Ronnie Lucero and I work together at Nelson’s Meats, a small, independently owned meat market in Albuquerque’s South Valley. He is what used to be called a ‘butcher.’ Nowadays they call them ‘meat cutters.’ I sell his handiwork to the public, as well as a few other mammal-flesh goodies. We’ve worked together for eight years. This interview was conducted in a store that sits adjacent to the market. We talked next to a pizza oven that was recently converted into a giant roaster for green chile. It was hot.
Me: First of all, we’ve never once talked about why I call you Ronnie James Dio. Do you know why or care?
Ronnie: I know why. It’s easy and we all have nicknames here.
Me: We have our regular names for the outside world and then the names we call each other while at work.
Ronnie: I call Anthony, “Freak.”
Me: I’ve never heard you call him that before.
Me: You’re how old?
Me: And you’ve been working here since you were fourteen?
Ronnie: Fifteen, actually.
Me: How did you end up over here?
Ronnie: I was a teenager looking for any kind of job, mostly fast-food places, McDonald’s and all that. No one wanted to hire me. This was just one more place I applied.
Me: You waited to hear back from Larry [owner]?
Ronnie: Yeah, but nothing. So I told my grandpa that I had applied at Nelson’s and he said, “I’ll give him a call.” My grandpa was a cop and had taken care of a couple of Larry’s speeding tickets. Also he shopped here a lot.
Me: You must’ve been hired quick after that.
Ronnie: Larry called me that day and said to come down for an interview.
Me: When you first started were the older guys pricks?
Ronnie: Mostly. You know how it is to be the new guy.
Me: Yeah, that’s just the way it is.
Ronnie: The next youngest guy was 23 years-old. Ernie Chavez.
Me: What were your duties when you first started?
Ronnie: I waited on customers and cleaned up after we closed.
Me: What about the transition into meat-cutting?
Ronnie: When I was a senior I would come in before school at 5 in the morning. I’d try and help cut the pork. I’d watch Gino and Andrew and get in the way a lot. They’d get annoyed with me. But then I’d come back after school and do all the regular stuff.
Me: Our boss still tells the young guys if they want to learn how to cut meat they have to come in on their own time and not get paid. (laughs)
Ronnie: It was exactly like that for me back in the early 90′s.
Me: What were you getting paid in those days?
Ronnie: $4.25 an hour.
Me: So you came in every day and punched-in. And when did Larry pay you?
Ronnie: We didn’t even have a time clock. That came later. We’d be working on Saturdays and he’d call us into the office one at a time and ask us how many hours we worked that week. He’d punch a few buttons on the calculator and that was it. Then he’d hand you the money.
Me: Do you think you will work here until your kids are out of high school?
Ronnie: Probably at least until Sarah [14 y/o] finishes.
Me: We could bullshit forever, but I have to get home. It’s been a day. I owe you.