“Just had a conversation with one of the local homeless guys about Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Player Piano’ (one of my favorite books of all time) and the curse of idleness.
He also tallied up for me just how much money he has to spend on speed and booze to throw up; a bodily function he enjoys very much, but considers fairly expensive to achieve. Classic Albuquerque morning.”
This post on my Facebook today triggered a host of emotions and responses.
It’s a quirky reality of my day to day, as I own a little dress shop that is in the ‘student ghetto’ neighborhood of a university town. There is also a large homeless population in the area and we see and speak with homeless people every day.
Some followers on my page were surprised and dismayed. Some asked after my safety. I know that I have missed business opportunities because some people are uncomfortable with the neighborhood. They don’t draw the distinction between poor and dangerous. I hate to lose customers, but I love this little spot.
My knee jerk response was Of course I talk to the homeless people! Every one of us deserves space in this world. Not just food and shelter, but time and contact as well. But I think the conversation goes deeper than that. And it takes me back to The South and how I was raised.
Southerners, especially southern women, talk to people. We talk to friends, and we talk to strangers. We chat in checkout lines and sometimes even in traffic when the windows are down. It seems silly to just stand there with another human person and not share a friendly hello.
Now, I know that to people from other places, this habit seems infuriating. It was quite a clash of cultures when my Native customers, who are often taciturn, were shocked by my volume and my overly familiar conversation. We are seen as too chatty, as too invasive, and sometimes it comes across as incredibly false if it’s not how you were brought up. My meema was a queen bee chatter. She could not keep her peace in a market line or an elevator. It would begin with checking in on your day but would quickly advance to your health, your happiness, and the unavoidable “how’s your mama?”. If you didn’t know her well, you might have thought that this was all an affect but it was not. I have never known someone to genuinely care about someone’s day more than her. She remembered everyone’s birthday. She knew the names of the kids and grandkids of the checkout people at the Kroger. She knew if her bank teller was serious about her boyfriend and wept with her when they got engaged. That woman’s heart (and insatiable curiosity) were legit.
Not only can this be jarring if it’s not your cup of tea, but many of us have become awfully withdrawn just trying to survive the walk to work or school amidst the barrage of pickups, catcalls, and fear of stalkers and violence. Julia Sugarbaker was our collective hero when she shut down Ray Don Simpson, but it has hardened us, no? Being told to smile or be more pleasant.
Key Part of the video below:
A middle-aged man interrupts the ladies in a sushi bar:
MAN: Allow me to introduce myself — Ray Don Simpson.
JULIA: There’s no need for introductions, Ray Don, we know who you are.
RAY DON: (smiling) You do?
JULIA: Of course. You’re the guy who is always wherever women gather or try to be alone. You want to eat with us when we’re dining in hotels, you want to know if the book we’re reading is any good, or if you can keep us company on the plane. And I want to thank you, Ray Don, on behalf of all the women in the world, for your unfailing attention and concern. But read my lips and remember, as hard as it is to believe, sometimes we like talking just to each other, and sometimes we like just being alone.
For me, the lesson at the end of this is TALK TO PEOPLE. Seriously. Just talk to all of the people. What can we learn about life if we only speak to people in our own circles; in our own demographic or neighborhoods? Speak to people of different races, different abilities, and people well outside of your economic class, both wealthier and poorer.
For god’s sake, don’t let TV, or internet, or media be your guide to understanding others. Don’t assume that ‘The L Word’ speaks for all LGBT people, any more than watching “The Wire” makes you an expert on people of color.
Maybe try it out. Look someone right in the eye today and say hello. If you don’t share a language, at least share a smile and if you know them well, make sure to ask “How’s your mama?”
Free Radicals will be CLOSED for Thanksgiving and Black Friday
Here’s the skinny:
There are a ton of good reasons not to shop on Thanksgiving and the day after. Here are just a few:
We used to call it Buy Nothing Day, and although that particular social movement has been moved to the weekend, we still celebrate the focus of it. I am not just talking about major retailers here; we literally buy nothing on those 2 days. As for me and mine, we will NOT shop on Turkey day or the day after. At All. If we run out of milk, whiskey, or toilet paper we are shit out of luck (yep. Intended.) so we try to make sure that we have all of the necessities needed in house before Turkey Day begins.
“But, why?” you ask… “What’s the big deal, Grinch? You don’t like the holidays?”
Not particularly, but we’ll get back to that in a bit.
You can certainly Grinch out on the commercial gift giving that surrounds this season and that is worthy of a long blog post in itself. We can argue the merits of big business vs. small business vs. mom & pop vs. handmade vs. homemade vs. no gifts at all. There are a thousand shades of grey between not funding corporate Christmas and buying handmade only (but where do they get their supplies, these crafters??) But no matter where you fall on the gift giving spectrum, we can probably agree that Black Friday (and now Blacker Thursday) are commercial inventions built only to serve an excess in purchasing. I mean really, there are 363 other days of the year that you can purchase your gifties for the loved ones in your life. So maybe let’s not join the orgy of buying that is Black Friday.
|There is also a little hitch in my step when I think about excess. I understand that this is a bit odd coming from a shop owner, business person, and capitalist who depends on the sales of things to pay my own rent and bills. But stick with me. I love stuff. LOVE IT. I also love stuffing my face as much as the next guy.|
|But I am a bit thrown off by a holiday season that has grown into so very much excess. We joke about what we can do with all of these damned leftovers when 1 out of 3 children in New Mexico are under nourished. If you choose to walk through a mall department store this season you will see tables and tables full of tiny, cheap, junk things that no one really wants; they are purchased as impulse items so that folks will have “more things to unwrap”. Maybe this year, in celebration of moderation, you could have an intimate, average sized dinner with your loved ones. And maybe just buy them one nice thing that they really wanted.
Now I certainly understand that there are plenty of folks who don’t give a rip about Thanksgiving and don’t mind working on that particular Thursday or Friday. I used to be one of them. Back when I was 18 and a family dinner meant a 10 hour commitment and a Bataan death march of politically correct small talk, I didn’t mind having to go into work. It cut my family dinner shift in half, and I was letting someone else at work off the hook by volunteering. Not to mention the grad thesis we could write on the ‘celebrating genocide’ part of the argument…
| But for me these days, it’s not a Thanksgiving issue. It’s a class issue. That’s right, buckle up… here we go. Many (not all) people who have white collar jobs have routinely enjoyed certain holidays off. Usually the big 5. It would be unheard of to ask an executive level employee to clock in on a national holiday. But for those of us in the service industry trenches, we are fully expected to be working on the holidays with a smile on our collective faces. Ever work at a porn shop on Christmas day? I have.
For generations, Thanksgiving and Christmas were 2 days that many of us in service *might* be able to have off. And every year more and more shops, stores, and restaurants are open on T-Day and X-mas. So if you find yourself in a lower income bracket, or are under-educated, you will likely find yourself working on one or both of these days. It’s not about Thanksgiving. It is about one class of people’s family time being valued more than another.
| And, although that’s just one more example of “those with the money make the rules” as consumers, WE ARE the ones with the money…
So back to my own family. We don’t shop on these days at all because we believe in voting with our dollars. As psychology has taught us: principles are a terrible predictor of behavior. Just look at congressional approval rate vs rate of incumbent reelection! We may cry and cry for change, we may all agree that Wal-Mart is a terrible soul eating corporation, but there they are…still raking in billions. Because people keep shopping there. Lots of people. It may seem hard to believe sometimes, but business really is as simple as supply and demand. If something doesn’t sell well in my shop, it goes to clearance and I don’t re-order it. Done.
If no one shopped, or bought gas, or went to goddamned McDonald’s on Thanksgiving, or Black Friday, or Christmas, they’d close on those days. It’s that simple. If no one shopped, there would be no reason to open.
|To those in the trenches, I’m sorry you have to work ungoldy hours on a National Holiday. We promise not to be part of the problem.|
Good news, everybody! Here at Free Radicals, we’ve been spending some time in the laboratory cooking up some new experimental combinations. Most of them have been horrific failures (you should NEVER cross Ann Coulter’s DNA with …. anything?) After multiple failures and scenes that can’t be unseen, we’ve concocted a cocktail made in heaven! Free Radicals is excited to announce a partnership with sister store, Amberjoy’s Vintage Closet, in sunny Las Vegas, Nevada! A second location (especially in Las Vegas!) is the biggest damn thing to happen to Free Radicals since we moved across the street in 2007!
This rebel alliance will allow Vegas low-lifes some of the tasty Free Radicals swag that Albuquerque delinquents have been enjoying for over a decade. Amberjoy’s Vintage Closet is Las Vegas’ swingingest vintage resale boutique, and Free Radicals is Albuquerque’s premier and original lowbrow new clothing boutique. Together, we will bring fashion and bad ideas to the masses!
Burquenos, if you find yourself in Las Vegas any time soon, please drop in and say “hi” to Amber! She’s got a tremendous selection of swank Vegas vintage gear that you just can’t find locally. And if any Sin City denizens regain consciousness in Burque, come on by and let us show off the power of this fully operational Punk/Greaser/Pinup station!
Another Day of the Dead has passed. A visit to the graves, handling the touchstones that remind us of those passed.
I was raised in a culture very different than where I live now. I never connected to the way I was taught to deal with loss and death; never felt like there was a proper salve for the wound. Since moving to New Mexico I have embraced this particular sacred day. It sits well with my heart.
I am blessed to be part of a community that has welcomed me and mine with open arms. A community that has never held me at arms length, punishing me for the color of my skin (or the lack of pigment therein). No one has squawked “Cultural Appropriation” and asked me to leave.
I love this place! The sunrises, the quite, the dusk, the food, the desert itself, but most of all I love that I found a place that is as welcoming and laid back as the place I left behind
Some guy from the Hispano Chamber of Commerce just asked me if we were chamber members. I replied “no”. He asked “why not” and then threw his business card at me and walked out. Pretty sure he answered his own question there.
|We are located on the SE corner of Lead and Yale in the Bricklight Underground district of Albuquerque, New Mexico|
|300 Yale Blvd SE
Albuquerque, NM 87106
|Tuesday||10am til 8pm|
|Wednesday||10am til 8pm|
|Thursday||10am til 8pm|
|Friday||10am til 8pm|
|Saturday||10am til 8pm|
GPS location: N35° 4.6167′, W106° 37.3248′
I’d say farewell, but I don’t wish you well. You have been a shitty year and I don’t regret telling you so.
You were filled with friends and customers losing jobs, friend businesses going out of business, 3 deaths in my family, loss of friends and family, a shitty economy, and a general malaise.
I won’t ask much of you, but lets see if we can’t do better this time.
Everyone have a safe and Happy New Year and lets rock 2011!
Sorry to anyone who has had trouble with our technology lately! In short, it has sucked!
But… (duh duh daaaaa) the phones are back up AND the website is getting a LONG overdue sprucing up. So if you are shopping online and things go funny, just give the zombies a minute and reload. They will be hammering away on the keys to make shopping easier for everybody!
|Articles||Best of Burque||Video|
- Alibi. V.19 No.51 | December 23 – 29, 2010 All Torn Up about Lead & Coal
- Alibi Blog Mon Nov 8 2010 2:56 PM Scenes from the Lead / Coal construction Mess
- Alibi Blog Sat May 29 2010 9:00 AM Wrench On
- Alibi V.19 No.20 | May 20 – 26, 2010 Rubber, Meet Road
- Alibi Picks Sat Apr 24 2010 8:00 AM Car Talk
- Alibi V.17 No.19 | May 8 – 14, 2008 Roller Champs
- AlibiV.17 No.43 | October 23 – 29, 2008 Buckets of Linseed Oil
- Alibi V.14 No.42 | October 20 – 26, 2005 First DCD article EVER!
Best Women’s Apparel
300 Yale SE
Stifled refinement, be damned. Free Radicals caters to lady punkers, goths, rockabilly chicks and horror enthusiasts. Whether you’re trying to impersonate Bettie Page or find a locally crafted hair bow with a skull on it, look no further.
All Torn Up About Lead and Coal
Business owners are shocked by the roadwork, but the city says they should have seen it coming
No one was prepared for this renovation. That’s the prevailing response from business owners on Lead who, for the next 18-months, will watch 35 blocks in their neighborhood undergo extensive construction. But city representatives are quick to say that they have been communicating with residents and businesses about the road rehab—for more than 20 years.
“This didn’t happen overnight. Nothing this big would happen overnight,” says Mark Motsko, spokesperson for the Department of Municipal Development. He says that the overhaul of Lead and Coal has been in the works since 1989.
Five neighborhood associations came to the city with the request to transform the one-ways from speedy thoroughfares to streets with more of a “neighborhood feel,” Motsko says. The city hired a design consultant in 2006, Wilson and Company. Two years later, Lead and Coal were downsized from three lanes to two.
In 2007 and 2009, voters approved about $4 million in city bonds for the renovation, Motsko says. The bulk of the funding comes from federal stimulus dollars handed down by Gov. Bill Richardson.
In May, bidding for the construction contract began. In September, that contract was won by Albuquerque Underground, Inc., which, along with its 12 potential subcontractors, will be paid about $26,500,000. The goals are to make the roads more aesthetically pleasing and pedestrian friendly, to install a new drainage system and to upgrade traffic light technology.
The city’s camp treats the project as an extension of a long-running, well-documented neighborhood enrichment plan. But the Lead business owners say that it was an overnight shock that will challenge their customer traffic and revenue for 18 months, assuming they can stay open that long.
Nan and John Morningstar have owned Free Radicals, a punk clothing boutique at the corner of Lead and Yale, for eight years. About two weeks before roadwork began on Nov. 8, someone from the construction company came to the store asking if their parking lot could be rented out. The Morningstars say that was the first time they’d heard the project was actually moving forward.
Several city representatives point out that a media campaign was mounted. Nan Morningstar says she knew something was coming—she just didn’t know what or when. “It’s been in the papers on and off for a couple years,” Morningstar says, “But the papers have been really nondescript about whether or not it was actually gonna happen, and what was gonna happen.”
Katie Calico of the The Talking Fountain Gallery first heard of the construction from an attendee at one of her art openings. “We knew about two days before it started,” she says.
Policy Analyst Diane Dolan at Councilor Isaac Benton’s office says that public outreach would have been “handled by the Department of Municipal Development and their consultants and contractors.” And those organizations maintain that they have been communicating with businesses and residents.
According to a report e-mailed to the Alibi by PR company Cooney, Watson and Associates, there was an Oct. 13 meeting. None of the three businesses the Alibi spoke with say they knew about it before it took place. Beyond that, the most recent public outreach occurred in May 2009.
Project Manager Savina Garcia refers to a “contact drive” in the summer of 2009 where a task force, made up mostly of the neighborhood associations that are pushing the project, went door-to-door to inform residents and businesses about the construction.
As for 2010, it does not appear that the city, its consultants or the neighborhood organizations made any contact with Lead’s small business owners to let them know of the project. “There’s always a lull in there,” Garcia says. “We made our best effort.”
Building owners were notified, but because many of the businesses lease their property, they were not directly informed.
“If landlords don’t tell residents or lessees, that’s not something we can control,” says Councilor Rey Garduño.
This chain of deferral mirrors another communications process Lead business owners have had to face: They don’t know how to reach city officials to discuss their problems.
Calico says the PR representatives have been helpful, and the Morningstars say the same of the construction crews they’ve talked to. But when it comes to voicing concerns to the city, none of the business owners are quite sure where to turn.
“I’ve had no contact with the city at all,” Nan Morningstar says. “Anytime I’ve e-mailed them, they’ve forwarded my e-mails to someone for the construction company. The city has been invisible as far as I can tell. Although I’ve had excellent response from the construction companies. They’ve been really helpful.”
“Everything Is Gone”
Daryoush Varyani opened the Saffron Café, a Persian restaurant, in December 2009. He’s not sure where to turn. “He doesn’t know to whom he can contact,” says his cousin, Payam Hasanzadeh, a waiter at Saffron who interprets for Varyani.
Varyani says he has seen a 70 percent decline in revenue over the last month. Before the construction, business was, “very good,” Varyani says, and the restaurant saw more customers every day. “After they bring the construction, everything is gone,” he adds.
Varyani has been speaking with an attorney, Josh Simms. “The city goes around and does these projects and gives very little thought about the impact they might have on a business,” Simms says.
While the other shopkeepers aren’t resorting to such drastic approaches, the Morningstars have their reasons to worry. Like Varyani, customers are phoning the shop, trying to find out if it’s still possible to access their business.
“People are calling to ask us: How do I get to you during the construction?” Nan Morningstar says. “I’ve had local customers ask if I can mail them merchandise, if they can just do it over the phone because they don’t want to come down.”
As of press time, Councilor Benton had only received four complaints from people affected by the construction. “As far as we’re concerned, there’s not much of an effect because we haven’t been told otherwise,” says Dolan, Benton’s policy analyst.
Both Benton and Garduño say they are open to setting up meetings with their constituents. “I am very willing to get together with any of those folks,” Garduño says. “I can make sure their concerns are heard.”
Motsko and Watson point to a website, leadandcoal.com, that gives detailed daily plans for the construction process. It shows how the area has been cordoned off into four zones that will be worked on one at a time, first for nine months on Coal, and then for nine months on Lead. At the project’s end, both streets will once again be one-ways with two lanes.
The Morningstars say this website might have been more valuable had they been notified about it earlier. “It’s chock-full of information,” says Nan, “but we didn’t receive any mail-outs or door tags or any sort of information that there was somewhere to go to know that construction was imminent.”
Beyond the communication problems is a larger issue of whether this is the best use for millions in state-allocated funds. Councilor Benton isn’t so sure.
“If I would have had my druthers, I would have split and used that $25 million around the district,” says Benton. He adds that the Lead and Coal project “wouldn’t have been my top priority.”
John Morningstar agrees, saying that while he is not against improvements, “I’m not convinced that what they’re claiming are needs are actual, legitimate concerns. I’m not convinced that these things were actually wrong.”
One reason the neighborhood alliances and the city give for the spending is the reputation of the streets as speeding areas.
“What they’re getting at the end of the project will be really, really great,” Motsko says. “Very pedestrian friendly. Traffic will still be able to flow through the area, but it won’t feel like a Nascar race.”
Nan Morningstar isn’t so sure. “Perhaps I’m a layman, but I don’t understand how better drainage and wider sidewalks is gonna keep people from speeding,” she says. “There’s still two lanes on timed traffic lights, and I don’t think it has anything to do with speed.”
Business owners like the Morningstars are more concerned with how the traffic is now than how it was before the construction began. Drivers can’t make lefts onto the smaller streets along Lead. Calico points to the area in front of her store. “People flip U-turns in this parking lot, sometimes like seven or eight in an hour,” she says. The Morningstars report having the same problem. Calico had a meeting with the PR reps to discuss what could be done. They said they would bring barrels to block her driveway.
Motsko explains that left turns would lead to congested traffic. He says that because Lead is a two-way now, with only one lane in each direction, anyone trying to turn left would hold up the drivers behind them while they waited for oncoming traffic to cease. “If a lot of people want to turn left, then you have gridlock, and it’s just a mess.”
People will realize that Lead and Coal traffic can be avoided by taking Lomas, Central or Gibson, he adds. “It’s gonna take some time to change those attitudes and to change those behaviors, and it’ll happen.”
Still, Motsko says he doesn’t think diverting traffic takes business away from Lead. “You’ll still be able to get to the businesses,” Motsko says. If people want a service on Lead, he adds, they will seek it out.
In the event that business does dip, the Morningstars want to know if the city would offer financial aid. “Any sort of help or reimbursement or matching funds or anything—tax breaks to businesses,” Nan Morningstar says. But where other states have the ability to supplement affected businesses with advertising funds, Dolan and Motsko say that that is not possible in New Mexico. The “city can’t under state law pay for advertising for those businesses,” Dolan says, citing the state constitution’s anti-donation clause.
In lieu of these shortcomings, Dolan and Motsko both point to a business directory on leadandcoal.com. They say it will help promote all businesses affected by the construction. Dolan says it should be available soon
|Scenes from the Lead/Coal construction Mess
I’m on Yale, creeping from Silver to Coal over the course of 15 minutes. My journey began at Cornell, about a block away from my destination. But construction has routed me in a giant U, and now my car is guzzling gas while all the students and University area customers simultaneously try to use the single-laned roads.
The Morningstars put a sign in front of their store, Free Radicals, on Yale and Lead that says something to the effect of: Road destruction will continue until you buy clothes from us.
It’s late, 11:30 p.m. I tried to take Garfield heading east. I turn left onto my street, then meet a barricade. The rules have changed again. Now, you can’t cross Coal. I sit, exhausted, wondering what to do next. In my weary state, I’m wondering if there’s even a path left to get to my house. Into my headlights walks a baseball cap-wearing neighbor. He moves the barrels for me, laughs, and says he hasn’t much cared for the construction himself.
I’m getting my mail. Down the street, I see a nearby business owner on his phone, angrily moving the barrels back into place. People have been cutting across his parking lot to get onto Lead. He sits on the curb, frustrated.
I’m riding my bike to work to avoid the morning traffic inching along the too small streets; Silver and Yale are just not ready for this many drivers. On Silver, careless and impatient road warriors, so many more than usual, try to cut around me. They pass way too close. I wait to cross Yale and continue down the designated Bicycle Boulevard. It’s taking some time, as the traffic is bad. The car behind me begins to honk. Finally, I can cross. A driver patiently stops to let me through. The truck behind him honks.
I can’t be the only one driving in circles, reminiscing about the good ol’ days (a week or two ago), when things were better, simple. Lead went west, two lanes. Coal went east, two lanes. Life was good.
Wrecks, Rods & Wrenches is today. Nan and John Morningstar host the event at their store, Free Radicals (300 Yale SE), from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. People bring their classic project vehicles, and mechanics and enthusiasts share their knowledge.
From an article I did on hot rods:
Nan Morningstar was a kid when she saw her first classic car. “I didn’t know what it was, but I thought it was beautiful, and I wanted it. My dad told me we couldn’t have old cars because they were for rich people. That paused my interest in cars for more than a decade.” Later in life, she left college to join an automotive tech program at a community college. It was a two-year program, and students could get a series of national certifications. There she met her soon-to-be husband. “It was liberating to go to tech school and get the skill set and the knowledge to learn how to do this on my budget and terms instead of it being a rich kids’ club.”
She was the only woman in auto school, but she says there are more and more. Plenty show up to the monthly WRW event on the last Saturday of every month. “Anyone can do it,” she says. “I can’t imagine driving a modern car.”
Hot Rods For Drivers
Trailer queens. That’s what you call classic cars put on trailers and driven to car shows. They live in locked garages, Nan Morningstar says. “People buy antique cars as an investment and spend thousands making them beautiful.”
Neither Morningstar nor fellow mechanic and hot rod enthusiast Cletus Riedel build trailer queens. That’s why all five of the Morningstars’ family cars and their two motorcycles are daily drivers. That’s why Cletus Riedel put together the Hot Rod Rumble at the Albuquerque Dragway. He’s promoting the driving of vehicles. “At car shows, you walk around. The cars don’t move. But they’re actually pieces of machinery that work usually,” he says. “I thought it’d be great to get a chance to drive them, and give everyone a chance to stretch their legs a little bit.”
Riedel’s always worked on cars. “My father played with cars. I’ve got a younger brother involved in drag racing.” And he’s always loved older cars. Working on them is more nuanced than working on new vehicles, he says. Modern cars can be plugged into a computer that will tell you what’s wrong. “Older cars, you just got to pay attention. You got to listen to them a little,” he says. “You’re very attached to an old car. You’ve got to feel it out a little bit, and sometimes hit it with a hammer. It’s just a very different way of thinking.”
“Older cars, you just got to pay attention. You got to listen to them a little.”
When Riedel says old, he means old. He’s got a ’64 Ford Falcon that he calls a “little bit newer car.” His daily driver is a 1936 Ford pickup. He can always find it in a parking lot, he says. “I have to practice what I preach. I think you should be able to drive them, so I tend to drive them.” And he’s had to touch every bolt on it at least once.
He’s also got a 1931 Ford coupe with five windows, a 1935 Ford two-door sedan, a 1949 Chevy pickup and a 1959 Volkswagen bus. “There’s probably some other stuff, but I’ll just leave it at that,” he laughs. “They’re all in different states of whatever.” Riedel quit his engineering job five years ago to open an auto shop in the North Valley. He collects parts, and when he has everything needs, he “puts something together.”
So which one is his favorite? “The … truck?” he hesitates. “Well, I’m standing in front of it, so I should probably tell it that it’s my favorite.” A lot of hot-rodders gravitate to the early Fords, he says, and he prefers his Chevys a little newer. Riedel’s drawn to a historically significant period of hot rod, he says. Guys coming back from World War II bought ’32 roadsters. They would strip them down and remove the fenders in pursuit of speed. In that tradition, his truck doesn’t have fenders. “It’s open-wheeled. It’s louder than it should be. It’s meant to go fast. It’s not the most comfortable thing to spend time in.”
Morningstar’s in that camp, too. She’s got a 1977 Toyota Celica that has a fuel-injected 5.0 engine from a Mustang. “I don’t need my car to be pretty,” she says. “I want it to be fun to drive.” She and her husband John pull vehicles out of the junkyard or buy them out of people’s yards. A normal budget for a car, start to finish, is about $1,000. They’re true budget builds, she says. “We buy cars really cheap. People don’t know how to get them running. That’s our skill set.”
“It was liberating to go to tech school and get the skill set and the knowledge to learn how to do this on my budget and terms instead of it being a rich kids’ club.”
Morningstar was a kid when she saw her first classic car. “I didn’t know what it was, but I thought it was beautiful, and I wanted it. My dad told me we couldn’t have old cars because they were for rich people. That paused my interest in cars for more than a decade.” Later in life, she left college to join an automotive tech program at a community college. It was a two-year program, and students could get a series of national certifications. There she met her soon-to-be husband. “It was liberating to go to tech school and get the skill set and the knowledge to learn how to do this on my budget and terms instead of it being a rich kids’ club.”
She worked in Honda and Nissan dealerships for years, but found it was a tough way to make a living, she says. “It’s hard on the body. Most of the guys I worked with had bad backs and arthritis in their 30s.” Plus, it stole her fire for working on hot rod projects. Right now, the Morningstars own what Riedel would think of as newer cars: a 1960 Plymouth Belvedere, a 1960 Cadillac hearse, a 1976 Chrysler Cordoba that’s built to race on dirt circle tracks, and a 1963 Ford Falcon station wagon that will be done up tiki-style with bamboo and thatch in the interior.
There’s a stark divide in the way male mechanics treat women in the field, Morningstar says. “I’ve found that trying to deal with men as someone who knows about cars—professionally or as a hobbyist—either they don’t trust you and think you don’t know what you’re talking about, or you’re like the cool daughter they never had.” She was the only woman in auto school, but she says there are more and more. Plenty show up to the monthly Wrecks, Rods and Wrenches event on the last Saturday of every month at Free Radicals, the store the Morningstars own. People bring their projects down and get them ready to drive on the track or maybe just on the road. Mechanics and enthusiasts share their knowledge and wrench on their vehicles. “Anyone can do it,” she says. “I can’t imagine driving a modern car.”
Albuquerque is a safe haven for passionate gearheads and DIY mechanics. On top of the endless days of radiant sunshine and mild, salt-less winters, it also boasts a thriving car culture built on the rock-solid foundation of old Route 66. On the last Saturday of each month through October, bring your pre-’65 auto project and your own tools to Free Radicals (300 Yale SE) for Wrecks, Rods and Wrenches. Meet up with like-minded wrench-turners and swap tricks of the trade to make that old hot rod or muscle car road-worthy once again. For more information, call 254-3764 or visit freeradicalshq.com. (Adam Fox)
Duke City Derby grasps its highest national ranking and finds a new home
All it wanted was a place to hang its helmet.
Duke City Derby left its home court at Midnight Rodeo and spent the season trying to put a new home together. While DCD waited for a rink to emerge, skaters busied themselves by whipping squads from other states. The all-star travel team Muñecas Muertas beat the Kansas City Roller Warriors to earn a spot in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association Championships in mid-November. Kansas City was ranked No. 1 in the nation before falling to the Muñecas.
There was a time when the Duke City all-star team was not such a force on wheels, but Nan Morningstar, co-founder, says the team’s commitment to defense has paid big dividends. The game was close, but Kansas City only led twice in a match that was mostly controlled by the Muñecas.
According to Morningstar, many all-star teams in other cities have a larger pool of players to select from when deciding who should join their squad. But, she says, the Duke City Derby has always faced tough obstacles like not having a permanent practice space or a regulation rink. “We have a tenacity,” Morningstar says. “All that we’ve done is an incredible statement about our perseverance.”
Katie “The Vixenator” Larntz says not having an Albuquerque arena has toughened up the Muñecas. “We’ve never had a home crowd advantage,” Larntz says. “We’ve had to go into people’s homes and kick people’s butts to get a national ranking.”
“We’ve had to go into people’s homes and kick people’s butts to get a national ranking.”
Katie “The Vixenator” Larntz
Larntz is also eager to prove the win against Kansas City wasn’t a fluke. To that end, the Muñecas practice five times a week in preparation for their debut at the National Championships. “We’ve been working really hard,” Larntz says. “We’re getting better with our speed and working together as a team.”
Getting all 20 team members to Portland, Ore., for the championships in November won’t be cheap. The derby needs to raise money to get there. Morningstar hopes to capitalize on the sport’s growing recognition in the mainstream sports community. She says hockey and rugby fans in particular are starting to appreciate roller derby. “One of our goals is to begin to see ourselves less in the living section and more in the sports section,” Morningstar says. “It’s becoming recognized more for the sport that it is.”
Though it’s gone from a small group of players to a league of four teams, Morningstar says the Duke City Derby is still a close-knit family that cherishes its supporters, new and old. “Derby is still a rock ‘n’ roll sport,” Morningstar says. “The fans are still what make us come out and play.”
“Derby is still a rock ‘n’ roll sport.”
Nan Morningstar, co-founder
Duke City Derby used to play all its home games at the old Midnight Rodeo nightclub, which is now Club Fantasia. Certain architectural features, such as inconveniently placed poles, meant players had to tone down their aggressiveness to avoid injuring fellow competitors. The risk of someone getting seriously hurt was too real to ignore, and last year, Duke City Derby stopped having matches at its old locale.
The derby’s search for a home ended when it secured the 7,000-seat Santa Ana Star Center. Other than the occasional Santa Fe vs. Albuquerque game in the City Different, players who aren’t on the Muñecas haven’t been playing regular, organized games in front of an audience. When the crowd returns, Morningstar says the quality of the product they see on the track will be “ten times better,” than it was a year ago. Players’ skills have continued to improve, and Morningstar is anxious to coax fans to the Star Center. “We lost a whole home season,” Morningstar says. “We’re going to have to court fans to get them to come back.”
The season doesn’t start until April, but you can catch a preseason game between the Santa Fe Disco Brawlers and Albuquerque’s best players at the college of Santa Fe on Sunday, Oct. 26, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $7 in advance at Free Radicals or $10 at the door. Duke City Derby is also hosting a benefit concert at the Launchpad on Thursday, Oct. 30. Creepshow, Telestai and Coke is Better with Bourbon will lend a hand, as will Burlesque Noir. The 21-plus show starts at 9 p.m. and costs $7.
Immediately after going to press on last week’s Music To Your Ears column (Owl Green’s, cornbread, yadda yadda), Free Radicals proprietess Nan Morningstar sent us word that she’s also carrying Launchpad-Brand Linseed Oil T-shirts at her greaser-punk lifestyle store. All of the profits from the $20 shirts benefit Launchpad employees whose jobs went up in smoke with the Golden West fire. March into 300 Yale SE (at Silver, and the building’s painted leopard-print—you shouldn’t have a hard time “spotting” it), or shop online at www.FreeRadicalsHQ.com.
The Duke City Derby rolls into town
Finally, the Midnight Rodeo is home to more than just cheap drinks and tipsy rancheros itchin’ to break in their new Wranglers. As of October, the club opened its doors—and floors—to Duke City Derby (DCD), Albuquerque’s first and only all-girl roller derby league.
That’s right, Albuquerque has a roller derby league, complete with all the body-checking, skate-tripping and sailor-cursing anyone could possibly want from a game.This begs but one question: What the hell is roller derby, anyway? Actually, it depends on who you talk to.
“It’s really … cool,” said Nan Morningstar, founder of DCD.
Some elaboration, please?
“It’s advertised as basically an all-out brawl,” said Team Captain Michela Dai Zovi.
OK, we’re getting closer to a real explanation.
“It’s a mixture of entertainment and actual sports,” said founding member Sheena Whitaker. “This is not just a race, it’s a full-contact race.”
In case anyone remembers, classic derby surged in the late ’50s as a comical and staged kind of WWF-on-skates, where two teams would race around a track to score points by passing as many other skaters as possible while staging dramatic fights and dirty plays solely for the sake of entertainment. Such televised events led to quick public popularity, and the sport hung around for a number of years, only to wane out in the early ’70s. It enjoyed brief comebacks in the late ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, but never caught on as it had in its glory days.
Then, in 2001, a group of women in Austin wanted to start a revival, with more emphasis on competition and less on theatrics. They recruited skaters, formed a league and currently operate under the name Lonestar Rollergirls. Since then, they’ve formed five teams, and today draw upward of 1,300 spectators at every event. Other leagues soon followed, popping up everywhere from Philadelphia to Detroit to Seattle, and now, Albuquerque.
DCD found its meager beginnings last November when Morningstar stumbled upon another league’s website. It looked like a good idea, she said, and could only give one answer as to why.
“That’s the question I shouldn’t answer with, ‘I really like yelling and hitting stuff,’” she said, although that also would have done nicely. “It’s a lot of fun to play hard, hit hard and get hit hard, and then go get beers afterwards—to beat each other up and still be friends.”
The skaters also want to make something perfectly clear.
“We do not endorse choreographed or planned game antics,” said derby Referee Jennifer Holland, adding that while fights will incur a minor penalty, some things are not tolerated. “If someone kicks someone in the face with a skate, I get to kick them out. There’s illegal and then there’s … wrong. I want a dunce hat for girls who have to sit out.”
“I don’t want to see staged fights,” Whitaker concurred. “It all has to do with our legitimacy.”
Real fights make for the best injuries, anyhow.
“We’ve had three sprained knees and a broken ankle,” Morningstar said. “Those are the only major ones—but everyone always has cuts and bruises. The most common injuries in roller derby are broken ankles and dislocated shoulders. We make it a point to take injury pictures; it’s all very exciting.”
The league has two teams so far—one prison themed, one hot-rod themed—and for an Oct. 8 practice bout, each entered the Midnight Rodeo dressed the part. Big House Brawlers wore short skirts and tight tops covered in black-and-white stripes while Dead Man’s Curves had on little blue dresses with checkers down the side. Each player made her own uniform.
Some curious employees lingering around the Midnight Rodeo raised an eyebrow at this spectacle of skaters. With Morningstar’s (a.k.a. Molotov Cocktease’s) green hair, Whitaker’s pink hair and Dai Zovi’s punky red hair, they alone looked like a bag of Skittles; not to mention the rest of the skaters’ spiked belts, chains, fishnets and piercings.
“I think roller derby is more of a spectacle than a lot of sports,” Dai Zovi said. “For that, it’s probably never going to be respected like a lot of sports.”
It is up for debate whether derby falls within the realm of an actual sport, but if the numerous bottles of Gatorade standing all over the bar during the bout were any indication, there’s no question about it.
“There’s a lot of entertainment value,” Whitaker said. “We have the costumes and the music, but it is a sport. It takes time and diligent practice. It’s not like, ‘Hey let’s take a hot punk chick and put her on skates and throw some music behind her.’ You can see people who have worked really hard at what they’re doing, but there’s also a fun lightheartedness to it. ”
After the bout begins, complete with play-by-play commentary by Jocelyn Jackson (a.k.a. Hoochie Minh), the sweat dripping from under the skaters’ helmets speaks for itself—these ladies play just as hard and just as rough as any football player, except with more speed and less padding.
Seven players are on each team and one of them is designated as the Jammer, or the point-scorer for her team. How many points she scores is determined by how many other skaters she passes as she dodges shoulders, legs, arms and sometimes entire bodies aimed at taking her out. It can get ugly.
“Titty-twisters are illegal!” Jackson shouted into her microphone as the bout got heated. “Sheena Slaughter, shame on you!”
There’ll be a lot more where that came from on Oct. 22, when Duke City Derby debuts their exhibition match. The bout will comprise three 20-minute periods and a 20-minute intermission, during which local rockabilly band The Roustabouts will perform.
Morningstar said because there were so many bumps on the track to finally starting up the derby in Albuquerque, finally seeing this exhibition take shape is extremely gratifying.
“We’ve almost been at this a whole year now,” she said. “At first, we had nowhere to play games or have good practice time. The owners of Midnight Rodeo are extremely cooperative and friendly, and hopefully we can make that our home. And actually being able to play roller derby in a bar is a fantastic gimmick.”
The last, and perhaps most important, thing DCD needs now is simply more skaters.
“We need more girls,” Morningstar said. “All the hard stuff has already fallen into place—we found a place to play, we figured out how to play, we got the league started—now all we need is recruitment. The first step is to come out to our new skater practices which are every Sunday at Roller King at 6 p.m. Oh, and you must be a girl, and you must be at least 18.”
To get in on the Roller Derby experience, check out DCD’s exhibition match at the Midnight Rodeo on Oct. 22. Doors open at 3 p.m., and the game starts at 4 p.m. Tickets are available for $5 at Free Radicals or at the door. Kids 12-and-under get in free.