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Spill Happening

David Correia updates KAFB jet fuel spill story on KUNM

One of our biggest stories of 2013 was “The Environmental Disaster You’ve Never Heard Of: Albuquerque’s Kirtland Air Force Base jet fuel spill” (v.22, i.48). In it, author David Correia lays out a mountain of evidence about a fuel spill right here in ABQ that’s twice the size of the Exxon Valdez disaster. Correia recently appeared on KUNM’s The Spitz Report to discuss his Alibi article, just how big the ongoing hemorrhage of jet fuel has been, the impact on the aquifer and what’s most frustrating about Kirtland’s response. As he explains to host Stephen Spitz,

“They were leaking jet fuel and aviation gas. ... Kirtland Air Force Base agreed to an estimate of 8 million gallons a few years ago; the New Mexico Environmental Department suggested it could be as high as 24 million gallons, so it’s somewhere in there, in that range. … But even if it’s a conservative estimate, it still makes this the largest underground toxic release in US history. That’s uncontested.”

If you missed our in-depth look at this shocking environmental catastrophe in Burque’s own backyard, catch it here, as well as the response from an Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority board member in our Letters section. Listen to Correia’s informed and informative full broadcast on KUNM here.



It’s a Nice Day for a Gay Wedding, Professor Flickinger

You may now kiss the awesome person.

Garrett Flickinger, who taught Wills and Trusts at UNM School of Law, sternly lectured that gay marriage would never be legalized in our lifetime. And it made sense, to hear him tell it: There was far too much wrapped up in public policy, probate law, divorce case loads, health insurance premiums, political campaigns and general squeamishness of the hoi polloi for our culture to ever do the right thing until everyone had flying cars and food pills. Sadly, Professor Flickinger was right in terms of his own lifetime … but I imagine today’s turn of events would have made him very proud.

I, on the other hand, am deeply saddened at the prospect of possibly having to attend twice as many weddings. I’m too fat for my suit, it’s hard for me to stay awake and Target is running low on those pizza pans with the holes in the bottom. But at least from this day forward, “gay marriage” will mean the union of two people who love each other just as much as any two other people do, or as much as any two other people ever did. Rather than just my wife’s whispered critique of some straight couple’s melodramatic wedding vows. (Hi, Honey!)

I’m proud of us as a culture, too, for doing the right thing, even in the face of Professor Flickinger’s caveats. There comes a time when no matter what hardship it entails, you tell your son, “Yes, son … you can keep that pet raccoon.” Perhaps someday we will even recognize gay funerals. Call me a dreamer, but—urk! White pills … left pocket …right pocket, then.


Only God Can Judge Me

I ain't wearin' no suit.

Passing the metro courthouse on my way to work this morning it was hard not to notice a dude, obviously heading for the courthouse, wearing the shirt pictured on the right. His had a cross on it, but otherwise the shirt was identical.

Was his message -obviously intended for whichever judge would be dealing with him- aligned with that of Lil' Wayne, whose lyrics to "Nightmares From the Bottom" include the line "Only God can judge me, I don't need a jury" and therefore a kind of anarcho-christian "fuck you" to America's legal system? Or was this court-appearance apparel an existential comment on the meaninglessness of earthly actions (and consequences) more along the lines of Tupac's "Only God Can Judge Me," which gained more meaning with the death of the song's lyricist?

Either way I bet the judge sees one of these shirts every bloody day.

Nathan Coffing fearlessly searches the wide-open plains of the Internet


The names they left behind

My first task as an intern was to sort through a list of people that receive press releases from the Alibi. It's a bit of a monster. I remembered the title worn by the interns who have come before in these halls and did my best to muster up some sense of "fearless."

The list is a jumble of names and emails. Some of the emails from local blogs and zines were added recently. Others come from a time when email was still considered cutting edge. Many of the contacts have a name, title and publication attached, making my job easy. Others left me wandering the dust of barren corners of Internet to find some scrap of information.

Imagine a short address with initials and a generic email provider. Now imagine that you have to attach an identity to this random jumble of letters, which might represent some small-town publication that went out of print eight to nine years ago. Suddenly, Google, the trusted god of information, fails you. You dig through bakeries in Canada and Asian manufacturing companies in an attempt to figure out what “abn(at)” might possibly stand for, and why one alternative newspaper in Albuquerque saw it as valuable.

(Pro-tip learned from this experience: If you wish to be kind to a random future intern, have an email that is logically based on your name. I have definitely decided to change mine after this.)

For the well-documented characters on the list, another fate awaits. Suddenly, this name and email dispensed at some previous press meeting is fixed in time on a contact list, but the owner has changed and grown into someone unrecognizable.

They handed a stranger in the future a window to their past.

Now, it should never be said that I am a stalker, but I'm an avid people-watcher, and this felt a bit like people-watching in reverse. Rather than seeing a person and trying to figure out how they live, I found myself knowing their details and then imagining what they look like. I was piecing together their stories and personalities from the names they left behind.

Some of the contacts had retired, leaving their work in the archives of their publication. Other contacts listed as staff writers of papers had found their way up the ladder and became editors in chief. I also found myself the grim reaper of names when I solemnly deleted one person after finding his obituary in the same paper he diligently served for years.

One contact proved particularly difficult to find, and after much searching, I realized that she held the same job as when she was added to the list but had changed her last name after marriage. Despite never having met this woman, I suddenly found myself wondering about how she was. Had she met the man at work? Was finding time for dates difficult as she worked in one of the busiest of businesses? Was she happy?

I was struck by so many questions like this as I came to each new name on the towering, unorganized directory. Looking over the list, I saw how journalism is changing. I could see the shifts of several regional papers from small newsletters with a single email purely for contact purposes, their toes barely dipped into the Internet. Then, when I dug up the email, it was on a fully realized website with an active blog.

I also saw the tragedies. The names of publications that have closed their doors flickered like memorial candles. Sorting through the many addresses left behind from the brilliant and ill-fated Albuquerque Tribune staff felt like pulling photographs out of the ashes. An urge swelled up in me to give some respect to one of the two papers that made me want to become a journalist in the first place, and I bowed my head for a moment as I hunched over the computer. It seemed fitting that I got to honor one of those two incredible papers as I began working at the offices of the other.

And so, clinging reverently to the adjective "fearless," I begin my time at the Alibi, sifting through the remains of the past and the names left behind.

No, guy in a XXL T-shirt with a corporate logo, I will not have a conversation with you. I have some place to be. Why don’t you?


Leave Me Alone, People of Fourth Street Mall

Downtown’s Fourth Street Mall could be a nice place. It’s landscaped. It’s a pedestrian thoroughfare between bars, restaurants, hotels and even museums. Every time I stroll down it though, rather than enjoying the trees or the faint scent of Italian spices, I’m panhandled and/or sexually harassed by idle loiterers around the mall. What are the scores of them doing there at 2 p.m. on a Thursday? Why won’t they leave me alone when I’m trying to get a sandwich?


Want to hear a clip of Dr. Laura being racist?

I didn’t really, either. But ... wow. (Lots of N-word in there. May not be SFW.) She’s tried to make nice after the fact and backpedalled. Even her apology is ugly.

So far, she hasn’t been fired. She should absolutely be fired.

The slur—repeated 9, 10 times?—was only part of the fountain of sewage in this radio show. She said the black caller was overly sensitive and shouldn’t have married a white man if she didn’t have a sense of humor. Dr. Laura added that she’d hoped once we had a black president, people would stop whining about race. Also, “don’t NAACP me”?!?

But back to the N-word: It’s not OK to use racial slurs unless the speaker is part of the culture in question and reclaiming that word. The end. I know many people have disappointing opinions to the contrary. In this unmelting melting pot, we should all probably try not to be jerks. Avoiding the N-word and other slurs seems simple enough, but apparently that’s been a real problem for right-wing shock jocks.


River of Shit

While walking down by the river this past weekend, watching my dog wade through plastic bottles, tarps, scum, and so much miscellaneous trash floating downstream, the timeless lyrics of The Fugs - Wide, Wide River AKA “River of Shit,” were called up from the jukebox of my soul. It appears that Travis Bickle’s prophecy has been fulfilled as the recent rains have come and washed all the scum off the streets. Into the Rio Grande.


Hooker Buying Dead People with no Friends and Toilets

All these bad things having to do with the name John

I don’t want to complain but I can’t help but notice three things attached to the name John which bother me: people who patronize hookers, toilets and unidentified dead people. Not to mention John Stossel. (cringe.)
A friend of mine referred to tall hillbillies as Bojohns the other day. According to, Bojohn is an ethnic slur that refers to people of Polish descent and is used mainly by older people in Pueblo, Colorado. It makes sense my friend would use this term as he hales from Colorado, even if he is using it incorrectly.
I think I speak for Johns everywhere when I say that the madness must end.
A little research was required on the topic so I went to the nearest thing humanity will ever have to god--Wikipedia.
Let us begin with toilets. Not a bad thing but I don’t like my name being associated with a feces disposal apparatus. I don’t care if they were invented thousands of years before I was born.
According to the ever reliable Wikipedia, a chap by the name of John Harington invented a precursor to the modern toilet in the 1500s. He wrote a book about it and was subsequently banned from the court of Queen Elizabeth I.
Next there is the practice of calling a person who frequents prostitutes “Johns.” According to my lord and savior, Wikipedia. This may have started when customers gave their name as “John” to remain anonymous. No further explanation is given. Why not Todd or Chad? In the United Kingdom they are called “punters.”
Finally there is the John Doe, not the bass player from X but the unidentified corpse in the morgue. Wiki/God tells me that John Doe can also be a placeholder name for an unidentified party in a law suit. Unidentified women and children are called Jane Does and Baby Does, respectively.
In any case, knock it off. I have enough problems without being equated with toilets, desperate men and dead people with no friends. Stossel is such a better word anyway.

El Oso and former employer


Mal Oso

It’s good to be me again.

My last employers didn’t allow freelancing, something about “owning” my brain. Their other reason was that I represented their paper with my name and would apparently besmirch their good name were I to write for other papers. Does the word “hubris” come to mind, anyone?

Since writing for the Weekly Alibi was and is an irresistible temptation, I resorted to pen names. Freedom of Expression, what a novel idea.

First there was “Juan Maloso.” Maloso came from a Mexican coworker, Chuy, at a bad New Mexican restaurant I won’t name where I washed dishes during my formative years. Young and stupid, I regaled Chuy with tales of my recent bad behavior while drunk. He nodded his head in disapproval and muttered, “mal oso.” Since I hung around people who used monikers in those days, I became Dr. Maloso. I added Juan for pen name purposes.

Juan Maloso lasted exactly one column before I switched back to John Bear. I figured I have worked several years trying to get my name out in the universe and hated the anonymity of a nom de plume.

So I was John Bear. Of course, I was discovered. My former editor took me in the office and slapped a pile of Alibi columns in my hand. It was not unlike “To Catch a Predator.” For the record, I had never said I was going to quit.

But I did try to compromise. That meant another pen name. I first considered John Mitotero. “Mitotero” means “a gossip” in Spanish. I get called that frequently down in Valencia County. It pisses some people off. I considered it a term of endearment.

But it didn’t roll off the tongue. So I went for “Movida.” That means “side job” [snicker].

I couldn’t be John Movida, as apparently a pen name has to be absolute, so I called another reporter in Oklahoma and said “I need a first name.”

“Pete,” he said.

So I was Pete Movida.

For one more column. They found out before the ink was dry, and I was canned. The same “To catch a Predator” set up—them handing me the column, and me glancing down at it and laughing at my own jokes. It was worth it.


One man deals with unemployment

In an attempt to rein in expenses after the unfortunate loss of my job, (I believe it was captured by hack pirates in choppy waters off of the Rio Abajo.) I switched medications.

The pill I usually take to fend off unpleasant thoughts regarding the amount of perceived bodily fluids in my Hot Pockets doesn’t work well anyway and costs $120 a bottle without insurance.

My sanity is not worth that much, so I began dating the older sister of my usual pill, a bargain at four dollars a bottle. The new pill made me feel both tired and nervous, two unpleasant sensations now available at the same time.

I tried cutting the pills in half and now seem to be half as nervous and 63 percent less tired (this amount of self analysis is exhausting, by the way.) The only problem: being too tired to think did prevent any invasive thoughts about theoretical fluids being present in frozen foods or condiments. That’s back. Yay.

If only I could start smoking again. I never had any of these problems when I sucked down 33 Marlboros a day. My clothes had holes burned all over them and there was that pesky lesion in the back of my throat, but no fluids.
Smoking is not an option, however. At seven dollars per pack, two packs a day, I would have to resort to petty theft to get my smoke on. This would undoubtedly lead to prison, where they would give me the generic sister of my crazy pills. The net result would be the same except the fluids in the food would be quite real.