I’ve got to drive from Vail to Telluride.

And I’m becoming more frightened by the minute.

I used to do long distances all the time, twelve hours at a clip, I just put a cassette in the deck and off I’d go. But that was a long time ago, before Sirius XM, do I upgrade my rental car to include it? I think so. But forget the distance, what I’m worried about now is the snow.

Last January there was nary a drop. But El Nino is causing the sky to dump, the day I leave, and the day before and the day thereafter and…

My buddy Steve was gonna come up from Taos, take me in his four wheel drive, but his plans changed, he’s got to go to Mexico City. So I rented a car.

Oh, I could have flown. But it made no sense. To pay a hundred bucks to ride two hours back to Denver and then pay triple digits to fly to Montrose and still end up almost two hours away.

Or, I could have flown direct, if I’d come from L.A.

But I was too scared.

My hemoglobin is low, and the altitude at Telluride is sky high, so I figured I’d come to Vail and adjust.

Which is how I ended up here, which is how I ended up at Annapurna last night.

It’s an Indian/Nepalese restaurant. I found it on Yelp. We arrived on Saturday and needed lunch and I was looking for new alternatives and Annapurna’s rating was sky high, just like Telluride, ha!

So we went.

I’d like to tell you the atmosphere was a selling point, but it looked like an upscale Denny’s, although there were prayer flags, but food can overcome atmosphere any day of the week. But what do we eat? I know Indian, I’m clueless as to Nepalese.

So I asked Om.

I didn’t know that was his name at the time, it’s just that he was the only person in attendance that looked like he’d come from that region of the world. Yes, it was his restaurant. He told me to get the chicken makhani, and he recommended the lamb skewers too.

But Felice doesn’t like lamb unless it comes as chops, so we ordered some shrimp and some eggplant in addition to the makhani and savored every bite, the food was delicious.

And then Om came to check up on us, to talk.

That’s when we found out his name was Om. Yup, like the mantra. It’s common in Nepal. Where Om would like to go back to live. But he can’t, because the country is in financial straits.

Om and his wife immigrated at the turn of the century. Actually, his wife came first. They settled in Glenwood Springs, which is an hour from Aspen but might as well be an hour from Tulsa, it’s nowhere, how did Om end up there?

Word of mouth. There are a lot of Nepalese in Colorado.

But mostly Boulder. It seemed that they went to Glenwood Springs on a whim, almost throwing a dart, but they stayed there for sixteen years, until they sold the business and tried to move back.

But it didn’t work. The money just didn’t add up.

And it always comes down to the money. That’s how Om ended up owning a restaurant to begin with. You’ve got to put food on the table, pardon the pseudo pun. And you’ve got to send money back to your relatives. Om’s mother had two strokes and is partially paralyzed and his dad has dementia. Om’s brother looks after them, Om has to help him out.

But not only him, Om is helping out people in the village. Because all that money sent after the earthquake? The politicians pocketed it, you can see no evidence of it. Nepal is in bad shape. Right after the disaster people helped each other out, now they’re out for themselves, a cab driver tried to charge Om double to go the two miles from the hospital to his family abode. Om challenged him, and then ended up giving him the 100 rupees and letting someone else take the cab. That’s only a dollar, but that’s a lot in Nepal.

And Om’s daughter is in medical school in Kathmandu.

And his son is in medical school in the U.S.

I told him he must be very proud.

He is.

What’s all this hogwash about immigrants, stealing jobs, ruining the economy? The immigrants come with nothing and work hard and get ahead. If only all the people bitching put their nose to the grindstone.

But Om is less concerned with the politics of the U.S. than the politics of Nepal. He’s dealing with bigger issues. While we’re all on social media bragging about our possessions and experiences he’s earning money to help those who don’t have any, his brethren back home.

Kinda like my ancestors. And yours. Coming to the new land and helping out those left behind.

Which makes my anxiety about driving to Telluride seem inconsequential.

And it is.

But I try to exercise good judgment, I try not to take unnecessary risks. Automobiles are deadly weapons.

I may end up meeting friends at the Montrose airport.

The weather forecast could change.

But right now I’m consumed with the variables.

And the story of Om.

Annapurna Vail

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