Ten More Doors Excerpt in Jemez Springs Newspaper

Here's an excerpt from my memoir Ten More Doors: Politics and the Path to Change shared here in advance of a Book Talk I"m giving Saturday Feb. 5 at 2 via zoom for the Jemez Springs Library. Join at https://us06web.zoom.us/j/82911494023 Mtg Id= 829 1149 4023; Passcode=Dede. 

I'll explain then: 

From Chapter 9: At Street Level

I walked by the house on Matthew Avenue today. It just didn’t look the same. The run-down old garage is now attached to the house, and a uniform plaster has been applied to the crumbling white façade that had confronted me, a wannabe senator, in 1996. I was knocking on doors in the neighborhood in search of votes.

I knocked on the door and mentally (and okay, maybe even verbally) practiced my pitch before someone answered the doorbell. “Hi, I’m Dede Feldman. I’m running for office— for the state senate—and I wondered if you had any concerns about the state?”

No answer. I rang again. I knocked. I was preparing to leave and put my “literature” in the door when I heard a voice.

“Running for office? Any concerns?”

It was a strange voice, a spooky, hoarse voice. It was coming from somewhere, but I couldn’t figure out where.

“Hello?” I yelled. “Hello?” it yelled back.

This was truly weird. It seemed to be coming from the garage, off to the side.

Time to leave, I thought, but then it said, “Running for office? Any concerns?”

Oh no, no, no—I’m out of here, I thought, just as a weathered looking man with Depression-era eyes and a gentle face opened the door.

“Yes?” he asked, squinting into the sun, his dirty hair in his eyes. He looked like he had just woken up.

As I started in on my pitch, I heard it again. “Any concerns?” “I was just about to ask...”
“Any concerns?”

I recognized the voice now. It was the man at the door’s. But his lips weren’t moving.

Suddenly the homeowner’s sad expression broke into a broad grin.

“Oh, that’s Marvin,” he said. “He’s my pet raven. They talk, you know. I trained him to say a few words, but he knows more. Learns ‘em from people who come to the door unexpectedly.”

We laughed and he offered to introduce me to the raven.

He led me to the garage and opened the door. I looked around. All sorts of hunting equipment was strewn about, fishing tackle piled in the corner, and construction debris everywhere. In the middle there was a covered cage with something moving inside it.

It was Marvin, and as soon as the cover was removed, he cracked opened his thick bill and croaked, “Any concerns?”

The bird was massive, with scruffy feathers that looked eaten. Maybe he had just been in a fight. He was iridescent, his feathers almost blue, and he had dark, dark eyes and talons that gave me pause.

It was my first encounter with someone who kept a wild animal as a pet. The raven had fown away twice, come back once, and the second time the man at the door searched for the bird day and night. He finally found Marvin in a tree in the South Valley. The raven recognized his call.

I’d never thought of animals as being part of my constituency, except maybe in the abstract. But things were beginning to add up in my semi-rural, semi-urban district in Albuquerque’s North Valley.

Sure, I’d encountered dogs. Pee Wee, Esse, JoJo, Buster, and Cholo had greeted me at the door on almost every street I walked. I’d been bitten three times. I carried dog yummies and pepper spray. I learned how to put my foot against the screen door so a German shepherd couldn’t lunge out before I’d had time to deliver my pitch. And I’d spoken over the yaps, the growls, and the barks to owners who said things like, “Skipper would never bite you.”

But ravens? Peacocks? Horses? Donkeys?

 “I want you to think carefully about this,” a stern older woman in the same neighborhood responded when I asked her about her concerns. “See those horses across the street?”

Dutifully, I acknowledged the Appaloosas, the ponies, and yes, even the donkey across the street. They ran in a pack behind the fence at the end of Meadow View Drive. They smelled up the neighborhood.

I loved the Appaloosas, but I shied away from the ponies after one nipped at me.

“Don’t you dare forget about them when you go to Santa Fe,” she said. “That’s why we’re sending you there—to protect them.” I could tell from her blunt gray hair and her relentless eye contact that she meant business.

“Yeah,” I stumbled around, agreeing all up and down, going on about how we need to protect the environment, and the rural character of the area.

She listened politely. She had heard it all before, and it hadn’t made a difference.

I probably couldn’t make a difference either, except at the margins. But the two encounters convinced me to sign up for the Senate Conservation Committee, which focused on wildlife, natural resources, the forest, game, fish, and yes, animal protection. Politically, it was not the best perch for an urban newcomer to the senate. But I never regretted it. I got to vote on saving endangered species, protecting the bosque, and preventing water waste and contamination.

Most of the horses are gone now from the field at the end of my street, and spiffy new houses surround the stables backed up against the ditch. I am afraid to knock on the door of the raven man. He’s probably dead or old, like me.

But at least I know I did my part for my constituents on Matthew Avenue—all of them.