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30 September 2011


Rudolfo Carrillo
By Rudolfo Carrillo

Yeah, the State Fair is always an animal-flavored mess of rustic fun, even sans freak shows.

I didn't visit the midway this year but asked around about it instead, so I don't know if the fine folks over there ever got around to reconstituting the human oddities section of the show or if they still consider the Snake Woman and her lot to be examples of a most nefarious form of familial subversion. Everyone I asked told me plainly they did not have the feria for that part of the feria. Maybe things will be better next year when people need an amusing diversion from the looming presidential elections and the tick tock of the Mayan clock.

Anywho, the autumnal events that follow on through Burque after the fair ends, the things about October that I recall long after they roll up the tents, reduce the tilt-a-whirl to an easily transported collection of metal struts plus hexagonal nuts, and send all those deep fried butter machines back to Venus, seem to strike a deeper resonance than whatever it is that transpires at Tingley Colosseum during the first weeks of September (I'm told it's called a rodeo, whatever the hell that means.)

For instance, the
Balloon Fiesta is a great and popular event, but you wouldn’t know it from the way I’ve seen some dogs react.

Here's a quick story about that. My family had a pit bull named Iris, como
arco iris, the rainbow, sabes? That dog was mean as hell to strangers and other dogs, but loyal and protective to her human family. One October she ended up at our house for good, on account of me.

Our next door neighbor was a veterinarian, his wife was a doctor. They had a kid and the kid had a babysitter who was my age. She went to Manzano High School which I thought was very exotic. I thought she was the utmost, you know, the ginchiest. So, I was always looking for an excuse to talk to her. One day I heard her singing to the kid in the backyard and so stuck my head over the fence to say hello. They were playing with a little black puppy. The doctors saw me and came out onto the patio, friendly and happy as usual. As they walked into the autumn afternoon, they both asked simultaneously, "Do you guys want another dog?" I forgot about the babysitter for a time and by that evening, Iris the dog was living it up at the Carrillo household.

The only thing old Iris was a scared of was hot air balloons. She lived 15 years grand and glorious years but nearly succumbed every October from high-blood pressure and continuous barking. Otherwise she was fierce as hot steel and for years the mailman and many a Jehovah's Witness would run fearfully into the street when they spied her dark and toothy countenance on the front porch.

As it turns out, Albuquerque’s famous but dog-frightening Balloon Fiesta is related to the
Sandia Peak Tramway, a local attraction that continues to engender an eldritch fear in me. Both sprang from the same creative, entrepreneurial minds, though I am certain neither of the folks behind those affairs ever considered the effects their civic produce would have on a beloved mutt or certain waggishly weird local blogger.

I’ve heard it said the tram is a great way to see Albuquerque and I’ve certainly seen it come and go from its loading bay at the base on the western side of the Sandia Mountains - too many times times to count. It’s definitely
an awesome feat of human engineering; the riders glide upward in little metal cars, riding on a wire that looks like a spider web from just a mile or two down the road from the lower terminal.

However, the cables are quite thick. The tram runs on four track ropes, which are made of steel. They each have a diameter of 40 millimeters, a weight of 52 tons. I’d hate to see the Sandia Mountain canyon-dwelling spider that could produce something like that. That sorta tale woulda made for a cool post at
My Strange New Mexico, though, eh, Mr. Smith?

In reality, most of the
technology and materials used to build the tram came from Europe, where they have a lot more experience lifting people up mountains in mechanical devices what with the the Alps and all, sabes?

The development of the Sandia Peak Tramway and Ski Area was due to the brilliance of two prominent Albuquerqueans,
Robert Nordhaus and Ben Abruzzo. Nordhaus, native New Mexican and Yale graduate, returned to Albuquerque after college, where he lived to be 97.

I hope you already know
the story of Ben Abruzzo. His efforts and legacy are floating around by the hundreds, in October, in Albuquerque, as well as hoisting hundreds of curious and athletic sorts of humans up to the top of a very big mountain, daily.

That all sounds really chido, but even if I read it over a thousand times, I still can't bear the thought of actually riding in the tram, much less sailing like a cloud over our dusty town in a balloon. About 15 years ago, I had the chance to ride in the
elevators inside the Saint Louis Gateway Arch. I wouldn’t do that either.

This might be the year I finally give the tram a shot; I'm getting long in the tooth and probably will want to get some kinda kicks in the next few years, before any number of various organ systems fail and my joints totally deteriorate. I know I'll at least take a deeply reflective look at the balloons, in awe of what each represents.

As far as Sandia Peak goes, I’ve always preferred to drive up from the east side of the mountains. There’s a great hike to the upper tramway terminal, but when I was younger, my friends and I liked to hike away from the dock, across to the north peak and into
an area filled with transmission towers.

If you’ve been up there, you know the place. It’s closed off now.

Back in the twentieth century my friends and I would hike past the transmitters and equipment, pretending that we were in the midst of any number of science-fiction scenarios. We would pretend the buildings and towers were the remnants of a once great civilization, that we were there to make an initial assessment of the surrounding environment and capture specimens of the local inhabitants, which strangely enough looked like whip-tail lizards. Eventually, we would arc off into one of the steep canyons at the edge of the mountain top, through a well-made but seldom used trail.

At the end of this trail, in the trees at the edge of a small meadow that ended in a precipitous cliff, we built a sturdy wood and stone fort. We had picnics there, built a fire-pit from big rocks we found laying around, camped there sometimes, and generally thought of the place as ours.

It seemed only a few people knew where the trail that led to the fort was located, amidst the crushed granite and scrub oaks that define that part of the mountain.

And so that place remained intact for years and years, even into my young-adulthood.

Even if unauthorized personnel found the trail, that was no guarantee of being able to navigate to the fort. The trail was rocky and steep; one side was adjacent to the rock wall of the mountain, the other connected to nothingness, to the air surrounding the mountain itself.

The last time I went there was in 1993. We took some British exchange students who had become part of our circle of friends to that hidden
chante. One of them complained of the altitude and vomited all over the log house. Another kept saying out loud that he thought we were going to die on that day and on that mountain.

As we led them out to the very edge, a rocky outcropping that looked down on a pine forest about two hundred feet below, I looked over and saw the tram rising in the distance, suspended between two towers.

“Look”, I said, "there goes the tram."

"Why didn’t we take that thing up here?" asked one of the fearful flatlander exchange students, dizzily unaccustomed to the altitude.
"It looks a lot safer than what we just did."

"I dunno", I replied gravely while winking to my fellow Burqueno buds, "I reckon it has something to do with my dreadful fear of mechanical lifting devices." Then, I kicked a pebble off into the canyon below where the October wind was busy tossing and fluttering all the golden aspen leaves around and around. There was a balloon floating aimlessly on the western horizon, which was layed out all pretty and blue and vast right there in front of me. For a second, I thought I heard Iris barking in the distance.

28 September 2011

Things in Light Podcast #6: Up, Up and Away

Samantha Anne Carrillo

Contrary to its title, The 5th Dimension's "Up, Up and Away" is not included on the sixth TIL podcast. That Nena tune ain't in the mix, either. This Balloon Fiesta tribute features 12 less well-known balloon-themed tracks and even a little comedy, old-time radio, and spoken word stuff. See the full track listing below.

1. Mitch Hedberg - Hot Air Balloon (excerpt)
2. Twin Shadow - Yellow Balloon
3. The Kills - Black Balloon
4. The Raincoats - Balloon
5. Steven Jesse Bernstein - Party Balloon
6. Spell - Big Red Balloon
7. Wavves - Convertible Balloon
8. The Kinks - Loony Balloon
9. Ween - Blue Balloon
10. Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians - Balloon Man
11. Beastie Boys - Pop Your Balloon
12. Nervous Norvus - Noon Balloon to Rangoon
13. Matmos - Supreme Balloon
14. Adventures in Research - Birth of the Balloon (excerpt)

17 September 2011

Things in Light Podcast #5: Church of Rock

Samantha Anne Carrillo
 Georgia O'Keeffe, Ranchos Church, New Mexico

Enjoy eight songs from the relatively recent past by New Mexico artists like Gingerbread Patriots, Veery, and The Drags. See the full track listing below.


1. Karen - Strength for the Weaker Ones (Sink or Swim Pt. II)
2. Gingerbread Patriots - Wax Lips
3. Veery - I'm Not in Love (10cc cover)
4. The Oktober People - Projector Enthusiast
5. The Drags - Jet Lag
6. The Rondelles - Kersmash! Eye, My
7. Churchfires w/ Keith Galler - Mass Leisure
8. Flake Music - Nuevo 

15 September 2011

Things in Light Podcast #4: Songs in the Key of Nuevo Mexicano

Samantha Anne Carrillo
Georgia O'Keeffe, Ram's Head White Hollyhock and Little Hills, 1935

Enjoy eight songs themed on New Mexico, by artists like Beirut, Oppenheimer Analysis, and Roy Rogers. See the full track listing below.

1. Oppenheimer Analysis - New Mexico
2. Roy Rogers - I'm Gonna Gallop Gallop To Gallup New Mexico
3. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - Lonesome New Mexico Nights
4. Jimmy Driftwood - Tucumcari
5. Jeff & Jane Hudson - Los Alamos
6. Joe West - Trip to Roswell, New Mexico
7. Beirut - Santa Fe
8. Dale Watson - Tucumcari, Here I Come

13 September 2011

Post for Howard Bryan

Rudolfo Carrillo
by Rudolfo Carrillo

Listen up folks, because the news from the wild frontier ain't good today and with the bright summer receding fast into the restive darkness of the seasons that follow, you ought to know that Howard Bryan has died.

Bryan was ninety-one and enjoying life, eating and smoking and typing with continuous grace and autumnal authority until he was diagnosed with terminal cancer four months ago. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported today the old man spent his last days helping out with research for a colleague's book, rallying against the infirmity that was hot on his heels. If that ain't dignity in the face of death, I don't know what the hell is.

Bryan's oeuvre as a journalist, newspaper columnist and historian is remarkable in its depth of knowledge, subtly wicked wit and gloriously colloquial stylings, period. In person, the man was affable and kind and could talk for hours with great confidence on just about any subject that had anything at all to do with this city or state. He wrote everyday, too, and his dwelling was lined with hardcover books and photographs of all the amazing people that flowed through his life.

I began reading Bryan's column, Off the Beaten Path, when I was a kid. That collection of musings, essays and outrageously true histories from the heart of Burque's past and present appeared in the Albuquerque Tribune, a daily that went defunct about three years ago.

Way back there further, as the seventies lapsed into the eighties, Bryan's writ went straight to my brain and made me wonder what it would be like to be a writer.

So, when I was about seventeen, I scored a job as a features stringer at the Albuquerque Journal. In that epoch, the whole operation for the Journal and the Tribune - newsroom to press - was located downtown, on the corner of Seventh and Silver.

After meeting with my boss, some guy named Arnholz, some days, I'd sneek over to the Trib newsroom and ask Bryan to read the stuff I was writing. Since the Trib was an afternoon paper, their newsroom kept way different hours than its morning counterpart. Sure enough, some days, Bryan would be still be sitting at his desk, reading or talking on the phone way after the paper had been put to bed.

In recollection, I'm sure he thought it was weird for me to wander into that place so youthfully unannounced and brimming with false confidence, but he gave me good tips anyway. One of the best things he ever told me was to stop using the word "that" so much.

In 2001, I interviewed Bryan for a short freelance feature in the local alt-weekly's Best Of issue. For that interview, I went over to his apartment and we hung out for about two hours, with him discoursing about history and the newspaper, chain-smoking and offering me an ice cold soda pop now and again. That was the easiest most comfortable interview I ever did.

Nine years later, I rang Bryan up during a particularly potent bout of writer's block. Of course, he remembered me and referenced with nearly instantaneous certitude, something or other I had recently published.

We talked for a few minutes and I got around to asking him how he stayed so productive. He told me about the time one of his editors assigned him to write five columns per week, and it couldn't be all history, either, the editor told Howard. At first, Bryan did not appreciate the assignment. But then he started to write down the stories people told him, started trying to find things that were funny or wondrous in what was going on right there in front of him. He suggested the same for me.

He also told me "never be afraid to make fun of yourself", and that others were fair game too, as long as it was done with humor, grace, and good intentions. At the end of the call, he started coughing a lot and I told him that I wished he'd stop smoking. He laughed and said it would be awfully inconvenient to stop now, at the age of ninety and, besides, he was on deadline.

10 September 2011

Things in Light Podcast #3: A Scream is Never Just That

Samantha Anne Carrillo
Enjoy eight experimental tracks from past and present Nuevomexicano artists, including Mammal Eggs, Ipytor Gavyen Machislav, and Milch de la Máquina. See the full track listing below.

1. Mammal Eggs - La Lune Autour La Tete Des Amis 
2. Milch de la Máquina - Titwrench Performance on 7/10/10
3. Ipytor Gavyen Machislav - Stupid Handshake
4. Aural Anomaly - Damaged Goods
5. Alchemical Burn - Mammals at Mach Speed
6. Discotays - $30
7. Raven Chacon - Neezná (with Mask)
8. Vomit the Void Volume - Talking God Speaks

07 September 2011

Not One of Us

Rudolfo Carrillo

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 Report on City 119n. It is a blog run by the author of this post. The Eds.

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