Thursday, September 8, 2011

Moto-Recall


By Steven B. Fuson


I monitored its progress patiently at first; then, as deadlines loomed closer, I became aware that the fertile aroma that the desert offers to the rain had been displaced by the stench of the weathered concrete parking structure. In Albuquerque, one rarely has to wait more than ten minutes for a weather window and from my court complex vantage point I could see the sooty edge of the storm. Accordingly, I decided not to bother with rain gear. Today, however, the storm-monster had its claws dug viciously into the landscape vowing that it would not be rushed in its efforts to devour all motorcycle-positive conditions.

After forty-five minutes, the storm’s edge had not moved and I could no longer wait it out and still be on time. So, I clamped my parking ticket and a fiver between my lips and rolled my ’93 K1100RS into the maw of the creature. I knew instantly upon emerging from overhead shelter that I had underestimated the value of wet-weather gear, but I was past the severe tire damage grate and decided to push on.


“Howya doing today?” smirked the parking attendant as he squinted against the water splashing off my shaved head.


I grunted and rolled through, donating my change to the parking comedian relief fund.

Leaving the parking area, I cautiously paddled out into the stream called 6th Avenue. Reminiscent of an impressionist painting, the light and cityscape reflected off the flooded streets leaving the notion of Paris at dusk – or so I imagine it would have had I been able to see it clearly through the funhouse mirror of my water-distorted riding glasses.

Fortunately, I was able to take the left onto Lomas without having to stop or slow and there was no other traffic with which to contend. I would usually have slid all the way over to the right hand lane but it was swollen and had a current. Although I was barely moving and maximized my contact patch by keeping vertical, I was hard pressed to come to a stop at the 5th Street light, the bike sliding unstably under me. The extra five feet it took for me to make a controlled stop gave me pause and I tightened my grip on the handlebars. As the light turned, the Toyota behind me broke traction, fishtailing through a hellish shriek and narrowly avoiding my left saddle bag, as I pulled out from the light more cautiously than the driver had subconsciously anticipated.


As I approached the Central –Lomas merge, the rain washed the sun block from the top of my head over my brows and into my eyes in a symphony of acid-green wetness. Unable to stop for maintenance due to bumper-to-bumper traffic, I tightened my knees to the tank and began to rethink my pre-flight checklist. I was unprepared for the safety realities in every conceivable way. First, as is my custom, I had not worn a helmet which would have eliminated the chemical burns to my eyes and largely mitigated the potential fatal visibility problems I was currently at a loss to confront. Next, had I checked the weather before leaving, I would have had her make other arrangements for transportation so that I would have had plenty of time to wait out the storm, if necessary.


My eyes now providing more of their own water than the storm, I merged right to the blaring of the horn of some jerk who, having been put on notice of my intent by my turn indicator for an entire block, was apparently displeased that I was going to take up another six feet of space in front of him, thereby causing him to be an additional 1/1000th of a second later to arrive at his destination.


The water in the intersection was up to my pegs as I struggled to keep the bike as upright as possible while navigating by ear, wind direction and air pressure – my eyes having been rendered useless. Here I began to calculate the likelihood that I would survive the trip and I vowed that, if I were to survive, I would never again leave the garage without a brain bucket. Having determined that my chances were very low, I was granted a reprieve by traffic.
The lights at Mountain and Rio Grande had been knocked out by the storm and traffic was backed up to Old Town Pizza. This gave me a moment to dump into neutral and wipe as much of the offensive lotion as possible out of my eyes and off my head with the short sleeves of my saturated t-shirt.

As I replaced by glasses which were smeared with lotion but otherwise much better visibility-wise than they had been when I needed them most, I noticed several sets of teeth aimed at me from behind the tinted rear windows of a minivan. As traffic began again to move, I watched the youngster in the front seat – who apparently was named Troy and played soccer if negative image stencils applied at the car wash can be believed – indicating to the driver that he had sighted an actual mental patient.

At this point, feeling more confident in my survivability, I decided that I would take Rio Grande all the way up instead of risking another bout with blindness while negotiating traffic at freeway speeds. As I crossed under the I-25, the dry traction conducted through the machine and radiated over me a warm mustard confidence that all was again right with the two-wheeled universe. This confidence was confirmed as I emerged into much drier road conditions and diminishing sprinkles on the North side of the big slab. The sprinkles quickly gave way to sunlight and warmth as I made my way into Los Ranchos.


With my freshly recovered swagger, all of my tense safety-related vows vanished into reverie of a time when, riding North on the 313, I had encountered a swarm of light-yellow green butterflies that must have been a hundred-thousand strong. They rose in force from the sun-soaked pastures on the west side of the road and fluttered about the road like the silver-dollar sized snowflakes of a warm early season snowstorm. They contrasted and complemented the blues, purples, browns and grays of Sandia Mountain just before the sun does its watermelon magic. I remember the sky being an unusually dark and deep blue, almost the color of a Windows default desktop.


The swarm also seemed to suspend the rushing of the wind and replace it with a deep silence. A silence that seemed extracted from an ecstasy-enhanced Hindustani-influenced techno joint perfectly positioned and performed to elicit primordial abandon to the essence of music.
Just as the music of my mind turned experientially to the memory of the sweet breath of a lost love, a sudden movement to my left caused my stomach to lurch.


The black and chrome gangster-tinted Toyota swerved into my space and clipped my front tire. The hand grip was ripped with such force from my clutch hand that I thought my arm may have been torn from the socket at the shoulder. My right hand still firmly around the throttle, the bike was horizontal beneath me and I was poised, arms and legs akimbo, to do a flying face plant into the tarmac. There was to be no amnesty this time, my life was over and there was nothing I, or anybody else, could do about it. All sensation seemed to release - as though my sensory clutch had disengaged -and I was not afraid.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Not One of Us



By Rudolfo Carrillo


The doctor I visited asked had I ever undergone surgery.

He worked in a building on Gibson Avenue, near the airbase. The building he worked in was near the very spot where the first American astronauts came to have tests done, before each got the chance to roar into space on the tip of a large flaming stick.

The astronauts came to Albuquerque in the late 1950s to be examined by a doctor named
William R. Lovelace. He had developed the first high-altitude oxygen mask, while working at another airbase, in Dayton, Ohio, a place in America, coincidentally, where my twin brother lives and works.

Lovelace
had been hired by NASA to make sure that the spacemen could withstand the rigors of rocket flight, could successfully go to and return from a place where there was no oxygen or gravity at all.

Dr. Lovelace was a New Mexico native. He founded a clinic in Albuquerque that became a set of hospitals that still bear his family name. Now, there are advertisements for this hospital all over town.

Do me a favor. Next time you see one of those signs, while you’re thinking about your health, like the sign asks you to, take a moment and look up into the sky.

Anyway, there is a replica of one of the metal sticks that the
Gemini 7 used to visit outer space, right here in Burque. It’s parked at a museum near the edge of town. The museum chronicles the history of large flaming sticks. Some of the sticks, as I mentioned before, were used to lift fragile and living human bodies into the unexplored void that surrounds the earth.

Other versions of these magic sticks had
a less noble purpose, however. That purpose was also defined here in Albuquerque and in the areas that surround our fair city.

But back to the surgery thingy, which also took place in Albuquerque and has got some outer space stuff going on, too.

I was
born with pointed ears. The ears I was born with were not quite as pointy as Mr. Spock’s ears, but they were very noticeable none the less — just about every one of my school chums referred to me as Spock, a situation which amused me but horrified my parents.

After one of my teachers told my mom and dad that casual parental marijuana use had been shown to have produced minor congenital defects of the sort I manifested, after the sailor framed his retort with the most elegantly insulting Spanish ever heard in Rehoboth New Mexico, my outraged mother decided that enough was enough.

She made an appointment with a plastic surgeon in Albuquerque. His name was Gooding and he was a tall thin man with big hands. He examined me, asked me how I felt about my ears. I pretended to be stoic and logical and did not smile or smirk when he took pictures of my profile with a large Polaroid camera.

Afterwards, my dad took us to the
Los Altos Twin Cinema to see the new Peter Sellers film, which was about a bumbling French detective. I couldn’t concentrate on the film and wished instead that he had taken us to see Escape to Witch Mountain, a film we had heard was about outer space. It happened to be showing on the other screen. When it was quiet in our half of the building, due mostly to the fact that American audiences really didn't understand Sellers' brand of humor,  I strained my pointed ears trying to hear what was going on next door.

Two weeks later, my family returned to Albuquerque. I was admitted to
a small hospital in the Northeast Heights. The hospital was called Anna Kaseman Hospital. Everything was new and glistening and clean at that hospital, which resembled the inside of a fancy spaceship, as far as I was concerned.

I was treated like royalty there. I was treated like a very high emissary from another world, I imagined at the time.

The next evening (which, by the way,
was spread out against the sky), I was wheeled into the operating room and anesthetized. When I awoke, my head was bandaged and my brother was standing over me in the recovery room.

—How you doing,
Spock? How was space?

—It was dark and quiet, but warm. Nothing like books or television... or movies. Not quite what I expected.

A man in gray brought in some white ice cream, my smiling parents trailing behind. We looked out the window at the city of Albuquerque, where it was still nighttime, but on the verge of dawn, a time when there is faint light  on the edge of things that you would never guess is coming from a huge fire in depths of eternal darkness.





Note: This piece was cross-posted to a writing blog called Things in Light. It is a city blog run by the partner of the author of this post. The Eds.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

my name is a number is a bird, darkly


By Rudolfo Carrillo
One time, I wrote to you amidst the starry, provocatively celestial and wind-borne influence of night.
Two dust-speckled birds lit on the mulberry tree in the garden. I heard a low and mournful whisper coming from the train yard. It weren't a ghost, but just a locomotive breathing out its coarse, dread diesel discourse into the obscure hours. Before long, those two nightjars commenced, uttering caliginous chirps and whistles. All of those sounds combined, and once entwined, spirited themselves away into the upper atmosphere.

There was a fancy sodium lamp burning nearby. Its output caused just about every nearby object to appear yellow and sharp. Purple shadows blossomed beneath all the cars and plants and cats that moved or sat within the circle of its electric radiance.

When I spied Polaris, it was still spinning in one place, churning thorough eternity like the maelstroms that take boats down to Neptune's hidden garden. Seeing as how that idea gave me an unfamiliar but welcome sense of worldly ease and well-being, I lay myself down and fell into a dream.

In that other world, it is naturally and comfortingly bright and sullen at the same time. I let my old yellow volkswagen do the driving. That car carries me with all of the benevolence its chugging engine can muster, across empty mesas and up into foggy foothills.

The road gets hard to manage and has been flooded with paint the color of water, but the city of Albuquerque is glowing beneath me, a planar outpost, an obscure and distant space station. I tell the volkswagen (whose name I cannot pronounce in reality) to wait while I investigate the geometry and nocturnal animal life in the mountains ahead.

A pack of coyotes is breathing out howling noises aimed at the moon and a uropygid skitters through the arroyo, whipping its tail and snapping its black claws. Somewhere east of supper rock, I find a wooden door by a cliff I used to climb. I pull it open to discover the Sandias are hollow. There is a pale blue light blasting from outta that hole in the earth. Within it, someone has built an ramshackle fence, made from bones and telephone wire, around a great and green meadow. Sheep graze here and there and my old dog Arnold bounds up to say hello, wagging his tail and carrying on about the beauty and serenity of nature.

Of course the sun come up just about then. The solar emanation brightly and efficiently wrestled me away from the arms of morpheus, just as I am calling telepathically for the Volkswagen to come and get me, before my dog can run off again.

Activating my personal levitation device, I floated into the kitchen and processed some coffee beans into a stimulating beverage. Then, I climbed off the machine and swung the backdoor open in a gesture meant to reconcile myself with reality. I did not bother to look for my shoes before stepping into September.
A cool breeze was wafting through the air. The whole place smelt of water and autumnal relief. Two fellows were working on the swamp cooler next door and cursing a clogged copper pipe while the neighbor's cat patrolled the fencetops and prowled for Inca doves.

Out in front, my black sparkly station wagon just sat there under the carport, not saying a damn thing (this part of the story happens in reality, after all). I figured this morning would be as good a time as any to take advantage of the Carl's Junior coupons that some faithful and steadfast federal employee had recently deposited in the snail mail receptacle adorning the porch.

So, filled as it was with a variety of earth-poisoning petroleum by-products, that old Toyota practically came to life when I turned the key. After fiddling with the radio some, I chanced upon a broadcast of an old Rolling Stones tune. It was a song called 2000 Man and it goes something like this (I listened to it intently while zooming towards a cholesterol and fat-laden breakfast) :

Well, my name is a number,
A piece of plastic film.
And I'm growin' funny flowers
In my little window sill.

Don't you know I'm a 2000 man?
And my kids, they just don't understand me at all...

Well my wife still respects me
Though I really misused her.
I am having an affair
With a random computer.

Don't you know I'm a 2000 man?
And my kids, they just don't understand me at all...

Oh daddy, proud of your planet!
Oh mummy, proud of your sun!
Afterwards, I got home, switched off the radio and the car and et my breakfast. I fed the meaty parts to the dogs and afterwards, exclaimed to no one in particular, "Damn Good!".
When it gets dark, I'll try and write all this stuff down.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Remembrance

By Steven B. Fuson

I took another sip of my Crown and noticed that I had been unconsciously servicing “the itch” by tugging at my shirt sleeve through my heavy wool funeral suit. I needed to chip but I couldn’t walk all the way out to the truck; she needed me near and people would see. It was raining and the overcast gray-white of the front-room window reflected off the various facets of the ice cubes in my glass which, when held in the foreground of the hickory flooring in her dining room, created a color scheme reminiscent of early 80’s minimalist apartment décor; you know, the kind with a Nagle print over the white brick fireplace. As I stared into the glass, I overheard a couple of the high school girls whisper about how hot he was and that they would have hooked-up with him in an instant and that they could not understand how she could give him up for that.

I remember thinking about how beautiful and caring and loving she had always been. All the way back to the summer days at the local softball fields talking behind the bleachers about G_d and Karma and Nuclear War. I remember thinking that she was the most intelligent woman that I had ever met. I remembered that she was always generous of spirit – never without understanding or true forgiveness for those who would do her harm. I remembered the way she smelled of saddle soap, hay and heady femininity after unloading the wagon in the August sun; how that very sun burst through, and back-lighted, the loose ringlets in her hair burning the image permanently in my mind’s-eye. I remembered how, on that day, she had convinced me that I could be forgiven; that to go on with my life was not an affront to G_d; that my sins were those of a boy forced to grow up way too quickly; that, at that instant, G_d was weeping for my pain and hoping that I would find solace. I remember how, even though we were damp with sweat, prickly from chaff and I was crying uncontrollably, I was not embarrassed or restrained in our hug. I remembered how, on the day she walked into my office, her hair and scent launched me into a reverie of that spiritual day three decades past.

Although she had tried to wipe her cheeks clean, I could tell that she had been crying. As she mustered the nerve to talk, what I saw in her eyes was sadness so profound that it could only have been known by one who dared to love completely.

J2


By Steven B. Fuson

You took his call; the door creaked open and a gaggle of soldiers, pig-farmers and elderly tourists milled aimlessly about our sanctuary, trampling our clothing with mud and feces.

I wallow in it of course. Why have I settled for mere survival, nourished only on the scraps you sporadically slop into my trough?

I sit alone now, languid; I remember the taste of your mouth, the knowledge of your breath. I wish that I could believe that I cannot live without it but that is simply not true. Am I so inconsequential? Do I deserve to be of no consequence?

My identity exists only in the image reflected in the greasy water pail that you place carelessly next to my food.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Slip Space




By Steven B. Fuson

Wednesday, as the rain began, I stowed my upper Midwestern – think Fargo – accent and hung up the phone with my Aunt Carol. She is in the hospital and it is possible that I will never see her again. This was my mother’s closest sister. Her children were the same ages, within days, of me and my little brother and we spent all of our free time together, with their family taking advantage of all the leisure activities that were available to those lacking any disposable income. Nearly all of my positive memories from childhood include Aunt Carol.

My primary memory of my mother, on the other hand, is that she ceaselessly cleaned the house to the spirit recorded on vinyl; apparently, my mother was a fan of Ray Conniff, as she had his arrangement of nearly every popular song of the '50s, '60s, and '70s in her collection. I was too young to know the difference between the originals and the covers and never thought to ask her why she collected the way she did.

My little brother and I were pressed into full service only on the weekends and holidays. My assigned duties, outside of kitchen functions dictated by meals, included: 1) cleaning baseboards, walls and registers using Formula 409; 2) dusting all furniture, bookshelves, and each and every knick knack using either a clean dry cloth or one infused with Lemon Pledge, depending upon the medium of the item to be dusted; and 3) raking the algae-green speckled shag carpet with a specialty carpet rake (a rigid hunter-green plastic affair evocative of the rakes used to create Zen gardens).

That day, clad in a T-shirt and my royal blue Sears Toughskins, which mother had ordered from the catalog and picked up at the outlet 14 miles distant in Barron, I was to dust the entire house. After sternly rebuffing my protestations regarding the unfair nature of my having to perform tedious housework while all other boys ran the woods in keeping with their primordial birthright, my mother started the album and, to the tune of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” as covered by the Ray Conniff Singers, I set my jaw, retrieved the Pledge and started with the wood furniture
The TV smelled of plastic electricity and the furniture polish (which I was not supposed to use on the device) mixed with anger as I smeared the sides of the plastic cabinet and I started to construct a world in which I would never have to carry out such a menial task again. As I have always had an affinity for the gray day, this place would be cool but not cold with a leaden sky that would not force my robin’s egg eyes to squint against the annoying metallic sunlight which causes the world to run on time and makes my clothing cling to me as though I were thinly coated with syrup extracted from something citrus.

The cloth took on a moldy hue as a snarl of dust rolled thin and ever longer before it, like clay rings in a seventh grade pottery class. The clouds over Wisconsin’s north woods moved in to the tempo of “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” as I stared out the bay window that was my mother’s pride. Promising, I thought, cheering for the storm. The storm could force the hazy, humid summer day to match my ideal.

As the Conniff Singers continued to cover the most popular songs of 1970, my mother chastised me for daydreaming, stating that we had to hurry up because someone was coming over, her tone revealing that the guest was not just any someone. Sensing an urgency that went beyond mother’s usual Germanic nagging, I doubled down my efforts while continuing to build my ideal and, dare I say, sacred space in my mind’s eye. Finishing just as Mrs. Wathke rang the bell, I retreated to the basement to escape the sweltering heat of the day. Down there, I sat against the concrete block wall in the cement floor just under the hospital bed that I was told my father had lived in for a year (before I was adopted) due to a bad back. There, I continued to live in my gray world, picking at the delaminating soles of my high-top Converse All-Stars, until my father called for me from the top of the steps. I had not even heard him come home from work. My endocrine system perceived his noontime presence as a threat to my survival and I flushed head to toe with a full-blown panic reaction. As I mounted the stairs, the three adults were standing in the hallway. I stared at the mustard and olive paisley patterned linoleum, ready for the ass-chewing for whatever it was that they had discovered that I had done, when my father reached out and took me into an embrace.

The next thing I remember is realizing that I was sitting at the kitchen table alone, enveloped in the grayness of the high and distant clouds. I understood that my parents had introduced me to Mrs. Wathke and told me that she would be taking care of me while my mother recovered from surgery – I didn’t know it at the time but she was to undergo a radical mastectomy on the 'morrow – but that reality was profane. Hence, I preferred to slip into my cool gray world where time was suspended. There, I felt safety and comfort. There, no matter what came, I was strong. I was prepared.

As I walked back into the house thinking about Carol, I realized that I was singing “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” – the Ray Conniff arrangement.



Saturday, August 13, 2011

Three Dances


By Rudolfo Carrillo

“Vamos A Bailar”, the floating image blinkingly announced. The quote was supposedly an approximation of the words spoken by FBS scientist Refujio “Chico” Takuya as he plugged a modified digital recording device into a small and oddly configured port just behind his left ear.

By pointing to this text with one’s eyes and blinking twice, it was possible to read about Takuya’s discovery on a floaty viewscreen that appeared twenty centimeters in front of and parallel to the users face. This was a great innovation and it changed the world.

The device had been designed in a laboratory that was part of a military outpost in the desert. If that laboratory could talk, had been sentient (and believe me, the wizards at FBS had done their utmost to try and contact the spirit of the main room, with no luck, of course) it could have told you all about implosion fuses; a type of metal foil that could be folded into seven dimensions and a computer that could predict droughts five hundred years into the future.

Anyway, the computer interface Yakuda discovered was called the plastic tunnel. Besides making keyboards and mice everywhere sad and forlorn in their obsolescence, the bundle of equipment and magic of which it was comprised produced an unforeseen but widely embraced anomalous phenomena. It had the capacity to access the memories and perceptions of other network users just as the present slipped into the past. These images, sounds, tastes and feelings of another world were mostly random, interrupting the continuous buzz of information pouring out of the system like a broken summertime garden hosepipe; chaotically and momentarily replacing it with ghostly echoes of anyone and everyone that was online. Luckily, none of that stuff could not be recorded.

When any computer attempted to read the data that had been downloaded from a plastic tunnel, the host machine hissed and turned itself off.

Still, Takuya was quoted as saying, the time would come and quickly, when scientists would develop the machinery necessary to make recordings of the entire process. His discovery, he believed, would revolutionize human life in a way that made the device itself seem like a wooden wheel on a jet aeroplane.

Diaro Burquenista
would have nothing to do with the scientist’s optimism, though. It called the discovery “attempt to take good money from country’s security fund” and “just dumb dream”.

The local alt site,
This Paranormal World
, missed the event entirely, having chosen instead to focus on the expedition it had sent two lucky readers on, to Loch Ness. Their editorial board had sent a microscopic flying camera drone along to check in on their winning reader’s activities. They streamed images from the drone onto their site randomly, to keep the interest up
.
Meanwhile, Tucker Dowd, at
nytimes
, who happened to be the clone/grand-daughter of a semi-famous columnist (also a clone) whose mother was named Maureen, a now forgotten writer, waxed poetically about the seeming leap forward, writing that “Now, we be immortal”.

But, back in the middle of the urban area that sprawled out around the Rio Grande, from El Paso to Taos, people had their own ideas about what was happening over at Flatland Binary Solutions. Coatlicue Wilson, a sidebar skin specialist at Flatland, thought that...

“Hey, are you going to come in here and help me with the dishes or not?"

“Sorry, I just had an idea and I wanted to write it down”.


“Has anyone else ever told you that you have the tendency to desert social situations for any terminal you see, for any computer in your general vicinity”?

"Yep, like a moth to a lit candle”.

“It can be sorta disturbing”.

“I don’t have any control”.

“It seems like a choice”.

“No, when it wants to come out, it does”.

“Sort of like literary…”

“I’ll come into the kitchen now, I’ll wash, you dry”.

He piled utensils, dishes and glasses into the sink, in that order. The Utensils were placed at the bottom. Then the plates were stacked, from largest to smallest, with bowls on the top of that rough pyramid. Finally the glasses were arranged around the construction. Hot water was added. Working quickly, the pair cleaned and toweled the dishes. They were placed in a cabinet which was painted white. “Next, the glasses, he said, while also marveling at the multitude of bubbles on the surface of the water in the sink. For a second he imagined that each bubble was a separate and exotic universe, each with its own physics and metaphysics . Then, grasping a blue tumbler with his right hand, he began to sponge the glass with his left. His hand slid across the curvature of the vessel. Simultaneously, he noticed that it was broken.

“What a sharp edge that is”, he mumbled to himself just before the ragged border penetrated the skin of his pinkie, slicing it as one might remove the skin of an apple.

He screamed.

“What happened”? “I think that I just cut my finger off”. “Let me see it”.

There was a one inch piece of skin dangling from his finger. And some blood, too.

“Get me a washcloth”. “They’re all in the washer”. “I need something to stop the bleeding”. “Here use this”.

“You were using that to dry the dishes, it’s dirty”.

“You need to stop the bleeding”.

When the bleeding had stopped, he said to her, “Hey look at this, it’s like a trap door to another world. It’s all white and bubbly underneath”. Years ago, he had gotten used to injuring his hands, when he had been a welder, carrying around pieces of hot steel. So, the wound did not bother him. In the interest of hygiene they decided to drive to Wal-Mart. She believed it would be best to disinfect the wound, to cover it properly. It was Thanksgiving and every other place was already shut. Wal-Mart would have what they needed and it was nearby. They drove down Monroe, then Zuni, to get there. The parking lot was only sparsely populated with cars. There were beggars, though, at both entrances. She lit a cigarette after he parked the car.

“Don’t make eye contact with them”. “Why not”? “They’ll ask for money”. As they approached the entrance to Wal-Mart, she began to think about putting out her cigarette. She couldn’t take it inside.

A man approached. She made eye contact.

“Do you have any more of those?”

“I was going to put it out and throw it away, do you want the rest of it?”

“Yes”.

They spent several minutes deciding which type of bandage would be best. Afterwards, they picked up a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, which he intended to pour over the bloody phalange.

“Phalange is another word for finger”.

“Also works when you’re talking about the toes”.

“I didn’t know that”.

“Freerice.com”.

“What?”

“Never mind. Look, that line is the shortest”.

There were two people in line number 23. One was a man, the other his child. They were buying a toy inspired by a popular movie about a superhero named Spiderman. The child was counting out coins when the couple came up behind them. He didn’t have quite enough, so he looked up, to his father. The man, who was unshaven, reached into his coat pocket. He withdrew a battered Styrofoam cup. The cup had a word written on it, in black ink. The word was "Thanks". Looking up and around him, the man handed the child two nickels. He smiled wanly and looked at the strangers behind him.

They glanced at each other. Then both of them looked him in the eye.

On the ride back, they were playing Bon Jovi on the radio. Something about being a cowboy. The new artificial grass at Highland High School shone in the half moonlight: a storm was moving in from the east and clouds had begun to diminish its light.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Reminder and the Remainder: Don Pancho's Art Theater


By Rudolfo Carrillo

Here is something to read.

It is as dark and beautiful as tonight will be.

A large cloud occludes the moon and spreads itself across our humble burg and I watch it pass through, waiting for the light from the moon to conquer that gray blanket, effusively. There is a mulberry tree across the street and its branches are waving and quivering under the influence of August.

If you are lucky and read this right after it gets posted, I urge you to step outside and observe that moon’s arrival in Albuquerque.

By the way, and with no obvious intention of disrupting the poetic moment engendered in the text above, here are some of the lyrics to the song I am listening to, as I transfer data regarding this post from my head, through my hands and onto a mechanical device designed to send an electronic signal each time I tap on it…et cetera, et cetera:

If I get old
I will not give in
But if I do
Remind me of this

Remind me that
Once I was free
Once I was cool
Once I was me

And if I sat down
And crossed my arms
Hold me into
This song

Knock me out
Smash out my brains
If I take a chair
Start to talk shit

If I get old
Remind me of this
That night we kissed
And I really meant it

Whatever happens
If we're still speaking
Pick up the phone
Play me this song.

Ah, that is one of my favorite songs. And though it is not about Albuquerque and the band that sings it have never been here, the following narrative is about events that occurred in this here town, more than a few years ago, in the late nineteen eighties, as it were.

I was
working the night shift at UNM, ushering famous classical musicians onstage. I spent the time after they went on stage listening to them deconstruct their instruments. I thought I had heard it all, I would say to myself, each time they surprised me with their facility and grace.

So, I learned the classical repertoire and it was mostly accidental. That is not all I did while cooped up in the College of Fine Arts post-graduation.

I also spent time in the lighting control booth and read the
Daily Lobo.

One night in that dim light of LEDs and green glowing dials, I read an ad on the back page of that venerable publication. The advertisement announced a job at a place called Don Pancho’s Art Theater. It was for a job as a projectionist.

I circled the ad. The next day I appeared at the front of the theater. It was near the corner of Buena Vista and Central. The front was covered with crackly blue and grey paint. An older well dressed woman sat at the ticket booth. She was wearing a blue sweater and wore a dainty pearl necklace. Here hair looked like it had been styled in 1955 and she smiled demurely when I banged on the door.

Eventually I was greeted by an elvish and well-kempt man in his thirties. He led me up a spiral staircase and through an oaken door. Really. Behind the door it was dark and noisy.

There was an office, two projectors, an editing table, a couch and a toilet. A red bulb buzzed overhead. Little bits of very bright light poured out of gaps in one projector.

A fellow I knew from
Lee Bartlett’s Beat Generation class sat at one of the projectors. He had long blond hair and was rolling up a cigarette. He was waiting for the changeover, from one projector to the other. Just as one reel started flapping around and then sped up, he lit the cigarette and hit a switch on the wall. The second projector came to life and the smoke from his cigarette filled the room. It danced around in the thin rays of light and red ambience.

Hey, man, the thin man with blond hair said.

I took the job and started working there on weekends. It was a welcome refuge from the ornate formality of my other job. I had so many transformative experiences with those people at the theater that I could write about a million words on it.

Here are some of the things I would write about.

The time
a famous writer’s hair got caught in the projector.

The discovery of the surreptitious recycling of popcorn buckets by a feisty Earth-Firster who tended the machines for matinees and laughed at the customers.

The tenure of the projectionist
who was named for a greek goddess.

And most notably, the day we all arrived at work and found that the theater was closing. I sat and watched an old man in safety glasses dismantle the projectors and put them in a big truck headed for Phoenix. The next day the place was boarded up.

After that, it was dark inside Don Pancho’s Art Theater for the first time. When the moon rose that night, I rode my bike over to the college and then sat in another dark booth, where there was no imminent changeover to wait upon, only beautiful music wafting around and around.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Your Summer Vacation on Earth


This is your captain.

Welcome to the end of July in Albuquerque, NM.

Albuquerque, New Mexico is the name of the sprawling aggregate of living beings, sentient and non-sentient, their habitations, associated industry, infrastructure and other three-dimensional manifestations now live preview-screening on telepathic-link channel 137. We passed through some of its higher vibratory states about
three zodes ago, and will presently be materializing in the upper atmosphere directly above our destination, craftily disguised as an approaching thunderstorm.

Since it is monsoon season
in the Duke City (albeit in a time of drought), our approach, divestment of passengers and subsequent departure will most likely go unnoticed. Nonetheless, in the event you are approached by local inhabitants or their agents, it is important that you utilize one of the narratives which was available for download, preflight. If you have not received one of these downloads, please contact a flight attendant. Be aware that downloading this app during approach and landing may cause severe headaches and mental disturbances up to and including momentary confusion and anxiety.

In order to invoke the app, begin repeating the first paragraph of the narrative, which depending on the theme you've chosen, should go something like the three following examples:

"I am visiting from the another, less eccentric town. I am checking out the local economic situation
. I really dig downtown. I wish they had a supermarket, though."

"I adore this town, it is so quirky! The rough bits turn me on. But it really doesn't need all these cars."

"I am a local blogger."

Everybody got that? Good.

Before I rejoin sub-captain LXG-31 on the bridge, here are some useful details about your randomly chosen vacation playland; for a few hearty colonists, your new home and place of study; finally, for the remainder of passengers. the place to which you have been exiled.

A combination of high altitude, geographic positioning and the deleterious effects of industrial processes and energy extraction activities by the dominant sentient beings have resulted in extreme environmental conditions in various locations on the planet,
including Albuquerque, New Mexico and the outlying environs. In the middle of summer, the weather is very hot and dry, but interspersed with occasional and relatively brief periods of heavy rainfall. Sometimes, by the end of the season, there is a a calescent wind which blows across the plateaus. Reports indicate it makes the cows and cacti febrile as it passes.

For these reasons, it is strongly advised that you avoid exposure and endeavor to remain indoors during
peak solar hours, which generally fall between ten in the morning and four in the afternoon, local time. If you must make use of the indigenous forms of mechanized travel available in Albuquerque, New Mexico, during those same hours, please be certain beforehand that such devices have sustainable environmental control units associated with them.

In such circumstances, all passengers in your company should be accounted for on a continual basis; solar-related tragedies are
not beyond any of our experiences, yet it must be avoided, through forethought, at all costs.

Finally, folks, since we are basically on a mission of peace and mercy, you are hearby advised of the following: Directive 23a, concerning contact with non-federated, flesh-borne
entities, is hereby rescinded under the following conditions, which you may encounter in Albuquerque, New Mexico this late summer: If you witness any living creature obviously trapped in a hot, mechanized, human-generated or operated vehicle, please choose instant download option (for telepathic transmission) number 99m while you engage the following actions:

Use your mobile communications device to access
the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that humans use for telegraphic communication and contact the authorities.

Quickly note the position of the living entity trapped within and assess its condition. If necessary, locate a window as far away as possible from the being. With the being's life and safety your primary focus, break the window and attempt to retrieve and revive the child, animal or adult who was trapped before your intervention. Wait for humans to arrive and fully cooperate with them, including admitting responsibility for committing an ostensibly illegal act in order to save a life. Then, while repeating the introductory communicative phrases listed above, vanish into the emergency subspace escape portal provided by your travel agent.

Enjoy your stay in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Thanks again for flying Trans-Galactic, where Space is the Place
.

Captain out.

Friday, July 22, 2011

how he spent the intervening years away from earth


I am writing to you tonight from another planet. The planet that I am on features, among other amazing and colourful attributes, trees that bear cold cans of Tecate as their fruit.

¿Absolutamente una tentación, eh?


Besides my observation of the absolutely strikingly and beautifully efficient means with which the blossoms progress from small bright metallic orbs into cold and frosty containers of liquid refreshment, there are many reasons why I am fascinated by this current location.

It is, among the other translucent and weightless things, calm and peaceful here. It is dark at night. Polillas covered in the iridescent mourning gowns of a fast life flutter by, seeking out the orbs of light that float just about everywhere. Occasionally, a bat swoops down, upon them.

Es maravilloso estar aquí.

Other notable features include rain that never stops (hence the constant fruition of the noble and fruity cans); grass that grows inward, toward the center of the planet; a feeling of utter surrender and tranquility described by the motions and shapes of the clouds overhead; the smell of electricity and burning in the air.

Interestingly, the telephonic devices used by the inhabitants I have so far encountered are joined by strings, which symbolize some sort of connection that I have not been able to quantify at this point in time. Those strings son significados, I am certain of it.

There is also a large moon covered in hopeful starlight, floating overhead.

There are some drawbacks, however. The wind seeps through the doorways and makes a dour mist in the twilight hours, the government has banned mirrors and all the buildings have been painted white.

¡Ay, como fregas!

When morning comes and while the sky turns the color of the creamsicles the ice cream man on your world, driving down your street (with ersatz calliope blaring) is selling, I will make my way past the remnants of a once great civilization to an ultra-secret location where I may transported back to Albuquerque, New Mexico – a location on the planet earth symbolized roughly by the coordinates 35° 6′ 39″ N, 106° 36′ 36″ W, but actually comprising some 469.5 square kilometers in and around that area.

I like it here, but I am told by reputable and unimpeachable sources that where you are, dear reader, that summer has ineluctably returned, is at its decalescent apex, all sublimity and fleshy flowers.

The sky there is still and unceasingly blue.

Pienso que quisiera eso.

Friday, July 15, 2011

about tarzan in the wilderness of waters


Let me tell you something about water. I am fascinated by its absence and here in the desert it has been a thing which I have both feared and revered. Its lack of abundance has been a guidepost in my life. A dweller of mesas and arroyos, water represents something that is both formidable and sacred to me.

My family moved to Albuquerque when I was twelve. Before that, we lived on the edge of the Navajo reservation. There was an arid beauty there, expansive and windblown. I remember being driven to small fishing lakes in Navajoland and not being able to believe that so much water could gather in one place.


Sometimes we would wander around those mesas and arroyos, drifting across them, finding waterholes and
digging up clay from the ground.

We came into town often, shoppped at Trademart and ate at various
restaurants around Gallup. On the weekends, we would drive to Albuquerque, to visit friends and relatives.

When we were young, driving through the town or this state, with my father (who was oddly enough,
a sailor) at the helm of a car he himself would later categorize as a boat, my brother and I would hang our heads out the windows and scream in defiance of the water towers we passed. They were monumental and mysterious and spoke to something which was mostly unknown to us way back then: the gathering together of forces we had only seen during the isolated days of late summer thunder storms, that we had only waded through, shin deep, in murky rivulets and ponds. And here was that force, personified and unified, in mighty metal towers.

There are
water towers in the desert; this place is ripe with them. The travels we took with him seemed to begin and end with those risen behemoths.

The towers loomed on this horizon and that and I suppose we imagined them to be a type of metallic creature,
robots which might careen out of control at any time, drowning us with both malevolent size and liquid contents.

The old man would glance in the rear view mirror and laugh and cuss when he saw one approaching and my mother would turn up the radio.

I grew older and stopped screaming, but water maintained its elusive influence.
By the time we finally moved to Burque, I remember standing at the edge of the Rio Grande, staring.

When I asked my father about this utterly strange phenomenon, a river that flowed, he would say that the world was a watery place, that my confusion was contrary to the way of the earth. Water was a precious substance and magical too, he warned.

To prove his point,
he would drive us out to the ocean, nearly every summer. He would also tarry in the large desert that preceded the ocean and we would wonder at the vast emptiness and its dryness, anticipating the opposite.

And so, he also taught us to swim, mostly at pools around town. There was one at the
Albuquerque Country Club. There was another at the Mountainside YMCA. Our favorite became a pool called the A-Pool. It was a public pool located near Pennsylvania and Menaul. It was shaped like a gigantic letter A.

To further pique our interest in that activity, he would make us watch the
Val De La O show.

The Val De La O was a local tee vee show that was broadcast live on Saturday mornings, from the
KOB studios, in the 1960s and 1970s. Besides providing entertaining Spanish music for my then young and beautiful parents to dance to, Val featured certain celebrities as guests. One of his occasional guests was Johnny Weissmuller. Weissmuller had been an Olympic swimmer who had risen to fame portraying Tarzan in the movies. By the time of my childhood, he had retired and sometimes visited Albuquerque.

My father hoped that Tarzan's recollections of his watery exploits would encourage us to become safe and strong swimmers, despite the lack of water all around us.

He was mostly right.

Years later, long after Val and his hilarious sidekick Mario Leyva (he was sort of like
Cantinflas, sabes?) had taken their leave of the studios on Coal Avenue, I nearly drowned in the Gila River.

We had been camping with some other undergrads and decided to hike along the east fork. My brother warned me that the spring rains spelled treachery, but I ignored his admonitions. I decided to cross the swollen river.

In transit, I slipped on a rock, fell and was pushed under the torrent. The current was swift. I could not lift myself against it, and became submerged in it. It was surprisingly quiet down there. I began to see
pictures of my life being paraded around the backs of my eyelids. When I had just about given up, I saw an image of a water tower rising above a dusty road. On the road, an old Pontiac roared along. And like that tower, which held water, I decided to rise. Like that car which sought out water, I moved, somehow resurgent. I more crawled to shore than swam, though.

My brother was standing there, screaming.

This is what he shouted, loud enough to be heard over the din of the water, which roared like a beast: "who in the fuck do you think you are, Tarzan?"

That night, back in the
student ghetto, I dreamt of clay.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

the neighbors


I live very near a huge stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Well, about five miles away, maybe.

By some estimates, it’s the largest in the world.

That’s not meant to be a revelation. It’s just a fact and I’m really not too worried about it. It’s always been in the background.

I’ve lived here for 36 years, and if I should be worried, please someone, chime in and let me know.
Right now, I’m more worried about my addiction to Piggy's chili-cheese dogs. That could end my life too, but probably in a slower, more agonizing way.

It’s funny (strange, not ha-ha) how the nuclear stuff seems be below the cultural radar in these parts. To be fair, there are strong feelings on both sides of the coin, among those that know about Albuquerque’s nuclear heritage. More often, the topic remains occluded by all the other things that fill up our lives.

It’s as if it were a subtext, visible to only the loftiest of wizards, even though we have a popular Atomic Museum and a good number of our citizens are involved in the nuclear industry.

I know that some of the information needed to understand all of this is out there, as someone once said. It’s intense information though, if not in quantity, then certainly in quality.

Nuclear weapons and most of the infrastructure that dances along, have played an integral part of this city’s development and have shaped the culture here, too.
Here’s what I know and also remember:

• My friend Doug Bedell had a father who worked at Kirtland Air Force Base. He told me that he had been out to Manzano Base, which was hidden behind Four Hills (in the linked to photo the base would be behind the large hill on the left). It was like a city within a city, he said. Very few people stationed there ever left. The area was surrounded by electric fences and patrolled by fellows with machine guns. The airforce closed the base in 1982, as it prepared to open a new, state-of-the-art facility to house the weapons.

• As a teenager growing up in the heights, I frequently dreamt of nuclear weapons. I would also sneak into my father’s home office to read his
civil defense manuals. When I asked my mother about the nukes stored at the other end of the mountain, she would laugh and say that she thought we lived far enough away. I'm pretty certain that after questions like that, she would retire to the medicine cabinet for a 5 milligram valium.

• In 1992, the Kirtland Underground Munitions Storage Complex (KUMSC) became operational, in part to assist with deactivation and dismantlement activities taking place at Pantex, a nuclear facility near Amarillo, Texas. In part, this has led the facility to becoming one of the largest stockpiles on the planet.
• KUMSC is a highly secure area. Senator Jeff Bingaman has made efforts to keep it that way.

• About five years ago, I stumbled upon a protest in front of the Atomic Museum. Several people, including some acquaintances of mine, were protesting because a
Redstone rocket was being displayed in the museum courtyard. I remember thinking how scary it was that human beings used to sit on the top of such devices, trying to reach the stars.

• Next door to mi chante, there is a huge military base, un rancho grande, for the sake of comparison. They are doing research on nuclear weapons over there. They are storing nuclear weapons over there. Folks in high-tech jump suits and special boots work with the bombs everyday. Maybe they have nicknames for their favorite units, I dunno.


Anyway, I hope that everything is going well at that neighbor’s house, that there is ultimately a sense of quiet relaxation and not ticking expectation in those cold to the touch underground tunnels and rooms, where the specially clad people work.  I want to eat my chili dogs in peace.


This essay was updated (links and some content) on July 4, 2012.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

at the city of gold, it's marx versus murdoch


I grew up in the far northeast heights. I went to a high school that was named for a mythical city which supposedly was made from gold and precious jewels.

That metallic school, which was as heavy and hard to hold as any precious metal you can imagine, was populated with a diverse group of students. A fair amount of them were unconventional and untamed, eccentric dreamers and idealists. Thhy were young humans who could easily visualize, one supposes, the gilded future that awaited them. Whether that gold took the form of ingots or ideas, this tendency would serve them well for the most part, later on in life.

Some of the faculty was similarly quirky and exceptional. James Murdoch, the history teacher, wore a flat top and dressed in woolen suits during the winter. He had taught at the same school for years and years, though he had Ivy League cred.

When he was my instructor, he was near retirement, but still outspoken and exacting. Murdoch was a serious fellow, alright: required reading for his class included selections from Marcus Aurelius, Candide and Tuchman’s The Proud Tower. He gave long and passionate lectures on the subject of European history. He weaved Tuchman’s narrative into his inherently structuralist analysis and admonished those students - especially those could not readily draw a parallel between their experience and that of Cunegonde’s suitor - with impossibly intricate questions, as he walked up and down the aisles of desks.

The desks were filled with freaky and geeky kids, and he called upon his students respectfully, by their last names. The latter bit is a habit which I took up with due and appropriate solemnity in my second act, as a college lecturer.

Anyway, when Murdoch discovered that I had enlisted a few of my trusted peers to attend a meeting of the Young Socialists Alliance at UNM, had also and nefariously been seen at the local communist bookstore near Central and Maple, the name of which I cannot remember (probably from embarrassment or disappointment, the place was dark and shabby, in recollection), he asked to have a word with me, after class.

At first he spoke in technical terms, testing my knowledge of the nomenclature and theory, saying things such as, “a socialist, eh?" and "Fabian or revolutionary, Mr. Carrillo, Fabian or revolutionary?"

I told him that I was merely curious, while trying to hide the Lenin pin that until very, very recently had been adorning my shabby black cashmere overcoat.

Murdoch suddenly stopped stopped his inquisitive discourse and walked to the door, which faced towards the east, towards Tramway Boulevard. He opened it and said measuredly, with only a hint of awe in his voice, “So this is what you believe in...all this material, material that you believe to be the basis for everything, and ultimately the only thing perceivable in a measurable universe...you’re a materialist, eh?”

Then he sat and his desk and was quiet. An early springtime gust blew through the door and there were kids outside laughing and joking as they passed by and I could hear them.

Finally, after adjusting his tie and coughing loudly, he told me that it would be easy enough to hold fast to the tenets of Marx and his followers, as a young man. As I grew older, he said, I would surely come to reject them. This would happen he further stated, as surely as any atheist would invoke god, even if only reflexively, when confronted with the imminence of death.

Of course I tried not to listen to what he had to say, about the intricacy of human life and perception and experience and all of that. I tried to act aloof and disinterested, but what the old man said crept up on me, and got me to thinking about the unfathomable wonder of the universe, something I had to admit Marx neglected to talk about in his writings.

After our meeting ended, I decided to ditch school for the rest of the day. I enlisted two comrades and we split. We spent the rest of the day hiking up Embudito canyon. The mountain was snowy and there were deer and birds here and there and the wind was howling near the top. Again, I thought about what Murdoch said, what the man had rather implied, when he had opened up the door and pointed to the mountains.

Ten years later, I happened to pass through the Furr’s supermarket on Carlisle and Constitution. At that time, I had just taken leave of a post at UNM, in order to travel the world with my dear friend Kirsty, a British exchange student I met the previous year. I was at that Furr’s taking one last look at bountiful plenty, before plunging into the chaotic and impoverished world that lay beyond all the material and comfort to which I had become accustomed. I encountered James Murdoch in the dairy section.

Of course he immediately recognized me, and looking over his little round glasses intoned gravely, “Ah, Mr. Carrillo! One wonders, are you still a socialist, a materialist...perhaps also leaning heavily on Hegel’s dialectic and it's consequent assumptions?"

“Not so much, I said, but am of that influence. It's quite complicated, you know. I went hiking that day you lectured me and thought a lot about what you said. I am still thinking about it."

He was much older then, so I helped him load his groceries into his car. I shook his hand and he gave me a solid pat on the back. He drove off with one of Bach's fugues playing way too loudly on his car stereo, a weathered Mcgovern bumpersticker fluttering on the rear fender of his ramshackle Volvo.