Dearest Santa Fe:
I'm leaving you. I'm moving west and filling up my border state bingo card. It's an economy thing, a weather thing, a move-close-to-close-friends thing. Lest you think I'll forget you, I've put together this list of places, people, issues that will always stick with me. And I'll also tell you what I never got to do, but wish I had and will haunt me until I return.
Things I'll Miss:
A great city, to me, requires a great coffee shop, a place with cheap cups of joe, free wireless and a pack of regulars who make it less a hangout and more a second home. When I first came to check out Santa Fe to decide whether I could live and work here, Julia had me meet her at
. Two years later, a day doesn't feel complete unless I've spent at least an hour in Sarah Flori's sanctuary for the hip, the hard-up and the hopeful. I've given them a hard time in print over the years---when Aztec Street was called "no man's land" by the city's parking enforcers, when Corey discovered a gross bodily secretion in the sink during one of Aztec's dance parties---but overall, the story of Aztec has been one of complete reassurance. Though I've seen the barista staff change many times over (some friendlier than others, some more transgendered than others), I've watched the shop expand incredibly during an economic recession. Since I've been here, they've started serving beer and gourmet breakfasts (not necessarily together) and picked up new business from the Rail Runner. If I could pick up the entire cafe and fit it into the back of the Penske truck, I'd reinstall it in the nearest empty space to my new office. I love you Aztec.
Frank Ortiz Dog Park
. One of the clinchers in accepting this job in Santa Fe had nothing to do with news. Rather, my 7.5 pound terrier---in no uncertain combination of barks and whimpers---conveyed to me that the dog park was where she wanted to be, forever and ever and ever. For the first year, we spent an hour there every day at dusk. Unfortunately, when I moved to the other side of town, it became a weekend expedition, with Marlowe tucked all comfy into my "Outward Hound" dog pouch. Frank Ortiz isn't so much a dog park as it is a dog reserve, huge open spaces with winding trails and a view second only to the Cross of the Martyrs. I've never seen my dog so full of liberated glee. She's hands down the princess of the park and, frankly, probably achieved more notoriety for her adorable ninja moves, wiggling and head-first snaps than I have with my bylines.
My first full-time job out of college was in a weekly newspaper covering exclusively state government and politics in Phoenix. I love legislatures, I love agencies, I love governors and over the years I've realized that daily American life is affected more by state government decisions than those of whomever we send to Congress and the White House. The 2008 legislative session will remain one of my fondest career adventures: all the energy and ideas and controversies and rumors from the entire state packed into one building on 60-day deadline. I watched New Mexico repeal the death penalty, kill domestic partnerships and quibble over the best way to keep our politicians honest. I'll miss the competitive camaraderie of the Capitol press corp, the late night debates, the cheap sandwiches. The good news is thanks for Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, Sen. Mark Boitano and New Mexico's fierce journalists and ethics watch dogs, I'll be able to watch or listen (depending on the body) to
from out there in Cali.
San Diego County's population is 50 percent bigger than all of New Mexico's and consequently the mediasphere is complicated, competitive and, to be honest, a little bit daunting. Over the years---and perhaps this has a lot to do with the sometimes incestuous flow of journalists from one New Mexican publication to another---I've felt like I toiled in a statewide, virtual newsroom. I'll miss not only my coworkers here at SFR, but my friends and colleagues on the blogs and Twitter, at the dailies, the radio stations, the TV networks, and those in the emerging new media. (Thankfully, Matthew Reichbach of
and the New Mexico Independent has agreed to ride with me in the moving truck.) I'll also miss
Joe Monahan. A couple months back, I initiated a few online meetings between the state's more tech-savvy journalists in the hopes of creating an electronic press club and an web media awards competition. I conducted a survey, which filled me with hope for New Mexico, which still continues to lag behind the rest of the nation in Internet technology. I just hope that someone takes up the mantle and makes a club happen.
I've worked in cubicles and behind counters, I've worked in large warehouse newsrooms and in closet-sized video libraries. Once David Alire Garcia left the Reporter in early 2008, I took over his space, a 10 foot by 10 foot (appx) enclosed space with a window and a comfy plaid couch, where I've spent many night in the midst of cover story deadlines. I meticulously taped up each of those covers on the wall (just beneath the entire text of the UN Declaration of Human Rights), hung all my press passed on a hook and no matter how messy it got, I only got a little bit of shit for it. I've been led to understand that I'll have a bit less space in SD, and the office isn't exactly climate controlled.
As a Phoenix native, I didn't see snow fall until I was 21 years old and, before moving to Santa Fe, I'd never lived in a place with such defined seasons. Whenever snow fell on Santa Fe, you could catch me at least once a day marveling at the fact that something white and solid was falling from the heavens on the desert. Nothing suited me more than bundling up in my ratty trench coat and frayed hoodie and fingerless gloves and following the rail trail, on foot, into town. Then again, I'm also pretty glad to be getting out of here before winter descends.
. Nuff said.
I've left a lot of people and places out, because I could go on forever and this post is already longer than most blog readers' attention spans. You're all irreplaceable.
Now, I'm not one for regrets but there are plenty of things I wish I'd done while I was here....
Things I Wish I'd Done:
In 2007, the election was on my mind and that's one reason I jumped at the chance to cover the 2008 election from a swing state. As a bonus, the governor was running for president---and with his international endeavors, he seemed to be a man after mine own heart. In more than two years I was never given the opportunity to interview Bill Richardson. I sat in press conferences and I shook his hand at a pool party at the DNC. Now, regarding this pool party. Prior to the DNC, Richardson personally agreed to grant us a short interview in Denver. This never happened and while I could've posed a few questions at the party, I decided to respect press coordinator Caitlin Kelleher's request to wait until a more opportune time. This was a mistake; had I known then that Richardson's staff had no intention of granting an interview, I would've grilled him right there with my Flip Cam. Forevermore, Richardson will be in my books as a man who doesn't keep promises. The first thing I'll do in California is call up Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's staff and get in the queue...yeah right.
So, one of the proudest moments here was uncovering the long trail of lies left by Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block Jr---from covering up his criminal history to hiding the fact he reported spending thousands of dollars of public campaign money on a concert that never actually happened. Block and his father were indicted on a slew of criminal charges; I'm just sad that I won't be here to cover the trial early next year.
I've taken a lot of heat ever since I started covering medical cannabis, but I also get calls at least a few times a week from patients desperate to a) find a doctor who will "recommend" it for them, b) find a way to actually score some pot or c) learn what it takes to start up their own growhouse/dispensary. I've been able to help where I can with sharing phone numbers, but really there's not a lot I can do but report. New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Alfredo Vigil has clearly
on the state's medical cannabis program: by rejecting most of the recommendations for approved condititions, by passing overly strict regulations for nonprofit dispensaries, by refusing to approve a second cannabis producer....Most patients are still acquiring pot illegally, which is exactly what the Lynn & Erin Compassionate Use Act was supposed to address. Recently, the only approved nonprofit grower, Santa Fe Institute for Natural Medicine, began telling its clients that DOH would soon approve a second grower. This hasn't happened and DOH has refused to respond to my inquiries. While San Diego will need me to cover its medical cannabis issues (including a series of busts a few weeks ago), I'm disappointed that DOH won't get its shit together before I drive out.
So, anyone who knows me knows how obsessed I am with radio theater, particularly of the sci-fi genre. I had a brilliant, BRILLIANT, idea for a detective noir series set in Santa Fe...and I got as far as writing up a treatment but I never put down a single word of script.
A few more short ones.
I'll regret not sticking out the 2010 election.
I regret never writing a cover on Santa Fe gang violence.
I regret never getting to the bottom of why the Department of Defense is paying Indian Affairs employees in Gallup.
I regret never touring LANL, visiting the O'Keeffe Museum or seeing a film at The Screen.
And I regret never sitting in with Chris Diestler on one of his radio shows.
OK, I'll end this here. Santa Fe, I'll miss you. And please, in the words of Christian Bale, swear you won't forget me.
September 2007 - October 2009