Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Madness and a Good Hotel

I spent yesterday doing little.  I woke in my beautiful bed and stepped down the hallway to the coffee urn.  I read, I wrote, I texted, and then I went downstairs to have breakfast--quiche, a hardboiled egg, and a sweet bun with milk.  The room was bright and cheerful, and I felt the benefits of staying in a former mental institute.  I was decompressing, going slow.  I would allow myself to do little or nothing, but I surely would not run around at top speed trying to make sure I did "enough."  I am over doing "enough."  I will do less than enough from now on. 

I loaded up my cameras and drove a couple miles up Central, the old Rt. 66, to what I had been informed was the "chic" part of town where you could walk among small shops.  Nob Hill it is designated.  You could walk, alright, on dirty sidewalks among thrift stores and cheap tourist shops and local bars and restaurants, but there was nothing upscale about it.  Just past the University of New Mexico, there are remnants of the fifties, old hotel signs mostly, some still operating at $29/night--clean rooms--vacancy.  The sidewalks were filled with vagrants, mostly tattooed, many with big packs and large bags full of their possessions.  Walking around with two cameras, I looked like the fellow you should ask for a dollar.  Its a good thing I always have a big roll of singles in my pocket.  At one old motel, as I was taking snaps, a rough looking woman came out of the office wanting to know what I was doing. 

"I'm just taking photos of old motels.  I'm not a private eye," I grinned.  "I'm not a cop.  I'm just taking pictures." 

She shook her head.  "Might be nice if you ask first." 

"Do you mind if I take one more picture?" I asked. 

"People take them and make money off them," she said as if I were robbing her.

"How much you think I can get for this one?" I chuckled. 

She wasn't amused. 

Somehow, I tired of this, and so I decided to drive to the southern part of the city called "Old Town" which was another place recommended to me for walking and seeing interesting things.  People in Albuquerque have some funny ideas about what one might want to see.  "Old Town" was a bunch of adobe buildings, perhaps some of historical importance, that were full of tourist shops selling Native American "art."  It went on and on and on in its sad and empty way.  I found myself at the tourist center and decided to look for some information, maps, mostly, telling me where I might want to go.  The woman working the counter was very helpful, but when I asked her about driving south of town, she was at a loss.  She hadn't been south for about twenty years, she said.  Over and over, I found this to be true.  People in Albuquerque only went north, it seemed, into the higher elevations where it was cooler.  The south was desert.  It was hot.  I wondered what sort of people might be living there, then.   Outlaws and miscreants, I assumed.  The crazy and insane.  But how much worse could it get?  Albuquerque is odd enough.  The people are strange, the landscape spooky. 

After lunch on the porch of a fairly nice restaurant, I headed for the Museum of History and Art.  It was a wonderful structure with beautiful grounds surrounding it, very impressive.  But it was no art museum, not in the traditional sense.  They weren't buying or renting the masterpieces here.  The rooms were full of local artists and children's art and maps and posters about the local culture. 

I decided it was time to head south, if only a bit, just to see what was out there.  I'd had enough of Albuquerque.  And so I followed Central as far as is would go, once again driving among remnants of the old Rt. 66 mostly in the form of old signs.  There was a car lot with the old, triangular colored flags I remembered from when I was a kid, but this all seemed wrong like twisted memories of a better time.  The road was full of motorcycles.  There were biker rallies all across the state for Memorial Day.  Surely there would be beatings and shootings.  There is something definitely wrong with gang members.  Look at the mugshots from the arrests in Waco and you will see.  They are all cockeyed sons of bitches and smart as a carp or a retarded pit bull, perhaps.  I don't enjoy them so much.  But New Mexico seems to attract them like dogs to a pile of cat shit.  They just love to eat 'em some cat shit. 

I grew up with them.  I have known them all my life.  You can trust me on this.  They are not a romantic lot. 

Eventually the traffic thinned, and the road I was on merged with I-40.  I didn't wish to merge, however, so I took the frontage road beside it.  I was seeing the exact same things, but I would be able to stop whenever I wanted.  I thought this an advantage.  Who knew what wonders there might be.

But soon the road came to an end, or at least a seeming one, for there was a sign that said the paved road ended here, and so I took a turn onto another road that seemed to have some promise.  After a few miles, I was at the state penitentiary.  A quick U-turn and another right and more empty road.  It took me to the county dump.  I decided to go back and take the road that was less traveled, the one that was supposedly unpaved. 

The road had once been paved, but it was not longer maintained, and now it was full of potholes and washouts.  Still, it was very manageable, and I was in a rental car, so. . . onward.  I drove awhile listening to one of the hillbilly stations on my phone (connected by bluetooth to the rental car stereo) past the empty nothingness of sage brush and sand until I came to a dirt road that turned toward a distant. . . what?  It was not a butte, just a rising out of the desert.  I stopped to take some pictures. 

Outside the car, the temperature was dropping, the wind blowing like crazy.  There was nobody around, no car to be seen traveling up or down the road.  This was a lonely place.  Still, there were roads which meant that there were people who came and went.  This was somebody's landscape, the place etched into the core of his being, the place no matter where he went that he would call home.  We are formed by the land.  This was a different kind of madness than the swamps and prairies that I called home.  But it was all insane, all this land.  It is the madness that fills us, I thought. 

I didn't need to go too far with that.  It was getting late now, and I wanted to be back to the hotel to have a drink at that magnificent bar.  Turning around and heading back to the highway, I decided to take a different way home. 

There is nothing like a good hotel.  I have gotten too old to enjoy the cheap blankets and pillows and furniture of a bargain place (though I will be staying in a $55/night motel in Santa Fe for a week).  I have become like Zsa-Zsa Gabor, I think.  I need luxury and comfort.  I want the security of being looked after by a considerable staff.  And so, as the better part of Albuquerque gathered for Friday happy hour, I put on a linen shirt and made my way to the rooftop.  The sun was on its way down over the city that spread out below.  People were drinking pretty cocktails, and I would have one, too. 

"A Negroni, please," I asked the barman.  "I've never ordered one out, but I've made them at home." 

"I hope this is up to your standards, sir," he said demurely.  "It is all about the proportions." 

Yes, that is true.  All of life is about that.  I sat back to enjoy the late afternoon and early evening.  This was where I would end my day.  A good hotel is everything.

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