SELECT title FROM cont_articles WHERE id='' LIMIT 1 Santa Fe Reporter

Out on the Tiles, Permanently

'Time Out of Mind' is an OK movie but a better Steely Dan song

OkWednesday, October 7, 2015 by David Riedel

Time Out of Mind, Oren Moverman’s latest, is sometimes compelling, sometimes exasperating, and often hugely frustrating. That doesn’t stop it from being an occasionally poignant tale of homelessness and mental illness, but it just doesn’t know when to quit.


When I write it doesn’t know when to quit, I don’t mean like Ironweed or The Pursuit of Happyness or The Soloist, movies featuring homeless characters that are so bleak as to leave the audience despondent; I mean Moverman doesn’t know when to get out of the way and let his story tell itself.


There is so much street noise, background chatter and brouhaha from moment to moment in Time Out of Mind that it eventually starts to overpower the narrative. It’s not like Moverman’s choices don’t make sense; George (Richard Gere, mostly avoiding Richard Gere-isms) is framed throughout much of the movie so as to appear invisible to people around him. Moverman places the camera across the street from George, or down a hallway or inside a store peering out so that he is eclipsed by his surroundings and buried beneath natural sound. But eventually it’s overwhelming, as if Moverman doesn’t trust the audience to make the connection that George is completely marginalized.


That’s to say nothing of George’s plight. While it doesn’t look easy, it also looks like cafeteria-style homelessness—take the stuff audiences can handle and leave out the truly horrible stuff.


We first meet George squatting in a Queens apartment. He’s asleep in the bathtub and kicked out by a contractor (Steve Buscemi) looking to clean the place up. It’s also here that we see George may suffer from some kind of mental illness—he’s distracted, but not because he was just shaken awake. It’s mild as far as movie mental illness goes, but not so mild it doesn’t keep George from being homeless.


George ends up selling his winter coat for alcohol (a trick he returns to again and again) and lands in a shelter. It’s at this point the movie strains some credibility; George acts as if he has no idea how shelters operate.


Of course, maybe he doesn’t. Maybe one of the symptoms of whatever affliction he suffers is an inability to remember things. But it’s not clear from the screenplay how George does and doesn’t know things.


Eventually, George makes a sort-of friend in Dixon (Ben Vereen—where has this guy been?), a homeless maybe-jazz musician who pisses off everyone he meets, even George. But George needs help, and Dixon fills that void.


Moverman makes a wise decision to let Dixon be the needy one in this uneasy friendship; that way the movie avoids becoming a Homelessness 101 class. Plus, the Dixon character teases some information out of George that we may not otherwise learn.


Mostly, though, we remain distanced from George (except when he’s sitting in Battery Park with homeless Kyra Sedgwick [!!], the Statue of Liberty shimmering behind them, as if we haven’t gotten the message), and that’s a smart choice. It makes it harder to spot the stunt casting (including Michael K Williams, and Jena Malone as George’s estranged daughter) and also gives Gere the space to let the performance do the expositing.


For anyone hoping Moverman has made a movie as affecting as The Messenger, wonder no more. This isn’t it. It’s more like Rampart—good but muddled, as if it can’t make up its mind whether it’s a piece of entertainment or a polemic. Such is life.



Directed by Oren Moverman

With Gere, Malone and Vereen

The Screen

109 min.

Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

'Peace Officer' takes a hard look at police violence

YayWednesday, October 7, 2015 by David Riedel

Anyone with a penchant for mistrusting police will find plenty to like in Scott Christopherson & Brad Barber’s Peace Officer. This documentary takes a sober look at the ever-increasing American police militarization and focuses on several officer-involved shootings that resulted in extreme casualties and death.


Anyone can make a movie about whether police use too much force, but Christopherson and Barber have an ace in the hole in audience surrogate William J “Dub” Lawrence, a former sheriff, lifetime law enforcement official and—on-camera, anyway—all-around nice guy. Lawrence isn’t just an expert; he’s involved in this story personally. Aside from his many years wearing a uniform, he was present when a SWAT team killed his son-in-law after a 12-hour standoff.


Peace Officer isn’t without problems—it has difficulty firmly establishing a new story thread or transitioning between story threads with clarity. But it very effectively shows the overabundance and zealousness of military-style police work and the absolutely impenetrable blue wall hard at work.


This movie comes along at just the right time, too. At a moment when violent crime in the United States is at near-record lows (despite record numbers of mass shootings), officer-involved shootings are on the rise. Whether Peace Officer will stimulate change or just scare the shit out of the populace remains to be seen.




Directed by Scott Christopherson & Brad Barber

CCA Cinematheque

109 min.

7 Days


7 DaysWednesday, October 7, 2015 by SFR


We propose this as the theme for a living history museum near the Plaza.



Zach Condon’s dreamy locks upstaged by concert promoter Jamie Lenfestey’s glorious man bun.



Organic, natural and still gonna kill ya.



They’ve all gone into teaching, where at least they get to pick out a different outfit every day.



Since we can’t steal the chile idea from Las Cruces, how ‘bout a hypodermic needle?



There’s lots of vacant space over in the REI building. And on Mars.



Might as well just give your money to Hillary.

Street View


Street ViewWednesday, October 7, 2015 by SFR

Truth in advertising starts at home.

Send shots to or share with #SFRStreetview for a chance to win movie passes to the CCA Cinematheque.

Make It Rain

Gene Kelly’s widow remembers the man inside the myth

PicksWednesday, October 7, 2015 by Enrique Limón

Patricia Ward Kelly wasn’t aware of Gene Kelly’s legacy when she met him in 1985 on a California set. No Singin’ in the Rain, no dancing with Jerry Mouse in Anchors Aweigh, certainly not his stint in Santa Fe for the filming of The Cheyenne Social Club, where he acted as director and producer. He was there to host and narrate a TV special. She was a burgeoning writer.

“It was a blank slate for me, and I think that really was the way to get to know him, because I got to see all the dimensions of this extraordinary man before I kind of fell in love with that gorgeous person up on the screen,” she tells SFR.

The May-December relationship is one she broaches during her one-woman show, which waltzes its way to the Lensic on Saturday. “One of my responses is, Oh, come on you guys, don’t tell me you wouldn’t of fallen for him too,” she says.

Ward Kelly shares memories, anecdotes, keepsakes and film clips during the presentation in an effort to “inspire people, young people, to excellence, and to pursue their passions and their dreams.”

In a move she says is akin to a Catholic confessional, she became the iconoclast’s biographer. Forcing him to go beyond the superficial and “getting him to reveal the many layers of his life and for him to reflect on those with me.”

“We hit it off with our mutual love of words,” she says of the courtship that followed.

“We started quoting poetry back and forth and I really fell in love with his immense mind and his really beautiful use of words from this kind of erudite gentleman and Pittsburg street kid. It was a beautiful blend.”

His heart, along with his brilliant mind that “absorbed things like a sponge,” Ward Kelly says, is what she misses the most. “The breadth of his knowledge. He could be describing one of the great 19th century French ballerinas, and then he could be describing a double-play in baseball and its relationship to ballet.”

Then, of course, came the first time they danced as a couple.

Kelly would often shy away from the dancefloor at parties and functions, Ward Kelly says, often blaming a fake injury. But when the time came to cut a rug with his wife, it instantly became unforgettable.

“We did get to dance in the house,” she reminisces. “It was New Year’s Eve and we had Champagne and caviar, and we had Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole on the stereo. It was really—it was so romantic and lovely and really a beautiful memory.”


Gene Kelly: The Legacy
7 pm Saturday, Oct. 10. $10-$75
The Lensic,
211 W San Francsico St.,

The Right to Bare Bums

Facing nipple discrimination and misconduct at the spa

FeaturesWednesday, October 7, 2015 by Dani Katz

Sunscreen?” my friend Ross asks, tightening the lid on a thermos full of yerba maté.


We are prepping for a hot springs adventure, doing a final supply inventory before hitting the road.


“Check,” I chirp, tossing a bag of kale chips into my overstuffed tote bag.

“Bathing suit?”

I roll my eyes.

It’s Ojo Caliente’s most glaring downside: their lame-o Bathing suits required rule. Nothing pervs a nice day of sun and soaking like a damp swath of elasticized Lycra suffocating my nether regions.

“Wearing it,” I grumble, my neck already sore from the straps digging into my upper cervical spine.

I’d moved back to Los Angeles last year and found myself missing the Santa Fe soak culture something fierce. And so it was that I availed myself to the constricting annoyance of the bathing suit for a chance to spend the day lolling in a tub of steaming hot arsenic water.

I’m hogging the waterfall in an otherwise empty pool when I see her.

Wait, I think to myself, double-taking on the meaty 50-something human lowering herself into the tub. Is that a woman? A woman without a bathing suit top?

Upon further examination (thank you, mirrored sunglasses), I feel confident in saying that the person who has joined me in the pebble-lined pool, and who had opted out of pairing a top with her bikini bottoms, is definitely a woman. Upon further, further examination, I realize she not only isn’t wearing a top, she isn’t wearing breasts, either, instead brandishing long, horizontal scars where they clearly used to be.

Rad, I think, offering a smile as she settles in.

It’s a bold move, choosing to flaunt the scars a more timid woman might self-consciously hide behind the (allegedly mandatory) swimsuit top. I love her for it, silently showering her with praise for baring herself to the world, or at least this tiny Northern New Mexico segment of it.

Still, I admit I’m a little thrown off.

“I don’t get how that works with the rules,” I muse when I reconvene with Ross in the swimming pool. “I mean, the policy says: Bathing suits are required—not Nipples must be covered.”

“Yeah, but guys don’t have to cover their nipples,” Ross reminds me, gesturing to his own.

“You’re right!” I exclaim, more stymied than ever.

Nipple discrimination is a hot topic of late, what with groups like Free the Nipple and Topless Pulp Fiction galvanizing around their perky pink plight. As chick nipples the world over (Europe, Ko Samui and a handful of Caribbean islands notwithstanding) endure unchecked marginalization, these outspoken activists are hell-bent on liberating the nipple from cultural/government/social media-enforced shrouding, boldly insisting on nipple equality for all.

"So, if it’s not a nipple thing, is it a mammary flesh one? But then, if it was, wouldn’t man boobs have
to be covered, too?"

“So, if it’s not a nipple thing, is it a mammary flesh one?” I ponder aloud on the drive back to Santa Fe. “But then, if it was, wouldn’t man boobs have to be covered, too?”

“Not necessarily,” Ross counters. “Men don’t have mammary glands. Man boobs are just fat.”

Later, I find all kinds of science-y types who say men do have the glands, albeit tiny ones that really don’t do anything. Take that, Mr. Topless Wherever He Damn Well Pleases.

Turns out it had nothing to do with policy, and everything to do with being invisible, because when I follow up with the Ojo folk to get to the bottom of what I was now calling their bottoms only are a-okay for some women but not others rule, it seemed no one knew what I was talking about.

“If the Ojo staff had known that a woman was bathing topless in the public tubs, she would have been notified of the policy and offered a private tub,” Ojo’s public relations rep Jennifer Hobson-Hinsley explains via email. “Everyone who enters the public tubs is required to wear a swimsuit…This includes bottoms for men, and tops and bottoms, or one-piece swimsuits, for women.”

So much for groundbreaking policy changes going down at Ojo Caliente.

Days later, Ross and I head up the ski mountain for a(nother) soak, this time at Ten Thousand Waves.

“Welcome,” Paul, the fresh-faced desk clerk, says just before informing us that the newly renovated Grand Bath (i.e., communal tub) is no longer clothing optional, as well as also closed for (more) renovations.

Let the record show the only reason I didn’t throw a full-fledged tantrum right then and there was because Ross had already broken the news about the bathing suits required policy the Waves started enforcing in July, which I received about as well as a 4-year-old being told her puppy had been abducted by aliens.

“NOOOOOOOOOOO!” I’d screamed, collapsing onto Ross’ kitchen floor in a floppy heap of (over)dramatic dejection.

That was the Waves’ best feature, their clothing-optional policy (well, that and the sake they serve next door). There’s something liberating and delightfully hierarchy-smashing about a group of mixed-gender folk being naked together, without any pretense of orgy or genocide. It’s, like, the great equalizer, nakedness, leveling the playing field of wealth, status, education and achievement, uniting us as one human tribe by way of our primal meat suits and the lumps, bumps, scars and flesh folds that mark ’em.

“A bunch of people being naked together breaks down all masks,” yoga teacher and hot springs fanatic Jodi Blumstein says when I ask her what she liked about soaking naked at the Waves. “Everyone very quickly adjusts to their natural state.”

“So, is it still cool to jerk off in the communal sauna,” I rib, as Paul explains the new clothing is nowhere near optional policy, “as long as I keep my bathing suit on?”

The girl manning the gift shop giggles. Paul doesn’t quite know what to think.

“She’s kidding,” Ross explains, hoping to put the young desk clerk at ease.

Paul doesn’t realize my inside joke is a reference to an SFR column I wrote in 2012 about witnessing men masturbating in the communal sauna. No matter, I think I’m hilarious.

“Here,” Paul says, tittering nervously while thrusting a glossy pamphlet, entitled New Communal Tub Policy, in my direction. “This explains the new policy.”

According to the pamphlet, and allow me to paraphrase here, an excessive amount of aggressive staring, spread-eagle ballsack flaunting and generalized “bad behavior” enacted by male guests frequenting the communal tub inspired the powers that be (i.e., owner Duke Klauck) to rescind the clothing-optional policy that had been in place for 34 years, now requiring guests to wear bathing suit bottoms in the communal tub.

“If men behaved as well as women,” the pamphlet reads, “we would not be changing our long-term clothing-optional policy.”

Later, I speak to Klauck over the phone about what inspired the new bathing-suits-required rule. He explains that women were feeling outnumbered in the communal tub and weren’t entirely comfortable with the sexual energy they were experiencing there.

“For this reason,” the pamphlet continues, all firm and authoritarian-like with this suddenly boldfaced proclamation, “we will now require bathing suit bottoms at all times in the new communal tub.”

It’s devastating news, given how much fun Ross and I used to have squeezing each other’s butt zits on the raised deck next to the sauna.

“We never do that,” Ross quickly explains to Paul, shooting me a sideways ix-nay, on the it-zay eezing-squay look, while trying to save face.

Dani Katz

“Wait, how come just bathing suit bottoms?” I ask, re-reading the sentence again, the extra thick/dark/inky one that was kinda screaming at me. “Why not tops, too?”

“I don’t know,” Paul replies, shrugging, and then he asks if we wanted to see the Grand Bath, anyway, even though it didn’t have any water in it.

Not to be all tit-for-tat about it (pun intended, while garnished with a sheepish grin), but the bottoms-only communal tub policy presents a scenario in which the vulnerability scales are necessarily tipped in the dudes’ favor. I mean, sure, bathing suits are lame, and #nipplefreedommatters, but there is something unsettling about exposing your goodies when you know at least half the folks you’re hanging out with are prohibited from doing the same.

“It seems awkward,” Santa Fe resident and Ten Thousand Waves-goer Bettina Lancaster says of the new policy. “Everyone being naked feels like it’s on more equal terms.”

“What do you think nipple equality is?” Ross asks, calling me on my hypocrisy. “Besides, you didn’t have a problem with Miss Mastectomy going bottoms only.”

I don’t actually have a problem with anyone going bottoms only, except for women with prettier tits than mine, because I tend toward the petty and the envious. And though I feel totally aligned with the Free the Nipple plight, and dream of experiencing nipple equality in my lifetime, something about this particular bottoms-only rule feels fishy.

“Our policy of suit bottoms at all times has symbolically sent a message,” Klauck writes in an email explaining the gradual devolution of the clothing-optional policy.The tub is no longer just a male club.”

Given that the Waves is citing sexual misconduct as the primary reason for the policy change, with both Klauck and in-house publicist Mary Johnson attesting to the fact that they’ve fielded numerous complaints from a variety of women claiming to feel neither safe nor comfortable in the communal tubs, it seems a little counterintuitive to then create a policy that encourages women to be topless in the mixed-bathing area.

Ojo Caliente Mineral Spa and Resort’s policy of bathing suits for all means your bikini straps are gonna dig in all day.
Courtesy of Ojo Caliente Resort

Men are visual creatures prone to sexualizing female breasts. As such, wouldn’t having a tub full of topless women in a totally lopsided bottoms-only required setting be the standard definition of “a male club,” in terms of that old school, hetero-normative women exist as decorations to be sexualized as inspired sort of perspective?

“The males that want to be naked don’t find that [read: exposed breasts] enticing at all,” Klauck assures me, when I ask about the mixed message of the bottoms-only rule.

Oh really, now?

Granted, Klauck says the primary problem was less about men lasciviously ogling women, and more about exhibitionists getting off on being seen in the buff. Still, I’m pretty sure plenty of men using the tubs are finding “that” (i.e., untethered titties) sufficiently enticing.

I ask Johnson (the Waves’ publicist, who seems more than a little irked to have to talk to me about the matter) why they decided to allow women to remain topless in the communal tub.

“Because men don’t wear a top,” she explains, “and they’re the ones that are behaving badly.”

Johnson makes it sound like the men lost the privilege of exposing themselves, and are thus being punished accordingly, while the women have only lost the right to expose half of themselves, except—by this line of reasoning—I’m still not sure why. It kinda misses that whole women don’t feel safe or comfortable in a communal tub full of leering men thing, which, when it comes down to it, still doesn’t seem like reason enough to change an entire policy, given that the women’s tub a) exists, and b) is (still) clothing optional.

So now, aside from the private tubs, which cost more to rent per hour than an entire day at the communal tub, men have no other on-site options for them to get their full-body vitamin D fix on.

“This…was my ‘go-to’ place to relax when visiting NM,” writes Yelp reviewer Tony G. “I would give it 5 stars if there were clothing optional sessions in the Grand Bath…which requires bathing suit bottoms at all times, yet the women’s communal bath continues to be clothing optional. So for the males amongst us who prefer to bathe au natural, the only option now is a private bath.”

I empathize with Tony G, having gotten used to hanging at the communal tub in the buff with Ross, who now has all of zero options to brown his butt-cheeks, spendy private tub notwithstanding, whittling my own (admittedly codependent) choices down to either soaking in a suit or soaking without him. Sigh.

“Check out this part,” Paul says, pointing to the bottom of the pamphlet, trying to offset the scowl overtaking my face with a dash of cheekiness, “where it encourages, like, super skimpy bathing suits.”

“If you’ve ever visited a European beach,” it reads, “you know that there are swimsuits out there so tiny that it’s hardly more than a gesture to modesty!”

Johnson mentions something similar when I interview her.

“Europeans wear the smallest of bathing suits,” she says, “some that aren’t much more than a string in back.”

While I appreciate her enthusiasm for the G-string, and the implied G-strings-encouraged policy (except not really, because, um, Ouch), I still find the caveat confusing.

“Isn’t that a mixed message, though?” I press. “I mean, on the one hand you’re announcing a shift toward the modest, inspired by sexual misconduct and ‘younger people’s’ alleged discomfort with exposed genitals, while in the very same blurb, you’re inviting people to get all crafty and exhibition-y with their swimsuit bottoms. Can you explain the paradox?”

"Younger people now feel uncomfortable sharing a clothing-optional environment."

“No,” Johnson replies.


About those “younger people”…

“Younger people now feel uncomfortable sharing a clothing-optional environment with strangers,” reads the pamphlet, which—admittedly—was proving to be a damned interesting read.

“And how are you defining ‘younger’?” I ask Johnson, when she repeats this very statement.

“Younger,” she parrots, as though this totally answers my question.

Younger, like, millennials?”

Younger, like, under 50.”

Oh, right; Santa Fe younger.

Klauck echoes a similar sentiment, theorizing that with more progressive parents than, say, the baby boomers who popularized the whole naked hot spring culture back in the ’60s, today’s 20-somethings are way more conservative when it comes to public nudity. The guy owns a clothing-optional spa, so I defer to his experience, while still wondering if the alleged millennial aversion to nudity might have more to do with the fact that 20-somethings spend so much time posting selfies on social media and have thus taken to erring on the cautious side, given that their identities are shaped and anchored by carefully curated virtual personas, and all the incessantly uploaded mementos —complete with duck-faced pouts and ironic facial hair—that comprise them.

Dani Katz

“I feel completely comfortable being naked in the communal tub, provided everyone there is being responsible with their sexual energy,” says Stephanie Kuehn, a 28-year-old filmmaker. “But it does seem like a lot of my peers are more attuned to selfie culture, which has them more concerned about the production value of their life experiences than maybe the older generations are.”

The Internet isn’t to blame for just millennial modesty; it was a major contributing factor in the Waves’ bathing suit (bottom) policy shift. Turns out the spa was taking some hits on social media and crowd-sourced review sites, with folks posting ads for casual sex and then proposing to meet at the Waves for carnal shenanigans, plus a bevy of scathing reviews citing nudity at the communal tub as prohibitive to women, families and decent people the world over.

“I got a fantastic massage here,” Peter D from Brooklyn writes on Yelp, “but there was entirely too much male genitalia on display. At least for me. And my wife. And the parents who I feel should have been warned before they brought their child up there.”

Peter’s review raises the obvious question: Just how much male genitalia is enough when it comes to communal soaking? A three-penis to four-vagina ratio? One to one? And does that ratio differ for parents, and families, and all the children Peter wants to save from the horrors of male genitalia?

He goes on, “What they don’t tell you about the communal hot tub is that there will be lots and lots of penises all over the area. My wife and I discovered this abruptly when we stepped around the barrier and came face to penis with an older man…doing naked yoga.”

Peter’s isn’t the only negative review to make mention of seemingly unattached body parts, contextualized as wholly offensive by virtue of a) their existence, and b) the old/ugly/fat/hairy humans to whom they belong. A cursory search through TripAdvisor and Yelp for “Ten Thousand Waves + nudity” brings up dozens of penis mentions, plus plenty of “balls” and “nuts” and “ass cracks,” with each reviewer thoroughly objectifying their fellow soakers, thus dehumanized as nameless, faceless and—essentially—meaningless bodies attached to parts too shameful to warrant exposure, their personhood tossed aside in favor of petty insults hurled at the (wholly subjective) aesthetic (un)worthiness of the compartmentalized pieces the reviewers seem to take no responsibility for staring at/obsessing on. (If you don’t like all the penises, Peter from Brooklyn, how ’bout not straining your neck to look at ’em?) The ad nauseum genital mentions point to a way bigger problem plaguing our culture: the ubiquitous objectification of the body as a disassociated means of sexual titillation, to be either hidden, hated and ashamed of, or flaunted, coveted and debased.

But bad online reviews are bad for business. And Ten Thousand Waves isn’t (wasn’t) just a bastion for naked soakers, it’s a “luxury mountain resort spa” intent on turning a profit. This is America, for Chrissakes.

“As a business, if we provide something that our guests want, they’ll buy it,” Klauck writes me after our phone interview. “If we try to impose our ideas in conflict with changing culture or customer needs, we die. Think Netflix. If they still just sent DVDs in the mail when their customers wanted to watch a movie, they’d be out of business today.”

Dani Katz

It’s a valid point. Sort of. Except that DVDs are man-made technology built for profit and short-term obsolescence, while human bodies have been with us forever (or, at the very least, since humans have existed) and (probably) always will be. Except there are people on the planet who have never seen or owned a DVD in their life, and yet there is no one on the planet who doesn’t have a naked body, even if it’s hidden beneath their clothes and their hang-ups.

“This was a hard decision to make,” laments Klauck, who is, essentially, stuck between that rock and its proverbial hard place, wanting to stay true to his vision, while sustaining a safe, welcoming and profitable environment.

It’s tricky because sometimes the naked guests are going out of their way to attract a particular sort of genital-based attention, just as sometimes they’re simply enjoying the sun on their skin, while the lady wearing the one-piece Speedo and the perpetual frown freaks way out about all these body parts she’s not used to seeing because she thinks sex is dirty, and foreskin is gross, and couldn’t tell the difference between her clit and her G-spot to save her life.

“It’s too bad people cannot handle themselves or others completely naked,” longtime local Ana Biel says of the factors contributing to the Waves’ policy change.

Word, sister.

We’re living in some weird-ass times, inside a swiftly crumbling culture, on a planet that seems to be suffocating beneath the weight of our slumber. And sure, it’s easy for me to take issue with a decision I judge as kowtowing to contracted consciousness and to wounds and hang-ups and perversions and thin skin. But I’ve never owned a business. I wouldn’t know how to keep a luxury spa afloat for 34 years.

I suppose it doesn’t matter. What’s done is done. Still, I am sad that our sexuality is so out of whack, and I am sad that a handful of inappropriately expressive pervs and repressed judgy-pants tight-asses had to up and ruin it for the rest of us. And sure, I can always soak naked in the women’s tub, but really, what are the odds that any of the ladies there are gonna be as eager to squeeze my butt zits as Ross is?

Dani Katz is a writer and artist based in Los Angles who formerly wrote the column “Hi, Desert” for SFR.

Beyond the Bishop

Major renovation plans shut down historic lodge and promise high-end outcome

Local NewsTuesday, October 6, 2015 by Thomas Ragan

If  all goes according to plan, backhoes and chainsaws and the sounds of hammers against nails will upset the quiet of the woods in Tesuque starting in a few weeks as an Atlanta-based company spends up to $60 million in renovating and reinventing Bishop’s Lodge Ranch & Spa over the next year and a half.

The resort has served for nearly a century as a sort of retreat, yet its modern day accommodations aren’t so modern anymore. Despite the deteriorating buildings, the place has long been a magnet for tourists and locals who’ve sought refuge in the juniper and piñón.

But on Sept. 30, the ranch and spa 4 miles north of Santa Fe shut its doors, turned off the fireplaces and said goodbye to the remaining part-time skeleton staff that had picked up the slack in its waning days.

The imminent closure caught a few loyal patrons off-guard as they learned about it the hard way: Showing up on the lodge’s doorstep and being told they couldn’t book a stay because the place would be shut down by midweek.

“It’s going to be sad to see everything gone, but at least we’re going to have a chance to say goodbye,” Ted Ragias, a visitor from Wichita, Kan., pictured below, tells SFR. His wife Pam stands by his side, already feeling nostalgic for the days of yore.

Thomas Ragan

The couple stumbled upon the lodge at the foot of the Sangre de Cristos by accident more than a decade ago. Since then, it’s become their tradition to drive out every year and hole up in the resort, whose buildings have a few holes of their own, the result of actions, or inaction, from a long list of managers since 1998.

The lodge has consistently placed first for the couple, winning out over pricier downtown hotels.

“It’s beats staying off the Plaza,” Pam, a retired schoolteacher, says as she pours a cup of coffee on the resort’s final day. “What made the place great is that we could always visit the Plaza if we wanted to.”

It appears the lodge owners are trying to bring an upscale approach, framing the renovation as an effort to appeal to a wider audience of Santa Fe travelers.

Nearly a dozen buildings are slated for demolition, including the tennis courts, and in all 126 rooms will rise from the reconstruction, replacing the current 80 rooms, some of which have been shuttered for liability reasons.

But perhaps the biggest change will be the introduction of golf carts for hotel guests—the new mode of transportation to get to and from the rooms.

“We’re going to take the automobile out of the equation. Guests will park their cars in one centralized lot,” says Richard Holland, the managing partner of HRV Hotel Partners.

The company, which bought the resort in August of last year, has a track record of buying and developing high-end seaside resort hotels, with properties in Mexico and in Key West, Fla. And now it’s setting its sights on the landlocked and high desert of the southern Rocky Mountains. If architectural renderings in the lobby are an accurate depiction of what’s in store for the 300-acre property, then the changes will be vast. The company says they will still keep the spirit of the lodg.

Take the Bunk House, for example. It’s planned as a massive building that looks like a rustic Midwestern barn from the outside but is ripe with elegant rooms on the inside. Elsewhere, they’ll erect “glamping tents” to accommodate families who want to feel like they’re camping out in glamourous style.

The registration area, with its front desk, gift shop and community room for breakfast and happy hour, is set to become a fancy restaurant. And don’t overlook the Kiva, a series of specialty suites that will serve as the “perfect retreat” for couples.

That’s according to the company’s design plans, which are under administrative review by the Santa Fe County Land Use Department, based on a master plan approved more than a decade ago.

At least one building is untouchable, and that’s the Lamy Chapel, built in the middle of the 19th century by the Catholic Bishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy. He had a hand in Santa Fe architecture, dreaming up and overseeing the construction of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. The tiny edifice with its white steeple is something of surprise to lodge patrons who come upon on it amid the thick vegetation and the bishop’s private gardens.

Holland says one of the buildings that will be torn down currently blocks the view of the chapel, a structure on the state’s historic landmarks list.

The land itself is a snapshot of history, and if it could talk, it would be in the Tewa dialect, that of the Indigenous people, explains the lodge’s website. But the more contemporary owners can be traced to Bishop Lamy, followed by the Pulitzer family in the early 1900s, then James R Thorpe, a Denver mining man who bought it in 1918 and turned it into the resort that it is today.

In 1998, the Thorpe family sold it to an investment fund whose history is so complicated that Holland had a hard time remembering its name, although he did tell SFR it was also based in Atlanta.

As the multimillion-dollar fund was sold and resold several times over, the lodge became a revolving door of new managers over the last 17 years, all of which contributed to what Holland says was “gross neglect.”

That is, until HRV bought the property last summer, then shut down the spa and restaurant in January this year and laid off dozens of employees, relying on a team of part-time maids and clerks and grounds crew these last several months.

Crystal Vickers, the front desk clerk, was one of those part-time employees. She worked at the lodge six years ago when she first came to Santa Fe from Houston.

Vickers is also sad to see it go, but she notes, “Not everything is made of marble and granite.”

Leaks from the Lab

LANL works to pull chromium contamination back across property line and out of aquifer

Local NewsWednesday, October 7, 2015 by Elizabeth Miller

Ten years ago, Los Alamos National Laboratory discovered a problem creeping its way through lab property. A plume of hexavalent chromium—of Erin Brockovich fame—had drifted down the canyon from an old power plant.

Recent testing by the US Department of Energy shows increasing concentrations of chromium at the edge of the plume, indicating that the material is still moving and has likely breached the lab boundaries.

Chromium comes in a variety of forms. The US Environmental Protection Agency lists chromium-3 as an “essential human dietary element” that can be toxic in high concentrations, while chromium-6 is known to pose health risks even in small amounts and may also be linked to cancer.

The lab unloaded up to 160,000 pounds of chromium after it was used in the power plant’s cooling tower water to slow corrosion, and now, some of the contaminant is sitting in the top 50 to 75 feet of the aquifer that serves residents of Los Alamos County. It’s also moving on land long considered sacred within the jurisdiction of San Ildefonso Pueblo. Pueblo officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but the county doesn’t seem to be worried.

“We’re testing continuously,” says Julie Williams-Hill, public relations manager for Los Alamos County. “LANL takes the lead doing the testing for us, and they do it in such a way that if any of the testing is of concern, we would have ample time to stop drawing water from that well, and they would drill us a new well.”

So far, Williams-Hill notes, levels of chromium in the county well have tested at 2.29 to 13 ppb, well below the drinking water standards.

The lab had previously claimed that its so-called legacy contaminants—from researching the materials to make the world’s first nuclear bombs, and other tasks—sat on a layer of impermeable rock. But after a state-ordered hydrogeologic survey, which uncovered the plume, it’s clear that’s not the case. Crazy straw-like fissures lie within the landscape, and one of them allowed the chromium plume to drop into the aquifer.

Joseph Johnson

A decade lapsed between when the chromium was found and the publication of a plan to address it, but it’s taken some time to wrap their arms around the problem, says Danny Katzman, technical lead for LANL’s chromium project, pictured at right. The lab’s aim, he says, is to slow the drift for now. Eventually, they hope to neutralize the contaminant in place.

“Our understanding of the plume, where it is and how it’s moving has really only matured in the last year,” Katzman says. “It’s kind of a typical evolution of a complex environmental problem.”

EPA standards say the safe level for chromium of all types is 100 parts per billion, but the New Mexico Environmental Department sets the standard for drinking water at 50 ppb. (In a post-Brockovich choice, for comparison, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment set a goal specifically for hexavalent chromium in drinking water of 0.02 parts per billion.)

Testing in the plume has found chromium levels as high as 1,000 ppb. That info comes from about 20 monitoring wells that keep tabs on underground contamination estimated to encompass an area of about a mile by one-half mile. Exactly how far chromium now stretches past the lab boundary isn’t clear, but researchers infer from the changing concentrations that the plume is still moving.

A southern monitoring well near the boundary with San Ildefonso Pueblo has been showing increasing levels of chromium, which has made the matter all the more pressing. Did it move faster than they expected? Katzman says the lab really hadn’t set expectations for how quickly it would move. But the time is now to act, and they hope to begin mitigation work, pending state approval, this fall.

The Department of Energy proposes to gain control of the plume, perhaps even drawing it back over the boundary line, with an eight-year project that will see up to 1.8 billion gallons of chromium-contaminated water extracted from 1,000 feet underground through three wells, cleaned and then spread over the land, allowed to evaporate, or returned to the depths from whence it came through six injection wells. A similar model is in use at a Superfund site in the central business district in Albuquerque, where contamination from a defunct dry cleaning facility stretches ⅔ of a mile long, and at the bulk fuels facility on Kirtland Air Force Base, where a jet fuel leak has required 8.2 million gallons of water be treated.

It’s impossible to know exactly when the Los Alamos chromium was released from the power plant 3 miles up Sandia Canyon. Officials say it happened sometime between 1956 and 1972. Then, surface water likely carried the material down the canyons to where the geology was permeable enough to allow it to settle underground, reaching the top layer of the aquifer. The surface water in that area now is clean, Katzman says, leading them to believe that they’ve caught the tail end of the plume.

That doesn’t cue peace of mind for everyone keeping an eye on the project, which includes the Northern New Mexico Citizens’ Advisory Board and Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

“The fact that it’s 1,000 parts per billion 3 miles from where they dumped into the canyon is kind of scary, because it seems like there might be a lot of it out there,” says Scott Kovac, operations and research director for Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “Chromium is very soluble; it’s an indicator, like a canary in a coal mine…They dumped chromium in the upper part of Sandia Canyon from the ’50s to the ’70s, and it’s already in the aquifer, so you can’t tell me that the rest of the stuff [won’t get there, too].”

Ultimately, for all possible contaminants still stored on site at LANL, Kovac adds, “The conclusion has to be to remove all the sources.”

Murderous Excuses

Here's the ThingWednesday, October 7, 2015 by Andrea L Mays

Last month, the Violence Policy Center released a report that opened with the following information: According to the US Department of Justice, “women are more likely to be victims of violent crimes committed by intimate partners than men, especially when a weapon is involved.” Furthermore, women are “more likely to be victimized at home than in any other place.”

Such statements about how women experience violence challenge two basic assumptions about safety and security in our society. The first is that we can expect some measure of safety with those who love us and whom we love. The second is that homes are supposed to be havens or retreats to safety. These shattered assumptions are tough to take for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that these facts are a national absurdity.

But even worse is the fact that violent offenses suffered by women, at the hands of men, result in death. This national report, “When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2013 Homicide Data,” is an irrefutable statement on the fatal nature of gendered violence in American society.

And, as we’ve come to expect even as we cringe, New Mexico is near the top of this terrible list. New Mexico ranked third in the national state-by-state ranking for women murdered by their intimate partners, following South Carolina and Alaska.

Twenty-one women were murdered by their male spouses in New Mexico in 2013. That’s out of 1,615 women who died in single-assailant, single-victim homicides reported to the FBI in America. These women included every racial and ethnic group, and they comprised a range of ages. Seven percent of the victims were under the age of 18, while 9 percent were 65 or older. Their average age was 40.

While there are those among us who know about the high rates of domestic violence and murder in this country, the report’s opening statement verifies the hideous conditions under which many women in this country live. It attests to the fact that violence against women is an enduring crisis—not only in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, places where our government seems eager to denounce these acts as human rights violations, but right here at home.

These statistics are proof that what’s being done to end domestic violence, and the murder of women in the US, is insufficient to address a systemic and structural problem. The fact that nonprofit organizations—often relying on insufficient private donations and pinched federal resources—have been increasingly responsible for the direct service functions, such as shelters and safe houses that deal with this widespread social and human rights problem, reveals the awful truth about our national priorities.

Also troubling is that few resources and services are directed at addressing the men who commit violence against women. While jail offers some measure of short-term protection to the women, it doesn’t end the cycle of violence. In our national culture, there is little questioning and no constructive critique in our discourse about male aggression and misogyny.

This is the root of the problem. Our society has yet to conceive of a broader vision of masculinity, one where male identity is not perceived through domination and violence: Violent masculinity in our society has been normalized along with abusive and destructive intimate relationships.

Here’s the Thing: Male violence and aggression toward women are not private problems. This behavior is manifest at every level of our social life: from classrooms and playgrounds to popular culture and presidential campaigns. While we, as a nation, have done much to placate it and excuse it away in gendered terms with phrases like, “Boys will be boys,” there is simply no excuse for it.

Andrea L Mays is an American Studies scholar and Santa Fean. Got an idea for how New Mexico can address fatal domestic violence? Write the author:

I Dare You to Park Here

What unfriendly looks like on steroids

Blue CornWednesday, October 7, 2015 by Robert Basler

All things considered, I think Santa Fe is a pretty friendly place.

Most of the drivers here will give you an amiable wave as they turn in front of you with no warning. On the hiking trails, mountain bikers always flash a smile as you leap out of their path to save your own life.

The cashiers at Trader Joe’s here are generous with their good wishes. They’re like, “Have a great month!” which is better than some places, where they wish you a miserly “nice afternoon” when it’s already 4:30 pm.

But there’s one area where the goodwill evaporates instantly. People who own parking spaces don’t even pretend to be nice to people who park where they shouldn’t.

The depth of this passion became clear to me earlier this year, when I stopped by Kaune’s during the legislative session. In addition to the usual 462 permanent signs threatening towing, booting or disembowelment, there was a fresh screed posted on the door of the store.

Well, I say screed, but actually it was more of a rant. I’ve seen Taliban ransom notes that were friendlier.

The diatribe was only posted for the duration of the session. I didn’t make a copy, so I’ll paraphrase here, and I may not be 100 percent accurate.

Essentially, the idea was that if you park here and try doing anything other than shop, a flying squad of Roman gladiators in full armor will rappel down from the roof and batter your vehicle with javelins and tridents until you no longer recognize it.

Then, they will go after your mother.

Kaune’s is by no means the only parking pressure point in Santa Fe. You want a near-death experience? Try parking at my dry cleaner’s lot and going to the nearby Vinaigrette restaurant. It won’t be pretty.

Just look in my own backyard. SFR’s lot on Marcy Street has bizarre new signs in its lot saying, “NO CHEESEMONGER OR TOURISTS.”

You have to love the apparent occupational specificity! Maybe we could expand it, to “NO HABERDASHER, NO CHIMNEY SWEEP, NO BEEKEEPER, NO PROCTOLOGIST!”

Calm down. Before all you cheesemongers file a class action lawsuit, the sign is actually just a reference to a nearby cheese shop.

At this point, I should back up and make it clear that I’m not criticizing these businesses. The fact that Kaune’s is across the street from the Roundhouse doesn’t mean it should have to provide free parking for lobbyists while they are over in the Capitol screwing the little people.

I imagine business owners here have learned the hard way that polite signs accomplish nothing, and that threats are the only way to go.

Which brings me to my point.

I’m opening a threatening-sign-writing business for shopkeepers who are too busy to create their own.

My signs follow a two-part strategy. First, you demean the potential culprits. You know, like, HEY! Deadbeat, loser, leech, sponge, scum stain, moocher, troublemaker, rapscallion, neo-Nazi, Oklahoma tourist…

Now that you have their attention, it’s time to deliver the actual threat. It needs to be awful, but believable. All too often in signs done by amateurs, the element of horror is missing.

My signs will take care of that, with the implication that if you park here, the result will be:

The zombie apocalypse
Erectile dysfunction
A Donald Trump presidency
Piped-in Barry Manilow music
A sudden throat jab from a Belgian person
Your car. Sold for parts. In Española.

Well, that’s about it. Bob’s Sinister Signs has its grand opening tomorrow, over on Johnson Street. Come by and see us!

What? You’re asking if you can leave your car in our lot while you go down the street for lunch?

What the hell do you think, parasite?

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

Out on the Tiles, Permanently

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