My second experience with Couchsurfing was in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I stayed with a young bluegrass musician and lifelong resident. His house is dirty, the toilet is broken, and just last week a tree fell in his backyard that nearly took out the entire sunporch. To hear Dustin talk about the saturation of awful punk and rock bands in town, one could easily assume he’s the sort of musician that can’t see past his own genre. However that assumption disappears when you’re with him in the car, and he cranks up the sound on Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger.”
I went to a Mexican restaurant on Dustin’s recommendation, and wandered around Old Town for a while. Old Town is for tourists, and I’m starting to realize that every tourist destination is exactly the same. The same expensive native art, the same cheap T-shirts, the same fudge and candy shops. They even had a place that sells Christmas decorations year round. It amazes me how many places sell Christmas decorations year round in this country. I walked by one store as the door was opening and I immediately knew the smell. I’m still working on the perfect words to describe it, but it was instantly recognizable to me. I knew this was a tourist shop. I knew what kind of knickknacks I would find inside. I’ve smelled that shop so many times in life, ever since I was a little girl on vacation in Mexico. The smell is even more common than Christmas.
I returned to the house and Dustin’s friend Frank came over. The two jammed for awhile in the living room as I listened and watched. We had some split pea soup and waited for their friend Matt to call about fishing. The three of them were hoping to go fishing down by the river that night, and had invited me to go along with. Unfortunately the entire river area was closed due to the fire risk, a fact that Dustin lamented about several times over the course of the evening. The area by the river is his favorite place in the city, and the only place he really wanted me to see.
Instead, their friend Matt said he knew a place nearby that they could go, though Dustin felt that what Matt was describing sounded less like a river and more like a ditch. Eventually Matt called to say his girlfriend wouldn’t be back with the car in time, and Dustin, Frank, and I decided to go off to The Ditch on our own. We had few supplies, and ended up stopping at the local co-op to pick up some shrimp for bait. The Ditch was a sizable irrigation creek just past where the beautiful, grassy, closed river area ended. Frank explained that they weren’t used to fishing in this type of water, and didn’t really know what they were doing. Matt was the one who understood this type of fishing, but he wasn’t here. Still, they tried. Frank thought he got a nibble once, but nothing more. Much beer was had, and I sat back to watch. As the sun began to set we crossed over The Ditch and up the hill to see it. It was a gorgeous sunset.
We drove back to the house with the radio up, and Dustin and Frank discussed the various positive attributes that make Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” the absolute perfect song. Some of Dustin’s friends (including the infamous Matt) were heading over to their favorite local bar to hear an all-female salsa band, and I tagged along. The place was packed, and we all drank and talked. The stage and most of the bar was outside, something that would be unheard of in Seattle for most of the year. Dustin says they love getting outside at night, and I can’t blame them. It’s beautiful and warm, and so far I have yet to encounter a single mosquito. I suppose that’s because there’s no standing water for them to lay eggs in.
I was getting tired, but Dustin wanted to hangout with his neighbor, a good friend he rarely gets to see. We went over to find the neighbor setting up his brand new mixing board. We went in the back room and turned on some tunes. When “Fly Like an Eagle” came on, the neighbor mentioned that the only thing that could make this moment more perfect would be if we had some pot. I agreed that it seemed like the setting in which a person should be high, and we’re going to end that story there.
After staying up so late the night before, Dustin was down for the count the following day. I did some more exploring in the city, but didn’t find much that interested me. I spent most of the day in coffee shops catching up on my writing. When I arrived back at the house Dustin had returned. He was at Matt’s house using his internet, and spent most of the day refusing Matt’s suggestions that they go places. Matt isn’t able to drive himself anywhere right now due to a DUI, and Dustin could see that all the suggestions of fun things to do were excuses to get a chauffeur. I joined Dustin to watch Slingblade, an old Billy Bob Thorton movie and one of Dustin’s favorites. The cat, Chicken, likes to catch moths and play with them. We assume she eventually eats them, but it’s hard to tell.
When I explain where I’ve been and where I’m going, Dustin tells me I’m missing all the best parts of New Mexico. He explains that I have to come back and visit northern New Mexico, just above Albuquerque. That’s where the real beauty is. He tells me New Mexico is nicknamed “The Land of Enchantment,” but locals call is “The Land of Entrapment” because they have so many transplants. Lots of people come to visit, and many never leave. I can’t imagine why. It must be something they keep up north.