Thursday, March 20, 2014

Life in the 505

I've lived in the "largest city" in New Mexico for the past two years, and it's been an adventure. Being my first real experience living in a place with more than 30,000 people, I spent the first year soaking it all in, doing as many things as I could, and just living it up. In the second year, I've settled a bit more, but still love all the things that Albuquerque has to offer. 

Still, every time I go home to visit, I have people ask me if I like Albuquerque. When I respond that I love it, the responses are mixed. Some can't believe that I would love this place, and others wish they lived here. It has its ups and downs, for sure, but the truth of the matter is that New Mexico is home, and for the time being, Albuquerque is. 

It's not all glorious here in the 505, but it sure is interesting. If you're considering moving to Albuquerque, there are some things you should know about first. So, here are the things that I wish I had known before embarking on this move, and things that you should know if you really want to know what it's like to live here. 

-The mountains are absolutely gorgeous, always, and so are the sunsets. If you need to find a moment of happiness and stress reduction, watch the way the colors gleam and mingle as the sun goes down, or watch the mist settle around the top of the Sandias. It's like a little slice of heaven.

-Country isn't their thing here. I know, I know. Those who have lived here and never truly set foot in a real country bar will defiantly tell anyone who will listen that, "we have Dirty Bourbon, where you can listen to country music and do that two-stepping, line-dancing thing." It's fine. They don't get it, and they shouldn't have to. We don't line dance, and we don't count a place where you put on a red cowboy hat and a flannel shirt as a country bar. Sorry, Charlie. Still, it's amusing to watch from time to time, and to observe (I imagine it's a lot like how Irish people feel when they observe American St. Patty's Day celebrations). 

-Before ordering in a local brewery, you need to understand IBUs and the amount of hops in a beer, otherwise you end up with some skunky IPA that leaves you nauseas, unless you like that type of thing (either way, learn what IBUs are and how to tell what your beer will taste like before you branch out). 

-ABQ Brew Pub has the hottest jalepenos I've ever had, Sadie's has the best green chile, Dion's has the best ranch dressing, Flying Star has the best desserts, Garcia's is the best quick and cheap Mexican food, Orchad Thai has the best Thai food, and O'Niell's has the best patio. I'm pretty sure this is my own creation of the Best in ABQ list, but it's helpful to know if you've never been here or never searched around. 

-Gunshot or firework is a legitimate game. We play it on the porch in the summertime, and I must say, I'm getting pretty good at it. 

-The drivers here are seriously the worst I've ever encountered. They don't signal, they turn into the wrong lane, they cut you off, they sometimes seem to go out of their way to try to hit your car, and if it rains or snows even a tiny bit, game's over. There are going to be at least four accidents on any given out-of-the-norm-weather day. It's just a fact here, but at some point, you become one of them. You learn to run with the big dogs or get out of the way. The day I realized I was one of the Albuquerque drivers, it was both a moment of pride and one of shame. I'm still not sure which one wins out most days. 

-Don't complain about how hot the chile is. Eat it, and be a champ. Or don't. I've been to too many dinners with out-of-towners who can't hang, and while we all appreciate that your senses aren't as hardened as ours, it's not going to stop us from laughing at you. Also, don't try to order "hot" to show us how tough you are if you can't handle it. Once again, we will probably giggle. We breathe fire here, and we understand that you probably don't.

That's a little piece of heaven on earth! 

-It may be seen as the "big city" by those back home, but the people really are nice. Servers, staff at various places, strangers on the street…they're all really decent people. (Although, I have to say, I'm pretty partial to those who are "transplants" to this place like myself, because we bring a mix of cultures, and I've had a couple of bad experiences with lifelong Albuquerque residents).

-People discern details (even if untrue) about your life from which part of town you live in. Everyone has their own bias as to which part is the best, but there are undoubtedly those areas that are seen as more pretentious than others, and some that are downright sketchy. 

-Local shops here are the absolute best! In this city, you can find a Mom and Pop shop for just about anything you could ever need. Shoes, soap, furniture, tortillas, jewelry, booze, anything really. There's a locally owned place that carries it, and they are all usually pretty awesome! 

-Everyone is $4 short of a hotel room, in whatever parking lot you may be in. I'm more than happy to give money to someone who really needs it (or who can tell me that they do in a convincing manner), but Albuquerque will harden this generosity a little bit. It's like the panhandlers had a convention and decided that the $4 short line worked. Why always $4? Why a hotel room? I know that you can't all be in the same exact boat. 

-There are bugs bigger than your face here, and I don't care how big your face is, it's true. Some of them even make hissing sounds, which is especially fun.

-Bikers in this city are intolerable and fearless. Good for you for being healthy, but either stay in your bike lane, or don't flip me off when you almost hit my car. 

-If you're having a bad day, go to the Walmart on Coors, and your ego will immediately get a boost within just a couple of minutes. They really don't care over on that part of the West Side apparently.

-It's incredibly easy in this town to become a child with a credit card. Sure, you have a job. You have responsibilities. But, if you come from a small town, this place has so many new things to offer, and so many places that stay open until all hours of the night. Learning to live responsibly and at least pretend to be an adult is a hard lesson! 

-Albuquerque is the biggest small town ever. When I first moved here, I was convinced that it was so big and that I'd never run into anyone on accident. I was wrong. It happens all the time. Exes, old friends, people from back home, random acquaintances can all be easily bumped into on any side of town. Also, it's really, shockingly easy to talk to new friends and find out that you know people in common. It's odd, but it's also kind of nice at times. 

-Total Wine still blows my mind. 

-If you need supplements, vitamins, or things of that nature, go to Sprouts. If you need specialty or fun healthy food options, go to Trader Joe's. If you need anything else, stick to Smith's. It's cheaper that way. However, don't go to Co-op unless you have money to burn. 

-The North Valley truly is one of the most perplexing places in the world. We've lived there almost a year, and I still can't quite wrap my head around it most days. We're about three blocks from a scary part of town and about two blocks from a really pretentious part of town. We live somewhere in the middle, but we're right down the street from a convenient store that has had a chalk line in the parking lot, as well as one where there was a huge drug sting not that long ago. Additionally, we're in the city, but we have an acre of land, coyotes, skunks, and all kinds of random "country-living" issues. It's a "best of both worlds" kind of place (or worst, some days). 

-Summer and fall in Albuquerque are the most beautiful things on earth. In the summer, the world is a brighter place here. In the fall, the colors are enough to make you fall in love with the scenery. The spring, however, is a wretched hag. She brings with her cottonwoods and junipers blooming, and it's enough to make this little desert girl have allergies for the first time in her life! 

-Learn the slang. There are new words for everything here, and shortcut names for streets, parts of town, restaurants. Learn them. It makes life so much easier. 

-Don't visit Albuquerque urgent care centers, ever. It's not worth it, I've heard horror stories from multiple people, and I lived through an awful experience. 

-Embrace the fact that crazies come out on Central on weekends. It's hilarious to watch, and you can't make that stuff up….go out and take it all in. Don't complain about them. They're the best entertainment in town. 

-Whether you love it or hate it, make the best of it. If you love it, soak it all in. Go hike the trails, explore the little shops, embrace the unique flavor of ABQ. If you hate it, go eat some hot green (or red) chile, look at the mountains, have a locally brewed beer, and realize that life here really isn't that bad.

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