Sunday, October 28, 2012

Albuquerque, New Mexico

When I was little, my mom used to subscribe to Reader's Digest. I don't remember most of what was in there, but there were little vocabulary quizzes on building your vocabulary, true stories that were mostly titled, "I Survived..." a flood, or a horrific injury, or a grizzly bear attack, or a kidnapping, or a plane crash or something. There were also sections where people could send in little jokes or anecdotes, and this one has always stuck in my head, waiting to be used:

A wounded, dying pioneer lies in the shade of a saddened wagon train, gasping out his last words.


"Yeah, Al?"

"You'll keep your promise, right?"

"Yeah, Al."

"And when you get out west, you'll build a city and name it after me?"

"Yeah, Al."


"Yes, sir?"

"You'll make sure he does it?"

"Yes, Mr. Buquerque."

I meant to tell that joke this week, when I was in Albuquerque for a conference, but didn't get around to it. I did get around to seeing a lot of Albuquerque, though, and I have to say that the town is a little weird. There's a lot of older, historical stuff, which is great, but all of the modern era stuff looks like they built it around 1980 and then left it out in the desert to mummify:

albequerque conference center

Other than the cars, is there anything in that picture that would keep you from guessing that it was taken anywhere between 1960 and now? The whole city is like that. They somehow manage to make a TGI Friday's or a Best Buy look 40 years old, and I have no idea how that's even possible.

When I got there on Monday there was a campus tour of the University of New Mexico, but I didn't sign up in advance so I didn't think I could go, and I went to walk around town instead.

greyhound station

albequerque streets (1)

central streetsign

occidental life building

amy biehl high school

albequerque streets (2)

I saw a lot of the somehow dated but modern architecture (seriously, even brand new buildings going up looked old), and found out that Albuquerque is a city that loves their art.

statue crowd (1)

statue skateboarder

statue crowd (2)

Not just statues, either. I saw murals and painted artwork everywhere:

albequerque mural (1)

albequerque mural (2)

albequerque mural (3)

albequerque mural (4)

albequerque mural (5)

albequerque mural (6)

albequerque mural (7)

painted box


Even the community garden I walked past was decorated:

community garden

The city seems to have a lively art scene in general, since I saw several theaters, venues, and posters:


el ray

prohibited items

I know what you're thinking. "How can I possibly enjoy a show without my chains and knives?", but I guess somehow people manage.

Tuesday and Wednesday we did conference stuff all day, but Thursday we went down to Old Town (Olde Towne?) Albuquerque, where every historical building that isn't a church:

historic church (1)

historic church (2)

Mary and Jesus

church doors

is now a gift shop, restaurant, or antique store:

old things

plaza primors

old town walkway

old town emporium

Gabby's Handmade Soaps

plaza don luis

basket shop

drying peppers

It's a nice area to walk around in, and there was a band:

band (1)

band (2)

by the gazebo:


which is also a grave:

under the gazebo

On Friday the conference wrapped up, and I had to switch to another hotel a block away for the night, because I registered a little late and they couldn't give me the extra night at the Hyatt. It worked out really well, though, because I moved from the bland, boxy Hyatt to the Hotel Andaluz:


my room

where I should have stayed all along. Is that not gorgeous? It was built in the 1930's by Conrad Hilton, and was full of woodwork and antiques but also with modern touches and a really nice restaurant.

Before I could eat at the restaurant, though, my coworker Kay and I decided to squeeze in one last adventure for the week. We drove out to Sandia Peak:

toward sandia peak

to ride the tram:

tram bays

to the top:

on top of the peak

See how I'm all covered with sweat and trying to smile but actually look like someone is standing just outside the frame stabbing me in the kidney? That would be thanks to the crippling fear of heights that I've mentioned before. The scenery on the way up:

leaving the station

view from the tram (1)

view from the tram (2)

view from the tram (3)

view from the tram (4)

view from the tram (5)

and the way down:

view from the tram (6)

view from the tram (7)

view from the tram (8)

return to the station

was totally worth it, although there was a panic freakout moment on the way up (besides the continuous low grade freakout the whole way) when I noticed a dime sized hole in the floor:

hole in the floor

that you could see the thousand foot drops through, and I tried to casually mention it to Kay. Based on the way that the people in the car looked at me, I think my casual mention sounded something like this:


but maybe it was totally a little more subtle.

The views at the top, where the visitor center is, were also spectacular:

view from the top

rio grande

(that's the Rio Grande in that picture), although I did notice something odd in the visitor center itself:


(They couldn't move that display when they cut the bathroom door into the wall?) and I think we were up high enough to see the actual seperate layers of the atmosphere:

albequerque airport


We also learned that the maintenance guys prefer to strap themselves to the roof of the trams to ride up and down:

top rider

which is insane.

During the week I also ate a lot of Mexican/Tex Mex food, including these eggs:


which were the best meal of the trip, and then on Friday night the sun set on Albuquerque:

albequerque sunset

and I got up on Saturday and headed home.