An Experience in Albuquerque
This place smells like a fucking hobo’s mouth.
That was all I could think standing in line in the worst liquor store in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Last year, I was on business for about 4 days in Albuquerque and absolutely loved it. I would recommend it to anyone who is a connoisseur of things that don’t suck. There was a great beer scene including some awesome local brews, delicious food, tons of culture and plenty of things to do when I wasn’t working. It was a mini-vacation of sorts, and I’d love to visit it on an actual vacation sometime. Simply put, if you ever have a chance to visit lovely Albuquerque, do it. Just a word of advice though: remember to buy your beer well before 10pm.
I can’t be sure if I was just looking in all the wrong places or if Google Maps was hiding something from me, but all of the liquor stores seemed to close way too early – even on the weekend. I didn’t have any locals to talk to to confirm this, but nearly every store I looked up in the area, save one, closed at 10pm at the latest, and on a Friday no less. This was terrible news, because I ended up working from about 10am until 11pm, and I was determined to have a multitude of beers. The only rub was I couldn’t take the chance going to a bar. Tying one on and then driving the rental back to the hotel was out of the question. Anyway, all the bars that I’d found that were any good were on Central Avenue, which is home to the University of New Mexico. After working 11 hours, the last thing I wanted to do was get my head caved in by loud music and sit watching college kids not being able to handle their liquor. I wanted to play Super Nintendo and get shithoused in my hotel room, and I was going to do exactly that. I just had to find a liquor store that would accommodate me. The only place that was still open was 10 miles away from my hotel, in what looked to be a fairly terrible part of town. I surmised this from the reviews, which were some of the worst I’d ever read. However, it was open until midnight and sold beer, so it was pedal to the metal (roughly 87 miles per hour) in my economy rental hotrod, down the desert highway back into the city.
You know, going back, I should probably clarify that I’d be lying if I said I’ve honestly smelled the inside of a hobo’s mouth, but I’ve had the misfortune of enough hobos talking too closely to my face asking for Schnapps money to get the gist. This was a more intense variation on that putrid fucking odor. To give you an idea, think of a possum. Now, think of that possum, but think of it dead and baking in the New Mexican sun for a week. Now imagine that possum exploding all over a shitty liquor store interior and you have a pretty good idea of my overall experience in the store.
I rolled in at 10 to midnight. As predicated, it was a total piece of shit. A dull, blue and grey building with bars on the windows and doors, attached to a closed down drive-thru pizza place covered in terrible graffiti, flaunting plywood and boarded windows. The parking lot was packed with people like me grabbing last minute libations, which I realized probably affirmed my suspicion that this might be the only store still open. It was not the most inviting scenario, and I sat in my car contemplating if I even wanted to go in.
“Is it even worth-” I began to ask myself outloud before the rational part of my brain kicked in: “Of course it’s fucking worth it, idiot.”
As I walked up to the door I could see a young, shirtless man in dirty jeans, built like a mixed martial artist, covered in jailhouse tattoos, peering through the bars on the window intensely. He turned and noticed I was walking up. We made eye contact and I honestly started to get a little nervous, but I had already made up my mind that I was going to get the fuck inside of this liquor store, regardless of my state. If I had to do it with multiple stab wounds to the chest and head area or if I did it as a pile of hamburger was inconsequential at this point; I was not going to leave without beer. Right after that thought, however, without saying a single fucking word, the presumed assailant threw the door open and held it for me. I was a bit taken aback and probably looked a little startled, but I have to admit I was not expecting such chivalry. Maybe I’m just a judgmental prick. Either way, I said thanks and he said nothing, still staring his intense stare into the store.
Aside from the smell, the inside the store felt warm. Not a summertime-fun, beach-loving, inviting warm – it was a muggy, hazy and humid like a nutsack-in-grimy-briefs warm; almost steamy. The fluorescent lights buzzed overhead of the line of 20-30 impatiently queued customers. There were bins of warm flavored malt liquors, the coolers lined with domestic and mass-produced beers mostly. There were, however, 2 coolers at the very end filled to the brim with a really impressive selection of beer from the Southwest. Fuck! This was it! It was a beautiful site indeed, and one I truly wanted to behold. I even forgot where I was for a second, because I wanted to take some time to look at them all. My excitement was short lived: Immediately following my discovery, the cashiers began shouting to grab what we needed, because the store was closing. I grabbed the 6 pack that was right in front of me upon seeing it was an IPA and got in line, second from the last.
I waited at the end of group for a good 15 minutes as I saw fellow drunks being shuffled through the cashiers like cattle, and started to wonder if I was actually sweating or if the grimy, sticky air was just clinging to my face and arms. I tried hard not to breathe. Finally the store was all but empty as I paid for my six pack and walked out the door.
By now, the lot was a wasteland. In place of the cars that had been there just minutes ago, there were two incredibly drunk locals drinking Steel Reserve 40s, a dude passed out in his car with a large pile of puke next to his half-opened door (not even fucking kidding), 4 underage kids splitting a fifth of whiskey on a curb and a drunk couple screaming at each outside of their pick-up truck about something. I more or less sprinted my ass off to my car and got away from that shithole as quickly as possible. I was exhausted, I was covered in a film of shit and unsuccessfully contemplating a time when I wanted a beer more.
When I got to the hotel I realized that I didn’t even know what beer I’d gotten. All of that time, even standing in line for 15 minutes, even on the fucking drive back to the hotel, I didn’t bother to check. I guess I was preoccupied thinking about airborne diseases and the most inconspicuous ways to burn clothes in a hotel room. When I read the label, I was pleasantly surprised: Squatters Hop Rising Double IPA. After showering, I popped the top on two more (if you’ve never had a couple shower beers after a long day you’re missing out) to get the party started, and ended up drinking all but one, which I had for breakfast the next morning.
While all of Hell would’ve had a tough time trying to stop me from buying beer, I don’t think the Devil would’ve had to go too far to find me, honestly. I’m assuming I was already in the 2nd or 3rd layer of Hell at that point. And, yeah, it may have not been the smartest choice to choose beer over personal safety, but that’s the power of vices for you – moreover the power of sweet, sweet beer. Seriously, there’s some crazy shit I’d do for beer. Regardless, all-in-all I came out victorious and I’m happy about that. That’s not to say I’m happy that that god-awful pit was my only choice for beer, but often the best memories, thus the best stories, are conceived when you put yourself out of your element, for better or worse. I think there’s a saying that sums that up a bit more eloquently than I ever could, but all this talk about beer is making me thirsty and I’m not taking the extra 2 seconds to Google it.
Here’s to loathing and the adventure that comes with it. Cheers.