Going to town from the desert

Triggered by a listener’s letter, Ken Layne at Desert Oracle Radio rang up Phoenix scribe Jason P. Woodbury, and the two of them demythologize desert life a bit by trading observations about a few Southwestern communities — among them the Duke City, home to Your Humble Narrator.

Layne says our town “has a reputation as sort of the ugly stepbrother of Santa Fe,” which he argues lends it a skosh more soul than its pricey neighbor to the north. A working-class, salt-of-the-earth vibe, don’t you know.

Albuquerque “is sort of famous for eight of nine cars around you in the process of falling apart all at the same stoplight,” he says.

The ninth, of course, is stolen.

Also up for review: Palm Springs (Woodbury likes hanging out at the Ace Hotel) and Sedona (Woodbury’s a fan; Layne, um, not so much).

“Sedona’s like a vortex of intelligence, you know? And it all disappears as soon as you get there,” he says.

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27 Responses to “Going to town from the desert”

  1. John A Levy Says:

    I n love the commentary, however as a south westerner looking to return to his roots when and if retiring. The commentary is useful but not encouraging. Montana has been hijacked by Carpetbaggers from New Jersey and Maryland with nazi tendencies and born again with n spirit in the sky. When I was kid in Southern Colorado people,who talked to the invisible beings were escorted to 19th Street i n Pueblo AKA the Colorado State hospital ( Not for the sane i n the head). The search for a saner place continues looking at Raton, Las Vegas. Santa Fe lost its luster yrs ago, Los Alamos is little pricey. Going to need a road trip to look at places to domicile when the covid crisis is dealt with by adults. Any suggestions or comments would be appreciated. Would be nice be back where the sunshines.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I’m not sure where I would go if I left Albuquerque. I’ve lived in a lot of places, but I wouldn’t be thrilled about going back to any of them.

      I’d have to have warm weather. Probably mountains. It would be nice to live by the ocean, but that sucker gets up and walks around now and then. Affordability is important, what with me being a senior citizen on a fixed income and all.

      East is right out. I’m as far east as I’m ever gonna get. I’ve seen what they call “Mexican food” out there.

      One of these days I need to take a closer look at southern New Mexico. Las Cruces is too bloody hot. TorC sounds plenty weird. So many towns, so little time.

      • Pat O’Brien Says:

        Went to a kite festival in Silver City a long time ago. Kind of a New Mexican Bisbee.
        I’m with Layne on Sedona. Gentrified tourist trap.

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          I haven’t been to Silver City yet, though friends and colleagues have, generally to attend the Tour of the Gila. Mike Creed had a place down there for a while and liked it. They have winter up in them thar hills, though, don’t they? More so than we do here, anyway.

          As for Sedona, I also stand with the Desert Oracle. I was last there after Interbike 2016, and wrote about it for this very blog.

        • khal spencer Says:

          We haven’t been to Silver City since the big fire down there (Black Forest?). We liked it but as touristas rather than seriously considering whether to move there.

          Santa Fe is overpriced. Median house price, from what I read the other day, is now over 500k and homes being gobbled up by Texans and Californians. I pissed and moaned about that yesterday (below).

          Los Alamos has gone through the roof as well. We sold up there in 2018 for 100k more than we bought in 2001 and if we had held out, probably coulda gotten tens of k more dollars as there are almost no listings. But I have always been paranoid about housing prices in Bombtown. Right now prices are through the roof because the Laboratory is spooling up for bomb production and are hiring a lot of people. Lots of new housing going up in Bombtown but all pretty high density. If for some reason the Biden administration pulls the plug on pit manufacturing, those prices will nosedive. I just wanted out of that market and so did my better half.

          Plus, Los Alamos is a weird place. I could live there happily ever after because all I need are bike trails and a computer terminal. The place was driving Meena nuts with its monoculture (all white and one employer) and lack of all the things she likes.

  2. khal spencer Says:

    I’m not convinced Fanta Se has much soul. Lots of uppity people and money, but soul? Not when it counts.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      That’s why I decided to settle near Española when I got the gig at The New Mexican back in the Eighties. I got a spastic tic in one eyelid like Chief Inspector Dreyfus from giving mal de ojo to all the gabachos strutting around the Plaza, decked out in Western casual and a few zillion quatloos of silver and turquoise, their Land Rovers parked in the bike lane.

  3. JD Says:

    Hola Amigos! If you mostly enjoy where you currently live, have good/fun/productive social and work/hobby/passion (e.g.bikes, guitars, nuclear science, food, etc.) connections, then STAY WHERE YOU ARE!!!

    There’s an inverse-squared relationship between age (A) and “the grass is greener in a new meadow” (G) and contentment (C).

    C = G/A-squared. In my simple layman’s terms, friends (since we are social creatures) and environment are more important and healthful than Don Quijote’ing the “perfect place” at our ages (shall we be generous and say north-of-50?).

    I’ll ask Khal to more precisely develop my equational hypothesis; but my admittedly unscientific human behavior experience suggests this is fairly close. 🙂

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      “No matter where you go, there you are.” — Buckaroo Banzai

      You’d think I’d have this one dialed after 66 years of moving from one place to another. But noooooooo. …

      • SAO' Says:

        Also … “No one goes there anymore … it’s too crowded.”

      • JD Says:

        Notwithstanding the latest tempest in the teapot, I kinda like Dr. Seuss:
        “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.” -Dr. Seuss

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        I still like Dr. Seuss. We have to place these works in their proper context. The cartoons that have caused such a kerfuffle were drawn ages ago, when the pale people were a good deal less woke. A similar outcry deleted a bunch of Warner Bros. cartoons.

        Maybe it makes more sense to keep these things around, so we can learn from them. I wonder how many of us would come out looking saintly if everything we said, created, or participated in a half-century ago came to light.

        Here’s an interesting perspective from a writer whose mother believed that “a Black person’s humanity can never be fully realized in the presence of whiteness.” Dr. Seuss was on her banned-books list, and many others got a Black-angled rewrite.

        • Dale Says:

          Reminds me of people wanting to ban Huckleberry Finn due to the use of the n-word. I bet they never read or understood the book. I will admit that it is a bit too subtle for most young minds.

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          John Gruber at Daring Fireball had the same thought I did on this topic:

          I mean, you can buy copies of “Mein Kampf” but not “If I Ran the Zoo?” Banning books is always a sign of out-of-control zealotry.

          And yeah, I read “Mein Kampf” too.

          • khal spencer Says:

            You read the whole thing? Wow. I’ve read excerpts but never forced myself to endure the whole thing. Downloaded it a while back as a pdf and my aunt had a print copy for some reason.

            My school didn’t ban books but got weird about us signing them out. I got kicked out of the Bookmobile in 4th Grade for signing out Shirer’s history of the Third Reich (we were out in the sticks so the Buffalo Library would send a tractor trailer library out to the rural schools). I guess they thought it was too weird for a fourth grader to be reading about Nazi Germany. Of course the first thing I did was have my mom take me to the Buffalo and Erie Co. Public Library to sign it out. Imagine if I wanted to read Hitler’s tome they woulda sent me to the school shrink.

            My guess is the Book Police are in full swing in schools across the country.

  4. Pat O’Brien Says:

    I’ve moved enough.

  5. redrockmtb Says:

    i’ve wanted to move west for the last 25 years but so far i’ve only visited. bend, oregon and boise, idaho checked a lot of boxes but i think they are out of my price range now. i might could afford northwest arkansas. they supposedly have stellar mountain biking thanks to the walton family. no, the grass may not be greener but it’s different grass or maybe not grass at all.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Bend I like, though it’s been a while since I last visited. Big bike community, good fishing, weather a lot like Colorado. Ashland is nice too.

      Idaho I’m not so sure about. There’s a big crowd of dingbats up north of Boise. Still, my sister and I drove through Boise a lot of years ago en route to visit relatives in Oregon and it was beautiful country.

      The young Waltons are definitely up to something there in Arkansas. And my old racing buddy Brook Watts is bringing cyclocross worlds there next year.

  6. Herb from Michigan Says:

    Well if it’s better weather in the winter/summer just remember you can always rent it. I did a pretty thorough cost analysis and with my house paid for and having reasonable upkeep costs, I can rent warm weather somewhere else in the winter if I can no longer abide the cold up here. And summer and fall are just to good to give up for blast furnace heat down south. Now Salida CO…..that has some allure! But I’ve rented a vacation home there a few years back and that worked out well.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Hal used to want to move to Salida but says the People of Money (© Ed Quillen) have ruined the place.

      That said, mind you, this is the guy who thinks Weirdcliffe is getting too big for its britches, and that place doesn’t even have a stoplight yet.

    • khal spencer Says:

      We vacationed in Salida one year and found it very dog-unfriendly. We had Cash and Lilikoi back then, the two Aussie mixes, and ended up having to rent a motel room in what might as well have been a Motel 666 on the edge of town. Never went back. Durango was much nicer but like O’G says, has been taken over by People of Money. Kinda like Fanta Se, where a 1300-1500 square foot Stamm home (sort of the equivalent of Levittown homes) now fetches way over half a million bucks and probably 400k if it is a basket case. If we had not bought when we did (2014, before these homes were “discovered”), we never would have made the move.

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