Monday, October 18, 2010

Full-Blown Jesus

Align Center
[Craig sometime in 1981, at the apartment of his friend from Ohio]
As I mentioned in the first entry, I met Craig the summer of 1981. Having just graduated university, I took a job at Hogares Inc., a social service agency that provided residential care for high risk teens. I had been working only a month or so when the director hired a new male counselor (male staff were a precious commodity at Hogares. I was told on average male counselors lasted an average of 6 months) who had just moved to NM from Ohio. He had worked in a state residential facility there, so he was actually qualified for the job, a rarity among our male staff.
It was about that time that one of the residents, a "pre-schizophrenic" (we didn't diagnose anyone as schizophrenic before the age of 18) teen began a pattern of agitated mutterings. He became markedly more paranoid, with the frequent refrain, "Jesus has come to get me." It took about 36 hours before we figured out what was going on. It was Pat, the senior staff, who noticed the boy's reaction when Craig came down for breakfast. She started laughing, and whispered her amusement to me across the table. Of course. With his long, blond hair, his beard, his piercing eyes and his long features and French nose, Craig looked the very incarnation of a 19th Century representation of Jesus (see above). Only his chain-smoking broke the effect.

Craig was a striking presence. Good looking, acerbically funny, and oh-so-cool, he was immediately attractive to all the female staff (who weren't gay - we would later joke that to get hired at Hogares, you had to be lesbian, Jewish, or preferably, both). He had evidently found his way to NM following the lead of a female friend (see above), though their relationship was not clear to me, and she seem to fade out of Craig's life after a year or so.

We buddied up almost immediately. And shortly after meeting, we decided to share an apartment. This made good sense, as we lived at the residential centers 4 days in a week, meaning that each of us only needed a place to sleep 3 days out of 7.
That very week one of the senior clinicians at a staff meeting gave a pointed speech about how it was psychologically ill-advised for counselors to share digs off-duty. Both Craig and I burst out laughing simultaneously. We couldn't help ourselves, because we (like everyone else in the meeting) knew that this disapproving clinician was then engaged in a secret lesbian relationship with one of the other staff members. The "special" protocol was taught to every live-in staff - if you couldn't reach Maria at her home after hours, just give Maryann a call at her home and Maria would return your call in the next five minutes.

He proved to be an excellent, if subversive roommate. Over the next two years, Craig and I shared three apartments, one on the corner of Girard (we got thrown out for keeping a dog[1] in violation of our lease - Craig's idea), then a former tuberculosis cottage[2] facing Central Ave., right next door to the Blood Center (Craig loved to take his morning coffee outside and hang out with the men who lined up outside our door to get paid for their blood), and finally a mobile home off 4th Street, where we got free rent from Craig's uncle in exchange for doing maintenance work for him on the mobile home park he managed (another Craig idea)[3]. We only broke up the team because my new job within Hogares was located in the Monzano Mountains, many miles from 4th St. and the Rio Grande valley, so I moved to a place in the NE heights. Craig went on to an apartment in town, then made his first move to ownership, purchasing a condominium off Montogomery Blvd.
Stylistically he continued the full-blown Jesus look for a couple of years, surely the most ironic first impression many people would ever experience. Truly, the contrast between his angelic appearance and his impish personality made a big impression on many who knew him.
[1] a Samoyed pup he dubbed "Roland: the headless Thompson doggie" as an hommage to the Warren Zevon song, Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner.
[2] In the 20s and 30s, the dry mountain climate made Albuqerque a destination for those suffering from consumption. A sufficent number of infected university professors came for the cure that it seriously raised the standard for UNM faculty at this previously backwater state college. Central Ave south of the university and across from Presbyterian hospital was once lined with scores of these shotgun-style cottages rented by patients and their families. Craig found one of the last three standing for us. A great place.
[3] Certainly the best of his ideas, as the back door of the caravan faced the kitchen door of Garduno's New Mexican restaurant. We just called in our take out order, and told them to bring it to the back door.

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