Sunday, November 16, 2008

Timing Is Everything - Sabra Brown Steinsiek

A Writers Vineyard Holiday Treat

After a brief meeting when Albuquerque journalist Laura Collins interviewed Broadway star, Taylor Morgan, the two have been corresponding and Laura has invited him to Albuquerque to spend Thanksgiving with her family. From Sabra Brown Steinsiek's award winning Timing Is Everything, meet Laura, Taylor, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, the author's home.

Laura's fervent pleas to the weather gods that no storms would blow in for Taylor's Morgan's visit had been answered - it was a beautiful day. As often happens in a New Mexico winter, the weather was mild so they could get by with just a sweater.

Old Town was already dressed for Christmas. As they wandered around the central Plaza, Taylor asked her about the paper sacks set up all around the square. "Those are the farolitos to light the way for the Christ Child. Some places they're called luminarias." She watched as he leaned down to inspect one. "They're pretty simple, really, just a little sand and a candle in a brown paper sack, but they're magical. You'll see them tomorrow night. The whole neighborhood will be wearing them."

In one of the shops, Taylor was fascinated by a display of storyteller figurines, finally choosing one to take home.

"Why that one, Taylor?"

"I don't know, really. It was just the right one."

"Good," she said with a smile that caused his heart to skip a beat, "a storyteller should speak to the heart of its listener." She put her arm through his as they left the store and said, "Now it's time to introduce you to green chile!"

She explained to him on their way to downtown Albuquerque that New Mexico actually had a "state question," voted on and passed by the legislature. "Red or green?" she asked.

"Red or green?" he said, puzzled. "Is this a Christmas question?"

She laughed. "Well, in a way it is. The question is about red or green chile. There are die-hard fans of red chile and those of us who think green is the only way to go. And Christmas? Christmas is both!"

She took him for a lunch of green chile chicken soup. Even Laura admitted it was a pretty hot batch, but Taylor gamely struggled through most of it.

"You eat this stuff all the time? Voluntarily?" he gasped after the first bite.

"Here, try a bite of tortilla. It will help," Laura said, trying hard not to laugh at him. "Maybe not everyday, but most days. I'd die without it."

"Well, I may die from it!" he said as he tried another spoonful. This one went down easier, and he began to taste the subtle flavor of the chile hiding behind the heat. It was good, but he wasn't sure he would ever develop a permanent taste for it.

"But that's the secret, Taylor. Chile, red or green, is addicting. Once you've had it, you'll want more. This way I make sure you come back again."

After lunch, they walked across the Fourth Street Mall. "I don't know that you got to see this when you were here," she said as she led him to a group of bronze statues on the corner. "It's my favorite piece of public sculpture. It's called Sidewalk Society. The artist is Glenna Goodacre. Taylor was fascinated by the slightly larger-than-life-sized bronze figures that included a construction worker, a mother and child, and a teenage boy on a skateboard. He was surprised when Laura took a stick of gum out of her purse and put it on the outstretched hand of the teenager.

Laughing, he asked, "What are you doing, Laura?"

She looked a little embarrassed, then laughed with him. "OK, so I know it's silly. But you can rarely come down here and not find something on his hand. I always hate it when there's nothing there."

Taylor thought she looked beautiful, the winter sunlight on her bright hair, her face glowing with laughter. He was falling in love with Albuquerque and green chile-and, most of all, Laura.

She had arranged the day so they ended up at the Sandia Peak Tramway just before sunset. The mile-long tram to the top of Sandia Peak offered a perfect view of the city and the spectacular New Mexico sunset as they went up. At the top, they hurried to the High Finance Restaurant where they enjoyed the view and a margarita as the sunset put on its multi-colored display. The city had changed to a jewel-strewn blanket of lights by the time they came back down.

As they got back into the car, Laura asked, "Have I worn you out, Taylor?"

"Not a chance. It's been a great day. I can see why you love it here."

"Well then, are you ready to face my family and friends?"

"That I'm not so sure about," he said only partially in jest. "But let's do it anyway."

Laura's parents literally lived on the other side of town. Even in normal traffic on the freeway, it took close to half an hour to drive from the foothills of the Sandia Mountains and across the Rio Grande. Laura and Taylor shared a comfortable silence on the way. Laura stole a glance at him now and then. He seemed to really be enjoying himself, but she was still afraid all of this was boring him.

Taylor couldn't remember the last time he had felt so completely at peace. It was as if he'd come home to someplace he never knew he had missed.

Laura pulled into a graveled driveway that curved down and around to reveal the house that seemed to have grown from the hillside. A cluster of dried red chiles, a "ristra" Laura called it, hung next to the door. She opened the door to release a burst of voices and delicious smells before she turned to smile at him. "Ready, Taylor?" As he followed her into the house, he was suddenly terrified of meeting her parents, something he hadn't felt since his date for the junior prom.

From Timing Is Everything by Sabra Brown Steinsiek,
(c)2000 Writer's Club Press, ISBN 0-595-12856, $17.95

This has been an excerpt from Timing Is Everything
Sabra Brown Steinsiek lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her writing has been honored with an Eppie Nomination and she is a New Mexico Book Award Finalist. She recently founded a website for book reviews with a New Mexico connection ( and can be reached through her website,
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