I can still see it, still feel it, forty years later. Coming around a black mountain in a midnight snowstorm. It was my first glimpse of Albuquerque. We were passing through enroute to Arizona and we didn’t stop. But the voice said, “someday I’m going to live here.” That was 1973.
In 2003, I drove a thousand miles of highway with a carful of possessions including three cats in the back seat squalling in disharmony. My destination was the apartment I’d just rented in Albuquerque. The apartment was in a big complex. I’d never lived in such a place before but I thought it would be a way to meet people. I suppose I had pictured a sitcom with neighbors bonding into a big dysfunctional family. I was wrong. The people encountered walked in cocoons of privacy.
I had one friend in Burque, as I soon learned to call it. Jobs were nonexistent. I took temp jobs and haltingly made my way around the sprawling city to the handful of boring jobs that came my way. My money was running out fast.
I was exhausted, trying to fill my lungs with the thin air. Making my way up the flights to my third-floor apartment left me gasping. The cats, also oxygen-deprived and traumatized from the trip became quiet and docile, fighting over the corner of sunshine the tiny balcony enjoyed in the morning. That apartment was one of the few places in Burque that didn’t get sun. It was hard for all of us, coming from a flat, lushly green landscape to this harsh high desert.
But I was home. The place I knew from that first moment would be home.
A lot happened in between and since. I found a wonderful job: it didn’t pay much but it was a small office with wonderful people. I managed the New Mexico Chautauqua, booking speakers and historical characters all over the state. I have always had a weakness for talented people and our “stable” consisted of 70 of them. I held that job for ten years and recently retired, not voluntarily but due to funding cuts. I miss it, although I love being retired: I was born to be retired.
Burque is still home and it still holds its magic. The mountains to the east. To the west, the Mesa, with its petroglyphs and volcanoes. The Rio Grande marks the southern boundary and to the north, more mountains and Santa Fe and Taos. Albuquerque sits in a bowl in the Rio Grande valley, a center of spiritual power. The old gods still reign here and I learned to honor them.
Here, home, I made a life.
And that’s how I came to be jesinalbuquerque. Welcome to my world.