Thursday, December 30, 2004

MaryAnn Stops To Chat With Robert Goodluck, Buys One Of Those Incredible Sage Sticks

NOB HILL--Robert Goodluck is an icon of the street scene along Central Ave. A Navajo originally from Arizona, Robert is usually seen selling sage sticks in Nob Hill. Sage sticks, or smudge sticks, are used to rid an area of evil spirits. I regard the very act of buying them a harbinger of good fortune...much like seeing a chimney sweep in England. Once Robert did a blessing for MaryAnn and me. I am not necessarily a "spiritual" person, but this blessing is more than a belief. It is bigger than that. It is about being a member of this community. Sometimes we need to be blessed.

Robert said he was going up to Taos to make some more sage sticks. I am not sure he always makes them himself, but he is right now. At any rate, we bought one. They have the most incredible aroma. And, after it dries out a little, we might light it and swoosh it around in the corners of our house.

He charges anywhere from $3.00 to $5.00 per stick, depending on how much he likes you. The more he likes you, the higher the price. How perfect.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Two More Feathered Reasons To Ride the South Valley Trail

SOUTH VALLEY BIKE TRAIL--A bald eagle rides the thermals as it soars high overhead near the Rio Grande. He was with another eagle and a couple of hawks.

SOUTH VALLEY BIKE TRAIL--Three sandhill cranes feed in a field of red chile along the bosque trail about a mile north of Rio Bravo.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

No Free Lunch...But Maybe a Free Breakfast

NOB HILL--There it was. It looked like a full plate of food, probably huevos rancheros. The huevos were gone but the ranchero part was intact. The customer had left the restaurant. My friends at the table looked at me, looked at the plate, and waited. I have done it before.

Who hasn't at least thought about it. Especially at the Flying Star, with their oversized, rich desserts 2/3 still left untouched as the patrons walked out. It always happens with the Raspberry Blackout. It's so good...and so RICH!

And, I have to admit, it happened once at breakfast...the infamous Flying Star Breakfast incident. The lady left. She got in her car and drove away. And at her vacant table sat almost the entire breakfast: bacon, eggs, potatoes, toast. Well, I grabbed it. My friends nodded and smiled like I was the ultimate recycler...until the lady drove back up and parked once again in front of the restaurant. Then they started laughing. And shouting, "Oh my God!"

She apparently had told the staff not to take her plate away, but...well...she didn't tell me. Her breakfast was gone. I was just finishing up the toast. The room got silent as I got up and went outside to meet her.

I just love this neighborhood. Everyone seems to have a sense of humor...and a taste for irony. At any rate, I bought her breakfast. Everyone was happy. And everybody had a story about Yours Truly, Johnny_Mango with which they could beat me over the head...again and again.

"Not this time," I said this morning, looking at the missing eggs.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Urban Explorers! Take Note! Are You Armed?

THE WAR ZONE--Finally a legitimate reason to carry the Swiss Army knife you got for Christmas with that REI gift certificate: retool the opening on the honey squirter! Boy, I hate those pinhole honey squeezers! Well, maybe "hate" is too strong a word, considering how cool you look opening up that knife and rescuing a warm sopapilla from frustration.

Ante Up Those Quarters Nob Hillers

NOB HILL--Looks like Christmas cheer has run out in Nob Hill as far as Mayor Chavez is concerned...the bags are coming off the parking meters. We all thank His Shortness for the Xmas break from the parking tax. It was great while it lasted, and the neighborhood seemed to survive without the city managing our onstreet parking for us.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Family Time...The Whole Family.

NOB HILL--Like a lot of parents and grandparents, when MaryAnn and I plan a holiday gathering it involves more people and families than just the ones we invite. We don't care. We were so happy to have everyone together...even at 6:00 on Christmas Day. I'll give you a rundown on who was there just because I know there are relatives out there who might be interested:
  • MaryAnn's children Ethan, Paul, Ben and their friends Matt and Jesse.
  • My kids Ivan (and his girlfriend Melanie) and Simone (with her boyfriend Marty) and grandson Robby.
What a wonderful time!

NOB HILL--Well, he was in the chair when I snapped the picture. My grandson Robby proves once again he is faster than the speed of light!

NOB HILL--MaryAnn's sons (in black) Paul, Ethan, and Ben sit with a couple of friends (in green) visiting from Alaska, Jesse and Matt.

NOB HILL--My daughter Simone looks things over while two of MaryAnns's sons, Ben and Paul help themselves. MaryAnn just stays busy.

NOB HILL--Ethan, Paul, Melanie, and Ivan eat as Matt looks on. MaryAnn is the best cook in America! Christmas dinner was pork roast, scalloped potatoes, green beans, cole slaw, posole, red chile, and cookies.

NOB HILL--Paul helps himself to scalloped potatoes as my son Ivan and his girlfriend Melanie wait their turn.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

MaryAnn and Her Boyfriend Yours Truly Johnny_Mango Wish You a Merry Christmas!

NOB HILL--There is a reason the angels said, "Peace on earth, good will toward men." Hatred spreads from person to person like wet paint. Peace, on the other hand, is not aggressive. It doesn't attract a lot of attention...sort of like a little flower that doesn't ask to be noticed.

MaryAnn and I hope that in these days when sadness, division, and even hatred seems to be tightening its grip, we hope that you might find those little flowers along your own path. And we hope that they bring you peace... Merry Christmas.

Hop Aboard For a Virtual Ride On the New Articulated Rapid Ride Buses.

NOB HILL--Well, after my misadventure in trying to get on the first bus early this morning (see post below) I went back down to Central Ave. just before noon. I thought the Mayor would board the bus on the westside and go east to Uptown Station. After all, the westside seems to be his favorite part of town. But I was wrong again. He boarded at the Uptown Transportation Center and went far I do not know. He probably got off downtown. Yours Truly, Johnny_Mango, however, rode the whole route, end to end and back again. By the way, rides on the Rapid Ride buses are FREE today and Friday. For those of you who work or are under other time commitments here is a virtual tour of the entire route. Welcome aboard.

NOB HILL STATION--What a wonderful place to wait: 50 feet from Buster's Coffee and right in front of the T&A tattoo parlor. Art deco style neon trim on the uprights compliment the in-channel neon script "Rapid Ride" on the roof. You can't miss these stations. That's good, because the new buses only stop at these stations...nowhere else.

NOBHILL--Missed the doggone mayor! I had a couple of things on my mind to say to him. This was HIS bus going in the other direction. The front of the bus carried the message, "MAYOR CHAVEZ WELCOMES YOU TO RAPID RIDE!" Another bus, full of reporters, followed. My bus came along in about 15 minutes.

EAST CENTRAL--Happy riders were thrilled by the speed, cleanliness, and convenience of the new buses. It was the first day of operation. What an urban adventure! Everyone on the bus had the same idea: let's check this out!

UPTOWN--The Rapid Ride bus route turns back to the west between Wyoming and Louisiana, taking the freeway!

UPTOWN STATION--Already boasting three shelters, the station is due to get a couple more buildings. Restrooms would certainly be a welcome addition. City Centre (APS HQ) is visible in the background.

UPTOWN--As we go around a corner, a straphanger tries out his newest sport: accordian bus turntable surfing.

DOWNTOWN--Passing other buses is one thing that separates the Rapid Ride buses from the rest of the pack.

ATRISCO PLAZA--An east bound bus stops for a bike rider at the Atrisco Station. The new buses hold up to three bikes.

UNSER STATION--It is pretty desolate out here at the far western end of the line. Maybe there are plans to build something in the a coffee kiosk, for instance :-)

NOB HILL--Home again. Remember the Rapid Ride buses are free today and Friday.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A Quick Glance At This Morning's Painted Sky...Right Down Central Ave.

NOB HILL--I never get tired of living here. In northern Illinois the sky is either blue or gray or black. This beautiful dawn reminds me of the colors in the bedroom curtains I had when I was 4 years old. I don't remember the pattern...just these incredible colors. Good morning Albuquerque.

Big Buses Sit For 6 Hours Because Mayor Can't Get There Until Noon

NOB HILL--I was at the Flying Star early this morning to get breakfast before hopping on an articulated bus. This is the first day of "Rapid Ride" service, and I wanted to be there. The buses were to start rolling at 6:00 A.M.

Mike Moye, however, had bad news. He had ridden his bicycle out to the Unser station to be on the very first bus. He was told by an employee that the articulated buses wouldn't start until noon because Mayor Chavez wanted to ride the very first one and he couldn't make it until then. Disappointed, Mike started riding to Nob Hill. Downtown he saw one of those accordion pleated beauties parked at the transportation center. He got the same story: nobody gets to ride the new buses until the mayor does.

Doesn't he get enough publicity? Isn't his face everywhere cutting ribbons, reading in schools, erasing grafitti? Is this bus system about him or about the people of Albuquerque?

I guess I will go back down to Central Ave. about noon. Maybe I can be lucky enough to ride that bus with the mayor. If I get a chance to speak to him maybe I'll ask him what my girlfriend MaryAnn said this morning: "Why can't he get his ass out of bed like the rest of us?"

Monday, December 20, 2004

Parents: Is Bovine Growth Hormone a Part of Your Child's Diet?

NOB HILL--I do not consider myself to be an expert on anything; I can only tell you what I have seen. I taught elementary school for 31 years, 19 of them in 4th and 5th grade classrooms. These are kids who are usually 9, 10, 11 years old. Here is one thing that I have noticed. And I am not alone in noticing this. Ask any elementary teacher with a lot of experience.

Girls, especially, seem to be going through puberty earlier and earlier. Fourth and fifth graders. I do not know what causes this, but I have my suspicions.
  1. High fat diets.
  2. So many hormones in livestock, specifically milk from cows injected with bovine growth hormone.
There is an excellent summary of the problem put out by the Vermont Public Interest Group. You owe it to your children or grandchildren to read it. It starts out with "How cows make milk" and continues right through to the dangers associated with rBGH, and the growth hormones it stimulates: such as IGF-1. This is important...really important for youngsters. The article does not address early puberty...that is my issue.

There Is an Alternative.

NOB HILL--Sometime long ago I remembered that Creamland said they didn't use suppliers of milk from rBGH injected cows. Just to be sure I checked with them by e-mail. Here is the response I got from Connie Holdren.
Creamland does not add any hormones to the raw milk we receive, and we have documentation from the milk coop we purchase our raw milk from indicating that the current producers supplying us do not use hormones. They continue to monitor this. This cannot be guaranteed if for some reason we would have to receive our raw milk from an alternate source due to an unusual supply situation.
So if price is not your only consideration, here is a locally produced brand that probably has no added rBGH in the cow herd. Creamland, by the way, is owned by Dean Foods.

Or Go Organic.

NOB HILL--Horizon milk is certified "organic" by the USDA. That means no rBGH. It is also a subsidiary of Dean Foods. Their 1% milk is so tasty that you don't miss the extra fat in regular or 2% milk. There are other brands of organic milk as well.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

"No Child Left Behind" Is Nothing New In Albuquerque

NOB HILL--Young boys from the Albuquerque Indian School pose for their picture. To ensure that the Native American children would not be "left behind" the kids were shipped off to boarding schools such as the one in Albuquerque, then stripped of their traditional dress, language, and culture. According to most sources, the children had a very hard time reintegrating themselves back into the own society when their schooling was done. I would guess this outcome was more than okay with the school.

Historically, most Indian boarding schools were run by religious organizations. Maybe this is another meaning of "no child left behind." Even today, this seems to be a purposeful aspect of national policy.

And in this corner...Goliath! Goliath!

NOB HILL--Last weekend MaryAnn and I saw the film The Corporation at the Guild. Although I didn't enjoy the film, I have been doing quite a bit of thinking about it. One of the more important points of the film centers on the fact that corporations are legally regarded as persons. The film then presents a psychological profile of a corporation highlighting its sociopathic nature. At any rate, let me condense my thoughts into a couple of points:
  • Corporations, unlike regular men and women (but very much like Dracula) have eternal life. They do indeed live forever, unless dissolved.
  • A large corporation has the economic power of approximately 10,000,000 people. That is figuring a planet-wide income of about $1000 for every man, woman, and child. That is $10 billion for our 10,000,000 people. I think I remember Halliburton signing a contract for almost that much.
So here we have a Giant with eternal life and the power of 10 million people. Scare you? Maybe we need somebody in our corner, like our government.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Men With Hoes

NOB HILL--I may be wrong, but it looked like prisoners working on the Central Ave. median this afternoon. Let's see...would I rather sit in jail...or lean on a shovel in Nob Hill watching all the beautiful women walk down the street. Boy, that's a tough one.

Bus Riders: Stand By for Action!

NOB HILL--The "Rapid Ride" bus system is so close to happening! The articulated buses have been bought and trotted out. The transmitters have been installed on the stoplights to let the buses hold a light on green or turn it green early. The distinctive stations are being constructed. Drivers train every morning going up and down Central Ave. getting used to their length and the characteristics of the hybrid drivetrain. And Monday morning they are supposed to start hauling passengers! Your truly, Johnny_Mango will be there!

The Rapid Ride bus is the beginning of major change in Albuquerque transportation. It will connect the westside and the eastside (along with Coronado and Winrock) with the downtown transportation center. This system will connect with the Belen to Bernalillo commuter rail system that will be started next December. Eventually Santa Fe will be a part of the rail line.

In fact, the center's "Alvarado" look is echoed in the turrets on top of the obelisks at every Rapid Ride station. The stations are also supposed to have LED displays with the arrival time of the next bus. Transit police are also a part of this package. Don't be surprised if these systems change residential patterns in the Rio Grande valley. Los Lunas and Belen will be closer to downtown than Rio Rancho...and a whole lot more convenient.

MaryAnn and I rode a commuter train (Caltrain) during our trip to San Francisco from San Jose to downtown SF. Lot of different kinds of people used it. Many of them had bicycles. There were special bicycle cars that had a big open area on the ground level where bikes were bungee corded to the walls. The bike owners sat upstairs in the same cars.

Who would have thought that Albuquerque and New Mexico could keep their attention focused on this issue long enough for something to happen. Look at the Wheels Museum to see an idea that seems to be going nowhere. It looks like it will take less time to start up a rail line than it takes to put a train in a museum!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Two Easy Pictures For You to Identify!

NOB HILL--What a great postcard illustrating Nob Hill history! I am sure you can figure out what business is now at this location. You can see the Lobo Theatre down the street. The building right next to Lobo Joe's was torn down for the parking lot and construction of Walgreen's. I do not know the date of this photograph, but the cars (maybe a 54 Ford on the street and a 50's Mercury or Lincoln in the parking lot) suggest mid to late 50's.

Click On This...See If You Can Identify This Bird.

NORTH VALLEY BIKE TRAIL--Please help identify this bird. Is it a hawk? An eagle? Does anybody out there know? We saw it this morning on the bike trail north of Montano.

CORRALES BRIDGE--Two mallards played near the bridge this morning, enjoying the warm sunshine. We saw them twice, an hour apart, swimming in the same spot.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Girl Grapplers Tussle in Pit Wearing Big Brown Outfits and Thongs

THE PIT--For many, a highlight of Lobo Women's Basketball has to be the "Sumo Wrestling" contest. Here we see last year's bball stars Chelsea Greer and Melissa Forrest preparing to lunge at each other.

THE PIT--Chelsea and Melissa go at it last Saturday while a bevy of cheerleaders try to pry them apart.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Meet the Poet Laureate of the United States for 2004-2005

NOB HILL--How the world has passed me by! I was doing a google search on one of my favorite poets from long ago and found out he is now Poet Laureate of the United States! Ted Kooser! I never thought those eastern folks had that much sense. Ted Kooser was an insurance adjuster in Nebraska when I started reading him. He had long thin hair, beads, and a shirt that spoke of his part tribal lineage. But if you want to feel the heartland (even more than Garrison Keillor) read Ted Kooser! He doesn't just live in Nebraska, he likes Nebraska.

Read the following poem...please. If you don't like it I'll eat a whole, big chocolate eclaire from the Flying Star while you watch. If you do like it, try this link for a few more. I especially urge you to read Fort Robinson.

Abandoned Farmhouse
by Ted Kooser, 1980
from Sure Signs: New and Selected Poems

He was big man, says the size of his shoes
on a pile of broken dishes by his house;
a tall man too, says the length of the bed
in an upstairs room; and a good, God-fearing man,
says the Bible with a broken back
on the floor below the window, dusty with sun;
but not a man for farming, say the fields
cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn.
A woman lived here, says the bedroom wall
papered with lilacs and the kitchen shelves
covered with oilcloth, and they had a child,
says the sandbox made from a tractor tire.
Money was scarce, say the jar of plum preserves
and canned tomatoes sealed in the cellar hole.
And the winters cold, say the rags in the window frames.

It was lonely here, says the narrow country road.
Something went wrong, says the empty house
in the weed-choked yard. Stones in the fields
say he was not a farmer; the still-sealed jars
in the cellar say she left in a nervous haste.
And the child? Its toys are strewn in the yard
like branches after a storm - a rubber cow,
a rusty tractor with a broken plow,
a doll in overalls. Something went wrong, they say.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I Gotta Stop Going Here! It Makes Me Too Smarmy!

HIGHLAND--Happy, healthy, active, involved, social, giving, intelligent people sharing the holiday spirit with one another at the Highland Senior Center today.

Great Meal, Great Price, But You Do Need Some Years in the Rearview Mirror.

HIGHLAND--The Highland Senior Center reopened this week after being closed for a month due to construction. My china painting class resumed today, and I stayed afterward to participate in the holiday lunch being offered at the center: baked salmon, spinach souffle, cole slaw, seasoned rice, lemon meringue pie, and coffee...4 bucks. I had a great time eating with Jane, Fred, Linda, and Evelyn. We were joined later by a couple of pinochle playing acquaintances, Mike and Margaret. I feel so fortunate to be a part of this. These people at the center are as good as gold: real treasures. If you are at least 50 you can join. You should know these people. And it really isn't about you anyway; it's about them.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Garden of Glass Finally Located

SOUTH VALLEY--By God, I finally found it! About 20 years ago I was talking to the artist Lawrence Vargas and he related the most amazing memory from his childhood. He said he remembered walking through this "valley of glass" somewhere near where he grew up in the south valley. That this place went on and on--filled with glass bottles and pieces of colored glass. I was fascinated and probed him to see if we could find it. No dice. He just couldn't figure it out.

And then last week one of the newspapers ran a map of proposed improvements along the bosque. On the map was a feature titled "Garden of Glass." The item was small and without explanation. It was located just south of the Hispanic Cultural Center. Well, it took some looking, and stashing our bikes while we did some exploring, but Bob Evans and I found that elusive field of glass!

I does go on seemingly forever; I estimate about 10 acres. There are bottles, shattered fragments, all kinds of colors, bottle necks, dishes, crockery. It looks to be from the 1930's through the 50's, although parts of it may be quite a bit older. There seems to be almost no metal mixed in...just glass...tons of glass. One caveat, besides sharp pieces, there also seems to be some brake parts which may contain asbestos. This is another of the wonders to be found on that south valley bike trail.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Time...Space...Those Distant Green Lights

NOB HILL--There is nothing like Sunday morning just as the sun comes up. It's a time that always directs my thoughts to my small tick in time and space...a speck, a random note, a hint of a thought, a breath, a glance...

I am looking at the cars on Central Ave. disappear into the east. I never think about Sunday as a time for going away, only for going home...or coming home. I left my parents back in Illinois. I think about them this morning.

Turning into the driveway...
walking up to the door,
the yellow lamp still in the window,
and now their big smiles, tears...they
were always so so glad to see me.

Now they are gone and home
isn't beyond that eastern mountain;
it is where I say it is. No wonder, then,
I feel like such a speck, a random note
in a quiet morning, a hint of a thought
too distant to form completely,
a shallow breath, a glance back
across time and space.

I go into the restaurant,
get a cup of coffee,
and quietly sit down.
I think I will wait for those green lights
to change. I think I will wait right here.


NOB HILL--I doubt I have to explain anything about this moment last night in the Flying Star...the smile says it all. I do love smart women.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Santa (Mayor Chavez, that is) Bags Nob Hill Meters Until Christmas

NOB HILL--If you have been following this blog for a while you might remember in a previous post I urged the removal of parking meters from the Nob Hill area. I e-mailed the post to every city councilor and the mayor. Nothing. I did run into our own Martin Heinrich later and he told me that the merchants want the meters because they need the "turnover" that parking meters produce. I doubted it...but what could I say.

Now it seems, in order to stimulate business, the meters are being bagged until after Christmas.

Please forgive me for repeating 5 reasons to ban the parking meters altogether.
  1. It is a tax on Nob Hill residents that no other neighborhood has to pay. You have to pay to park and shop here locally, but not at shopping centers or even strip malls.
  2. Everyone is a scoflaw when it comes to parking meters. Is this a good thing to encourage? You should see denizens of the Flying Star run out with coins in their hands when the meter enforcer comes down the street.
  3. Meters lead to people parking on side streets in front of residences. This adds to congestion and vehicular confusion where we want it least: at our homes.
  4. The money collected in the Nob Hill meters doesn't even stay here. Who knows where it goes.
  5. We don't need the meters to control parking. This neighborhood works just fine evenings, Saturdays (When everyone disregards the meters because nobody checks them), and Sundays.

You Can Tear The Thai Pepper Page Out Of Your Entertainment Book...But Go There Anyway.

NORTHEAST HEIGHTS--Using the Entertainment Book is always a gamble. Sure, there are a lot of bargains and a lot of restaurants to choose from...but many times the eateries close before you even get there. I guess advertising in the book is sort of admitting that you don't have as many customers as you would like. Such was the case Friday night when my girlfriend MaryAnn and I decided to use the coupon to a wonderful restaurant we had visited last year: Thai Pepper. It has closed, and the new restaurant, called the Thai Tip, was not accepting the coupons to the old place.

We sat down anyway. For one thing, you can get almost anything on the 7 page menu for $6.95. Also the owner, a really affable guy named John, seemed so earnest in his insistence that we would indeed enjoy our meal. He even talked us into getting their special tea--John's Tea. We did enjoy our meals, especially the red curry with chicken, bamboo shoots, coconut milk, fresh basil, and kefir leaves. John's tea was as he stated: zesty and somewhat sweet. I have no idea what it contained.

We will return. Thai Tip is located on Wyoming and Constitution NE.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Six Snapshots From Last Night's Nob Hill Shop & Stroll

We started out the evening in the basement of Rock N' Bills Marcintale. To our surprise there was music...the really wonderful harmonies of Holy Water & Whiskey. We could have listened to them all night, but there was a lot more to see and do.

Most men, sooner or later, gravitated to the Elsa Ross window to check out possible gifts in the area of women's fashion. Year after year this educational exhibit has been an uplifting inspiration to the men of Nob Hill who might be thinking of buying clothing for their sweeties.

El Grupo Amor Eterno plays and sings in front of the vitamin display in La Montanita Co-op. They were great with a really sweet sound. What a treat!

"I haven't been able to get him out of this outfit for a month!" his mother exclaimed. He sure looked cute, warm, and happy.

The belly dancers in front of the Lobo Theatre seemed to be made of sterner stuff than the models at Elsa Ross. These women did their thing OUTSIDE.

Warming up after the stroll we ducked into the Flying Star where we met Christina Vahlsing, who has already tossed her hat in the ring for governor in 2006. She was sitting at the next table. MaryAnn and I were discussing Albuquerque's 10 most notorious women, and when Geraldine Amato's name came up Ms. Vahlsing jumped into the conversation saying, "She will be here in just a few minutes!" Unfortunately, we left before she arrived.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Have You Tried The Red Special?

WEST CENTRAL--This is absolutely THE best cheap and filling meal in Albuquerque: Casa Grande's Red Special. Here is what you get: 3 cheese enchiladas with onions and red chile, Spanish rice, beans, lettuce & tomato, 2 sopapillas, and desert (like tapioca or sweet rice). Here is the price: $4.25. If you have a better deal for good tasting food, please let me know!