Somewhere in northeast Albuquerque, a seat cushion of rocking chair sits in a hot garage. Okay, there's nothing too exciting about that, but this isn't just any seat cushion, or why would I be writing about it? If you saw the chair that it once belonged to at the flea market, you'd probably pass it by--with its maroon naugahyde exterior, cat scratches and weird-colored wood. The springs on her weren't what they once were, but hey...she was an old girl. The bounce back factor was a little loose, if you know what I mean. Otherwise she was still in pretty good shape, but had been relegated to the I'm-a-poor-student-and-can't-afford-really-nice-furniture-and-if-someone-broke-into-my-home-and-stole-it-no-big-deal group. That's how my son got her and under duress (my suspicions), she broke. The main part of her went to the dumpster but her seat cushion was saved for posterity. Or should that be posteriority?

The chair used to belong to my mom's next door neighbor who, in an act of kindness-or maybe it was a chance to get rid of some clutter-gave her to me as a present. What the hell...I was about to get married and that chair and a section of a sectional sofa were the only furniture we would have besides a waterbed and some concrete block shelves. I kept her around, moved her to Louisiana, rocked my son in her when he was a baby and then gave her to my son when he rented his first apartment. He told me she broke because she was old, but I have my doubts. I mean, he is a young adult and it was his first year of college and...need I say more?

My mom's next door neighbor was Paul Henson and the passage of chair ownership took place in the late seventies. Who was Paul Henson? Father of Jim Henson of Muppet fame. Yes, Albuquerque played host more than a few times to Jim Henson and probably never knew it.

Mr. Henson and his wife Bobbie lived next door to my mom in a very modest Northeast Heights neighborhood. I can't recall the exact timeline, but they might have already moved to North Carolina before Jim's death and after several years of living there, my mom lost contact with them. Mr. Henson passed the chair along to me and said that Jim used to be rocked to sleep in it when he was a baby. At that time, I thought, "Well, okay," not being overly impressed or anything. He and Bobbie also gave me an exquisite teapot as a wedding present, probably to raise my level of enthusiasm.

Jim would come to visit his dad every so often and bring his family. He was a really nice guy, in my brief interactions with him. What a loss.

Views: 37

Comment by Ron Da Bomb on July 19, 2008 at 6:46pm
Loved the provenance!

Loved the Muppet Show!! My boss and I were talking about the Muppet Show the other day, for some reason. He's early 50's, me - early 40's, so while I was watching as a 10 year-old, he told me all his friends would get together after work and watch the Muppet Show while baked.

Okay, I can see that...
Comment by La Fanciulla del West on July 20, 2008 at 3:06am
Okay...who is your favorite Muppet? :)

Jim Henson also has the distinction of being the only famous person I've ever met. I've never even brushed up against Bill Richardson!
Comment by Ron Da Bomb on July 20, 2008 at 6:42pm
I guess I always grooved on Gonzo or Animal. Loved the music of that show. The writing and production was always tight, but the music was extraordinary. How bout you???
Comment by Ron Da Bomb on July 20, 2008 at 7:07pm
Hey Fanciualla,
A Puccini fan, huh?? I just read your "my page"... and read in your "what I'm reading" -- ...the making of the atomic bomb and must say as an engineer and a "wish-i-wudda-become-a-real-scientist (read physicist)", I love historical fiction (and non-fiction) based on the Manhattan Project. Two of my fave historical fiction pieces are a book called "The Stallion Gate" by Martin Cruz Smith and a movie called "Fat Man and Little Boy" starring Paul Newman, John Cusack, Bonnie Bedelia, Laura Dern... Anyway, I have been to the Stallion Gate and beyond many times as a tourist and as part of my job, and I am in awe of this amazing and terrible power that we have unleashed. My boss was a principal engineer in the 1940's at Sandia Labs who worked at the Nevada Test Site and on a South Pacific Isle called Anawetok and when he narrates his tales (the unclassified ones, anyways), I get chills.
Comment by La Fanciulla del West on July 20, 2008 at 9:48pm
:::throwin' Ron a warm chocolate chip cookie::: Good job on the Puccini thing. The Santa Fe Opera did a great production of Turandot a couple of years ago, if you like that kind of thing. I find that a significant number of people HATE opera and they aren't shy about telling me that they HATE it. They do say the word "hate" like it's in all caps. Hmm...let's favorite Muppet? I liked Gonzo and The Swedish Chef. And yeah, I'm not insanely obsessed, but I am obsessed with all those quantum physicists and especially Oppenheimer. He went from the highest high to the lowest low. I love going to the Trinity Site and standing amidst the green sparkly shards of trinitite. Is it a coincidence that the first bomb was chosen to explode near the Jornada del Muerto? Anyway, I think the explosion was one of the most significant events of mankind and I feel privileged to live so close to where it happened. I would have loved to talk to your boss. I wish I had been hanging out at The Owl Bar and Cafe in the 40s when the scientists would show up there.

Engineer, eh? Genetically, I'm at least half geek. Until last October, I was chief cook and bottlewasher for a clinical virology laboratory, doing all the usual things a virologist does: Cell culture, direct antigen detection and a whole lot of molecular stuff. Viruses are some of the most interesting bits in life and the field could still be moseying along had the molecular revolution not begun. These days, though, I get to play detective in the clinical laboratory. I love it, but I miss the science.

Ooops. I rambled.
Comment by Ron Da Bomb on July 20, 2008 at 10:12pm
Dude!!! ramble on!!!
I just finished a book by Crichton called "Next" that dealt with genetics and DNA and a possible terrifying future. Lots of fluff, to be sure, but lots of science, to be sure. One of my all-time favorite books was by Crichton called "The Andromeda Strain" which was made into a campy movie, but was still a tale of what could really happen in today's day and age... You mention the Owl Bar like you have read Cruz... Or at least some version of that history. The road from Los Alamos, mysterious P.O. Box 1663, to the trinity site.... dusty roads, so-called communist scientists, General Groves, Teller, Openheimer, Einstein...
Comment by Ron Da Bomb on July 20, 2008 at 10:32pm
BTW, I do a great version of the Swedish Chef. Usually when I'm a little bit borracho... "you put the chicken in de basket"
Comment by La Fanciulla del West on July 20, 2008 at 10:51pm
Okeydokey, I remember the Andromeda Strain. Talk about a blast from the past, but it seems our worst fears in that realm have been realized. Before becoming a virologist, I was a microbiologist first, and in the clinical lab we were all one big happy infectious disease department. I've seen the really bad bugs. People are in hospice care because of untreatable bacterial infections. It's going to be interesting to see what hospitals do regarding their nosocomial infections since Medicare will be refusing to foot the bill for certain diagnoses that are not present on admission. Hospital-acquired infection is one of those diagnoses. I recently went to a teleconference that stated a huge number of hospitals will go bankrupt because of this new Medicare policy that's due to go into effect on October 1st. Only time will tell. And I rambled again.

I've read a few books about the good old days at the Trinity Site. I find it humorous that the core of the bomb was driven down from Los Alamos in someone's car. Ahhh...I don't think you'd see something like that happening these days. Now I'm thinking I need to make another trip down there in October. I guess I'd better start saving money to pay for the gas. :) Someone oughta make a MasterCard commercial about such an excursion. One car trip to Socorro from Albuquerque: $150. Lunch at the Owl Bar: $25. Fine for removing trinitite: $500. Seeing an obelisk in the middle of the desert: priceless. :)
Comment by Barelas Babe on July 20, 2008 at 10:54pm
Ron, La Faniculla - Hand waving!!!! Another science history and opera geek here on DCF.

Have you read 109 East Palace by Jennet Connant - it is worth taking a look at if you like NM LANL history. I think it is a thought-provokingly good read.
Comment by La Fanciulla del West on July 20, 2008 at 10:57pm
I can't do the Swedish Chef, but I can do Flipper!


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