Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Trip West, Part Deux

Buyer Beware!  The camera does lie.

headed north from ABQ

So, like CJ said.. you gotta read the signs.  Just because you have an enjoyable stay in a posh, pastoral Inn on the outskirts of a city during a previous visit,

glorious los poblanos inn

doesn't mean the city itself is anything like the tranquil world of that Inn. Or that photos of rentals on Craigslist tell the real story. We had visited ABQ a month earlier for a couple of days, but tourist and resident are two different realities. (See previous post.) We arrived in ABQ in the afternoon of the 4th, already four days into our rental period, expecting to take up summer residency in our new "house", described online as "beautifully Xeriscaped" and "fully equipped." One expects pricey long term rentals to be well-equipped: things like paper goods, spices, soaps, lightbulbs, wine glasses, a few decent knives, cutting boards, bakeware. Tourists eat out; long term rentals eat IN. I should have known better; from the beginning I failed to read the signs.

Like when I attempted to query the landlady in advance via phone and email regarding such things as whether or not the sheets were cotton, details re the fully equipped kitchen, etc., and she was, to put it kindly, suddenly quite fuzzy headed, reluctant to elucidate, offering the excuse that she wasn't sure, so very busy, get back to you, so burdensome, these questions, etc., in a way that made me feel pickayune for asking. In an effort to be cordial, and despite a nagging feeling, I took her at her vague word all was well. But here's the thing: because different people have different standards, and because nowadays everyone knows the slick lingo of successful house rental ads, you gotta ask or be fekked when you get there. The ad also touted a backyard – where one hopes, given the intense heat of an ABQ summer, there is some shade to be found, not to mention "Xeriscaping" – "suitable for children and pets".  She had also mentioned an "adjacent casita" on the property available to rent for a small fee, a possible studio for P to work in.

The Reality:  The backyard was a shock – a tiny cement "patio" island in a sea of brown dirt, crap stored all around, not a slip of growing thing anywhere; what may once have been a cheap gas grill glowered nearby, 'fire hazard' written all over it. The "fully equipped kitchen" had a few beer glasses, two old mugs, a stack of mismatched plates, ancient Cheerios, not one spice, foods of previous tenants stashed in the cupboard, smelled like it had been abandoned for years. The windows were painted shut, the rooms stuffy and dark, two of them virtually unusably warm due to their distance from the noisy "swamp cooler" in the hallway ceiling. And the "adjacent casita" (casita means "little house" – implying "separate") turns out to be a tiny, dark apartment slapped upside the main house, a tight proximity in which the landlord resided, her primary residence, in fact.    We were upset, but told each other we might make the best of it, be cool, maybe just stay the two weeks we had already paid for while we looked for better digs.  Give her time to rent the place to, according to her,  the swarm of "movie people" eager to take up immediate residence.

SO...  We texted the landlady right away: we had 'some concerns' and could she meet with us as soon as possible. Mind you, we had given her a rather large deposit, half a month's rent, $900 bucks.
Within an hour she arrived, obviously loaded for bear, she could barely manage to look us in the eye as she reluctantly shook hands. I tried not to be judgmental about her getup as it was instantly obvious that not all self-professed "New Yorkers" dress to impress. We smiled, determined to be nice about it. But no go. Within minutes she let us know we were the most unreasonable folks she had ever encountered. There was simply no talking to the woman. I would say she was paranoid, but don't want to sound unkind.  Every word out of her mouth implied we were in some way trying to hose her, rather than the other way round. I mean, the backyard dirt pit alone should have given her pause to apologize. P was aghast, trying to control his fury that she was impenetrable to anyone's point of view but her own.

In the end, we agreed to stay the two weeks so she could find other "movie people" tenants.

Next morning (mind you, she is on the other side of the wall all night, and not one word) she knocks on the door, informs us that the police will be there at 11 am and we must be out by then. Seriously? You'd  think we were criminals. Did you think we want to stay? I felt like I was in a Fellini movie written by Tarantino. When pressed she agreed to give P back two thirds of his rental monies (and, quels cojones! she charged us a cleaning fee!), which means our one night there cost us 400 bucks. Not exactly the Four Seasons. Even though we had NO CLUE where to go next (we'd spent most of the evening looking for another place online) we decided to go, things were getting pretty surreal in the Land of Enchantment.

Then there was the deal with the lease! Yet another "condition" of our departure. P suggests just burning the thing, no hard feelings. No go. We must sign a null and void statement. Now anyone knows you never sign anything contractual just off the cuff. When we balked at this, you know, "Listen, Lady, the place is exactly as we found it, you already have a new tenant coming in, give P his money, and we're outta here", she parks her car at the end of the driveway so we can't get out til we sign ze papers!

That's when I called the cops. Cause that's against the law.

Long story shorter, Cops believed whatever tale she told them (we weren't allowed to hear that, though she got to hear every word of our statement), and we had to sign the paper in order to leave.  PSYCHO Nightmare over.  But the vision of that cop, his widespread stance as he glared us off the property, was truly frightening. We had done nothing wrong, and yet were made to feel as though the entire incident was our fault. THAT is scary when you are in a strange place. We backed out of the driveway and headed to the local coffee shop to regroup. As we looked at each other across the table, our hands were shaking as we realized ABQ and its police force is as crazy as the news media say it is. Breaking Bad and all that. Must be a reason.

no room at the inn (sigh)

We thought to seek serenity and succor along the river West of town, but, alas, no rooms at Los Poblanos. High season now. Next best thing we could think of, made a phone call, got on the highway headed north to a place we knew we would be welcomed as friends: Bob and Kady's wonderful Old Taos Guesthouse.  Relieved, once there we spent days unwinding, recovering from the trauma, and trying to figure out exactly what had happened in ABQ, but we never did figure it out. It was inexplicable, a sad, terrifying encounter in a dangerous town with paranoid people who saw us only as "the other", and, as such, dishonest, inhuman, undeserving of empathy, trust or respect.

In the US today everything is someone else's fault.

I hear it said we are a proud nation. As though that's a good thing.

Doth not Pride go before the fall?

peace and quiet at the Old Taos Guesthouse

ciao for now. next time, Taos and our stay at the Goji Berry Farm.

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