Albuquerque Arts Scene

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Yeah? There is one?

There is if you read Eric Griego’s opinion piece A Cultural Mecca in the Albuquerque Tribune.

I think he oversells it juuust a skosh, but I’ll be fair. I think the arts and entertainment scene in Albuquerque has ramped up muchly in the ten years since I left. (Ten years? TEN YEARS!??!?! That cannot be…and yet…it was Memorial Day 1997 that a scared sh-tless ABQ girl loaded up her Jeep and took off for parts west…)

Since I left, the Journal Pavilion was built. Wow. THAT was a much necessary addition to ABQ to allow big name acts a decent place to play and incentive to stop in ABQ. I’ve not been there myself but have heard great reviews of the place despite the long single road access to the venue.

Sure beats the hell out of, oh, I don’t know…Tingley. I mean….going to a Megadeath concert in the same place they hold rodeos always held a certain bit of irony for me…..but it’s so rasquache it almost hurts. I remember going to a show, sitting in the nosebleed seats, I mean TOP row, leaned back against the wall and feeling the whole building vibrate. I wondered how much longer it would stand. I remember seeing Garth Brooks there as water leaked from the roof onto concert goers….

And for the life of me I can’t remember the name of the place where I saw my first concert…it’s killing me (after much Googling…I believe it was the Civic Auditorium). It was a small music venue, back at that time we all went there and the only good bands that would come to ABQ would play there. And as the band Missing Persons rocked out, bits of ceiling tile fell on my brother and me. I am not making this up. I believe it finally closed due to asbestos issues. That was early 80’s. Oy.

I was heartened to see that many of the casinos have built nice venues for acts. True, it’s just a ploy to get people to come out and pay to play, but still…it’s at least a decent venue and I’m guessing the casinos pay the acts fairly well. I’m planning a trip to ABQ this summer to catch a show at the amphitheater at the Sandia Casino. I’ve not attended a concert there yet but I’ve seen the venue and I think it’s beautiful.

It’s a start.

Griego mentions the National Institute of Flamenco (discussed here a couple posts back) and the Tricklock Theater Company. Yes. These are all good starts….but if your local arts scene is reduced to Taos artist colonies, Flamenco and a stage theater company…then no, you aren’t yet ready for prime time.

I’ve always said I saw more concerts and cultural events in the first two years living in the Bay Area than I did in the nearly three decades I lived in NM. That’s just sad. And one of the main reasons I’ve always thought I probably can’t go back. My own art has grown leaps and bounds because I’m surrounded by creatives. Creativity is sewn into the DNA of the Bay Area. North Beach in San Francisco fairly hums with the vibe. You sit in a historic coffee shop and channel the writers and musicans, poets and photographers that have come through over the years. And your art is appreciated, accepted, encouraged. And given room to breathe, to be shown, to be admired.

So my fair Albuquerque. Yes, you have MUCH culture to be shared. And I love you dearly, but sorry Mr. Griego, “Burque” (god i *HATE* that euphemism) has a long, long way to go before it can play in the bigs.

Not saying it doesn’t have potential…just saying there is a lot of growing up yet to do……

It tortures me.

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Ever read a book that tortures you, draws you to it until you are forced to read it every moment you get, and you are thinking about it every moment you aren’t reading it?

I haven’t had a book haunt me in a long time. But I’ve got one going now.

The Flamenco Academy by Sarah Bird.

Picked it up at the library in the new fiction section. In fact I didn’t even find it, my partner did. He handed it to me saying, “it’s set in Albuquerque”. I read the cover blurb and thought, “ok, I’ll give it a try”.

Little did I know….

It HAUNTS me!

Maybe it’s supposed to? Maybe that is the heart of Flamenco? To haunt those who enjoy the art? Maybe it’s all one big metaphor I’m either not smart enough or not drunk enough to understand?

I’ve learned a lot about Flamenco from these pages. I admit, I knew very little going in. Heck, I didn’t even know there is a Flamenco academy at UNM. Who knew? Lots of people, evidently.

The fact that the story is so painfully wrought, touches a *little* close to home with some of the emotional issues AND is set in Albuquerque? Oy. Torture.

About three chapters in I slammed it down and told my partner, “I can’t read this” and got snotty about it.

Then I picked it back up and kept going. I’ve been going to sleep too late every night with the “just one more chapter” philosophy that *never* works. One more turns into one more that turns into one more.

There is this negative review of the book on Amazon. The reviewer says “If you have any intellect this book will drive you crazy.” Well, I have some intellect and it does drive me crazy…but not in the way the reviewer meant. Just…crazy.

I can’t say I *love* it, I can repeat that I’m tortured by it. I remarked this evening that I can hardly wait until I’m finished with it so the torture can end.

For now, I’m about three quarters done and this book OWNS me.
______________________________

Update: I finished. The ending left me….unfinished.

To reunite…or not.

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I’m thinking not.

This summer, I’ve been notified, is the twenty-year reunion of my high school. Oh sob.

I declined to attend the ten year. I hated high school. Oh, the school itself was fine, but that time of my life was….not great.

I didn’t have many friends in high school. I was well liked by all accounts, but out of a class of 550 graduates, I would venture I only knew a few.

And I only had two real close friends that I ran around with.

The closer of the two, an amazing girl full of life and vibrancy and a laugh that would light up the stars…she would be the only reason I’d even want to go. To sit with her and issue the snark and self-deprecating humor and assure ourselves that we are cool despite all evidence to the contrary.

Sadly that beautiful sense of humorous snark was extinguished by cancer in 2005. It hardly seems the same without her.

The other is a lovely woman who has married and has three children. She is a stay at home mom and has become quite religious. I’m happy for her, she is happy with her life. It’s just that…she and I no longer have anything in common.

The rehashed conversation about how I remain jealous that SHE got to date the star football player AND wear his letterman’s jacket while I never not once dated in high school will only last for a few minutes.

Then we’re left with…silence.

I looked at the list of other folks who are attending and I sort of know a few but nothing there is compelling me to get on a plane and spend three days with a wan smile on my face trying to pretend like 1) this is fun and 2) this used to be fun.

The gang is meeting up Friday night at Billy’s Long Bar. An Albuquerque institution, indeed. There are probably bits of my DNA in the thrashed bar and the barf stained carpet. But that was a lifetime ago. That was a different me. And I’m disinclined to revisit that person I once was. I’ve come a long way, baby.

So despite the fact that I “should” or “it would be fun” I think I’m going to pass on the reunion again this year.

What I can’t seem to get over is…why do I feel guilty about that?

Oh the life of a recovering Catholic…….

A Little South of the Big I

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Since I barely kicked this thing off a day ago, probably best for my own mind as much as anything, to jot down where I’m headed with this blog.

This is my first foray into blogging after having read quite a few out there, some good, some downright compelling, and some hardly worth the mouse click. I can’t really say what I think makes some work and others flop. Something interesting to say, perhaps. Frequency of posting helps too. Topical, popular, and hip all make a dent as well.

Can’t say I’m any of that. When asked why I’m starting a blog, the honest answer is that at my heart, I’m a writer. That’s all I want to be when I grow up, a professional writer. A blogger I like (who writes for a local paper in her hometown) mentioned that a blog is a great way for exposure. Now…she’s got quite a hook to her blog, what with being a professional sex worker and all. But I take what she says seriously. She’s got quite a following.

But maybe more than exposure, this has a deeper meaning. Discipline. See, I’m a lazy writer. I tend to write when I’m inspired and languish about when no great ideas hit my mind. That is lazy. Every Learning Annex class on writing and every book on writing and every person doling out advice on writing tell you to write every day. And I don’t. But maybe with a blog, I will.

Then again, once the new wears off, will the posts tail away?

With a shrug, all I can say is…it remains to be seen.

In a brainstorming over coffee with someone who has opinions I respect very much, we kicked around the idea of a blog. I knew I wanted to try it, but didn’t have much to say on any one topic. A blog about my own self, expounding on my own pent up thoughts seemed a bit self-serving. My partner, who is wise beyond belief, suggested I write about New Mexico because he knows how much it means to me to have been raised there. I long for it, feel homesick for it, and speak about it all the time, to anyone will listen.

The more I thought about his idea, the more I knew he was right. If nothing else, this will allow me the space and the freedom to lament and remember and give in to bouts of homesick melancholy. For nothing is ever as grand as you see it in your memories. When I go back home, I love it for about three days then begin see the cracks in the adobe façade. The ristra is just a little bit tattered. There are too many orange barrels for comfort.

And when I leave and come back to my new home…I always lament how fast Californians move, how crowded it is, how the rain leaves me cold. But in my heart, I love New Mexico. And in my way, I love the Bay Area too. So inside, I have the best of them both.

Most of the stuff out there in the press about New Mexico is pretty well focused on Northern New Mexico. From the celebs in Taos to our Governor (and Democratic Presidential Candidate)’s big doin’s in Santa Fe.

Oh, towns south of Santa Fe get the occasional oddball like the stolen baby found in Clovis and the runaway bride found in Albuquerque, but generally, there is no love for the parts of the state south of La Bajada Hill.

Well, there was NMSU’s brief run at the NCAA this year. But even then, the media focus was more about the Hollywood coach than it was about the school.

So this blog aims to look a little bit south of the Big I. We’re talking Albuquerque on south. Oh, sure, will there be an occasional Northern New Mexico entry? Sure. I reserve that right. Hell, I plan to rant about Richardson pretty soon. This will be about my thoughts on current stuff, my memories from growing up and going to school at NMSU, my laments and thoughts and whatever else comes to mind about the great state of New Mexico, what with it being all enchanting and everything…


photo by Karen Fayeth