Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - November 23, 2018

Petroglyphs, Pokémon and painted skies

Husband Art and I traveled to Albuquerque a couple of weeks ago to visit daughter Katie and her husband Matt, who moved there this past June. We hadn’t had a chance to see their home yet and so we wanted to spend a few days with them.

Art and I had been to Albuquerque before, but only for quick trips - once when the local youth orchestra performed there and another time when I attended a convention.

This trip was different in that we were seeing it through the eyes of people who have lived in the city awhile. Although they aren’t long-time residents, they do know their way around town and have become familiar with some quirky eating establishments that most short-term tourists wouldn’t be familiar with.
On our first night, we went to a small corner deli. The Polish owners served Polish and German food and sold candy and other items from Russia. While we waited on our order, we walked around the shop. I was fascinated by the labels, many of them in Russian, on the boxes and jars. I studied that language in high school and college, but have not used it since. So about all I could do was sound out the Cyrillic letters and try to figure out what some of the words meant. “Chocolate” was an easy one.

Over the next few days, we ate at breakfast-and-lunch establishment The Egg and I, pigged out on barbecue meals at Mr. Powdrell’s and Rudy’s, ate chicken-stuffed potatoes and yucca fries at a Peruvian place, had Mexican meals in Old Town Albuquerque and ate at a restaurant rated by Trip Advisor as one of the best Chinese places in the city. I later joked that we had managed to “eat our way through Albuquerque,” although I’m unsure we really ate anything quintessentially Southwestern.

We also saw a few iconic sites in and near the city. We spent one afternoon climbing the basalt rocks at Boca Negra (Black Mouth) Canyon in Petroglyph National Monument. The park features more than 25,000 petroglyphs - images chipped into rock surfaces. Human figures, such as flute players or dancers; animals such as birds, snakes and mountain lions; and spirals and geometric designs were among the various items we saw. Archaeologists believe that many petroglyphs in the Rio Grande valley date back at least 3,000 years. The day we visited was a brilliantly sunny day, and the sky was a deep blue.

We could see part of the city from the area, and while there, we noticed four hot-air balloons being launched. Albuquerque hosts the International Balloon Fiesta each year in October and offers balloon rides throughout the year. That might well be a future adventure for Art and me.

We also visited the University of New Mexico campus, where Katie is studying anthropology. I was especially intrigued by the desert plants, bright-yellow cottonwoods and other flora.

Art was more interested in observing people, particularly those playing “Pokémon Go.” The original Pokémon - a contraction of Pocket Monster - was a cartoon character created in 1995 in Japan. The “Go” version is an augmented-reality mobile game that uses a smartphone’s GPS to locate, capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, which appear as if they are in the player’s real-world location. And it wasn’t just college-aged people playing either. Many youngsters and oldsters seemed totally absorbed in it.

After a few hours at UNM, we headed to Old Town, where we saw the San Felipe de Neri church, built in 1793 to honor the city’s patron saint. We also sampled Mexican cuisine and went from shop to shop to see the pottery, jewelry, baskets, blankets and other beautiful items made by local artists.

While Albuquerque celebrated its tricentennial in 2006, its history dates back 12,000 years when the ancient Puebloan Indians settled the area. The region surrounding present-day Albuquerque was home to several groups of Native Americans and was inhabited by the ancient Anasazi.

In 1540, Conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado came to the area in search of the mythical Seven “golden” Cities of Cibola. Coronado’s interest in the area brought more Spanish settlers who established trading posts. To impress the Spanish government, Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdes, the governor of the territory, petitioned to establish a settlement as a formal villa and call it Alburquerque, after Viceroy Francisco Fernandez de la Cuervo, the eighth Duque De Alburquerque of Spain. At some point, the first “r” was dropped from the name.

According to the City of Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau, the word Albuquerque comes from the Latin words “albus” and “quercus,” meaning “white oak.”

On Sunday - Veterans Day - we went to the New Mexico Veterans Memorial, which had monuments for those who served in all of America’s wars. Large U.S. and New Mexico flags fluttered in the breeze. Brick-lined paths were inscribed with the names of veterans killed in action. Small flags and flowers had been left in remembrance of those lost.

Of course, not all of our time was spent doing exciting things. Buying and replacing living room drapes occupied Katie and me for a while and Art repaired two outside lights that hadn’t been properly installed. We also stopped by the local Sears store after Art noticed the banner advertising it was closing.

The day before we planned to leave, a snowstorm passed through to the northeast, across all paths we might take home. So we delayed our departure a day. Because the sky was overcast, the colors we had become accustomed to - the brilliant blue sky, the soft greens of the sagebrush and desert grasses, the brilliant yellow cottonwoods and the purple-pink sunsets against the Sandia Mountains had turned to gray.

But to our surprise, the kids said they liked it. “All the sunshine becomes oppressive,” Katie commented. And she’s probably right. The “Visit Albuquerque” website mentions “... more than 310 days of sunshine ...” each year.

But we didn’t feel oppressed. We’ll be back!

Top-left: (l-r) Matt, owner, Katie and Art enjoy Barbeque at Mr. Powdrell's; top-middle: Matt and Katie outside a gallery in the Old Town section. The bottom of the sign has a special invite for those new to Pokémon Go to drop in; right: front of the San Felipe de Neri church; lower-left: People of all ages playing Pokémon Go on the University of New Mexico campus; lower-middle: two petroglyphs in the Petroglyph National Monument.

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