In this edition Stranger Than Truth, we go to Dinerton, New Mexico, where there is a reality that many never get to experience, from a time now since long gone... a place that lives in a different era and views the world around it with extreme disdain.
Nathan Betman, Mayor of Dinerton, introduced us to it this way, "Civilization has gone to hell in nearly every aspect. People have now become more like robots than human beings and daily life is nothing short of being a machine under someone else's control. We decided to turn back the clock and live our lives in a different way."
The experience began right away as we entered this small, desert village. In it, there are no cell phones, no computers, no satellite dishes, no digitalization in any form. Our first stop was at a small cafe; Henrietta's Luncheonette on the corner of Main Street and 1st Avenue.
The menu was simple... sandwiches, a few sides, coffee, cola and water. "Our burgers here are the best. We buy the meat fresh from cattlemen here in New Mexico and next door in Nevada." Local favorite, Aunt Jean, makes the patties each day during breakfast hours so they are still fresh for the lunchtime crowd. And indeed, they were quite good!
Our next stop was the local police department and city jail, where Chief Hardon Grabber runs the show. Inside there were a mere three jail cells and like in the old Andy Griffith series, the cell keys hung on a nail nearby. "If you end up behind some of these bars, you wont try to escape so, we don't worry about where they keys hang." he chimed in. "My grandma cooks all the meals here and on some nights, we have a line of people looking for a law to break just to get a bunk before they are all filled!"
Across the street is the Dinerton Museum and it is, by itself, worth the trip.
"The Dinerton Museum takes the concept of museums in gerneral and turns it on its ear." Mayor Betman went on to describe how what you see here is a reminder of exactly what you won't ever see here. Cellphones, ipads and even a new Toyota all either under glass or behind a rope.
Outside, there isn't a car on the local streets that is any newer than a 1968 Ford Fairlane 500.
"All vehicles in this town are required to be no later than 1968." Betman went on. "Today's cars look like misshapen eggs. There's not an ounce of character or design to any of them. As a result, we don't allow them here. Period."
Indeed, just watching the classic beauties that drove past us was quite an experience. One 1933 Chevy Sedan pulled up as we were looking over the town's single gas station. From inside, a young man darted out, filled the vehicle with fuel, cleaned the windshield, checked the pressure in all the tires, as well as investigating under the hood to be sure engine fluid levels were correct.
"When was the last time you saw that?" asked the mayor. Then with a grin, he added, "Never. You weren't even around back when service like this was offered!"
Our night was spent in an old fashion roadside motel, just outside the city limits. In the courtyard of this Route-66-ish type inn, there was a kidney-shaped pool w/diving board, a swing-set for the kids and several picnic tables. Inside the rooms were black & white TV sets with rabbit ear antennas that we actually had to get up and spin the dial in order to change channels!
The next morning as we were packing to leave, Chief Grabber met us in the parking lot and reminded us to obey the speed limits and to be sure to empty our... ahem, ash trays(!), in the litter can before leaving. "We're the best kept secret in the US of A today. If you want to come back and stay a spell, just drive something a little less new and a whole lot less ugly."
Indeed, we may well do just that.