This article/blog post was written by one of our Chroma Studio writers, Jennifer Ruden. I am reposting it here with Jennifer’s permission.
We met for the first time nearly a decade ago. You were meant to be a rest spot, a mere pause in my vector aimed somewhere else.
I had never even heard of Albuquerque—your name like a rock in my mouth, damn near impossible to spell. I had pictured desert palms sweeping upwards majestically, a globular sun bright as egg yolks. I imagined sand, coyotes, and glittery sombreros. I packed only shorts and t-shirts.
The giant Goodwill on Juan Tabo (which I then pronounced WAN TABOO) was a beacon broadcast that gray December evening. I scooped up sweatpants for $1.50, a fleece-lined coat for $3.00, and mittens for .50. Afterwards I had my way with a Denver omelet in the Village Inn, slurped velvety coffee (free refills) with abandon, and smoked cheap cigarettes purchased off the res. Outside, beyond the abandoned Burger Kings and tattered Discount Tires shops, past the panhandlers straddling the interstate ramps, the Sandias yawned exquisitely. What a strange combination you were then– all loveliness and corruption, decadence and deficiency. I had about $200 in my pocket. Why with money like that in a place like this I could live like a queen. So I stayed.
Years later, in the midst of marriage, family, careers, and age I’ve nearly forgotten how to be poor. I think you have too. It’s true, Albuquerque. Not too long ago someone plinked coins in your pockets, swept out your corners and dropped condominiums on your once pocked streets. In the midst of gentrifications, planned communities, commuter trains, landscaped highways, and tenuous bubbles, I hardly recognize you.
One night, while ensconced in a swanky new downtown restaurant, we raised our champagne flutes and toasted you, dear city. We tipped our glasses back, patted our full bellies, disbelieving that times are hard. The restaurant teemed with people who were sated, rich, and warm. How different a view than the one afforded to me in the Village Inn those years ago. Your edges are softer now, blurred in green light. You smell of a fish that doesn’t even swim here.
And just when you were finally getting used to your new look. . . This. For starters, your Governor is leaving. Bill– who stood you in front of a mirror, pinched your cheeks and said, This is a face worthy of Hollywood. What’s in store, you wonder. Who will love me now, you ask. Who will polish my silver lining–pick up the pieces now that the diaphanous bubble has inevitably burst?
I’m here to say, No te preocupadas, Albuquerque. You’ll be fine. This “recession” is just a dip in your otherwise robust EKG. Remember: no one wears distress like you do. Think of it as an evening gown, red and low cut. Who needs milk and honey when there’s more than enough Enfamil and Splenda to go around.
Besides, those other cities have nothing on you with their high class hovels and self-conscious vacancy signs. Those cities are positively shaking in their Prada boots. Not you. Not us. We’ve been here before. This we can do. If being broke were a sport, Albuquerque, we’d take the gold every time. Indeed economic adversity is difficult, but we make it look easy.
It’s just a matter of waiting it out. We know that soon enough winter will yield and the earth will thaw. Granted, we might be the last to hear the ice crackle, creak and shift, but we’re the first to claw our desperate way out. Just look at us—living proof that treasures are often buried in the most dire and unlikely of places.
Keep your chin up.
Even though she is a Jew and not often prone to sentimentality, Jennifer Ruden thinks there is no spot more beautiful at Christmastime than Albuquerque. She is riding out recession in a Westside home that lost most of its value shortly after it was purchased. She recently filled the spare room with another kid. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org