Second Journey as an Old Man

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“Wrinkles should merely indicate where the smiles have been.” ~ Mark Twain

“His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly’s wings. At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred. Later he became conscious of his damaged wings and of their construction and he learned to think and could not fly any more because the love of flight was gone and he could only remember when it had been effortless.”  ~  Ernest Hemingway

“You get old and you realize there are no answers, just stories.”  ~  Garrison Keillor

This, as stated, was my second journey as an old man. The first was different, more dramatic, more stressful. This time, at 13º F, the air was nearly 40º warmer, the natural gas had not been shut of by the Governor in the only two counties in the State that she didn’t carry in the election. I didn’t have to work three days at the grocery store bundled in full winter gear because there was no gas to heat the store. There were no National Guard troops on the streets and highways. I had a beautiful partner waiting at home, in a nice house out on the mesa, with a world-class view; something I did not have this time. Poor me. This time was sunny and there was no major blizzard on the way. I had no need to travel through the chasm along the Rio Grande, certain the whole time that my little Focus would not make it through the gorge with it’s snow-packed highway. I made it back then anyway. And instead of XM satellite radio in my car, this time I had only the sound of my own thoughts and the mini-rumble of tires against the road. Yeah, it was different by degrees this time. Another difference was that this time I went to the Social Security Office to talk about early retirement. I’m going to get it too, come October. Lucky me. And no, you fucking Republican conservative shouters, this will not be a Government handout. Dude I like paid for this my whole working life dude so chill. Leave me in peace dude; I earned every penny. Now go earn your own pennies and leave mine alone dude. Just go.

This time I was also going to the State Capitol as a way to get out and away from Taos, if only for a day. The rush of the city traffic would be a challenging call for focus and deliberation. I did fine. I am not a city boy, but I know how to drive, and when in the city I use the same source of navigation that Luke Skywalker used when he stormed the Death Star. I owe him for that one. The SS office was crowded but they had 12 agents handling the case load, so I got in and out in less than an hour, with my replacement SS card ordered and on the way, and with a head full of information about my pending retirement. And yet, among the intimidating crunch of bureaucracy at work I happened upon an oasis of human connection. The African American woman who served me was all business up until the point where the business was complete, and then she began to chat. It was lovely. I slipped down in the chair and eased into the conversation, chat, whatever. As it turned out she was interested because I was from Taos. She had just that morning read that the Alabama Shakes were going to be in concert at Kit Carson Park come August. She wanted to go, and she did not know the specifics of the concert in Taos. So she smiled, turned to her secondary monitor, and said, “You are my excuse here. I’m going to look it up on the internet”. I ended up playing travel agent, telling her about the venue and some nearby hotels where she could walk to and from the show. She was, all the time, violating protocol – and I helped. It was delightful. That done we chatted some more, mostly about her previous home in Denver, and about the reasons why she came to New Mexico one year ago. I’m sorry, I didn’t catch her name. My bad.

Lunch was at Five-Star Burgers, at the De Vargas Mall. I had a Taos Burger and a pint of Driftwood Oatmeal Stout. The way they used a breaded deep-fried whole green chile instead of minced stuff was an added bonus atop that hefty chunk of meat, Black Angus, whatever. The waitress was young, lovely, and talented at her vocation; red-tinged chestnut hair, skillfully and attractively arranged; an Anglo woman, brown eyes, inner light that dazzled my psychic senses. Ah, the pleasures of life. I chowed down, the burger, the stout, and a basket of excellent fries. When I was finally finished with my meal, and sated, all paid up, the waitress began to walk away after the thank you, but I caught her before she turned her head away, and as she looked steady over her shoulder I told her that she had a beautiful smile. It was true, but to say such a thing to a stranger is totally unlike me. I don’t remember ever doing so. Her smile ramped up as she said thank you. More satiation for homeboy here.

The trip was a success all the way around. I’ll be able to retire without having to tweak my work schedule at all, and I will retain my Medicaid. Who knew, right? Seven months to wait, but I finally have somethin worthwhile to look forward to. It has not been that way for me for a very long time. There is a brass ring on this carousel after all, and boy howdy I am enjoying the ride once again.

Peace out, y’all. Goof gloriously.

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