A battalion of military police is the last thing you expect to see when entering a hotel lobby carrying contraband. But seven MPs with assault rifles in the lobby of the El Dorado Hotel and Spa in Santa Fe, New Mexico were eyeballing me like I was Colonel Sanders skipping through Compton.
Little beads of sweat popped on my forehead even though at 7,000 feet and with zero humidity 95 degrees feels like 80.
Actually, contraband might be putting a heavy spin on it. But I had transported an open bottle of bourbon across several state lines only to end up in this hotel at this moment with a gaggle of army men giving me the stink-eye.
The parcel in question was my special recipe of bacon-infused bourbon I’d whipped up to share with the folks at Type-A West. Serving bacon or bourbon lathers folks up for a talk quite nicely. Put the two together and there’s zero chance anyone will fill out the speaker survey, much less give you a bad review.
Plus, the more they drink before I talk, the funnier seem when I do.
Bacon-infused bourbon is a delightful marriage of two of the greatest gifts whatever deity you subscribe to bestowed upon the Earth. You take ¼ cup of bacon grease and swap it out with the same amount of bourbon from a fresh bottle. Shake it every 20 minutes or so for about four hours, then stick it in the freezer for 5-6 days. Remove it, drain the bourbon through a steel strainer lined with a coffee filter to remove the grease, clean the bottle, then re-fill it.
The concoction has a hint of bacon goodness to go along with your favorite bourbon variation. I recommend making it with sweeter bourbons like Buffalo Trace, Maker’s Mark or Evan Williams. It’ll produce a spirit to raise yours.
My spirits were dark, however, as I approached the front desk. The clerk sensed my nerves and explained the unit was there to protect the Governor of Chihuahua who was meeting the governor of New Mexico. I said, “Can I make them a drink?”
An MP overheard and immediately confiscated my bag. After several minutes of rapidly spoken Spanish with unnecessary pointing and gesturing with AK-47s, my TravelPro Crew suitcase was opened on a lobby table.
“Nice shirt!” one guard said in modest English, pointing to my tee that reads, “I’m not gay, but $20 is $20.”
“Thanks,” I said, now jittery and worried.
“What is this?” the probing guard said, pulling out two bottles of bourbon, prepped for my fellow conference attendees.
“That’s bourbon. It’s delicious. And please handle with care. Or the gods will be angry.”
As soon as it came out of my mouth, I knew I came across like a racist, an idiot or both. He was Mexican, not Native American. He wasn’t going to be spooked by my “gods.” Hell, I’m sure Native Americans wouldn’t be, either. But I was under duress.
“Shall we try some?” the guard said.
Before I could object or he could unravel the masking tape and cellophane off the top of one bottle, the entourage of governors and staff turned the corner to the lobby. There was Susana Martinez in the flesh, along side Cesar Orate Duarte Jaquez, the governor of the Mexican state of Chihuahua, which Paris Hilton keeps in her purse.
Martinez’s three state troopers, dwarfed in numbers and ammunition by their Mexican counterparts, made a wall and tried to shuffle the political duo to the elevator. But Martinez, who had just months earlier thrown a rowdy holiday soirée at the very same hotel that resulted in staffers throwing things off a balcony and the governor herself calling cops to tell them to ignore noise complaints, has an eye for good booze.
“Is that bourbon?” she asked, looking directly at me.
“Yes, your highness.”
I’m such an idiot.
“Why is it sealed with cellophane,” Cesar Orate Duarte Jaquez asked in eloquent English, while a perfect starburst of light bounced off his balding head giving him the appearance of a slightly drunken halo.
“It’s a special recipe. Bacon-infused bourbon.”
The duo’s eyes widened along with their smiles in a unison only matched by people named Osmond.
“Guards! What are you waiting for?” Cesar Orate Duarte Jaquez boomed. “Take this man and his lovely gift for the governor to my suite immediately.”
“Nice shirt,” Governor Martinez said as the guards stuffed my clothes back in my bag.
“I think we can produce a few $20 bills,” Cesar Orate Duarte Jaquez laughed.
Now I was really nervous.
The guards guided us into the elevator. We made our way to the Presidential Suite. The midday sun was baking the expansive patio but the desert breeze swept through the open double door cooling the living room area where the Governors were to negotiate important matters.
“Now then … what’s your name … let us partake of this bacon bourbon!” Cesar Orate Duarte Jaquez said with a look of anticipation I’d only seen on the faces of men entering strip clubs.
“My name is Jaime Rustoval,” I said, thinking I should play the part of black market arms negotiator. “And before I share this magical concoction with you, I must first warn you that if bacon-infused bourbon is used whimsically, the gods will be very upset.”
“He’s not Native American,” Martinez said, condescendingly. “And why do you keep typing out his whole name?”
“My readers assure me his name is a fun one to read aloud, over and over. Kinda like Maria Conchita Alonzo. It’s very much an American fascination with the rhythm of Latin names. You should consider adding a few middle names to yours for the same effect. How does Susana Dominquez Chalupa Mayorga Martinez sound?”
“The bourbon, Mr. Rustoval?”
I poured three glasses and the governors toasted something in Spanish, then looked at me as if I needed to add a conclusion.
“Viva la tacos!” I laughed, hoping to spark the same from the room.
At this point the voice in my head was convinced I was coming across like David Duke at an NAACP convention.
They cocked their heads and frowned for a moment. Then smiled nervously and sipped.
Martinez winced. Cesar Orate Duarte Jaquez swished the brown liquid around a moment then swallowed with a forceful gulp.
“Magnifico!” he said. Martinez nodded in agreement despite grimacing as if she’d just had to vote for gay marriage.
Cesar Orate Duarte Jaquez finished his glass and grabbed the bottle out of my hands. He poured small glasses for his guards and rolled off a few paragraphs of ornate-sounding prose to a staff member who quickly left the room.
The Governors proceeded to banter back and forth in Spanish. The only words I could really make out were “yellow” “hour” and “caress.” (Don’t ask. It involves a donkey show in Juarez I’d rather not recount.)
I slowly nursed my drink, fearful that if I got up I’d be invited to sit back down by the butt of a rifle.
After what seemed like an hour, Governor Martinez rose to leave, shook my hand and congratulated me. I asked for what, she smiled and walked out. I turned to follow and a rifle butt high-fived my chest.
The staff member returned with a stack of papers and lapel pin. He asked where I would like the pin. I was wearing a Hayes Carll concert t-shirt which, at least as of 2015, didn’t have lapels.
He stuck the shiny gold pin with what looked like a hawk trying to have sex with a rattlesnake on it to my shirt , shook my head and bowed. Confused, I said, “Bless you, my child.”
Cesar Orate Duarte Jaquez then approached, grabbed each of my arms, kissed one cheek, then another and said, “Mr. Jaime Rustoval, congratulations. You are now associate foreign minister of the state of Chihuahua!”
Perplexed, I said, “But I don’t like yippy dogs.”
“We will have to confiscate your bacon bourbon. Governor Martinez will ensure you are given diplomatic immunity for any interstate commerce violations incurred while transporting it to New Mexico. But we will commission you to teach los camareros throughout the great State of Chihuahua how to bring this magic concoction to my people.”
People who have people make me very nervous. But I couldn’t protest. This people had people around me with guns.
I thought about asking if I could also teach the los corvettes, but thought better of it.
So, as of July 8, 2016, Jaime Rustoval is associate foreign minister of the state of Chihuahua. I negotiated the safe return of the second bottle of bourbon to satisfy my Type A West audience in exchange for writing down the recipe on a napkin. I never heard from Governor Martinez – probably because I don’t live at whatever address she found for Jaime Rustoval – but I made it out of New Mexico without further incident.
However, on the way out the door of the suite,, Cesar Orate Duarte Jaquez winked at me and said, “I’ve got a $20.”
“No thank you,” I smiled. “I had Mexican for breakfast.”
WRITER’S NOTE: The press secretaries for both Governor Martinez and Cesar Orate Duarte Jaquez vehemently deny said encounter occurred. The publicist for Jaime Rustoval would neither confirm nor deny the facts as reported above. Kelby Carr is now taking bets on the over-under for days it will take for some government agency to request this story be pulled.