I am not a good city dweller. I cringe from getting into my car, even to go hiking, because the drive must take me through an ever-amplified din of pavement and billboards and exhaust and angry angry people, each with a distracted finger on the trigger of a three-thousand-pound steel and plastic weapon. There is trash on the street, and a fat woman in tight jeans kicks her little girl, because her hands are too encumbered by cellphone and Wal-Mart bags to be good for slapping. My neighbor's dog lives on a chain and never stops calling in its raspy voice for someone to give a damn. Lights stay on all night, bathing logos that we've all stopped really seeing anyway. Every Wednesday morning, overflowing bins line the curb, bearing silent testament to the routine orgy of consumption conducted each week behind the deadbolts. I am not good at this sort of city life.
But I can be a good city dweller. On foot, my city shrinks, becomes tree-lined lanes of blacktop connecting houses with each other and houses with cups of coffee, movie screens, grocery registers, glasses of beer. On my bicycle, even the heart-pounding of a brush with car-fender-shaped-Death is smoothed over as my sweat quietly evaporates and things approach at a more human pace. The panhandler looks me in the eye, and there's no red light to hold us in forced tableau, waiting for things to change. Today, the concrete beneath my feet takes me down officed canyons and into my neighborhood, where a hummingbird worries late-summer blooms. A dog walker's charge samples the story collected by the hem of my pants, and finds it compelling. People on porches may or may not return my hello. A newspaper box leans, mentioning yesterday's news, in case I wasn't paying attention then. I cross a park, where a child whacks dents into a trash can, and a man and his shopping-carted collection of modern refuse and relics pause in the shade. If the police show up, only one of them will be allowed to stay. I am good at this kind of city.
A while back, I made a promise to Albuquerque
. I've been slowly fulfilling that promise, even while making more promises to a new city. In my desert eleventh hour, I've been remembering just how much is in my own damn back yard
Days spent on two wheels, pedaling between dense, thought-provoking
, and beautiful
exhibits, or looping south
through the trees, past industrial skeletons and graffiti-ed ditches, then swinging back homeward, the wind somehow in my face going both directions.
Realizing that this will be the last summer that closes with the sweetly charred smell of roasting green chile
twitching my nostrils. Reminding those same nostrils to get their fill of juniper and sage while they can.Shopping
for local art
, to take some of New Mexico with me when I go.
Raising a glass on a Santa Fe patio
, while the Rail Runner
chugs by and a local fella
sings words that were never truer: There really is no sky like the New Mexican sky.
Watching that same sky sift rain down on my tent in a decidedly un-desert spot
Or watching it tear down, reassemble, and tear down again banks of textured clouds on a motorcycle ride up North 14.
Reminding my dog that where we're going, there won't be silent, lurking, overhead menaces
to haunt her.
There are many more things left on my list, and I'll be getting to them as moving season draws closer. But in the interest of milking ole ABQ for all she's worth, I'll ask the question again, gentle Fixers: What of New Mexico would you add to my list to do and see and feel and hear before I go? What makes you a good city dweller in this odd little town of ours?