Disco Taco

Note to the Reader: I have started something new, and this is the first installment. Another Door Opens is a creative project documenting doors and the stories of people who live and work behind them. Through photography and storytelling, you will witness open doors and open hearts. You will see new corners of the United States and get a glimpse of your fellow man. Consider THIS an open door to take the trip with me. I’m inviting you along! Follow, and let’s road trip! Find the stories here or at AnotherDoorOpens.net.

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My morning eyes were diverted from the tar of I-70 by a flash of vibrant color painted across a building set back from the road.

“That’s where I’m going for lunch!” I declared to no one.

The sun was high in the New Mexico sky by the time I returned. As I stepped inside Disco Taco, it took a second for my eyes to adjust, and no sooner, David Medina was standing in front of me with a smile as warm as the southern sun. A few wisps of gray hair brightened his face even more, just below his temples and brushed through his mustache. The little restaurant with the 1970’s-era name exudes warmth — from the friendly welcome to the Mexican food to all eight tables topped with a yellow check cloth and a flower.

Based on the attentive and easy treatment I was given, I would have thought Medina had been taking care of restaurant customers forever. I would have thought he was more than comfortable in his role. I would have thought hospitality had been his line of work for a long time. In addition to his professional manner of speaking, he stood tall, and his tucked-in shirt and shined shoes told me he took pride in his work. On that last point, I would have thought right. But on the assumptions before that, no no no. I would have thought wrong.

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David Medina is the manager of this little spot, and has been since 2011. This job is a blessing in his view, and the offer to come work here arrived at just the right time.

For 31 years, Medina was an engineer in Juarez, Mexico, working at Delphi and making electrical harnesses for automobiles. He had stability. He had status.

Then he was laid off.

That was only part of the cascade of changes to come. At the same time, the small grocery store Medina and his wife had operated for 10 years in the border city was under threat. Juarez was rapidly destabilizing under the stress and violence of Mexican drug cartel activity, and it was not long before intimidating characters showed up at their grocery store. “Bad guys” began demanding money from Medina, and in exchange they would “allow” him to continue to do business. Some people call it protection money. The rest of us call it extortion.

Doors were closing for Medina, and as he and his family faced this new reality, something happened: another door opened, in response to action he’d taken about 14 years prior. Back in the 1990’s, Medina had applied to become a legal U.S. resident. And then at this critical juncture in his life, the paperwork finally came through.

His new life in the U.S. didn’t take off instantly. He and his wife struggled to find work and a place to live in El Paso, and even though the city was just across the border from Juarez, the new place and the new process felt foreign. Eventually Medina received the offer to come to the little town of Ruidoso Downs, where he had been a customer at Disco Taco on previous visits.

He is 55 years old now and is rebuilding his personal and professional life “from zero.”

“I don’t have any experience with this kind of business. I have experience buying and selling groceries.”

He pauses. “It’s really hard to start again.” While he’s happy that he and his wife have found a new opportunity in the U.S., until his grown children can join them from Mexico, he won’t feel whole.

But his optimism doesn’t fade. He said he feels he is being protected and implies that good things happen to him.

“In Mexico, we have a saying,” he says. “The best school is life.”

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Let Your Warrior Out

That’s what a friend recently told me to do. How did he know I had a warrior in me? (We all do).

He was right, of course, and that’s exactly what I’m about to do.

Three hours from now I’ll be queued up at the starting line to run 3.34 miles and attack about 13 obstacles on the Warrior Dash New Mexico course. The number 13 represents transformation, doesn’t it? This could be positively transformative! Why would I spend a Saturday morning doing this? Well, why would I not, really?

First, it’s a good goal.

Second, it’s physical.

Third, it’s a good step outside my comfort zone, although I would argue in line with my inner badass.

Fourth, it’s a great cause. I’ve raised $2,345 for the little warriors at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. (Thanks to all of you who made that happen.)

Fifth, it gives me a chance to meet other people who want to let their warrior out.

Sixth, you get a wicked kind of warrior hat and t-shirt for it. The kind of shirt you’d want to wear and the kind of hat you’d never. Well, maybe just today.

Seventh, it brings me to the famous Balloon Fiesta Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Granted, it’s not October, and there is not a single hot air balloon there right now, but I would put money on the festival atmosphere being in full ascendance!

Eighth, it’s April 27th, and I have never spent an April 27th quite this way. So it’s a first.

Ninth, who doesn’t wish they had a reason to go get dirty in a muddy obstacle course?

Tenth, life is short. Get outside. Breathe the fresh air. Live a little!

Here I go. How will you let your warrior out today?

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United

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Loving energy is so palpable after tragedy. We pray and send wishes of strength and light to strangers. Our hearts genuinely ache, and we are sincere in our outpouring of compassion and love for families of the dead, injured, paramedics, law enforcement, doctors, nurses, civic leaders, volunteers, good samaritans, bystanders. We are tragically united in pain and love.

We are experiencing this today in the aftermath of the terror in Boston, just as we did in the aftermath of September 11th.

The same love that pours out as a counter-weight to tragedy is also felt for fleeting moments during positive occasions like the Olympics, when your skin tingles out of pure joy as athletes march at the opening ceremony, beaming mega-watt smiles of pride and wonder. As fireworks ring out high above in celebration, it’s love that fills you up and makes you feel like your heart will burst.

There is a oneness in these times. There is a feeling of unity when there is a collective feeling of love. We unite as one city, one nation, one world.

But for how long?

My prayer on this sad day is that we can stay united longer, stay loving longer, and remember our collective humanity longer.

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Playground No More

As I drove along the winding mountain road between Cloudcroft and Ruidoso, New Mexico, I was struck by the stark emptiness of this abandoned playground on a rural patch of land. The yellow field was lifeless — rocking horses and empty swings stopped in time. As I walked through the tall grass, I could hear only the howl of the wind in the pines, and the long chains of the swing set that clashed together like a fallen wind chime.

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A Fable for You

There are two guys who have been at odds for as long anyone can remember. Like headstrong mismatched thugs, they fight all the time — forever trying to derail the dreams of the other. In addition to their juvenile-style jousting, they’re both strong and have a similar build. And these guys don’t care where they are — on an inner city street or in an upscale suburb — they’ll fight anywhere, anytime.

Not unlike a dysfunctional couple, each is defined by his relationship to the other. They need each other. It’s in that relative space that they assume their identities.

One night they were riding in a car together.

Courage was in the passenger seat, again. But he was sick of riding there. Something in him was changing. He was gathering strength. He’d always been the wiser of the two, and he only made big mistakes when he allowed himself to be influenced by his menacing side-kick, Fear.

Fear was driving. And he was all over the road, as usual. His decisions, like his thoughts, were erratic — sometimes cowardly, sometimes dangerous. But Fear could move with a swagger, and he seemed tough. On this night, however, Courage was beginning to see that it was all smoke and mirrors. And while he didn’t want to admit it, Courage knew that Fear wasn’t very smart either, not to mention the fact that he was always under-estimating Courage.

At a major intersection, as the car was coming to a stop, Courage spoke.

He told Fear to pull over. Fear pulled over. Courage told Fear he was taking away the keys. Fear gave him the keys. Courage told Fear he was going to drive from now on. Fear nodded.

Courage was astonished. He’d been sure this would be messy and that there would be another fight. Fear always told him that’s would happen if he challenged him. Courage had been quietly dreading this possibility, but if necessary, he was ready to fight, and this time he was prepared to win.

Courage could not believe his eyes when Fear walked quietly around the car to the passenger side. He’d bowed to the slightest show of strength.

As Courage took the wheel and began driving in a new direction, Fear slumped down in the back seat. Silent and beat.

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Country Road

I love …

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a good country road.

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Five Minutes

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The idea of practicing anything for “just five minutes a day” must have been born in the shadow of the procrastination that impacts so many lives.

The five minute message is pretty ubiquitous if you start to listen for it. The simplicity of “five minutes” reveals its inherent wisdom, and those who use it to encourage others seem to understand human behavior.

While taking a guitar class, the teacher encouraged us to practice guitar “for just five minutes a day.”

When I started Crossfit, the instructor told us to practice handstands “for just five minutes a day.”

In a recent New York Times Q & A with Sheryl Sandberg, she was quoted as saying, “every year my New Year’s resolution is to meditate for just five minutes a day.”

We all know the real challenge is not five minutes. The real challenge is to begin it. And the teachers who encourage five minutes of practice know this.

They’ve set the bar low enough that even on our darker days, we can view five minutes as a light goal that is within reach. These teachers also know that the student who reaches for the guitar or does a handstand or sits in meditation will rarely just do it for five minutes. A cool musical chord will sound. The handstand will feel sturdy and legs will be straightened. A moment of calm will enter through silent meditation. The mind and body start to engage through movement and breath and intention.

And then it is underway. Once you begin, the joy of the core interest is again piqued, and practice becomes more than practice. It becomes fun.

Five minutes pass. Then five more. Then off you go and an hour has passed. Not only did you do the thing, you can feel a sense of pride for having done it, too.

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