Eddie and Gwen

Eddie and Gwen
Standing Tall Among the Saguaros

Saturday, December 18, 2010

There's No Place Like Home - Shout Out to Pagosa Springs

Okay, call me a mama's boy, but I’m missing home big time.   I’ve been here for seven weeks, seven weeks can you believe it?  Yea, Yea I know I’ve said how good I feel here, it feels right and all … I’m on the fringe, I got the taste of freedom on my palate …. I’m running through the desert with coyotes on my ass chasing my dream … yada yada yada …. Freedom schmeedom, right now I’m missin home.  I miss my Wife, my family, my friends, my comfortable bed.  I miss Pagosa Springs.  Once you live in a small town like Pagosa Springs, it becomes a part of your soul forever. I mean the town has its good and bad, but like a hot divorced woman, you can’t leave her for long. (Did I just say that? Wow that was a really bad aphorism, sorry )   Let’s move on shall we?  Ya know, Pagosa Springs has a fringe element all its own.  Maybe that’s where it all started for me, this attraction to free spirited individuals.  The good Lord knows my eyes were opened to this “sub-culture” not long after settling in there;  I was like, “Oh crap, some of these people are bizarre”. Now I say this with Love in my heart, cause really, everyone is a little quirky. Case in point, upon arriving in Pagosa Springs, there was the guy I met who was upset that a particular property owner was going to bulldoze down an old house because he wanted to develop the property. Now this in its self isn’t odd, the weirdness came when he tried to convince me that the house was a living thing, and effectively became a living aspect of the community. “Okay,” I thought to myself, “just go with it and see where this goes..”  After we downed a few beers, he continued his rant getting all up in my face, as he pontificated from his soap box.  The longer he went on, finally I couldn’t take it anymore, I interrupted his diatribe with these philosophical words, “dude, what the F@&K are you talking about?” My comments either amazed him or stunned him, I’m not sure which, all I know is he broke out the brownies and said,  “awe F@&K me, lets just have a good time bro.” Only a town like Pagosa Springs could claim a character like Diamond Dave.  Now, Diamond Dave is well known throughout Pagosa Springs, you say Diamond Dave and everyone knows who you’re talking about.  He’s got style and character; sporting his big gold lion head medallion with the ruby eyes (those red eyes were designed to be hypnotic) he's also got the flashy bling-- bling on his fingers like a big city rap star. Even the name, Diamond Dave makes a statement.  Diamond Dave was a businessman, owning a gun store in town and a hot dog cart.  Diamond Dave always claimed that the hot dogs he sold were home made.  When I ignorantly inquired,  “well Dave, now what makes them homemade?”, he replied, in his strong raspy voice….”They’re made in Nebraska….I’m from Nebraska, I say their homemade, so their homemade, end of discussion…. You want to make something of it?”  I hit it off real well with Diamond Dave.  Many people thought I had cajones, when I approached Diamond Dave with a business proposition.  Turns out he became a great friend, and mentor to me. Pagosa Springs has a popular local band called Mind ur Head.  The first time I attended a Mind ur Head show, I met one of their local groupies named Randy. Randy follows the band everywhere they play, and he is usually the first to hit the dance floor when it’s time to start dancing.  I can’t put into words exactly what I witnessed the first time I saw him dance.  I thought he was having a medical emergency, like perhaps an epileptic seizure. I had to stop myself from dialing 9-1-1.  Randy was oblivious, he just kept right on groovin’ and movin’  his happy feet for the duration of the show. I think its Randy’s job that has given him such stamina, he delivers our local mail and does an amazing job.  Randy is a good conversationalist and a great guy who lovingly helps his disabled wife with their children. Great people, real people, no bullshit, true community exists there.  There’s no doubt in my mind, if Sheriff Taylor was looking to move away from Mayberry, Pagosa Springs is where he’d take up residence.  I’m certain that Aunt Bea and Opie would soon follow.  (Shout out to Pagosa Springs, I Love You man !)

I’ve just finished reading the book, ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’, by Mitch Albom. It chronicles the passing of Morrie Swartz, a well respected sociology professor at Brandeis University in Boston. The story describes  Morrie’s struggles with, and eventual acceptance of, being diagnosed with a terminal disease.  More than that, the story is a tribute to Morrie’s desire to share his experience of dying from ALS, while in process. It’s a truly amazing book. Morrie was one of those special souls, who’s allowed to pass through this life with the hope that the rest of us will take notice and learn something.  Anyway, it caused me to realize, that I too have a desire to share my experiences out here on the fringe, as a street food concessionaire.  No,  I’m not dying, just chronicling in real time my experiences as I crawl out of the pit of financial ruin, and up the ladder toward personal growth and rebirth.  ( Man, that’s heavy. )  It’s true that Morrie’s inspiration and mine are different, but our desire to reach out and touch others is the same.  I don’t have all the answers, hell, I don’t even know half of the questions, but I’m open, I’m searching, I’m trying, I’m putting it all out there on the line, isn’t that what living is all about?  I may fail, I may have to go home with my tail between my legs with only a cent to my name, but I’m ready and willing to take the risk.  Morrie knew his ending, mine has yet to be written.  I’ve been told by several people, that looking at the photographs and the video of my current dwelling makes them sad.  I find that puzzling.  Is it the starkness of my surroundings?  Is it the desert atmosphere?  Is it all the dirt and rocks?  Is it the tent?  Okay, so I had the beautiful upscale restaurant, the prestigious catering company and now it’s gone.  My dear friends, don’t cry for me Argentina, I see this as a new beginning.  Hey, At least I’ve got a tent.  I’ve got a truck.  I've got my Family, I've got my health, I’ve got a concessionaire trailer from which I can make a living.  As of this date, I still have a house back in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, and I’ve got the best traveling companion a man could have in my dog Gwen, don’t be sad for me.  In the times we are living, I am not alone in my circumstance.  There are thousands of folks, just like me, who have lost it all.  I am but a voice in the wilderness, one of a thousand others who are trying to make it in these tough economic times.  I’ve chosen to pick up what’s left of my life and move forward; It is my hope that with this blog I can reach out to my fellow travelers, those who have been uprooted, lost their jobs, their homes, their families, those folks who like me are going through a season of loss.  Perhaps together we can find the answers; until then, Eddie B Pressin’ On. 

Well, I know you’re dying to get my weekly Eddie B Cookin’ financial report; well all I can say is more and more people are filling up this desert environment.  The subculture is developing right before my eyes, so I know I’ll be introducing you to more of my neighbors in my future blogs.  As I continue my morning and evening desert walks, I see many more motor homes setting up on BLM land. For those of you who do not know it, BLM is a faction within the government known as the Bureau of Land Management.  They manage most of the open lands throughout the country.  Some People don’t know that you can camp on most BLM managed Land for about $180 for a 6 month period.  Talk about cheap rent.  Actually its pretty cool, these RVers park their motorhomes, pay their money and settle in.  They hoist flags from there home states, make elaborate fire pits, and entertain neighbors. What is fascinating to me is that I would have expected to see more of the gypsy transient type of trailers out there, but instead there are big luxury style motor homes. These high end motorhomes had to set them back at least $60k and yet there paying Uncle Sam $180 for a 6 month period, using their solar panels to capture the sun’s energy to power their television sets, they haul in fresh water and bam, home with a desert view for $30 dollars a month rent. I’m talking tens of thousands of people do this. Of course right now the BLM population is at its low end numbers, but I’m told that in another few weeks I’ll go to sleep, and wake up to huge population explosion.  We are all looking forward to that.  In preparation of their arrival, new vendors are still arriving. As I peruse the vendor booths I can’t help think who would buy some of this stuff. There are booths sprouting up selling socks, rocks, gems, g-odes (huge ones), rugs, groceries, tools, cars, trailers, all practical stuff. There is KB Tools, this place is a vendors paradise, I mean everything a vendor could ever need, and cheap. His motto really applies, “stack it deep, sell it cheap”. Catchy and memorable, reminds me of my motto when I did BBQ, “you don’t need no teaf to eat my BBQ beef”. Then to appeal to the “fringe” population,  there are the broken toys, old velvet paintings, used toilet seat, O.J.’s glove, bikes with bent rims, mr. potato heads, old coffee pots, pieces of rusted metal, O.J.’s used knife, stained mattresses, and my favorite, a used semi tractor trailer tire,. What’s up with that, you need a hoist to lift the thing. I’ve commented on the resourcefulness of these people, but how do you acquire that, was the guy driving down the freeway when he saw a semi truck loose a tire and said to his wife “let’s grab it Betty before someone else does, that baby will be the center piece of our booth”.  I’ve even got new vendors setting up next to me. A guy a few booths down set up his black smith shop. This is a young guy with the gift of a craft long since forgotten. This guy is forging hand crafted knives, tools, and art work outside of his mobile shop which is an old school bus. (check out the photos I’ve uploaded highlighting Joe the Blacksmith on my blog) My neighbor Jim, is banging out the faceted gems in anticipation of the soon to be hoards of people. I’m happy to say that the locals are starting to hear about my food.  Each day I meet more and more of the locals and they constantly tell me, “no one here does Chinese”.  I love serving up my food to the locals, they are very cool folks.  If I continue on with this Chinese menu and eventually add in some Thai food, I hope to attract many more locals and eventually, I hope the visitors will come.

Speaking of business, I know I've said this before, and stop me if I sound like a broken record, but there are so many people out there who have a distorted or unrealistic perception of this business. The good old days of just setting up and making money are long since gone. With that in mind I figured Quartzsite should be one the last strongholds for the renegade street food vendors such as myself. In the old days this is where you came to make a few dollars to springboard into spring….yes pun intended. Well guess what….. it’s the economy stupid! Pretty much every event I’ve participated in this year has been hit by this damned economy, with the exception of my beloved Four Corners Music fest, (a big thank you to the locals of Pagosa Springs). So this past weekend, Eddie B Cookin’ went on the road.  I took my trailer over to Blythe, Ca. to do a little holiday craft fair.  Lucky for me I was the only food vendor. Out of the 100 or so attendees probably 50% bought something to eat. The point is, that the other vendors were saying “Oh my god, this is nothing compared to previous years”. And that’s what I’ve been hearing the last 10 months.  It is daunting, to say the least, but I am determined be one of the survivors.  The fact is, it’s a very different world, from three years ago. Our society has been brain washed by banks, Hollywood, media, and the government that more is better and bigger is better. Our government forced the banks to make high risk loans to people who they knew couldn’t afford them.  The Government dangled the promise of lower interest over the Bankers heads, and told them that the more money they loaned to lower income people, the better rates they would get from the Fed.  So, the banks kept throwing the money at us, and many of us kept taking it.  So we bought a 4 bedroom house w/ a pool, we applied for more credit cards, bought a BMW instead of a used Pontiac.  Mainstream society has allowed the media to convince us to buy more, upgrade, you need this!! Can you imagine what suburban America would look like if GM didn’t discontinue the original Hummer. Look, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, and I’m not trying to blame anyone for what happened to me, the good Lord knows I made my share of bad decisions.  However, look around folks, I’m not alone here.  Today more people are sinking in the same boat I’m in.  Doesn’t that say something about our values, about our society, about our Government.  Don’t misunderstand, I’m not judging those of you who’ve still got it all.  Many of you have been good stewards of your money, you made smart investments, you didn’t borrow money you couldn’t afford to pay back, you actually paid with cash…..God Bless you.  Thank God for you, if not for folks like you, this country of ours would be down the crapper.  I have to say though, that losing it all has been good for my health.  A recent health screening revealed 118/76 blood pressure that’s the second such reading in 2 months, as opposed to 136/88 for the past 5 years.  What changed you ask……I lost everything I worked a lifetime to acquire….everything I thought was necessary for me to get in order to be successful; everything I thought I needed to be happy.  Well, guess what, I was wrong.  So far the results of 7 weeks out here in the desert, have resulted in an acute awareness of the fact that, all of that stuff wasn’t necessary.  I didn’t “need” materialistic things in order to be content.  I am beginning to grasp the concept, that we come into the world with nothing, and when we leave this world, we leave with nothing.  Must we clog the in-between up with stuff?  I can hear you now, that’s easy for me to say, I don’t have anything more to lose.  Well, actually I do, I still am holding on to a few valuable things that I would never want to lose; Love, Hope, Faith, Family and Community.  Love is my biggest challenge, as I’m beginning to really grasp the concept of “love thy neighbor”. Truth is, I am very much a diamond in the rough… From my tent to yours, peace .  More later, Eddie

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing, Eddie. I hope things work out in your favor out there!