I was leaving the Range Cafe a couple of nights ago after eating dinner with Johanna, after an afternoon of searching for a bridesmaid dress for her brother Zachary’s wedding. As I wandered out the front door, I grabbed a copy of the Alibi, which just happens to be my favorite publication in New Mexico. Little did I know that I had in my hand the 20th Anniversary Issue of the paper that I’ve always wondered if I’m hip enough to read.
I didn’t have time to pick this particular issue up until today at lunch when I took a break from writing everyone else’s blogs and headed outside to have a cup of coffee (lunch of champions) with my most recent copy of the Alibi. Only then did I realize what history I was holding in my hand.
The Alibi and I go way back. I remember very well the first issues of NuCity (Alibi’s initial name). According to page 11 of this week’s issue, they “clawed” their way into existence on October 9, 1992. Did you know that one of Alibi’s creators, Chris Johnson, had “launched The Onion in college and sold it?” Me neither. What freaking geniuses he and Dan Scott were. . .They saved our lives in Albuquerque in those early years.
I can tell you exactly what I was doing in October of 1992. I was living in the Highland Park Apartments behind Los Cuates (the original, not the watered-down Little Anita’s version we have to endure these days), a perpetually broke single mom with a nearly two year old daughter and an eleven year old son who was in the fifth grade at Zia Elementary. I worked as a paralegal at the Barnett Law Firm and spent all my free time with a half-dozen other single parents, all of us on the very edge of sanity and financial solvency.
NuCity was our guide to the universe. We eagerly perused each new issue for cheap nightlife. It’s where we got our restaurant recommendations. Its how we knew what was going on at Golden West and the El Rey. If there was a coupon for something half-off, we clipped it. We’d sit out under the trees in the Highland Park courtyard drinking cold Coors Light (we were very calorie conscious, but not so much that we’d forego our evening beer) while the babies toddled around on the blanket and someone would bring out their copy of the NuCity and we’d figure out whether we could afford babysitters for one weekend night when the Strawberry Zots were playing somewhere downtown. Or we’d make a plan to go to the movie at the Lobo Theater. When we needed a break from our kids, we got out the NuCity.
We read the personals and later on, the “I Saw You” column. My fantasy (still is) was that the hot guy from Nambe that I met at the Caravan would someday post “You – great dancer and lover of cemeteries, working on your history degree. Me – great dancer as well, cemetery caretaker with stories of my granddad’s days at Santa Fe Rosario Cemetery,” and we would find one another again. I was sure that if anyone could accomplish our reunion, it would be the Alibi. I figured everyone read the Alibi, even tall, good-looking guys from Nambe wearing woven hatbands and Tony Lamas.
I remember very well how hot we were about NuCity having to change their name because of Chicago’s New City newspaper and their lawsuit. I went to the name change party at the Sunshine Theater. I worried that the format and style of the paper would change. I even wondered if I was going to have to start reading the Albuquerque Journal. But of course, nothing changed. In fact, every year the Alibi got better.
Little Zachary got into the Albuquerque Academy and was suddenly old enough to be dropped off at movies with friends. We got our movie schedules from the Alibi. I read the Free Will Astrology religiously. Alibi helped me choose between a couple of mayoral candidates (yes, Jim Baca, you were the obvious best choice).
When OJ made his now famous run from the cops, the Alibi ran an ad for The Range Cafe with a photo of OJ that said “I was having garlic-roasted mashed potatoes at the range.” I clipped that ad and kept it on my bulletin board at work for a decade.
It just seems like the Alibi was always a fixture in our household. When I made the supremely unwise choice of marrying someone from North Carolina (well, hell, the guy from Nambe never showed up. . ) and left New Mexico, I followed the Alibi online. It made me horribly homesick for those evenings when my kids were still little and in the backyard at Highland Park, when we would send Zachary on his bicycle to Los Cuates with my debit card to pick up an order of chips and that amazing salsa, when my single mom friends and I were trying to figure out which was more important – getting the oil changed in our car or getting tickets to the Spring Crawl (the music always won over vehicle maintenance).
So, the Alibi is 20 years old. And my baby Johanna is about to graduate from UNM. Zachary is getting married in a couple of weeks. I’m going to have to call Johanna and have her pick up one of the 20th anniversary issues for Zach. I know he’d love wandering through the retrospective in this new issue. I’m pretty sure it will bring back memories of those junior high days, strolling around Nob Hill with his buddies, hanging out with Jay at Birdland, drinking coffee and eating chips and salsa at Baca’s. Those kids were always hip enough to read the Alibi.
I love you Alibi. You’re so quintessential New Mexican – accepting everyone, allowing all voices to be heard, expressing what’s best about this multi-cultural, beautiful but mixed-up place we call home. After those days in North Carolina when I had to follow you online, I promised myself that if I ever got back here, I’ve never leave. I’d read my Alibi on the back patio, not on my computer.
Thank goodness I made it back. And thank goodness you survived and thrived. Can’t wait for next week’s issue. . .