This is a guest column written by Rudolfo Carrillo submitted for publication on this blog.
Rudolfo Carrillo is a native New Mexican and was the news and music editor at Weekly Alibi from August 2015 until March 2020, where he used the pen name “August March” to write about Albuquerque culture, history and politics. He is a graduate of the University of New Mexico’s fine arts program. His award-winning writing and analysis have been featured at international academic conferences, in notable literary journals as well as in local media outlets like the Albuquerque Journal. His latest work can be read at Infinity Report with the link here:
EDITOR’S DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this article are those of Rudolfo Carrillo and do not necessarily reflect those of the political blog www.petedinelli.com. Rudolfo Carrillo was not compensated for the guest column.
HEADLINE: People, Politics and the Profession; A Humanized March Contemplates the Future
My first job was working for the Albuquerque Publishing Company, delivering copies of the Albuquerque Tribune to homes in the far Northeast Heights.
Every day, after school—and on Saturday afternoons, too—my brother and I would pick up 420 copies of the Trib from a fellow named Joe Archuleta. We’d roll the papers up with rubber bands and spend the next four hours distributing them to humans who enjoyed reading the latest in Albuquerque news.
One of my favorite customers was an elderly gentleman named George Savarese. He’d come out of his house every day to greet me and talk about what was in that day’s Home Edition of the Albuquerque Tribune.
Mr. Savarese told me he appreciated our conversations about local politics; he didn’t talk to anyone much anymore, but liked to write letters to Ralph Looney, the paper’s editor. He counseled me to do the same, saying writing would give me an opportunity to tell more people about the ideas we would discuss on his front lawn as roadrunners sprinted by and the late-summer sun bathed the city in a warm, golden glow.
Anyway, I wrote a couple letters to Looney. He published them on the letters page and then wrote me back in the fall, asking if I would like to be an intern at the Tribune or Journal. By the time I was 16, I was working in both newsrooms, but, because of my school schedule, most of the action I saw was at the Journal.
At the Albuquerque Journal, I got to work with folks like Tom Harmon and Jim Belshaw. It was fun and a great learning experience. I wrote all sorts of articles for the Youth page in the Trends section. At the Albuquerque Tribune, when the opportunity arose, I chased copy up and down the stairs for Howard Bryan and Looney.
Looney was an interesting, super-informed generalist. He also wrote a column that featured a fictional character named Feedlot Joe. Looney used his literary invention to candidly and successfully speak to many issues that might otherwise have been anathema to the Trib’s older, more conservative readership.
More importantly, Looney was a champion journalist, to his readers, publishers and staff. Upon his death, veteran Tribune reporter Howard Bryan wrote, “He knew what interested people. Looney was interested in the history of the state as well as the news of the day. And he took a personal interest in the people who worked for him. We weren’t just bylines to him.”
[“Ralph Looney Obituary”, September 8, 2000, in The Albuquerque Journal. http://obits.abqjournal.com/obits/show/120692]
That brings us to the overarching theme—as well as offering some insight into the inspiration for the narrative style contained therein—of today’s guest column. A grand tip of the hat then, to Mr. Looney. Without him, there would never have been a Feedlot Joe nor an August March.
COOKING WITH AUGIE
The other day I happened to be Downtown purchasing gasoline when I turned and saw a large, soundless puff of smoke appear in the distance behind me. I swear by hizzoner Tim Keller’s love for sportsball that, at first, I feared the growing apparition in my rearview mirror might be some sort of demonic visitation; perhaps Manny Gonzales had finally succeeded in getting some private funding after all and now Ol’ Scratch was here in town to check things out, you know, collateral-wise.
Of course, I was wrong about that. Gonzales ain’t about to walk down to the crossroads anytime soon; there would be too much of a chance that he might run into his mentor—an association he wants voters to forget all about as Election Day approaches.
[“Sheriff’s visit to Trump White House draws ire”, by Elise Kaplan in the Albuquerque Journal, July 22, 2020:
Anyway, it turned out the smoke was just August March getting ready for work. I know this to be true because—following my deepest journalistic instincts—I tracked down the billowing formation and had a word or two with the old lunatic.
“What have you been up to, compadre?” I gravely inquired, as I approached March. Fanning the voluminous smoke away with my bare hands, I noticed he was wearing a chef’s uniform.
“Well, sir, I’ve plumb given up on all that journalism and PR stuff I was telling you about earlier this summer.”
“You mean that time you galumphed outta some other dimension to complain to me about your suffering at the hands of merciless capitalists? Yes, I vaguely recall …”
“Well, hombre, I have no reason to complain now; as you can see, I am fixing to spend a luxurious and profitable day cooking up Italian food for the masses.”
“I sorta get that. How did that happen and what about your expanding career as a media expert?”
“It’s the job market, brother. Restaurants all over this town are hungry for intelligent, hard-working individuals. Meanwhile, industries like the press and public relations realms seem to be beleaguered with uncertainty. Heck, I applied at all sorts of places that said they wanted a communications manager or something like that. A few places even interviewed me more than once. The funny thing is that I never heard back from any of them.”
[Restaurant Industry Shows Signs of Strong Recovery, But Sales Remain Down By $110 Billion from Pre-Pandemic Projections”, by Alicia Kelso, in Forbes, August 31, 2021.
[Longtime publication SF Weekly shutters ‘indefinitely’ after decades in San Francisco”, by Joshua Bote in the SF Gate, September 10, 2021. https://www.sfgate.com/sf-culture/article/sf-weekly-alt-publication-shuts-down-indefinitely-16450041.php]
“C’mon, Augie, didn’t you at least try and reach out to them?”
“What’s the point? If they really were serious, you can damn well bet they’d call, and I can prove that if you let me tell you about my new job.”
A COMMUNITY OF WORKERS
“Go on, Augie.”
“After I waited for a few weeks to hear from three different professional jobs that I interviewed for, I decided to take matters into my own hands and so stopped in at a local joint that had a help wanted sign on the door. The manager was friendly and accommodating. They found out I had a college degree, did a thorough background check and then called me the next morning with a training schedule.”
“And you don’t mind doing that kinda work, even after getting to hang with and write about this town’s high and mighty?
“Heck no. It’s good, hard work; I can get lost in it. I don’t have to use any of the abstruse intellectual or artistic tools at my disposal; it’s very zen, very pure, a sort of kind ego annihilation, making food for others. Then when I get home, I’ve got all that creative urge stored up and can use it to write interesting stuff and make awesome paintings and sculptures.”
“Is it a lot different than the other jobs you’ve had?”
“Mostly. Though it sorta reminds me of the time I worked as a projectionist. Everyone works together, people from all walks of life. So far, there’s no sign of climbers or bullies or racists. People in the kitchen talk honestly, they are blunt but respectful. Here’s an example: At my last job, a young writer in my department, for Crissakes, used to bully me relentlessly because she wanted my job so badly. She would aggressively call my cellphone daily to ask if she could have my desk and computer. The situation became unpleasant enough that I often chose to work from home rather deal with her inappropriate behavior. Meanwhile, at my new job, they just hired an 18-year-old dishwasher. After they introduced themself, they kindly asked if I would mind demonstrating some basic cookery skills, since they wanted to be a cook, and it seemed like I knew my way around the place.”
“WHAT ABOUT YOUR CAREER?”
“Well, me and the missus did a soft launch of our nascent PR firm last year. That’s doing pretty, pretty good; we’ve even got us a couple of for-realz rocanrol star clients and we’ve been economically self-sufficient for a long time. But the truth is that the pandemic plumb near wiped us out, physically, emotionally and economically. That’s something that the folks over at these professional jobs I applied for just don’t seem to get, especially the ones run by affluent citizens. I think restaurants get it because they’re in the business of feeding people.
Don’t get me wrong, Carrillo. If I had my druthers, I’d be working as a reporter or information officer. But I ain’t going back to any places that don’t practice transparency, don’t put the workers first, don’t foster a real sense of community or places that tolerate unprofessional behavior from the overly ambitious because they are young and have “potential.” I never want to be just a byline, ever again. And I’m gonna let the Tao do its work this time. Maybe someone will call after all, someday. Besides, I make a mean Neapolitan pie.”
“Well, that sounds like a plan. Now, how do you feel about anchovies? … And do you think choices like that might somehow come into play during the home stretch of the upcoming mayoral election?”
You know, I’ve said all along that there is something fishy going on with this year’s race and, in fact, if people around here don’t like that sort of salty accoutrement—and they still feel the urge to vote—they can always write my name in! How’s this for a campaign slogan: ‘A steamin’ bowl of fresh fettuccini or a large 3-topping pie in every pot!’”
“Now you’re cooking, dude.”