Monday, December 28, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Bruce King is dead at 85. Our only three-term Governor, King is the man who New Mexicans of my generation equate with the office. He’s also the guy we think of (aside, possibly, from Manny Aragon and Ray Sanchez) when we think of New Mexico politics in general. He was a keen-witted cowboy politician with all the folksy charm of Andy of Mayberry. King was famous for entering a restaurant and shaking hands with everyone in the place, offering a "How y'all doing?" or a "Good to see you again" -- even years after he left office.
An article in the Santa Fe New Mexican says that
"Many who remembered him Friday described King as a far cry from today's slick politicians, someone who stuck close to his country roots and his cowboy hats, once riding his horse to the state Capitol in a move to both save gas and attract a little publicity for the state's tourism industry."
King was the governor who brought Intel to Rio Rancho. But he was also the man-in-charge during the infamous Santa Fe Prison riots in 1980 in which 35 inmates were butchered.
King was also a cattle rancher in Stanley, NM. For years when I heard of the famous King Ranch, I thought it was referring to Governor Bruce’s spread, and was confused when I saw that Ford had released a King Ranch edition of one of its pick-ups. The place ain’t that big.
(So for those who don’t know, THE King Ranch is in Texas and takes up something like ¾’s of the state.)
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Friday, August 07, 2009
Saturday, August 01, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
In the late 90s, after my second marriage had collapsed, I sat and wrote out a set of letter/poems to my various exes, which examined aspects of the relationship; where it went bad and what was good. Here's one.
The Last of the Polish Mohicans Polka
“If I was a trapper I would pay a thousand peltsYou were last of the Polish Mohicans,
just to sleep with Pocohontas and find out how she felt.”
standing barefoot in the swirling eddies of
Albuquerque on the Vistula, can of Miller in your hand.
A Connecticut Yankee,
Dart-tart, Cocktail Jockey,
Downy delta, sugar tit,
Leather-jacketed goddess of love!
You jerked me up down off on
and six ways from Sunday
my rebound baby brown-eyes
left my wife for parts unknown
to tan your tawny pelt
no-tell motel so discrete
‘cause your Ma is shittin’ kittens
“keep that man out of my house!”
Backseat mesa boogie
jammin’ gears to get to work late.
Autumn’s sins and winter winds
we keep each other warm.
In Spring you up and dumped me
for some yellow-headed coke boy
‘cause you said you “needed more space”
to “sow your wild oats in” so you
left me twistin’ in the wind
spinnin’ fast towards a fumbuck
and I don’t know why you swayed
me back then like you did, kid.
Nearly fifteen years from them days
gets real hazy thinking ‘bout you
and what the thrill was then but
I guess like all the others
I can’t help but sit and wonder
what it would o’ been like Zhay-Zheets
to be eighty-two and with you
ridin’ shotgun as my bride.
A few years back, I was taking a poetry-writing class at UNM. It was late winter -- a crisp day -- and I was driving through town. The clouds had moved in and were dropping. It reminded me of that time and I pulled over and knocked this one out.
It was a day like this,
with skies of cold grey felt
and flurries settling on the city,
that you, in your thigh-high boots
and poured-into jeans,
and me, in my alpaca overcoat
and snappy black fedora,
called in to work,
pleading some bullshit excuse.
Me and my Pride & Joy
roared down from the heights
in a rumbling El Camino
with throaty mufflers
and radio cranked for Stevie Ray Vaughan.
We whiled away the hours
at a little out of the way place,
enjoying its warmth.
Drinking pitchers of Stroh’s.
Eating bowls of green chilé
spooned into flaky sopaipillas.
Feeding endless quarters
into the jukebox, playing Sea of Love.
Throwing game after game of darts
on that windowless afternoon.
Time slowed as I watched you take aim.
Your long brown hair
flowing like a river to your waist.
The beauty of your concentration
as you aimed and let loose, easily
hitting your needed 19 in a game of 301.
I believed, in that moment,
that we were happier
than we’d ever been before.
And sadly, I knew, happier
Than we ever would be.
©2007 Rick Raab-Faber
Murdoch, the cigarette-munchin' pup
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Sunday, May 31, 2009
A deadly still evening in Albuquerque. Which meant nothing really. ‘Still’ was relative, even the deadly variety. There was always some noise. If it got too quiet, someone could be counted on to shoot someone else, or start a fire, or crash a car – anything to get the sirens going. Not that it took anything more serious than a stubbed toe to land the EMTs, a ladder truck, a pumper, the Haz-Mat team, the Bomb Squad, a half-dozen APD squad cars, and the Fire Chief on your doorstep, but most Albuquerqueños didn’t like to take chances. “If it’s not worth doing right, do it wrong” was their motto.
On this particular still night, 34 year-old Edwin Lujan was walking his wife’s AD/HD-afflicted Jack Russell Terrier , Cutie Pie. It was 9:52 pm. Edwin Lujan knew this because he kept checking his watch. He wanted to get home in time to watch The Simpsons reruns and the dog was not taking this walking endeavor seriously.
“Dammit, Cutie Pie!” he hissed. “Hurry up and poop!” He felt acutely embarrassed over calling the dog by its name and using the word ‘poop’ in public. He was mortified that one of the neighbors might have heard him. This was a transitional neighborhood in Albuquerque’s heights, primarily auto mechanics and construction foremen who were doing as well as most mid to upper-level management at other firms. Edwin, the manager of a temp-services office, was the only male on his street that did not work in the trades, and therefore felt inadequate. He stopped, listening quietly to hear if any of the neighbors were out, working on cars or just slurping beers in their yards.
Skish! He looked around frantically. Skish! There were no street lights here – he couldn’t see who was hissing to him. Skish-Skish! Ahead, a cinder block wall divided a neighbor’s yard from a bike path that ran along one of the city’s arroyos. Skish-Skish! He gingerly peaked around the corner. Two teenagers, known on the street as “Spud” and “Li’l Cheeto,” were busily tagging the wall with spray-paint. Skish-Skish! Cutie Pie barked. The teenagers turned to look at Edwin.
“Wuddafug you looking at?” one asked him. Edwin ignored the question. He was busy gazing in fear beyond the young men to a form moving from the shadows. The teenagers followed his gaze, turning around. The form carried a Mossberg 590 pump-action police-issue riot shotgun. And wore a mask. One of those halloween masks that just cover your eyes. He also wore a painters’ hat. And painter’s coveralls. And a cape. And, before anyone could laugh at his ridiculous appearance – chuck-CHUNK – he ripped off a perfectly executed one-handed cocking of the shotgun and leveled it at the boys. They stood motionless, staring at him. Then Li’l Cheeto started to step back. He spoke to his friend but his eyes stayed on the shotgun.
“He ain’t gonna do shit with that gun, Spud,” he whispered. “We can just walk aw-” The shotgun roared, blowing a small depression in the ground next to the no-longer-confidant teen’s feet. Edwin thought he would wet his pants, but managed to hold it in. Cutie Pie, however, jerked the leash free and ran for home. The form chambered another shell. He reached into a back pocket and withdrew two large zip-ties of the sort police use for temporary handcuffs.
“You,” he said, indicating Spud. “Tie your amigo’s wrists with this. And do it right.” When it was done, the form walked closer. The shotgun pointing at Spud, he forced the now bound Li’l Cheeto to his knees then pushed him over into a patch of dried goathead thorns. The young man howled. “Now you,” he said. “Face down, hands behind your head!” Spud did as he was told. Slinging the shotgun over his shoulder, the form knelt on the small of teenager’s back. He pulled both hands back and slipped the second zip-tie around Spud’s wrists and pulled it tight.
“OK, Rembrandts. Let’s take a look at your work.” From his belt he pulled a large 4-cell Maglite and focused it on the tagged wall.
“Citizen,” he said, calling to the dazed Edwin. “Citizen,” the form called again. “I’d like you to help me evaluate this artwork.” Edwin walked over and stood beside the masked man. The names “Spud” and “Li’l Cheeto” were scrawled on the wall. Somehow, “Spud” had been misspelled.
“You call that ‘art’?” the form asked Edwin Lujan.
“Not really. You?”
“Nope.” The form turned to the handcuffed boys. “The jury has spoken fellas. This show has closed.”
“What the hell?!” one of them yelped. “You can’t do this! You ain’t no cops!”
“No,” said the form. “I’m not the cops. I’m…” He paused for dramatic effect. “El Pintor!” From a pocket on the inside of his cape he withdrew a pair of swimmers goggles. With his toe he rolled the first tagger over on his back. He bent down and placed the goggles on Spud’s face.
“Wuddafug?!” yelled Spud. He couldn’t see anything. He could however hear the sound of a steel ball rattling back and forth inside of a can of paint. “What are you doing, sir?” he asked at little more quietly – and respectfully.
“I’d advise you to hold your breath,” said El Pintor. Spud did as he was told, just in time, as the vigilante started spraying the youth pink – bright, vivid, Barbie pink – from head to toe.
Ten minutes later, El Pintor helped the teens to their feet. “I hope you have learned your lesson about violating other people’s property,” he told them. They ran off, still cuffed.
“I can’t believe you actually painted them,” said an awestruck Edwin Lujan. “That was totally awesome!”
“Oh, I didn’t paint them,” said El Pintor.
“But, I saw the pink–” Edwin started to say.
“Paint’s too easy to clean off. No, that was a special industrial-grade dye. Completely harmless – aside from the social stigma of having bright pink skin for several months.”
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
I just finished reading “The Memory of Running,” the first novel by Ron McLarty. It’s friggin’ brilliant, in my view. The story is about Smithson “Smithy” Ide, a 43 year-old drinking, smoking, self-described overweight loser. He is seemingly friendless and on a lifelong downward spiral.
The story opens with Smithy’s parents dying as a result of a car crash. A few days later, Smithy finds that his sister—who disappeared years earlier—was found dead in Los Angeles; her body being held on the county’s tab as she was homeless.
Smithy sets out, almost by accident, to recover his sister’s body, leaving his home in Rhode Island. The twist is that it is on his 35 year-old Raleigh Bicycle and the scene that begins it all is an absolutely hilarious downhill plunge.
The story—published in 2004—follows two tracks; one in the “present day” of 1990, and one in the past. The latter describes Smithy’s relationship with his crazy (literally) sister, Bethany, and gives us a glimpse of one family’s struggle to deal with a young woman who is not quite crazy enough to be institutionalized full-time, yet not sane enough to be left on her own. Smithy tells us briefly of his time in Vietnam, and how he came to be wounded.
We also—through both tracks—learn of Smithy’s relationship with his next-door neighbor, Norma, who has had a crush on Smithy since she was six.
Smithy seems to remain a “loser” through the story, and things just never seem to go completely right for him. Or do they? McLarty serves us up several moments that make us wonder about the nature of “loserness.”
McLarty’s Smithy has drawn comparisons to Huck Finn, Holden Caulfield, and even Yossarian. I guess. Holden Caulfield certainly. For me, the similarity is in the style and subject matter. I found “The Memory of Running” to be very reminiscent of a John Irving story. Irving’s tales are filled with events that are, not necessarily impossible, but usually improbable. (I’m thinking specifically of the girl who lives in a bear costume in “The Hotel New Hampshire.”)
At 338 pages, it’s still a fast read. The dual tracks make it a real page-turner, as each chapter becomes something of a cliffhanger. The story is by turns, funny and horrifying. Smithy is constantly beaten down by the world, yet never seems to take it personally.
I highly recommend this book to fans of John Irving, Wally Lamb, Ann Tyler.
- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Viking Adult (December 29, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0670033634
- ISBN-13: 978-0670033638
- Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 167 Reviews 4.2 out of 5 stars
Monday, May 25, 2009
The last place i lived was a single story four-plex that had a roach problem—not from a cleanliness issue. It was just in one of those parts of Albuquerque (like around the arroyos) that tends to have roaches. We have many areas of town were, at night, they just come out across your lawn and hang out on the patio.
Anyway, in this apartment, I would get an average of 4 to 8 of them come in through a crack under the baseboards in the bathroom. They didn't get in my food or bedroom. I only ever saw them in the bathroom and the hallway.
So I made a deal with them. I left a compost heap out in the back by the patio. Then i laid down the law with them. I would leave them the heap to hang out in, but if they came in the house, they were mine.
For a couple of months the roaches held up their part of the bargain. Every now and then, some young punk would wander in. I'd apologize as I'd scoop them into the dustpan. "Sorry, dude. You know the rule." then I'd dump it in the toilet and flush. I figured that, survivors that they are, roaches could probably hold their breath for a while. Or not. It was their choice entirely.
In the whole course of the thing, I came to some sort of cosmic understanding of the little buggers. I wasn't revolted, or angry, or freaked out. They were just insects; Foreigners who'd crossed my borders. They had different customs than me.
Eventually, we'd meet up in the hallway in the wee hours as I stumbled to take a leak. "Take a hike, pal," I'd mumble. And that was that.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
5/15/2009 5:57:42 PM
by Bennett Gordon
Ants and the Stock Market.
On their own, ants are pretty dumb. It’s not their fault: Their tiny brains don’t allow for a lot of intelligence. Taken together, however, ants are some of the most evolutionarily successful animals on the planet. They account for an estimated 15 to 20 percent of the biomass of all the land animals on earth. And they didn’t get that big by making a lot of mistakes.
“Individually they’re totally incompetent,” ant expert Debra Gordon told Radio Lab, “but as colonies they do great things.”
Scientists are questioning how such an individually unintelligent animal could make so many correct decisions collectively. Though ants have a queen, the queen doesn’t order around her subjects. In reality, they exhibit an amazing ability for nonhierarchical, collective decision making.
They way ants, bees, and some fish naturally make decisions, according to Susan Milius writing for Science News, is “all about quorum.” The animals will often send off little scouts, acting individually, who report back to influence the groups as a whole. Some ants have been observed throwing other ants over their shoulders and dragging their fellow ants off to build consensus for ideas. Eventually, with individual persistence, collective decisions are made.
How those decisions are made represents one of the biggest mysteries in science, mathematician Steve Strogatz told Radio Lab. In nature, order can simply materialize from disorder. Strogatz points out that scientists (and Creationists) grapple with the question of how this happens, but still don’t understand.
The collective decision making occurs in humans, too, in ways that are little understood. “Human groups deciding as a whole have scored spooky triumphs,” Milius writes. In one test, people were asked to guess the weight of an ox. Individually, every guess was way off. Together, the median of the guesses was within 10 pounds of the correct weight of 1,198 pounds
If humans are able to exhibit such accurate collective decision making, how could the stock market and the real estate crisis go so horribly wrong? The problem, according to Stephen Pratt of Arizona State, is that ants don’t have a stock market. “If they did,” he says, “we could rely on them to have figured the whole thing out.”
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Salute to a brave and modest nation - Kevin Myers, 'The Sunday Telegraph' LONDON :
Until the deaths of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, probably almost no one outside their home country had been aware that Canadian troops are deployed in the region.
And as always, Canada will bury its dead, just as the rest of the world, as always will forget its sacrifice, just as it always forgets nearly everything Canada ever does.. It seems that Canada 's historic mission is to come to the selfless aid both of its friends and of complete strangers, and then, once the crisis is over, to be well and truly ignored.
Canada is the perpetual wallflower that stands on the edge of the hall, waiting for someone to come and ask her for a dance. A fire breaks out, she risks life and limb to rescue her fellow dance-goers, and suffers serious injuries. But when the hall is repaired and the dancing resumes, there is Canada, the wallflower still, while those she once helped Glamorously cavort across the floor, blithely neglecting her yet again.
That is the price Canada pays for sharing the North American continent with the United States , and for being a selfless friend of Britain in two global conflicts.
For much of the 20th century, Canada was torn in two different directions: It seemed to be a part of the old world, yet had an address in the new one, and that divided identity ensured that it never fully got the gratitude it deserved.
Yet it's purely voluntary contribution to the cause of freedom in two world wars was perhaps the greatest of any democracy. Almost 10% of Canada 's entire population of seven million people served in the armed forces during the First World War, and nearly 60,000 died. The great Allied victories of 1918 were spearheaded by Canadian troops, perhaps the most capable soldiers in the entire British order of battle.
Canada was repaid for its enormous sacrifice by downright neglect, it's unique contribution to victory being absorbed into the popular Memory as somehow or other the work of the 'British.'
The Second World War provided a re-run. The Canadian navy began the war with a half dozen vessels, and ended up policing nearly half of the Atlantic against U-boat attack. More than 120 Canadian warships participated in the Normandy landings, during which 15,000 Canadian soldiers went ashore on D-Day alone.
Canada finished the war with the third-largest navy and the fourth largest air force in the world. The world thanked Canada with the same sublime indifference as it had the previous time.
Canadian participation in the war was acknowledged in film only if it was necessary to give an American actor a part in a campaign in which the United States had clearly not participated - a touching scrupulousness which, of course, Hollywood has since abandoned, as it has any notion of a separate Canadian identity.
So it is a general rule that actors and filmmakers arriving in Hollywood keep their nationality - unless, that is, they are Canadian. Thus Mary Pickford, Walter Huston, Donald Sutherland, Michael J. Fox, William Shatner, Norman Jewison, David Cronenberg, Alex Trebek, Art Linkletter and Dan Aykroyd have in the popular perception become American, and Christopher Plummer, British.
It is as if, in the very act of becoming famous, a Canadian ceases to be Canadian, unless she is Margaret Atwood, who is as unshakably Canadian as a moose, or Celine Dion, for whom Canada has proved quite unable to find any takers.
Moreover, Canada is every bit as querulously alert to the achievements of its sons and daughters as the rest of the world is completely unaware of them. The Canadians proudly say of themselves - and are unheard by anyone else - that 1% of the world's population has provided 10% of the world's peacekeeping forces.
Canadian soldiers in the past half century have been the greatest peacekeepers on Earth - in 39 missions on UN mandates, and six on non-UN peacekeeping duties, from Vietnam to East Timor, from Sinai to Bosnia.
Yet the only foreign engagement that has entered the popular non-Canadian imagination was the sorry affair in Somalia , in which out-of-control paratroopers murdered two Somali infiltrators. Their regiment was then disbanded in disgrace - a uniquely Canadian act of self-abasement for which, naturally, the Canadians received no international credit.
So who today in the United States knows about the stoic and selfless friendship its northern neighbour has given it in Afghanistan ?
Rather like Cyrano de Bergerac , Canada repeatedly does honourable things for honourable motives, but instead of being thanked for it, it remains something of a figure of fun. It is the Canadian way, for which Canadians should be proud, yet such honour comes at a high cost. This past year more grieving Canadian families knew that cost all too tragically well.
Lest we forget.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Here I am at the convocation, giving the undergraduate speech. I've got to say that the whole thing was one of the most awesome moments in my life. Here is the speech....
I have always been something of an armchair polymath… with a little interest in all subjects … and just enough knowledge of them to be dangerous… or dangerously annoying. I was one of those guys who informs you … against your will … about the most inane things: like that Cashew nuts are part of the Poison Ivy Family, or that fluorescent methyl salicylate is why you can shoot sparks off your teeth when you bite a Wint-o-green Life Saver.
I guess it’s a bit surprising that a guy who knew about so many things performed so horribly in high school. In fact, it was only in my art classes that I got A’s. The rest of my grades were poor…. Not even good enough for the guidance counselor to suggest vocational school…. College was never an option back then, and I wound up the next 15 years in a series of low-end, low-wage jobs... Soldier… Cook… bartender… day-laborer… cab driver.
Eventually I managed to turn my artistic side to good use took a nine-month crash-course in production art, and bluffed my way into a series of graphic design positions including managing the art departments of several different regional retail operations.
But, as much as I enjoyed art and being creative, Graphic design wasn’t living the dream. It was not what I wanted to be when I grew up.
This is something we all come to grips with at some point. As children, we all want to be a policeman or a fireman or a nurse or an astronaut, or Brett Favre…. Well, maybe not Brett Favre.
The point is we all have plans, hopes, and dreams, and often as not, we don’t see them come to fruition.
As a child, I wanted to be a sailor, like Popeye. Later, I wanted to be a veterinarian. In middle-school I was a fan of Jacques Cousteau, and wanted to be a marine biologist.
While graphic design wasn’t, as I said, living the dream, it did provide enough money to get by on.
Earlier I referred to myself as a polymath. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a polymath is, basically, a person whose knowledge is not restricted to one subject area.
And because of my interest in so many different things, I always said that, when I retired, I was going to spend the rest of my days in college, taking classes…This was my new dream.
A friend, tired of hearing this idle threat, asked me why I was waiting until retirement? Why not now?
Well, as one of the truly great philosophical minds of our times, Homer Simpson, said, “I’m no Super Genius. Or are I?”
Sure, I knew why the Dutch wore wooden shoes, but I also knew that I was no super genius. I had doubts that anything had really changed over the nearly thirty years since high school.
Nonetheless, at age 45, I began a fairly remarkable journey. I took the tests, and, started at TVI taking core classes and building up credits to transfer to UNM.
I was a single parent, working full-time—a forty plus hour work week, and I was carrying 12 to 16 hours a semester, going to classes at night and on weekends. A pretty hefty schedule, and in all honesty, I wasn’t expecting great successes.
But a strange thing happened. I started getting A’s. Though at first I laughed at it as a fluke, I began to realize that, yes, I could do this! After the few two semesters, the grades began to become something of a personal competition for me. And then I made the Dean’s List! I never thought such a thing could be possible.
I wasn’t sure what my end goal in college would be, I’d thought about the school of architecture. What happened, though, was that I took a class…for fun…in Creative Writing… and I liked it… And I did really well in it. My instructor, a UNM grad student, encouraged me to pursue writing.
I realized that I did not—by any stretch of the imagination—possess the math skills needed to pursue my dream of being an architect. But I did possess the skills I needed to pursue another dream.
See, ever since I can remember, I’ve written stories. It started with “The Death of a Toad,” an autobiographical confessional-style tale written around age 8. It continued with the stories I wrote and illustrated as a wannabe comic book artist in my pre-teen and teen years. It continued on as an adult, in journals and letters to friends, telling stories and recounting adventures. The fact that I could do those things well … never had occurred to me.
In the years since coming to UNM, I’ve had the greatest encouragement from all of my professors, leading me to grow as both a student and a writer. My senior honors thesis was extremely well-received. I was awarded the Vicente Ximenes Scholarship for graduate study, and UNM’s Creative Writing MFA program has honored me in its acceptance of my application for this coming Fall Semester. My dreams of a continued life in academia have also been realized.
No one is more surprised to see me here than me. A whole new sort of dream has been presented to me and I am going to live it. Now at 50, I finally know what I want to be when I grow up. Thank you
And here's my son, Gabe, who came out to see me. This was the first time I'd seen him since he went out on the road last summer.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
I'll be graduating summa cum laude and have been asked to give the undergraduate address at the convocation. That's on Saturday.
Following that there shall be reveling and much merry-making. And booze.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Questions to that half of Texas' Republicans
Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 08:31:31 AM PDT
So we now know that half of Texas' Republicans want to secede from the United States. So I have some questions for that crowd:
* Are you flying an American flag? Because you don't get to do that when you cry and take your ball home.
* Do you have a bumper sticker that says, "These colors don't run"? Because it sure looks like you're running.
* Do you still pretend that your party is the "Party of Lincoln"? If so, what part of Lincoln exactly, would that be?
* Since you've spent the last eight years saying "America, love it or leave it", is that an admission that you don't love America? Because we liberals? We loved it and stayed, even when your idiot of a president was trashing the place.
* Was your patriotism (My country, right or wrong) so skin-deep, that it depended 100 percent on the guy in the White House?
* That $200 billion Texas got in defense contracts between 2000 and 2007? No more of that. No more Ft. Hood. No more NASA. No more federal largesse. You okay with that?
* You do realize that the Cowboys will no longer be "America's Team", right? Though they'd dominate the two-team Texas Football League (TFL).
Saturday, April 25, 2009
For me it's also a reminder of the impermanence of our time here. Of all cities, Albuquerque is one that is in a constant battle to keep from being reclaimed by the land. There is a semi-circle of land, across the road from Cibola High School and just down the road from me, where I walk the dog most mornings. As we walk through it, we leave tracks, shoe prints and paw prints. There are invariably a series of criss-crossed trails from the three jackrabbits that live there, along with those of lizards, quail, roadrunner and deer mice. On the mornings after a windy evening, we find the tracks erased, trash and debris lie half-buried.
The above photo was shot about two miles from my house. There's a McDonalds and a Pep Boys, and a Hooters less than a mile away. I don't know. Like I said, I find it comforting to know that I can just zip down there and get a dose of sanity. I think we need to have more green areas -- more mini-Open Spaces -- scattered throughout the city. Reclaimed lots that are seeded with a few native species, but otherwise left to revert to their natural state.
That's all I got.
*Yes, I've just coined a new term there. "Downtownery" Dibs on it. "Downtownery" is (c)2009 D. Chingadero Sr. Esq. All rights and Alrights! reserved.
I ran across this photo on the Tumblog "This Isn't Happiness" and it reminded me of a thought I had a few weeks back.
Right now, in my pocket, I have easily this many albums -- maybe more. Plus a novel. And several dozen radio programs.
Imagine telling this bootlegging fellow that I could carry 20 continuous days worth of music, PLUS some TV programs, PLUS a movie or two, PLUS four or five novels, PLUS a telephone, in one pants pocket? Back then, you might have been able to put the phone receiver in your pocket, but when I was a kid, our phone was wall mounted. And you had to dial the phone -- 10 miles each way!.
And he's probably jazzed because he's going to get 45 minutes of crappy sound on one side of a reel-to-reel.
I'm not trying to sound like some old coot who thinks that these spoiled rotten kids today are, uh, spoiled rotten. I think the fact that I can carry all that in one pocket totally kicks ass and I take complete advantage of it!
But I was also thinking that, back in the days of the 45rpm record, listening was a much more interactive experience. You didn't click on a playlist and tune out what you were listening to. You sat there and listened to a two-minute record and then you changed it. And you did it with friends. And maybe, when the record was new, you could get the adapter to still stay in the record, and you could stack a few on the changer. but it was still not much more than ten or twelve records.
Homage to Roy Orbison
by Irene McKinney
If I can touch the voice of Roy Orbison
singing "only in dreams" and if I can
swallow the sweet pudding of his song
then why shouldn't a piece of music
fill in for human contact? Maybe it does
for a second or two, but life is long, or we are,
in our minds, and the singing we do gives us
a taste and not a meal. And what would
happen without it? Would we reconcile
since there would be no contrast, no lift of
Roy's dulcet tones to guide us up to immense
heights of one-pointed ecstasy? So why not sing
as hard and deep as we can? Why not feel out
the song-nerve and trace its trajectory?
I think that in the voice's rise
and wail we finally wake and hear the voice
of an angel. "Sweet dreams baby" Roy throbs.
If so, we go past abrasions and promontories
of broken stony sounds, and emerge up here
where the guitar is a guru, and where Roy's
sweetness is the rule and his sense of form
shapes up this shard-filled life. "Move on
down the line." So there, do it, dance in
a strange way and who cares. When the
listeners judge by their sweetness gauge
and their sucked-in breath at "crying over
you," will anyone care that he dyed his
black hair and had false teeth? I thrash
and shout like a teenage girl for the duration
of the song. "I got a woman mean as she
can be." (I think that's me.) He told me
that anything I wanted he would
give it to me, and you know? He did.
From Writer's Almanac for Saturday Apr. 25, 2009 "Homage to Roy Orbison" by Irene McKinney, from Vivid Companion. © Vandalia Press, 2004.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
This is sort of putting the cart before the horse chronologically, but here goes.
For those of you who are not familiar with the workings of a Creative Writing MFA program, your goal is to get through it spending as little money as possible. Ideally, you will get paid to do it. One of the prime ways this will happen is to get awarded a Teaching Assistantship. (Note that programs like UT Austin, which has the Michener Fellowship, pay you — I believe about $20,000/9 months — to go to school and do nothing but write! These are pretty rare, however, so most people go the TAship route.
I got my letter today from UNM, offering me a TAship. This was, I got to tell you, a major relief for me. The deal is fairly good, and this is how it works. The agreement stipulates that you teach two course sections per semester. However, for the first semester, you teach English 101 and take a Pedagogy class (Freshman Compsition) which is treated as though you are teaching. In the second semester, you teach two course sections of English 102.
After that, depending on your reviews, you may be allowed to teach other lower lever writing courses, including 200 level creative writing. Or, you may opt out of teaching a section by working in another assistantship position.
For your dogged service, you get FULL TUITION REMISSION. That’s right. You don’t pay for school, and that is pretty rockin’ in my book. Especially for a degree that is not a known money-maker. But wait! There’s more! Because if you order before midnight tonight, you’ll also receive this handy SALARY. It’s not huge, but it’s not too bad. (I haven’t mentioned this yet, but until a year and a half ago, I was making $50k a year — this is a bit of a dip for me.) But that’s not all, because they’re also giving me FREE HEALTHCARE! (Which was the other thing I lost when I quit my previous job.)
Now, that being said, teaching classes is not a walk in the park. I’ve heard people say that it was a major strain on their learning experience. Some might say it’s almost worth it to pay for the school, but here’s my take on things. For the first three and a half years that I was in school, I worked full-time and managed and managed an advertising department. I was even a single parent for the first few years and kept a decent GPA through the whole thing.
I think I can handle it.
Friday, February 27, 2009
But today's news is Official, but not in that sense. Yesterday afternoon I got a phone call from the director of the Creative Writing Program at UNM to let me know that I'd been accepted into the MFA (Masters of Fine Arts)for next fall. This was a huge relief for me as I'd been sweating it out.
The next step is to somehow get awarded a teaching assistantship, which means that A.) I won't pay any tuition, B.) I'll get paid about $20K for two semesters, and C.) I'll have health care again. In other words, I'll get paid to get a Masters degree. Of course I will have to teach English to a bunch of college freshmen, but hell. I can do that.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
I've received unofficial word that i have been accepted into the Creative Writing MFA program at UNM for the fall of 2009. I still have to get the official notice from graduate admissions, but that's the word on the street.
And, of course, I have to get the funding.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
I sent the above message from my phone this morning. I was listening to Robert Earl Keen's "Corpus Christi Bay" on the iPod, and the emergency flashers on the bus I was waiting for were flashing in perfect time. I kept expecting it to drift off, like how sometimes your turn-signal and the one of the car in front of you will be in sync, but after a couple of clicks, nada. But it did it through the whole song...
Christ, I need some sleep. Only three weeks into the final semester, and I'm fried crispy.
It takes a lot of effort to go to my classes each day. I feel like just giving up.
I heard from one of my professor's today that they are in the process of reading MFA program applications. He felt certain I was in the very top group, but the question had to do with how many students they were going to admit. Usually it is 3-5.
I heard from another professor a few weeks ago that there were questions about the program in general for next year due to some internal struggles. Jesus, what a bunch of fucking babies! Grow up.
I got accepted at Chatham Colege in Pittsburgh, and I'd love to go, but we just can't afford to leave NM right now.
Where the hells the ice cream?
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
Avi sez, "Nassim Nicholas Taleb, gadfly author of The Black Swan, gives his 10 rules for surviving an unpredictable world with dignity."
1 Scepticism is effortful and costly. It is better to be sceptical about matters of large consequences, and be imperfect, foolish and human in the small and the aesthetic.
2 Go to parties. You can’t even start to know what you may find on the envelope of serendipity. If you suffer from agoraphobia, send colleagues.
3 It’s not a good idea to take a forecast from someone wearing a tie. If possible, tease people who take themselves and their knowledge too seriously.
4 Wear your best for your execution and stand dignified. Your last recourse against randomness is how you act — if you can’t control outcomes, you can control the elegance of your behaviour. You will always have the last word.
5 Don’t disturb complicated systems that have been around for a very long time. We don’t understand their logic. Don’t pollute the planet. Leave it the way we found it, regardless of scientific ‘evidence’.
6 Learn to fail with pride — and do so fast and cleanly. Maximise trial and error — by mastering the error part.
7 Avoid losers. If you hear someone use the words ‘impossible’, ‘never’, ‘too difficult’ too often, drop him or her from your social network. Never take ‘no’ for an answer (conversely, take most ‘yeses’ as ‘most probably’).
8 Don’t read newspapers for the news (just for the gossip and, of course, profiles of authors). The best filter to know if the news matters is if you hear it in cafes, restaurants... or (again) parties.
9 Hard work will get you a professorship or a BMW. You need both work and luck for a Booker, a Nobel or a private jet.
10 Answer e-mails from junior people before more senior ones. Junior people have further to go and tend to remember who slighted them.
This article,Readers build vivid mental simulations of narrative situations, brain scans suggest,lays out how when a reader really grasps a story, areas of the brain associated with... Ummm... Oh just read it.
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?
Be here now. Be someplace else later. Is that so complicated?
Drink tea and nourish life; with the first sip, joy; with the second sip, satisfaction; with the third sip, peace; with the fourth, a Danish.
Wherever you go, there you are. Your luggage is another story.
Accept misfortune as a blessing. Do not wish for perfect health, or a life without problems. What would you talk about?
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single Oy.
There is no escaping karma. In a previous life, you never called, you never wrote, you never visited. And whose fault was that?
Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.
The Tao does not speak. The Tao does not blame.. The Tao does not take sides. The Tao has no expectations. The Tao demands nothing of others. The Tao is not Jewish.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Forget this and attaining Enlightenment will be the least of your problems.
Let your mind be as a floating cloud. Let your stillness be as a wooded glen. And sit up straight. You'll never meet the Buddha with such rounded shoulders.
Deep inside you are ten thousand flowers. Each flower blossoms ten thousand times. Each blossom has ten thousand petals. You might want to see a specialist.
Be aware of your body. Be aware of your perceptions. Keep in mind that not every physical sensation is a symptom of a terminal illness.
The Torah says, Love your neighbor as yourself.. The Buddha says, There is no self. So ... maybe we're off the hook?
Monday, January 19, 2009
Incoming not Jesus, the force of a smart bombCopyright,William "Wild Bill" Taylor April, 2006
gone dumb crashing in on that school yard around
yonder fields of wars gone past
yes, another incoming
projectile of conscious holds the retreating
some children are killed
we are so very sorry
comes the voice from the distant hill
promises promises never the sounds
of incoming trash
two down the chute
and the classroom rumbles
death and destruction covered up
by the pentagon squares
collateral damage as common
as dandruff in the generals hair
please do not repent
for bodies go up
what strangers will come back to us...
1. Ketchup. It’s what’s for dinner.
2. Got Ketchup?
3. Ketchup. The other red condiment.
4. Ketchup. The condiment of your life.
5. Ketchup. The fabric of your life.
6. Ketchup. A better idea.
7. Ketchup. Ram tough.
8. Ketchup. Hot dogs wanted.
9. Ketchup. Bet you can’t eat just one.
10. Ketchup. Life’s a condiment.
11. Ketchup. For a great night’s rest.
12. Ketchup. Friends don’t let friends eat mustard.
13. Heinz. The ketchup that made Milwaukee famous.
14. Ketchup. Think Different.
15. Ketchup. The real thing.
16. Little known fact. Both Albert Einstein and porn-star John Holmes guzzled Ketchup as children.
17. Ketchup. Better red than dead. (with a picture of Chairman Mao.)
18. Ketchup. What a condiment was meant to be.
19. Come on Ketchup! Move your bloomin’ arse!!!
20. I’ve always relied on the ketchup of strangers.
21. You need some ketchup very very badly.
22. Ketchup. It’s really gross if you see it made.
23. Ketchup. Only 200ppm of insect legs!
24. Ketchup: Hitler hated us!
25. Ketchup. A sure cure for the hiccups, short-term memory loss, and athlete’s foot.
26. WWKD? What would Ketchup do?
27. WCKD? What CAN’T Ketchup Do?
28. Ketchup, duct-tape and WD-40 – a complete tool kit.
29. Ketchup. Without the ‘k’ it’s just ‘etchup.’
30. Ketchup. It’s like a vegetable only runnier.
31. Ketchup: You could fill your baby’s bottle with it and put him down for a nap. Of course you’d probably be arrested for it, but that’s what parenting is all about.
32. Blood. It’s like fake ketchup only it keeps you alive longer.
33. Couldn’t you just go for a nice big steaming bowl of Ketchup right now? Of course you couldn’t. That would be disgusting.
34. In a fight, would you really rather have a bottle of ketchup or a jar of mustard? That’s what we thought. Ketchup: We’ve got your back, Jack.
35. Ketchup. Your fish can’t live in it, but then, why would they want to?
36. Ketchup. It’s like salsa for white folks.
37. Ketchup. You can even put it on food!
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Sunday, January 04, 2009
This is by Hendrick Avercamp. I'd never heard of him before today. It appears he did a lot of winter scenes set in and around Amsterdam. I'm digging his stuff because it looks similar to Pieter Brueghel (the elder) who is probably my all time favorite painter (thought I love Renoir nearly as much.)