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Cowchips 2020: Pandemic stole our ‘normal’ away — but not quite all

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — For those in search of some “old normal,” look no further: the Albuquerque Journal presents its annual Cowchip Awards!

Sure, the ode to Year 2020 news that was amusing, abhorrent or, well, abnormal, has been influenced by the pandemic — how could it not? — but there’s still a lot of “normal” New Mexico.

Now more than ever, during these unprecedented times, we need to know about such things as:

Suspects getting smoked out of a pot shop.

Politicos peeved about an ex-porno actor running for office.

A scenic overlook that was a real scene.

A Cowboys for Trump-er sticking his boot in his mouth — more than once.

A trombone shortage within the university marching band.

The mayor of Albuquerque going “incognito.”

No, we’re not in uncharted waters here — not as New Mexico goes.

O fair New Mexico, we love, we love you so                                                 But the scenic overlook had to go                                                         Bursting bottles of wee-wee are an unsightly show                                   No matter where you go

Inquiring minds earlier in the year wondered why the scenic overlook along Interstate 40 at Laguna Pueblo was removed, and the answer wasn’t — ahem — picturesque.

Rest area crews charged with upkeep encountered “a variety of health risks” there, including “picking up an enormous amount of urine-filled plastic containers — water jugs, water and soda bottles, etc. — and hypodermic needles on a daily basis,” a state Department of Transportation official explained. “On several occasions our employees were ‘sprayed’ with the urine bottles because they had built up pressure from being enclosed and sitting in the heat, exploding as soon as they were disturbed.”

There’s more, but that’s enough, and that’s “why”!

And that’s why you take it low and slow through Española — so you don’t miss a thing

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, virtually tsk-tsking about people not wearing face coverings in August, told of traveling through Española and “I didn’t see a single mask, not one. … The only masks I saw were in the car I was in” — a view that did not sit well with Españolans and their carnales in the GOP.

“Like so many others, the Governor has chosen to stroll by Española and make blanket assumptions about our people,” Española Mayor Javier Sanchez said. “Cherry picking anecdotal evidence to draw generalized conclusions makes a mockery of our beautiful city.”

Umm …

In any case, none other than the state Republican Party came to the defense of the northern New Mexico community, saying “humiliation is not the answer,” that “the governor is acting like a ruler with complete power. Here, she passes through a town in her capital chariot and chastises Norteños along the side of the road,” that “the Republican Party is promoting the idea of Respect New Mexico — not Offend New Mexico” and that “it’s no secret that the Trump Campaign has a massive Hispanic outreach effort throughout New Mexico and that one of the Trump Hispanic Outreach offices is in — you guessed it — Española.”

Umm …

Again, in any case, after all that hoo-ha, MLG apologized for singling out the city and its inhabitants.

“I saw what I saw, but what I saw was only a snapshot in time. I regret that my words left the impression they did.”

School’s in session!

Fresh off her reelection to the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education, Peggy Muller-Aragón dispensed with the formalities at the group’s first meeting of the year — where reseated board members were sworn in, others made brief remarks and so on — and took to the bully pulpit instead. She sounded off on proposed tax hikes, executive sessions, continuing “to allow collective bargaining contracts to supersede our children’s needs” before dropping the mic on the recap of her reelection that came “despite the union, despite the mayor, despite the administration helping my opponent.”

‘Cowboy’ gets hoof-in-mouth disease

Cowboys for Trump founder and Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin faced calls to resign in May after video surfaced of him saying, “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”

Ap Bc Us Racial Injustice Cowboys For Trum La307

Otero County Commissioner and Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee, File)

But the pelt-wearing pal of the outgoing president maintained the comments made during a rally in TorC were in a political — not physical — sense.

“I wasn’t calling for anyone to be murdered or killed,” he said.

The remark, and wide condemnation, did bring the political parties together, it seems, as a New Mexico Young Republican rep said it was “contrary to the pro-life Republican Party platform.”

And when Couy spoketh from the mount via Facebooketh Live, God said: ‘deleteth thy account’

A July Associated Press report said Couy Griffin fasted for three days on a mountaintop, contemplating whatever it is Couy contemplates, before delivering a 35-minute speech live on Facebook that touched on “God, faith, politics and country,” including his view on those who support performing “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” before football games in solidarity against racial injustice.

“They want to destroy our country. They want to talk about playing a Black national anthem before football games? I got a better idea, why don’t you go back to Africa and form your little football teams over in Africa, and you can play on a(n) old beat-out dirt lot and you can play your Black national anthem there. How about that?” he said. “This is America, we play the National Anthem in America today.”

Describing the “back to Africa” phrase as a poor choice of words, Griffin told the AP he was speaking out against a double standard that he said holds only white people responsible for racist behavior.

NAACP Albuquerque President Harold Bailey succinctly summed up the whole state of affairs: “This cat is off the charts.”

Good Lord

A gaggle of GOP lawmakers proposed mandating that the national motto “In God We Trust” be displayed prominently in public schools, college classrooms, state buildings and libraries — a move that would serve as a reminder of Americans’ shared heritage and values, said co-sponsor Rep. David Gallegos.

“This would be a first step in how we introduce back some of our founding fathers’ ideals,” he said.

Not so fast, said ACLU of New Mexico honcho Peter Simonson, calling it “unfortunate” the lawmakers would propose a bill that would likely have no practical effect other than to “alienate and antagonize” folks who don’t subscribe to a formal religion or don’t want the government to take sides.

“Why not propose legislation that brings New Mexicans together instead of putting them at odds?” he said.

The bill didn’t go anywhere.

I gotta have more trombone!

Documents released by the University of New Mexico early in the year shed some light on the sometimes not-so-collegial relationship between former head football coach Bob Davie and the bosses heading into and during the 2019 season. Among the gripes contained in one memo delivered to President Garnett Stokes, et al: only 25 members of the marching band were available for the first game, half of the members went to Central New Mexico Community College, and there were only four trombone players, which meant no pre-game Lobo Walk.

Finger lickin’ bad

We also came to find out in 2020 that some protocols were broken back in November 2019 when an ABQ BioPark Zoo carnivore keeper scratched a hyena as it pressed its neck against a mesh fence and the animal promptly latched on to the woman’s finger, leaving her absent of the appendage most apropos for rush hour drive time.

“Left middle finger was amputated while tending to hyenas,” a report by city security officers read. “Finger was eaten.”

And speaking of middle digits …

A Cuyamungue woman was charged with larceny after taking a neighbor’s model skeleton that she said was making an offensive gesture toward her — its hand was posed with a middle finger up.

“I just, you know, had it,” she told the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper, explaining that she was spurred into action by a monthslong feud. “It was like the last straw that broke the camel’s back, and I don’t know what to do.”

Authorities said the skeleton hadn’t been found.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

That smoke billowing from the R Greenleaf marijuana dispensary on Menaul NE in January wasn’t the kind that’ll take the edge off.

It was Albuquerque Police Department SWAT officers delivering a buzzkill, firing tear gas into the pot shop and forcing out burglary suspect No. 1, then burglary suspect No. 2, who came running out some four hours later, ending a 10-hour standoff.

This is not the kind of in-and-out burger we had in mind

Albuquerque police picked up a man who pedaled up to a prostitute (an undercover cop) on his bicycle and asked how much she charged — which was $80, but the man said he didn’t get paid for a few more days. So the cop suggested “my fee could be the burger” that he had with him.

He agreed, and asked the phony hooker to meet at his place.

She agreed, and gave the arrest signal.

Not carry a machine gun in Burque? Are you loco?

Federal agents raided the home of alleged drug dealer and South Side Locos street gang member Manuel Humberto Bolivar, aka Manny, Gino, G and Little Sapo, finding among other things a machine gun and other firearms, weapons he told authorities he had because Albuquerque is “a crazy place” and “very violent.”

This is why it’s called the boob tube

Gallup police officers were investigating a burglary when a guy showed up to the victim’s apartment and returned two TVs he took, saying he unknowingly swiped the electronics while having a snootful.

He told police he remembered knocking on the door and, when no one was home, he went in, but didn’t remember what happened from then on. “He woke up at 8:30 a.m. the next day and noticed he had two TVs in his room,” the Gallup Independent reported.

He was told days later who owned the TVs and “wanted to make things right and return the stolen items.”

He was charged with receiving stolen property.

And we’re gonna use Chinese finger traps as hand restraints and joy buzzers as Tasers!

Seeking to comply with legislation requiring all state law enforcement agencies to equip officers with body-worn cameras, Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales announced in July his department was looking at using smartphones instead of traditional lapel cams.

The lawman wasn’t aiming for laughs.

Nonetheless, Sen. Joseph Cervantes, who sponsored the bill, “burst out laughing” when told of Manny’s plan. “We passed a law that requires body-worn cameras,” he said, “so if he wants to do it by duct-taping iPhones on his officers’ chests, that’s his prerogative, although I think it creates the possibility of becoming a laughingstock.”

First we turned our backsides to our fellow Americans by hoarding roll upon roll of TP, then we turned into tattletales

The state Department of Public Safety said in late June that more than 9,000 messages had been sent its way by people ratting on businesses or residents breaking public health orders intended to corral COVID-19.

Among the intelligence received in April: A neighbor reported his or her “new neighbors” in Albuquerque were holding regular parties. Another New Mexican witnessed a school of fishermen on the Chama River at El Vado Dam, while a “concerned citizen” in Moriarty made it known that the family was dead set on holding a funeral.

“Please do what you can to stop this from happening,” he or she said. “They all think the coronavirus is a Democrat hoax.”

A finger-pointer even chimed in about this situation in Madrid: “People are ringing the train bell in the museum!”

What’s next? We spell chile with an ‘i’?!

The New Mexico Bowl football game was played in — hold on, don’t gag on your bizcochito! — Texas in 2020, rustled out of these here parts because of strict pandemic restrictions.

“Now, the New Mexico Bowl has been exiled to Frisco, Texas?” one head-shaking Journal Sports Speak Up contributor contributed. “No national TV shots of University Stadium, Albuquerque or the Sandia Mountains? Baffling.”

ESPN, however, did show footage of the Duke City during breaks and sponsors like Visit Albuquerque still plugged The Q during the game.

(Source: City of Albuquerque)

One Albuquerque: The Return!

Not even a global pandemic could push aside fan favorite, the One Albuquerque sculpture, with city officials at one point moving the Keller administration’s mammoth metal logo along Central Avenue outside of Presbyterian Hospital as a morale-booster. It was adorned with a “mask” that had a big, red heart in the center and brightly colored Dia de los Muertos sugar skulls on its border, along with a banner that read: “Albuquerque, we are one. Thank you health care heroes!”

The city said the “mask” and banner cost $1,993 in Parks and Rec marketing money.

Bad doggy

A spat between two coworkers on the Albuquerque Police Department’s fifth floor put both in the doghouse.

In internal memos to then-Police Chief Michael Geier, administrative assistant Paulette Diaz laid out a number of complaints about his chief of staff John Ross who, she said, had, among other things, improperly purchased a $200 Apple TV box and other electronics.

Included in the memos was the revelation that Ross was bringing his dog Sophie to work and she was becoming unmanageable and aggressive toward employees and visitors alike. And then there was the business of Sophie’s … um … business.

“It got to the point that air fresheners had to be brought in and some staff has even gone to the limit of burning candles to mask the odor of what is obviously a health concern,” Diaz wrote.

An internal investigation ultimately cleared Ross of any major wrongdoing, but both he and Diaz left the police department when Geier was told to resign.

I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse

Not long after he was wished into the cornfield, former Albuquerque Police Chief Michael Geier recounted that while still chief he was summoned to a small neighborhood park in the far Northeast Heights for a meeting with hizzoner Tim Keller, who “had a hat on and sunglasses; he was very much incognito.”

Geier said the two sat on a park bench that Labor Day and Keller asked if Geier thought about retiring.

Geier said no.

Geier announced his retirement three days later.

Navajo Nation knows how to party                                                                                                                                  Navajo Nation knows how to party                                                                                                                             In the city of Yah-ta-hey                                                                                                                                  In the city of Window Rock                                                                                                                               In the city, the city of Crownpoint                                                                  We keep it rockin’, we keep it rockin’

Music icon Tupac Shakur, purportedly gunned down in Las Vegas, Nevada, 24 years ago, could be alive and spittin’ rhymes on the rez! In his film “2Pac: The Great Escape from UMC,” Las Vegas filmmaker Rick Boss explores a potential alternate ending for the beloved entertainer.

“This movie is about Tupac actually escaping from University Medical Center here in Vegas and relocating to New Mexico,” Boss told KTNV in February. “Getting protection from the Navajo tribe.”


New Mexico Education Secretary Ryan Stewart could have used the help of Vanna White — the most famous supplier of vowels — as the educator-in-chief’s business cards read “Secretary of Educaton.”

A PED spokeswoman at the time admitted it was embarrassing, saying she should have checked the cards.

“If there is a lesson for New Mexico students here: I’d say when you make a mistake, acknowledge it, correct it and move on,” she said. “We’ll be getting rid of the cards with the misspelling, but I plan to keep one on my desk as a reminder to triple-check everything before it goes out the door.”

¡Escucha! Pay attention in Spanish class!

Meanwhile, the City of Santa Fe dealt with a punctuation problemo of its own: On the official seal of the city, which appeared at the top of its website, there was a misplaced accent on the city’s official name, La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asís. The mark was over the first “s” in Asís instead of over the “i,” which even Alan Webber knew was wrong.

“It’s always over a vowel; it is never over a consonant,” the mayor told the Santa Fe New Mexican. “Yes, I learned that from my Spanish teacher.”

Conservatives stunned, appalled to learn area politician got his freak on back in the ’80s

Conservative news outlet The Piñon Post published an exposé in late September that said — heavens to Betsy! — Democratic candidate for District 40 in the Legislature, Roger Montoya, appeared in multiple adult films decades ago under the names “Joe Savage” and “Eric Martinez.”

“This irresponsible and reckless behavior of starring in gay porno films, whether it takes place now or years ago, is unbecoming of any candidate or elected official,” GOP head Steve Pearce said in reaction.

Montoya, for his part, said, “I am not proud of that choice, as I was young and naïve, but those experiences helped me to understand the exploitation young people face.”

About a month later, Montoya won the seat with 57% of the vote.

If anyone should’ve been issued stay-at-home orders before, during and after 2020, it’s this guy …

Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan. And here’s why:

He was charged with obstructing an officer in March; arrested for refusing to comply with a search warrant in May; arrested on charges of harboring or aiding a felon and threatening a witness in June; and had his law enforcement certification suspended by the Law Enforcement Academy Board also in June.

Not to mention, in April, it was announced Rio Arriba County settled with a Chama man for $55,000, months after Lujan was accused of pulling the man over for flying the Mexican flag on his truck.

How many Zia symbols can you spot on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham? Answer: Four! Bracelet, necklace, lapel pin and ring! (Eddie Moore/Journal)

Gettin’ dinged for her bling

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s decision to add to her jewelry box sparked a tinderbox in the spring as “bling-gate” — as dubbed by one sideline observer — gripped the Land of Enchantment!

Amid a state-mandated closure of all nonessential businesses due to the pandemic, the governor made a buy from jeweler Lilly Barrack in April and, after folks found out a month later, there were hoots about “hypocrisy” and damnations of “disgraceful.”

Despite the look, the Governor’s Office maintained the purchase was on the up and up with health orders in effect at the time and an MLG spokeswoman said the transaction “was entirely contact-less and remote.”

No word on what she bought, but you can never have too many Zia symbols — just saying.


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