Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Things Will Be Fine
I wake my first morning in Albuquerque in a whiskey and Xanax daze. I feel good but slow and dopey. I will simply sit and wait for this to pass. The hotel in which I am staying is tastefully appointed and elegant, my room smallish but comfortable. The sun is up and beginning to light desert morning after last night's rain, the sky a high marbled blue and gray.
I was able to pack the night before my flight with the help of someone said she is a bad packer, too. I inevitably bring too little or too much of the wrong things and always forget something or some things. But the bag was packed and we were able to eat a wonderful dinner at my new favorite sushi restaurant, drinking sake and talking the way we always do. . . incessantly. I love to talk to her for she is bright and accomplished and is good at the form of it. We look good together, I think, at least it seems so, and I like that about her, too. She said she would like to take me to the airport in the morning, and I said that I would like that, too. And even though she might not have been good at giving packing advice, the advice she did give was comforting in that I did not feel alone at and would not feel as bad when later the packing had not been adequate. At the minimum, she made the night pass without anxiety and she asked if I wanted her to check in on the cat while I was gone. It has been phenomenal the way the cat has taken to her as she never has anyone, running to her when she comes wanting to be petted and loved. Like me, my friend is allergic to the cat, but she will rub and love old puss until the cat is worn out with it and lies limp and content. And so I gave her a key to the house and showed her how to work all the various contraptions including the four remotes it takes to get all the cable and Apple t.v. things to work. My worries about leaving were exponentially reduced.
My flight to Albuquerque was not until 10:30 in the morning, so there was plenty of time for coffee and talk and last minute preparations that for me are always endless. But we were off in good time and she dropped me off at the curb with a long and for me a heartfelt embrace. It had been a very long time since a trip began with an tender goodbye, sweet and aching.
I am no believer in signs, I tell myself and others, too, but my flight to Dallas/Ft. Worth was already delayed an hour and a half when I got to the airport. That would keep me from making my connection to Albuquerque. And so I was required to get into a long line at the ticket counter and wonder where I would be when nighttime came. Inauspicious start, I thought with a sense of dread and doom descending upon me. I was shrouded in misgivings. But it was time to get Zen which was the point of the trip anyway. I needed de-stressing and was determined to relax and find my inner peace again. And it was already working as I just went with the crowd and followed the flow of inevitable events wanting to be beatific and to enjoy whatever happened around me.
And it seemed to be working. The ticket agent was a nice lady who put me on the next flight out. It was possible if everything went well that I would still make my connecting flight. If not, I had a seat on the flight that followed. I would be in Albuquerque by nightfall. While waiting in the main terminal, I decided to sit down pay some bills by telephone. I ate some yogurt with granola and fruit and drank a big bottle of water. I felt good. The time I'd lost in the flight delay had not been wasted. It was time to head to the boarding gate. It was finally time to go.
Except the flight I was booked on didn't have a co-pilot. And so we sat and waited as even later flights left before ours. I sat and looked around without emotion. I practiced my meditation trying to let everything go.
When we boarded the plane ever so late, I was in a very small center seat. I crossed my arms and closed my eyes. Ommmm. I opened them once when the beverage cart came around. "Bloody Mary, please." The flight attendant waved me off as I tried to pay. This is good, I thought, a better sign. I thought of the vitamin C in the tomato juice and the power of the spices and the antiseptic powers of alcohol. I felt good again and closed my eyes. Ommmm.
And good things continued to align. Lucky enough, we flew into the same gate as the one from which I was to depart. That flight had been delayed, too, so that in the end of a very long day, I arrived a mere hour behind the original time. I thought back to my friend's embrace when I left. "This isn't an inauspicious beginning," she said. "It is just a delay, that is all." She, of course, had been right.
When I got my car, I asked the agent about places to eat. I asked him for good restaurants and the better parts of town. I told him where I was staying, the Hotel Parq Central. He shook his head.
"I hope you like ghosts," he said. "That place is haunted. It used to be a mental institute. I couldn't stay there myself."
I, of course, was intrigued. I'd had my secretary pick the place for me as my last days at work were too hectic and tiring for me to manage. It was expensive and very upscale, and I had been hoping that it was within walking distance of some very nice things, but the rental agent said it was as far south as I would want to go in Albuquerque and he began circling things on a map as places that were nice. He told me the name of a restaurant that I would like.
"It is everybody's favorite place in Albuquerque," he said.
When I got to my car, it was a Chevy Malibu. It was big enough, but Jesus, Chevrolets have some of the worst interiors in the world. No matter which model I get when I rent a car, it is like driving a tank with portals to look through. The sky was turning black, the wind blowing a cold wind. I was not prepared and my sense of gloom was returning. I programmed the hotel address into my phone and drove.
I pulled off the interstate and within a block saw the hotel. It was fabulous looking, but I wondered at its being so close to the interstate highway. The area looked fairly blighted. Two big hospitals were within sight as I drove on to the bucolic looking grounds. Inside, though, there was little doubt. This was without doubt a very nice hotel. I took a look at my room and checked out the amenities and thought I might not need to leave the grounds. The top floor had a chi-chi bar full of well-appointed people. In the morning breakfast was served downstairs. My bed was soft and white and full of fluffy things. But I was hungry, and on the advice of the car rental agent, I programmed the name of the restaurant into Yelp and mapped my route.
It was in what I could only call a seedy part of town. But there it was, the only clean and modern building on the street. Maybe, I thought. Perhaps.
I was seated in the bar area full of giant t.v.s showing sporting events. I ordered a very average margarita. The salsa and chips were like those you would get at any chain restaurant. I ordered a ribeye and beans. It was the sort of steak you might get at Longhorns. I ordered another drink and wondered why I thought that rental agent knew anything about lovely restaurants. I saw a liquor store in the parking lot next to the hotel. I would need scotch to take care of my stomach.
When I got to the hotel, I decided to drive a bit around the area to see what there was. I headed downtown which was at six o'clock closed up tight. The bums were finding their nests for the night. This was not the place for evening fun. I made an intuitive turn across town and went back toward the hotel on another street. Here were some things, a hippy looking restaurant, a organic looking grocery store, a diner and some other businesses of that ilk. I drove past the hotel and continued on in the opposite direction. Route 66, or what once was, past the University of New Mexico and all the college shops, on to what is supposed to be the fashionable part of town, Nob Hill, the road full of those old forties and fifties hotel signs and rundown structures, some just rubble, some replaced, some still operating as budget motels, onward into the setting sun, the traffic thinning, the road rising into the distant mountains, me beginning to feel a bit better. . . onward.
In my room, it was time for bed at home and too early for bed in Albuquerque. What else was there to do but to pop a Xanax and poor a whiskey and climb into bed and turn on the hotel's only disappointment, a t.v. full of commercial channels and to flip it to an NBA playoff game which didn't matter to me until I began to watch, finishing the last whiskey with the games last exciting possession. Lights off, I snuggled down to sleep.
And sleep I did until it was time to rise back on the east coast but too early to rise here. Being on vacation and being free, I made a quick decision. Half a Xanx and a shot of whiskey. I even felt good about it.
And so, as I began. I am groggy now, but I am on my third cup of coffee now without feeling the need to rush out and find the coolest most obscure or hippest thing to make everyone envious of my experiences. I will splash some water on my face and go downstairs to breakfast and then slowly explore the town. It will be fine, I think. Things will be fine.