Archive for May 23rd, 2008

Southwest Style – Am I Home Yet?

Posted on May 23, 2008. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Travel |

I’m still organizing material for posts on the energy psychology conference I attended last week. It was truly transformational for me; a life changing event. Since I’m not quite ready to talk about that yet, I’ll tell you about my travels.

The conference was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, about an 8-hour drive from my home in southern Arizona. I liked it there more than I thought I would. It’s a very southwest city, somewhat like Tucson or Phoenix, Arizona, but with its own distinct style. I was surprised at how big it is—I don’t know if I’d like living there, as I prefer a smaller more “manageable” area these days. I’m not sure why this is, as I grew up in a large metropolitan area, but I’ve found my niche in Arizona, and I like it here.

The only thing “wrong” with Albuquerque, really, is that it’s almost too much like home to be a “real” vacation. Of course, the fact that it’s fairly close by, and I didn’t have to get on a plane, factored greatly into my choosing to attend the conference there. It’s just that the last several trips I’ve taken have been from one southwest desert to another. I went to the Institute of Noetic Sciences conference last year, and that was held in Palm Springs, California (only 6 hours away!). That’s a beautiful place, too, and different than Arizona in many ways…but still a desert, and one of the few areas in California that truly has the southwest feel. Although California is further west, actually, than Arizona or New Mexico, it has become almost its own country, and the terrain of most of the state is not of that “deserty/southwesty” kind.

But I digress. I cannot do Albuquerque justice, here, because I only spent time in two small areas of the city. I liked the conference hotel and area, but before I checked in, I decided to visit another part of town. It was pouring rain the day I arrived, and I had several hours to fill before being able to check into my hotel. The perfect solution was the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. There are many musea like this scattered all over the world, so I won’t go into a lot of detail. My favorite thing here was Startup, a “History of Personal Computers” exhibit. This was so cool! The exhibit was funded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen (and their families and foundations). I’d always associated Gates and Allen with Seattle, WA, and the vicinity, and indeed that’s where Microsoft has been located for many years. I didn’t realize that the two of them had been hired to develop software for Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems in Albuquerque when they were college lads, and started their revolutionary design and programming ideas there. I got to watch interactive media presentations detailing the history of personal computing, actually use working models of the first computers, play games, and watch interviews with people like Gates, Allen, and the Steves: Wozniak and Jobs. The exhibit’s website has a tour through the entire experience which is about 60% as good as being there, so enjoy, if that would interest you.

After that, I visited Old Town, Albuquerque, a collection of preserved early adobe buildings now housing galleries and shops. The rain had mostly stopped, and this walk through history was most enjoyable.

Now we skip to after the conference. I was only a little over an hour away from the state capitol, Santa Fe, so decided to go up there for a some down time before heading home. I’d been to Santa Fe with family about 15 years ago, and what I mostly remembered was that it had a plaza, and good shopping. This time around, I spent nearly all of one day walking about the town (it’s a great walking town), and I had two major impressions. One is that I’ve never seen so many art galleries collected in such a compact area, anywhere. There was art from all over the world, not just Southwest Americana. I saw galleries devoted to Chinese, Polish, Russian, Tibetan, and Spanish art, among others. In the Chinese import gallery, there was an artist in residence from Beijing who specializes in scenes of hunting on horseback with eagles. He explained to us that this kind of hunting still occurs in the area, and the eagles still find the prey for their humans. He was a very nice man, and is back in Beijing now. This gallery also had the most amazing and beautiful antique Chinese furniture.

I walked up and down Canyon Road, a major gallery neighborhood in Santa Fe. To get an idea of just how many galleries there are in this relatively small town, take a look here. It’s just astounding. Many of the galleries are housed in old adobe buildings, and the stroll through the neighborhood would be worthwhile even if I didn’t enter any. Most properties had beautiful gardens and courtyards, and are fine examples of the southwest adobe architectural style.

Santa Fe is lovely, and this page has better photos and descriptions than I have come up with. I happened upon the page when I returned home, and I was struck with the fact that I saw everything that its author did, and it looked just like his pictures.

My other major impression is that Santa Fe is the most “Southwesterny” town of the American Southwest. If you can only visit one city to get a taste of Southwest culture, make it this one. I’m glad I was there, although next time I go somewhere, I really have to choose somewhere NOT in the Southwest. Although Santa Fe is a very concentrated Southwest experience, Arizona cities have all the local jewelry, art, cuisine, and culture; they’re just spread around a larger area. As wonderful as that all is—and the culture is one of the many reasons I live here—next time I want to go somewhere else!

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