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Michael and John

Okay, last time I had us heading toward the Cocina Azul--to be precise, the “original” Cocina Azul, the one 1134 Mountain Rd NW.(1)  This is one of our very favorite restaurants in the world. They do a ribeye taco that must be tasted to be believed. And they can make a damn fine margarita while they’re at it, I might add.

It’s up the way from Old Town, and, in fact, it was just across the street from the Casita. So, we walked there without difficulty. We were definitely looking forward to our evening.

But the real treat of the evening was that we were also meeting friends there -- Michael Vernon(2) and John Lucero (3), and we were very much looking forward to it.

Michael and John are realtors, and they are very, very good at what they do. We met them years ago when we first moved to New Mexico and were looking for a house. We’d been having a surprisingly difficult time doing so, partly because of the market, but mostly because we needed to find a place that had easy access to both my father’s house, and my mother’s nursing home.

We had tried to work with a couple of local realtors, and, for some reason, it had gone nowhere. They’d wanted us to see houses that were waaaay beyond our needs (and our pocketbooks) and that were usually someplace that were seemingly placed for maximum inconvenience. (“You’ll love this little cottage. It’s just on the other side of the Sandia Mountains. A short eight hour drive from the nearest grocery store.”)

But, then driving though my parent’s neighborhood one day, we noticed a for-sale in front of a sweet little house. We phoned up the number on the sign, and it was John and Michael who were handling the sale.

About the photos: Again, I was mortified to find that I had no good, clear pictures of the Cocina Azul from the outside. But, I did have an image that I could run through several filters and the Stable Diffusion program to get something that sort of looks like the exterior of the restaurant. Well, maybe not a whole lot. But kind of. Anyway, here ’tis.

Long story short, we bought the house and, in the process, Michael and John became our friends. They were thoughtful and helpful, and very kind. As an aside, they also liked and respected my father, who was involved in the purchase. They recognized in him an intelligent, strong-willed man who knew real estate inside and out. You’d be amazed how many people made the mistake of thinking he was a senile old fool who could be disregarded in safety. It was not, by the way, a mistake that people made twice.

Anyway, we became friendly with John and Michael, and then a few years later, we turned to them again, when my father passed and they helped us with the sale of my parents’ house. They were truly amazing, even lending a hand to cleaning the place and staging it. They even came to the Estate Sale, and, as I recall, bought an item or two.

Then the real adventure came in 2018. Our son and daughter were living in Austin by then, and they had their first child. There was nothing really to keep us in Albuquerque, and we decided to move to be near the kids and their daughter, and, later, their son.

So, once more, we turned to John and Michael to sell our house. We thought this would be easy. It wasn’t. It turned out that the market was in a downturn right then. And, also, our house had a couple of disadvantages we didn’t hadn’t considered. For one thing, it was right across the street from an elementary school--which we didn’t consider a problem, but which a good many potential buyers did.  Children laughing and playing, you see. So vulgar. All that noise...

And, too, there were some issues with the house itself. The appliances were new, but not new enough for some tastes. (“If is isn’t stainless steel, we are simply NOT interested.”) And there were a few repairs that maybe should have been made. Or so we were told, in any case. (Looked fine to me and everyone else I talked to. But, still...)

Fortunately, Michael and John were there. In fact, toward the end, when we had had to move to Texas to take possession of the house we’d bought here, Michael sort of took charge of things, even finding and hiring the tradesmen to make the necessary changes. It was very definitely above and beyond. (4)

And now we were meeting them for dinner. We entered the restaurant and there they were, already seated. We all embraced and sat and compared notes on the menu and what we would have.

The meal that followed was excellent, and we had grand time exchanging news. We showed, of course, pictures of the grandkids. They told us about their business, which is flourishingly. That’s not surprising.

Then...the one disappointment of the evening, but not one we didn’t expect...we tentatively asked them about the real estate market in Albuquerque and environs. We were toying, at the time, with the idea of buying a summer home in the city...someplace away from the heat of Texas in August. If, that is, we could find something we could afford.

They cringed...ah, well, er...they told us.

The same factors that are driving Texas’ real estate are now present in New Mexico. People are moving in from all over, particularly from California, and they’re bringing cash in fistfulls. They mentioned a few prices that we could expect. We shuddered. Ah well, we’d sort of seen it coming.

We finished our meals and had warm sopaipillas...everyone should have sopaipillas with honey at least once in their life. If you haven’t, go to Albuquerque and try them. You’ll thank me later...for the food, anyway, if not the cost of the plane ticket.(5)

Then, we said goodby and that we would be in touch. And then Martha and I walked back to the Casita.

And that was the day. What was coming next? The wild and wonderful town (village?) of  Corrales...another of our favs, and the place where we’d once seen a man and woman ride their horses into the brewpub for a beer and a burger.

More to come.

After that, here’s my obligatory photo of Martha. This is from last year when we were having lunch in the fun little city of Hutto, Texas.


1. The Cocina Azul is amazing. If you’re in Albuquerque, give yourself a treat and go there for lunch or dinner. Their webpage is here:

3. John has a Threads page here and a Facebook page here:

4. A quick story, just before we left, we hired a young man we knew from another project to do some necessary plumbing and repair work. He asked for a check for $1000 up front, a down payment, so that he could purchase his supplies.

Wanna guess the rest of the story? You got it. He vanished. I ended up chasing him across town to various locations -- I even tried to corner him at his mother’s house -- but he never stayed in one place long enough for me to confront him. I did discover, however, that he had spent some time in court on other issues, mostly drug related.

So... I was embarrassed by my naiveté, but lesson learned. Even if you think you know someone,

5. Sopaipillas are a kind of fried pastry or bread. In New Mexico, they’re usually served as a dessert, warm, with honey. You bite off the end, pour honey inside, and then eat...obtaining in the process the sort of ecstasy that is otherwise given only to eaters of Odysseus’ lotus fruit. Or Cannoli. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

About the photos: Again, I was mortified to find that I had no good, clear pictures of the Cocina Azul from the outside. But, I did have an image that I could run through several filters and the Stable Diffusion program to get something that sort of looks like the exterior of the restaurant. Well, maybe not a whole lot. But kind of. Anyway, here ’tis.

Copyright©2024 Michael Jay Tucker


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