1. The people. My first week in Albuquerque I was invited to a weekly brunch by a coworker I had just met. She invites everyone, and figures that if they’re meant to be friends they’ll show up. Well, impressed by her extraordinary friendliness, we did show up, and got to meet some of the coolest people in Albuquerque. With the brunchies we found camaraderie and like-minded souls. When we left the laughter and closeness stayed with us for a long time. And, although we didn’t make brunch every Sunday, we were always there in spirit. From roommates who are traveling nurses or work for Americorp, to great friends that redecorate staff lounges, to beekeepers fighting for their rights, to dear souls who throw and attend black and white parties, the friends Kevin and I made during our stay are some of the most authentic and kind people we know.
We were also lucky enough to have some awesome family members in Albuquerque, and I will forever be grateful for all their help and support during our stay. I will miss their company. They showed us around, and showed us how to get results. We dream about getting a solar panel one day; they went out and got one right now. We dream about a garden; they had a full thriving garden that could produce food all through the winter. We dream about bees, they will put some on their roof this spring. It was such a delight to have family nearby… especially such interesting and talented ones.
But it wasn’t just our friends, and family; it was everyone. People are just friendlier out west. Waitresses are happy, the auto shop guy is generous, even the staff at the animal shelter was amazing. I got updates about being a foster parent from the city vet herself. The vet! Never has a vet directly contacted me before at the more expensive veterinary practices I’ve been to. Now maybe this was a sign of lack of funds, but it sure made you feel like you were known and appreciated. Thanks Dr. Vigil, and your dedicated staff, for all you do.
2. The laid back attitude. People are just less stressed in Albuquerque; they don’t worry about every little thing. And I have to say, it creates a whole cycle of relaxation that places whose rules seem to grow in proportion to standard of living don’t appreciate on a daily basis. When we moved back east one of the first things to happen to me was my car getting towed from my own apartment complex. When I told my friend from Albuquerque (who has moved on to San Francisco now herself) she said, “You got too used to Albuquerque’s lax attitude.” Indeed I did. I hadn’t put my parking sticker on, because coming from Albuquerque it just didn’t seem like a big deal. Albuquerque is the only place I’ve ever lived where the library never assessed any charges for late fees. (And if this was some kind of experiment I would say that it did not effect my returning practices negatively at all. In fact, I almost always returned my books on time, a personal record, trying to be considerate of the kindness I felt was being extended to me.)
3. The local, healthy food movement. It’s everywhere: from the local farmer’s markets, to the fun and eye-opening classes on fermented foods and Herbalism with Jen at Sunstone Herbs, to the free Backyard Farming Series from Bernalillo County Open Space, to my friends in the student ghetto with chickens in their backyard. The La Montanita Co-op is one of the most organized and thriving I’ve ever seen. They recently started a grassroots fund to help local food producers. They truly provide a model for co-ops nationwide. The South Valley Economic Development Center has some innovative programs to get businesses started. They have an over 80% success rate, and allow use of their fully equipped commercial kitchen to new entrepreneurs for a modest fee. And let me tell you, they have some nice equipment. Since seeing it, I’ve dreamed of cooking with that professional stove. There’s a plethora of healthy restaurants here, too, and friends always ready to inspire you with tales of their delicious raw desserts.
4. Nob Hill. The restaurants, the theater, the co-op, the tattoo parlors, even the Herb Store! Everything close enough to walk to. There is plenty to do, yet it is quiet and peaceful. Funky, artsy, progressive, creative. Filled with college students. Vegetarian choices on the menu almost everywhere. I’ve never seen so many liberal bumper stickers. I miss reading them. And it was so easy to get around on my bike, to work, to the Ernie Pyle library (which is unique because it’s actually inside his former house – I think the bathroom is the kid’s section). Which leads me to reason #5…
5. The Bike Paths. Albuquerque not only has the perfect weather to be outdoors, they also have a sustainable, environmentally friendly attitude. They look towards the future. Hybrid cars park free in Albuquerque, and for those who choose a simpler way of life there is the designated bike streets. Silver Avenue, which runs right behind the main street, Central, is designated for bikers, with a speed limit of about 18 mph. Sure, cars can use it too, but it makes more sense for them to choose one of the several other faster roads. This leaves Silver open to those who appreciate the advantages of a bike: free, it doesn’t pollute, and it’s good exercise! Since I’ve been back on the east coast I had to drive my car up Interstate 95 just to go to the mall on a beautiful day. It was a mad dash of exhaust and loud wind. I couldn’t feel the sun on my shoulders, or the wind in my face, or the peaceful quiet. Oh, how I miss those lovely strolls on my beach cruiser bike. Even my dog misses his bike runs with Kevin. And in Albuquerque you can ride your bike a lot because of reason number 6.
6. The weather. There’s almost always a peaceful blue sky above. It’s sunny all day long, almost all year. Okay, supposedly there’s a rainy season, but I think I could have counted the number of times it rained each year on both hands. If it snowed in the morning, it was warm and sunny in the afternoon. And there’s no humidity. My hair never frizzed; my clothes dried out on the line faster than they did in the dryer. Even the hot summers were not unbearable because it was so dry. And, as mentioned before, with some protection it’s possible to garden all through the winter. Winters are short and mild. The weather is amazing. From its huge temperature shifts between night and day, and its massive wind bursts, it’s never boring either.
7. Dogfriendliness. People just love dogs here. From the kind souls at the coffee shop who doted on my dog almost every day, to strangers that stopped to pet him as he was sitting out front, to the people and dogs at the dog park, to the various restaurants who provided hooks to clip his dog leash on and always brought him water and a biscuit, to the loving friends who generously forgave him for what will forever be known as “the chicken incident,” to the local dog bakery, my dog grew up knowing that people were friendly; he was welcome, and he was loved.
8. The mountain. There’s something particularly striking about Albuquerque, and that is that you will be driving down the road, minding your own business, and suddenly you will look up and realize there’s this huge mountain looming over you, and it’s been there all the time. Just stopping to catch the view, always gave me such a sense of the expansiveness of it all. Plus, it’s fun to hike and explore the creeks and forests, and take the tram to the top every once in a while. There you can find rocks filled with sea fossils to remind you that this whole area used to be underwater.
9. People don’t judge you in Albuquerque. They’re not all trying to be the same or do the same things. Self-expression is good, valuable. Want to put a crazy sculpture on your yard? Go ahead. Speak up. Be yourself. It’s all okay here, all part off the laid back philosophy of life, all conducive to real, healthy, positive freedom.
10. Working barefoot. Okay, that may sound silly to some, but for me it was a dream come true. Working barefoot is (how do I put it?) illegal, in Pennsylvania preschools, and it’s illegal for the kids to be barefoot, too. The last preschool I worked at on the east coast wouldn’t even let us wear flip-flops to work. But in Albuquerque, reason rules. As long as the temperature is above seventy, which it is a good percentage of the year, it’s okay to throw your flip-flops aside (actually into the shoe bucket), walk around barefoot, dig your toes in the sand, literally feel the earth beneath your feet. The kids are happier, freer, and so are the teachers. It’s a wonderful thing to behold.
Okay, so maybe some of these things are double edged swords. My hair was flat but my skin was red & bumpy and dry, dry, dry. It never rained and sometimes I would think, it never rains, yet water comes out of my faucet all the time. How is this possible? The protective coating on my rear view mirror melted in the intense summer sun. But no place is perfect, nor should anyone expect it to be. It’s the things we appreciate that leave lasting impressions on our heart.
Maybe I shouldn’t have limited the list to ten things. Because there’s so much more I didn’t fit. Kevin’s family, in addition to treating us to great dinners, also kindly invited us to several of their live theater productions over the years, whether they were acting or directing. For a small city, Albuquerque has a thriving theater scene, and there is nothing like the intimacy of a small theater to lose yourself in a dramatic production. Animal Humane (not associated with the Humane Society), the non-profit animal shelter where we got our dog, is also an example of an organization that should serve as a model nationwide. Clean, colorful, friendly. You want to go there. Balloon Fiesta, which I have whole other blog entry about. Yoga, meditations, acupuncture, you name it; it’s here. Walks by the Rio Grande, the Botanical Gardens. There’s even the Isotopes, Albuquerque’s baseball team named in honor of a Simpsons’ episode (it won in a vote). And so much more!
I miss you Albuquerque. Thank you to
everyone who has become so near and dear to us. I hope you blossom and grow. Thankfully, I know we will be back to visit.
What do you love about Albuquerque? Would love to hear it!
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