Quirky Albuquerque — a play in three acts

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And now, a play in three acts about a family of three who happens upon a dusty, unusual town where green chiles double as breakfast cereal, the locals are alarmingly friendly, and coyotes bay at dusk.

Quirky Albuquerque

Cast:
An exuberant, youngish father trying to make the most of life takes his family of three in a tiny travel trailer and ambles into New Mexico’s largest city.

His wife, an adventurous soul, laid back and supportive, thoroughly enjoying the ride. She lacks a honed sense of direction at times, causing occasional issues for the traveling three, but she is a great asset to the trip nevertheless.

Their three year old son, who is soaking in the myriad of new experiences on the road, and delighting in asking as many questions as his little lungs can support.

A Seventh-day Adventist baker of 60 years with sandpaper hands and a world-class recipe for green chile bread.

A tall, skinny waitress with brunette bangs and 1960s pin-up makeup, an expert at whipping up shakes and hot cobblers.

A gatekeeper, 70 years of age, who, somewhat like a veal, is eager to get out of his parking lot kiosk whenever possible, for whatever reason, and for as long as will not perturb his boss.

Act One: The Golden Crown Panaderia — Sunset

After enjoying a simple supper at their campground, the family of three pulls their trusty Honda Element into the famed Golden Crown Panaderia. The exuberant dad orders on behalf of his family from the long list of obligatory must-eats: biscochitos – a delicate cinnamon-sugar cookie, round, thin, flaky; fruit empanadas – thin, chewy, and loaded with fresh, sugary filling; dessert flautas – crispy rolled pastry blanketing velvety mousse filling of various flavors, powdered generously with confectionary sugar.

The family is licking their lips and picking at the remains of their dessert, while the bushy-tailed husband notices the diners from the neighboring booth have vacated the restaurant, leaving a veritable cornucopia of leftover menu items atop the table. The husband has a shred of decency and is not about to eat used food from the plates of the departed. However, there are two perfectly good slices of green chile pizza sitting there on the serving pan, untouched and clearly doomed to the dastardly destiny of the dumpster out back.

The husband casually meanders over to the table, snatches the deuce, and returning to the security of his family’s table, promptly begins gnawing at the delectable treasure. His wife is horrified, and his son is amused that his wife is horrified. As embarrassed as the wife is, she has a fairly-developed fetish for freebies, and she eventually decides to take a nibble. The pizza is fantastic — a perfect combination of chew and crunch, packing the homemade je ne sais quas of every grandmama’s old country recipe, and the green chiles lend a subtle, low burn to the mix. Even the three year old gets in on the commandeered pizza action, and each of the three get a little thrill from their mild rebellion.

Enter the veteran baker. He has been watching from a nearby table, and the family is suddenly concerned that he is potentially wise to the recycled pizza heist. But as the conversation rambles along for five, ten, fifteen minutes, the family realizes that they have much greater concerns than their little taboo.

The dialogue commences simply enough, with the usual potpourri of ‘where-are-you-from’ questions and ‘oh-my-this-bakery-is-life-changing’ sort of compliments. But the discourse soon deteriorates into a full-on Seventh-day Adventist apostolic rant. The family is treated to a monologue about the heavenly spheres celebrating sabbath on Saturday, the laws Obama is passing that will usher microchips into our wrists hailing the mark of the beast, the dire sins of drinking alcohol and smoking, and the throngs of Seventh-day parishioners that will soon depart their cities for bunkers the woods to be saved from armageddon.

The family, tired of nervously nodding and smiling, is pleased to make the most of a brief conversational pause and head expediently to their car.

Act Two: The Model Pharmacy — Noon the next day

Thrilled to have wrapped up his work for the week by noon on Friday, the boisterous father drives his family over to the Model Pharmacy, located in the southeast quadrant of the city. Opened in 1946 and managed by the same apocethary since 1986, the establishment has become nationally hailed as a fine lunch and treat counter, serving famed green chile stew, hot dessert cobblers, and world-class ice cream shakes.

The family gobbles up their stews, sandwiches, and salads, and though stuffed, still orders a bowl of cobbler (blackberry is on the menu today) with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. The zealous husband also orders a creamsicle ice cream shake, to share. The wife gives him the questioning eye, but the wily husband bends over to itch a bug bite on his ankle, and does not notice.

The hot cobbler arrives first, and the gooey fruit is steaming after its emergence from the oven. A soft, round scoop of vanilla melts away into the molten blackberries, turning their deep violet into a creamy lavender. The crust is thick and soft, with hints of cinnamon and flecked with a whisper of allspice. The family is drowning in blackberry nirvana and almost misses the show that commences before their eyes.

A tall skinny waitress with a crescent of brunette bangs and 1960s Barbie-doll makeup is perched in front of the glistening Hamilton Beach three-pronged shake blender, artfully crafting the ordered creamsicle concoction. The resulting frothy dream of a shake is divided in thirds, served in tall, fluted, clear glasses, and topped with a pillowy mountain of homemade whipped cream. The waitress speaks little aside from standard lunch-counter pleasantries, but she quickly becomes the family’s hero of the day.

Act Three: Sandia Peak Tramway — Later that afternoon

Informed that a visit to Sandia Peak, the behemoth rocky wall of a mountain to the immediate east of Albuquerque, is a must for all area tourists, the family ambles over after savoring their lunch. Visitors can ride 2.5 miles to the summit — a height of 10,000 feet — aboard the longest suspended tram in the world. With a three-year-old along (as well as a dad that is all-too-excitable about, well, just about anything), the affirmative decision to fork over the $40 fare is an easy one to make.

But before they can board the tram, they must make their way into the parking lot, locate an empty space, and purchase tickets. Two of those three tasks are easy to accomplish. Getting past the gatekeeper? Not so simple.

Enter the semi-retired parking lot attendant, age 70 or so. He has been sitting in his glass solitary-confinement cell in the middle of an asphalt swath in the desert for the better part of the day, and he is utterly bored. The family rolls up to said cell to pay their one-dollar parking fee, thinking the whole operation will consume no more than ten seconds.

At their arrival, the attendant’s grimace turns to a big, toothy grin. He swaggers over to the family’s car, places his arm inside the driver’s side window (presumably so the family can not scoot away) and starts talking.

The attendant must memorize and recite these lines:

“Oh wow! Georgia! That’s a long way!”
“How long are you staying in the area?”
“Do you like Albuquerque?”
“How old’s the little fella? Hey pumpkin!”
“If you want to park, I recommend rambling around to the back of the visitor center… that way you can skip one flight of steps.”
“Hey, you know, we just had someone from Georgia here, not too long ago.”
“Where y’all headed?”
“Now, y’all enjoy that tram ride, and take care.”

Please note: these lines are written as a minimalistic guide, and the play will become much more funny in an awkward sort of way if the guard ad-libs ad nauseum, until the family keels over from sheer boredom.

Finally through the gate, the family dusts themselves off and delights in the magnificent scenery that unfolds as they ride the glassy tramway to the peak of Sandia Mountain.

We hope you have enjoyed this offering from the BlinkPacking theatre, and we hope you will visit us again soon.

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My family is currently traveling around the USA in a 10 foot Shasta Compact travel trailer from 1969. We are currently camped in Albuquerque, New Mexico and headed toward Flagstaff, Arizona. Keep it right here for tales from the journey, and please also join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Nothing keeps us motivated more than the encouragement of hearing from our readers, so please keep in touch by commenting below. Thanks!

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