Thursday, July 1, 2010

Al's RV

I woke up like any other morning, ravenous. Not having a stove proves to make breakfast a bit difficult. I went at it as usual. Armed with eggs, tortillas, and what ever other dregs of nourishment I could scrounge up, not realizing what a downhill slope into American Civilization I was about to embark upon.

oot on my face. Soot on my hands. Soot on my last clean pair of jeans. Plop. Down goes my spatula into the sand. Smoke in my face. I couldn't breathe. Wait a minute, it wasn't the smoke, I was having an anxiety attack! I lost it. I was throwing cast iron skillets and practically rolling on the ground like a baby.

To the phone! Everything in this particular part of the desert is on hold until I buy a stove.
I didn't realize buying a propane stove was as difficult as it was going to prove to be. Call after call after call. It took over an hour of tries until I was pointed towards Al's RV on Cerillos Road in Santa Fe. To Al's! It sounds like a perfectly legitimate business. This is New Mexico. RV stores are like bodegas in Brooklyn.

I dialed the number, unsuspecting as I should be. The ringtone I heard had been re-programed to have an early 90's Run DMC rap song, rather than the normal "baaaringg" we are so adjusted to hearing.
This should have been a red flag, or at least an orange or amber flag. But, no. Not to me. To me it was an intrigue. Some sort of sign of a respectable alternative business practice. The voicemail picks up, "Hey Ya'll! You've reached Angelique and Lisa's. Leave a message, right?" So I do as I was told, I leave a message, right?

Two hours later, one year old Angelique's mother, Lisa, calls me back. I could smell the wood paneling of the trailer through the phone. I sensed fried chicken and baby smell all over the place. A littered yard. Mangy cats crying at all windows. No one has ever called me "Babe" as quickly into a non-blossoming relationship as this woman. And for that matter, never as casually or constantly, either. Nothing about my inquiring about a stove made me a babe, so I thought. Here begins that downward stumble into American civilization, which I never thought I'd fall so deeply into.

Lisa says she'll call me back later, with prices and dimensions of the stoves Al has. She finally did call me back at 7:30 that evening, five hours late. She told me that if I wanted a stove for 150 bucks, I'd have to come get it right now. Why not? Nothing Dain and I do is normal. No purchase we've ever made is in a normal store, with normal clerks, selling normal things. To the truck! To Santa Fe! It's 8:00 and we're off to Al's RV! You've made yourself a deal Lisa, Babe.

With the world's worst directions and Lisa calling us every five minutes after nine, we arrive at Al's RV a hair before ten. And as promptly as I turned off the ignition, a woman clad in a pink tank top, boobs flailing this way and that, tight black shiny pants two sizes too small, and a thong hanging out to boot, bursts through the door screaming.

"AMANDA! Oh my god, babe! I thought you were so lost, GIRL. Come here babe! Give me a hug! Oh my god, I'm so glad to see you! You're finally here! I was so worried about you, Babe." This, and a great big hug. Up close I notice how vivid her fake orange tan is. She was holding an infant child in one arm, and some sort of bottomless beverage in the other. I was horrified and in complete shock and fear. Who the hell is this woman? Was this seriously happening? It was, and it did for the next three and a half hours.
Fun loving Lisa dragged me into the store, arm around my neck, booze breath going down my shirt, with Dain trailing us the whole time.

Lisa must have smelled the greenbacks in my pocket. As we entered the store, there was a fine piece of chinese ingenuity sitting up on top of a table saw table, with all four burners and the oven lit and on full. This, and propane tanks galore, surrounded by three men, all smoking cigarettes. Well, if I blow up now, at least I haven't paid my cell phone bill this month. There were two old mexicans, one who didn't speak any english, and one who was the only level headed man within a mile radius. Then there was the third gentleman, who I would later learn was Al, Lisa's baby's Daddy. Al was sixty five years old, like Hugh Hefner, Lisa told us. All I saw was a burnt out old grouch who's face was permanently painted red from the vast amount of alcohol he consumed. His RV store was a fine size, but such a mess that it really made you feel at home, in your trailer.

The stove on the saw horse was everything I feared. New, in that it was manufactured with plastic and other breakable garbage, and of a brand I have never heard of. I was promptly quoted $250 dollars for this stove. Not the $150 Magic Chef I just drove over an hour to see. "Aw, girl, honey, babe! This stove is Awesome! Look! All four burners work!" Oh god, she just said all four burners work. I can't imagine how much tinkering it took before we showed up to get all four of those burning.

This is not what I came here for. Where are the $150 dollar stoves you told me about three hours ago on the phone? Surely there wasn't a rush for propane RV stoves at 7:45 p.m. on this mild Tuesday evening, especially since your store had already been closed for two and a half hours.

Al is pissed. He cops the attitude of a 13 year old girl in a pink frilly dress with punch spilled all over her at her Batmitzva. I don't think he was used to sober women with long sleeves. He's out of there. That's fine, Lisa seems more than interested in showing us stoves. That and inviting me to come over to her house to party. After many failed attempts of selling us broken stoves, she shows us a dusty Magic Chef in the back of the store. I look at it in disgust. It's super small, very dirty, and looks as if it's turning on would be close to a miracle. Dain wants it. He thinks it's great. Lisa promptly quotes us 150 dollars again. I'm skeptical, but at this point, up for anything.

Lisa is constantly going to the back room to fill her cup of booze. Al disappeared. The baby disappeared.

Roger, the nice older Mexican man, is the only one partaking in any sort of work.
The stove works great. Everything turns on instantly. With a little soap and water, it could be beautiful, as far as stoves go. We want to buy it. Of course, here at Al's RV, nothing is that easy. For the next hour and a half, Roger is fixing it up. Finding us the right tubes and regulators and a bunch of other things we need, while telling us "This isn't my real job. I'm just doing this as a favor. These people are idiots. They are drunk and embarrassing. This is why I'm glad I've been sober for 16 years." He doesn't know where anything is and as I said before, Al disappeared.

Throughout the night Roger is the only person we had seemingly normal conversation with. If you count naming bands from 1960 to 1980 relatively normal conversation. Lisa would tell me about the new RV Al just bought her, while intermittently Roger would be name a band. We would then reply with another, different band. The
conversation went like this:

"Babe, what do you do in Abiquiu? There's no mossy there! You got to come to Albuquerque, I've got a pool!" I would then try to figure out what mossy meant. Roger would be name a band.

"Journey!" Says Roger.

"Babe you gonna love that stove! 4 burners? You don't need to cook a turkey!"

"No, Stevie Wonder." Says Dain.

"Led Zeppelin" Says Roger.

"Oh shit Al, where's the baby?" Says Lisa.

"Yeah! Led Zeppelin. Black Sabbath?" Says Dain.

"Oh don't worry, the customer comes first." Says Lisa, and I can't tell if she's winking or if a gnat flew into her eye.

"Michael Jackson." Says Roger. And so on.

Three hours had passed. I realize that in order to get things moving, I needed to pull some money out of my wallet. Everyone "employee" was far too drunk to realize we wanted to buy the damn stove. The second I did this, things did get moving. Lisa and Dain took the stove out to the truck, while I followed with the propane tank. Lisa came up to me and whispered. "Ok, give me the money. Don't give it to Al."

I went inside and told the gaggle of them that I didn't know who to give the money to. Al replied with "It don't matter. It's all going to the casino tonight."
I threw the money onto the the table saw table where the stove had previously been sitting, and booked it. As I was getting into the truck, I saw a blur of glittering pink run by. Without a word, Lisa was off to drop the money on whatever she had been jonesing for.

A scary thought, her driving at this point in the night.

Meanwhile, it was back to Abiquiu. Anti-civilization is what suits me best. New Mexico sometimes feels like Mars. We have landed.

To see more pictures, click on any picture.

Dain made the stove cabinet as I made breakfast. Tea and crumpets! Seriously!
From The stove! THE STOVE!
A bench? A table? It's never ending! And of course, a nice walk up onto the Mesa!


  1. i have that same water bottle in the same color. two hearts that beat as one, hah.

  2. it was a present from my new mexico bank... in chicago you get mp3 players...

  3. Hooray for stoves with four working burners and an oven! Look at your long luxurious blonde hair. Are you sure this blog is really your life and not a Hollywood production about 2 gifted and beautiful people struggling to co-exist with nature in the face of the impending downfall of western civilization?