(what follows is, basically, a bit of a travel guide to north-central New Mexico and New York/Brooklyn)
"Do you remember coming over the rise on the interstate and seeing Santa Fe with the mountains behind it?"
I don't remember what we were talking about; maybe a certain mountain you can see, coming in from Albuquerque, that he wanted to climb; but I remember that view. And I remember, driving from Santa Fe to Los Alamos (or the other direction, down to Santa Fe), coming over rises, or around corners on windy mountain roads and seeing expanses of red rocky mountain desert canyon yawning out before you. Oh, I've lived a lot of places, but I really loved living in New Mexico. The stark, bare rawness of landscapes.
Wildflowers blooming in a frenzy after spring rains. Giant lightning bolts, disconcertingly near, in summer thunder storms. Hatch chillies, smoked in turning iron baskets in supermarket parking lots. The smell of sage everywhere. Coyote silhouettes seen in the lamplight at night. Big snakes lazily crossing the trail you happen to be hiking on. Native American ruins, shards of ancient pottery spotted on a morning walk in the canyon behind the house we rented.
I was excited to move to Europe (watching snow fall on Ponderosa pines in October of 2007, a week before leaving), but thinking of it now, perhaps we should try to live in New Mexico for a few months every year. It would be hard to choose between summer in the mountains, hiking and climbing and biking, wild mushroom picking, wearing flowy skirts and eating gelato; or winter, when the skiing at Pajarito is relatively cheap and good, the snow is powdery and you're married to a trained winter mountaineer who knows what he's doing.
I'm going back in a week, and will also be visiting New York City, where I lived for four years until July 2006. Colm is already in New Mexico, where he used to work. When he's not working, he's seeing old friends, hiking in Bandalier, climbing mountains, eating breakfast burritos and enjoying other things you just don't find in the West Midlands. Oh, I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to this.
There was Chocolate Maven, the adorable back-alley bakery slash fine dining establishment where we loved to have Sunday brunch (Sunday brunch doesn't really happen in the UK), or grab a macaroon and a brownie on the way back to Albuquerque after a weekend in Los Alamos. Café Pasqual's, where we went for huevos rancheros and buckwheat pancakes on one of our first dates. Their gheen chilli sauce was smoky and amazing, and they had little wooden toy cars and trucks on the tables that Colm used to enjoy pushing around while making motor noises to embarrass me. Anasazi Restaurant, the ultimate upscale, New York tourist meets wild west native spot where birthdays and civil ceremonies were celebrated. I was still a meat eater the first time we went, on our second date. I ordered the most amazing pork chop, and wore spiky black satin heels with jeans and a lacy top. The Pyramid Cafe in Los Alamos, where we met for work lunches and always ended with baklava and Turkish coffee. Artisan gelato to take the edge off summer heat on my lunch break from law firms. Elegant, exotic, expensive chocolate 'elixirs' from far-flung corners at Kakawa; and hipster see-and-be-seen-ism at the aptly named Tea House, the antidote to overwhelm from too many art galleries on Canyon Road. I don't think I'll be able to go to all of these places in eight days, but I'll do my very best. I'll make space for it with lots of hiking.
And then New York: the Tea Lounge in my old neighborhood where Katy and I used to meet, talk about boys and read the Sunday NY Times...and where I once found $60 wadded up on the floor. The Park Slope Food Co-op where I can't shop because I'm no longer a member (Katy will have to sneak me some of their home-dried papaya), Rosa Mexicana in Union Square where Colm and I drank pomegranate margaritas and ate tableside-made guacamole after taking a helicopter tour of Manhattan. Sarabeth's where we once waited almost two hours for a table (it's amazing what he'll let you get away with on a first date), Joe Coffee where I used to sit, hoping to meet cute single straight men in New York's gay neighborhood (?), and so many other places whose names I don't remember, but whose storefronts, street corners and dining counters I can describe perfectly.
As you can tell, my nostalgia levels are through the roof. When we met, I was living in Brooklyn, working in Manhattan, and Colm was in Los Alamos. Our early dates took place over long weekends, and we only saw each other once a month or so. We'd save up all of our restaurant curiosities and outdoor adventure ideas and pack it all into amazing spans of three days. I had a TONY subscription and would dog ear all the spots I wanted to try. He'd take me mountain or rock climbing, in snow and in sun. He also booked that helicopter tour on our first date, which, gents, is the way to sweep a girl off her feet. I think we live a little more simply nowadays, but damn, we created some fun memories. There was also that decadent brunch at Balthazars, the bread basket with pastries that just wouldn't quit.
I don't really believe in nostalgia; I try to live in the present. But when I touch down in Newark, you can bet I'll be listening to 'America' by Simon and Garfunkel. And then when I head on to Albuquerque, I might have 'Heartland' by U2 going, all misty eyed as I gaze out the window. I can't wait.