After six months, our obligations in Yuma had ended, and we began looking for a final house―once again, in Albuquerque. We chose Albuquerque because we knew and liked the city; it likely had a robust job market (my wife would look for work as a chaplain, I for work as a non-medical home caregiver); and, given our advancing ages, it offered a wide variety of medical services. We looked at several semi-rural houses in central New Mexico on the internet, but concluded they were beyond our means and/or were too distant from emergency medical care. In the late winter, we eventually closed on a house at the edge of Albuquerque and moved in at the end of March, about a quarter-century after we first arrived in the Southwest.
During my first few months back in New Mexico I returned to some of my old haunts. I visited a mom-and-pop restaurant in downtown Albuquerque, and discovered that it had been renovated and was now serving more costly food and a variety of “specialty” beers. Although it retained its name, largely gone, it seemed to me, were its customers with whom I once dined, including the many bacon-and-eggs viejos of Albuquerque’s oldest neighborhoods, replaced now by a new generation of young people who were patronizing the many new nightclubs and venues for live music downtown. Downtown now also included a titty bar. (“Feel the power,” Burque?)
On the campus of the University of New Mexico, I visited Mitchell Hall, where I first taught composition. However, my classroom was gone, replaced by a spacious lounge with a refreshment stand. Had my classroom been so equipped on that anxious morning two decades earlier, I might have entered it with considerably less paralysis. At the campus’s Zimmerman Library, where once there stood the long wooden banks of a card catalog, students now lounged upon comfortable chairs and sofas, their fingers upon sleek keyboards, their noses buried in handheld electronic devices. Index cards cataloging books had now been digitized, the digital information accessed by computer terminals scattered throughout the library.
Elsewhere in the city, I tightened my sphincter as, dodging reckless motorists, I negotiated the intersection of Interstate highways 40 and 25, its latest manifestation what Burqueños called a “spaghetti bowl” of ramps and overpasses, an engineering feat I had to admire.
Easter week, I once again passed, in a light snowfall, a dozen of the Christian faithful, no doubt mostly Catholics, walking south of the town of Tijeras along a remote stretch of highway 337―to where, I knew not.
I returned to the Rio Puerco basin west of Los Lunas to watch the freight trains of the BNSF railroad, once again fantasizing hobodom.
I plunged back into the outdoors, spending days and nights hiking and packing, among other places, the slopes and summits of New Mexico’s Manzano, San Mateo, and Gallinas mountains. To my surprise and delight, they were still lightly visited.
Still, I was an urban dweller once again, and now for the duration.