Once the sun drops below the Albuquerque city limits, street lights switch on, programmed by computers.
The man made lights aren’t strong enough to make everything visible so, at night, you move from one pocket of light to another and guess what is down that alley, or behind that fence, or on that roof.
Tonight, brother Neal and I run into downtown’s neon’s, flashing signs, street lights cycling from green to yellow to red to green. Car headlights appear like gigantic bug eyes as gawker’s cruise. Earlier, street food vendors were parked in the middle of closed fourth and sixth streets selling their specialties but most of them have since closed up and driven home.
At Sadie’s, Neal and I have our right hands stamped with a black owl that lets us re-enter the bar if we decide to leave and want to return. My jazz teacher, Chadd, plays with a Latin band playing tonight and we came down to hear him play.. The opening act Cuban band is just setting up on stage and we realize quickly we will have a wait before Chadd’s group finally gets on stage.
Compensating, we take our black owls outside to fly old Route 66, admire the beautiful renovated Kimo Theater and grab a burger at Lindy’s, a downtown eatery dating back to the 1940’s. Downtown is beginning to sparkle but careless night people still stand in doorways, loiter in small groups, smoke, drink beer out of paper bags. This Downtown area has been trying to rehabilitate itself in the last decade and has made some progress though families and sane people aren’t often down here after dark.
When Chadd’s band, Barrutanga, finally, physically, marches on stage in a crazy Latin band homage to New Orleans, it is after eleven. We stay the first set and then it is time for Scott to start counting New Mexico red and green chili peppers..
Neal tells his wife, later, that it was an experience.
Experience, I have been told, is what happens when you make the same mistake twice.
The only mistake we made was arriving at nine instead of eleven.