Saturday, June 30, 2007

Gail Reese Makes The Call

I posted something earlier today about City o' Burque CFO Gail Reese calling into Feudal Prince Marty's radio call-in show, but I took it down. It might end up elsewhere, but it's hard for anybody to top the self-parody of the story itself, told in the Trib and Journal (irritating nine month old Journal sports promo or registration required).

Note the "Jesus" quote in the Trib story. And the use of the word "stroke" in the headline. Good, good stuff.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Overwatering Helps Weird Thoughts Grow

I have these neighbors across the street who are watering their new front lawn for hours upon hours everyday, morning, blazing afternoon and evening.

There is currently standing water in most spots. It appears my neighbors are starting a rice paddy. This has been going on for weeks now.

Of course this situation creates a swirl of ethical/moral mindstorms, the kind of mental perturbations that can give a vacationing teacher plenty to psychologically gnaw upon. As one such vacationing person, I'll present a few strands of the haphazardly woven fabric of my brain as I watch the sprinklers come on at Noon each day.

First, I'm a victim of having lived in Olympia, Washington. Olympia has gotta be right up there with Boulder at the top of the list of Liberal Angst Nazi Cities (LANC). You know, the sort of town where people don't just practice earth saving behaviors, but proselytize loud and shrill that their methods of earth saving behaviors are best and anyone not practicing said behaviors are evil and should be jailed, killed, have their dreadlocks shaved immediately.

Olympia is the sort of place where neighbors feel no remorse about scanning through nearby residents' recycling bins, and informing owners of said bins that they are sorting the recyclables incorrectly, should stop drinking milk with RGBH and are cheating, lying faux vegetarians because they are eating cheese with rennet. It is also the sort of place where a neighbor so accosted would feel an immediate need not to punch out and/or stab the nosy neighbor, but instead point out that they drive an electric car, compost everything down to their own nail clippings and wear only hemp products.

Olympia is also the sort of place where this exchange would continue as each neighbor pointed out each and every example of their earth friendliness, all points spoken with a vicious anger self-righteously concealed beneath the well-developed use of a rising inflection to end all sentences. You know...that Jeff Spicoli surfer/hippie speech pattern where each and every last word is said as a question, as in the example:

"You know, we flush our one low-flow, solar power toilet only once a day and have seven people living in our intentional community of (rising inflection) bee's wax candle-makers? "

As a former resident of Olympia, I am, needless to say, scarred.

Scarred thusly it is not in my nature to run across the street, jump the locked gate, run to the door of the neighbors (who are really quite nice people, even if their occupation is driving around the state spraying pesticides/herbicides from a giant truck), and badger them about their nascent rice paddy in the semi-arid middle Rio Grande valley. Besides, they are out of town spraying herbicides from their giant truck.

And there are others mental fibers to entangle, like the fact we live in the County and have no watering restrictions, at least none that I know of. And then's the fact that just last night I "irrigated" our back pasture by opening some 16th Century-era acequia and having channeled water inundate my pasture to a depth of a few inches. Hey, at least I did it at night, and I have the mosquito bites to (rising inflection) prove it.

The upshot is that I will end this poorly written post, and go stare out of the front window waiting for the neighbor''s sprinklers to come on again in the heat of the day. A million thoughts, arguments and feelings of misplaced superiority will arise as I see the water start to arc in the 90+ degree afternoon. Completing the spider-on-LSD tapestry of my mental process will be memories of myriad overheard conversations at the Olympia Co-op, and around the telephone-cable spool that served as our dinner table in the group house I lived in for two plus years. Then I won't be able to stop laughing, thinking back on those Oly days. Good/bad times, bro, good/bad times.

Funny the things overwatering one's lawn can bring up.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Back Home And Inertia Is Hard At Work

I'm too travel-brained for more than a sentence or two, but I see the Senate's confusing and naively brave fight to actually do something with immigration appears to be, like Generalissimo Franco, still dead.

Regardless of one's view on the bill or issue, it's clear our current political leadership governs via a "No Deal" approach, quite unlike Roosevelt's "New Deal". Oh well, immigration was too complicated anyway and makes us too tired just thinking about it. I'm sure the current bunch of folks in Washington would have reacted to The Great Depression with an equal mixture of ennui, bluster and nose-picking.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Guatemala Trip Report VI: Final Hours Among the Bougainvillea

Antigua, Department of Sacatepequez, Guatemala--

Coming to Guatemala I knew a grand total of one person living in the country, and was not going to visit him as we weren't that close (a fellow teacher gone from my school to a Lake Atitlan private school or some such). I hadn't kept tabs on him, and had pretty much forgotten of him.

So naturally I ran into him along an Antigua street last night. Weird. Weird to the point that we both pretty much had to run along somewhere else to deal with the weirdness of it. It's a small country, but it's not that small.

And speaking of this not so small country, I'm out of here and back to the States as of early, early tomorrow morning. In a little past two weeks I've seen much, walked about 100 miles, gotten a little sick and even a bit homesick, and eaten over a dozen desayuno tipicos.

I'll miss the weather here, with its highs in the 70s (Tikal and a little burg called Morales notwithstanding, where it was at least 174 degrees with 145 percent humidity), and cleansing afternoon rains. I'll miss the people and vibe of the country, well except for certain losers in Sayaxche (and there are certainly losers everywhere, que no?), and I'll miss restaurants with open atriums spilling over with bougainvillea, chicken soup "caldo real" and those small, fat corn tortillas.

But it's time to get back, refreshed and ready for something. I guess it's pretty much universal that a person finishes a trip like this with an agenda of what they want to do when they get back, and an energy to really get them done this time. Right now, sitting here next to some beatiful purple bougainvillea, I'm pumped with this energy and a vague but palpable desire to do something back in Burque.

And no, I have no real idea what that something is. It's true that most often these somethings turn into nothings when the traveler returns. The grinding normalcy of the returned to life is a powerful deterrent, it seems. But there are exceptions. Maybe this will be one of them.

In my case, Guatemala has played such an exception in the past. I visited here in 1992 for five weeks. Upon my return, I moved from the Pacific Northwest to New Mexico, took up teaching. Those changes have stuck since. I get the feeling a change or two will stick this time as well.

If I only knew what those changes were....

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Guatemala Trip Report V: Reading ABQ From Down South

Antigua, Department of Sacatepequez, Guatemala

Finally having settled down into an agreeable torpor of a simple hotel room with 10 cable movie channels, a daily hike toward and somewhat upon one of the many surrounding volcanoes, and mornings spent drinking several cups of coffee Antiqueno before a breakfast of plantains, tortillas and something to put into the tortillas, I can sit back and read the ABQ papers at one of the 1,543 internet cafes.

As most readers of Babble could quickly guess, I'm having the most fun reading about APS and its many press relation disasters. I won't link the articles because I'm in an agreeable torpor, but the daily onslaught of stories (particularly in the Journal) about "GradeChangeGate" and "PrincipalDeckChairOnTitanicThatIsAPSGate" is good for plenty a long-distance chuckle. Today we hear about the MacArthur principal Andy Barrett retiring rather than take the transfer to another school. Mr. Barett has multiple sclerosis, and had ovecome the limitations of his conditions at his school to the tune of being widely loved and doing a great job.

So naturally, APS dumped him somewhere else. Seriously, it's hard not to believe Superintendent Everitt and her out of touch with reality staff don't just sit around envisioning the most damaging public relations moves possible, enact exactly those moves, and then practice that "What, this is unpopular and controversial, not to mention stupid?" reaction complete with dumbfounded openmouthed expression in front of mirrors in the APS administrative bathroom before striding out to announce them.

The last organization this tone deaf to public reaction might have been Idi Amin's Angola, and who's to say Everitt and crew aren't considering a cannibalism press conference right now?

Oh, and you had to love the findings of the body selected to investigate "GradeChangeGate", findings that basically said the teacher was right and that District Administrators are a bunch of manipulative liars. (btw, props to Board Member Esquivel for driving this process to an investigatory conclusion)

And speaking of County Commissioner Teresa Cordova, as a resident in her precinct I wonder how many thousands of candidates are ready to run against her sorry ass in the next election? Heck, my Golden Retriever would stand a damn good chance against Cordova at this point, and he's in favor of City/County Unification.

Okay, enough guffawing and chortling at the ABQ news in this distant Guatemalan cafe. Time to go climb part of a volcano. Maybe if I get far enough up the mountain I'll be able to barely make out the APS cannibalism press conference in the distance.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Guatemala Trip Report IV: Slowing Down in Antigua

Antigua, Department of Sacatepequez, Guatemala --

  1. You know you´ve moved away from the more remote areas of Guatemala when you´re now staying at a hotel two doors down from a place called (in English) "Cookies, Etc."
  2. You know you´re a bit travel disoriented when you discover you´ve switched your cheapie timex digital watch to setting for "alternative time" and you think it´s two hours earlier than it actually is.
  3. Antigua is a sleepy town, and especially so when it is two hours earlier than you think it is.

Having spent only 20 hours of the week I anticipate lounging here, I can report that Antigua has a small town Oaxaca feel. For those who like Oaxaca, but are scared off by the current political situation, I propose Antigua as an alternative, especially if you don´t mind the occasional killer earthquake. Last week a 5.4 or so hit toward the Pacific Coast and bounced things around a bit in Guatemala City. My friends there reported dinner tables bouncing and sliding, but nothing falling off shelves. This as they ran into the street frantically.

This news evidently hasn´t made the American media, as I have yet to hear from my Mom about it. That would take a 7.5 or more and the flattening of a town or two. Antigua would most likely be the first town so flattened, and I wonder if tourism is down a bit in town because of it. I was pretty much solo in my hotel last night.

At the same time, the collegiate Spring Break for Guatemalans is next week, and the Europeans will start vacation very soon, so I´m probably just catching a natural lull. It´s a very nice null to catch, especially after the rock star concert tour schedule of driving I participated in the first few days here. I figure a week of Antigua therapy should just about make up for the Keith Richards lifestyle of Nebaj-Coban-Tikal-Guate City, and at prices not too unlike those charged by actual therapists.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Guatemala Trip Report III: Scot Rejoins the Bourgeoisie

Guatemala City, Guatemala --

When you´ve driven from Nebaj to Coban to Tikal to Guatemala City in the space of five days you see alot of things, but you don´t SEE alot of things. Being held hostage by hyper-speed travelers, I am being released today to spend a week, a whole week, just holed up in one place really getting some sense of a single place.

That place was originally going to be Quetzaltenango, where I stayed for five weeks back in ´92, but, in a fit of upper-mobility travel sensibility, I have decided to spend a week in slightly more posh and touristed Antigua instead. On some level I feel guilty about this, but I can get through that with the first surrounding volcano I climb. That and a morning or two spent drinking good coffee after a good, hot shower. Oh, the decadence, sweet decadence.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Guatemala Trip Report II: Views On The Saddest Pleasure

Coban, Department of Alta Verapaz, Guatemala--

There´s something a bit sad about returning to a place visited fifteen years ago, especially as we turn the bend into the 21st Century. I spent five weeks in Guatemala in 1992, a time before internet cafes, cell phones and brand-spankingly new paved roads running between Nebaj and Coban. It was a different country back then, and while I respect and understand the Guatemalan desire to be just like us in the ¨First World¨, it´s sad in a selfish way to see the traditional white huipiles of Nebaj turn into second-hand smocks and t-shirts donated by evangelical church types with graphics like ¨Muhlenberg County Football¨on them.

On the other hand, my kidneys appreciate the fact that they only bounced outrageously the last twenty Km from Nebaj, and that the spectacular valley drop and rise between Cucun and San Cristobal was paved with blacktop laid only days and weeks before. We saw a cyclist going roughly 100 kmh down the steep, ultra-smooth pavement, and in a cheesy way that cyclist pretty much typifies the entire country of Guatemala in 2007 relative to 1992.

Coban is waking up slowly this Saturday morning, gearing up for the big Copa America soccer match with Canada this late morning. We´ll be driving up toward Flores-Tikal and will miss it, but I´m reminded of watching a soccer match in 1992 in Quetzaltenango. The viewing experience consisted of an ancient projection TV with color separation problems thrown up against a large white bedsheet at the back wall of a completely packed municipal hall. This morning, our hotel staff today suggested we could see the game at any bar or restaurant in town.

Convenient..but a bit sad. Or maybe it´s just sad because I´m finally old enough that I can moan about how things have changed, and how simple things used to be and all that excruciatingly boring crap old people prattle on about. Yeah, there´s that too.

Onward to Sayaxche, howler monkeys and massive sweating....

p.s.: The title reference to ¨The Saddest Pleasure¨ is the name of a book by Moritz Thomsen about traveling through South America. If you get a chance, read this quite amazing book. I´m not one to recommend things, but I can´t escape the need to tell eveyone how great this book is and how it can change one´s view on the travel experience. IMHO, needless to say.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Guatemala Trip Report I: Guatemala Highland Hiking

Nebaj, State of Quiche, Guatemala--

I travel to hike. Today´s trek was up the road/trail/postrainstorm running creek leading up from Nebaj toward the village of Cocop. I didn´t make the village, some 2000 feet above the already 6500 or so foot town. I didn´t make it, and had four or five classic bips coming down the clay soil trail made 40W oil slick with the rains. I´m covered with dying mud, have a punctured hand, a near punctured gut from landing on a small tree stump and smell like some of the pigs, sheep and chickens I saw along the path.

What a great hike!

Not everybody travels to hike, and I´ve finally noticed that I´m not easy to vacation with. It only took me 45 years to figure out that not everybody wants a punctured gut and drying mud covering their legs. I figured this out while sitting alone under a tree in the rain looking down and around the quite beautiful Cuchumantanes. Now everybody would pretty much agree that the Cuchumantanes are beautiful, but getting others to willfully hike up (and more importantly down) superslick trail at grades of 25-35 percent is difficult.

And that gets me to my other realization made while looking around at the beautiful Cuchumantanes. I like it this way. I really like traveling alone. In fact, there are so few people that I really like traveling with (my wife tops this very short list, but she has to finish a book and isn´t on this trip) that the odds are definitely better for me to just hike my crazy solo hikes, lay solo alongside wet, slick trails determining if my latest wild-ass fall led to any broken bones or life-threatening gashes, and catch my breath among the pigs, cows and cornrows.

Now it´s off to meet up with traveling companions on this trip (two fellow teachers unfortunate enough to have me for a trek companion). I wonder what they did today? I wonder if they will look at the dried mud on my legs, the clay-encased hiking boots and say ¨Wow, must have been a great hike!¨

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Last Minute Mental Travelpacking

Albuquerque, New Mexico --

I am surrounded by backpacks, TSA-approved toiletry containers of less than three fluid ounces, guidebooks and print-outs of how to get from Burbank Airport to LAX. Ah relaxing. Before I force my wife at marriage gunpoint to drive me to the airport at 4:30 in the morning (just kidding about the coercion thing, really!), a few pre-vacationing reflections:

  • It's been a few days of interesting philosophical discussions for me, ranging from bets on the existence of a "God" to how human group dynamics always seem to be screwed up. I guess you start thinking about such stuff when you have the time to sit at home afternoons watching the U.S. Senate debate an immigration bill. Frankly, I'd feel a bit better about the human race and its place along the evolutionary continuum if I just stuck to teaching 13 year olds instead watching a bunch of old, white guys debate what our immigration policy should be. I can't be completely sure about the whole "God" question, but I can tell you this: the U.S. Senate doesn't have alot of soul.
  • I got a chance to see 'ol Pete Domenici in action, and he wasn't embarrassing. In fact, he was pretty darn eloquent in a few places trying to talk his soul-lacking colleagues into agreeing to the "Grand Bargain" or "Great Compromise" or "Grand Opening" or whatever the immigration bill was being hailed as before it crashed and burned like a new restaurant on Isleta Blvd.
  • Another nadir of my lazy viewing experience was seeing Democrats slinking up to the well to vote "for" a bill amendment making English the "Official Language" of the United States, several of them appearing only after it was clear it was going to pass. How brave of you Mary Landrieu and Amy Klobuchar...
  • Alleged Democratic Presidential candidate Chris Dodd didn't vote on the measure. More bravery, and no, I don't care if he was in New Hampshire or Iowa at the time.
  • Note to Senate Democrats: Any bill/amendment sponsored by Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe should be voted against. Any.
  • By the way, 'ol Pete Domenici was one of only ONE Republicans to vote against the amendment.
  • Speaking of the number one, that might be the grand total of subjects on which I agree with Pete Domenici (and no, the overall immigration bill isn't that one thing). But that brings up a discussion I had with a backpacking friend on Sandia Crest Trail the other day. We were hunkered down from a chilly wind, looking at the dusty, hazy city below when my attention was brought to the late day sun hitting South Sandia Peak. One mental leap led to another and pretty soon I was asking my backpacking friend (a local since 1980 or so), if anyone had ever thought of naming Sandia Peak and South Sandia Peak for anyone. He said he had not heard of any such darnfool attempt. A thorough search upon my return (i.e., ten seconds looking at the Wiki entry) doesn't indicate such an effort has been made.
  • Now, I know you're a smart reader and you're thinking..."is Scot suggesting naming South Sandia Peak after 'ol Pete Domenici?" Trust me, I'm not..but I kinda wonder why noone has tried to name it after famed bootlegger George Maloof or Bobby Unser or Don Schrader or somebody. Or am I mistaken and some darn fool has tried to do something so loathsome and ill-advised?
  • The sum total of all the above (God, group dynamics, immigration, 'ol Pete Domenici, and naming beautiful places after unbeautiful people) can only mean one thing: it's time for Scot to find better things to do with his vacationing brain. Things like how to get from Burbank Airport to LAX using mass transit and how much shaving cream and shampoo constitutes three fluid ounces.
Next stop, not Albuquerque. Those sticking around town, do me a favor and have a good June. And keep your hats firmly planted on your's windy out there, especially on South Domenici Peak.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

When The Going Gets Depressing, the Depressed Go Somewhere Else

In Robert Penn Warren's All The King's Men, narrator Jack Burden makes a sudden trip from his home state of Louisiana to California (Long Beach) after hearing some really bad news. Warren uses the occasion to speak through Jack about the innate desire of all of us to go elsewhere, West in particular, when times get bad.

It's time for me to go West for a while.

I've used this bit of R. P. Warren before in describing my own upcoming trip, but it fits so I'm using it again. Yesterday afternoon I made the Uptown trek to the APS School Board meeting, where a small demonstration was being made on behalf of my outgoing principal/boss Ivy Langan. The protest consisted of a few well-stated signs buffeted in a nasty wind, a TV news crew or two, and some elequent comments before the Board on the subject of Ivy Langan's move from Jefferson in particular, and APS principal transfer decision-making in general.

And, overall, it was really depressing.

I don't even know if I need to get into why it was depressing. At this point, simply saying the phrase "APS School Board Meeting" to the average Burque resident would almost certainly lead to an immediate bummed out feeling on the part of the hearer. The emotional impact of "APS School Board Meeting" is right up there with "Three Hour Traffic Gridlock" and "Clogged Toilet" in its ability to depress a person.

So, I went to the meeting, heard the public comments, watched the reactions of the Board members and Superintendent Beth Everitt, and immediately thought of Robert Penn Warren and going West to California.

It just so happens that I am about to start such a sojourn, with my first stop today up in the Sandias for an overnight hike. I plan on spending this evening somewhere near the summit of South Sandia Peak, looking down on the lights of the city while contemplating just how screwed up ABQ is, especially its public school administration. Then some time will pass, I'll move on to other things mentally and maybe by the time I hit the Thermarest I'll have forgotten all about APS.

And maybe that's the point of traveling: processing and ultimately forgetting. Toward that end, I have a series of mental diversions ahead: from Los Angeles to Guatemala to Colorado 14ers to Las Vegas. I hope to come back in August laughing at myself for my preoccupation with silly things like the school district. I hope to come back not even remembering what the letters APS stand for.

Along the way, I thought I'd blog from this place and that, hoping not to tick off those working through the summer by rubbing it in that I'm on vacation. Or maybe I'll just write a book, a novel, a novel about a guy disillusioned with politics, greed, ambition and intellectual insecurity. A book like All The King's Men, but up-to-date and with an education focus.

There's only one, very small, problem with such a plan. I'm no Robert Penn Warren. Oh well...let's get out of town.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Stadium Envy, Poor Relativism and Other NM Psychological Conditions

Growing up lowest middle class in Texas (remember this is 'Merica, where nobody's "poor", some just owe more money than others), my mom was fond of the expression "Why can't this family have nice things?!?" This would often be accompanied by extremely rhetorical questions such as "Why can't this family be like other families?" and "Scot, why don't you just get off your high horse?"

Ah, the memories, many better explored via a therapist's office than by means of a silly blog. Still, thoughts about life in Texas wash up like haz mat medical products along a Jersey shoreline as I read Andrea Schoellkopf's piece in today's Journal about Burque getting a new football stadium on the Westside.

It seems that APS is putting together plans to go from two football stadiums to three, with a new west o' Rio Grande River sports complex costing from $15 to $20 million. As a Texas refugee, the mere mention of high school football dredges up plenty of teenage and beyond Friday nights spent in football Valhallas from Denton to Odessa, while Burqueans talking about building some new public facility can't help but remind me of my mom's "Why can't we have nice things?" question.

Given this perspective, I kinda see my role here as one of community psychologist. That is to say, I'm going to speak to those New Mexicans out there who feel uncomfortable spending big bucks on any public project, and who somehow consciously or unconsciously feel like our community doesn't deserve nice things, like gigantic, expensive high school football stadiums. You know who you are. I see the look in your eyes when you stare up at the NM Rail Runner trains and almost audibly mumble, "this thing is way too pretty for New Mexico..."

I'm here to help, because if Texans are good at anything it is spending disproportionately outlandish amounts of money on high school football stadiums. If you haven't seen it for yourself (or read/seen "Friday Night Lights"), I did a bit o' 'Net research on the subject.

A good place to start is "" and its list of stadiums through the state. What other state would have a posted database of high school football stadiums? In fact, I found about ten such databases in about two minutes. You click on a map of the state and find out, for instance, that city of Brownwood has "Gordon Wood Stadium", which has Astro-turf and seats 7,800. As of the 2000 census, Brownwood has 18,813 people. In the whole town.

I remember as a semi-loyal Weatherford Kangaroo (class of '79) driving back in the day to Brownwood for a district football game, and wondering why the city seemed to have spent 80% of its public finances on a concrete football stadium (and that was probably two or three stadium renovations ago). I also see that Brownwood's stadium namesake, Gordon Wood, has a Wikipedia entry longer than those of most U.S. Presidents.

I could go on and on, and the databases do. Many stadia have their own web pages, such as this one. My suggestion for any New Mexicans balking at APS spending serious bucks on a new Westside complex is to check out some of these pages. I'm sure everyone will agree that, in contrast to its large, loud-talking and irritating eastern neighbor, New Mexico/Burque can build a new nice concrete high school football stadium and still be nowhere near as fundamentally insane as Texans are.

By the way, I Googled and it doesn't look like any proud New Mexicans have put together a NM high school football stadium database. I feel so poor and relatively inadequate. Why can't we have nice things like other states have?

Mom would be proud of me.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

When Oprah Things Happen To Good Books

I see that the "Oprah Book Club" has just selected Jeffrey Eugenides' "Middlesex" as its latest book club selection. This after choosing Cormac McCarthy. For me, pretty much the definition of the term "ambivalent feelings". But is being hipped to good things via the New York Times Book Review or word-of-mouth really any better than Oprah?

If I wrote a novel picked by Oprah's Book Club would I go all Jonathan Franzen and get pissy about it? Or would I just go back to swimming in my brand new multi-million dollar Playboy Mansion-style pool/grotto?

Recent Oprah choice William Faulkner didn't have such luxury back in his day. As I recall, he spent significant time having to whore for Hollywood, drinking a bottle of bourbon a day to detach himself from the creative prostitution of it all.

So who cares if I liked "Middlesex" a year or so before Oprah's Book Club? Me, kinda. Ambivalent feelings indeed. Congratulations, Mr. Eugenides, I guess. And you can invite me to the grotto any time you like.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Team O'Malley: Heck Yeah!

Watching the ABQ City Council override Feudal Prince Marty's veto of the city budget was damn close to inspiring. They just went to dinner break, but not before Council President O'Malley and her coalition lambasted, ranted and railed against the Feudal Prince using compelling argumentation (Cadigan), near-screams about "intimidation" (Winter) and barely controlled rage (O'Malley) that might be summed up thusly: Feudal Prince Marty is a jerk. Period. End of story.

Damn close to inspiring and it makes one just want to say "Booyah Feudal Prince! Booyah!" But we're far too mature and sophisticated here at Burque Babble to do that, and besides "Booyah" is so very 1993 or so.

Every Word's A Fighting Word At Your Local Conservancy District

In case you missed what is perhaps the single funniest article on local politics in recent years, check out the Trib's piece on the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District election. It's kinda like the water issues in "Chinatown" combined with an Ultimate Fighting cage match. You got fisticuffs, analogies to Hitler and Castro, lawsuits aplenty and Bill Turner calling Dennis Domrzalski a "malicious yellow-dog blatherer".

Funny, funny stuff.

Now as to the issue of whether Bill Turner is Satan or Elmer Gantry or Hollis Mulwray in the MRGCD's little telenovela is an interesting one. Basically it appears Turner is a money-grubbing capitalist using water rights like the spice in Frank Herbert's "Dune". Or something like that. At the same time, Mr. Money Grubbing Capitalist appears to be drawing fire for simply pointing out things like:

In a 2002 article in Smithsonian Magazine, Turner was quoted as saying that acequia-based agriculture, the foundation of the MRGCD, was "doomed." A link to that article, along with a variety of other attacks on Turner, is posted prominently on the district's Web site.

But Turner stands by the view. The market has shifted, he says, and there's nothing wrong with that. Thousands of acres of farmland have already been turned into commercial and residential developments and people approach him every day wanting to sell their water rights, he says. Simply put, there's a lot more money in selling out than there is in farming.

"Do I think that agriculture is going to die in the Middle Rio Grande?" Turner asks. "I think it will, slowly."

Speaking as one who still spins an acequia-opening wheel every week or so, I think Turner is pretty much on target. Eventually the South Valley will become like the North Valley, with acequia water used for smaller and smaller pleasure farmettes. As Albuquerque expands South through Belen that change from "real" farms to yuppie farms like my own will pretty much cover the whole valley. That is if Mesa Del Sol hasn't figured out a way to divert all the water to itself.

At the same time, Turner appears to be one of the few humans outside of prison who has weaker people skills than my own. It's hard to tell from where I sit whether this is a good or bad thing. Maybe Turner is not merely pompously sanctimonious, and the people he's pissing off deserve to be pissed on. Or maybe he's Dr. Evil combined with Lex Luthor and that multi-arm guy in the 2nd Spiderman movie. I don't know.

What I do know is that it's pretty much impossible to read the aforementioned Tribune story without bursting out laughing. I dare you to try. I double malicious yellow-dog dare you to try.

P.S.: Elizabeth, New Jersey has the world's single highest per capital level of anger and rage. Note to those going to Newark Airport...NEVER go on to Elizabeth to fill up the gas tank on your rental. Just pay the extra $85 or whatever and show up with the tank less than full. Trust me on this one.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Stuck In The Swamps of Jersey

Teaneck, New Jersey---

There's nothing like a visit to hazy, humid New Jersey to make one appreciate New Mexico. The local story about a woman pricked by a stray needle while walking on the Jersey shore doesn't hurt, either.

Still, there is a novelty to being in Tony Soprano Land that goes beyond the mere fact one sweats like a bastard just walking around outside. Almost everything about this place makes it the "anti-Burque", to the extent one wonders how it can be said to inhabit the same country. My first few times visiting the area (and I distinguish these visits from trips to NYC in previous years as Jersey is nothing like Manhattan), I really got into the whole otherness of the place, but this quick jaunt just leaves me ready to get back in ABQ. And I've only been here about 20 hours at this point.

And I can't blame homesickness. I have a fairly lengthy list of places to go this summer, and I'm still very excited about them (Guatemala, etc.). It's just Jersey that has we wanting to go back to Burque pronto. I can see now why so many NY/NJ folks idealize the Southwest. I can kinda understand why people join the Mafia here...there's not too much else to do beside sweat and step on needles at the beach. Murdering and being murdered would almost beat driving down the NJ Turnpike, for instance.

Or maybe I'm looking at Jersey the wrong way. Let me go wander sweatily through it a bit longer and see if something new appears. Like a floating body or something.