After leaving the Asian Noodle Bar I head toward Old Town. This is the tourist trap of Albuquerque, much like our own midtown, but nestled around a square and with better architecture. Driving west on Central I pass a shack of a place called The Dog House, I keep going, but vow to check it out sometime.
Near Old Town I find another dirt lot with the slot-box thingies. I park, walk toward the box, realize that I don't know the number that I parked in, walk back and check, then back to the box. When I get there, two men, who've just stepped out of a giant of an SUV are struggling to put their coins in the slot, they keep sticking and won't fall in.
"Pretty archaic," the one with the sticky coins says.
His companion agrees as I watch, bemused. Use your key to push them in, I think, but instead say, "Well, you don't have to worry about 'em breaking down." They look at me like I farted and return to their struggle.
By the time they finish and I've folded and shoved two bills into the face of the box I realize that I'm probably paying the wrong one. Shit, I think, and walk back to the space, check the number, and walk back and pump three more dollars into the right box. Glad the fart sniffers have moved on and missed that little cluster. I'm thinking that they probably don't even check the boxes all that often, but I sure don't want to come back and have to call an impound lot because I was wrong.
I like Albuquerque's Old Town because it is what it is, it doesn't try to be Santa Fe. With a few pretentious wannabe exceptions, the area around the square is perfectly content to be a giant Stuckey's.
Far above all this is the church of San Felipe de Neri. Originally built in 1706, the first church collapsed in 1792 after heavy rains, and the present church was built the following year; it's walls are adobe and at the ground are five feet thick. Looking up at the two towers that grace the top of the building I think that they may be the most beautiful man-made objects I've ever seen. Brown stucco, with white trim and adornments, and framed by sky that is only this blue in New Mexico, they are stunning.
Walking past the front gate of the church grounds I see a group of Mennonite (I think) women walking toward me in traditional dress with prayer coverings over their hair. One is perhaps in her forties, the other are all in their late teens, they are all tall, strong looking with pretty northern European faces bright red with a sheen of sweat and they are taking furtive, disapproving looks to their right where two young Latina women lounge against the church wall, all legs, makeup and cleavage. Then I realize that they are, in fact, casting their glances past the young women to the Catholic church.
Behind the church one comes to Church Street and the Church Street Café. I had eaten there once before, years ago and, remembering how good the fruit salad was then, simple syrup covered berries topped with plain yogurt, I wanted it again.
But, this time was a disappointment. The service was good, efficient and friendly; the beer (Outlaw Lager) was fine; the back patio, surrounded by adobe walls, shaded and complete with the sounds of a fountain and an excellent classical guitarist, was wonderful. But, the simple, delicious salad of memory was no more. Oh, they offered a fruit salad, and it even appeared to be the same on the menu, but it was merely a bowl of yogurt and a plate of very under-ripe melon slices.
Still, gotta give the Church Street Cafe huge points for atmosphere though, so I would try it again.