Let me first greet out-of-state freshmen and transfer and exchange students at UNM. Welcome! ¡Bienvenidos! How’s your Spanish? If you explore beyond those hallowed halls, it will improve. New Mexico is a proudly bilingual state and knowing the basics of Spanish can benefit you immensely. When I moved (sight unseen) to Burque more than a decade ago, I had a mental picture of life in New Mexico.
Some of my preconceptions (adobe, artsy and green chile) proved accurate, but the first thing that struck me when I stepped off the plane was the description-defying quality of light here. If you’ve watched “Breaking Bad” or “In Plain Sight,” you’ll rapidly discover truths and embellishment (both positive and negative) are captured in these dramatic depictions of our city. In a recent New York Times interview, “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan described Albuquerque’s allure as “stealth charm,” and I couldn’t have said it better myself. Boldly introduce yourself to Burque, and it will slowly (but surely) reveal its charming eccentricities to you.
You may not fall in love with this city—and state—as I have, but as long as you’re here, take advantage of opportunities to experience New Mexican culture. Pro tip: Pick up an Alibi every Thursday to scope our peerless arts, food, film and music coverage.
As a former (and future) UNM student and bibliophile, I’ve spent a fair amount of time exploring UNM’s libraries. If you’re not enrolled at UNM or CNM (whose students benefit from a consortium agreement), know that community and alum borrowers are welcomed. The painless process of gaining access to UNM’s rad library system involves a simple application and a yearly fee: $35 for the general public and $25 for alumni. If you’re an avid reader—let’s face it: That’s really the only way to roll—it’s a kind of paradise.
At UNM proper, the best spots to commune with literature are the very structures that house archives of spine-crackin’ goodness. Zimmerman Library was designed by UNM Campus Architect John Gaw Meem in the Pueblo Revival Style, and the building was completed in 1938. In 1961 the building took on its current name in honor of late UNM President James F. Zimmerman. The West Wing and its Willard Room are parts of the original library, and they’re a pleasure to inhabit. There’s lots of local history in the building—Kenneth Adams’ controversial tri-cultural Work Projects Administration (WPA) mural, hand-carved and -painted beams and other woodworking and gorgeous, WPA-funded, hand-hammered tin-punch light fixtures—but it’s also simply a great place to curl up with a good book. Glorious natural light abounds, and Pueblo Revival themes await your discovery. ... even on Meem-designed chairs.
If the weather’s nice—and fall in New Mexico usually is—the Raul D. Dominguez Memorial Garden is also a fine place to get your read on. Cop a squat on one of the well-worn benches and enjoy sunshine and an array of flora. While you’re outside, trip over to the Duck Pond. At certain times of day, it can get a bit crowded, but visiting the pond during off-peak hours really feels like stepping into an oasis in the high desert; the soothing sounds of the waterfall and visions of graceful ducks and turtles creating ripples in their wake assist in relaxation and focusing on trigonometry ... or so I hear.
In the Centennial Science & Engineering Library, the study commons area is a chill place to hang, as are the commons area and basement stacks in Parish Memorial Library. But maybe you’re looking to venture off campus. There are lots of coffee shops in the University, Nob Hill and Downtown neighborhoods, but most of them offer a barrage of chatter and distraction; when you’re looking to socialize, that’s ideal, but unless you’re a master of concentration, you’ll need to crank up the study jams on your MP3 player or rock noise-canceling headphones. If you’re up for the challenge, the Alibi recommends procuring sugary sustenance and caffeine at: Satellite Coffee (2300 Central SE), Winning Coffee Co. (111 Harvard SE), Flying Star Café (3416 Central SE), Mean Bao (3409 Central NE), Java Joe’s (906 Park SW) and Rebel Donut (400 Gold SW).