Sunday, September 07, 2008

Albuquerque, New Mexico: The Sightseeing (Part II)

what the hell: our hotel in Albuquerque, once an artists colony, was an adobe compound with 21 casitas, each of them decorated with the art of its former residents. this painting was in the bedroom Mo and i shared during our stay — for about five seconds before i made him move it to the living room for fear that it would give me nightmares.

not much better: Mo swapped the freaky watermelon painting with this one, which caused me to spend the next four days transfixed by the (lady’s?) nipples. we found out later that both paintings represent traditional clown dancers from the local Keres tribes of New Mexico.

interchanged: i had never been to the american southwest before, so i wasn’t sure what to except from New Mexico. i had some vague ideas gleaned from movies and books about mud houses and desert landscapes, and Albuquerque was certainly filled with both. it wasn’t as hot as i thought it would be, with the temperature rarely cracking 90 degrees, but the sun did seem to shine brighter here, with the shortage of trees making it hard to find shade to hide under. i did appreciate Albuquerque’s rich blue skies, which are a stark contrast to LA’s perpetually grayish, cancer-tinged air.

go bruins: Mo and i spent some time wandering around the University of New Mexico campus and its surrounding college town, which had some good eats. the university seems to be a huge employer and central part of Albuquerque’s culture, with lobo stuff plastered everywhere.

weak: the statue of the lobo itself (“wolf” in spanish) seemed a little sad. i’m probably just used to the oversized bruin i spent four years looking at when i attended UCLA, but come on, guys, couldn’t you dramatize the wolf a bit, making it bigger and more ferocious? as it stands now, the statue is about as frightening as Pinko.

this one time at band camp: we followed tuba players around campus as they practiced marching and playing at the same time while wearing outfits straight out of Hot Dog on a Stick.

craftsman detail: we also found this wooden canopy on campus that had some feature Mo was certain would work well for the house’s exterior. i just smiled, nodded and took the picture.

scarier than the lobo: these two “dancing” statues were smack in the middle of the quad.

Marble Brewery: after spending the day among college students, we decided to hit up a local brewery to drink like them.

IPA, please: i didn’t find the Marble beers as extraordinary as the ones i sampled at the Stone Brewery, but there was some yum in there. Mo became enamored with the IPA, bringing home a six-pack and a T-shirt from the brewery.

where trees are plentiful: our next adventure took us to the Rio Grande Nature Center, one of Albuquerque’s state parks. Mo wanted to see the Center’s main building, designed by local architect Antoine Predock, who also did the American Heritage Center Mo featured in his architecture travel series.

major vertigo: the building looked like a bomb shelter to me and was basically built into the rocky landscape with no discernible facade. walking toward the front door made me dizzy as hell, and i was convinced that on the other side of the door would be some carnival fun house with distorted mirrors and midget clowns running amuck.

the tubes of the internets: i didn’t see any midgets inside, only Predock’s sexy passive cooling system, which keeps the interior cool with giant containers filled with fluid to absorb the sun’s heat through skylights.

the vista: the backside of the building was all glass and provided a perfect view of the river. one room even had a library with cozy theater seats facing the glass, where i sat mesmerized for an hour, watching turtles sunbathe.

Sandia Peak: Albuquerque is home to the world’s longest aerial tramway, which took Mo and i to the highest peak in the Cibola National Forest, where we ate a terrific steak dinner at the local restaurant while watching the sun set and playing footsy under the table.

the scenery: although the Cibola forest looked like a proper forest full of lush greenery, the view of Albuquerque from atop the peak looked like a burnt sienna crayon melted all through the canyon. if each city has its own color, Albuquerque’s is definitely brown.

we can barely breathe: i made the mistake of running toward the tram after dinner (missing it by 10 seconds) and then spent the following 10 minutes gasping for air like a dying guppy.

cool at 10,000 feet: Mo knew better than to quicken his pace while we were at Sandia Peak, and he seemed to enjoy smoking his American Spirits, which he said gave him quite a head rush.

little fluffy clouds: while i enjoyed my time in New Mexico, i was definitely in a rush to get back to Cali. i didn’t particularly like or dislike Albuquerque. it was a decent enough city that was fun for a vacation — albeit a bit sleepy — but i don’t think i’ll be going back there anytime soon, despite its gorgeous blue skies.

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