“We really don’t drink that here.”
“Jose Curevo? It’s not that bad.”
“It is in a tequila drinking town.”
James was standing over me as we spoke. We had met a few hours earlier at a bar that stood overlooking a narrow adobe painted street leading to the Cathedral of St. Francis. I had a warm feeling for him. His eyes bore intensely as he listened, filled with thoughts I knew were above my own. I rarely meet people more thoughtful than I am. I almost forgot that Sam was sitting next to me.
I had convinced Sam to come along on my spontaneous road trip to the Grand Canyon. I have this yearly bucket list I create in case I die that year I suppose. Underneath “see lightening bugs in the French Quarter of New Orleans” was “see the sunset over the Grand Canyon”. Sam sat partially listening to James and I talk books. He was slouched over his beer, too wide for his chair.
“I’m only going to graduate school because it is a good excuse to take two years and just read books,” James spoke without leaving my eyes once. “People need an excuse to do things like that.” That was the moment my warmth for James began. Sam cleared his throat next to me and we broke eye contact. I glanced over at him slouching in that chair. Sam and I, against all odds, became friends of sorts in college. He was an engineering student, and I was three years unsure of what my major actually was. He now worked as an engineer for a train company and constantly talked about his job. He had loved me in college, and sitting in my tiny two door car traveling across the plains into the dry terrain of New Mexico, I feel he still loves me now. It actually makes me mad. How could he love me when we have nothing in common? It’s funny to be mad at someone for something like that, but this wasn’t the first time I have been clueless, then irritated at my suitors.
Before we go any further, I’d like to say that this encounter is brought to you by the Couchsurfing mobile app (and/or: http://www.couchsurfing.com). When Sam and I set out from Kansas City, Missouri to the Grand Canyon, we had three couchsurfing hosts along the way and back. If you have never heard of this traveling community before, I can sum it up rather briefly: a traveler ask a host in a city if he or she can stay at their place. That’s it. Now, to answer the usual follow-up questions. A). Yes, it is free. Many hosts and travelers see the community as an exchange, e.g. “Here’s a couch for free. Tell me about your life and experiences and where you are from.” B). The vast majority of time, yes, it is absolutely safe. It is based on a reference system. One bad reference could ruin you and push you out of the community. Now that all that’s out of the way, just imagine the unconventional couches in the world waiting for you to sleep on my friend. Just imagine all those strangers out there that could teach you a little something about life. Or drinking tequila in Santa Fe.
“I hear the lightening bugs haven’t been seen in New Orleans in a while,” I say, the three of us now sitting around a tiny circular bar table with unnecessarily high chairs. I liked James, and his deep brown eyes. He was calm and had this charm about him. As we headed back to his little apartment that epitomized my imagination of a desert dwelling in the Southwest of the United States, I took a moment to actually look around. All that adobe. Santa Fe has a lot of calm and charm.
In my memories places tend to take on the familiar feel of the people that occupy their space. I think Santa Fe might just be my favorite city in the Southwest.
At six o’clock the next morning, Sam and I left for the Grand Canyon. Leaving James and Santa Fe behind after a single day and night with a silent promise to eventually come back just for this town and a few suggestions of some Spanish authored books to read.