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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12 Responses to “Southwest Style – Am I Home Yet?”

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they all sound so lovely, like a neverending barbeque. :P

8-hour drive?? how can you stand it? i visited my friend’s hometown recently, and the 2+ hours drive nearly drove me crazy! probably didn’t help that the car was cramped and i could barely move.

The Bill Gates thing was very interesting and could not get over the amount of art galleries etc. Is that for tourism or because it is a place that inspires artists and creativity?

OMG SO NIce :) I love new mexico :)

So, what exactly does the southwest feel like?

They sound like really nice places, but I agree with Sulz; 8 hours drive sounds like a really long distance to travel!

The Startup exhibit looks amazing. I’d love to see it one day; the gallery is great and the future predictions look interesting… I’m surprised they had interviews with Wozniak and Jobs if it’s funded by Gates, though. Or maybe they made Apple seem evil? :)

Hope you get to go somewhere a bit different next time. Sounds beautiful but I know what you mean about the culture… it often seems like parts of Australia have the same character and it’s not until you get outside of the known areas that you see a different Aus.

8 hours seems like a long trip, though! Just 2 hours in a car would drive me nuts. Hope you had some good music to keep you occupied. ;)

Hey, sulz, Well, first of all, the US is a very big country, and many of us think nothing of hopping in the car and driving and driving…we may have to change our ways, though, given gas prices, and energy conservation and such. When I drive I stop every two hours, and eat a little bit of something, and take a little walk, so it’s not so bad. There are nice rest stops all along the route. I took two days to go there, because I knew I couldn’t check into my hotel until 3pm, but I didn’t want to get there late the first day, therefore, a two-day journey. On the way home, though, I got an early start, and I wanted to be home, so just kept going. I like your analogy of an endless barbeque! I like food, so that got my attention. Gallery row in Santa Fe is truly a feast for the eyes!

Magik, thanks. Yes, the roots of Microsoft and personal computers are quite compelling and probably among the most important technological revolutions of our lifetimes. The is exhibit was just fantastic! I’m sooooo glad I got to experience it. As for the tourism aspect of Santa Fe: Artists initially flocked to this area because the quality of light was perfect for painting. I imagine something similar took place in the south of France during the Impressionist period. As in many places, the more artists that came to paint, the more buyers and tourists came to experience them, and then it began to be known for that, and then other galleries featuring art from all over the world joined them. Now, tourism is the most important part of Santa Fe’s economy, and rightfully so. If you visit America, go there! Or visit me, and I’ll show you around a similar area of the southwest. :)

kaylee, have you been there? It is very beautiful. Also visit me, sometime after your hospital adventure ends! :D

Hi B0bby. Gosh, my commenters are making me work, today, and you are most demanding! That’s great, I appreciate the interest, and it’s good for me to research, clarify and explore, so thanks! Hmmm, how does the Southwest feel? Well, you were studying Western films, recently, and I believe I recommended My Darling Clementine to you? I don’t know if you saw it, but it was filmed in Monument Valley, Arizona, and Utah, and gives you a good feel for the place. A good one also is Broken Arrow (the 1950 one, not the John Travolta one) which was filmed in several locations in Arizona in which I’ve lived or visited extensively. It’s a good film about Tombstone, Arizona, “The town too tough to die”, probably our most famous legend in the state. The Southwest is, officially the “four corners” region, encompassing the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah (called the “four corners” because it’s the only place in the United States where the borders come together in exactly a “cross” pattern.) I’ve stood (as have many tourists) in four states at once, right on the cross, which is exactly as thrilling as it sounds…zzzzz. The Southwest also includes small areas of Nevada, California and Texas, and is characterised by dry, hot weather, stunning buttes, and desert vegetation which seems lifeless to some, but is really teeming with life. It’s not like the Gobi Desert at all. It’s a very beautiful and unique region, and there’s nowhere else like it in the US or anywhere in the world. I love it here because I like the weather. I’m not as good in the snow! As to how it FEELS, your original question, I can only refer you to a couple of YouTube videos of Broken Arrow Trail in Sedona, Arizona, to get a sense of the experience. I’ve hiked in this area many times. I lived in Sedona for two months (while I was trying to find the right are to settle in) and it is one of the most beautiful and odd places I’ve seen. There’s a prehistoric quality to it, and the light, for artists is amazing. Popular are Jeep Tours of the area, and it is this I’m referring you to, to get a sense for how it feels. Check out some of the other vids in the sidebar at YouTube. As for how long a drive it was between New Mexico and home, I answered part of that in my response to sulz, but I realize you would probably take a train to somewhere like Scotland if you wished to go there? We ought to take more trains, here, but they are not as pervasive as where you are. Hah! I’ll bet you got more than you bargained for here, B0bby! I truly appreciate your interest! Cheers :)

I’ve never been anywhere like that. It looks lovely to me. Like a different world. Thanks for sharing with us Muse.

Sorry, didn’t mean it to be demanding!

Thanks for the description and links! :) I’ve seen Westerns (although not that one, yet), but I never know how much to trust a movie.

You would love this exhibit, cj, I do hope you get to see it someday. The website is pretty good, though, isn’t it? Well, they couldn’t ignore Woz and Jobs, as they also are so important to the history of personal computing. But they had a lot less “airtime” than Gates, Allen and their colleagues. :) Huh! No one outside the US seems to think driving 8 hours is normal! ;) I know people who will drive longer than that if they want to get somewhere. And, yes, it’s not my preferred way to spend the day, but besides the extra expense, if I flew there, by the time I got to the airport, went through all the machinations there, and took a shuttle to the hotel, it’d be almost as much time. I had my old Billy Joel CDs with me. He does keep me going! And some Beethoven and Wagner. I’m such a head case, though that I also listened to a couple of lectures—can you believe that? I can’t even have a holiday on my way to a holiday that isn’t even a holiday, anyway, as it’s a conference! Oh, well, there you have it. :D

You’re very welcome, BD! It is another world. To me San Francisco, and New York, and Vancouver, and even London are similar cities in many ways. (Of course they each have their own character and landmarks and are worth visiting.) But the terrain out here is unique. I’m glad you enjoyed the visit.

B0bby, do forgive me, I was making a little joke. That’s hard to convey in print sometimes. I should have inserted a smiley after the word “demanding”, so please accept this one instead: ( :) ) Seriously, I’m pleasantly surprised by the interest, but then, when I think about it, I very much like to read about other cultures and places, too. In your country I loved Canterbury and Cambridge and Yorkshire, to name only a few places, and I didn’t get to go everywhere I wanted to when I was there. I know what you mean about trusting a movie set. Those old Westerns were mostly filmed at least partly on location, though, and the ones I mentioned had Genu-ine, Real Scenery! ;)

okay will try too and Yes i have :)

[...] old Mission were worth seeing. Now, Tubac is a thriving arts and crafts center, almost like a mini Santa Fe, with beautiful shops, gorgeous and unique art, and several really nice eateries. It was like [...]


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