The town of Truth or Consequences installed a Vietnam Memorial Wall in 1982. A replica of the Wall in Washington, D.C., in a city part a mile off IH25. It's a good stopping place for stretching your legs, munching a sandwich and pondering as a break on the long drive between El Paso and Albuquerque.
Today I pulled in there figuring to do a hamburger and the stretch routine. Down at the other end was a beat up brown Econoline van with POW MIA stickers on it and a painted sign along the top: RAINBOW CHRISTIAN MINISTRIES.
Beside the van cooking something on a Coleman stove on legs was a guy I haven't seen in a long while. Doctor Jonas. He looked up when I got out of the truck and we waved at one another from a hundred yards, then he went on cooking while I strolled leisurely along the wall, as I'm prone to do.
"Life good, brother Jack?" As I neared him, from about 30 yards. Jonas, I observed, was still wearing old BDUs and more hair than any man needs. He had the look of a man with an odor, though I can't say I noticed one about him.
"Still good, Jonas." He turned down the stove and took a few steps in my direction, arms extended. "We don't hug, Jonas." I held out a hand for shaking, instead (in lieu of the hug). "How's the preaching business?"
"Get's tougher all the time."
We wandered back toward the van and he turned the stove back up.
Jonas is usually known as Doctor Jonas. He carries the Christian gospel to the street people, speed freaks, street prostitutes in Albuquerque. His foot in the door with them is that he uses skills acquired during two tours as a combat medic in Vietnam to provide them with unofficial medical care.
Jonas is something of an institution. He funds his ministry by bringing prescription anti-biotics, anti-inflamatories and whatnot up from Mexico and selling them to illegal aliens in Albuquerque. That, and selling a bit of jade on the side keeps him preaching and ministering to people who need it as badly as anyone in the US can need it.
As we talked I heard a moan from inside the van. I shot a questioning glance at Jonas and he just shrugged. "Junkie having a try at withdrawal. I brought him down to Caballo where I thought I could keep a better eye on him, but the Park Pigs were getting too nosy."
Another of Jonas's services. He serves as a nursemaid and guardian angel for people going through withdrawal from hard drugs. I never saw the guy in the truck, but he moaned on and off all the time we were near enough to the van to hear him.
We talked a bit longer and I had an, "I wish I'd said that" experience before I left, which I'll relate to you maybe in the next entry.