Friday, June 24, 2005

"Every Monkey Has His Swing"

Going to Roque’s Carnitas stand on the plaza is always an adventure. He and I were partners early on and it was Roque who showed me the wonderful ‘coyote’ side of Santa Fe

As I approached, for the tourists' sake, I used to greet Roque in Spanish with, “Hay pescado?” (Is there Fish?)
He would answer, “No pescado hoy.” (No fish today.)
That would allow me to talk, in English, to the tourists about the sad plight of the Rio Grande Tuna.

But today Roque was busy and it was he who greeted me first with his usual, “ Where you been???”
I looked at the herd of hungry white faces from Montana lined up for meat, took a guess and asked, “You folks own horses?”
The nice tourist lady said, “Yes we do.”
“Who’s taking care of them?” I asked, as if I even had a right to ask.
“My oldest daughter.”

Roque interrupted with a call to the shy tourists to come closer so he could hand them the food they ordered. With a smile and an accent, Roque told the customer, who was about ten feet away, “Come here, I don’t deliver.” To me he turned, taking control of the conversation, and said, “Louie was here and he asked about you.”

There was only one ‘Louie.’ Louis Montano, former Mayor of Santa Fe, was an old time political “opponent” for lack of a better word. As a political activist, I was amazed at the sincerity in his eyes when he once explained to me, “Political conflict didn’t mean anything because it just showed how much we both love Santa Fe.”

Roque then said something that made me think. “Louie said, 'you know, we never had trouble with him then’." Meaning me. That was odd. Not then but now?

I must have been really deep in thought because just then, as if by magic, Roque is handing a carnita to a man and saying to me, “You know my friend, Mr. Lujan.” And sure enough, standing there was Manuel Lujan Jr., former Congressman and former Secretary of the Interior.

After shaking hands I just jumped in with, “What do you think of the Governor?” My current obsession.
Mr. Lujan just smiled.
“Come on”, I said, “Tell me something and I'll write about it.”
“No, I don’t want to be in the limelight anymore…been there.”, the former 20-year congressman said.

If nothing else, I’m persistent, especially when I have a captive audience. Secretary Lujan moved to the shade of a plaza tree next to Rogue’s cart, listening to me pull out my best button-holding techniques. The Republican politician smiled as I ranted to him about Fat Bill and Kerry and Edwards never mentioning the words Abu Ghriab once during the last Presidential campaign.
“Really?” Mr. Lujan said. “OK, I will say something I’ve said before…” and went in to a perfect slow old Spanish-New Mexican phrase.

And fuck, my Spanish is so bad I missed the first noun not to mention the verb conjugation. But Manuel, always being polite, immediately translated it for me. “Every monkey has his swing,” he said.
I laughed out loud.

Mr. Lujan said he was going to sit on a park bench and have a cigar. As he left, Roque nodded toward me as if to say, ‘Si ,that was an invitation - go see what he has to say.'

I love it. Mr. Lujan sits down next to a huge tie-dye shirted guy from Kansas and lights up a politically incorrect cigar. The former Cabinet Secretary asked me to sit and then asked me to switch seats because his cigar was bothering the huge white American sitting next to him.

We talk everything but politics. How as a kid living on Manhattan Street he would sneak the family horse up to the Plaza and sell pony rides for 25 cents. “My parents didn’t know,” said the humble Mr. Lujan.

The conversation ended with us sharing a bad joke each that I think we had both told to radio old timer Mike Santullo. My joke was about “his face rings a bell.” His was about a man who made it to the top without the ability to read and write. Each joke, in its way, was really about "Every monkey has his swing."


At 7:41 AM, Anonymous Mike Santullo said...

Danny.........Enjoyed the LUJAN story on your BLOG. Thanks for the mention.

Mike Santullo....

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