Now that’s Rasquache

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I had a pretty good laugh upon reading the ABQjournal this morning. I love our fair New Mexico. As hard as we try to play with the bigs, trumpeting articles like “Santa Fe Named No. 2 for Artists” (never mind my childish potty humor over using “No. 2” in a headline…..) showing we’ve got class, there is always another article to show just how small town we still are.

I’m referring to this article, “Albuquerque May Get Tricky With Red Light Cameras”. I’ve read over the past few weeks the articles discussing the future of the cameras. Lots of folks are understandably unhappy with them. I’ve only given half an eye to those articles because where I live now, the San Francisco Bay Area, red light cameras are prevalent and have been for the better part of the ten years I’ve lived here. I don’t like them anymore than anyone else, but they are just part of life. I’ve been cheering the good fight put on by the folks of New Mexico, but I know it is, in the end, a losing battle.

The article states, “City officials are talking about shutting down the camera operations at some of the most successful intersections but leaving the apparatus in place, making it appear as if the device still works.”

What’s happening there? Not enough funding to run the systems? Or not enough funding to have enough people to review the photos? I understand that is the most time consuming part, having people analyze the photos. The article states that some $6 million has been taken in since the program’s inception in late 2004 (which seems low to me for a two year span given tickets here will run you $280, but what do I know?).

“‘We are coming to a point in the program where you evaluate,’ police spokesman John Walsh said.”

Evaluate what? Money? Effectiveness? They report that accidents are down at the main intersections where this is being used. What’s to evaluate about that?

The best part is that they are TELLING us they are doing it. Those wacky APD folks sure are wily!

Wow.

They don’t outright say it, but the plan to move the cameras to other intersections and leave inoperable shells behind has got to be a cost saving maneuver. For a program that’s taken in over $6M.

That’s like when your kid has a toothache….instead of taking your kid to the dentist, tying a string to a doorknob and yanking that sucker.

That’s like using tin foil for curtains in your house.

That’s like using a wooden cable spool for your dining table.

Fake intersection cameras. Now THAT’S rasquache.

God I love New Mexico. The more we try to big league it, the more our true nature shows. I’m proud to be a New Mexican…….I really am.

I raise bailing wire and duct tape in a salute to Mayor Martin Chavez and the APD for this fabulous traffic accident saving idea.

Let’s keep it on memory lane

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All the talk lately about Governor Richardson running for president has had me thinking about the men who have occupied the governor’s seat in New Mexico. It’s funny, I lived there from the early 70’s through the 90’s and off the top of my head I can only remember two (though there were more).

Toney Anaya. He served from 1983 to 1987. That was when I was in high school. My mom used to call him Toney Annoy-ya. He was this little nebbish of a man. To be honest, the only thing I remember about him is that in the waning days of his leadership, he commuted every death sentence in the state to life in prison. Oh man, were there some hostile folks about that. New Mexico is traditionally a very Democratic state. But there is a good portion of New Mexico (farmers and ranchers, mostly) that are as conservative as heck. My dad was an engineer and as is traditional for the engineering folk, also incredibly conservative. He leaned so far to the right I’m surprised he didn’t flop over when he walked. Thankfully one of his offspring (me) has turned out quite moderate. I can even walk in a straight line. I remember when this whole thing went down with Anaya he would fume and talk back to the television when the news was reporting about the details. At the time I remember thinking it was a pretty compassionate thing to do, but wondered how we’d pay for it all. Governor Anaya certainly left an impression on the state. On me too, it seems.

The other one I remember is Bruce King. He served from 1971 to 1975 and again from 1979 to 1983 and then again from 1991 to 1995. No wonder I remember him so well, he was governor for most of life. The memory I’m here to talk about today had to be from his first incarnation as governor. My memory is pretty fuzzy about my childhood, and so dates are tough, but there are certain memories that are vivid in the visuals. This is one.

I was in grade school, had to be maybe first or second grade. We went on a field trip to the capitol building in Santa Fe (“The Roundhouse”) and had a tour. I remember the state legislature was in session. We all had to go in and sit quietly and listened for a while. I can only say this from my memory…boooooring.

The tour continued and we went on to the office of the governor. I remember standing around when the teacher and other adults suddenly got twitterpated. Without warning the largest, loudest man I’d ever seen in my life in the biggest brownest polyester suit emerged from some hidden doorway and came out to greet the children. Many of the kids ran to him and hugged his leg. I had zero idea who the hell that was (I was always a head in the clouds kind of child) and I sure as hell wasn’t going to hug a man that scared me senseless.

He came around to us, one by one, patting heads (in hindsight, kind of like a priest). I remember when he patted my own head he stank of cigar smoke. He scared me even further up close. I have sensitive ears and that guy was *loud*.

I’ve included a photo I found on the web at the end of this post. I have no idea of the date of that photo but I can say he makes Bill Clinton look small in that photo, and Clinton is no tiny man.

I think that brief meeting of a “man of power” at a young age sort of tinged my view of all governors…and maybe presidents too. I expect them to be all verbose, bluster and polyester. I may not be too far off the mark.

Anyone had the chance to meet Bill Richardson? What’s he all about? Shoot me a comment or an email, I’d love to know.

When memories reach up and grab you

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Lately I’ve been on quite a jag of reading the works of one noble New Mexico left handed cowboy poet named Baxter Black. He’s a good friend of my “adopted dad” (my best friend’s father). I had the chance to meet him once back in college and I’ve heard stories of his over the years.

I was heartened to see that my local library carried a good selection of Bax’s works. They make you smile, make you think and make you outright laugh yer bum off.

I just got done reading one of his collections from a few years back. It was one of the books of his NPR material called “Horseshoes, Cowsocks and Duckfeet”. One selection from that book is called “Lake Valley”.

Man oh man. That almost made me weep with homesickness. It also made me smile to know that two people, some twenty-five years apart in age, have similar memories of the same event. That’s the staying power of Lake Valley.

In fact, back in college I used to go to Lake Valley with my best friend. She’s the one who turned me on to it. Her parents used to come along with us too, having danced at Lake Valley back in the day (and probably along with Bax). I remember at the dance they used to give you a family rate of $20. My fill-in dad would gather up all us scraggly college kids, blonds, redheads, brunettes, short, tall, thin, stocky and all about the same age. He’d point to our gang, tell ’em that was his family, throw ’em a twenty at the door and we’d all get in.

You know, in our way, we were (and are) family.

The way Bax describes Lake Valley in his writing is just how I remember it. Though when I was going, a band called The Rounders were the ones playing the old songs. What a talented group, The Rounders…they even played at my best friend’s wedding. Now THAT was a party.

At the end of this post is a photo I found online. It’s how the schoolhouse used to look. Ok, imagine that…but with no desks and a lot more years on it and that’s pretty much how it used to look. See that riser there at the end? Where the teacher would sit? That’s where the band would play. It was a long narrow room and we had to dance in a long oval. Like Bax said, the floorboards give under your feet and after all the years they weren’t particularly even, so you had to mind your feet, but oh was it a hell of a good time.

I’ve never felt quite so free, happy and in touch with the simple easy joys in life. I miss the feeling of flying I’d get dancing a polka with my very tall and very dear friend Larry. I loved the camaraderie of wrapping arm around arm and doing the Schottische and Cotton Eyed Joe (“stepped in what?”). And, as Bax said, when the band took a break, we’d all migrate outside to cool off and dip into the ice chest for food, beverages and the telling of a few good stories.

Ah the memories. If I let ’em, they’ll take over my whole day.






Image from Living Ghost Towns.




The sound of crickets chirping…

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In my head. Oh god, all day long when I ponder what will be my blog entry for today, all I hear are crickets. (Go here if you are aurally challenged and need help imagining the sound. I did.)

It is day nine of blogdom for me and I’m more than embarrassed to admit I don’t have any good ideas for a post today. So I’ll post about my lack of post, how’s that?

When I set out (just over a week ago) the ideas flowed easily. I’m not ashamed to admit I’m pretty proud about how things are going so far. As I mentioned in the beginning, this blog starts out as a source of good discipline for me as a writer. And today I’m up against one of my demons as a writer. “Eh, I don’t have a good idea, so I’ll not bother to even write.”

This is bad. It victimizes great writers every day.

For the past few years I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month, an exercise in which you force yourself to write 50,000 words in thirty days for the sheer challenge of doing so. I’ve done it twice and won both times. Mainly because I learned this about myself: I work great under a tight deadline. When the race is on and there’s “something in it”, I’m all over it.

But my momentum tends to lag when there isn’t a carrot out there that I’m running toward.

That’s the discipline I’m working on. I’m an amateur writer working on growing my chops. I see how far I’ve come in the almost ten years since I set out to honestly focus on writing, and I can sure see how far I’ve yet to grow.

They say, “write what you know” and writing about New Mexico fits that bill. So far I’m having a good time with this. I hope over time I can get some eyes here that aren’t just family and friends (though I’m incredibly grateful to any family member or friend who is giving me a glance).

I love writing, I really do, and this blog, I’ve discovered, is actually harder to do than it seems. Not complaining. It was just surprising to me. I have some favorite bloggers that I’ve read over the years who complain about how much time a blog takes. I always thought, “pish posh, get with the posting!” Now I know better.

I’m having a fun time…despite the ever increasing volume of crickets in the noggin today.

I suppose I could blame the ABQjournal for having a slow Sunday, or New Mexico Magazine for having a slow month (the “home edition” always leaves me cold, I flipped through it in record time today). But that’s just all excuses. And the time has come to stop making excuses.

Today, I write. Look at that….you can squeeze a whole post outta nothing to write about!

Maybe They Oughta Listen to My Mom

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During the some 27 years I lived in New Mexico, I had many occasions to encounter the Rio Grande. How might I best describe my impressions? Muddy, dangerous, cold, forceful undertow. Oh yeah, and flotsam and jetsam of the highest order. Things that make you go ewww as they drift by in the swirling eddies of the mud colored water.

My mom always insisted that my siblings and I not swim in “that dirty water”. Her main worry, of course, was that in the dry seasons, trees and weeds grow in abundance in the empty riverbed. During runoff, water covers that tangled underbrush and it’s real easy to get a foot caught and that’s that in a wicked undertow. The river flows fast when it’s flowing.

I’d heard stories through the years too about if you swim don’t gulp any of the water. Hepatitis. E coli. Other exotic things with exotic names I can’t remember.

I can honestly say, I’ve never swum in the water of the Rio Grande. Now I took on the muddy waters of Ute Lake with a pink air mattress and a smile during summers in my childhood, but I never had occasion to swim in the river. Occasions presented themselves, but I never went in. I’ve sat on the muddy banks a lot, pondering life, raising hell, drinking beer. Once after losing my college love, I sat by the banks of the river in Las Cruces for days on end and raised the water level with the volume of tears I cried. But swim? No.

In each person’s life, they have a collection of images in their head that are indelible. They stick for a variety of reasons. The first time you saw the love of your life. A terrible car crash you once witnessed. What it was like to see the ocean for the first time. One of those images from the mélange in my own brain is from my college days. There were lots of spots in the greater Las Cruces area with good access to the Rio Grande. As such, we college kids made it a point to have many a celebration by the banks of the Rio Grande. Many of these “river parties” took place at night, after a dance or the bar closed. But sometimes it would start as a barbeque down by the water and last into the night.

One afternoon on a warm day, a gang of girls piled in to the car and headed to the river for a barbeque day. It was a crowded party and there were some boys swimming in the river. I always give the river a beady eye of skepticism mainly because my mom drummed it into me. So I watched these nineteen-year-old guys swimming around in that gross water with fascination. I remember one guy, I can’t honestly remember his name, but he was in the water and he was swimming with all his might against the current and he was losing ground. This was a strong guy, in good shape and a strong swimmer and he was putting everything into it, and the river was pushing him back.

Ok, I know for any “mighty” river this probably isn’t all that amazing. But to me, it crystallized everything my mom had said about the dangers of swimming in that water.

Along with the wonder of seeing him swim for all he’s worth and not get any forward progress was seeing bits of yuck floating past him in the water. Not only was I horrified at the danger he put himself in swimming into the current, but my god, what danger did all that crap pose to his health?!?!

By the time that water makes it to the southern end of the state, it’s been subjected to some pretty heinous stuff. Insecticides, manure, runoff, and the occasional dear departed dog. Yes, horrible to say but true, many a person has tossed their deceased animal into that water. Hell, a few human bodies too, but that’s almost too much to consider.

In October this year I took my partner to see the span of river near my folks place in Los Chaves on the Bosque. It’s beautiful there. As we stood on the banks I recall him saying to me, “What’s that foamy stuff floating by?” God knows. I sure didn’t.

So this is a long way of saying there is no way in hell I’d drink that water. So imagine the ewww face I made when I read the article in the Albuquerque Tribune with the story title: “Taste testers find Rio Grande water earthy, approachable”.

Say it with me now….EWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!

The story says that in Albuquerque they are building a treatment plant to make the water, and I quote “drinkable and deliverable to area sinks, toilets and showers.”

They’d do best not to tell folks where the water came from. Cuz I know I’m not the only one who’d be real opposed to having that in my water glass.

I know beggars can’t be choosers when water is tight. But gad…that’s just…gross.

I do love the quote, though, from a local winemaker John Calvin. “He detected some ‘overtones of granite,’ he said, a hint of ‘Russian olive in the nose,’ and something else that might have been ‘evergreen trees after a rain.'”

Wow. Bet that’s not all he tasted……

(actual photo of the actual river in Los Chavez)


Photo by Karen Fayeth