My family moved from Colorado to Albuquerque when I was in the seventh grade, and we stayed there through my attendance at La Cueva High School until my parents moved back to Colorado after I’d gone to college — some thirteen years ago. Some of the best years of my long-gone youth, therefore, were spent in New Mexico. In the years since I’ve been back there a couple times, but the last time was more than six years ago.
It was too long to be gone. We spent the last couple days there, and it served as a strong reminder that Albuquerque is a great place.
I suspect it’s a truth of human experience that friends come and go from our lives — often for no reason that can be discerned or, alternatively, accepted — but that a precious few remain through it all. One of these rare friends, for me, is Tom Golden, who I’ve known since my first year in New Mexico and who thus has much incriminating information about me. He seems to like me nonetheless, and he and his incredibly wonderful wife Julie welcomed my little family — hobbit and wondermutt included — into their home during our all-too-short stay in Albuquerque.
I’m pleased to say we had a great time (I hope Tom and Julie can say the same). It was amazing to meet up with old friends not seen in years, and it was incredible to see how much the city has grown in my absence. Long stretches of arroyo-carved prairie, across which I used to drive my CJ-7 far too fast on the way to school, are now thickly populated with rows of new apartments, houses, and brown-stuccoed mini mcmansions. Sandia Presbyterian Church, which my family joined about a dozen other families in founding (I signed the charter; a point of irony now, I suppose), had just moved into a new building when I left Albuquerque (we’d started in an elementary school cafeteria, then moved to the gymnasium before finally having the money to break ground on the bona fide digs). Well, that simple sanctuary is now surrounded by an impressive complex of buildings.
As great as our few days were, we did have a significant complication: with two lunches and two dinners, there weren’t enough meals for all the terrific restaurants we wanted to go to! After much soul-searching, we whittled down our wish-list to the following locales, at which we had spectacular meals:
Blake’s Lotaburger – A New Mexico fast-food chain, based in Albuquerque. Had my favorite: an Itsaburger with green chile and cheese. Drippin’ with grease. Tom then bought me a strawberry milkshake (he knows my vices, that man).
Dion’s Pizza – An Albuquerque institution. We met another good old friend from high school there, Walt Benson, along with his lovely family. The company was even better than the food (which, in my case, was a slice of Dion’s with pepperoni, sausage, black olives, and green chiles).
El Pinto – A terrific local-cuisine restaurant down in the valley. Had nachos loaded with fixins, an enchilada combo plate with green chile (sensing a theme?), and a pitcher of margaritas (okay, I shared some of this).
Quarters BBQ – Had a great burger topped with their special queso and, why of course, green chiles.