Elementary, my dear Watson
End of July 5 Column

I DID take that right turn at Albuquerque (or) Hugging a Hindu saint in a pyramid

Those of you old enough to remember Bugs Bunny will remember that the guys who made Warner Brothers cartoons thought Pismo Beach and Albuquerque were funny names; when Bugs dug along underground and popped up somewhere he didn't expect, his line was "I never shoulda taken that right turn at Albuquerque."

Well, I did take that turn and I am glad I did. I went with my wife to the Marriott Pyramid (a hotel in the shape and color scheme of a Native American pyramid)  in Northern Albuquerque, where I watched Amma, the hugging saint, conduct two days of public programs  in the hotel ballroom. Its a little different atmosphere from her Ashram in San Ramon, where I usually see her. It seemed less crowded, less hectic. But because my wife wasn't a behind-the-scenes volunteer, maybe it just seemed that way. It is always an experience to be hugged by a saint. Logistically, it is kind of cool to be in the same hotel as the programs.  It makes showing up on time and waiting around quite a bit nicer--and it certainly cuts down on the commute! One thing I didn't know, or had forgotten; Albuquerque is higher than Denver! It is America's highest major city, more than a mile up.

On Tuesday, we headed an hour north to historic Santa Fe, location of America's oldest public building, the 400 year old Palace of Governors. In fact, 2010 is a year long celebration of Santa Fe's 400th birthday. It is an amazing place, at 7200 feet of elevation. It is also supports America's second largest concentration of Art, after New York City. When you consider that New York is closing in on 9 million people, and Santa Fe is closing in on 60,000, that's quite amazing. We went to the Georgia O'Keeffe museum (the Wisconsin native who spent most of her career in New York City retired to New Mexico after her husband died) and saw an exhibition of her abstracts. I didn't even know she did abstracts! Afterwards, we decided the Georgia O'Keeffe cafe did not look as good in person as it did on the Internet. We walked around in the bright sun and absurd heat, and wandered into Pasqual's Cafe, a little place with a BIG awards wall. I had the single best chicken mole ever, including the one  I got in Mexico City. The New Mexico habit of putting a green pepper in everything made the mole stand up and salute!

We rented a condo in the Fort Marcy Compound (clean and well-maintained, albeit hardly luxurious)  that's walking distance from downtown old town (although the walk back is a bit steep). We've had some good food  and got to watch a rainless thunderstorm blow up and pass over while we ate lunch. Cool!

Wednesday we had lunch at La Casa Sensa, near the Palace of the Governors. Terrific ambiance and very good food. Best chicken quesadilla I've ever had.

Then we tooled up to the Buffalo Thunder Casino and Resort, where Vicki had a massage and I had a mud wrap. I'm all soft, and I smell good too! Or at least I was last Wednesday.

Thursday we ate at Ristra (which is the name of those garlands of dried red peppers you see on so many Santa Fe homes). It was a nice alternative to the New Mexican fare we had immersed ourselves in previously. It was basically continental food, although their signature dish was elk. My wife, a vegetarian, had their outstanding mushroom cannelloni. Anyone who knows me will not be surprised that the availability of herbed duck drew my eye; it was sumptuous.

No description of Santa Fe would be complete without a plug for the only soft-serve frozen yogurt (froyo or fro-yo) store in town, as of this writing: Ellie's Yoberri Park Frozen Yogurt and Gallery, 325 W. San Francisco St., 2 blocks west of the Plaza (the heart of the old town). Phone 505-995-1191.  It is a small place, with four rotating flavors (one of which is always signature tart), and a small selection of toppings. It is not serve yourself, but for me that is actually a good thing, since I don't overbuy. The staff is friendly, courteous and kind. A few more adjectives and they could  be Boy Scouts! (Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent--I still remember 40 years after I left scouting)