Where You Go
Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay
As I pulled away from Jimmy Sánchez's house I very deliberately kept my thoughts off what I'd just done. I forced my focus onto the next step, which would be locating the other name that had made me uneasy. I suspected I'd hear more of the same, but I didn't want to rush into any conclusions. It's a capital mistake to theorize ahead of the facts, as either Holmes or Spock – or both – had said, and I don't like doing it. At this point I didn't have many facts, and couldn't construct much in the way of a theory, but I'd keep a rein on it anyway, for practice if nothing else.
The afternoon was now well underway. As I pulled up to the curb beside Barelas Park I caught a glimpse of the Sandias. Thick clouds were rolling across the Crest and down the face of the mountains, a phenomenon that usually indicates bad weather ahead. It's one of the most fascinating sights I've ever seen, clouds coming over the top and then almost straight down like a slow motion foamy waterfall. It happens when cold air pushes up the gentle eastern slope of the Sandia Mountains, and then drops off the Crest into the Rio Grande valley, which is warmer and dryer than the East Mountains even in the winter. Cold air sinks, and pulls the clouds with it.
I turned from the weather to my list. The next name was Victor Ignacio Sandoval, and the address was further east, in Nob Hill. That's an interesting neighborhood. It was about the first development that was out of the river bottom, with the Nob Hill shopping center as its anchor. It's since gone through changes, as neighborhoods will do in nearly 60 years, and currently it's Albuquerque's version of Greenwich Village or Haight-Ashbury. You find goths, and unreconstructed hippies, and drug addicts, and hookers, and trendy stores and restaurants, and some businesses that have been there for decades and survived everything. Nob Hill presents an image of nonconformity, though that image – as with all such images – hides what is simply another kind of conformity. In Nob Hill you don't wear a suit and tie, but if you're not all in black, or don't have about 82 piercings, or don't dress in baggy pseudo-gangster clothes, or otherwise fit into what's cool, you find you get the same kind of looks as someone would get if he appeared at the opera in a tie died t-shirt and bell bottoms. One conformity or another, human beings insist on traveling in packs. It's just that some packs get all the favorable press.
Even in Nob Hill, though, not everyone is making a statement – blowing the mind of the Establishment they called in the 60s, though since I was born in 65 I know that by learning, not experience. As you move north or south of Central, you get less and less weird, though anywhere in Nob Hill you're liable to find someone who thinks being himself means deliberately trying to shock others. Marilyn Manson would fit in down there, though quite frankly I find him boring ... or did when he was famous. Alice Cooper did it better, though I don't care for his music.
The address I had for Sandoval was on Solano, south of Central. I drove over, going through downtown with its horrible traffic – especially since the earliest fringes of rush hour were stirring – rather than going around. I could have circled the worst of it, but I figured that it was still early enough that I'd make it just as fast by the direct route. I remembered that in Dallas there were plenty of times when the direct route was I-635, the freeway loop off of I-35, but it was much faster to go on the surface streets because of 635's atrocious traffic. And I'd as soon walk from North to South Dallas as try to drive Central Expressway, which is about as horrible an attempt at a freeway as I've ever seen.
I got over to Carlisle and turned south. If I'd gone north I'd have been heading straight for my old neighborhood; I could have crossed Montgomery and turned into the parking lot where I was living when I met Cecelia. But I went south. At Coal I went left – east – on the one way street, passed Hermosa, and turned south on Solano. The house I wanted was just a couple of lots further on, on the left side of the street. I parked on the right side, and again left my gun under the seat. It was beginning to get a little dim; the sun was getting lower, and the clouds were gathering overhead. I couldn't see the mountains, but I suspected that by now the Crest had disappeared inside the clouds. It rises high enough that the base of the clouds frequently hangs a few hundred feet lower than the ground up there. Certainly the way the clouds had gathered overhead, the waterfall effect I'd seen earlier had to be over.
This house was quiet, which is typical of Nob Hill. It's not that no one ever parties or listens to rap, but that it is, generally, a fairly quiet neighborhood. If I didn't live in Hoffmantown, I wouldn't especially mind living in Nob Hill. I never had; I'd stayed in the area where I'd initially settled, until I married Cecelia and moved into her house. I'd never had any reason to move before I met her.
This doorbell worked, and after a minute or so a short and dumpy Chicano woman opened the door. "I help you?" Her accent wasn't all that strong, but her grammar indicated that her English might be imperfect. It's sometimes hard to tell with people who grew up speaking both Spanish and English.