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The Three Cultures...and a broken bad

Okay, so last time I had us on the way to Old Town. We got there fairly early in a (mostly failed) attempt to beat the heat. Best laid plans, etc. 


Anyway, we arrived and parked in the big lot next to the Albuquerque Museum and just across the street from Tiguex Park, which is a nice little city park with trails and play spaces. 


I suppose I ought to describe Old Town’s layout. It’s a rough square, bounded on the east by 19th Street SW, on the south by Central Ave., on the west by Rio Grande Blvd., and on the north by Mountain Rd--the same Mountain Road that our Casita was near. If the weather had not been so hot, we could have walked there, and, maybe next time, we will.


Quick aside, Central, which forms part of the southern border of Old Town, was part of Route 66. Along it, you can still see the famous old hotels dating back to the 1940s and 1950s. They’re most shuttered now, of course, but the city is doing its best to revamp them. Perhaps someday they’ll be tourist attractions in the own right. After all, everyone knows you’ve got to “Get your kicks on Route 66.” (1)




First, Martha looking stunning at the High Noon restaurant in Old Town. I’ll be coming back to the High Noon soon (great place, btw). 


Anyway, getting back to Old Town, it is an area of about .8 of a mile, at least according to Wikipedia. (2) At its rough center is the Plaza, which consists of a small grassed in area with a bandstand. On its north side, and basically overshadowing it, is a large church, specifically the San Felipe de Neri Church. (3) This a really quite beautiful building of adobe and wood, and dates back to 1793, making it one of the oldest structures in Albuquerque and the only one in Old Town that has been proven to date back to the Spanish colonial period. 


Circling the Plaza and the church, and stretching off in all directions, is a tangle of shops, restaurants, art galleries, and other attractions. The streets between them tend to be narrow, but fortunately many are one way, so that reduces the complexity of things a little. There is some on-street parking, and a couple of lots (including the one we used), so it is not normally too difficult to find a place to park, particularly if you’re there on a weekday or early on a Saturday or Sunday.


Once you do park, and start walking about, you’ll discover fairly quickly that Old Town has a theme. That is, most of the attractions and many of the goods on display or for sale reflect either Hispanic or Native American culture -- the foods, the arts and crafts, the souvenirs, all reflect those two histories. You eat Mexican food in the restaurants, you see Kachinas and Hopi pottery for sale in the shops. The jewelry and clothing on offer reflect Indian styles (squash blossom necklaces, Concho belts) and Hispanic designs. 


There is also some recognition of the state’s third culture, that of Anglos and particularly the ranchers and businessmen who came here after the Mexican-American War. You see cowboy boots and cowboy hats for sale. Women’s clothiers offer “cowgirl style” clothing and cowgirl hats (usually similar to a man’s hat, but sometimes in brighter colors and often with flat, unshaped brims). And there are some cowboy-themed toys for children.


But, frankly, and unlike Texas, where I am now, cowboys have never been the big seller here. The Spanish, Mexican, and Pueblo pasts have always been more important. That’s what visitors want, and that’s what they get. 



Then, second, a couple more AI-generated images of Old Town. I produced these in an attempt to show the area with some of the honeymooning and dating couples you see there. Seriously, the area seems to be a big draw for lovers, old and young, from all over. Also, equally seriously, let me know what you think of the images. 


Oh, one exception. There’s one other culture on offer here--specifically, pop culture. You remember the TV program “Breaking Bad?” The one about Walter White, a.k.a. Heisenberg, an Albuquerque-based chemistry-teacher who thinks he’s dying and turns to making meth to provide for his family? Well, for some reason, that’s caught on in Old Town. For example, you can take a “Breaking Bad RV Tour” (in an RV just like the one that Walter and Jesse Pinkman used to cook their meth) of places that played important roles in the show. And, of course, you catch the RV (or, if the RV is booked, then a shuttle bus) in Old Town.(4)


Or, if that’s not enough, then you can get Blue Meth Candy from “The Candy Lady,” an Old Town-based candy maker who did the original Blue Meth prop for the Breaking Bad production. Her shop is still in operation, and you can buy her fake meth candy in 100 gram bags “with the Candy Lady business cards to avoid any confusion with law enforcement.” (5)


But we weren’t there for Meth, and we didn’t need a tour. So, we parked and headed into Old Town. We had things we wanted to do. Things we wanted to see. And, most importantly,...


A friend we wanted to meet. Someone who did my parents a great favor.


Even though they were already gone at the time.


More to come. 






Footnotes: 


1. Here’s the Nat King Cole Trio performing that very piece: https://youtu.be/9nuDE1SJlPo



2. For details of Old Town and its history, I rely on the area’s Wikipedia entry, here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Town_Albuquerque. Also, Old Town has its own webpage, which is here: https://www.albuquerqueoldtown.com/



3. For more on the church, see “San Felipe de Neri Church,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Felipe_de_Neri_Church


4. See the company’s website here: https://www.breakingbadrvtours.com/










Copyright©2024 Michael Jay Tucker


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