Loren introduced himself to me when he worked as a valet at La Posada Resort. He was the cool one with enough style and manners to attract attention. I learned he also provided private airport transportation and luxury limo service. A trip to Albany, New York was on my schedule so I asked Loren to drive me to the Albuquerque Airport. When I told him my flight left at 6:30 a.m., he didn’t flinch, “I’ll be at your house at 4 a.m. with Starbucks. What’s your drink?”
He showed up, loaded the car, asked me to select my own music, and off we went. I felt like I was riding with James Bond — smooth shifts, minor breaks, all the time engaging me in conversation. The combination relieved my pre-boarding stress and woke me up. From then on, I chose Loren’s airport service. When he picked me up from Albuquerque, he had Fiji water, a Travel & Leisure magazine, chewing gum, and he played Vic Damone. “Chill, sit back, tell me all about the trip.”
At my kitchen counter, on a 20-below morning, Loren leaned back against a bar stool too petite for a swarthy 6’ 4” man. His Johnson & Johnson silky blonde hair is swept back, and I want to touch it, but we don’t play with physical affections. Loren’s 40, looks 30, and thinks like he served an attitude-and-values apprenticeship under a wise guru. He’s on a break from plowing snow at Albertsons, the Yoga Center, and private homes. This is before he reports for work at Geronimo Restaurant, where he not only parks the cars, but walks the ladies indoors, keeps the Zapata’s outdoors, and directs traffic on Canyon Road until midnight. He’s wearing a sheet-white Polo turtleneck and black slacks, his day look, and I’m about to serve pesto, prosciutto and feta cheese frittata for late breakfast.
Loren is sipping a 16-ounce chai and unwinding his broad shoulders in a circular motion as he considers the current consciousness of Santa Fe.
“It’s a different kind of materialism. You really want it, but you can’t have it. The most simple things — a toaster, a new phone, pinion wood — cause we’re cold. It’s so cold! The guy in front of the Homeless Shelter was near frozen when I drove by to drop off a bundle of clothes. Why is it so cold? Even the valet has to wear BMW beanies. These are some funny times.”
“What’s so funny about not having money?” I snapped.
Loren breaks into a full-body laughing recess. His sailor-blue eyes are just slightly turned up when he laughs. This transmits his effortless humorous pitch on life.
“It’s different,” I said. “I mean everything feels unfamiliar.”
“Yea, it’s O.K. to feel,” Loren said. “Things are rattling around. That’s why the Gorge Bridge felt so stable the day I drove up to Taos. I think it’s the most stable thing in my life right now! Hah.”
I had placed the frittata in front of Loren, but he hadn’t touched it yet. Even when he’s starved; he lets the food sit there and cool off. I’ve never seen a man not eat when food is placed in front of him. I was already biting into the frittata, relishing a real meal.
I found a momentary silent inlet and asked him if the food was cool enough. Loren looked down, touched it with his index finger, and then his appetite fired off. After a few pensive moments, as if he were saying grace, he took a proper bite. He takes the food seriously, intensely. He’ll make a remarkable husband for some woman. He talks a lot about marriage, and the songs he’ll sing to his bride’s mother the day of the wedding. He confides in me uninhibitedly, as if we were two teenagers, cutting class. I feel youthful when he’s in the house; the absence of masks, emotional camouflage, and exaggeration is how I remember adolescence. When you’re so much yourself, even the most serious student, is humorous in his self-absorbance.
“What’d you say Wednesday was — on your new schedule?” he asked.
“Wednesday… I forgot since you showed up. I know! It’s Gallery LouLou marketing.”
“We have to give out two cards a week. I want you to pass out two everyday,” he said.