Sierra


April 26, 2010

After our guest checked out this morning, I sent Dr. Scherer a text message, suggesting that he stop by for a cup of coffee today before making any personnel decisions.

He arrived just as I was running the last sheet through the wringer, so I sent Joey out to hang up the laundry while I fired up the espresso machine.

“I know it isn’t my place to tell you whom you should or shouldn’t hire, especially since I’ve never been an administrator or anything,” I began, “but I thought you really ought to know how your candidates treat people when you aren’t interviewing them, and–”

Dr. Scherer stopped me. “My secretary’s description was ‘arrogant pr*ck,'” he said. “Would you consider that a fair assessment?”

I laughed. “That sounds about right.” I pointed toward the cookie jar. “There’s fresh biscotti if you want it. I baked it last night while listening to your candidate stand outside the kitchen window on his cell phone and talk trash about Joey, about Coldwater, and about me. After the first snotty comment about Coldwater, I took the liberty of setting my audio recorder on the windowsill. It’s all cued up, if you’d like to hear it — just push the playback button.”

I couldn’t hear most of the recording, because the espresso machine was making too much noise as I frothed the milk for our cappuccinos, but I could tell when he got to the part where the guy started talking about me, because his eyes widened, and he blushed.

Something tells me we won’t be seeing any more of last night’s guest.

On a more or less unrelated note, the guests who arrived this evening were absolutely delightful. A traveling evangelist and his wife are leading a revival at Brother Jerry’s church, and they brought their two young daughters, whom they are homeschooling. The girls, who are 6 and 8, hung on Joey’s every word as he proudly showed off his guest map. The three of them spent a long time talking about all the places on the map, and the girls’ mom offered to include Joey in their lessons tomorrow. They were very cool and really helped restore my faith in humanity.

Just after they went to bed, a retired couple from Alabama pulled up on a screaming yellow Gold Wing. They’re headed to Moab, Utah, to spend a week or so at Arches National Park. They were pulling a tiny teardrop camping trailer behind their bike. It was maybe the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. They were quite taken with Harvey, whom they said reminded them of their late collie mix.

Nights like this are why I love the Tumbleweed….

— Sierra

Dr. Scherer’s first candidate for the principal’s position checked in this evening just as Joey and I were sitting down to dinner. The guy looks like an underwear model, but that’s about all I can say for him.

The first thing he said, upon walking in, was: “Wow — I hope the rooms are more tastefully decorated than the lobby.” Strike one.

Next, he proceeded to talk to and about Joey as if he were somehow less than human. Seriously? Dude is supposed to be an educator, and he can’t show even the slightest modicum of respect or compassion for a developmentally disabled man who is trying to be helpful? Strike two.

When he’d finished criticizing my lobby and talking down to my handyman, he gave me an extremely pointed once-over and asked if I was married. Strike three.

Mostly out of respect for Dr. Scherer, I (barely) suppressed the urge to tell the guy not to let the door hit him in the arse on the way out.

After I ran his credit card and handed him his key, I went into the kitchen to start a batch of biscotti. When I opened the window to let in some air, I overheard our guest talking to somebody on his cell phone. He must have been standing just under the window, because I could hear every word he was saying very clearly.

Was it wrong of me to take the liberty of laying my digital audio recorder on the windowsill so I can share his comments about Coldwater, Joey, and my physical assets with Dr. Scherer tomorrow morning?

— Sierra

Relaxing Saturday

April 24, 2010

Today was good and relaxing. Joey and I went over to Tucumcari early this morning to grab breakfast at Kix on 66 (a favorite haunt of mine) and visit Mike at Tepee Curios before heading to the grocery store to pick up supplies.

Joey loves Tepee Curios. He’s like a magpie — obsessed with shiny objects — so a souvenir shop is his vision of heaven. Today, he was utterly fascinated with a coffee mug shaped like a rattlesnake. (I bought it for him, of course.)

We spent the afternoon just puttering around here until dinnertime. The weather was gorgeous today, and I kind of figured we’d see some bikers. I was right: Our guest list this evening includes two couples on Harleys and a guy in a vintage Corvette convertible. They’re all sitting around the fire pit at the moment, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows and talking about Route 66. I’ll probably make some hot cocoa and take it out to them in a minute.

— Sierra

Quiet Friday evening

April 23, 2010

It’s unusually quiet this evening. Europe’s airlines are finally starting to get back to normal — enormous backlog of stranded tourists all trying to get home simultaneously notwithstanding — so Jack headed for Albuquerque this morning in hopes of finding a flight back to Ireland.

I was anticipating a big weekend, but we haven’t had a single traveler check in this evening.

That’s OK. The stars are pretty, and Harvey and I are enjoying the chance to sit outside in the high desert air and listen to the wind while I sip hot cider and nibble on some of the shortbread I made last night. I need to get groceries tomorrow, so I’m just as glad to have a laundry-free morning.

— Sierra

Earth Day

April 22, 2010

It is dark and quiet this evening. I can feel electricity building in the unusually dense air around me and in the thick clouds blanketing the normally clear desert sky.

A couple from Pennsylvania checked in about an hour ago. Jack — who is starting to get a little homesick — turned in right after checking online to see when he might find a flight out of Albuquerque (not soon, I’m afraid); Joey is on the couch in the lobby, where he fell asleep watching TV; and Harvey is snoring softly under my chair.

It is Earth Day. That was always a big deal at our house when I was little. Mom would take me out to pick up trash, and we would talk about conservation and why it was important to shut off lights when we weren’t using them. One year, she made me a solar oven, and we used it to bake some cookies. I don’t know what happened to that solar oven. We used it several times when I was a kid.

I didn’t do anything special for Earth Day this year. I guess I should have, but I didn’t think of it until we were leaving the school and saw a poster the kids had made, encouraging everybody to recycle.

Maybe one of these days, I’ll be able to install wind turbines or solar panels to power the Tumbleweed. Out here, where the sky seems bigger and closer, it’s easy to remember why stuff like that is important.

— Sierra


April 21, 2010

Jack — who is still waiting for the British aviation authorities to allow air traffic to resume — was sitting in the lobby with Joey, pointing out the general location of his hometown on the map, when Dr. Scherer stopped by this afternoon to deliver some cookies that Joyce made for us and reserve a room for a candidate who’s supposed to be in town for an interview next week.

He and Jack struck up a conversation, and the next thing I knew, Jack was agreeing to visit Coldwater Elementary tomorrow. He’s going to be the main attraction in a schoolwide assembly. He’s supposed to talk about Ireland and why he came all the way to the United States just to travel on Route 66 and how he ended up stuck in Coldwater because of a volcano in Iceland.

Dr. Scherer thinks the teachers will be able to pull all kinds of ideas for lessons out of Jack’s stories. I thought it was awfully sweet of him to agree to go and visit with the kids. Dr. Scherer says I’m more than welcome to bring Joey to school to see Jack’s presentation. He’s really excited about the fact that I’m trying to teach Joey to read. So far, Joey has learned three words: cat, grits, and sherbet. He mixes them up sometimes, but he gets them right more often than not. I’m really proud of him.

— Sierra

The forecast is calling for isolated thunderstorms around Coldwater later tonight. Jack, my stranded Irishman — who was joined this evening by a young couple from Australia who are exploring Route 66 with their adorable 4-year-old son; four Danish bikers who are hoping the ash will subside by the time they reach California; and a guy from Phoenix who is on his way to Tulsa for his granddaughter’s bat mitzvah — sat outside with me for a long time, hoping we’d see another show like the one Mother Nature put on last night.

We weren’t quite that fortunate (so much for the luck of the Irish), but the temperature was just this side of comfortable, so I made a big batch of green chile stew and a pan of cornbread, fired up the chiminea, and spent a very pleasant evening visiting with my guests outside.

Jack is quite taken with Sangre Mesa. He went hiking on the trail out there today. While we were all sitting around the fire tonight, he asked me about the legend.

The original legend is a pretty good story, but it’s a little vague. I guess there’s just something about the combination of folklore, the smell of pinon, and the sight of sparks winking into the darkness that invites embellishment, because I couldn’t resist riffing on the original story just a bit. If you’re interested, my version is below the fold:

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