Christmas in New Mexico. Welcome to the enchanting world of La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís (The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi). It’s known to all as Santa Fe and is the oldest capital in the U. S. It’s also very dry and 7000 feet above sea level. For a New Yorker that’s a stretch. After a week, I resembled a 1000 year old lizard but a happy one.
Upon arrival, it’s a tradition to drive the rental car from the Albuquerque Skyport (airport to you) to Bernalillo’s The Range Cafe for your first red and green chili baptism.
We had lots of wonderful food but the best was at chez Charbonnet-Falls on Christmas day. A fireplace with the light only fire can give, the warmth and hospitality of mine hosts, five furry cats, one tiny dachshund named Mary and the family presenting delicious treats from salmon and ham and polenta and red cabbage to buche de noel and Mont Blanc.
Ojo Caliente is a spa between Santa Fe and Taos. We had to go, of course. It was a bit nippy walking from one outside pool to another. Once submerged, it was heaven. The enclosed spring water pool was supposed to be good for your skin so this old lizard spent a lot of time there. The arsenic pool, scalding hot, was another favorite and so was the mud bath.
On Christmas eve there’s the Farolito Walk.You go past the Cathedral, the setting of Willa Cather’s Death Comes to the Archbishop, and walk to Canyon Road .There was a dusting of snow that was a wonderful backdrop to the luminaries. Luminaries are paper bags filled with sand and a small candle called a farolito. They are set in rows in front yards and on buildings’ roofs, creating a gentle light in the winter sky.
The Albuquerque airport is beautiful. It’s built in a low keyed Spanish style. Even the restrooms are charming. That doesn’t mean you want to spend your time wondering if you’ll ever escape. Our flight to Chicago was delayed by two hours. That meant lots of futile calls to United about catching a later connecting flight. The Gulf Stream was more helpful than United and pushed our plane speedily to Chicago where we barely caught the 6 p.m. flight to LaGuardia. Whew.
On Dec. 7 I met old friends at Jing Fong Restaurant for dim sum. The entire world poured onto the escalators that went to the 700? 800? people restaurant. It stretched a city block. Lots of fun and very Cantonese. Afterwards we, along with the rest of the world that hadn’t been at Jing Fong’s, walked across Brooklyn Bridge.
That evening we went to see Judson’s Sarah Bernhardt, Ruby Rims, give his last performance. After twenty five years, Ruby and his teddy bears are hanging up their paws. Ruby was in full regalia – Dusty Springfield hair and yards of shimmering blue cloth, but he copped out on the heels. I spotted comfortable sneakers between the folds. It was essential cabaret fare: funny and bitter sweet. Rick Crom, Maureen McNamara and Jeff Harnar brought the house down. Throughout the years, Ruby has been accompanied by the terrific pianist, John McMahon.
Thursday was Dawn Powell night. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation sponsored a talk at the Jefferson Market Library. In spite of its unwieldy name, the GVSHP is a smartly run organization that presents enticing talks, lectures, walks about NYC. Dawn Powell, a novelist championed by Gore Vidal, lived in Greenwich Village from the late 1910s to the 1960s. She lived and breathed the NYC atmosphere. We met in a vast room with Willa Cather staring down at us.
Jazz Tuesdays in the Gillespie Auditorium at the New York Baha’i Center has become a tradition for a friend and me. Dinner in a restaurant with a fake Italian name and then an hour and a half of jazz. The address is 53 East 11 St. (between University Pl. & Broadway). Dorothy Longo is the organizer extraordinaire.
Want to impress people? Want them to think you come from old money? New money? Take them for dinner to the National Arts Club, I joined it during the tenure of the rat pack twins. The Club has had its tumultuous moments, but now has settled into being a well run capitalist enclave decked out in American Edwardian furniture, lots of cultural events, great bar and an excellent restaurant.
Do you like greasy spoons? So does Detective Steve Kulchek. Places where there’s a lopsided sign in the window saying breakfast served all day? Places where buzz words like gourmet, vegan, gluten free, organic are a foreign language? Where the only hint of modern times is the other sign scrawled in paint on the front window: wine & beer. Do I have the restaurant for you. It’s La Bonbonniere. It’s tucked into a tiny space north of Jane Street. Steve and I sat outside on a blustery Saturday. I had breakfast – cheese omelet. He had lunch – BLT. The word brunch doesn’t belong here.