Visit Albuquerque In 2018 For A Glimpse Of A City On The Come Up

Life & Culture Writer
12.26.17 3 Comments

“Where are the cool people and places in Albuquerque?” I ask my fifth Uber driver since arriving in the city. Settling into the black SUV, desperately thankful for the air conditioning and reprieve from the sun, I wait for the intel I need.

“Cool places?” the driver asks. “Yeah… we don’t have those.”

Again? God. Damn. It. And, I am oh-for-five.

With full confidence, I can say that the City of Albuquerque needs to host some sort of summit with their Uber drivers, because they do not upsell the city. There’s not even any Breaking Bad chat, though there is plenty of griping about neverending mass transit projects.

“A lot of people call the orange construction barrel our state monument,” says driver Randy with more resignation than humor.

* * *

When I decided to go to Albuquerque, part of the draw was the swagger-filled attitude with which my hosts repeated that ABQ is poised to be the next Austin or Portland. I live in Portland. I love Portland. Could Albuquerque give me the cool kid magic that Portland had before the present rental boom began pricing out young families and creative weirdos?

Well, no. Not exactly.

My trip to Albuquerque was built around the SOMOS ABQ festival, an event organized entirely by the city’s young professionals. The goal was to boost the local economy and increase connection for the larger community.

“Somos ABQ is about contributing to the quality of life for our young people,” said Stephen Segura, the owner of VivaABQ, El Rey & Mezcal. “A big part of that recipe is keeping ABQ entertained. SOMOS is helping with just that. Where else can you see local bands showcased on the same stage as Dillon Francis, Minus the Bear, and Deltron 3030 for just $10?”

As a side note: despite the fact that hundreds of collaborators — including non-profits and community organizations, artists and designers, tech industry entrepreneurs, business owners, musicians and performers, and local government — worked to make this fest happen, none of my hired drivers knew about it. So maybe cool things are happening entirely without making themselves known to Randy and his fellow Uber ferrymen.

“A festival organized by the young people of Albuquerque?” you say. “Surely, that gave you all the fresh, creative energy you were looking for on your trip?”

Yes and no. More than anything, the festival served as an apt metaphor for my trip and the city: It flirted with me before ghosting.

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