Good for you, Albuquerque! 2004 was a banner year for innovative citizenship in everything from the arts to health care, independent business to urban planning.
Imagine you are serving in the National Guard or Army Reserves in Iraq or Afghanistan and the money you are sending home as the primary bread-winner is no longer enough to cover your family's basic living expenses. Imagine you are failing to make the mortgage payment and face losing your home, or that your spouse can no longer afford to remain enrolled in school, or your family is about to lose their health insurance, or the propane tank needs to be filled and there's no money in the coffee can to get it done.
Several years ago, when the state fair commission decided they no longer wanted the fairgrounds to serve as a temporary winter overflow shelter for homeless men, community members operating as the Homeless Advocacy Coalition planned to create a year-round, secular men's shelter in Albuquerque. It was an ambitious plan for a small coalition operating on a $35,000 annual budget.
During his family practice residency at UNM Hospital, Dr. Andru Ziwasimon said he became aware of the profound barriers and inflated costs of medical care for low-income and uninsured people, and he decided the best way to do his part to fix the problem was start a health clinic that offers primary care to uninsured patients.
Did you know that our little city boasts the largest community land trust west of the Mississippi River? It's right near Old Town in the Sawmill neighborhood and reflects a brilliant, uplifting example of neighborhood folks joining together to combine community values, government subsidies, private capital and new urbanism architecture to create jobs and long-term affordable housing for hundreds of area residents.
Imagine that your child has been diagnosed with cancer. Now imagine that in order to care for your child, either you or your partner has to quit your job. And, if you don't live in Albuquerque, get ready to move here, because the only Pediatric Oncology Clinic in the state is at the University of New Mexico Hospital. If that's not hard enough, imagine that, due to your job loss and the extra expenses of caring for a sick child, you're behind on your rent, your phone bills, your electric bills, and your landlord's threatening to evict you. Sadly enough, such a scenario is not uncommon among families who have a child with cancer.
"When things piss me off I act on them," Sam Slishman says. He was explaining why he invented and patented a collapsible ski pole that can function as a splint for broken leg bones, but he's also shedding light on the reason why he's spent the last two years working on solutions to Albuquerque's persistent problem with substance-
Felix Torres wants to grow high water-use forage crops (like alfalfa) with a low-water use method like hydroponics. This year, his organization, the Indio-Hispano Academy of Agricultural Arts and Sciences (IHAAAS), was awarded a grant by the governor's Water Innovation Fund to study the subject. Now the academy will be growing test crops in a 5,000 square foot greenhouse in the South Valley and looking at the impact hydroponics might have on water conservation techniques in New Mexico. He'll also study the social, cultural and economic aspects of what it would take to implement the practice. Convincing Valley farmers to switch to hydroponics could save tons of water, but it would be a tough sell. But Torres' project, he hopes, is bound to make it happen.
For years, Debbra Colman worked long hours as the executive project director for the Historic District Improvement Company, dedicating her career to Albuquerque's downtown revitalization efforts. Once the downtown Century Theaters complex was finished in 2003, she planned on taking a year off to travel and recover from years of exhaustive overtime. Then she went to the city's East Side animal shelter to retrieve a lost pet for a friend and her travel plans were abruptly put on hold.
It's mainly been a pretty good year for the awwwwwts here in Albuquerque. Yes, there have been a few tragedies. Magnífico gave up its swanky contemporary art space at 516 Central SW a couple months ago. Yeah, that sucked. It also sucked that the Walls Gallery, right next to the Artichoke Café, closed down and that Jon McConville, the long-time, highly innovative Downtown art activist, had to leave town suddenly to deal with a family situation in Idaho.
This last July, a man was found walking along Old Route 66, which, in itself, is not an unusual event. What is unique, is that the man had no name—at least, not one that he could remember. When "John Doe" was found he was dehydrated, starving and had total amnesia.
Elissa Breitbard had a eureka! moment about two years back when she heard of the emerging Boulder Independent Business Alliance (BIBA) of Boulder, Colo., and what the organization was doing in an effort to keep independent businesses alive amidst an ever-increasing threat of chain stores and mega-marts.
One less wart on the ass of Albuquerque's airwaves! After 24 years of basing an entire AM talk radio morning show on never having any ideas of his own, parroting spew from other media outlets and passing himself off as a politically savvy celebrity host, Larry Ahrens® refused a contract renewal offer last Thursday from Citadel Communications, the radio conglomerate that owns the microphone Ahrens used to mouth off into at 770 KKOB. In a statement given to the Journal last week, Ahrens® said he didn't think the offer made by Citadel was "commensurate with my value in the marketplace."
Dateline: Maine—Workers at the Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn, Maine, got an extra shipment of leafy greens recently. While unloading a truckload of watermelons, a volunteer came across a 20-pound bale of marijuana. The man told police the marijuana, which was neatly wrapped with packing tape, was loaded near the front end of a tractor-trailer that was dropping off watermelons at the food bank's warehouse. After the bale was discovered, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency was called. An agent quizzed the volunteer, but it was quickly determined he had nothing to do with the illegal shipment. “It was definitely bizarre,” the volunteer, who did not want to be identified, told the Sun Journal of Lewiston. The marijuana, assumed to be from Mexico and worth an estimated $20,000, was seized as evidence and will likely be destroyed. The Good Shepherd Food Bank distributes donated food to more than 470 food pantries and soup kitchens throughout Maine.
Gracious Grant—Immediately after snagging Second Place in the first annual Governor's Cup Film Challenge and Best Native Film at the recent Santa Fe Film Festival for his short film “Raven Tales,” filmmaker Chris Kientz announced sponsorship of a major film grant in the state of New Mexico. The Las Cruces-based filmmaker has teamed up with the Albuquerque-based nonprofit Media Rights Foundation to offer the grant, which will hopefully encourage our homegrown film industry. Details are still being worked out regarding the distribution of the grant. It will either go to the winner of next year's Governor's Cup or to a film selected by a jury from the Media Rights Foundation. Kientz has already donated $10,000 and was gifted with another $2,000 at the Santa Fe Film Festival. All private and corporate donations to the grant are tax deductible. In addition, $1 from all sales of the “Raven Tales” DVD will go into the grant. The DVD is available in Albuquerque at Andrews Pueblo Pottery and in Santa Fe at the American Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of the American Indian. You can also order it online at www.raventales.ca. For more info on the film grant (and other topics of artistic importance) check out the Media Rights Foundation at www.pbrainmedia.com/
The Library Bar & Grill opened its doors last Friday, Dec. 17, at 312 Central SW, formerly the home of Brewster's Pub. The Library began as a concept bar nearly three years ago in Tempe, Ariz., catering to the lunch and dinner crowd, then transforming somewhat in the later hours of the evening into a bustling nightclub. Live bands will reportedly be an established part of the Library's entertainment, which also includes servers dressed as Catholic schoolgirls who dance on the bar at prescribed times each night for the deeply religious among you, 26 screens featuring music videos, and special events to be announced. ... Local band Frostbite will celebrate the release of their debut CD on Tuesday, Dec. 28, with Evenkeal and 20/20 Blind at 9 p.m. ... In other local band news, at long last KI have put the final touches on their new CD, Powdershy, which they'll officially release on Friday, Jan. 7, at the Launchpad. Meanwhile, you can get a taste of what's in store on the new record by visiting www.kimusic.net where you can download a pair of the fresh tracks. The band are currently busy confirming a second, all-ages CD release party, and you can get the latest update on that show as well by visiting the website.
This much anticipated pairing of our greatest young Britten tenor, Ian Bostridge, and most versatile countertenor, David Daniels, yields impressive results. Britten was a devout Christian and pacifist who wrote much of his vocal music for his life-partner, tenor Peter Pears.
With fans still waiting for Neil Young's boxed set for more than a decade now, the release of Young's first-ever official greatest hits collection last month was something of a letdown in that it indicates that Shakey will spend perhaps another 10 years working on his mythical career retrospective. What you here get are 16 Young classics you've heard a million times, compiled, as his liner note states, “based on original record sales, airplay and known download history.” The included “supersaturated” stereo DVD version of the album is the best reason to buy it, as the sound is truly enormous.
You've got one last chance to see a local production of The Nutcracker. Don't miss this opportunity to expose yourself and the kids in your life to the most popular ballet ever made. Ballet Theatre of New Mexico will be putting up its yearly rendition of the Tchaikovsky classic at the KiMo Theatre (423 Central NW ) on Thursday, Dec. 23, at 7 p.m. and Friday, Dec. 24, at 1 p.m.
What are you doing on New Year's Eve? Well, you could go out to a bar and drink lots of repulsively bad champagne, never getting quite drunk enough to enjoy it when the really drunk people start the countdown to midnight at 11:37 p.m., then realize they've done it too early, and so do it again. And again and again and again. How much sincere woo-hooing can you do if you're not drunk enough to barf or kiss a stranger of the same sex? So, I see two solutions: either you need to drink more, much more, or you should make other plans. This week, I've written about a handful of restaurants that are serving special New Year's Eve menus. Wouldn't that be fun? If it's not in the budget, may I suggest cooking at home for a select group of your favorite people? Tell everyone to get dressed up, pull out your best dishes and light the house with candles. Tell the guests to bring decent bubbly. You can still get drunk enough to barf or kiss each other, but you'll be doing it with people who will hold your hair for you (or hold their tongues about the kissing thing).
Relish (8019 Menaul NE, near Flying Star) shuffles ownership and takes a short holiday. Well, now that's confusing, and I don't want you to think that Chef/Owner Johnny Orr is leaving, because he's not, his business partners are. Tony Nethery, who is chef at Monte Vista Fire Station (Central and Bryn Mawr) and a huge lover of cheese, bought out Orr's other partners. Nethery and Orr plan to work together on some minor improvements to the Northeast Heights cheese and sandwich shop, and to accomplish that, they'll close from Dec. 23 through Jan. 2. The two also plan to talk about possible future plans for Relish, including the idea of expanding the shop's hours. Over the next few weeks, Nethery plans to divide his time between Relish and the Fire Station. He's reluctant to give up his chef duties at the restaurant, where he's implemented a series of popular menus that incorporate his Southern comfort-food aesthetic. I promise to follow Nethery, Orr and both restaurants all this all unfolds in the new year.