Thursday, September 8, 2011


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.

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.