Tuesday, June 9, 2009

University of New Mexico, Nob Hill, a better bookstore, and the Albuquerque Isotopes

I woke this morning at 4 am, and wrote the previous blog post. After that, I went back to sleep. When I woke again, around 9, I went downstairs, had a cup of coffee, spoke with the desk guy about hiking routes, and called the farm that I will be volunteering at tomorrow. Apparently there is a bus route that will take me there, but from what I've seen, I'm packing prepared to be stranded. Either way, I spoke with a farmer named Beth, and I will be showing up tomorrow to experience what she does each day. I may also return on Wednesday for a tour of several local farms. I'm excited about this.

After I made my phone calls, I decided to go explore Albuquerque in the daylight. I was pounding the pavement by 11am after three cups of coffee and two granola bars. I brought along my computer and journal and plenty of water. This photo should give you an idea of what I was walking towards.

I did find a couple bicycle shops that I stopped at to inquire about renting bicycles. Both told me of only one place in town that rents, and it is located way outside of town. Kinda pointless. Albuquerque, I began to discover, is a lot like Mid-Western cities: The people are very friendly, hot dog vendors are a staple, and the public transportation isn't worth a shit. I'm realizing one particular thing: those of us in the mid-west and in Albuquerque better learn to walk, because personal vehicle usage is very soon to become an unaffordable luxury. I think this is a good thing, too. We've become to disconnected from the land we live in and on, and the people we live with. I wonder if the CEOs of AIG or GM had ridden the bus with all of their employees every single day, through the slums and projects, if they still would've fucked them over in order to pad their own pockets. Walking is good. Foot in contact with earth. We desperately need to relearn the importance of contact with the earth that yeilds the objects of our sustenance.

I stopped at the Univer- sity of New Mexico during my walk. The campus is beautiful, all in stucco and desert fauna, waterfalls, statues, and monuments. I stopped at the Library for awhile and perused their Literature section. I found a carrel where I stopped to eat some pretzels, drink some water, journal, and listen to the Tigers beat the White Sox (unfortunately this was only the case for the first of the doubleheader.) Here are some pictures of the campus. By the way, every time I saw the University's initials engraved into the stucco - UNM - I thought it was a typo of Northern's initials: NMU.

As I continued to walk on, I stopped for lunch at Frontier Restaurant. A couple that I had met the previous night said this place was a must-go. It features cheap New-Mexican food, not to be confused with Mexican food. The difference: loads and loads of hot, chunky, green chile stew. They were right. This place was great. I ordered a Carne Adovada Buritto and a half order of Chicken Nachos loaded with Green Chile Stew. Mmmmm. I'll be going back to this place.

I also saw a bar I may have to visit in the next few days. I mean, I'd be ashamed to be a Greek if I didn't. I would not be able to look Yai Yai in the eyes without visiting this joint.

When I finally began my return trip, I stopped at a bookstore. When I walked in, an old woman stood up, blocked my entrance, and asked what she could do for me. I said, "well, I'd actually like to look at the books that you sell in this bookstore." She hesitated, looked me over, and told me my bag would be safe behind the counter so I should leave it there while I looked. I did, but it pissed me off. How do I have any guarantee that this woman isn't going to steal from my bag? What insurance do I have? I don't mean to say that she would, but I was offended that she, as the retailer, required insurance of me, her (only) customer. It bothered me that she considered herself more trustworthy than I am, and would only allow me into the store if I conceded my bag that contained a novel, a bible, 2 journals, a phone, a laptop, a dictaphone, an iPod, chargers for said electronics, and a half dozen granola bars. Truth be told, I was glad the books she sold were dusty, untouched, and looked to stay that way. Two other ancient employees in the store eyeballed me without a greeting, and I could not get out of there fast enough. All this to say that later, when I got closer to my hostel (a total walk today of close to 8 miles in the New Mexican sun), I found another bookstore. A young black man, smiling and seated in front of the screen door, saw me approach, moved his chair, opened the door, and greeted me. He was just there visiting. The (only) employee present was sitting at her desk talking to the young man. She stood up, looked me in the eyes, and sincerely said, "I am so glad that you are here." I perused her shelves and found so many great books that I had to have, though my tight budget would not allow it. I roamed and roamed as her and the young man laughed and told stories. I read first pages and eavesdropped on their conversation and lugged my loaded bag around satisfied. Her aged dog followed me around the room as I did so, offering the top of his head for a quick scratch. And furthermore, as I scanned titles and authors, I found the above pictured novel: Yes, that is Cold by John Smolens: guitarist virtuoso for the Whalin Teagues, novelist, NMU professor of fiction, and a surrogate Captain Ahab. If this bookstore is good enough to carry his work, then it was good enough for me.

I went on to my hostel and took a couple pictures of it as well. Here is one from the outside and one of my room (notice, the growler of IPA has finally been opened).

Finally, I got back to my room after the walk. The heat is very strange here. I mean, you know that it is intense, yet you don't notice it the same way you would the humid air. You notice it by the way your body requires water. You certainly get dehydrated much faster here. And I found that as I walked, I never really noticed much of a sweat. Though, if I felt the back of my neck or underneath my book bag strap, I could tell that I was sweating quite a bit. The only difference is that you do not feel it so much because it evaporates so quickly. Three times today, I spilled water on my shirt while trying to drink from the water bottle mid-stride. Each time, the water mark was gone within minutes.

I was not in my hostel room for long when the couple that I had spoken with the night before called me. They had decided to go to the ballgame and offered to give me a ride. After the long walk, and hesitant to truck another 6-8 miles (half of which would be in the dark), I took them up on their offer. We arrived at the game and soon stuffed ourselves with 50 cent hot dogs. We sat in the lawn for 6 dollars and had a blast. The couple's name was Tom and Rose. They are both photographers and show their art in galleries in Albuquerque and Sante Fe. They seemed to be fantastic people, and I really benefited from talking to them about photographs, the economy, baseball, the mid-west, and micro-breweries. I hope that I run into them once more before I leave. I've included some pictures of the game, including a fight between the Isotopes coach and the Ump after ejecting an Isotopes player. The Isotopes dominated the first 8 innings, giving up only 3 hits, one for a one-run tater. They also scratched 4 runs across the plate, including two long balls. In the ninth, however, the closer gave up 4 runs, which, unfortunately, ended up costing the Isotopes the game. It was a great game nonetheless: 80 degrees, breezy, and dry. The crowd was as enthusiastic as I've ever seen, and the hot dogs were worth all fifty cents (though not a penny more.)

Well, I hope these last two long posts have not set the bar too high. I do not intend to write this much every night, as it takes away from my real writing and research. So, don't be too disappointed if I've set you up for a sundae, and only deliver a dairy-soaked peanut shell.

Also, for anyone that is interested in what I have been listening to while on this trip, you can find the artists listed in the last.fm box to the right.


daveterbeek said...

Jason , I have already enjoyed your trip with you .Thanks
Dad TB

Elizabeth said...

We certainly will not accept dairy-soaked peanut shells.