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V.22 No.23 | 6/6/2013

Guest Blog

La Bella Banana

An exclusive guest essay from Albuquerque Bus Stops

Years ago I knew her only as Ann, the dolled-up secretary at a South Valley elementary school where I used to translate some language into another. Just last month, egged on by two pooch-faced drug addicts begging for a hamburger and twenty-five dollars, I met “Bella Banana” smiling and smelling of Jimmy Choo over an Arby’s cashier counter. We promised to meet for coffee sometime but never did. We opted for some boba tea and a bus ride, all around a sweeter deal.

Her heroes were all fabulous: Verónica Castro, Thalía, Susan Lucci, Lucy Lawless (the most bella of the bellas). She tried to follow in their footsteps, modeling and schmoozing in the world of entertainment. But it was a truncated emergence, both for her and for Albuquerque, and before long the window to stardom had shut. “Beautiful sixteen year-olds are born everyday, and how do you compete with that?” she says, at peace now with her resignation to less fab fates.

Bella had enjoyed working at the South Valley school where I first met her, but she felt she did not fit in. She and the other office staff used to sit together at lunch and chew the fat over low-grade public school pizza and something like lettuce salad, but one day, a discussion of real and dream weddings drove a wedge between them. Irene had gotten married in a Best Western hotel room. Janette’s parents forced her to marry her Juanito after she got pregnant at sixteen. Erica was at New Futures at thirteen, and being far too young to marry, simply never got around to it. Bella, on the other hand, had bigger plans:

“When I get married,” she told the girls, “I want a 64-carat Chanel diamond ring, a Vera Wang vintage wedding dress, and oh my God, the wedding has to be somewhere just perfect, like the Sistine Chapel!”

“Tu te crees mucho, eh?” (“You think you’re all that, eh?”), the humble-dream girls chided. A nasty sort of ideological abyss soon left Bella sitting alone at lunch. It pervaded more than just the feelings of the girls, for its implications weighed on the futures of the children they were there to serve.

“It’s okay if you don’t want anything special for yourself,” Bella told me. “But it’s not right to teach the kids that they shouldn’t dream big.”

And speaking of “not big,” Bella’s $11,500 annual salary at Albuquerque Public Schools was simply not compelling enough to stick around. Eventually she decided to leave education for the private sector, and was hired to manage an Arby’s fast-food restaurant for three times her previous salary. There are drawbacks, however. Today she puts in seventy-five-hour workweeks at the sandwich joint, managing a fluid and constantly changing stock of some eleven employees who might be more invested in their job were it not for the policy of the franchise to limit their hours to twenty-seven per week. Apparently, Arby’s found a loophole out of paying Obama Care through that age old trick of screwing over one’s destitute labor force.

All of Bella’s employees, incidentally, regularly use the bus, which today is bustling, indeed. At the corner of Harvard and Central we meet 17-year-old Gabi, a CNM freshmen on her way home from a Summer session class on criminology. Unlike her two brothers, both of whom “do nothing at all,” she wants to be a probation officer when she finishes school. As Bella digs into the details of the more juicy aspects of life, we are all nearly trampled by a one-legged man in a wheel chair bellowing his claim to being the second cousin of the one and only Elvis Presley, whose name is tattooed on his forearm. “I’ll do anything to get my picture taken!” he says. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, he decides to ride along with us, subtly suggesting we might all wind up at a cheap hotel somewhere with a bottle of party-all-night. It doesn’t happen. We part with a sweet and anti-climatic handshake at Louisiana and Central, and Elvis rides into the sun setting over the flea market.

On the way back, we meet Ben, who makes all of his own fetish leather gear, and Adolfo, who is the brother of Alfonso and the son of Alonso. Ben is heading downtown to see a show. Adolfo just lost all his money at the casino, save for some change for bus fare. Bella and I get off at Yale and Central. After a golden hug goodbye, I thank her for the lovely company, and for introducing me to the bubbly world of boba tea. Another day slides off the horizon, and the coolness of the desert night saves our baked souls once again.


Michael Jerome Wolff created to get intimate with the lifeline and underbelly of the place he calls home. With critique and compassion, he explores public space and those inhabiting it through photographs and real human stories.

V.21 No.47 |


The Daily Word in English royalty, Bigfoot, and the "I Dream of Jeannie" guy died

The Daily Word

Someone stole a Navajo blanket from a Santa Fe resort.

Slate wrote the least entertaining Bigfoot piece ever.

Boxer Hector Camacho died from his gunshot wounds.

You already knew J.R. died but did you know Larry Hagman was friends with Kieth Moon?

Collection of Larry Hagman clips.

A naked guy spent three happy hours on top of a statue of Prince George in downtown London.

Have the remains of cruel and hunchbacked Richard III been found under a parking lot in Leicester?

One obese squirrel eating a Snickers in a pear tree.

Check out hacker syndicate Anonymous' video message to Karl Rove about stealing the Ohio election.

Here. You need another reason not to patronize Walmart.

Dude Chilling Park.

This is China.

It is now law that people shall wear pants in the streets of San Francisco.

On this day in 1864 aristocratic dwarf Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was born.

V.21 No.46 |


The Daily Word in MacAfee, Pabst, Twinkies and WTF am I going to do with all these Coyote Pelts?

The Daily Word

Owner of the Los Lunas gun store sponsoring coyote hunt may give the resulting pelts to the homeless.

This Truchas Penitente has a purpose in life.

The Rio Grande Sun actually used the headline "Man Shot in Drug deal Gone Bad."

The Ten Commandments monument finally unveiled in OK City has spelling errors.

The Albuquerque Hostess Outlet Stores shelves were nearly empty on Saturday, a widespread phenomenon as Twinkies panic peaks.

Pabst and Twinkies.

You have virtually no digital privacy/rights.

BBC pedophile libel Twitter.

This woman died because Irish law allows NO abortion.

These Israeli soldiers look like they're on a Banana Republic catalog shoot.

D-bag bar promotion.

Tesla was kind of a Nazi.

Earth to Major MacAfee.

More on Facebook's page reach limiting.

IKEA furniture was made by East German forced Labor.

There's a Bond exhibit going up at the D.C. spy Museum.

On this day in 1938, Gordon Lightfoot was born, ensuring that he would be around to write the song Canada's grocery stores play every minute of every hour of the day forever and ever.

V.21 No.39 | 9/27/2012


Man Up

Don McIver reviews a poet’s ruminations on masculinity.

Book Review

In the Age of Man

Poet ruminates on modern-day masculinity

Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood

A poet tackles modern-day masculinity
Students protest anti-abortion group’s signs
Mary Bowannie


Freedumb of Speech

Racist anti-abortion posters draw student ire

Native American students were shocked by posters displayed on UNM campus. They led a demonstration of their own in response.
V.21 No.37 | 9/13/2012


The Daily Word in Bill Clinton, Genesis and Zozobra

The Daily Word

I-25 / Paseo overhaul will be on the ballot in November.

Are you going to Zozobra tonight?

Doug Vaughan sentenced to 12 years for Ponzi scheme.

UNM considers making Lobo Village booze-free.

Ex-President Clinton at the DNC, a recap.

Wheelchair rugby players are rock stars.

Does email cause stress?

Freddie Mercury’s private cultural identity.

Prog awards honor Genesis.

Hungarian artist makes a subway stop magical.

Voyager’s getting close to the edge of the solar system.

Sun burp.

NASA’s Sunita Williams fixes the International Space Station with a toothbrush.

Jennifer Aniston’s going to be in a movie shooting in New Mexico soon.

V.21 No.36 | 9/6/2012
Family keepsakes form the centerpiece of Vita Candelaria’s living room.
Margaret Wright

News Feature

Hermanas de los Duranes

Remembrances from the North Valley

Ninety-year-old sisters recall a North Valley from back in the day.
V.21 No.35 | 8/30/2012

Gene Grant

Abroad in New Mexico

International students bring culture and cash to the places they visit. How can we attract them to the Land of Enchantment?
V.21 No.34 | 8/23/2012


The Daily Word in hipster topics, inmate heroes and Dave Mustaine

The Daily Word

An inmate work crew in Las Cruces saved a man’s life.

Someone won $1 million in New Mexico but might not know it yet.

A judge told Gov. Martinez she couldn’t publish the salaries of some state workers on the Sunshine Portal. So she put them on the New Mexico home page.

Megadeth singer blames President Obama for mass shootings. And if you can’t trust Dave Mustaine about politics ...

Brits are pissed that Ecuador granted Julian Assange asylum.

Can’t hang with the footage of mosquitos biting people in this story about West Nile being on the rise. Stupid nature’s vampires.

Gov. Jan Brewer signed an executive order to deny Arizonans benefits from the new federal Dream Act-esque immigration program.

This month in free speech.

The stoner Olympics.

Anti-Semitic jerk in Hungary finds out he’s Jewish.

These gorillas are all happy to see each other.

Where does all that aid money go? Haiti’s still without safe housing for most people.

How to shop for groceries when you hate shopping for groceries. (Step One: Realize that your problem is not really a problem. After all, you could be living in a tent in an earthquake-ravaged country.)

Coffee shop bans people from talking about annoying hipster stuff like denim, left-handedness and anything that happened before 2000.

Best gravel voices in movie/TV history.

V.21 No.32 | 8/9/2012

Guest Editorial

Gun Rhetoric Fires Blanks

Once again, we’re in the middle of two sad American cycles: senseless, lethal violence and the slew of specious arguments that inevitably follow, flying hither and yon like, well, bullets that never quite hit the mark.
V.21 No.29 | 7/19/2012
Gabriel Chavez, community service director at La Plazita Institute
Russell Page

News Feature

True Identity

Traditions heal young Native gang members

Gangs have infiltrated tribal nations, recruiting young people who seek identity. But activists say traditions can heal.
V.21 No.28 | 7/12/2012
Professor Deleso Alford at the Domenici Center for Health Sciences Education
Eric Williams

News Profile

Presence of the Past

How exploitation in health care’s history informs medicine today

Professor Deleso Alford shines a light on horrors suffered for science. She tells these stories to create better doctors for the future.
V.21 No.20 |


The Daily Word in fiery semi, unchicken, stripper database

The Daily Word

Minority births are the majority in the U.S.

A semi truck carrying lighter fluid just combusted on I-40.

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Will drones spy on us?

Council plans for a stripper database delayed.

Tape dress. Neat.

The world's oldest yoga teacher is 93. And she's a badass.

Republican Super Pac plotting extreme attack ads about President Obama.

Limbless man attempting to swim between five continents.

Coffee drinkers live longer, says my new favorite study.

Fake chicken meat-maker promises new nonflesh will be even better than the real thing.

Gale-force wind in yo face.

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