I was in Santa Fe this weekend. I'd never been to New Mexico before, except for crossing time and maybe a campsite during a roadtrip back in 1997. That was a good road trip. I took the train out of Berkeley down to Bakersfield, where my pal Smith picked me up in his truck. We were both rising seniors in college; I was playing hooky from a summer job working for a professor, and Smith was just willing to fuck off for a week from whatever summer action he had going. We drove to College Station, TX, to visit a mutual friend from high school we hadn't seen since high school, mostly because said friend has the bizarre desire to go to college in distant Texas and never return for holidays. We probably should have taken that as a sign.
The clear memories I have of that trip include living off of a gallon can of refried beans we kept in the back of the truck along with a few bags of tortillas and a lot of water. We exited California through Death Valley, near the bottom of which the truck overheated. It was July, so a little bit scary. We didn't really know not to take the radiator lid off when it was hot, so we both got sprayed with hot steam, thankfully not melting any features off. Texas itself was boring, our friend wasn't a terribly great host, and we left after one night. I was harassed for being purportedly gay in College Station, around the apartment complex in which my friend lived with a bunch of other undergrads. I had long hair and an earring at the time, which must not have sat well with the Corps of Cadets. I've thought ill of A&M every day since then, and am sad that not one but two close friends are taking jobs there.
Along the way back to California I had my arm out the window for half a day. I don't remember if I put on sunscreen; either I put on lotion that wasn't sunscreen or I just plain forgot, because by the time we made camp I had bubbles rising on my arm. By the time we got to Santa Barbara for Smith's brother's graduation, my full upper arm was a single, sheet-like bubble. We sat outside that afternoon for the graduation, me in an agonizing button-down, in too much pain to even notice the unending stream of clingy sundresses and freckles. When the light hits my arm just right ten years later, I still think I see a little scarring.
Smith and I are great travel buddies- we've gone on long trips to Scotland and Wales since then- but we finally got a little snippy toward the end when I didn't really know how to navigate the disaster of freeways around the Bay Area. A few weeks apart (he was at Davis) and we were back to normal, though. For better or for worse, he's constantly challenging a lot of my basic assumptions about life, which comes off as pointless argumentation to my other friends, but I get off on it. I just hope he doesn't turn into some loopy old autodidact who's traded in curiousity for misanthropy.
The point being, I'd only been to New Mexico once before. We drove across White Sands, or near it, and it was pretty. This past weekend I flew DC,ORD,ABQ, and rented a car on work dime to get to Santa Fe. I'll preserve anonymity and not talk about the work stuff there, but I spoke to 200 people for 40 minutes or so, and it went pretty well. I even got sucked up to by some students afterward.