—Pablo Picasso [corrected]
A nation that forgets its past has no future. [So written on the side of the seemingly abandoned State Records Center and Archives building in Santa Fe. I failed to get a picture of the freshly painted quote above the faint outline of the word ‘archives,’ sad, because it could serve as a great first panel in a comic book of whimsical, or meaningful, irony.]
What a beautiful day: the sun is shining, the birds are singing!
—A young boy in the square at Old Town in Albuquerque [the smartest one of all]
There are six things I need to find before a new place can feel like home: a library, a convenience store, a record store, a (gay) bar, an art museum, and a scenic nature trail. The first two must be within walking distance of my domicile. I’ve found most of these things in Albuquerque.
A library: the main branch is downtown, a 15-minute walk.
A convenience store: the 7-11 on Lomas sucks, but a little further is the very inviting G-Mart, whose owner continues to tell us the benefits of their DVD rental system (new releases available before Redbox!) even after we’ve rented from her.
A record store: I think I went to most of them, minus the still eagerly anticipated Krazy Kat (if it’s real), in search of the new M83 and Real Estate albums. The notable ones are Charley’s (huge!), Mecca (close to home, and with hilariously random hours) and Natural Sound (the oldest, I think).
A (gay) bar: Still working on the parenthetical (and hope to be a Social Club regular once I pay my dues) but downtown’s Blackbird suffices as a place to sit in the dark and listen to really loud 80s dance music.
An art museum: All the great ones are in Santa Fe, so we took the train there. After the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the Chuck Jones Gallery, I realized what I’ve probably always known, which is that I prefer both artists when they’re painting the Southwest. Did they ever cross paths? Does my regard for Jones’ palette diminish the same for O’Keeffe’s, which is profound? The New Mexico Museum of Art had all sorts of amazing pieces by New Mexico artists whose names I neglected to write down and have already forgotten.
A scenic nature trail: We walked near the Rio Grande, and three days later in the Sandias.
I find our courtyard beautiful, and not just accidentally beautiful (as there’s nothing decorative about it), but helplessly beautiful, in the pattern of the region, and ready to go unnoticed against other more commanding scenes nearby. A closed courtyard, even a rudimentary one, is a great idea simply for the way it frames the world above, separates it from whatever might exist beneath it. I like to stand outside our door at night and look at the faint glow of the city, a halo around the courtyard tree. Anything from a Mennonite community to Krazy’s Coconino County could exist beyond the walls.
Inside is coming along too. After receiving new (old) furniture today, these early triumphs of interior design:
And, for all these photos I’ve taken, some others I wish I’d taken, or still need to take: the neon sign of Dog House reflected in a window across the street; the nearby fire hydrant; shirts hanging in a car, seen from the passenger side window; two big dogs sleeping on the back of a couch, seen through and framed by a living room window; the neon bail bonds sign in the bottom window of the square building that Mt. Helena perfectly frames, from the right angle; a red-brown pitbull, a beautifully lit art object and yet totally my equal in its aliveness.
These last four won’t be getting taken, as I saw them in Helena in October, the bulldog on the 11th of that month, while taking a very sentimental fall stroll around the block of my youth (’95-’98), along six foot tall hedges and walls (always such a calming sensation, to walk near something the same height as you) and listening to Yuck’s awesome album-closer “Rubber” (the perfect song for the occasion, as it’s the sound of my youth but in a new form not available to me at the time). All this seemed conclusive proof against music videos, there being such a complete, yet accidental, convergence of sound and vision that beat anything that could ever be planned. And that pitbull: it was amazing, sort of like in movies when two different types of creatures are shown to acknowledge each other’s existence with silent regard, but it was a real feeling, not a cinematic one, though it did have a certain camera panning momentum, the dog sitting on a low wall and me passing at eye level, with a steady, panoramic view of his proffered majesty.
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Back to Albuquerque: What is the music that is helping to solidify all these new connections, you ask?
I should acknowledge the local New Age flute duo Amauta’s version of “El Condor Pasa,” and not just because it was the first live music I heard here (in Old Town). Also because it was an element of a certain atmosphere.
Real Estate’s finally located (at Hastings) Days is the album of these months.
I’d like to think it says something about Albuquerque that the pieces its Philharmonic Orchestra chose to perform last night were so breathless and strange. Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments was mere overture for Alan Hovhaness’s Fantasies on Japanese Woodprints, as instantly overwhelming as the first time I heard The Soft Bulletin or “Haitian Fight Song.”
Two pop philosophy books conceived during city rambles:
Mannequin: The City Scarecrow
Our Bodies: Temporary Galleries of the Soul
Dreams: I’m able to rise from lying down to standing, without bending, like Dracula from his coffin, by flexing the muscles in my feet; I’m filled with anxiety about pending or overdue math homework (at least six times in the past month); I’m planning to move across the country, every room I’m in is all a-clutter (also numerous occurences); the apocalypse, again, this time via frogs raining down from the heavens, like in Magnolia, only during the day; same dream, I escape into an apartment at the top of a tall building, it starts folding in on itself and then expanding, like an accordion.
Last: Here’s a video that doesn’t have as much to do with my experience of the Southwest as it does with general childhood fantasies of stop-motion animation. But, recently seen, and dizzily great:
Movies, music, and more, next time.