Friday, February 23, 2007

Shattered Ruler Still Remembered by Former Student

NOB HILL--I received the following email this evening from former Monte Vista student Yonaton Platt. I found the picture of that class and I sincerely hope Yonaton responds with a little identification help. There are holes in my memory after 31 years in the classroom. Sorry.
I do remember the ruler incident...and both MaryAnn and I were laughing out loud reading the email...which I am presenting right here.

Subject: You broke my ruler
Date: Feb 23, 2007 8:18 PM

Mr. Knudsen,

I was snooping around on the blogosphere and I stumbled onto your blog. I doubt if you remember me but my name is Yonatan Platt and you were my 4th grade teacher at Monte Vista. I do not remember much from my elementary education, but one memory is engraved on my brain for all time. I bought a shatter proof ruler for school in the summer of 1995 and in front of the whole class you tried to prove whether or not it was shatter proof. Well it wasn’t, and my ruler broke into a million pieces. You gave me a white triangular ruler which I still have to this day. Whenever I use ANY ruler and I still think of my shatter proof ruler breaking into a million pieces and flying through the air.

I hope the past 12 years (wow) have treated you well, and I hope you are still continuing to break rulers at my beloved elementary school. After the 5th grade I moved to Shreveport, Louisiana and I now attend LSU in Baton Rouge. I am studying chemistry and will be applying to medical school this summer, and I hope to attend in the fall of ’08.

Please write back, I am curious to know how Albuquerque and Monte Vista are and how you have been over the past decade.


Yonatan Platt

"My Long Shot is Richardson," says Chris Matthews

NOB HILL--Hardball's Chris Matthews had just finished interviewing Arizona governor Janet Napolitano. She had said the race for the Democratic nomination was not just between Clinton and Obama...that there were a lot of good candidates out there and the voters want to actually hear what they have to say.

Matthews chimed in, "My long shot is Richardson. I think he's going to come up."

Well so do I. It amazes me that he has so much genuine support here in New Mexico. Favorite Sons are not a common phenomenon. Look at Gov. Tom Vlisak of Iowa...he dropped out today 2 years from the election. Polls showed him with only 14% of the Iowa caucus vote.

How can a candidate bring in money and excitement if only 14% of members of his own party in his own state support him? If a poll were done in New Mexico, I bet that Bill Richardson would get somewhere above 70% of NM Democrats supporting him. Maybe even 90%! Everybody I meet wishes him well.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Flying Star Moments: Poet David M. Johnson

NOB HILL FLYING STAR--I ran into Dave Johnson yesterday afternoon. His new book of poems Rebirth of Wonder has just come out from UNM Press. I have known Dave for about 25 years...ever since I took a poetry writing class from him. He has been an important figure in the New Mexico poetry scene for longer than that.

This book concentrates on the spiritual and physical journey of a preacher's kid from Minnesota who ended up a poet-philosopher in Albuquerque.

Here is a poem from the book.

Patriarch in the Midwest

Where grandfather dipped his pen I burn incense. His inkwell
a bronze pagoda laced with oriental trees and fern.

Winged serpents crawl along the tray, a butterfly etched in the roof
waits to rise with the smoke of sandalwood.

Grandfather was a dragon from the north whose nature rejected
the mystical East, the solitary path to Nirvana.

Jehovah wasn't a breath from within, but a force like a winter storm.
Sin could destroy the household or locusts reap the harvest.

Did Scandinavians travel too far inland losing sight of the sea?
All that snow filling the hollows in a man's mind.

Grandfather talked to God in English and Norwegian, like engaging
the captain of a ship. His sermons charted the open spaces,

As if words could finally cut clear between good and evil.
From his pulpit in Minnesota Grandfather could see the ocean.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Bob Martin's Sunday Wallpaper: A Tale of Two Cities

From fellow boulevardier Bob Martin...
Downtown Albuquerque at 6:38 p.m. on February 8, 2007: ISO 200, 2 seconds, f/5.6, 21mm, Pentax K10D
Lesson: look around the scene carefully for possibilities beyond the initial intent.

I went to the Tricore parking lot (just west of the Embassy Suites Hotel at I-25 and Lomas) to try for a good shot of downtown lighted at night. Originally, I had thought a completely black sky would be best - not so.

How much should I include in the picture? Because I was using a 12-24mm lens, I figured a narrow panorama might be good. Looking over the scene, I decided to aim low and maybe crop out the nearby street scene. Fortunately, that inclusion paid off later.

Only after I had the range of exposures on my screen in PSE did it occur to me that I had more than a scene, I had a story: a tale of two cities.

That was a valuable practical lesson for me to learn: keep my eyes and mind open to possibilities beyond the initial reason for going to an area.

The blue car at the left edge was intentionally not cropped out because it is part of the foreground story primarily told to the lower right.

I may return to try this again for perhaps:
- a slightly more vivid sky, but not so much more as to be distracting - I like the hint of it,
- ISO 100 instead of 200, and
- f/11 to maximize sharpness.

All in all, it was a rewarding experience.


The Sunday Poem: Robert Wrigley...Kissing a Horse

American Life in Poetry: Column 098

A horse's head is big, and the closer you get to it, the bigger it gets. Here is the Idaho poet, Robert Wrigley, offering us a horse's head, up close, and covering a horse's character, too.

Kissing a Horse

Of the two spoiled, barn-sour geldings
we owned that year, it was Red—
skittish and prone to explode
even at fourteen years—who'd let me
hold to my face his own: the massive labyrinthine
caverns of the nostrils, the broad plain
up the head to the eyes. He'd let me stroke
his coarse chin whiskers and take
his soft meaty underlip
in my hands, press my man's carnivorous
kiss to his grass-nipping upper half of one, just
so that I could smell
the long way his breath had come from the rain
and the sun, the lungs and the heart,
from a world that meant no harm.

Reprinted from "Earthly Meditations: New and Selected Poems," published in 2006 by Penguin. Copyright © Robert Wrigley, 2006, and reprinted by permission of the author. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Passenger Who Ate Cold Pizza...and Other Stories from the Rails

ALVARADO STATION--The inaugural run of the New Mexico Rail Runner from Albuquerque to Belen was full of important people and those connected with some aspect of the rail project. But the real face of event has to be this UNM student waiting for the train at Alvarado Station downtown. I had seen her get on the RapidRide at UNM on her way downtown...and now here she was, unwrapping a slice of cold pizza while waiting for the southbound Rail Runner.

She lives in Los Chavez. Every morning her folks take her to the train station in Los Lunas. She rides up to ABQ...hops on the RapidRide to UNM...goes to class...and then takes the same bus downtown and the 12:32 train back to Los Lunas.

She is the future of Rail Runner: a real person whose needs are being met perfectly with mass transit systems. UNM is notorious for its lack of parking. This is the perfect solution.

In fact, UNM should consider subsidizing students who buy bus and train passes. After all, even their remote parking lots are filled to capacity. They should also do what they can for bicyclists, starting with a better connector to the Noreste bike path north of the campus.

I was touched at the ceremony when the train made its first stop in Belen. After the usual ribbon cutting ceremony I noticed a man in back of me had taken out his jack knife and was cutting up pieces of the ribbon and passing them out to his extended family. Yes, this train IS that important for this community.

And as the train backed up to start its return north to ABQ (remember the train runs 'backwards' going north), I couldn't help but think about how many stories and memories the Rail Runner service is going to generate...students, shoppers, adventurers, tourists, working commuters.

Here's to the New Riders of the Purple Sage!

Btw, in case you missed it, I wrote a companion piece about the Belen - ABQ Doodlebug for the Duke City Fix.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Johnny_Mango's Sunday Wallpaper: Inaugural Belen Stop of the New Mexico Rail Runner

BELEN--I was there: the first day of service. And while the Lieutenant Governor and the Mayors of both Belen and Los Lunas gave speeches during the stopover, I wandered down the track for one more look at this beautful engine.

The Sunday Poem: Mary Jo Salter...Somebody Else's Baby

American Life in Poetry: Column 097

Though parents know that their children will grow up and away from them, will love and be loved by others, it's a difficult thing to accept. Massachusetts poet Mary Jo Salter emphasizes the poignancy of the parent/child relationship in this perceptive and compelling poem.

Somebody Else's Baby

From now on they always are, for years now
they always have been, but from now on you know
they are, they always will be,

from now on when they cry and you say
wryly to their mother, better you than me,
you'd better mean it, you'd better

hand over what you can't have, and gracefully.

Reprinted from "New Letters," vol. 72, no. 3-4, 2006, by permission of the poet. Copyright © 2006 by Mary Jo Salter, whose most recent book of poetry is "Open Shutters," Knopf, 2003. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Metropolitan Transportation Plan Meeting: A Person Reaction

NOB HILL--I went to the Metropolitan Transportation Plan meeting Tuesday night at the Unitarian Church. Perhaps it is just too big a topic for a two-hour meeting. It is one of those 'trains, planes, and automobiles' subjects overlaid on the human denominators of walking and biking. The primary emphasis of the presenter, Mark Fenton from Massachusetts, was the health benefits derived from these human-powered means of getting around. Making our neighborhoods walkable and bikeable was the thrust of the whole meeting.

Who could be against such a concept? Well apparently a lot of people. There was a kind of a guerrilla movement quality to much of the discussion. I do know from personal experience that even getting a crosswalk in the Nob Hill area is impossible...not difficult, IMPOSSIBLE. After all, cars have right too.

This kind of auto/pedestrian dichotomy is exactly the kind of thinking that goes on in ABQ's department of traffic engineering. No crosswalks. They told me that according to research crosswalks were more dangerous than running across the street. They hope that the bump-outs currently under construction will make the dash even easier.

But wait a minute...I thought engineers were problem-solvers. So said Mark Fenton at the meeting. He started talking about Tucson's Speedway Blvd. MaryAnn and I are familiar with that particular thoroughfare: six lanes of fast-moving traffic that serves as the main east-west surface street for most of Tucson. One peculiar feature of that aptly named arterial is that it has signaled crosswalks!

Fenton explained that the traffic engineers timed them to be in sequence with the rest of the traffic lights. What a concept! And then the pedestrians have to stop on the median and push another button and wait a few seconds to cross the other half of the street...because that signal is sequenced with the lights for traffic flowing in the other direction. Engineers as problem-solvers.....hmmm.

I continue to be impressed with City Councilor (and Council President) Debbie O'Malley. Smart, unpretentious, and dedicated to actually using government to make life better for all of us, she is on my list of people I'd like to see as Mayor someday.

Scott Hale came up and introduced himself. What a treat! Scott comments on many of my Duke City Fix posts and I was so happy to meet him in person. I was especially appreciative of his sharing in one of his comments of a somewhat embarrassing but extremely instructive experience in getting disoriented even in familiar areas.

The last highlight of the evening had to be the snow coming down. What a wonderful way to go home...