Vacation Diary #3
This morning John and I woke up earlier than everyone else and went on a walk around Taos. This is a habit of ours when we're here. The summer mornings here are cool, in the 50s or 60s, and it's a perfect time to walk around town or in the local park.
On the way home we stopped at our favorite coffee shop, World Cup. This shop is tiny, with almost no seating and almost always a line. The shop is on a corner of the plaza and faces east, into the rising sun. Benches line the sidewalk outside, and these are often occupied by locals (or seasonal locals) who know each other and chat while they drink their coffee in the strong sunshine.
We had the dog with us today, and I didn't want to bring him around the crowded entrance to the shop, along with the myriad other dogs on leashes. (Taos is very much a dog town. And a stray dog town.) So I sat down on a bright blue bench around the corner from the shop door to wait for John to bring our Americanos.
Fenway sat on the dusty sidewalk and I watched the folks come in and out, the cars slowly driving through the main intersection of the town.
After several minutes, a disheveled-looking older gentleman came around the corner, singing the Judy Garland song, "Good morning, good morning to you." He stopped when he saw me and said good morning. "That's a New York song, you know. It goes like this," and he proceeded to sing me a verse and tell me that in New York, the bars close at 4 am and then you can go to an after hours bar.
We started talking about New York and places we had lived and I must have mentioned Boston because he said, "Are you from Boston? Me, too!" and he stuck out his hand to shake mine.
He asked my name and leaned down his ear so he could hear my answer. He told me his name was Stan. He said he was born on Marblehead Neck and lived there for a while, until he was sent to boarding school in Sevilla, Spain, where his mother was from.
He sat down on bench with me, but it had to be on my left, because his right ear is the good one. We talked about all manner of thing and I noticed his weathered hands, his blue eyes, his closely trimmed beard and his pants - they were inside out. Eventually John came with the coffees and sat with us and joined in our talking. He flowed easily from one topic to the next, so it was hard to find an easy segue to our leaving. But also, he was interesting and made sense and had seen a lot of things.
He was a good story teller. He told us that going to school in Marblehead Neck (on Boston's North Shore) when he was five years old was tough because he had to walk each day along the causeway which connected the spit to the mainland. And he had to look at all the sea animals along with way, the crabs and even sea horses. He said he would get to school around 11:30 or 12, just when all the other kindergartners were getting ready to go home. So that was hard.
When he was 8 he was sent to Spain to go to school, and I could hear his Spanish accent when he pronounced certain words.
Another man, younger and fit, came around the corner, calling for Paco. He had a bandana folded around his brow and sunglasses on. His skin was smoothly brown. He knew Stan, but called him Paco, which he explained is a nickname for Francisco. John started talking to the working man, who does landscaping for a business and was taking a break from his early start to the day. Stan and I kept talking, about Spain, the pope, where he lives, the PBS special that ran recently about the Roosevelts. His mind was sharp, and he was fun to listen to.
When we stood up to go, we discovered that Stan/Paco is about to be 95 years old; he was born in 1920! I don't know his story, and I imagine there is pain and loss and suffering involved. But I enjoyed looking into his eyes while we talked and listening to his stories.