Click here for SFR on MySpace

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

la plus ca change—or, why I love Rio Arriba

When I was a reporter for the SUN in the late '90s I reported on politics ALOT. Of course, as my editor at the time, Mike Kaemper said, everything in Española is political. I had just finished grad school at the time and I took his comment to mean that everything had a deeper political meaning in an academic sense. He meant it more like, get ready for anonymous calls up the wazoo and people slipping you secret documents in alleys. God I was happy at the SUN. I think it was the only period of my life where everything was always so weird and interesting that I was NEVER BORED. I am not often bored as editor of SFR, but managing and administrating and editing is quite different than sitting in Rio Arriba Commission meetings in Alcalde until 3 am while people slip you secret notes. Plus, for whatever reason, some of the most interesting and best story tellers I've ever known are from the Rio Arriba Valley. This is a place where people talk, talk, talk about what's going on their community, not about what was on TV last week. I am a fiend for gossip and Española politicos finally gave me my fill.
So this week's story in the SUN about votes being for sale got me nostalgic for the voter scandal I covered back in the late '90s. At one point investigators from the AG's office came to me at the SUN and wanted to see my notes (no way Jose) and I was ultimately subpoened to testify before the grand jury, during which time the questioner from the AG's office did his best impersonation of a Law and Order prosecutor by repeating the same questions over and over again and feigning shock when I said I didn't remember certain things. What they wanted to know was if I had seen/heard/witnessed illegal coercing of voters while hanging around the Rio Arriba County Clerk's Office on election day. I hung around that office all the time. It was my beat and the assistant clerks liked me and I usually could keep pretty good tabs of what was going on. The grand jury they had assembled was a bit odd. Everyone knows everyone in Espanola so finding an impartial grand jury is no easy task. From what I could tell, it appeared as though the AG had dragged several people from Dixon who hadn't left town in 20 years to hear the grand jury testimony. They all looked exhausted and confused, a reasonable response to trying to follow the factional vagaries of northern new mexico politics. Politics so layered and occasionally crazy it makes Santa Fe elections look like a love in.
Well, everyone got indicted back in the late '90s and I worried that my name on the back of the indictments (along with everyone else that had been called to testify) was going to cost me sources but everyone was very understanding. As it happens, I really hadn't seen anything in particular that seemed strange, and God knows I tried. The saddest part of this most recent story is that votes were allegedly being sold for $15.
On a totally different note, a reporter from In Touch Magazine contacted me because he was in SF to report on the new Jessica Simpson movie being filmed here and wanted to know if I could tell him anything or knew anyone involved. Normally I really don't know anything about this kind of stuff; I'm so revolted, on principle, by celebrities I try not to, but it just so happens a friend of mine is staying in a hotel while they use her house as one of the sets so, after clearing it with her, I sicced the In Touch reporter on her. My friends and I later realized we should stake out her house, snap photos of Simpson and sell them to the tabloids. We haven't followed through on that, though. And probably won't. And no, don't call and ask me where the set is.