The art of moving … no, I'm not talking about rhythmic gymnastics or complicated yoga poses, I mean the actual art of switching residences and claiming a new territory as your personal sanctuary. Since, I'm in a perpetual moving limbo (waiting for a roommate to decide whether or not she's leaving the big, bad Burque), I've been searching Craigslist and various classifieds in search of a new home, a fresh start so to speak.
Since I'm [still] relatively new to the city, I'm not entirely knowledgeable about the various zip codes, what they entail, the good neighborhoods, the bad neighborhoods, the apartments that are low rent v. apartments that are close to a McDonalds. But, I've found that the actual practice of visiting complexes, searching the interweb, and conversing with various consultants is an adventure in and of itself.
For instance, I spoke to one consultant via phone. I couldn't really understand his name through the static, but it sounded something like Naim (I hope that's correct). Extremely excited and chipper on the phone, Naim said he had a great apartment that had been renovated, and the monthly rate was a whopping $450 (all bills included). Since this was in my price range, I jumped at the opportunity, and asked for the address. He informed me that the apartment was on Towner and Juan Tabo. Since I currently live near there, I assumed that the neighborhood would be somewhat nice, and the location seems central enough (in that there are a lot of businesses and stores in that area).
But, as I turned down Towner, what I envisioned as a picturesque resort-like complex of townhouses and pools was quickly overshadowed by streets with pot-holes, some dudes with jeans around their knees giving me the what-you-want stare, and buildings that didn't seem quite renovated. Now, I grew up in what some refer to as “the hood,” and though I rarely get skittish driving through neighborhoods that are considered treacherous for high crime rates (again, I just moved here, so I'm not making any assumptions), this didn't seem like it was for me. So, I kindly turned my car around after throwing the dudes a peace sign, and drove off. I called Naim and informed him that it wasn't for me, and slightly saddened, he just said, “Okay, thank you for calling. Let me know if you're looking for anything in the future.”
Aside from that, I've visited complexes that are within my price range, where the leasing consultants describe a complex as familial, yet tiresome (whatever that means). And I've gone to some that are out of my price range where the consultants said, “We like to keep it quiet around here.” So, no loud music? I'm sorry … next!
So, obviously, the art of moving to a new apartment is a bit like soul searching. You'll hit a few embarrassing moments (like when I jumped a curb next to the leasing office of Wyoming Place in front of the maintenance man), moments of realization (where I realized that a living room might actually be a nice amenity rather than a studio apartment the size of my roommate's closet), moments of clarity (ie. When I came to the conclusion that maybe I'm looking too soon, and should just be comfortable in my current situation). But that's too easy. And so, the search continues …
Texts with Alibi editor Carl Petersen, during the incident.
When we wage war, we often do it with ourselves. Whether it be second-guessing critical choices, or diverting our mind's attention to something less intrusive. Yeah, that's vague. But, sometimes a war is waged on us, and the limits of control are bursting at the seams, begging the question: What happens when it happens to me? So, I thought I'd share my first run-in with Albuquerque police and SWAT.
So, I'm sure that it's no news to people that an armed robber was gunned down near Menaul and Louisiana on March 5th after fleeing from police. I believe the breaking news article focused on businesses in the area being on lockdown as police and SWAT were in pursuit of said robber. Living in the area, approximately smack-dab in the middle of the guarded perimeter which spanned several blocks, I was unable to get into my apartment building upon returning from a grocery-shop excursion.
As my roommate and I tried to turn into our street, a police officer (that reminded me of a young Ed Harris) told us that we had to turn around and find another way home. Pointing to our building, my roommate said, “But we live right there, like RIGHT THERE!” The officer kindly replied, “I'm sorry ma'am, but it's a SWAT stand-off. Can't let anyone through.”
We turned around and went down another road, only to find that it was also being blocked by police. Clearly, they had the entire neighborhood in check. We parked about two houses down from the officer, so that we could see her leave, and we'd know the streets were safe, and we could finally put the lingering perishables in a safe, cozy freezer. To pass the time, we read breaking news reports and ascertained the situation.
After about 20 minutes of waiting, while helicopters flew overhead and seeing several cars get rejected and told to turn around, my roommate looks at me and says, “I'll love you forever if you get down and ask the cop what's going on.” At first, I was a bit hesitant, because with my luck, the robber would have come out the moment I stepped out of the vehicle and used me as a body shield. But, after a moment, I said, “okay,” and got out of the car.
I walked over to a young female officer, and politely said, “Hello … I live right over there in that apartment building, and my roommate and I were wondering about how long do you think you guys are going to be here.” Right after the words left my lips, we heard several gunshots being fired. Without losing her composure or the polite smile on her face, the officer said, “It shouldn't be too much longer.”
After some careful maneuvering, my roommate and I circled the surrounding area, noticing they stopped blocking the entrance to the Sheraton hotel on Louisiana and Menaul. So, we entered the parking lot, drove around back in an attempt to exit the back parking lot, which sits directly across the street from our building. When we got there, we were disappointed to see that it, too, had been blocked off, and officers with assault rifles walked by our car, not even noticing us.
“I think we're in the shit now,” I said. My roommate, clearly one to panic, held her composure and actually got out of the car and told an officer the situation (It being that we were literally across the street from our building and just wanted to get home and put our groceries away). The kind officer said he couldn't remove the tape to let us drive through, but that we could walk across the street and go home. Needless to say, we went home, picked up a grocery basket (my building has several in a downstairs closet), and we walked back across the street and got our groceries.
Upon entering the gate of our apartment building, we found our maintenance guy outside, drinking a Bud Light as he scoped out the situation. As we walked by, he said, “They got him.” “Oh, they did?” we asked. “Yeah, they shot him right over there, see where all those guys are standing?” We turned and saw several armed officers standing in a group on Chama Street (though we'd later discover that this wasn't actually the location where the man was killed).
After settling in our apartment and taking several trips to the balcony to see what was going on (like true nosey Mexicans), we finally went to bed. Upon later reading about the incident, I found out that the deceased's name was Parrish Dennison, and read that he had several ties to white supremacist gangs. Now, a life is a life. Regardless of your beliefs or your political standing, every life lost is always a tragedy.
As human beings, we make choices. While some decisions we make may not always reflect our most innate goodness, every human being has multiple layers that complete the indelible picture we present to people. Dennison chose to rob homes and died for what news reports said was “a guitar and a banjo.” Yet, I learned from a very early age that death is one of those inevitable, inconceivable situations that comes around to teach you the value of living. So, on that note, I say thank you, Mr. Dennison. While you may no longer be with us, you reminded me of that value.
One of the great things about living in Albuquerque is that I have this newfound sense of adventure. Mind you, I usually have more of a self-conscious apprehension of doing anything out of the ordinary. It's borderline obsessive to think about how much I hate to stray from the formula (whatever the formula may be). A mundane example would be how much it bothers me when something interrupts my morning routine i.e. Having to stop for gas on the way to work because I didn't do it the night before. The thought before the action drives me crazy.
Having said that … being in Albuquerque has awakened something. Not sure what it is, but I find myself saying “yes” to more things, and not in a contrived, Jim Carrey movie-inspired way. It's more that I've learned to let go and just say “to hell with it.” Maybe the Burque mentality is rubbing off. Not sure. But in terms of new experiences, here are a few snippets:
I ate at Tucano's Brazilian Grill (which was outrageously delicious). I wish I had more details beyond that, but considering I had a death cold and was forced to sit upright and place pieces of delicious food in my mouth, the meal itself was a magnificent feat.
I went to Knockouts. This undocumented foray into a strip club was my first. Sure, I had offers way back when, but to a warm-blooded, homosexual man, seeing women do the tootsie to Kelis wasn't exactly on my list of things to do before I meet my maker. But, a “straight” friend said I was his boyfriend to get me in the club for free. Needless to say, I had drinks with neon ice cubes (weird!), gave some $1 bills to a woman in a fishnet tutu (do those really exist?) and laughed harder than I can ever recall.
And lastly, I shaved my head and took my first bathroom picture to prove it. This may not seem like such a big deal, but I haven't had a shaved head since I was in seventh grade, and I think it mostly had to do with people constantly telling me I had beautiful hair and should let it grow. So I did. Maybe it was the mountain air, the high altitudes, or just something I ate, but out came the clippers and off went the hair. I can't say I like it, but it is an interesting change. As for documenting it, I rarely stand in bathrooms long enough to pull out my phone and take a snapshot, but I think it was warranted.
A food review? Not quite. I'm not one for food reviews only because I have an exceptionally limited palate. (When I was little, French fries were my favorite food. No joke.) But, this entry of my weekly foray into the underbelly of Albuquerque is a celebratory one. Because I've found it, people. A little nest of heaven sidled near a car dealership on San Mateo. Yes, I'm sure you've heard of it. Sushi Gen.
A friend of mine went to this place and urged me to try it. Her exact words, “Unlimited specialty rolls for $20, and they're actually delicious. You can't beat that.” She was absolutely right, but I have to warn you about one thing. Do not, and I repeat, DO NOT order more than you can consume. For every piece of sushi you don't eat, you have to pay for the entire roll. In other words, if your consumption proves too taxing to even think of downing that last piece of California roll idly sitting on your plate, then you have to pay for an entire California roll. It could be a bummer, but if you're like me, that's a challenge to bring your A-game.
As I said last week, I'm incredibly competitive, so when that plate hit the table with 7+ rolls to split between two people, I cracked my fingers, stretched my neck and back and got to work. About halfway through the meal, I needed a breather. My dining buddy wasn't as keen on marathon eating as I was, so she had to take several moments to recuperate, drinking Diet Coke and talking to distract herself from how full she was. Like a little league coach, I mentored her, saying, “Just keep breathing, keep imagining the finish line. There will not be a piece of sushi left on this plate, you understand?” She nodded her head in agreement.
Toward the final round of sushi madness, there were only three pieces left. One piece of the crunch roll (which has eel, avocado, cream cheese and more) and two pieces of the rainbow roll (which has I-don't-remember). Looking as if she was going to faint, my friend looks at me and says, “I'll make a deal with you.” She takes a moment to sip her refilled Diet Coke. “If you eat those rainbow roll pieces, I'll eat that last crunch roll.” So, basically, she was giving me a two-for-one special. It was pay for two rolls, or down two pieces for the win.
Needless to say, I ate the sushi, went home, fell on my couch and didn't move for about 12 hours. If you mathematically document the amount of sushi it takes to place one in a post-meal coma, you probably wouldn't have a formula to match the amount of expanding rice that was laying siege in my stomach. It was downright gluttony, but if given the choice, I'd do it all over again, and oops, I kind of did. I went back this past Wednesday with three people instead of one, and let's just say it was a nice lunch, and no one needed a gurney.
Until next week … Oh, and feel free to send me more suggestions of things to try, places to go, or trouble to get into. I'm game if you are.
Between the time I wrote about the welcoming attitudes of Albuquerque and the time I'm taking to write this, at least one interesting thing happened.
Hoping to acclimate myself to the city more, a friend recommended that we indulge in one of the simple pleasures that aligns itself with living in the 505—gambling. And I'm sure everyone has at least one good gambling story to contribute to the masses. Now, I've never gambled before, unless you count weekends with my family back in Texas, playing poker or screw-your-neighbor (it's not what it sounds like). Always excited to unleash my competitive side, I said, “to hell with it!” So, we got dressed up and headed to the Sandia Resort and Casino.
After waiting in a ridiculously long line to register to become a member (all the while staring at the beckoning slot machines and blackjack tables), I kept growing antsy, and my inebriated friend was becoming somewhat of a nuisance. Like a soldier in battle, I kept my composure and my eyes revealed nothing … except that I was growing impatient.
Once we were issued member cards and let into the casino with our complimentary $25 in chips, we headed straight for the bar. Oh, and you can smoke in the casino, which immediately indicated to me that I was home. After downing a couple of vodka-red bulls, I headed to the blackjack table, where I eagerly threw my money (and my friend's money because she became too drunk to play) into the game. The dealer pushed the chips back to me, and said, “You have to wait until a new game.” Somewhat embarrassed as the other players scoffed at me, I sat back and watched.
I eyed their expressions, their bodily ticks, their gestures. I had them pegged. Once the new deck was dealt, my money was on the table, and it was on. The $50 that I started out with turned into $100, and that $100 turned into $150, and that $150 turned into $200. A voice inside said to walk away. To a young, broke writer like myself, quadrupling your money in 10 minutes is unheard of. But I ignored the voice, and my $200 turned into $100, and that $100 turned into $25, and then BOOM! I was out.
It only took 15 minutes to land at ground zero, but it was perfect timing. My aforementioned companion telephoned me to say she had hailed a cab outside, and seeing as how I had no funds left to enjoy myself, the time to leave was then or never. So, I reluctantly sauntered toward the exit, turning around to take one last look at the casino, my home away from home. The live band playing Temptations covers made it even harder to say, “good-bye.” Upon getting in the cab, I knew I'd be back. Still, it just goes to show that even when the stakes are high, and your funds are low, there's always one last silver lining to guide you safely onward, or it at least to a cab gearing up to take you home.
Before I moved to Albuquerque a few months ago, I had a talk with my roommate (who had already lived here for a year). She explained to me that Albuquerque was a huge art-based city with such attributes as relaxed people, balloon festivals and green chile. She explained that you had to ask for “no green chile” or else people put it on everything. She also warned me of another thing.
She paused for a second before saying, “Well, the people here are really nice.” My initial response: “Oh no … ” “Yeah,” she said, “That means you have to learn how to be nice back.”
She wasn't lying. Since I've moved here, I've noticed that everyone I've met, or had the pleasure of conversing with, is incredibly nice to the point where it makes me feel inadequate, almost foreign. Not to say I'm this huge egomaniacal, mean-spirited, better-than-everyone person. In fact, just the opposite. Everyone I've met has told me how incredibly nice I am, but when I meet people that are described as “nice” or “sweet,” my guard is immediately up. But that hasn't happened here.
Whether I'm riding the Tram over a plane crash that happened years ago (fearing for my life) or traipsing through Old Town in search of some old-fashioned quality to help me escape the somewhat-midlife modernity of adulthood, everyone I speak to always wants to know two things: Where are you from? And what brought you to Albuquerque? I've never seen a place where people want to know your story, know who you are, and know about your hobbies, goals, artistic endeavors, favorite color, etc.
What was once a fear and apprehension of moving to a city surrounded by the desert quickly turned into relief at the fact that this city not only has so much to offer, but that its people are just happy and content to be here. And that shows in their carefree attitudes. My hometown could use a little of that. This, in itself, is one of my first experiences of living here, and though people have suggested a few items of adventurous inquiry, everything worth doing is done in due time.
Who knows? By next Friday, maybe I will have ridden a donkey in the desert while sipping Tequila, or fired a shotgun at broken bottles at the foothills, or eaten at a traditional, Burque restaurant. I'm always up for more suggestions.
I love me a small-town newspaper. Truth Or Consequences has two, The Sierra County Sentinel and The Herald. The above item was in the January 18th edition of the Sentinel and has a marvelous last paragraph.
The Red Riding Trilogy, inspired by the Yorkshire Ripper case
On This day in 1981 Peter Sutcliffe was charged with the murders of 13 women in the county of Yorkshire, Northern England. Sutcliffe was identified as the Yorkshire Ripper, a serial killer believed to be responsible for at least 13 murders and seven maimings over a period of six to ten years. The Ripper preyed mostly on prostitutes and was the subject of many televised pleas by police for information, resulting in so many leads that authorities were overwhelmed to a degree that made the case virtually unsolvable.
The Yorkshire Ripper case is one of the inspirations behind Red Riding, an excellent trilogy of feature-length television episodes that first aired in March of 2009. Red Riding captures the bleakness of Northern England in the 70's and 80's while weaving together a dark and complex story that is not easy to forget. You may be compelled to watch the series many times, each viewing transporting you to a particular time and place in Britain.
Local retro-fashions boutique 66 Pin-Ups presents a very well-sponsored fashion show of retro styles this evening in Ballroom C of the Student Union Building on the main campus of the University of New Mexico. Reasons to attend: It's a benefit for Engineers Without Borders; beautiful women (and men) wearing nifty threads; Paul Higdon's much-lauded Range Box from Alibi's 2012 Operation Art Box will be used as a prop.
Just because it says Pabst doesn't mean there will be any
Of course after the show the Range Box will be returned to it's home at Sister Bar, where being surrounded by beautiful and handsome people is par for the course.
Here in the land of my ancestors be a man with grit, a man who dares send messages to all and sundry from his perch on a bench. This is Ralph Dymer, and he is Sign Guy. Sign Guy has been killing some retired man's time sitting in front of his senior's apartment building for the past few years where he displays homemade signs with content running the entire spectrum of moods, from merry to disgruntled. Not everybody loves Sign Guy. Sign Guy's presence has been known to provoke compulsive honking from drivers passing by (and he is essentially sitting beside a highway, so there are plenty or passing cars) which greatly upset Sign Guy's fellow apartment dwellers. Read here about the time Sign Guy lost his bench.