Kicking off 2021 downtown with ABQ Artwalk

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Muralist Wemfer was one of many local artists who perfumed the street with spray paint during the Jan. 8 event

Last Friday evening, I did something I haven’t since the pandemic first sent New Mexico into lockdown back in March 2020: attended a crowded event.

I wouldn’t show up for anything that entailed the main risks for coronavirus transmission — close contact with people outside my household, especially indoors. This outing, however, checked all my virus-savvy boxes. We were outside, breathing the fresh night air of downtown Albuquerque. Masks were required. Most individuals maintained a safe distance as skeins of people wove around each other on the sidewalk. …

Here in the high desert of New Mexico, Washington has never felt more distant

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Photo illustration courtesy of the author | Landscape photo by Leonardo Chávez on Unsplash

Distance has defined so much of our lives in the last almost-year. There’s distance learning. Distance work, for those of us who can do our jobs remotely. Long-distance relationships, which now includes not just out-of-state friends and family but those up the road who we can no longer invite into our homes.

Everything feels far away these days.

Never has that been truer than for the treasonous insurrection in Washington this week.

Here in Albuquerque, news hit around lunchtime: pro-Trump protesters had mobbed the Capitol building and gone full fascist terrorist, smashing glass and breaking into offices.

I stopped to scroll through all-caps headlines and click through graphic photos of the violence. The absurdity of what I was seeing stunned me into numb silence for a few minutes… and then I went back to work at my dining room table like it was any other Wednesday afternoon. …

Fathoming death from a distance

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Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

The nights are frosty lately. Black and frigid and lonely as outer space.

When I took the dogs out after dinner, I stood for a moment in the center of the fenced-in yard. My head tipped back. My lips sighed a trail of steam up toward the sky.

That is, I added a breath of mammal-heat to the atmosphere — the thin, cold layer of air that we share, between us and the void.

I could see stars, though not many. Mars shone clearly as the brightest point of light. …

Finding gratitude when we’re apart this holiday season

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Photo by Nadine Primeau on Unsplash

The citrus-celery tang of stuffing as my mother whips in the eggs.

How, soon after that stuffing slides into the oven, the kitchen fills with the steam of its bread crumbs baking all over again.

Pumpkin pie warming alongside mashed potatoes. Clouds of sweetness and cinnamon swirling with the scent of turkey breast. Nutmeg. Gingerbread.

There are crisp, green-tinged fragrances to slice through all of that warm goo, too. Tart apples; pine needles, and sap. …

Clinging to rot is, frankly, embarrassing — but most signs point to better times ahead

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Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

We happen to live in a neighborhood that has, for the last six weeks or so, been plastered with signs supporting Joe Biden for president. Walking the dog is like participating in an endless (socially distanced) campaign rally.

These aren’t just the official red-white-and-blue “BIDEN HARRIS 2020” design. The witty sign-making that debuted en masse with the Women’s March in 2017 is on full display.

IT HASN’T BEEN GREAT,” one asserts — planted alongside the owner’s trash bins. Across the street: “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” and “OMG PLEASE MAKE IT STOP.”

“GRAB HIM BY THE BALLOT,” says another, in which Rosie the Riveter flexes. …

The chorus of endorsements is large and diverse

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October 1: Let’s Do This!

On the last day of September 2020, I woke up so utterly bummed that I could barely bring myself to get out of bed.

Eventually I had to, because, dogs. Dogs need feeding and walking. (And whatever dog-bodies need, my own animal-body needs too, so, thanks guys.)

And then there’s this: I didn’t want to spend the next month wallowing under the covers, overwhelmed by awfulness and paralyzed by dread. Not if I could help it. So, here’s what I resolved.

Six months earlier, I created an art project to deal with pandemic anxiety. …

Working through the final weeks of this election

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Illustrations courtesy of the author

I vehemently criticized Donald Trump’s candidacy back in 2016 — in private.

In public, I did nothing to protest him or support his opponent. His corruption, incompetence, and cruelty seemed so obvious, I naively assumed that the vast majority of my compatriots saw through him, too.

Hiding my face is unexpectedly humanizing

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Photo by Pille-Riin Priske on Unsplash

Walking the dog feels different these days.

We’re required to wear face coverings in public, and with the autumn sun still bright overhead, I’ve usually got shades on, too. As a result, my face is 100% obscured.

I imagine it looks dehumanizing to those who see me: drivers rushing by, fellow dog-walkers, picnickers at the park.

But you know what else is dehumanizing? Harassment. And I don’t miss that one bit.

It turns out, with my eyes, nose, and mouth covered, I’m less interesting to street harassers.

It turns out, I really was “asking for it” all along — not by wearing provocative clothes, but just, you know, by having a face. …

It was written as a warning. Now it reads as optimistic.

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Photo illustration courtesy of the author

When Covid-19 hit the U.S. back in March — when offices closed, schools sent kids home, and we sheltered in place — I knew exactly which movie we were living.

Everyone was saying it: “Contagion.”

The 2011 thriller tracks a deadly virus as it takes the world by storm. The eponymous contagion appears when wildlife mingles with livestock. Once it makes the leap into humans, trade and travel carry it around the globe overnight. People cough and collapse, public spaces go quiet, hospitals fill to the point of overflow, and the economy buckles. …


Karie Luidens

I’m an Albuquerque-based writer of criticism, commentary, current events, and semi-connected musings.

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