Friday, January 05, 2007

Charter School Vacates, And A Charter School Story Goes Haywire

Prologue: Since deciding to not pay for access to the Albuquerque Journal website, I've had the thrilling chance to see/hear some of the ads one is forced to endure before gaining access to the speakeasy of news that it is. Of course, I switch webpages immediately when the ad starts, but I can't help but notice that the most-played "spot" is one for "Parade" magazine in the Journal itself. Nothing says hip, 'Net savvy, "New Journalism" like "Parade", doncha think? I'm expecting the next ad to be for the "Family Circle" comic strip or "Beetle Bailey" or something. Having the "Parade" ad run on a website is like having a promotion for 8-track players spieling over at ITunes.

Chapter I (and only chapter):

Today's "flash non-fiction" story is about a haunted building. A haunted school building near the corner of Wyoming and Menaul. In case you don't know, "flash" is a fairly new literary term for a really, really short story. I'm calling this story "non-fiction", but as I'm the one telling the story, and having spent serious time in the haunted building, you need to understand that not everyone thinks it's haunted.

Sitting adjacent to "God's House Church" is a forlorn two-story building that has most recently served as the site of Ralph J. Bunche Academy, a new charter school designed to help minority students succeed. Before that it was the former location of Amy Biehl High School, and before that it served as the campus of Bosque Prep. News comes today that the Bunche Academy is leaving, deciding to instead occupy a space along Yale S.E. that, for some reason, the Journal is calling the "South Valley".

My personal experience with this building came with my employ at Amy Biehl, a school with sufficient press coverage over the years that just about everyone has heard of it. You probably know, for instance, that it moved downtown to some really nice digs. Interestingly, Bosque Prep also went from the humble, Section 8 housing feel of the "God's House Church" location to an amazing campus along the Rio Grande. One hopes that the Bunche Academy location is or eventually becomes as nice as either of those other two sites.

Bunch Academy most probably deserves it after its stint in the haunted building. Now, by haunted, I'm not talking about ghosts and strange noises coming from water pipes. I'm referring to a different type of haunting, one of unfortunate human emotions like hubris, arrogance, ambition...that sort of thing.

...and with that oblique reference I realize that I, like the, have mis-marketed this thing. It's not going to be a "flash" story. It's not even a blog entry. It's really more of a 700 page Anna Karenina-meets-Thomas Pynchon tome sort of deal. A story that makes for an excellent door stop or weightlifting tool. A story that I've half, one-quarter and one percent written over the last few years now.

I make a ton of references to movies in this insignificant little blog, and I probably make the most references to the movie "Chinatown". I really like that movie's script, although the whole Nicholson/Dunaway "romance" of sorts thing is almost unwatchable. Anyway, the line everyone knows from that movie is "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown." Well, for your humble blogster, that forlorn building sitting adjacent to "God's House Church" is my "Chinatown".

But instead of a movie script or 700-page doorstop, I'll just leave it at that, adding only that I'm glad that the Ralph J. Bunche Academy has moved out of the building. Maybe the place can now be bulldozed, or reduced to embers in a spectacular midnight fire with its forlorn walls crashing down in almost slow-motion amid the flames while onlookers pull their bathrobes together in the snowy cold.

Trust me, I have a million such scenarios in my head. I've had them for years now.

Epilogue: The haunted building hasn't always been the source of horror and hubris. It's been good for some laughs, too. The most well-known funny incident involved a little hubris, actually, and took place between the time Amy Biehl left to go downtown and Ralph J. Bunche showed up for its short-lived stint at the place. It seems that at the end of the last Semester of Amy Biehl's occupation, the students trashed the place (btw, this was well after my time in "Chinatown" was over).

This led to a sizable bill being presented to Amy Biehl from the "God's House Church" administrators, a brouhaha in which Amy Biehl co-founder Tony Monfiletto was paraphrase quoted saying "the student painting isn't graffiti or vandalism but rather art and expression", and a classic landlord/tenant squabble that was eventually resolved but not before ABQ Trib readers got to see a photo of a toilet with the word "poop" painted above it. Trust me, relative to everything else that happened in the haunted place this was pretty damn funny.


mizogan said...

Wow, you are restrained in your comments. Scot, it's the haunting caused by the hard work of individuals in small groups deterred by a power of one for image.
always, T.

Mark said...

Nice. I'll take a look next time I'm at that intersection - all those big NE intersections blur together for me... a series of identical grid points.

Love this image:
"...while onlookers pull their bathrobes together in the snowy cold."

frannyzoo said...

mizogan: My restraint is like one of those Danish dikes holding back the North's hoping it holds. Perhaps the formation of a "Amy Biehl HS Survivors Group" would be a good idea. Perhaps one has already formed, and I haven't received the memo.

mark: thanks...btw, the building isn't actually on Menaul or Wyoming, but just off it at the corner of Phoenix and Wisconsin, iirc. I just got a shudder re-imagining that address in my mind. Back to hiding behind the dike.

Gabe Hogan said...

e-mail me at and we can catch each other up for our support group.

Lisa said...

Move on Scot.

frannyzoo said...

Those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it, Lisa. Those who study it are doomed to think about it quite a bit, I guess.