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Morning Word: Recount in State Land Commissioner Race

Marijuana legalization bill coming, but passage unlikely

Morning WordWednesday, November 26, 2014 by Matthew Reichbach

Morning Word

  • Something that everyone had expected for the last three weeks came to fruition on Tuesday: There will be a recount in the State Land Commissioner campaign. The automatic recount comes because Aubrey Dunn leads Ray Powell by under one-half of one-percent (so, 0.5 percent) of the total amount of ballots cast.

    It is the first statewide recount since the automatic recount law went into effect in 2008.
  • State Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Las Cruces, says he will introduce legislation to legalize marijuana.
    Under the bill, 40 percent of those taxes would go to public education, 20 percent would go toward addiction services, 20 percent to local law enforcement, 15 percent to state police and 5 percent for abuse prevention. McCamley added that he would like to see THC percentage labeling on the product, noting that it's similar to alcohol labeling. He also wants to add a provision allowing cultivation of industrial hemp.
    Don't get too excited, though. As Milan Simonich notes, the odds of any such marijuana legalization aren't good.
  • Protests in Albuquerque shut down streets in Nob Hill. The protests are after the lack of an indictment against Darren Wilson, the Ferguson Police Department officer who killed Michael Brown. APD had its own share of controversial police killings that sparked protests that resulted in police firing tear gas at protesters.

    As protests continue to rage across the United States, Jeff Proctor reminded his followers on Twitter that the grand jury process in Albuquerque used for years was even odder than the process used in Ferguson. The grand jury process in Albuquerque couldn't even indict officers if the jury wanted to.
  • KOB took a brief look back at the 1971 riots in Albuquerque. The riots, which media says started because of arrests over smoking marijuana and smoking, left hundreds injured.
  • The state's waiver from the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act will be expedited by the Obama administration.
    New Mexico is among seven states the U.S. Education Department will allow to apply for four-year waiver extensions – compared with three-year extensions for most other states – and it will undergo an expedited review process.

    Like New Mexico, the other states – Florida, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia – have begun using student test scores in their teacher evaluation systems and have put in place other policies, such as school-grading systems, outlined in their waivers.
  • A member of the Albuquerque Public Schools board will speak to the governor's office about opposition to teacher evaluations.
  • A study finds that a lack of jobs is leading to a decline in undocumented immigrants in New Mexico.
    New Mexico lost 20,000 “unauthorized” immigrants, falling from 90,000 to 70,000 during that time period, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, a Washington, D.C.,-based research institute.
  • The Navajo Nation Council will meet in a special session on Wednesday to hear the audit of the Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Co.
    The audit is also supposed to focus on the transfer of $17 million in company funds into a new bank account and more than $1 million in payments that were made to various individuals and companies from September 2013 through June, according to the press release.
  • The Bureau of Land Management found that there was no significant impact to burying the Sunzia transmission line.
  • Some more (temporary) government jobs are coming to New Mexico in the form of the U.S. Census Bureau for a housing survey. The part-time jobs will last from May to August.
  • A man in Laguna Pueblo stole a lot of money over a long period of time from an ATM. How much? A lot.
    Most of the deliveries were around $20,000, the sources said. After the courier left, Cheromiah would stuff about half the cash in his clothing, then stash it in a drawer. The rest went into the ATM.

    As time went on, Cheromiah spent significant amounts of the stolen case, according to the sources. He bought more than 100 pairs of Air Jordan tennis shoes, and he gambled in a neighboring tribe’s casino.
  • KUNM covers the debate over whether or not the bosque should be kept a wild landscape or become an urban park. Albuquerque mayor Richard Berry wants it to be an urban park. Environmental groups want it to stay wild.
  • Ruidoso Downs is looking to fill a vacant city council spot. A city councilor died earlier this month, leaving a vacant spot.

    The Los Alamos School Board is continuing their search for a replacement superintendent.
  • The Las Vegas San Miguel Chamber of Commerce received a new contract from the city of Las Vegas. The local chamber was in trouble and the contract will help it run for at least a little longer.
  • And there we go. My final Morning Word. Six hundred or so editions later, nearly every non-holiday weekday, I can have my weeknights free again.

    Yes, I've said goodbye once or twice already and will again on NM Telegram later today. But, forgive me, it's a pretty big part of my life that is ending.

    Thank you to each and every one of the hundreds of you who made this part of your daily routine, either through email, the New Mexico Telegram website or the Santa Fe Reporter website. And thank you for the Santa Fe Reporter for helping make sure the Morning Word continues.

    Now I will pass the baton on to Peter St. Cyr. Thank you to everyone who expressed well-wishes over the past couple of days. The Morning Word will surely be different, but I am confident that it will still be the best New Mexico news recap.

    Just about every night that I put together the Morning Word, I listened to music off my computer. The last song that played as I finished writing this? One of my favorite songs, Everlong by Foo Fighters.

LIFE’s Moments

Monroe Gallery celebrates the work of Bill Ray

PicksTuesday, November 25, 2014 by Enrique Limón

Be it as a staffer for LIFE or a would-be one for National Geographic, documenting the likes of Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy or riding along with the Hells Angels, New York-based Bill Ray is part of the elite who shone during the 1960s and ’70s with their impeccable timing and groundbreaking approach to photojournalism. On Friday, Monroe Gallery of Photography polishes off his archive and presents a comprehensive retrospective on his stunning works, several of which resonate particularly now, thanks to a poignant mix of nostalgia, superb, often on the fly technique and the current obsession with all things celebrity culture.

“It was very busy and hectic as you would expect, but that was the norm,” Marlys, Ray’s wife of 56 years, tells SFR over the phone during what ended up being her first interview. Bill was off delivering prints to the lab.

“I made the best of it,” she continues, alluding to her husband’s busy schedule. “When he was in Vietnam in 1965, he wired and said, ‘I’m finished with the assignment and I can come home, or I can meet you somewhere,’ so I decided to rendezvous in Cairo…so you see, you always make the best of it.”

Bill and Marlys’ love story would develop alongside his globetrotting work. More trips, accolades and encounters with the personalities of the time would follow. Ray’s roster includes iconic images of Elvis Presley, Natalie Wood, Ella Fitzgerald and Andy Warhol, whom Marlys met.

“He was very, very quiet, patient and did exactly what Bill asked him to do,” she says of the pop artist. “It was a very successful take, and I think that double portrait of Warhol is a very nice touch.”

Reflecting on the impact of Ray’s images and the long legacy of those pictured in them, Marlys says, “They just keep going and people love them.”

Back from his errands, the photographer would later email SFR singing his wife’s praises.

“Did she tell you I picked her up on a park bench in Minneapolis in 1956? Luckiest day on my life.”

-Enrique Limón

bill ray

5-7 pm Friday, Nov. 28 Monroe Gallery of Photography 112 Don Gaspar Ave., 992-0800

3 Questions

with Charles Mann

3 QuestionsTuesday, November 25, 2014 by Enrique Limón

Charles Mann has a clear artistic eye and a penchant for destination, desertscape and garden photography. Though the season might not be too conducive to it, he discusses the latter on Monday evening at the Hotel Santa Fe.                                                 

Where does you love for photographing gardens stem from?

I worked in Santa Fe for five years at Plants of the Southwest, as a grower in the early 1980s, where I became interested in gardens and plants. I have always loved photography. I have no formal training and became a ‘garden photographer’ by default. I spent the next 15 years or so traveling around the western US, Japan, England and other places photographing gardens. I am a photographer who likes gardens, not a gardener who takes photographs.

What can folks expect from your talk?

To hear a lot of thoughts about the nature of art, about what motivates us to want to take pictures in the first place, some anecdotes about the process of looking for photographs, and other observations, all set against a background panoply of colorful pictures, mostly of gardens.

Give one tip to maintaining your garden through the Santa Fe winter.

I have no real info about maintaining a garden in winter. I am not a gardener. Disconnect your hose!

The Write Stuff?

It was some dark and stormy drivel…

Blue CornTuesday, November 25, 2014 by Robert Basler

Today the Santa Fe Reporter celebrates fine writing, with the results of our annual competition. To the winners, huzzah!

But even as we showcase excellent writing, it is worth remembering there are other kinds of writing as well, ranging from great to good to mediocre to horrible, right down to Sarah Palin collaborating with Honey Boo Boo on a sequel to Moby Dick.

Here’s something that puzzles me. We have no shortage of bad literature in this country, yet for some reason we’ve chosen to pick on a poor 19th century British writer as a measure of how extremely awful the printed word can be.

Poor, poor Edward Bulwer-Lytton (pictured at right, we think). He left us such enduring phrases as “the great unwashed” and “the pen is mightier than the sword.” But mention his name today and all anybody remembers is the opening sentence from his 1830 novel, Paul Clifford.

This is that sentence:

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

Here’s a tip. If you’re going to produce a steaming turd like that, don’t make it the opening sentence. Put it in Chapter 14, immediately following a torrid sex scene where bodices get ripped from heaving bosoms and sweat-slicked lovers do you-know-what in the scorching afternoon heat.

If you search online for Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s name, you will find the wildly popular Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which annually awards prizes for the best imitation of that opening sentence. Each year, the competition attracts thousands of entries from deliberately abysmal scribes.

Call me crazy, but it seems a bit unfair that a nation that produced The Bridges of Madison County and The Dukes of Hazzard is looking to the nation that produced David Copperfield and Hamlet for examples of bad writing.

I wonder how Bulwer-Lytton might have begun his book had he lived in modern-day Santa Fe instead of 19th century London. Hmmmm.

“It was a parched December day, as dry as a shin bone left behind by the Donner Party; throat-choking dust floated through Santa Fe (for it is in Santa Fe that our scene lies), as if God had dropped a million used vacuum cleaner bags to burst over the Plaza, as a moistureless breeze fiercely agitated the flames in the sand-anchored farolitos dotting the downtown for the holiday the locals called Christmas.”

This is bad, but not bad enough. Sorry. Permit me to try again.

“It was a dark and stormy night; by which I mean the gang at Secreto Bar was drinking a cocktail called the Dark and Stormy, a mixture of dark rum and ginger beer that can get you drunk real fast, and soon the slurred conversation turned to how the drink got its name, and one guy said it must have something to do with Game of Thrones, because doesn’t everything these days?”

Still not bad enough? Once more.

“It was a dark and stormy night; Paul was pelted painfully by hail the size of hail as he hurried through the Trader Joe’s parking lot, and reaching the long line of shopping carts he was unable to pry one free, and so, badly needing ginger snaps and Two-Buck Chuck and chocolate-covered potato chips, he gave a violent jerk, heaved and began pushing thirty-two interlocked carts through the store, noisily rattling like the Rail Runner as it rattles in its rattling way out of town.”

I’ve done it! That’s it! That is beyond awful! Feel free to try your own by emailing me or adding it to our online comments.

You know, a bit of irony just occurred to me. If Bulwer-Lytton were alive today he probably couldn’t win the Bulwer-Lytton Contest. Let’s face it: He’s just not bad enough to hack it in 2014.

Robert Basler’s humor column runs twice monthly in SFR. Email the author: bluecorn@sfreporter.com

Piece. Of. Shit.

'Horrible Bosses 2' is so bad it defies comprehension

BarfTuesday, November 25, 2014 by David Riedel

For years people I know have railed against Rush singer Geddy Lee’s singing voice. His sound, to some—and especially on the early stuff—can feel shrill. One friend asked me how the guy doesn’t break windows.

Because I love Geddy Lee, I had no idea what his detractors meant until now. Charlie Day is the Geddy Lee of contemporary comedies. How viewers can find a guy with the most nasally, whiny, ear-piercing shriek funny is beyond me.

In short, my experience with Horrible Bosses 2 lapses from the objective into the subjective. Day’s voice is worse than nails on a chalkboard, and his idea of comedy, at least in this movie, is to try to shout over the people he’s acting with in order to make jokes or read lines or improvise or whatever the hell he’s doing. The improvisation, and there’s a ton of it, goes on and on and on and on and…repeating a lame joke doesn’t make funny; it makes it miserable.

It’s unfortunate, then, that Day doesn’t do much in Horrible Bosses 2 but scream. And that might be fine and dandy if the movie weren’t a total, complete and in all other ways, giant piece of shit. There are four laughs in Horrible Bosses 2, two big and two little.

This time around, Nick (Jason Bateman looking bored), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and Dale (Day), intent on working for themselves, have invented something called the Shower Buddy. It lets its users…oh, who cares? It exists only as a means to get the plot moving and to make a stale visual gag that has Dale looking like he’s sucking Kurt off in a live-TV demonstration.

Enter Rex Hanson (Chris Pine) and his father, Bert (Christoph Waltz), who run an enormous company that wants an exclusive license for the Shower Buddy. But because Nick, Kurt and Dale are idiots, they get screwed out of their start-up money and the Hansons plan on purchasing, manufacturing and selling the Shower Buddy for super cheap.

Enter a kidnap plot, in which the dolts try to swipe Rex in exchange for their money. It might be interesting or at least diverting if the screenwriters and director made the main characters as awful as the bad guys—who says you have to like leading men?—but instead Nick deadpans and looks tired while Kurt and Dale do things that are so stupid that they defy logic, even in a dumb comedy.

For example, Dale has a way of announcing whatever illegal deed they’re about to commit the moment he bumps into someone who could get him in trouble. Plus, Kurt was a sleeze in the first movie; in this one, he’s as stupid as Dale, dropping identifying documents in a house they’re breaking into and not caring because…I’m not sure why. Because the screenplay demands it? It makes no sense.

The four laughs all concern Jennifer Aniston, gamely reprising her role as Dale’s former boss, and Jamie Foxx, who just wants to open a Pinkberry. But at 108 minutes, you deserve more than a laugh every 27 minutes. If this is the future of comedy, I fucking weep for the future. Director Sean Anders is responsible for the reprehensible That’s My Boy and co-wrote the laugh-free Dumb and Dumber To. Add this to the dung heap.

 

HORRIBLE BOSSES 2
Directed by Sean Anders
With Bateman, Sudeikis and Day
Regal Stadium 14
R
108 min.

Flightless and Buoyant

The waterfowl in 'Penguins of Madagascar' are good for some yuks

OkTuesday, November 25, 2014 by David Riedel

It’s madcap, loud and goofy, but damn it if Penguins of Madagascar isn’t also a lot of fun. For those who like their animated movies crazy and with a throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks attitude, this is the flick for you. If you like something more measured and less nutty, look elsewhere.

The penguins of the title are the gang who are always been the best part of the otherwise forgettable Madagascar series. Thankfully, Ben Stiller and David Schwimmer aren’t on hand to crap this one up. Instead, we get a penguins origin story (unfurled in the first 10 minutes), and then 80 or so minutes of caper.

You know things are off to a good start when director Werner Herzog’s voice shows up for comic relief in the opening, during which hatchlings Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller) and Rico (Conrad Vernon), while chasing a runaway egg, find themselves on an old oil tanker and surrounded by seals ready to eat them. They escape, and the egg hatches and grows into Private (Christopher Knights). Then the four intrepid waterfowl go on an adventure to foil evil octopus Dave (John Malkovich) from turning all the cute, cuddly penguins in the world into monsters.

It’s derivative and so non-stop that it can grow exhausting, but its joke-to-laugh ratio is pretty high. That’s rare for any movie these days.

 

PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR
Directed by Eric Darnell and Simon J Smith
With McGrath, Miller, and Knights
Regal Stadium 14
PG
92 min.

Poetry

SFR’s 2014 Writing Contest

Writing ContestTuesday, November 25, 2014 by SFR

1st Place

Category: Poetry
Author: Rain Elizabeth Santistevan

I Was Bathed in These Stars

Rain Elizabeth Santistevan, aka Rain E Day is a local singer-songwriter and artist who was born and raised in Santa Fe. The music she writes for her band A Rainy Day & The Poetree is a melodic piano-based mix of “almost ragtime,” folk, cabaret and indie rock—with the main focus being on the poetry of the lyrics. She spent time in the early 1990s in Seattle, Wash., both working in a rock band and creating “happy art” for greeting cards, until returning to Santa Fe to pursue a graphic design degree and raise her son with the help of a tight-knit family. She received her first degree in graphic design and is currently attending SFUAD in pursuit of her BFA.

I was bathed in these stars—in the fire—in the art Right when I
began I went swimming
in the dark
That surrounded them and tore their
light apart

Even then—way back when
I was swallowed by their light
I was floating in the night and skipping sparks

I was held—warm and still—Santa Fe—holy hills
I beheld a flame that fell from the sky it died until
I reached out a minor hand and I saved it from the kill

In my palm—it burned on
As we gathered on the bridge
In that midnight pilgrimage I was distilled

Swirls of life and light and leaves ignite and die
Sudden doors and roads and window panes
Coffee cups and candle light
Aspen grey and birds at night
Still you burn above me as I fade

And I am bathed from afar—in a clock made of stars
Turning time—gears and rhymes—memories of everything
And an ancient fire burning in a forest stark

Works of hands—golden bands
Draw a sketch and fight to sing
The lines alight in learning—better for the dark

Swirls of tastes and fights and songs ignite and die
Sullen snow then flowers that seem to pray
Brand new sheets and rainy days
Playing in an autumn haze
Still you burn above me as I fade
Then I am bathed by a hand—I have yet to
understand
Just a touch—not too much—distant scent of
everything
Like an ancient water dancing
through the
forest dark

Many ghosts—perfect hosts
Spices lifting on a breeze
Like a symphony of trees out playing in a park

Gypsy face—full of grace—in the blood

faith is traced
Back to when I began that strange swimming in
the dark
That surrounded us and tore our light apart

In my palm we burn on

We are gathered on the bridge

In a midnight pilgrimage back to the start


2nd Place

Category: Poetry
Author: Emmaly Wiederholt

Members of the Sky, Edges of the Earth

Emmaly Wiederholt is a dancer, hiker, biker, writer, editor, poet and journalist. She received her MA in arts journalism from the University of Southern California and has trained in ballet at University of Utah and San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. She is a founding member of Malinda LaVelle’s dance theater company, Project Thrust. She is a native New Mexican currently based in Santa Fe.

It’s cool out
Rain falls
Bawls
Effervescently
Feathers flying down
Down
Down
Into eroded soil
Soaked
Oozing
Permeated
Pressed into mud
A soft thud
Like a whisper
Like a reason for going to sleep
To keep
Dreaming
Dozed
Dazed
Crazed
Let go
A turn of hand
A secret cry
A change of mind
A time for listening
To reason
To internal rhyme
Rapping on the earth
A time for stopping
To soak
To seep
To sully
With wetness
Sweet wetness
Always dripping
Dropping
Dropped
Let go
Bruised
Burst
Ripping at the seams
Rapping at the roof
Aloof
Smooth
Down earth’s throat
A coat
Concealing bones
Dew
Dreams
Desires
Drained clouds
Dripping cold
It’s cool out

Coyotes’ other worldly howl
Freezes
Suspends me
All the things that can’t be seen but make themselves known in other ways
These things determine
Definition
The energy of a room
The likelihood of an event to happen
The temperature of a human interaction
For my part, I rejoice in their howl
It reminds me
The edges
Still exist

Rain streaks across the cracked windshield
I peer through the little hole
The ineffectual wipers make
And drive on
Later the wind picks up
And buffets the car
The full moon must be rising
Somewhere
Fat yellow light
Fat wet streaks
Fat juicy steaks for dinner
My stomach mildly rumbles
From here to there to nowhere

I can only fall up
Into deep fishy blue
Into sparkling black
Into fire
Sounds chase me
Breath escapes me
Hills rise
Stars rise
Smoke rises
Embers
Members of the sky
Burning
Floating
Into ashes
Into dusk
Into dust


3rd Place

Category: Poetry
Author: Willie Brown

Pencil on Paper

Willie Brown is “a lifelong serious reader of primarily fiction” and a college English major, he writes. He works in “a professional field now” and is a former college teacher who did a stint in the military.

Don’t confuse luck with God, he writes quick, perhaps too quick,
the pencil scratching his curlicue words across blue-ruled white paper,
Don’t confuse God with luck, he writes next, reflecting,
trying out several texts like new shoes at the mall

Greatness comes to those who are patient, or to those who wait,
or to those who persevere, or to those who appear, on television—
he just can’t commit, rummaging ravenously through the large trunk,
that familiar trunk plunked firmly in a dark corner of the attic of his mind

Ants have now entered the debate and are devouring crumbs left behind
They are Susan’s crumbs, therefore they are Susan’s ants,
She is off to her ballet class, wearing white tights and a gauzy pink top,
white being her favorite color, pink being a strong yet delicate second
Even the cake she was eating was white, slickened smooth with white frosting,
that’s how he first came to notice the wriggly ants nibbling the white crumbs

They are definitely Susan’s ants,
she being the slob and he being the neat one,
which makes them like Jack Sprat and his fussy wife—
Or was this the day that Susan rode the Pinto, her Indian paint?
Peace-Paint he hopes ‘cause if she’s now on the trail,
then one of them later will suffer rider’s cramp

He still can’t decide if God is luck or if luck is God
but concludes that “It is written” makes no sense, maybe is messianic, or
narcissistic: he writes what he writes, and those before wrote what they wrote,
chiseling eyes and cats and Ankhs deep into tombs for ever,
as though their spirits could one day rise up and hug you as their mommy

Did Renoir really use a bright red wagon to wheel his paints through Paris?
or did he fear some would view that image of him as far too abstract?
A person with multiple personalities might succeed as a ventriloquist
but in no event should there ever be trust in a wolf who cried boy—

He still can’t decide if luck is God or God is luck, or if luck be a lady,
but stares at the messy crumbs, and is sure those are Susan’s angst—

Personal Essay

SFR’s 2014 Writing Contest

Writing ContestTuesday, November 25, 2014 by SFR

1st Place

Category: Personal Essay
Author: Ellie Dendahl

“¡No Se Bailar!”

Ellie Dendahl has lived in Santa Fe most of her life. “Though I have lived in lots of places around the US in my life, Santa Fe is my favorite place to live,” she writes. “I attended Santa Fe High and New Mexico State University and got my master’s degree in counseling at Highlands University. Currently, I spend most of my time singing and songwriting with my buddies Jay and Michael of American JeM. Additionally, I teach conflict resolution to residential students at Santa Fe Indian School. To round out my life, I play tennis with several groups of awesome friends and athletes.”

I found a vacant parking meter on Palace Avenue just down from the old hospital and squeezed my car between the rear bumper of the car parked ahead of mine and the front bumper of the one behind. I got out of the car and began the short walk to the Plaza. Oh yes, did I mention it was just another beautiful summer evening in Santa Fe?

The sun, still high in the sky, was beginning her evening ritual of caressing abundant cumulous clouds gathering in the Western sky. Her rays of golden highlights lassoed cloud after cloud and cast a celestial halo around the puffy, white formations. Simultaneously, looking eastward, a veil of hot pink hues blanketed the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I reveled in the exquisiteness of this daily affair as though it were the first time I’d ever seen it. I felt deep gratitude for, again, being witness to such beauty!

Tonight’s forecast, like most of the evenings this summer, made ideal weather for attending any one of Santa Fe’s outdoor events. This evening I was meeting friends at the Summer Music Series on the Plaza Bandstand. Free music for locals and visitors to enjoy right in the heart of downtown Santa Fe! As I walked past The Shed, I could hear Bill Hearne’s smooth, husky voice filling the air throughout the Plaza. Even the leaves on the trees seemed to sway and rustle in time with the trio’s honky-tonk harmonies and Bill’s unique cross-picking guitar style. And, whether you know Bill’s music or not, your mind’s eye would certainly conjure images of cowboy hats and broomstick skirts two-stepping and twirling counter-clockwise around the dance floor in front of the Bandstand. Tonight was no exception.

The trio had also drawn a large “listening” crowd, many who toted their own fold-up chairs or tossed blankets on the ground just outside of the concrete space in front of the stage respectfully reserved for the dancing crowd. The music was easy on the ears—a nice blend of male voices with well-arranged harmonies piping out songs of stories of love, love lost, heartache, cowboys and bar fights. The sight of the dancers and the outer-lying toe-tapping crowd on the Plaza warmed my heart. I love this place!

The sun started to wane. Bill and his trio were the first of two bands performing on the Bandstand that evening, and they were well into their 90-minute set. There were hundreds of dainty string lights swagged under the canopy of the Bandstand and, with the disappearing sunlight, they began to look more and more like tiny twinkling stars floating right there in mid-air just above our heads. The soft sweetness of their glow only enhanced the romantic, small-town kind of feel that radiates from almost anywhere you stand in Santa Fe.

As the trio’s set was coming to an end, Bill thanked the crowd and announced the next song as the “last dance.” I’d danced the previous two songs with one of my favorite dance partners, Ron. When he heard it was the last dance, he said “Thank you for the dances. My last dance is always reserved for Micki (his wife).” In return, I thanked him and turned and walked off the concrete dance floor looking for a familiar face to stand with and watch the dancers enjoy the last song. I was scanning faces in the crowd when a petite, sinewy gentleman tapped my arm and quietly said, “Dance?” His face was dark and weathered from the sun, and he wore a black, neatly trimmed moustache and a straw cowboy hat. I nodded my head and said, “Sure.” The dark-faced fellow with leathery skin took my hand and led me between a few dance couples to a small, vacant space on the dance floor. He put his right hand on the left side of my waist. I put my left hand on his right shoulder. He took my right hand in his left hand and raised them both about shoulder high. We were in perfect dance position. His presence spoke “veteran dancer.”

Bill started the song with picking and strumming a lovely guitar melody. It was a two-step. I waited for him to lead me into the dance with the one-two-one-and-two introductory steps. However, the moment we started moving, I immediately realized we would not be dancing to the Bill Hearne Trio’s last-dance two-step. This petite, sinewy fellow had whisked me into a magical dance vortex where only he could hear the music he was dancing to. I giggled to myself and thought “Just relax and let him lead us through the song.” We were not in sync with a single note or moving in rhythm to any other dance couple in our vicinity. In fact, the dancers were steering clear of us. By the look in their eyes, we might as well have been a runaway train!

Oddly though, I noticed something: Despite his dancing and leading not being in rhythm with the music, his frame was solid, his hold was confident, and he had intention and determination in each step. There was even a certain grace to his movement and rhythm. As we bounced and twirled around the dance floor, I spotted several people in the crowd watching us—their faces filled with curiosity and wonder. I just flashed a sheepish smile and let this fellow enthusiastically lead us as he saw fit. About halfway through the song, he, again, caught me by surprise when his hold braced my back tighter, and he took us into a fast series of spins. Seconds after settling from the surprise of the whirling and spinning, I realized I felt weightless. My feet were hardly touching the ground! I smiled and even started to laugh. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. He did this twice again. I couldn’t help laughing as he spun us around and around. In this moment, the music didn’t matter, nor did keeping time with the rhythm. The feeling of complete joy from this feeling of weightlessness I had while spinning around the dance floor with this small, dark-faced gent was what I can only imagine it would be like to dance upon clouds. Close to the end of the song he said, “´¡No se bailar!” (Translation: I don’t know how to dance) and flashed a smile bare of front teeth. I smiled back. Maybe we didn’t dance to the rhythm of the music, and maybe even frightened some of the other dancers with unorthodox moves and rhythms but, in my book, this goes down as one of the most uplifting and joyful dance experiences I’ve ever had. Muchas Gracias, Señor Dances in Clouds!


2nd Place

Category: Personal Essay
Author: Natalie Bovis

A Gringa’s Diary: 40 Years of Santa Fe Nights

Natalie Bovis is a freelance writer, cocktail book author, world wanderer and proud Santa Fean. Her love for her hometown has only grown during the years she spent exploring big city life, and eventually brought her back to the shadowy echos of a land rich in history and creative tranquility.

The first time I heard the word “gringa,” I was 4. It was hurled at my mom, sister and me as we walked up Galisteo Street, in 1974. My parents had just opened their Indian trading post, down the block, which would support our family for the next several decades. In sharp contrast to the “get out of here” tone coming from the passenger side of the lowrider, my young eyes were taking in the most welcoming sunset I’d ever seen… the entire contents of a Crayola box rubbed onto the horizon, just before it went dark. That’s my first recollection of many Santa Fe nights to come.

It is understandable that there’s a certain level of resentment toward outsiders, considering Santa Fe’s bloody history. From the 1600s, conquistadors snatched land from indigenous people before the Spanish assimilated into the genealogical landscape. Later, settlers wandered across the Wild West, and the blended peoples here became las tres gentes–Native American, Hispanic (Spanish and Mexican), and Anglo, with the latter being the minority. So, our blond hair, my immigrant parents’ European accents and our non-Hispanic family name did, I guess, make us gringos, in the Santa Fe usage of the term.

I’m glad I didn’t grow up in a vanilla-flavored American city. Childhood, here, meant bouncing along in the back of my dad’s old pick-up truck to throw popcorn at Melodrama villains when Madrid was still a ghost town. We pulled a red wagon showing off our reluctant cats in the Fiesta Pet Parade, spent sun-drenched afternoons catching horny toads in the arroyos, and trapped shiny, black stinkbugs in glass jars. We molded pots from clay earth, made “forts” within juniper trees’ evergreen branches, and plucked fossils from tilled dirt roads near construction sites as more houses slowly dotted the hills behind ours. Our mom bought tiles and bricks with our names printed on them, benefiting the downtown library and Cross of the Martyrs, so we could have tangible proof of “roots,” somewhere. And, I especially treasured being included in warm celebrations by friends with big families and abuelas whom I also got to call “grandma.”

Santa Fe nights, as a child, meant roasting bubbling marshmallows on a stick in the adobe horno on our patio while delighting in Zozobra’s fiery moans from the bottom of the mountain, and a birds-eye view of the fireworks that ensued. The crisp evening air was perfumed with the distinctive aroma of burning piñon logs. Crickets sang us softly to sleep, and roaming coyotes startled us awake as they “yip-yip-yipped” across unfenced acres, at times dragging away the unluckiest neighborhood cat. My dad pointing out a translucent “ice ring” around the full moon, one sparkly winter night, remains fondly in my memories of the first time we caught snowflakes on our tongues. Sometimes, tucked warmly in bed, the black silence seemed as if it could swallow up the world.

In the ‘80s, Santa Fe nights included school activities, doing community theater and a mish-mash of teenagers (skaters, hippies, drop-outs, preppies) gathering on the Plaza. It was not blocked off from traffic, then, so cars could circle around it. No longer an outsider, I joined others in shouting, “Go home!” at drivers with out-of-state license plates, without considering that tourism is Santa Fe’s main industry, and often paid my own school tuition. Sometimes those nights ended with a house party, but we’d often wind up out by the city dump, before Las Campanas golf course existed, to swig whiskey around bonfires, under New Mexico’s starry skies, dreaming of a big life outside a small town.

After UNM, I joined the millions chasing celluloid dreams, and moved to Venice Beach, which, in the ‘90s, reminded me of home with its mash-up of cultures. The Virgen de Guadalupe dangled from my gold belly button ring, a proud symbol of my hometown’s culture, and wink-and-nod to my Catholic school upbringing through the wild nights of my roaring 20s. Still, I always looked forward to coming home for the most famous Santa Fe night of all—Christmas Eve—caroling around blazing fires along gallery-lined Canyon Road, followed by steaming bowls of posole and homemade batches of sugary biscochitos.

Just like back home, shortly after the millennium ticked over in Venice, rising real estate “values” pushed locals out, so gangster rap was replaced with “trustafarians” and business suits snapping up million-dollar cottages. And, eventually, the shimmering stars that drew me to LA lost their brilliance so I took flight to Spain for a few years, followed by Washington DC, another stint in LA, and work travel took me around the world blogging, writing magazine articles and three recipe books. Finally, exactly 40 years after my family first arrived in New Mexico, I settled down back in my hometown of Santa Fe, inwardly worried whether Thomas Wolfe’s title was right in suggesting, You Can’t Go Home Again.

Well, he was partially right. During my time away, our family home sold to a gringo couple who immediately remodeled and flipped it for beaucoup bucks. There was a pang of loss to think that decades of our family’s sentimental joys and devastating pains that took place within those walls were blown away in builders’ dust and a modern, granite-and-slate version of “Santa Fe Style.” Nearly the whole neighborhood has been flipped by now, and most dirt roads are paved over to accommodate fancier cars.

Regularly ranked on top 10 travel lists, droves of visitors descend upon The City Different. The tourist-driven summer night fun lures some folks to stay permanently. Many newer residents fit right in because they love what this town is about, like our family did. Some even give a shot in the arm to our wanting nightlife by creating film festivals, yoga jams, under-21 events and Plaza Bandstand boogies. It’s nice that the rebuilt SF Opera House roof no longer requires the middle part of the audience to pack umbrellas in case the world-class orchestra collides with late-summer evening thunderstorms. More famous chefs, authors, artists and actors call Santa Fe home—or at least, “second home”—which helps drive tourism, and makes our town more interesting.

However, since returning, I’ve also noticed more of an economic divide in this small city. So, when the well-off out-of-staters wax poetic about moving here, drawn to all that makes it unique, the 16-year-old rebel in me rolls her eyes. Local people get pushed further out toward the city limits, and escalating rents drive small businesses out of downtown. (Do lowriders even cruise those high-priced streets, anymore?) A few teens may ramble across the Plaza at night, from time to time, but it’s no longer the late-night heartbeat of young chatter, music, cars and laughter. Meanwhile, the cost of living is rising in this now resort-style haven forcing people with everyday jobs to bust butt just to sleep well at night, surviving paycheck to paycheck. The population’s high turnover reflects the unforeseen challenges of having to work three part-time jobs, and the lonely disillusionment for singles when the social scene takes a dive in winter.

What makes Santa Fe nights special, to me, these days, is spending time with my parents, now in their 70s. I value my tight circle of friends, here – lifelong ones and new arrivals – who enjoy dinner parties, watching sports at a bar or busting out Cards Against Humanity. A sunset hike or occasional candlelit, live-music yoga class at the Railyard is a treat. When Sean Healen rocks the Cowgirl or Alex Maryol has a gig, I’m often clapping along in the audience because they are not only very talented musicians but part of my local peer group. Or, I might sit in front of my own crackling fireplace and delve into writing projects which I’ve left on the dusty shelves of my mind for too long. Returning to Santa Fe, at this point in my life, I also have a deeper appreciation of what is so fiercely protected from the outside world: the quiet space, living alongside nature rather than tearing into it, centuries-old traditions rooted in spirituality, creative energy pulsing around us and the ghosts of centuries past keeping watch over their homeland.

Nightly, I settle onto the deck in my now-trendy neighborhood (or as we old-timers would reference the area: “by where the old bowling alley used-to-be”) gazing up at peaceful stars winking down from the big black silence, searching for ice rings and strangely comforted by the occasional distant “yip” of a wild coyote coming too close to town. Eventually, I head in to my cozy bed and drift off to a lullaby of whispering pine needles, on windy nights. When I wake up, I will still be a gringa with my own proud place in Santa Fe’s layers of culture, maybe for the next 40 years, si Dios lo quiere...


3rd Place

Category: Personal Essay
Author: Belinda Perry

“Night at the Dump”

Belinda Perry is a transplant from New Hampshire who has lived in Santa Fe for almost 30 years. “I've taught riding and worked with horses for almost 50 years, both here and in the east,” she writes. “Since the ‘80's I've written and published books under a man's name - it's not a living but I've enjoyed creating different worlds. Most recently I was a receptionist at a law firm. Now I'm retired and finding all kinds of projects that catch my attention. I never did graduate from college and have decided I won't take those last 9 needed credits. Freedom!

“Duck!” A command given in a strong whisper, as if high on a ridge under the Sangre de Cristos Mountains, at perhaps 2 AM, long before PCs were common (for me) and ‘selfies’ didn’t exist, someone, goodness who knows who, might hear our noise and come looking.

I duck, lying back in the rustling warmth of torn papers and unidentified garbage. I lie still, barely breathing, studying the early December sky. I of course always do what I am told, any friend will tell you (I’m lying right here.) This time I did listen and lie back; the vehicle cruising by the corner of the Santa Fe dump, now a transfer station, had the low and ferocious silhouette of a police cruiser.

My companion and I knew we were breaking a rule if not a law. But since we were saving discarded items we of course chose to believe we were in the right and would be vindicated if caught. Books! Books everywhere, torn and thrown away, useful to no one in their right mind, which of course is why my friend and I were digging through mounds of refuse, crowing with delight when a new book took shape. We had a flashlight, a full moon, stars, and no electric overhead lights.

I have never been so cold. We had been there since 5 pm, with brief excursions back to my apartment for fresh soup and hot coffee. And a chance to get away from the law, to warm up and gloat about what we had found. Henry Miller, Andy Adams, second printing; an endless list of first and rare editions, long since stripped of their value after having been in a fire.

The cold went through to the core, invading long bones and finger tips. The end of my nose seemed frozen by a constant drip that no tissue or jacket arm could wipe away. The soup tasted good, the coffee kept our eyes open but I do believe either of us, without saying, would prefer to crawl into a bath of soup, close our eyes, and sleep.

December 10 perhaps, in the early 1990s, is what I treasure as memory; cold is what I still feel. And the sky, the outline of the mountains to our east, stars hidden by clouds, light released to create night vision for us, then hiding again. The depth of color, a nighttime blue, even the headlights cruising the ridge road, forced us to duck as if fugitives.

Growing up in New England I had placed myself on the grass at night and saw the stars, but their colors were muted by nearby street lights or indoor lamps isolating a single figure sitting in a chair, reading poetry or policies, stopping periodically to pull at a nose or rub tired eyes. Here in New Mexico, despite rising over a small city, the transformation changed and delighted me; stars were bright, sparkling as a different world. The few street lamps barely formed a ground shadow; here at the dump, (I love that word: the dump) the ridge was barren with few trees, the sky bright, we were cold.

And yet we picked through trash, things unmentioned in decent company, scraps and bits, remnants that would smell if it were summer. Winter cold, more specifically the night-time temperatures, purifies the air, allowing us to breathe without tasting sun-heated garbage.

Which is why we pick the dump at night; tomorrow or rather later this morning, rusted yellow ‘dozers would clean up the trash, compact it, shovel it, reduce it to less than useful and call the day’s efforts sufficient while resting up for tomorrow.

We fought tomorrow in between blowing on our hands and wiping our noses. Books, boxes, some holding shoes, tissue paper cradling only one glove. And more books. Then a simple box, jammed with small three-page brochures, thin headlines from the thirties. We threw this shabby box away, intent on more books. And learned to our chagrin much later that the simple box contained printed items worth $1 a piece. Like dump picking itself, $1 alone is not much; over 10,000 of these $1 items are a small fortune.

Still the box was discarded in favor of more books. It is amazing how learning can cost more than we imagine.

“Duck” is the command again. I lie back in the pile, belch quietly into the silence and mutter ‘excuse me’ as remnants of my New England manners. My companion laughs at the apology to no one; it’s three o’clock in the morning. The sky slowly turns gray as we picked frantically, exposing early daylight and time to go home. The truck bed is filled with books, so many left and no more time.

‘Duck’ became a memory, of cold and books, more books, and an unbelievable starry Santa Fe sky.

Fiction

SFR’s 2014 Writing Contest

Writing ContestTuesday, November 25, 2014 by SFR

1st Place

Category: Fiction
Author: Zoe Baillargeon

La Llorona and Zozobra go on a Date

Zoe Baillargeon, a long time Santa Fe resident, is currently a senior at Santa Fe University of Art and Design where she studies theater and creative writing. She is also a reporter for Jackalope, SFUAD’s online journalism site. She loves Santa Fe, traveling, good food and reading, and hopes to travel the world following graduation. She previously won the SFR Holiday Writing Contest with her story “The Life of Ms. Claus.”

“AY DIOS MÍO!”

A chilling shriek of frustration tore apart the serene silence of a brisk August evening in Santa Fe. Sitting at her desk, local ghost legend La Llorona scrolled through her list of potential dates on It’sJustEternity.com in disgust. Why was finding a date so hard these days?! That ghost over at La Fonda hadn’t even shown up last time she answered his request for dinner, her ex was mildewing in an unmarked grave, and Kokopelli, the flirt, was just a self-indulgent narcissist on a baby-daddy kick. Dead ends, literally, all of them.

La Llorona slouched back, emitting a high-pitched moan of frustration that sent the cat skittering away. Fire light danced across the white-washed adobe walls while outside in the night coyotes howled and bored teenagers smoked weed in the arroyos. High clouds over the mountains promised flash floods. It was a perfect hunting night, but La Llorona wasn’t in the mood.

Why her?! All her friends had significant others, what was she doing wrong? She clutched at her tangled black hair, pondering eternity alone. Snatching children was all well and good, but where was the joy if she didn’t have someone to share it with?!

A sudden chime from her computer announced a new message.

“Hey there, Senorita.”

La Llorona groaned, ready to dismiss the messenger as another wishy-washy Santa Fe cultural icon who thought he was all that, but glanced at the courtier’s picture for good measure. She stopped short.

My god, he’s gorgeous! An unblemished white face topped with a bright green mop of tightly wound curls dominated the screen, stark colors that glowed in the light of what looked like a fire. His eyes, a sickly shade of pea green, glared out of the computer at her in a way that made her heart flutter. His red lips were closed in a perpetual sneer. His ears were large but perfectly proportioned, his inner lobes an exquisitely traced black line. One hand was poised against his face in a gesture of casual sophistication; his fingernails were long and pointed.

In a word, he was perfect.

La Llorona leaned forward excitedly, ready to type out a reply. But something gave her pause. She looked down at her pasty white skin, her unsightly fingernails and her unruly hair full of split ends. What on earth could this supernatural hotshot want by talking to her? She was no looker. Career-wise, kidnapping children wasn’t panning out the way it had a hundred years ago, so she had resigned herself to taking street performer selfies with teens on the Plaza. And, in keeping with modern spinster traditions, she had several cats. She wasn’t what she used to be. She didn’t deserve a nice guy like this.

Mournfully, La Llorona started to close the message. But then…

“Wait. I do deserve happiness. I’m La Llorona! Who else has kept generations of children at home, in bed and afraid, at night? Who else drowned her own kids in a fit of jealous rage? It’s time to stop feeling sorry for myself and have a transformation! I can have it all! I’m saying YES to after-life!”

Pumped, she rapidly typed out a reply. Feeling brave, she even added a smiley face emoticon. “Hello there, yourself .”

Several minutes passed. She was beginning to think he’d given up when the typing icon appeared. She waited, biting her grisly fingernails nervously.

“Hi! How are you doing? My name is Zozobra. I hope I’m not being too forward, I’ve just heard so much about you. You’re, like, SUCH a legend around here. I almost couldn’t work up the courage to message you, lol.”

She felt herself blushing and squirmed in her seat. He was such a charmer.

“Well, I’m glad you did message lol. It’s nice to meet you, Zozobra.”

Zozobra. Hmm. The name sounded familiar. She cast about in her memory. She’d heard he’d been buds with some Will Shuster dude, but that was all she knew. La Llorona pretty much kept to herself.

“Your profile picture is stunning. I love what you’ve done with your hair,” Zozobra wrote. “Do you get it done at the Cuttery?”

“No, I do it myself,” La Llorona wrote with pride.

“Wow, I’m impressed!”

The typing icon appeared again, holding the conversation in limbo for a long minute. La Llorona held her breath.

“Say,” Zozobra typed, “would you like to grab dinner with me? Tomorrow night, maybe?”

He sure was forward, but La Llorona liked that. No more silly dating games for her. She needed someone serious. Deadly serious.

“It’s a date.”

The next night, Zozobra arrived at her house to pick her up, a bouquet of blooming chamisa in his giant hand. La Llorona, wearing her finest black shrouds and her hair properly un-brushed and oily, opened the door.

“Wow, you look wonderful!” Zozobra smiled and presented her with the bright yellow flowers.

“Chamisa?! Oh, how did you know? I just love messing with people’s allergies!”

Zozobra shrugged and flashed a goony grin. “I just had a hunch.”

La Llorona leaned back to take him all in. He was quite tall. So tall, in fact, she wasn’t sure he could fit through her door. He towered over her. But he still looked exactly like his profile picture, which was a relief.

His clothes, though. La Llorona furrowed her brow. In his picture, he’d been wearing what resembled a long robe or dress, resplendent with a bowtie, buttons and a colored sash. But now he stood before her wearing only a burgundy loin cloth. Most curious of all from his facial-hair-lacking picture, here he sported a dashing black mustache.

Zozobra, following her eyes, sheepishly provided an explanation.

“I know, it’s a bit much. I’m just trying a new look. You wear the same thing for 90 years and it starts to get a little boring.”

“Oh, tell me about it. This shawl? It’s from when I was alive, but every time I go to Whole Foods, people keep asking me if I got it from some store on the Plaza!”

Zozobra threw his head back and laughed, a giant sound that bounced off the surrounding hills. “I like your sense of humor and your style, Llorona. Oh! Can I call you that?”

“Of course!” La Llorona swooned. “It’s nice to have someone call me something besides “eiyeeee, el diablo!”

“Shall we, then?” Zozobra extended his arm and the two set off into the night.

Naturally, Zozobra had done this right.

“Geronimo’s sound good?”

They strolled down Canyon Road from out of the mountains, admiring the lit interiors of art galleries. At each new window, they stopped and made scary faces at each other in the glass, growling and shrieking. Laughing, they’d go on to the next gallery window, trying to best the other and ignoring the startled looks of passersby.

La Llorona was enchanted. She’d never had this much fun on a date before or been treated so respectfully.

However, once they reached the restaurant and continued talking, La Llorona couldn’t help but notice that all the tables around them were atwitter with people glancing over and whispering excitedly.

“Oh my god, that’s him!”

“Wow, he looks great!”

“Who’s that crone he’s with? Love her hair.”

La Llorona leaned close to Zozobra. “Are you famous?”

Zozobra sighed, setting down his prickly pear margarita.

“Yeah. I had hoped that it wouldn’t come up tonight because I wanted it to be just about us. But I’m a bit of a minor celebrity around here. I’m nothing compared to you, though. You’re the la reina of local legends!”

He reached out and took her hand. La Llorona giggled shrilly, causing a woman at the next table to faint. Zozobra gazed at her adoringly.

“I love your laugh. It’s so banshee-esque, but…better.”

After their meals arrived, the conversation continued predictably.

“Red or green?” Zozobra asked.

“Green, of course!” La Llorona answered while tucking into her enchiladas.

“Do you go see the aspens when they turn?”

“Go see them? I’m the reason the leaves fall...from fright!”

“What’s your favorite part of autumn?”

“It’s embarrassing, but I love pumpkin spice lattes! I guess I’m just your basic white ghoul.”

Throughout dinner, La Llorona glowed. Talking with him was so easy. For once, she didn’t feel as if she had something to prove, like with her ex. She could just be her several-hundred-year-old self.

“So, what do you do for a living?” La Llorona enquired.

“Oh, I’m a boogey man. I scare kids.”

La Llorona squealed hysterically. “No way! I’m a boogey woman! I scare and kidnap children!”

“What are the odds!” Zozobra cried out happily. “Did you die by fire too?!”

“No, I drowned. But hey, they’re both Earth elements!” La Llorona leaned forward, cupping her chin in her palm. “We just have so much in common!”

“Yes, we do,” Zozobra said, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear. “I like that.”

Following dinner, sitting on a bench on the Plaza, La Llorona leaned her head against Zozobra’s chest, content, enjoying the silence.

After a while, Zozobra coughed nervously.

“I really like you, La Llorona. But there’s something I need to tell you.”

La Llorona tensed. He continued.

“I want to be with you, but my work schedule is a little tricky. See, the townspeople here still celebrate my death.”

“How macabre! I’m so jealous of you!”

“I know,” Zozobra said, twiddling his monstrous thumbs. “It’s a tradition. Every Fiesta weekend I get built, and then they take me and burn me. But it’s only once a year. Then I’m gone.”

La Llorona realized what he meant and started to wail. To have found someone so perfect, to purify her soul and bring her joy in her afterlife, only to have him burned by marauding townsfolk!

“But!” Zozobra said hastily, shushing her, “during those weeks I’m alive I’d like to be with you! I know it’s a lot to ask, having just met, but, La Llorona, will you wait for me?”

La Llorona cast her eyes downward, thinking. Zozobra waited, apprehensive.

Long minutes ticked by.

Finally, she looked up at him.

“Yes, I will!”

Their first kiss was more firey than the green chile at Horseman’s Haven and sweeter than the screams of all the children they’d ever scared.

Later that night at home, La Llorona watched Zozobra’s hulking frame retreat back towards the city lights. Only time would tell for them, but she felt it was a risk worth taking. Any guy who sticks around only to get burned again and again sure knows commitment. He was worth it.

“Que viva,” she whispered to herself. “Que viva.”


2nd Place

Category: Fiction
Author: Amber Foxx

Clairalience

Amber Foxx is a former resident of Santa Fe and a frequent visitor to her old home. She has worked professionally in theater, dance, fitness and academia. In her free time she enjoys music, dancing, art, running and yoga. She divides her time between the southeast and the Southwest, living in Truth or Consequences during her New Mexico months. The third book in her murder-less mystery series featuring healer and psychic Mae Martin was released Nov. 1.

Greta opened the door and greeted her first client. She tried not to laugh in the woman’s face. I can’t believe I’m really doing this. “Welcome.” Greta made her normally squeaky voice as soft and low as she could, imitating her yoga teacher back home in Maine, a memory from the time when she could afford yoga classes. “Please take your shoes off and come into my frevarium.”

Eek. I said it. Frevarium. It was a word she’d made up. After considering auratorium, inner space and other things that sounded either too funny or too normal, she’d opted for pretentious. If no one knew what her new word meant, it might put her one step ahead. Clients might be awed and pretend they understood the term, the way people did when they didn’t want to seem stupid.

The client, a lithe middle-aged woman, wore fitted knit pants and a flowing top, and the delicate leather pumps she removed looked new. Her jewelry was elegant, possibly antique. Greta swallowed her envy. Her savings were shot. Since her layoff, she’d been getting turned down as overqualified, and couldn’t even land a job in a grocery store or a bar.

The client glided into what had once been the living room.

“You must be Carrie Brattigan,” Greta said. She’d been stunned when two people had actually answered her ad the first day it ran, and the names were burned into her mind.

“It’s Kerry, not Carrie,” the woman corrected. “Like County Kerry. My family is very proud of our Gaelic roots.”

Who in the world said Gaelic instead of Irish? Maybe Greta should have been more pretentious.

Kerry eased onto the sofa as if her buttocks might break. Greta took a hard-backed chair facing her. Kerry took a breath and smoothed her soft slacks. “I’m interested in finding out if I should…this is a difficult decision.” She described her marvelous old house, and her need for something smaller now that she was divorced and her children grown. “I rattle around in it, but I just feel funny about selling it.”

“So you would like me to see what consequences might radiate from your decision.”

“I like how you put that. Yes. What radiates from it.”

Greta nodded. “So much of a life’s pattern is in the energy we put out from our choices, our intentions.” She’d practiced this sort of talk after reading flyers she picked up from psychics around town. It seemed like nonsense, but apparently it sold. “Can I get you some tea before we get started?”

Kerry hesitated. “I’m…very sensitive to chemicals. Do you purify your water?”

“Yes.”

“Reverse osmosis?”

“No.” I filter it through the mouths of Gaelic virgins. “Just a Brita pitcher.”

“I guess that will be all right if you have peppermint tea. My digestion is sensitive.”

Sensitive. Got it. Greta went to the kitchen and rummaged in the tea drawer. “I have a peppermint-ginger tea.”

“Thank you. That will be wonderful. I went along with a friend who insisted on eating in a restaurant, and you know, restaurants—they’re almost never organic, and who knows what they use for cookware. It’s such a challenge to balance your personal wellness with the needs of others. I know it made her happy to have me join her, but I’m paying the price.”

Paying my price. That’s what matters. Greta filled the tea kettle and put teabags in mugs, wondering if Kerry would have an objection to the chemical composition of the glaze. This was more annoying work than Greta had expected. She should have realized she’d be inviting wacked people into her home, though.

Putting her serenity-spiritual face back on, she reminded herself to use The Voice, and brought hot tea back into her frevarium. She’d accomplished the transformation with a hasty thrift shop visit, acquiring a batik Buddha wall hanging, a framed velvet Jesus and a faux-Native creation shaped like a cross in a circle wrapped with turquoise-dyed suede. It had rattlesnake heads at its four corners, a little leather bag in the center, and feathers hanging from strips of the dubious suede. On the coffee table Greta had placed rocks from the Maine coast, hunks of granite pegmatite with black mica and white quartz, and some colorful gemstone pebbles that she’d bought at the Clines Corners tourist trap on her move West. These sat in a circle around a ceramic dish containing a mound of dirt into which she’d stuck a forked stick like a tiny divining rod, her favorite touch.

She said, “Give me a moment to tune into my guides.”

“Of course.” Kerry sniffed her tea before taking a cautious sip.

Hypochondriacal snob.

Greta closed her eyes and floated her hands above the stones, then took hold of the little divining stick and maneuvered it to look as though it moved of its own accord in her loose, two-fingered grasp. She felt oddly calm, as if her pseudo-ceremony had done something for her. Then a smell hit her. A stench. Like roadkill mixed with mushrooms gone bad.

Oh my god, this woman farted. Kerry wasn’t a hypochondriac. Her sensitive digestion was real. She’d let out gas that could kill a sewer rat.

Greta tried to maintain her act, but the smell was so strong she could even taste it, and she began to gag. She tried a sip of her tea, but it didn’t help. She bolted from the room and out onto the front steps, taking deep breaths of the sweet summer air, hot and dry, scented with sage and juniper.

When her stomach had settled, she went back inside. The smell was gone. “I’m sorry,” she said. Kerry looked expectant, as if this sudden bolt was part of the psychic process. Greta resumed her seat and gulped her tea. “I needed fresh air.”

Kerry frowned. “Did you see something troubling?”

“No. It was …” Greta sought a polite lie, but her rush for fresh air had been so obvious. Could she claim she’d had—what would she call it, a smellavision? “An odor. Not a real one. Something my guides sent me. Something rotten. Like a mix of dead animals and old mushrooms.”

Silence. Kerry didn’t blush. She stared at the stones and the little stick, which lay atop its mound of dirt pointing at her. “Yes,” she said finally. “Of course. Thank you.”

Whuh?

Kerry opened her purse, and paid the thirty dollars that Greta was charging for her services. Then she added a twenty dollar tip. “You have an extraordinary gift. It must be quite strenuous, to do what you do. You should charge more.”

When Kerry had left, Greta washed the tea mugs, feeling guilty. The poor woman had this embarrassing problem, and then Greta had passed the stink off as some spiritual message and the client—what else could she do—had acted as if she believed her. Paid her extra for enduring the odor, probably.

When the other client arrived later that day, Greta was both thrilled and crushed to see that Antonio Dejesus was her age, slim and fit and a little exotic, with extraordinary tattoos on his sculpted arms: a creature that that looked like Quetzalcoatl on his left, and all seven chakras in a row up his right. His smile was sweet. She was about to rip off this lovely man—but she had to.

She asked him to take his shoes off. She offered him tea. He asked for green.

“I have girlfriend problems,” he said from the frevarium, while the water boiled. “You good with that sort of thing?”

“We’ll see. It depends what you want to know.”

Greta delivered his tea and sat across from him. He looked around the room, frowned, and nodded, as if processing something he’d learned from her desperate décor. “I think,” he said, sloshing his teabag back and forth, “She’s seeing some other guy.”

“I’ll see what I can learn.” I should tell him he’s right. Then ask him out. No. I’m already unethical enough. Greta repeated her ritual with the stones and the little dowsing stick. Again, she felt calm. Then it came. Not a stink this time but clean sweat mixed with lavender.

Shaken, she forgot to do The Voice. “Does she wear perfume?”

“No. Neither of us does. I hate perfume. Why?”

“Who smells like lavender?”

“Her friend Lia.”

“I smell sweat—and very strong lavender.”

“She’s—with Lia?”

“I’m sorry.” Greta opened her eyes and stood, breaking the mood. She needed to clear her sense of smell again—and her mind. “Excuse me.”

Stunned and bewildered, she went back out on the steps and inhaled the smell of her yard. The other scents faded. Antonio appeared beside her.

“It’s okay, you know,” he said. “You did what I asked you to.”

“Please don’t take it as proof. I didn’t see anything. I…I only smell things. That’s all.”

“Seriously?”

Greta nodded. Antonio sat on the top step and did something with his smart phone. Greta sat beside him, curious. “I’m looking up a word.” He read the screen. “Clairalience. The olfactory equivalent of clairvoyance. There’s clairgustance, too, tasting stuff. Clairaudience—hearing things. I had no idea there were all those ways you could be psychic.”

He opened her blog. Even on the tiny screen, she recognized it. The featured image was a selfie she’d taken with a blue Christmas candle tucked inside a shawl, making her heart seem to glow. It was stupid, like the red-scarf-over-flashlight effect that she and her sister used to do to look spooky as kids. Was she going to need to redo it now with blue lights up her nose?

Antonio began to tap out some words. “I’m giving you a testimonial.” He sounded a little angry. “Now that I know what to call what you do.”

Greta read over his shoulder. “You’re not going to name your girlfriend and Lia—not on my site. I don’t want to get sued. ”

“Guess I shouldn’t.” He stopped, revised. “There. Reeks of lavender. She’ll know who she is.”

Antonio paid her, thanked her, and started down the walkway toward his car. He paused. “You like your work?”

Greta breathed the fresh air again, thought about the bizarre décor imposed on her living room, and then squeezed the three tens in her palm. Did Kerry Brattigan have a dead body in her basement? Buried in her garden? Was that why she struggled to decide about selling? Someone might dig it up? Greta wished she’d asked, but the fact that Kerry hadn’t said what the smell meant, only that Greta was good…

“No.” The word skidded out on strange, slippery laughter. “It stinks.”


3rd Place

Category: Fiction
Author: Richard Jay Goldstein

Clairalience

Richard Jay Goldstein has in fact lived in Santa Fe for a good long while, currently on the east side, where it’s still pretty quiet. He’s a lapsed ER doc, and has been writing fiction and non-fiction for a bit over twenty-five years. He’s published fifty-something stories and essays in the literary and sci-fi/fantasy/horror presses, including a number of anthologies and the SFR Writing Contest.

I came to Santa Fe originally ages ago because of all the things it was not, and for the many things it lacked. It seemed like the town time almost forgot — small and old, dusty, folks with goats and gardens and chickens living next to the state capitol. I suppose I was looking for some sort of personal transformation. Lots of people back then were trying to purify their souls by reckless plunging into nature, or embracing obsolete work, or seeking the explosive awakening of satori. For me, rattling down a dirt road was koan enough, and Santa Fe then had more dirt roads than not-dirt roads.

* * *

I sat one night, as I often did, on a bench in the empty plaza. The hour was late, pushing midnight. The season was October, the year somewhere in the crazy heart of the 1960s. Sweet piñon smoke drifted in the crystal air. I huddled in a down jacket. A few nearby places were still open. Music spilled along the street, sounding far away and full of sorrow. Voices. Strangers.

Footsteps, echoing.

A woman came walking along the asphalt path. She was tall, rangy, strong. Thick blond hair curled out from under her cowboy hat. She wore jeans and a sheepskin jacket and cowboy boots. Her face and hands were rosy in the chill air. She saw me and altered her trajectory and sat down on my bench.

“Howdy,” she said. Her voice was a husky contralto.

“Hello,” I said.

“I’m Mara,” she said. “You look lonely.”

“Just because I’m sitting here alone on the empty plaza in the middle of the night?”

“No,” she said. “Because you move in the river wind like a pale willow. Because I can hear your hollow heart like the faint beating of a dry drum.”

I stared at her. She laughed — a golden sound — and took my arm. “Let’s walk,” she said. “I’ll show you the hidden streets.”

* * *

I was lonely. I’d come to New Mexico alone, running from New York and the claustrophobia of a smothering marriage. That can happen. You start out daring the wild storms of intimacy, knowing that nobody was ever in love like you were in love. Then amazement turns to expectation. Delight to rote. It happens.

Anyway, it happened to me, to us — to Adele and me. So I had come west, to Santa Fe, a hippy wanna-be pioneer, and made a thin living as a silversmith and cutler — a knife-maker. This was a craft I’d picked up while sojourning in the Bay Area. My work was nothing like the Indian silver you see so much of in Santa Fe, and so I managed to sell just barely what it took to keep body and soul more or less together.

For a year and a half Santa Fe had been enough, the embracing mountains, the rough lumpy houses, the rough and ready people, the tasty multi-cultural stew of the place. And the ancient nights....

Santa Fe nights were not the blaring gritty nights like hammered metal I knew in New York, nor the soft foggy nights fragrant with salt and roasting coffee I knew in San Francisco. Santa Fe nights were clear and chilly and silent. Downtown, things tended to close up early, and a hum of mountain silence would fall over the streets like a fleece blanket. Lit windows glowed yellow in adobe walls. Footsteps echoed in the narrow streets.

But I had no old close friends, no lover. I craved a soft voice, a gentle hand, a warm presence in my bed.

So I sat often on a bench in the plaza and brooded.

* * *

We walked, Mara and I. She led me through alleys of huddled sleeping houses, and past sprawling hilltop houses that frowned down on the town. She led me along a clanging busy boulevard, which I thought was just Cerrillos, but which seemed dangerous and magical. She led me into fields of rattling cornstalks beside the timid river. We walked more and further than an ordinary night could contain.

And we talked — about Santa Fe, about the good quiet nights in Santa Fe, about life and death and God and strange stars. Something dear and deep sprang up between us.

“Let’s say God is the wide and endless sea,” she told me. “Then each of us is a wave, born of the breath of the wind. We hurl ourselves toward an unknown beach, then subside and ebb back into the sea.” She stopped and looked closely at me. “But some waves,” she said, “are tsunami.”

We ended our walk at the little casita I rented off Hillside. Somehow it was still night.

“I like you,” said Mara, and wonder shone in her blue eyes. “I actually like you.”

“It’s not all that strange,” I said. “I like you too.”

“No, it is strange,” she said, and shook her head.

We went inside and made love as if we’d known each other for decades. In a glittering moment she bit my lip, and licked at the blood which welled up.

“Your heart isn’t dry at all,” she whispered.

“But you hardly know me,” I whispered back. “You shouldn’t....”

She kissed me into silence.

* * *

I awoke just before dawn. Mara was gone. I stared into the melting dark, feeling receding echoes on my skin. My apartment felt more empty than ever, like a place where nobody lives. I knew her name — Mara — but not her last name, and not her phone number, not her address. No email, no Google, in those days.

I took to sitting in the plaza late, waiting. Waiting for her to appear again. Days went by. A week. More.

God, I missed her. She had been like a glimpse of a sun-filled valley to someone who strayed lost on barren peaks.

To take up time during the day — while I waited for the night so I could wait for Mara — I began to work on a silver piece I had been planning. It was a silver dagger, solid silver from blade tip to quillon to pommel. Double-edged and double hollow-ground. Ovals of sky blue Dry Creek turquoise set in the handle. It took form gradually as I waited and pined.

Then one night I saw her, from a distance. Mara. I was heading for the plaza after eating out down on Guadalupe. She was walking in the railyard, walking with a man. He looked ragged, and shambled as he walked. Her arm was across his shoulder. He looked like one of the homeless men who camped along the tracks. I slunk away, hoping she wouldn’t see me.

* * *

My dry heart cracked like mud in the sun. I stayed home as long as I could, worked for hours on the silver dagger, until it was finished, bright as a stab of lightning. But I had to see Mara again. Had to. And after all, I had no claim on her. She was free to be with anyone she chose.

So I went back to the Plaza, to my bench, because that was the only way I knew to find her — or have her find me. I brought the dagger with me, wrapped in a piece of suede, to show her — if I saw her — what I had done in her absence, to present it to her, a gift of my hands.

It was a cold, misty November night, foggy and damp. Just as I was deciding it was too cold to wait any longer, I heard footsteps. It was Mara, dressed again in her jeans and sheepskin jacket and cowboy hat.

“Howdy, stranger,” she said.

I stood and hugged her. “I was afraid you were gone forever,” I said.

“If you were smart,” she said, “you’d be afraid I wasn’t.”

We sat and talked. It was as if we had never paused. The night grew later, and colder. Finally I said, “It’s too cold to sit here. Let’s go back to my place.”

“Not tonight,” she said, and laid a pale hand on my arm.

“Tomorrow then,” I said. “Lunch.”

“Not lunch,” she said.

“Dinner?”

“No. Tomorrow night,” she said. “Here. At eleven.” She stood to leave.

But what if I never see her again? I thought.

“Before you go,” I said, “let me take your picture.”

She hesitated.

“Please?” I begged.

She finally nodded.

I always carried a little daypack in those days, and in the pack was my camera, a Nikon-F SLR, high-tech at the time. I took the camera out, set it on the bench, and started the delay timer. We stood with our arms linked until the camera clicked — a pre-digital selfie. I glanced at Mara. She looked sad, distant, strangely old.

She kissed me and started to walk away.

“Wait,” I called, remembering. “I made something for you.”

She turned. I unwrapped the dagger and held it out. It gleamed in the streetlamp light. There was a moment, electric. Then she backed away, turned on her heel, and vanished into the dark.

She didn’t come to the plaza the next night, or any night. I never saw her again. But that meant she really did care for me. Because I got the film from that night developed. You must realize that old Nikon was an SLR — R for reflex, meaning a mirror. In the photo I stood alone, smiling, my arm linked with nothing.

SFR’s 2014 Writing Contest

Santa Fe Nights

FeaturesTuesday, November 25, 2014 by Julie Ann Grimm

Pixels flash ever so slightly on the computer screen, making the act of reading in our age of digital communication sometimes a tiresome task. This was the first year that SFR’s long-running annual Writing Contest accepted electronic entries. We were thrilled to get all of your musings over the wires and the wireless. But when it came down to choosing the very best, judges (see page 29) often print the files onto paper for the final read.

Some entries arrived in actual envelopes with stamps. Others were slipped under the office door in the dead of night. One was produced on a real typewriter. I carried it from desk to desk and made everyone in the newsroom feel the letters imprinted on the page.

So, despite ink smudges and gray newsprint (in celebration of them, in fact), we’re pleased to present the 2014 winners. Wet snow turned to ice as dark settled on Santa Fe the evening I put the finishing touches on these pages. We asked for writers to submit fiction, personal essays and poems about their Santa Fe nights. I believe what they wrote is likely to warm you, too.


Read the Fiction Winners


Read the Personal Essay Winners


Read the Poetry Winners


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