On rare occasion, my wife and I get some kid-free time, long enough to take a short trip somewhere. So it was for the past several days with her parents, in from Australia, watching the kids at our home while we drove down to Santa Fe and a nice, relaxing few days at a hot springs “resort” in northern New Mexico.
It’s an interesting part of the country, sparsely populated, with intricate reddish cliffs crossed by canyons small and enormous, and occasional rivers and streams traversing an otherwise very dry landscape dotted with shrubs and cacti. It is peaceful, and although I can’t claim to be a big fan of Georgia O’Keeffe’s art, I understand her attraction to this area; her home and studio of nearly forty years are about half an hour away.
It’s great to have even a few days to relax. One doesn’t realize how tense one’s life is until the tension is given a chance to dissipate, even if briefly, and even if I avoid making the most of it by checking on the stock market during the day.
This morning, we took a hike through some hills to some old mica mines. Quite fantastic seeing gigantic intrusions of the often paper-like mineral, jutting out from dark, white, and rose quartz, gleaming in the sun. I’m bringing some pieces home for my daughter who is the most amateur of mineralogists, thinking most pretty rocks are some form of diamond. I don’t have the heart to correct her, especially as she collects diamonds to feed her collection of unicorns.
Many of you have seen the beer commercial featuring “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” I’m having dinner tonight with a man who is the most interesting I’ve ever met. I’m very glad that Eddie — who will turn 90 this year — is my friend, and if you ever have the chance to read his story, you will agree that it is remarkable that such a life has existed in modern America.
Last night, my wife and I had dinner in Taos, about 45 minutes north of Santa Fe. If you’re ever there, I can offer a wholehearted recommendation for a little restaurant called the Dragonfly Cafe. The interior is like a cozy dining room in a small, old European house. Karen, the chef and owner, takes great pride in her cooking, not just the quality (which includes home-grown herbs, her own chickens’ eggs, even home-cured pancetta), but also the creativity. These meals are labors of love (and reasonably priced for the high quality.) Our waiter, Joel, was quite a character, showing us some of his work doing hand-set letterpress type to making greeting cards, business cards, etc., under the business name “Cowboy Printer.” Even if he couldn’t quite remember whether a particular dessert had blueberries in it or not — which he more than made up for by offering us some fresh berries and cream on the house, which we somehow also managed to eat — Joel is a colorful, ultra-friendly guy and made the evening that much more memorable, not least due to his Salvador Dali-style mustache.
Next paragraph for foodies only…
Our dinner started with a salad of lettuce leaves topped with lentils, crostini, a poached egg, grated Parmesan, and truffle oil. Next was a big bowl of mussels in a light Indian curry sauce reminiscent of tikka masala. We ordered two extra baskets of bread and soaked up and ate almost all the sauce, before moving on to a “Moroccan lamb” plate, sort of like a fancy deconstructed gyro, with local lamb, home-made tzatziki, hummous, diced tomato and onion, and pita bread. While all that was great, the desserts really take the cake at Dragonfly Cafe. My wife’s was a tart, but more of a scone/shortbread consistency, made with orange marmalade and cheddar cheese. I think it’s technically called a “crostata” and it was fantastic, served warm with fresh whipped cream. And my desert was a dulce de leche creation: gooey caramel inside a hard chocolate shell, served with creme anglaise. I may have literally licked the place clean (or maybe just thought about it.) Really, the trip to Taos might be worth it just for this restaurant; the food is fantastic, and the ambience is the food’s equal.
Monday night, as my wife and I were eating dinner at the bar in the hotel (does it seem like our lives revolve around dinners?), the couple who were sitting next to us stood up to leave. The guy, perhaps in his early 40s, said to me “you look so familiar…where could I know you from?” After figuring out that we probably wouldn’t have met in any place I lived, my wife mentioned that this was my second time in New Mexico, with the first being our wedding, near Santa Fe almost 8 years ago. The gears clicked in the man’s brain: “I photographed your wedding!” he said, and he proceeded to tell us that although he photographs about one wedding a month, our wedding still stands out in his mind as one of the best he’s ever been involved with. I didn’t disagree — our wedding was small and beautiful and designed to bring people together, not overwhelm them with glamor. It’s still one of the best days of my life, second only to when my children were born…and barely second to those.
Speaking of children, I’d like to share a moment with you that only a four year-old child could create. My wife and I were talking with my son on the phone last night before he went to bed. He was telling us about the new toy cars his preschool got, including two convertibles and a race car and a truck. I said to him “Mom doesn’t like convertibles because she thinks they’ll mess up her hair.” My son, without missing a beat — and without trying to be funny — said “Tell mom don’t worry: convertibles don’t drive on her hair; they drive on the road.”
Is that not one of the best pieces of toddler logic of all time?
I’m off to enjoy my last day of vacation, wishing I could completely put aside markets, writing, business, and the various worries of daily life. But even though I may not be relaxing as completely as my wife is, and even though life remains somewhat stressful, days like the past few remind me of how fortunate I am with the life and family that I have.