“Having no food, being homeless, being crazy” is what made Chris Patz, 21, want to change his life. Patz said he used drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy and crystal meth on a daily basis between the ages of 13 and 18. During that time, Patz went through two drug treatment programs, but relapsed after completing each.
Now three years clean, Chris said he is preparing for the transition from a reserve to active duty recon Marine. Since his childhood, he said he dreamed of becoming one of the few people allowed to be a Recon Marine.
In the meantime, Patz said he focuses on pottery, a passion of his since sixth grade.
He just got back into pottery a month ago, and he said he finds himself “obsessed” with improving at his craft.
Mendy Lou Blackburn is an intuitive spiritual adviser and has practiced as a psychic for more than 40 years. She started reading Tarot cards when she was 15. Tarot is a study of the Hermetic Principles of Universal Law and Divine Principle.
When she was 20, Blackburn discovered a book of palmistry by William Benham, which she said inspired her to practice palmistry. Palm reading is a study of human character.
Blackburn gives palm reading and tarot card readings at her shop on Harvard Drive, which she owned for about a decade. She does readings at her shop, through the phone, or via Skype. Her shop is located at 139 Harvard Drive S.E. To find out more Blackburn and her practice, visit.Mendylou.com.
Carlos Menchaca, 23, said he always knew he wanted to dance. He started Folklorico and Spanish Classical in his aunt’s studio in San Antonio when he was 10. His aunt knew basic flamenco choreographies, but he said he grew frustrated no one could teach him at a more advanced level.
When Menchaca was 17, Yjastros: The American Flamenco Repertory Company, gave a workshop at his studio. Menchaca said he was introduced to the complex rhythms of flamenco.
Menchaca said he was hooked, and three months after the workshop he moved to Albuquerque to train under the direction of Joaquin Encinias of Yjastros. Menchaca performed with Yjastros for the past five years. Recently, Menchaca performed in Yjastros’ production of El Museo, a collaboration with the UNM symphony.
Sarah Kathleen McHaffie, 56, is a high school teacher at Cibola High School. In 2004, she was diagnosed with advanced lymphoma. The cancer spread to her stomach, chest and blood before being contained by a combination of chemotherapy and surgery. Her cancer is controlled but she said she has no intention to resign herself to worrying about it getting worse.
A year after her diagnosis, McHaffie went back to work at Cibola. Now, she is taking photography courses at UNM with the hope to one day obtain a Master’s degree in Art Education. Mchaffie has not lost a step in pursuing the things she loves in life. She said photography, dance and teaching are her passions, and she still pursues them all.
Chris Sanders, co-shop owner of Real Kutz Barber Shop, cuts hair and produces music under one roof.
Growing up in Springhill, L.A., Chris said he decided he wanted to be a barber at the age of 12 and has cut hair since he was 14. Before going to barber school, Chris practiced cutting hair on volunteers, friends, and on himself.
He also owns an independent record label called “Barcode Ent.” His label manages seven artists, for whom he helps write songs and sings backup vocals.
“It’s all about doing what you love to do … if you’re not doing what you love to do, nine times out of 10, it’s not going to stick around. I love cutting hair and music.”
David Thornburg, 58, said he was always enthralled with nature. He used be an avid hunter and fisherman, and he worked as a self-employed land developer in Santa Fe, NM for 30 years.
When the housing market crashed in 2008, the land development business was left crippled, and Thornburg said he was forced to reevaluate his career. Having already researched taxidermy for one of his sons, he said he decided to try it for himself.
Thornburg sold his motorcycles to provide money for his family and went to New York to apprentice with a taxidermist. Upon his return, he opened up ‘Dave’s Wildlife Studio’ in the woodshop behind his house. Thornburg said he enjoys the creative aspect of Taxidermy because dead animals lose many of the aesthetics that made them beautiful creatures. He said his goal is to bring them back to life, at least seemingly.
David Candelaria, 43, is a disabled and retired veteran, medical marijuana recipient and licensed grower. During Desert Storm, Candelaria, a tank mechanic, was hit by an exploding gas canister that fractured his skull. The injury resulted in the loss of his motor functions.
Candelaria had to re-learn how to speak, walk and read. He said he soon learned to live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and received steroid injections, which contributed to cartilage deterioration in his hips.For many years, Candelaria said he couldn’t find prescription drugs that allowed him to function daily.
He said his life was forever changed the moment he tried marijuana. “I could walk. I could ride my motorcycle. I could enjoy life again.” Candelaria said he joined the Occupy Albuquerque movement in hopes that he could raise awareness of the benefits of medical marijuana and speak out against monopolies created by insurance and pharmaceutical companies.
Demetrius Walker was 12 years old when he was hailed a basketball prodigy. Walker was considered the best player in the country for his fifth-through-eight-grade age group. Before he was in high school, Walker heard from college recruits, and California basketball fans took notice of Walker’s potential.
Sports Illustrated writer and Pulitzer Prize winner George Dohrmann released a book about Walker, Play their Hearts Out, in October. In the book, he chronicles Walker’s personal story, detailing how it’s filled with unrealistic expectations.
After transferring to UNM from Arizona State University, Walker will suit up for the Lobos next season. Beyond the court, he balances a college life complete with team practices and studying sessions, which consume most of his leisure time.
Silva Lu, an access service librarian at Zimmerman Library, decided to help UNM students deal with stress during finals.
Lu was inspired by a National Public Radio story about a Yale librarian who brought his dog to campus during finals so students could take their minds off of finals and relax. Lu contacted the Southwest Canine Corps of Volunteers, who bring dogs to those in need all over the Southwest. From schools to hospitals, the canines are appreciated wherever they go.
Eli Wentzel-Fisher, a media arts major, is finishing his eighth year at UNM. Wentzel-Fisher came with his family from Iowa to New Mexico in 2003. Wentzel-Fisher took breaks from school to travel to different countries. In 2005, he went to Bolivia with his high school friend. They taught children living on the streets how to juggle for spare change.
In August 2009, he took over what was formerly the Donkey Gallery on south Fourth Street and changed its name to the Normal Gallery.
“A lot of people think art is strange and weird. But it is actually a normal behavior,” said Wentzel-Fisher, explaining his inspiration for the name.
He graduates this summer and plans to start his next journey in San Miguel, Mexico, to begin work on a film project. The Normal Gallery will hold its last formal exhibition, “Robots and Unicorns,” by Parker Jennings and Andrew Cimelli on Friday.