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. As well as being an award-winning writer, Carrillo is a painter and sculptor. His recent work was currently on exhibit at Six O Six Gallery at 606 Broadway Blvd. SW. Carrillo’s award-winning writing and analysis have been featured at international academic conferences and in notable literary journals as well as local media outlets like the Albuquerque Journal. In late February he will present work written for this site at the 43rd convocation of the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association. His latest creative writing can be read at Infinity Report with the link here: http://infinityreport.blogspot.com
EDITOR’S DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this guest article are those of Rudolfo Carrillo and do not necessarily reflect those of the political blog www.petedinelli.com. Mr. Carrillo was not compensated for his guest column.
“That’s All We’ve Got: Observations from a Pandemic Featuring a Small White Poodle
The Snowy Earth
As winter reaches its tipping point here at this desert outpost in the northern hemisphere of a planet known as Earth—check your handy Farmer’s Almanac, folks, Feb. 3 is smack in the middle of it all, perched halfway between a gloriously dark solstice and and enticingly bright equinox—it’s worth noting that our civilization of hairless apes is just about to enter year three of a global pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, a collection of proteins and ribonucleic acids that has already proven deadly to human life and economics.
Add to that conundrum the looming specter of war on the European continent, the unquenchable pit of rotten and fiery spectacle that may be used to symbolize Donald Trump and his followers—not to mention the rising price of bread, cheese and gasoline (or the forlorn inevitability of a Rams/Bengals Super Bowl) and you’ve got one heckuva candidate for apocalyptic visions coming to fruition long before we have to potentially reel in despair over the outcome of this year’s World Series.
“US troops to deploy to eastern Europe amid Ukraine Crisis”, by Natasha Bertrand, et al on February 2, 2022 at cnn.com. https://www.cnn.com/2022/02/02/politics/us-troops-europe-russia/index.html
Here on the home front, it’s not that much brighter unless you consider the sun. It turns out that this past December in New Mexico was the warmest on record.
Yesterday afternoon, I heard an old-timer at Ghetto Smith’s proclaim to the lone employee working the self-checkout, “It’ll never snow in this goddamn town again.” When friends of mine out on the other side of the Great Plains ask me what it’s like to have such warm weather this time of year, I tell them it is just like Mars; it hasn’t rained in ages. This morning when it finally started snowing, I was genuinely startled.
Meanwhile, the high rate of violent crime in Albuquerque has persisted. Endemic poverty, addiction and ignorance—all supported by institutional racism and the carceral state—continue to take their toll, urging violence from the desperate and dispossessed as weary and law-abiding, though sometimes privileged citizens bear the weight of years of oppression, suppression and cultural mismanagement by the capitalist patriarchy.
“2021 is Albuquerque’s deadliest year on record”, by Curtis Segarra on December 28, 2021 at krqe.com. https://www.krqe.com/plus/data-reporting/abqs-deadliest-year/
The lawlessness on the roads of this city—founded on the power of roads for Chrissakes—would seem the stuff of bizarre Expressionist cartoons to be examined and critiqued by the local intelligentsia, if it were not so persistent in form and murderous in nature. The abandonment of this city by its police force reverberates every night, a dark hollow tone that signals absence and resentment like a church bell.
“I don’t see traffic stops 2; driver’s license redo”, by D’Val Westphal on January 23, 2022 in The Albuquerque Journal: https://www.abqjournal.com/2463814/i-dont-see-traffic-stops-2-drivers-license-redo-ex-mvd-vendor-rei.html
The ranks of the poor and unhoused continue to grow as a housing crisis among low income continues to limit choices to haunt the state as if by some perverse magic. But it’s not really witchcraft at all. This tragic phenomenon has more to do with the opposite of magic; it is a consequence of our own privilege and sanctimony and greed casting its spell upon the thing we are most proud of, our city. Ironically, home prices and rents in the area are skyrocketing.
“For the low income, housing is scarce — a challenge state lawmaker hope to address this session”, by Bobby Brier on January 19, 2022 in New Mexico In Depth. https://nmindepth.com/2022/01/19/for-the-low-income-housing-is-scarce-a-challenge-state-lawmakers-hope-to-address-this-session/]
If I have to ask you to drive down Third Street from the freeway to Downtown one more dang time in the middle of the day, it’s just because I love you and I want you to know what I see, what I consider to be la neta.
And if it’s quiet and beautiful where you are, that’s cool. It’s like that here in the little world my wife and I have made during the pandemic. Let me tell you about those two years. They have been glorious. We have prayer flags from Tibet in the backyard, three of the four dogs are still alive and it was so warm on New Year’s Day that we cooked real meat on the charcoal grill that we had bought just in case.
We are no longer preparing for a disaster. I gave up on getting a radio license and a set of short-wave walkie-talkies because I feel a little bit safer now than I did in, say, April of 2020. I attribute that feeling of security to Uncle Joe, our president. If you don’t believe that he saved the planet Earth from certain doom, then take a second and try to imagine what day 1 or 17 or 123 would have been like in a second Trump administration.
The pantry is no longer stocked with dozens of cans of dog food and pinto beans, either. And I’ve gotten to try my hand at all sorts of jobs that I would never have imagined toiling at in the before time. Now I work from home five days a week and, in the background, I keep the teevee tuned to the station that plays all ’80s videos 24 hours a day. I find myself comforted by the voices of faraway humans on the telephone while songs by bands like Haircut 100 and The Buggles waft through the living room.
I also started making art again, rejoining a community that I had sorely missed. I thought that small progress would mark my last 25 or so years with subtle meaning and inspiration.
A BANDIT AMONG US
But the thing that really changed me forever was the nearly two years I spent caring for an old dog that I named Bandit. He died a couple of weeks ago, and through his passing I came closer to realizing what was important about life than any of the tests, experiences or observations that I made sly comments above could ever equal.
In this little dog’s endurance and frailty, in his devotion to life in spite of profound illness, I found real hope for the future of me, of you, of our city, and the world, too.
I had already rescued Bandit from certain death when he came to stay with us. Unadoptable for behavioral and health reasons, he was on his last extension at a high-kill shelter when we agreed to provide a new life for him.
Clever, unsocialized and as ornery as they come, Bandit was a hardcore stray who happened to be inimitably lovable and loyal. He also had Cushing’s disease, in his case caused by a tumor on his pituitary gland. In addition to that troubling condition, Bandit had been dropped on his head onto a concrete floor when he bit a handler at the pound.
For the first year, Bandit was surprisingly healthy. He had a coat as white and pure as the driven snow. Oddly, he kept himself apart from the other dogs and didn’t even seem to notice them. But every night he would wind himself around my legs as I sat in the living room, before collapsing into a deep sleep on top of my boots.
Once he stole an entire Saggio’s pizza from the coffee table, pulled a full garbage bag across the length of the kitchen before tearing it to shreds and then cornered the neighbor’s cat in one afternoon of action.
The illness and injury kept resurfacing though and veterinarian appointments were hard to come by during the lockdown. By the end of last summer, I realized that Bandit was fighting a very tough battle. One day, he became disoriented in the backyard and when I carried him in, he began nodding his head erratically. A veterinary consult revealed that the tumor on his pituitary gland had grown.
Just about then, one of my colleagues suggested that humane euthanasia was an option for Bandit. I disagreed because he had a good quality of life and was eating well. His plumbing worked fine and though he was generally anxious, he was calm and quiet when I was around him.
I cared for Bandit as he declined through the fall and winter of 2021. At some point he grew frail and I had to carry him around, something that he liked quite a bit. But we both know the end was near and so each excursion into the yard, each feeding time or blanket time became a ritual of love and acceptance for both of us, I think.
When Bandit died, I felt empty and angry. I was angry at the animal rescue that had led us to him for being less involved in his health care than they originally promised. Raging against their lack of human compassion led nowhere; I believed that they were blind to their own random cruelty; they were enthralled by their supporters in the press who were aghast that anyone would criticize a local charity in such uncompromising terms.
One local local chronicler whom I spoke with about the matter was plainly exasperated by my critical stance regarding human compassion and promises kept. That’s fine too, because I believe that all of those lost in the midst of the capitalist detritus emboldened by this plague will finally come around this year too.
I’m okay with all of that because without these sources of disappointment and conflict, without the situation’s own frailty—expressing itself through the whole process Bandit and I went through during a plague year and beyond—I would never have known this little soul, would never have had the opportunity learn again about the unconditional love, patience, kindness and loyalty an animal can engender in a human.
A REAL VISION
And in that great irony, in his untimely death in the teeth of a system that could not bear such beauty, there is hope for me. I hope that I will overcome my disdain for the sadness and disorder that fills up the world around me and which I described so archly at the beginning of these proceedings. I believe it will take positive, proactive decisions and actions from community members like me, who have a real voice, to improve the life and health of this city.
Giving up on that sort of terminal despair for the human condition, here and now liberated by the canine condition—which have partaken in willingly and with tragic consequences—has given me a strength that I thought had fled with the pandemic’s weary onset.
I am not suggesting that you suffer something tragic in order to come to terms with what is. But I am asking you to find strength in yourself, strength enough to rise early in the late-winter and to begin seeking solutions that can benefit us all and save our city and planet. You can start by visiting a place called ABQ Free Fridge.
A reminder: We cannot continue to paint pretty pictures of what we wish this place and its people to be. The new age just won’t allow the proliferation of pabulum. The homeless and hungry in this town disallow such fantasies.
So I am asking you to take positive action toward the future of this place where we all live while the springtime sleeps, while Bandit’s passage from this Earth is still fresh in our hearts and minds because it is all true. Love is all we’ve got.
Put aside the sutras, the inky pages where you think the truth lies. Get out of the shelter and find your place in the new world even as snow—as white as Bandit’s beautiful coat—blankets the town for the first time in ages.