Saturday, August 29, 2015

Santa Fe--more livable than Denver

Playing Lotería with Juan

My wife and I took in award-winning artist John Picacio's Lotería reception at the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, Thursday night. Owner G.R.R. Martin showed up to support him and treat his guests as guests of his own digs. We all played Lotería, with prizes galore, except for me, but I suspect the game was rigged.

Prints of Picacio's re-interpetation of the classic Mexican game cards and sets of cards were the prizes. Luckily, everyone had a chance to sample a local favorite, George R.R. Martin's own ale. It was good enough to have more than a couple, but that wouldn't have increased my chances of winning a prize. My Lotería tabla sucked.

One guy in the back must have held the twin of my tabla because he'd periodically yell, "Bullshit!" after Juan announced the next card. I take that back; that guy couldn't have had a shittier tabla than mine. One round finished, and there was a single bean on my tabla. Did I mention it was cursed?

Juan's event alone was worth the trip, but we'd also come down for a little vacay, and in the next days, I at least discovered more about what we've lost living in Denver than about what Santa Fe still has to offer. Not that it's paradise.

Other ways Denver sucks

A Denver Post headline this morning: "Denver building implosion to bring closures." It's about a high-rise being demolished, but it could also describe well the damage being done to Denver's communities by so-called gentrification.

Starbucks signs push out Chicano murals, "bistros" push out affordable family restaurants. The process resembles someone cutting their own throat in order to have their say. Actually, more accurately, cutting the throats of long-time residents who have roots in the community. Investors buying houses to flip them for a profit. So, "American."

Arguments for "gentrification" commonly center around economics. But the community suffers from those economics--higher property taxes for the aged and less prosperous, less parking, more traffic, young professional drunks on the streets, outrageous prices for food and drink, among many other financial burdens.

It's hard for me to understand how the young, supposedly educated, professional "gentry" allow themselves to be exploited, crammed into multi-storied apartments, overcharged for what the old residents know was once less costly. And much more livable.

Then in contrast, there's the city of Santa Fe where my wife and I are spending a few days. New Mexico itself is not wide open to developers. Although it's not perfect, all around is evidence of the community preserving itself, culturally, architecturally, liveably.

We entered a place called Tiny's, to hear Chris Abeyta's 4-man band of keyboard, congas, and guitars. And no cover charge. I ask the bartender what's on tap. "Jägermeister," she says, not kidding, and I know I'm in a real bar, not some preppy Denver brewery. I order a glass of Santa Fe Nut Brown Ale that costs $3.50, almost half of what Denverites allow themselves to be charged. Down here, I could afford to become a bar-n-grill lover.

Sometimes it's the little things that indicate what you've lost. A small Native American woman approaches us. "You wanna buy some nice earrings?" We pass on it, and she continues down the bar offering her hand-made jewelry. A while later, a Chicano offers to sell us red chile at a reasonable price. It wasn't hot enough for me, so, it's another pass.

Denver's now-gentrified bars don't allow people to enter and sell their wares. The community-feel and openness to supporting local residents went out the window when the IPhones and espressos entered. Plus, the bargains are gone.

We do a short stop at Omira's to hear Brian's acappella, sax and clarinet [no cover charge, again]. The Belgian draws are $4.50, but they're 8 and 9% potent. Then we head over to 2nd Street Brewery, where Tiffany Christopher's blues/folk is rocking the place [no cover charge]. Beers were $3.50 to $4.50. People are listening to her music and not texting like Denver's gentry addicts.

Santa Fe has gentry, gentrification, Starbucks, etc. But you can find parking. Free, not the $30 you might pay in Denver's LoDo. Traffic gets heavy, like everywhere, but the concentration of urban professionals is less per square block. You can drive to get to several locations without much difficulty. Controlled growth and controlled new construction. Not the spread-our-legs exercise that Denver's city government offers nearly any developer who's got the cash.

Perhaps what the Denver "gentry" have lost on most, besides the enjoyment of music with tickets costing $40 and more, are the other arts. Galleries, shops, gardens, museums, cultural events fill the pages and calendars of Santa Fe. Bistros are here, but not as if to preempt culture. Culturally deprived Denver "gentry" are the norm up north, and the poorer for it.

There are many more contrasts that speak to what I'll call the intelligence of nuevomexicanos who maintained enough control of their communities to not become a developer-raped Denver. Add your own to the list. Lament the loss. Or maybe try educating the "gentry" about how it used to be. If they don't believe any other kind of life is possible, point out Santa Fe on the map.

Commemorating 45 years ago

On August 29, 1970, the National Chicano Moratorium march and protest was held in East Los Angeles, with over 25,000, mostly Chicano people demanding an end to the war in Vietnam. As Jimmy Franco Sr. on says, "The experiences of an older generation need to be shared with the younger generation."

Read his article to hear some of those experiences. In Denver, though we had fewer protestors, we often marched with the Anglo anti-war movement activists. The streets aren't so often filled with protesters, as before. But the lessons are still there for handing down to younger people. Today would be a good day to share that.

Es todo, hoy, because I'm on vacation. Heading down to Albu to interview Victor Milán about his just-released book The Dinosaur Lords. Details, later.
RudyG, a.k.a. Rudy Ch. Garcia, fantasy author and travelogue cynic


Odilia Galván Rodríguez said...

When people ask me what's my favorite town in the US, I say without hesitation: Santa Fe, NM circa 1974. There is still a lot of good to be said about Santa Fe as you have so aptly done in your post, still, I long for the good old days. I'm glad to know the town is holding fast to some good and plan to visit soon, I haven't been there in about 20 years, your heartfelt post makes me want to go soon. Gracias y saludos, Odilia

Anonymous said...

Maybe we'll see you there next time, Odilia. - RudyG