Zinged with warm sunshine

"The train pulled into Albuquerque in front of the famous old Alvarado Hotel. In contrast with the rain and cold of Kansas City, the air fairly zinged with warm sunshine. Both girls felt an instant lift of their spirits. To this day Millie maintains this was the most beautiful sight of her life.”
The arrival of 14 year old Mildred Clark Cusey in 1926.

Max Evans, Madam Millie – Bordellos from Silver City to Ketchikan, UNM Press, 2002.

Mr. McMillen's Alameda

The communal grazing lands of Alameda heirs and settlers morphed into modern day Rio Rancho primarily through the self-interested efforts of one prominent New Mexican lawyer named Alonzo B. McMillen.

Alonzo's grave
The story is detailed in a juicy 2008 paper in the Natural Resources Journal with the fabulous title: The Blighted History of the Alameda Land Grant: Montoya v. Unknown Heirs of Vigil (pdf).  The author, Kristopher N. Houghton, writes a thorough history with the major portion of the story devoted to legal shenanigans and unethical behavior that was not unusual or even considered unethical at the time.

Continue reading "Mr. McMillen's Alameda" »

Tiguex War

Events surrounding Coronado's first contact with the Tiguex people in what's now the Albuquerque area are among the most dramatic in North American history. Clay Mathers, expert in all things Spanish Colonial Archaeology, thinks so and this amateur is inclined to agree with him. Mathers spoke about Coronado and his new book at the Old Albuquerque Library Saturday morning.

For one thing, the 1540 entrada was huge - an estimated 2800 people, maybe more, traveling with 7000 animals at one point. The size of this military expedition alone had big consequences. Natives didn't have a  food surplus and were not expecting thousands of guests and their animals. As Mathers puts it, things started badly and stayed that way.  Coronado1.

Tiguex resistance was immediate and long running. The war waged against them was called "savage and without mercy" by a chronicler at the time. That's saying something given the general savage and merciless treatment of other natives that same year, like the Zuni.

Mathers gave an overview of the larger forces at work during the time of Coronado's entrada, like global trade and political positioning.  He also notes the impact of  native resistance against the Spanish here and other places. Coronado's extended absence from his own home in Mexico, for example, was occasioned by a native uprising.  And the Chichimec war stymied Spanish settlement of Northern Mexico for 50 years.

Mathers notes significant long term consequences of the Tiguex War and Coronado's little visit to the Middle Rio Grande. Most notable among them was Don Juan de Oñate's choice to just keep riding when he got here. Seething resentment among the Tiguex was still evident 58 years later and enfluenced his choice for a capital much much further north at San Gabriel.

Kuaua Painted Kiva



Edgar Lee Hewitt led the first excavations at what is now Coronado Monument in the summer of 1934. In trenching the following year they discovered the painted kiva.

Hewitt originally wanted the entire site exposed for visitors to see and intended to rebuild the pueblo as it would have looked when occupied - a Tiguex Williamsburg in time for the 400th Anniversary of Coronado’s arrival. But the deadline loomed and he ran out of money.

Only two structures were replicated: a one story room block that no longer exists and the square painted kiva. Restoration of this replica kiva and its murals was the subject of the lecture April 21, 2013 sponsored by the Friends of Coronado Monument.

Preservation History of the WPA Era Painted Kiva murals at Kuaua

Richard Reycraft, Cultural Resources Program Manager, New Mexico State Monuments.*

Continue reading "Kuaua Painted Kiva" »

Weed Ranch Update

It's been almost two years since groundbreaking for the i-house project at the newly named Weed Ranch.  The household downsizing was successful.  Minimalization was maximized.
Weed ranch deck

I'm heating the main unit with a little Hearthstone woodstove. It caused problems as the unit "settled" and the roof began leaking at the stovepipe. Now the pipe is vented out the sidewall (just to the right of the pictured unit) and there is a very ugly but effective roof patch that only the balloonists can see.Balloon view

The heat is otherwise a particularly noisy forced air electric system. The "flex" unit or casita has a separate little HVAC system that is much quieter. 

Weed ranch gateOther problem: the sliding glass door is my "front" door and it's heavy and hard to open - nearly impossible with an armload of wood since it takes both hands.

But that's a small price to pay for the view.

Fencing and a new gate are the latest additions and in another week the giant weed patch, for which the ranch is named, will be plowed for new pasture.

Now excuse me, I need a hot soak down south.

Up Slots at Downs

Predatory addiction machines in a high density urban population - what could possibly go wrong?  Anti-gambler Guy Clark points to Governor Richardson's latest movida sin verguenza on behalf of his buddy Paul Blanchard.  (Albuquerque Journal)  Dr. Clark doesn't think it's a good idea to plop lots-o-slots into a low income hood.  But he's not holding any cards.
How did we ever get to this point?  Why is horse racing - the sport of Kings - intimately connected and dependent on despicable slot machines?  It's like taking a GameBoy trail riding.  Hell, at this scale it's like strapping Xbox to the saddle.  Sick and sad.
Second point, unrelated;  the redevelopment potential of the State Fair land between San Pedro and Louisiana Boulevards in Albuquerque's northeast heights is consistently over-estimated.  Both proponents and opponents of moving the Expo out of town have the misguided notion that a fabulous scheme for reuse will materialize.*  Yet there is no historical precedent to give cause for optimism. On the contrary, experience indicates that sale or lease of this public land will be decades long and fraught with complexities, not to mention politics. 
*It will involve unicorn sales and rentals.  They don't shit and can use the race track as a landing strip.

Crumpling SunCal Paper

The crumbling the SunCal-Atrisco development will live in history as the poster child for the greatest real estate bubble and subsequent collapse in the history of the city of Albuquerque. 

So old Joe Monahan says.  He links to this Wall Street Journal story

SunCal is a great example of the political influence associated with land speculation.  The lobbying and advertising for tax benefits during the legislature should go down in history as among the most intense on behalf of one developer.  We can hope. 

But it's mostly crumpling that I hear.  Like paper promises.  Not crumbling, like hard infrastructure.  SunCal's bubble-riding development investors lost their paper development.  Boo Hoo.  No one lost their home.  Sure, the Westland Board made off with a bundle and gave most Atrisco heirs the equivalent of souvenir t-shirts, but that'd been coming since incorporation of the land grant in the 1960s. 

Albuquerque's Biggest Collapse Ever? Let's strike a hopeful tone and say it is.  What is more sure, and far more hopeful, is that the land, soil, water, history, place and people of Atrisco and their multifaceted potential haven't been wholly diminished because of some misguided speculation. 

You can be darn certain that crumpled paper will get ironed out and this dealio will come roaring back if the stupid market does.  

Perfect Deniability for Sprawl

Albuquerque Journal coverage of the new Albuquerque City Council President deliberations includes Councillor Harris's little aside about the Water Authority. 

One key decision for a council president is agreeing on appointments to the board of the Water Utility Authority, which is overseen by three city councilors, three county commissioners and the mayor.  Harris said he would support appointees who understand the need for water conservation but that "it would be very important to me that the water board shouldn't be making land-use policy."

That's the developers' job. 

This isn't some little side of beans and rice.  It is the whole enchilada -  our water management future.  Or rather, why we don't have one.   I contend, like a skipping cd, this was intentional.  The idea behind creating the Water Authority was to green light land use decisions and free those that make them from pesky concerns and limitations posed by water policy or any potential future water policy.  Land use worries are severed from water worries, so no worries!

Management and meager planning efforts are now divided statutorily.  Separate policies of separate agencies apply to falsely separated aspects of inherently related features - land and water.  Water is not in the Council's perview, and land use is not in the Authority's perview.  So anything having to do with both of them, which is a whole lot, is screwed unmanageable.

Presto: An inability to manage growth in anyway.  The perfect deniability for sprawl.

Los Ranchos Rail Runner Station

What you name places is important.  Planners, geographers and map makers all know this.  It may seem like fiddling while something's burning, but really, it is important.  Really.  Stamps feet on embers.

The Albuquerque Journal reports on the Los Ranchos/Journal Center Rail Runner Express Station - The Name. 

Basically, the name was thrust upon the station without asking any locals what they thought of the idea.  Like most everything, the neighborhood association president, Steve Wentworth, says the name is dumb.  Maybe he thinks if he bitches long enough they'll name it after him.  (I'm hopeful that works for Geraldine Amato and city hall.)

The territorially-minded neighborhood president thinks the name is dumb in the same way that it was dumb to call Corrales Road that for centuries before it was renamed Alameda.  That is, not dumb at all.  Roads were named for where they go.  Similarly, the Rail Runner station is named for what it is near:  Los Ranchos and Journal Center. 

And I like the bit about horses on the Rail Runner website:

The Los Ranchos / Journal Center Rail Runner station is nestled in an area that was celebrating horse travel long before the train arrived. To this day, it is not uncommon to find many an equestrian traveling the ditch banks and dirt paths of the North Valley.

The box of renaming Pandoras has been opened!  Naming things is a time-honored powerful political perk.  You can say there should be limits on naming places after living politicians but that horse left the barn.  It had Domenici branded on his butt.  The horse then died with the naming of the Babs and Bill Richardson Pavilion at UNMH.  And it was beaten when the community center at Alameda was renamed for Raymond G. Sanchez. 

Some think it should be called El Pueblo station since it is on El Pueblo Road.  It is a very popular location. The parking lot was expanded recently but there is usually overflow onto the road shoulders.  Yeah, so naming the station for the street it swallows is a good idea.