Don’t I Know You?
November 4-9, 2001
America is defined by people who are attempting to reinvent themselves in one way or another. People come to America and change their citizenship, language, or culture, while Americans change hair colors, careers, or spouses. The whole country, from coast to coast, is in the process of “finding themselves”. This may be part of the reason why the entire East coast seems to be moving out West. Everywhere Brian and I go we meet people from Philadelphia and New Jersey and we’re getting a little concerned that no one will be there when we get back. In particular, it seems that every bartender from Tennessee to California is from Philly and every waitress is from New Jersey. Although it’s nice to talk about “back home,” Brian and I were hoping to meet a few real locals, not just transplants.
Our first stop in New Mexico was Truth or Consequences, a town famous not only for its name but for its natural hot springs. We shacked up for a couple of nights at the Riverbend hostel which provides lodging in a quirky mishmash of trailers, teepees, and traditional dorm rooms. The hostel provides its own hot springs free to guests. Twice daily the stone tubs are filled with steaming water and the staff, guests, and a few townsfolk climb in for a soak. Not only is this a relaxing way to start and end your day but it also gives you a great opportunity to meet your tub mates. After a few days at the hostel we discovered that each dreadlocked, tax-evading, all-organic staff member was from the East Coast. Brian and I made a mental note to call home and make sure our families were where we had left them.
We left T or C before we were permanently turned into prunes by the addictive hot springs and headed up to Santa Fe for a quick look around. This area is so expensive that we figured we could only afford to stay one night and we did so at the only, overpriced, hostel in town. Since we couldn’t afford to do anything we decided it was time to bring the Jeep, which had gone 6,000 miles without being serviced, down to the Santa Fe dealer and have them work their magic under the hood. I left confident that my Jeep was in good hands since the salesperson was from Philadelphia and the service guy was from New York. They even wished me a goodbye with (the following is a direct quote): “Hey Jersey, what the f**k? Fuggedaboudit!” to make me feel welcome in their adopted home town. That evening at the hostel our dinner conversation consisted of a debate over the newly elected mayor of New York with, you guessed it, three New Yorkers who were moving to New Mexico.
We fled Santa Fe early the next morning and drove up to Taos with the hopes that we would bump into someone that wasn’t a Yankees fan. Taos turned out to be an only slightly less expensive version of Santa Fe, minus the pink buildings, and we began to wonder if it was worth our money to replicate the night before. As a last resort we took a drive up to the Abominable Snow Mansion hostel in Arroyo Seco where we received our first pleasant surprise since entering New Mexico. The town consisted of the hostel, a couple of crafty stores, the “Taos Cow” coffee shop, and “Abe’s Cantina y Cocina”.
We paid for two beds (private rooms were once again too expensive) at the almost empty Snow Mansion and walked over to the coffee shop for lunch. It seemed that half the population of this small town was at the “Cow” that afternoon and all of them were engaged in lively conversation. We butted in every once in a while to ask where they were from and to our relief most of them were locals, with the exception of a young man from Indonesia (at least he wasn’t from New Jersey).
The most memorable resident was a middle-aged man, dressed in leather chaps and a cowboy hat, who rode around town on his horse. It was the first time either one of us had ever witnessed a horse being tied to a newspaper vending machine while the owner ran in for an espresso. After he left, one of the other locals invited us to join him at the cowboy’s house for a game of bocce ball. The cowboy, it turned out, was Italian. That would explain the espresso.
We tried, without success, to find the cowboy’s house. We headed back into town to take a look at “Abe’s Cantina” across the street from the “Taos Cow”. Abe himself was tending bar that day, as I would guess he does every day, and was a sight to see in action. Only 4’11″ on a good day and well into his 70′s, Abe cracked open beer cans and sold six-packs to the other half of Arroyo Seco that wasn’t at the “Cow”. On that great day, not a single soul on either side of the street mentioned that the Eagles were having a great season or that you can’t get a good cannoli outside of New York, not once. Brian and I stopped leaving concerned messages on our parents’ answering machines and headed to Roswell.
Brian and “RALF” (the Roswell alien life form) at the International UFO
We spent the afternoon in Roswell at the International UFO Museum. Visitors are met by a fleet of elderly volunteers whose primary duty is to make sure you mark your home town with a pushpin on the giant map of the world hanging in the front of the museum. Wouldn’t you know that one of the volunteers has a grand- daughter who moved to New Jersey? I don’t think he realized what a relief it was to hear that someone had moved East instead of West. His granddaughter gave me hope that someone was restoring the balance of the population on the East Coast.
Maybe not everyone needs to move West to find themselves. A few people seem to like the idea of reinventing themselves in the East. However, I have to admit that “Go West young man!” does have a nice ring to it.
New Mexico Info
There isn’t a whole lot to do in Truth or Consequences so take full
advantage of the hot springs, whether or not you’re a guest at the Riverbend. For non-guests the price of a soak runs about $10. If you’re looking for
a decent hot meal try the Stoplight Cafe, aptly named since it sits next to
the only traffic light in town.
The only hostel in Santa Fe is not only overpriced but they have a long
list of chores that guests have to finish each morning. If you’re staying
in a private room be prepared to do communal chores (we had to rake leaves)
in addition to cleaning your own room. The upside to this hostel is the
abundance of free food. Make like the other guests and eat as much as you
can stomach to make up for the steep prices.
The Abominable Snow Mansion in Arroyo Seco is the perfect way to see Taos
without staying there. Only 10 miles from the Taos Square, Arroyo Seco is a
great place to escape the crowds. Since there aren’t any supermarkets
nearby, stock up in Taos (or Abe’s small store) so you can cook dinner at
There are no hostels in Roswell but there are plenty of discount hotels
along the main drag. Stay a night or just an afternoon but make sure to
stop into the International UFO Museum to catch up on your conspiracy