A Week in the Land of Enchantment

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I went to New Mexico and tried to keep a journal about it.

March 20th – Grey

Later tonight I’m getting on a plane to visit Albuquerque, New Mexico, a city and an entire region I’ve never seen. I’m going there because it’s time to meet my boyfriend’s family and see his origin story and all that. It’s also the first day of spring, which often means nothing in New York in March. It is in fact grey and threatening and going to snow later. Spring means something to me, though. Winter has been especially brutal and while the change of seasons doesn’t guarantee a change in my depression, it feels relieving to have an official beginning to mark. Spring is the first full season I ever spent in New York, so it’s a private New Year of sorts. I just had my second NYC anniversary, and the first day of this particular spring is the six month point of my relationship. Fall and winter were colored by the dissolution of other connections, routines, and comforts. It’s hard not to look at that trajectory and hope, superstitiously, that everything could be a little more vernal – at least for a while.

March 21st – Turquoise

New Mexico’s state epithet is “the Land of Enchantment,” which I only learned this morning from looking at P’s family car. Even the license plates here are more charming than they ought to be, especially compared to New York or the try hard “smiling faces, beautiful places” of old South Carolina issue. New Mexico license plates are oil-paint-rich turquoise and yellow. Some have chili peppers on them, which is also cute. These are not really my colors, but the fallacy/fantasy of travel tricks you into thinking you could be a person who wears different colors, eases into different ways of life. Turquoise never struck me as a special color, but it is deep and pretty here. It pops and gets to be itself, not fighting flowers and pollen and grass for attention. Beauty in South Carolina is mostly green and suffocating. The magic of the best of South Carolina – the low country – feels at times like living under a snow globe enclosure of leaves and moss. Being overwhelmed by this sort of life-greedy nature is the only way the choking heat and humidity make sense. In the shadeless glare of my hometown, it’s just stupid. Here, beauty is burnt and leathery and things I always assumed I would look out-of-place in.

New York is a giant, seething cathedral to humanity – the Gothic architecture that once stretched to remind people of heaven is just a tribute to our hubris there. We’re piling and piling on top of each other and carving out more space than there should be. NYC is a place where it’s easy to believe that we’ve utterly tamed nature and bent it to our will. Here, stretches of shops and motels look like they were dropped prefab in the middle of these unforgiving surroundings from somewhere else and stayed because they couldn’t find anywhere like home in the expanse of empty nature. It’s very strange to suddenly be in a landscape that you have no frame of reference for whatsoever. I’m so dependent on the boundaries of Manhattan surrounding me at all times, but being in a place that seems to lack boundaries completely, where you can’t draw a hard-line where “city” starts and ends is awe-inspiring in a new way. I guess that means I’m enchanted.

March 22 – Green

Last night P’s mom gave us green chili stew for dinner. It was delicious, but mostly I was thankful that it was the first time I had ever eaten it. This is me assigning significance to mundane things because the fact that last night was my first green chili stew meant that I had saved myself a not insignificant amount of pain. If I had eaten green chili stew the first time I had the opportunity- an innocuous group hang situation – I would have had an image of my friend’s domestic life burned into my brain and not having that information spared me from a lot of heartbreak months and plot twists later. I think we take for granted how much informational and emotional input we take in, and how much of that will hurt us, and maybe worse? How much we’ll never be able to use at all. We amass so many maps in our heads of real or imagined landscapes and have no place to file them. There are entire worlds behind “a place I’ll never go” and “a place I’ve never been” or “a place I’ll never see again.” It’s dumb! This all means literally nothing but there I was eating green chili stew for the first time and thinking about how weird it is that one nothing decision made such a big difference.

March 23 – Dayglo

I twisted my knee and bruised my tailbone while roller skating, despite being pretty competent if not occasionally graceful in skate-based activities. But roller skating is P’s domain. If I had seen him skate before we were together it would have been very bad for me. He’s so magical on the rink. This man who moves through most of his life self-consciously is some kind of fairy prince all of a sudden. Seeing him so uninhibited and lovely is – and I mean I know I’m extremely biased – a joy. If we didn’t know each other and I saw him gliding under the neon lights of the roller rink, I’m sure I would fall in love with the beautiful boy on skates, at least for as long as I got to watch him.

March 24 – What color is a sunset anyway 

sunset“New Mexico gets spectacular sunsets weekly,” P said as the sky turned washed-out yellow. Five minutes later we were driving through residential streets looking for a place to park and take pictures of an incredible view – so much bigger and deeper than a postcard’s sherbet sunset. “Ok, actually this one is maybe one in six months,” he amended. “Albuquerque is showing off a little for you.” Land of Enchantment, etc.

We climbed up on the roof of the house to find some of the family already up there. Something about being on a roof with other people always heightens the sense of community and friendship. It feels lame trying to take a good sunset shot. Sunsets are kind of the definition of ephemeral, changing palettes by the minute. But it was a perfect sunset, and the kind of moment you want to live in even though knowing that it’s rare and precious is the whole appeal. If you really could live in it, it wouldn’t strike you anymore. It was like the moments that pull me back to New York even when I’m the most miserable there. You can’t describe them well but they fill you. This setting, P’s childhood house, isn’t mine, and it’s not even his anymore. Still, the roof and the sunset and the company in combination felt like it. Not like it could ever be my home, but a good one, in another life.

March 25th – Blue

van

On the way to go eat this morning we had the great luck to park across the street from a cerulean what I think is a Delica Starwagon (starwagon!) upon googling. P is very into good vans, so it was quite a find, and I have to admit it was probably the cutest van I’ve ever seen too. It stands to reason that hanging around New Mexico would make you stat thinking about vehicles more. Unless you’re very fortunate or willing to put up with huge inconveniences, not having one is a compromise most New Yorkers make. It’s usually worth it, and I find public transit romantic in its own way. But the one thing you really have to give up is the fantasy of being able to drop everything and just drive somewhere.  I’m a sucker for a good highway at night. Vans are sort of this fantasy on crack because you can imagine going anywhere at anytime and also feasibly have a self-contained life in your vehicle. Unless I see, god forbid, an even cuter van, any van daydream I have will no doubt be about the Starwagon! from here on out. It’s nice to think about having a rootless job – writing, I guess, since I’m not any kind of free spirit that could do…earthier…jobs. The obvious cool thing would be writing essays about all the places you see in your van.

If you have a significant other who you don’t resent, and you see a charming van in their company, you are a liar if you don’t imagine a whole fucking life with them in it. It’s such a rose-colored vision because – at least for me, a person who loves washing their face and being alone and being online despite enjoying my boyfriend’s company most of the time – the thought of successfully sharing a van-sized space and not hating each other is a fantasy indeed. Trekking around with the person you love is very much a vignette that makes you want to hold onto the early days when putting your head in their lap seems more like a secret you’ve unlocked than a mundane thing you can do when you’re tired. If I imagine being In a Van it’s a lot of laughing and singing and eating at diners. It gets murkier beyond that. On the edges of this dream, I want there to be a place for the van to park and a doorstep to walk up to. When we have daydreams I think there’s an urge to want to fill in all the fuzz immediately, but it doesn’t work that way. The doorstep that belongs to me or us or whoever can only take shape by doing the work to get there, and I’m not there yet.

March 26th – Brown

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Today we went to Santa Fe. While planning this trip, this was the thing I was most looking forward to because of its reputation as the Art Place of New Mexico. And don’t get me wrong, it’s very beautiful and I wish I could have explored it more. The highlight of the area was visiting the immersive art space Meow Wolf and their permanent installation, The House of Eternal Return. It’s something that’s worth going out of your way to experience – preferably more than once, and it’s best to not know much going into it. I’ll say that it’s a fully realized, tangible nonlinear story that is equally good as a piece of science fiction as a Gothic family drama. It was crowded, and when I was younger this would have made me very grouchy. I’ve tried, and hopefully learned, to mellow out around children a lot. We all were one once, etc. But I want kids to have access to this kind of art and experience. It’s good that they’re running around and getting excited. I would have been all over this as a kid. Anyway, today’s lesson: be gracious to other people for existing around you.

I have to say that driving through the huge, faded tan New Mexican countryside listening to old Western songs is at least as good as being in Santa Fe.

March 27th – White

bottlesWhat better way to ease back into New York than to be cold, wet, and snowed on? It’s not the same at all, though. Driving up a mountain into a snowstorm, it seems absurd to complain because you are clearly playing by the mountain’s rules here. New York, which we forget is still nature under us all, can feel like an angry god unsatisfied with endless worship and sacrifice when it just. keeps. snowing. On the way back, we went to Tinkertown on a whim. Tinkertown is uh…imagine if kitschy weren’t a word with negative connotations. It’s truly indescribable because what it actually is – tiny dioramas of Old West towns, walls made of bottles, carousel parts, antique toys – doesn’t describe it. It was all built by one man out of sheer obsession and enthusiasm. Even if you don’t like eccentric Americana (I do), it’s very charming and special to be walking around in a big, shambling externalization of somebody’s weird mind.

Anyway. It was a nice day to end a nice very wonderful, actually trip. I learned a lot in the Land of Enchantment, including:

  • Being out in the sun is good, sometimes, and can be healing.
  • Most landscapes can be beautiful. So can neon signs.
  • Tumbleweeds actually happen.
  • It’s always vulnerable and jarring to peek into another family’s life.
  • No airport will ever be cuter than Albuquerque’s because it’s called the “Sunport” and if that ain’t the good moe shit I don’t know what is.
  • If you spend your time thinking about someone you love only through the lens of how they interact with your fears and insecurities, you end up basically talking to yourself. It’s better to think about how the world is for them, and that you probably loved them in the first place because you wanted to nurture that world.
  • Eating fried chicken is always an option.
  • Most dogs are good, but the weight of a medium-big dog nudging you and licking you is especially good.
  • Watching someone – almost anyone – do or talk about what’s special to them is one of the unmitigated joys of this often bullshit life.
  • Kindness is still the most important thing.

 

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