I like it here. It appeals to me, as a place, in ways that the one I’m moving back to doesn’t, but that doesn’t mean I want to stay. I always know I’ll end up back in Helena or the Twin Cities, but since I can’t imagine living here again until my life is different than what it is now, it feels appropriate to reflect on the best of Albuquerque as I’ve known it. A list:
1. Lonely Are The Brave at the Kimo. And then, a while later at the same theater, Ace in the Hole, another Kirk Douglas movie about the land of entrapment, mutating and making grotesque the other (later) movie’s adjectives, lonely, brave, until they’ve lost their romance. One moment Douglas is the last cowboy, sitting in a prison cell, with all the time in the world to make his certain escape, and the next he’s a reporter pacing a newspaper office (probably just a few blocks away in downtown Albuquerque and/or movie-land), desperate and cursing this town, a man who wasted every surplus. It’s noble to be trapped in mountains, less so to be trapped in yourself. And just like that, it seemed time to leave.
2. I mostly listen to music alone, and I especially listen to rap music alone. Something about being in Albuquerque, its space and anonymity probably, allowed me to turn my casual and intermittent interest in rap music into something more enduring and imperative. This is an ongoing change, but can also be reduced, by way of example, to a single album, Danny Brown’s XXX (so momentous that, once I learned to love it—a mental process, but also effortless—it left aglow a part of my mind that used to regularly dim), and then, further, to a specific moment of listening to that album: walking along a ditch outside a country club golf course, or waiting for the bus on the emptiest winter night. Later there was Kendrick Lamar, who mapped different streets, rescued from the void after our move from downtown, including a stretch of Copper that passes a mere block north of that earlier winter night’s bus stop! This strikes me as an excellent metaphor for the desolate parts of my mind being made less so by familiarity.
Also, among the new music from my time here, I can’t imagine Real Estate’s Days or Frankie Rose’s Interstellar or Dum Dum Girls’ Only in Dreams (even though it’s about mother) existing anywhere else, though I’m interested in trying.
3. The mountains, the plant life, the town, the weather (not always a lack thereof, but rarely registering as a presence, regardless). Walks and photo ops, a safe distance from water. I still need to launch my photo series Homes of Albuquerque: thoughtful arrangements of objects in dirt yards, in front of low, flat houses. Sometimes I wonder if it’s really so different here, and then I look around and remember, yes, to the exact point where every difference is casually striking and every similarity is excellent training in “what makes a town” or “what makes a place.”
4. It was something we did together, with a kind of self-determination that had no help from any higher institution. I thought this unremarkable, that people who move for work and other real reasons are the remarkable ones, but the general perception has been quite otherwise. This life is only the best simulation of momentum and progress and narrative I can manage, but I’m somewhat proud of the parts that are of my own creation.
5. Two things I’d never really done: made gay friends; been a (mostly sober, of course) regular at a bar. These are unrelated items, actually (the gay friends worth having are older and don’t live at bars; the gay men at our bar remained acquaintances), but both were great consolations for the solid kind of loneliness that otherwise prevails.
6. This place allows the kind of contained, unexamined, uncomplicated (but not easy, never easy) life I’d like to embrace someday. It was nice to glimpse it.