Thursday, February 02, 2006

Half A Lifetime At The Venerable Frontier; More Than A Restaurant; Reflections On A NM Treasure. Plus: More Money Chasing, And: R Lt. Guv Update 

There's not many businesses that have been around longer than Pete Domenici has served in the U.S. Senate. But this month the famous Frontier Restaurant across from UNM celebrates 35 years as a greasy spoon of world-renown. The ABQ Trib's Ollie Reed does an admirable job of summing up this pit stop that has become a state treasure. But the one piece of history that stands out for me that Ollie did not mention is just how shaky it was at the start.

When I came wheeling in to town in the very early 70's fresh off the Greyhound from my native Pennsylvania, it was a shocking sight. Albuquerque had just endured its most violent streak in history. Days of rioting sparked by some police arrests had left their mark. Windows up and and down Central Avenue were shattered, debris was strewn everywhere and, most chilling, National Guard troops patrolled the area in high riding jeeps that made it look as if my new home was under martial law. And it kinda was.

One of the victims of that riot was the Frontier, then open only four months. Every window in the then much smaller Frontier was smashed and the place appeared shut down. But that was the low point. Dorothy and Larry Rainosek never looked back, and they never held a grudge over the violence against their now fabled restaurant.

Dorothy Rainosek (Trib)
The Frontier is great inspiration for a novelist. It hosts the players of La Politica, the homeless, the celebrators, the heartbroken and its share of shady characters, not to mention a couple of generations of students and professors. Even if you are from outside of ABQ, you probably have been there. If you haven't, you likely will.

The Rainoseks tolerance for and celebration of human diversity in this most diverse state of them all is the hallmark of their success. Want to sit sipping a cup of coffee for three hours contemplating your lot? No problem. Want a quick sweet roll to go? You can have that too. Wear what you want (just wear something) and hang with who you like. Hispanic, Black, Anglo, Indian, Asian, Republican, Democrat and Green. They are all here and as comfortable as in their own living rooms.

The Frontier could never be franchised. Its special allure, conceived intentionally and accidentally over four decades, is much more complicated and mysterious than any business formula. Its special ties to UNM reinforce the uniqueness.


Much has changed in New Mexico politics and in the public environment these 35 years. There's a more caustic atmosphere out there, but the Frontier remains a citadel of harmony for all who enter its doors. And a lot of the money coined there heads out those doors into a myriad of charitable and civic causes. And how many jobs have the Rainoseks provided our state's students? Talk about putting your kids though college!

I have no idea of their politics. And that's how they probably like it. But if politics is at all about building a sense of community, the Frontier family has equaled and then surpassed the contributions of most politicians. Here's to their next 35 years.


GOP Farmington urologist, Dr. Allen McCulloch, is the early winner in the money chase among the candidates seeking the R's nomination for the right to take on Dem U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman in November. Washington insiders e-mailed the latest numbers since they have not yet been posted on the FEC site. They show McCulloch raised about $63,000 in the 05' fourth quarter giving him a total of $188,000 in cash on hand. David Pfeffer has just $11,000 in his kitty and ABQ GOP State Senator Joe Carraro just announced his bid.

Veteran R's give McCulloch the edge for the nomination with Carraro expected to be his main challenger. But whomever wins faces long odds against Jeff who reported he is sitting on $1.6 million with more to come.

Yesterday we filled you in on the fundraising reports for the banner NM congressional race of 06' featuring ABQ GOP Rep. Wilson and Dem Patsy Madrid. Inquiring minds wanted to know where all that money comes from. Here's Heather's and Patsy's too. Now that I have saved you all that work, won't you take a moment and click on my sponsors ads at the top of the page?


That search for a GOP Lieutenant Guv candidate we blogged about earlier this week is going down to the wire, but word was circulating in Santa Fe late Wednesday that the party has finally recruited a contender. If so, it's none too soon. That candidate will need to get nearly 1900 valid GOP signatures to make the June primary ballot and do it by Feb. 14. When the candidate surfaces, expect an all-out signature push. We'll keep you posted.

Thanks for the company today. Come back soon for more fair and balanced coverage of New Mexico politics.

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