Saturday, February 9, 2008

Rumours of mountains

Apparently there are mountains in Albuquerque.

I caught a glimpse of them out a window whilst rapidly clip-clopping from one symposium to another.

(In case you hadn't guessed, the past few days have been busy.)

It's funny how every city looks identical when you fly in at night-- the same rows of orange lights. Yet you still peer frantically out the window with the hopes that you will get a glimpse of something a little more telling than those splattered lights. The taxi ride home from the airport is no more illuminating. It seems every plausible road from your arrival gate to your hotel is dotted with the same exits and billboards you see in every city.

I try to escape this sense of sameness as soon as possible. My usual tactic is to spend my first day merely wandering, armed with nothing but a map and a bottle of water. In this way, the city's idiosyncracies gradually reveal themselves, and it starts to feel less generic and more genuine.

Despite tucking into bed on my third night here, Albuquerque still feels generic. I know nothing about it except for its penchance for an oversaturation of peach and turquoise southwestern decor. And this feels wrong to me. Eating at restaurants and holding standard interpersonal interactions in such a place without having even a sense at its essence feels almost like an invasion of someone's personal space. 

I'm not entirely sure I understand the purpose of flying thousand of miles away to sit in the same pastel printed chair that every convention centre has and to eat the same turkey sandwiches available at any restaurant and to sleep in the same double bed beneath some tacky but non-offensive wall art. Not that I don't enjoy a lot of the things I am learning about, or the people I am reconnecting with-- I do-- I just wish I didn't travel so far to feel like I could just as easily be 15 minutes away from home.

28 comments:

Psychgrad said...

I hear you. From the sounds of it, previous locations have been nicer. Hope your (I assume) poster goes well.

WKC said...

Inoffensive seems to be de rigeur for convention center placement. Like the one in Long Beach. Easily the most tourist-trap locale in an already spectacularly tourist-trap town (as far as I could tell). It was like the whole neighborhood was constructed out of big travel brochure-colored Lego blocks.

Unfortunately, there's no real substitute for digging into the local scene over an extended length of time...though it's still fun to survey the landscape from the air, note the density of the lights, their organization, etc.

thestoryofagirl said...

I've never been to Albuquerque, and I've never heard much about it. I think it's pretty low on my list of places to visit. Right after Springfield (Pick a state) ;-)

Ant said...

Yeah, I've been getting whiffs of this on my recent travels - I think it's a middle-America issue. Things are relatively better in Europe - the character changes so much when you're crossing "blink and you'll miss it" sized countries...

Katana said...

Give it time. You see, you gotta get out htere... maybe go for a jog if you're of the jogging variety. You'll feel the altitude. If you're into hispanic/bohemian culture, there's no place better than albuquerque.

Yoda said...

That's what I said. Nothing very great about Albu. If you get time, you could go see Santa Fe, or even if you're into history, Los Alamos and the famous White Sands (they tested the first nuke there).

Be honest with us, you're missing your boy aren't you?

lspoon said...

Some places just suck like that. And Albuquerque is on the top of a plateau, which probably account for the lack of mountain sighting :) Have as much fun as possible.

Crashdummie said...

same same but diff...

and hey, this is so freaky - bon jovi has been on my mind too! Well more like a specific song but still.

Crashdummie said...

pssst u say bon voyage, i say bon jovi? u see what u wanna see right? ;)

Princess Pointful said...

This post wasn't meant as a bash of ABQ at all... the point was more that I haven't even had the opportunity to see enough to decide if it is worth bashing or not! I don't like that I flew so far to not be able to see anything but a generic convention centre, you know?
However, my balloon ride was an excellent way to get myself a little more doused in the city!! More on that to come...

ttcmb said...

Hope you get a chance to wander around with a map.

autobiographyofmyfeet said...

I hope you DO get a chance to explore - it would be such a shame for it to continue to be a generic could-have-been-anywhere experience for you!

Sorry I'm going to miss you as well! If you see a short, brown-haired, frazzled looking girl in the airport tomorrow - that might be me ;)

S'Mat said...

herehere! (or wherewhere?)
it's the Subway-ization of it all... standardized and ugly if the reason to be there doesn't supercede wherever there is. perhaps that is why the local Kirks take to flying balloons?
my ex used to work as a conference organizer, and would suffer acute feelings of depersonalization while setting up these international meet-n-geeks.
keep the faith PP!

Surfergrrl said...

I think sometimes conferences are invented for people to get away from their husbands and wives. :)

Therapeutic Ramblings said...

I love getting lost in a city...there is something about walking around for the sake of walking, and not to just go from point A to B to C, etc.

Your post inspired me to write about getting lost in one of my favorite cities, new orleans:
Exploring A City

nicoleantoinette said...

I hope it gets better/more fun/more rewarding for you hun.

Half-Past Kissin' Time said...

Interesting...I guess it's safe to say that Albuquerque is not on the "1000 Places to See Before You Die list...

I hope it's never on a spelling list for me, either, cuz that was a stinker to spell (I copied from Thestoryofagirl!)

Something interesting is bound to happen eventually...good luck!

Jocelyn said...

YES to your last paragraph; that's exactly what's wrong with every conference I've been to...why I find them fairly soul sucking!

But Albuquerque's Sandia Peak is lovely...steal away....steal away

Ant said...

Oh ok, so you've had your balloon ride then...

*sympathy evaporates*

Stop whingeing and get to the fun stuff then! :-)

Carrie said...

Mmhm - slowly but surely every convention centre and city-limits it imposes becomes drearily similar.

PrincessPolly said...

I always find the weather is more telling than anything else. If I travel for three hours and don't get better weather then I'm obviously travelling in the wrong direction.

Jess said...

That is one of the reasons why I love DC. You can see the monuments as you fly in. It looks different. You can immediately tell it's DC.

benjibopper said...

Ahh, welcome to McWorld, as Benjamin Barber called it. America is the capital.

Beth said...

Use that adventuresome spirit of yours - get out there and experience the city! A balloon ride is an excellent start.

t.b.f.love. said...

I love wandering around in a new city and just going wherever the paths take me... there are few experiences quite like it, and I love it.

A Margarita said...

New Mexico is supposed to be a gorgeous state. I can imagine those mountains being awe-inspiring. It sucks that you can't go exploring.

ana said...

Aw No. Don't tell me that. I have always wanted to visit Albuquerque (like the way it makes my tongue feel)...

I think you need to get quit lounging in the chair and get out and explore more,
hot air balloons are so much fun!

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

I suppose in North America all cities tend to be built to a grid plan, which makes them more alike.

Here, cities are slightly more varied, though becoming less so.

I suppose it's all very modern though?