La Gente And El Art

But What Do The People Think, Oh Wise Ones?

August March
7 min read
La Gente and El ART
The ART station at Nob Hill, July 2018 (Corey Yazzie)
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If the monsoon does not come to Albuquerque soon enough—or as in some years is truncated or very rarely completely absent—then the summertime environment of an otherwise glorious town is diminished. The trees begin to seem forlorn, the grass gets hard and crabby. Even the cacti, long the arbiters of biological tolerance to extremes, suffer. Their blooming ceased, they curl back up into the earth to await winter and perhaps snow.

That’s the way it really is, citizens of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and its immediate environs. I should know, I’ve been doing a summery occupation of this town for 42 years now—well except for a season spent in Old Blighty and another in Baluwatar—and I’m keen to the weather. It helps, by the way, if one has and maintains a sense of circumspection and detached patience.

That applies to living in the high desert, in an atomic age military outpost town gone big, but also to things that happen, over time, in that burg.
Waiting for ART to commence is the sharpest, most direct example of how that attitude works. And if drought equals disappointment then we’re on track for damnably dry time.

The good thing is—especially given the proclivity this place has for receiving either the grace of god or the beneficiary of specific quantum events that lead to resolution—that when ART really gets going, it is going to indeed be awesome. ART really can be an amazing, forward-looking example of how people move around cities in the mid-21st century, speaking the new urbanist vernacular in English, Spanish and Chinese, by the way.

It’s important to keep that in mind whilst waiting. With that conceit in firmly planted in
sus cabezas, Weekly Alibi hit the streets of Burque to find out how the people of this fine city are handling the news coming out of city hall, the news that says it might be until winter before ART starts carting humans around town, all Jetsons style, yo.

I started my cruise by rolling up to Nob Hill, to the east end of the neighborhood. As readers may recall, last year, the section of Nob Hill from Carlisle to Washington was dis-included from Summerfest.

This year, of course, the Keller Administration saw to the reversal of that problem and one store manager in this area, Tiffany Garcia, told
Weekly Alibi that the re-establishment of traditional Summerfest boundaries was a beam of bright light for her business, and a contrast with the dark-seeming days the shop encountered during the ART project’s construction.

When asked about ART’s impact, she said, “My inital thought when ART was starting to happen was that it might be beneficial for me, because I ride the bus daily from Coors and Central to Nob Hill. I thought this could be something that might cut down my commute time. But as the project progressed and took more time than it should have, it began to hurt our business. There were a lot of things that weren’t planned out well. It was a mess. For now, I’m of the opinion that maybe I should just boycott the whole thing.” When coaxed toward optimism with a smile, though, Garcia told this reporter, “I really don’t know if I’m going to take it, that’s where I’m at a loss. Part of me is really disappointed in the way this whole thing happened.” Tiffany smiles wanly as I wandered out the door.

In the immediate vicinity, that is to say in east Nob Hill, there is a medical cannabis dispensary. It’s quiet inside most of the time, which is a great thing for patients like me, but maybe not so much for the business itself. Ironically, the other iterations of such facilities scattered throughout the Duke City tell a different economic story. For those not on Central Avenue, the general rule of business seems to be “busy like hell all the time.”

So after nimbly entering and proceeding through a short chat with the gentlemen running said herbal medical depot—about the stress relieving properties of certain plant essences—the talk turned to transportation and I asked the two budtenders about ART.

Alek Charley, a long-time Burqueño, chimes in first. “I personally think ART is a disaster; it’s basically turned Central into a single lane in each direction. It means more driving hazards for everyone; the bus lanes, people in cars stacking up behind red lights, there’s already a lot of confusion.” When told that the Keller administration is moving ahead with plans to deploy buses, busmen and traffic enforcement officers in the next couple of weeks, both Alek and his work mate Francisco say that is the first time they have heard of such developments.

As I traveled down Central Avenue, I began to sense that I was not going to find many in support of the project, imminent deployment or not. I kept plugging away though, determined to let random human entities within the proposed ART environment define the narrative of the coming of the electric buses.

I stopped at the Frontier Restaurant and asked to talk to Larry Rainosek, the owner and stalwart member of this town’s commercial community. Larry wasn’t in, the tortilla machine operator told me. I glanced around at the fury of folks filling the joint. The eatery seemed to be doing just fine and I was standing in the midst of a crowd during summer break, when most of the restaurants constant customers, the college kids, were away from
El Duque.

Venturing on, I had a 20 minute conversation with a very anti-ART business owner in the UNM district. Basically, he was eloquent but angry. One of the main reasons he didn’t think the project would work was because he believed the buses in this town—he was from St. Louis—are just not used much by commuters or tourists. He added that the addition of relatively large real estate developments in the area were supposed to go along with ART but were so far empty because people and businesses just weren’t moving to Albuquerque. “Too much crime, not business friendly,” he gravely intoned as I stepped back into the hot July sun.

Folks waiting for the current iteration of ABQ Ride—in the form of the Rapid Ride Number 766, known for the same stealthy speed as any of its Bolivian cousins traversing the Andes—seemed to be disinterested in ART, even if it started running tomorrow, according to some daily riders. One such daily bus rider, Charlotte Garcia, kept her disinterest simple but certain, “Some of the buses are good; the number 5 bus, the San Mateo bus, the Menaul bus. Also the Rapid Ride. But I’m not interested in ART because all it does is go up and down Central. That’s all it does, it doesn’t hit any of the other streets.”

Back at the office I liked what I heard on the tape, it seemed honest; it was pure Burque. But I was a bit concerned about the lack of vocal support I heard for ART among the citizenry of this town. I called a colleague. She said the only place I’d get such comments is if I solicited them from the city or the PR company in charge of selling ART to the masses. I laughed at her cynicism and kept dailing, waiting until just before press time to decide that a whole dang sidebar on those that support the project can come out of the hopper and come to life next week.
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