Saturday, July 26, 2008

A (Red and Green) Chile Vacation

The week before last, we took a family vacation to New Mexico and Colorado. It had been many years since I had been out West, and I always find it refreshing to see that part of the country again. When I was younger, I would escape the Memphis heat to spend months at a time in California with my aunt and uncle at their house north of Los Angeles, and we would spend many days horseback riding, hanging out at Zuma or Point Mugu Beach, or driving up into the mountains. In 1975, three of us drove from Memphis to California and back on one of those "coming of age" trips (see The Pinto Chronicles). So I guess this heading West thing has some special significance for me.

I am a person who typically finds it difficult to relax, but this vacation was an exception. As soon as we boarded the plane to Albuquerque, I switched gears and truly enjoyed the experience. I won't go into all the vacation details, because putting that in a blog is akin to showing you my latest 500 slides after a filling dinner, but suffice to say it was everything a family vacation should be. We got to spend time with my good friend Tim (from seventh grade) and his wife Susan in Albuquerque, then headed up to Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, then on to Durango, Colorado, and Mesa Verde National Park. The scenery was out of this world. I've dropped a few pictures in here, as you can see.

We often stay at bed and breakfast inns, and this trip afforded us several opportunites in that regard. Should you ever find yourself out New Mexico way, be sure to check out innkeepers Dee and Marie at Delmar En La Cienega, just south of Santa Fe, and Joe and Lisa at Casa Europa in Taos. You will feel in both places as if you are among long-time friends. Delmar offers beautiful views of rolling high desert, and Casa Europa's Lisa bakes afternoon snacks that will make you seriously think about relocating to Taos.

And of course, after a trip away, I was so happy to be back in Atlanta with my peeps. But that's another blog entry all on its own. For now, I'll just have to go find some green chile peppers to keep that New Mexico spirit alive.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Economie au Lait

This morning, I witnessed the sagging economy brought home. I stopped for a quick Americano at my favorite local coffee shop, Cafe au Lait, here in the north suburbs of Atlanta. Without thinking, I arrived a few minutes before the shop actually opened, but the proprietor, having seen me many times, promptly served me up a piping hot 16 oz. Americano and a small cinnamon roll. I was going walking, after all, and I needed some sustenance. At first, I felt a little self-conscious sipping my coffee and reading Creative Loafing while the owner moved the outdoor cafe tables and chairs into place, but the delightful zing of the coffee put that to rest.

I asked the owner how business was going this summer. The shop is adjacent to a local high school, and during the school year, both the counter and drive-thru lane are jammed each and every weekday morning. And on any given fall, winter, or spring weekend, the shop has a good crowd by 8:30 AM. But the owner said that business was slow this summer. Expenses for everything are soaring: milk, labor, supplies, you name it, to the extent that even Starbucks is affected. In those early morning moments, I could tell that something at the cafe was on hold, and that we were marking time until the sunnier days returned.

The thing is, Cafe au Lait is a beautifully appointed little shop with some of the best coffee in Atlanta, and ironically, it is just what the neighborhood needs in these stressful times. In fact, I've taken people there when they've had bad days just to cheer them up, and it has always seemed to work. I know that the economy will eventually turn around, and I hope that when it does, Cafe au Lait will have a long line at the counter and plenty of double chocolate muffins on hand. I love those things.