In Sun-Washed Country

It’s seven in the morning (as I write this; I tend to dither over structure, get distracted by Boris wanting in my lap, and rise from this chair several times to fetch more coffee, so I might take ten minutes to finish one sentence. Discipline is not my strong suit) and I’ve got the ‘phones on listening to and having my morning espresso roast. Playing now is Weezer, “Island in the Sun”. This is the opening paragraph, the “Good GODZ just get something on the screen!” paragraph. I have to approach this thing like Chris O’Donnel in Vertical Limit, leaping at a sprint across a chasm, fists full of climbing hammers.

(Two observations here: (1), I regret using a really horrible movie for analogy, and (B), the Internet Movie Database — — thinks that, because I looked up Vertical Limit, I would probably like Gone with the Wind and Speed Racer as well. Why? Is it because there’s wind on mountains too? Because the characters make a speedy ascent as they race to rescue the stranded climbers? Actually, I might pay to see Rhett and Scarlet peel out of a burning Atlanta in the Mach 5, just leave stupid people uttering witless dialogue on mountains out of it.)

We’ve been in Albuquerque 26 days now, and the requisite period of “Oh F**K, what did we DO??” passed after the first, say, twelve hours. I actually expected to feel out of sorts for quite a while, but even though it had been eighteen years since we made such a long-distance move (from Dallas, Texas to Portland) I guess our migratory muscles had kept their tone all this time. Once the furniture was huffed and puffed up the stairs and our stuff started coming out of boxes, it was already feeling good and right that we are here. I think it’s an absence of culture shock, really. Becoming acquainted with The Portland Way was a steeper learning curve, whereas in Albuquerque there is more of that “southern state of mind” that we remember from our time in Texas.

Let me state now that I don’t intend to play the “better than” game here. I love Portland down to it’s grumpy, gothy, dour little soul, and the friends I’ve made there. I am not glad to be away from Portland. I AM very glad to be in Albuquerque nonetheless. When I make comparisons here, it’s in the spirit of embracing the diversity of, and between, both places. So don’t hate, ‘kay?

Striking Difference #1: Holy crap, I can see two states from here! It’s a kick to be driving west and see seemingly half the planet sprawling before us, with volcanic cones rising in the distance. To the northeast of course is the Sandia range, not quite the honkin’ YUGE rumpled-blanket green mountains on offer in the Cascade and Coast ranges of the Northwest, but somehow the Sandias are more immediate, more there. See past entries about how I feel about desert environs. I’m diggin’ it.

Striking Difference #2: I pump my own gas and it feels great! I almost broke the locking gas cap the first time because hey, I never had to open the damned thing before. (This was actually in Idaho).

Striking Difference #3: I’ve seen the sun every day so far. That’s twenty-six days in a row. Okay, THIS is one aspect I’ll unequivocally state is an improvement over Portland Oregon. Portland hasn’t seen that many consecutive days of sunshine since Mt. Hood was a speed-bump. My vampire friends of the Northwest will just have to forgive me here.

Striking Difference #4: The Mexican/New Mexican food here is awesome, and I haven’t found pot-roast in my enchiladas yet. Red or Green? Make it Christmas, please.

Yadayada #5: They stock stuff in the supermarkets (grocery stores, whatever) that I haven’t seen since I was a teenager. King Vitamin cereal! (Think “cereal for people who believe that Cap’n Crunch just won’t carry them to their first diabetic seizure quite fast enough”.) Wolf brand chili WITHOUT BEANS, as the godz intended!

Numero Six-O: Speed limits of 55 mph are posted on surface streets. I kid you not. We’ve thus far avoided being run down, or even honked at (unlike, you know, other places). Regardless of the race-track mentality, the motorists here have been quite courteous. We’ll see how they react to moi on a bicycle. The little woman has threatened to run over my bike herself rather than see me brave the roads, but the cyclists I’ve observed look pretty comfy and their shoulders appear lumber-free.

(A side subject: The medians here in the Northeast Heights area are scary; one has to traverse them either to turn left or do U-turns, and the sight-lines are often non-existent. I’m convinced I’m gonna head-on somebody coming around the other way or get side-swiped by someone trying to get by from behind. I’ll get over it, but I’ll admit it’s my least-favorite driving maneuver here.)

Se7en: The arid climate means that static electricity is my homie. I mean, my toothbrush throws sparks, yo. The cats have taken to flinching every time I come near them.

Ate: They could relax with the adobe motif in my ‘hood. Just a little. It looks like an SUV dealership on Tatooine up in here. That being said, the architecture here is unique to my experience. I liked walking Portland’s sidewalks and admiring the old houses. Much of Albuquerque’s building style appears more organic, as if the structures are grown straight from the soil. Portland is jutting, sharp angles. Albuquerque is rounded and wind-buffed. The two couldn’t be more different.

Nein!: For the first couple weeks we had a little trouble gathering air molecules. Sleep was actually a bit of a chore. It’s eased now, but I’m betting my first bike ride of any real distance is going to be a humbling experience.


Today our plan is to go to Petroglyph National Monument for a hike. We’ll be doing as much sight-seeing and traveling of the state as funds allow; heck, just getting outside the city’s light-smog to see the stars at night will be awesome, the best show on Earth for free! For daylight activities I’m gonna have to get used to sunscreen, I suppose, seeing as I intend to be outdoors a LOT and the near-constant sunshine and elevation make for excellent opportunities to grow my melanoma potential. (I flirted with the idea of trying a spray-on tan to cover my pasty hide, but so far have shunned the concept as being simply too dorky even for me.)

A final note: When researching Albuquerque I came across post after post on various websites that warned of the venomous critters here. To date I have seen two moths and a few (admittedly king-size) ants. Not one scorpion. Not one tarantula. No black widows. Nary a snake. This may all change today, but at this point I’m almost disappointed. That’s really ridiculous considering that I’m ever-so-slightly entomophobic, huh?



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