Time was—and recently too—when this town was labeled quirky. For some, the odd mix of lofty cottonwoods surrounding a two-foot deep river or the grand parade of tumbleweeds through tagger-decorated arroyos during a persistent drought equaled exotic. That’s cool, and it’s a part of Burque that was more pronounced, say, 20 or 30 years ago, though remnants survive.
You can’t have quintessentially Burque shopping experiences at Yanamoto’s, Fool’s Paradise or The Freed Company anymore; that’s way beyond old-school. Those places are gone for good. But in their place some local merchants continue to let their freak flag fly, defining Albuquerque in singular terms that stretch way beyond the established norm. That’s not quirky, it’s um ... what we are. So hit these folks up for gifts that could only have come from one place on Earth, no matter what they may (or may not) rhyme with.
The Orientalist lore that lured folks out to places like Burque included wacky, mythical animals, like rabbits with antlers. The jackalope, often depicted in mid-century postcards from “out West,” is one such creature. The folk art stores in Santa Fe and Albuquerque that bear this Southwestern hybrid’s name are great places to experience the wares of local and regional artisans, as well as to partake in imported offerings from all over Asia and Africa. Jackalope in Albuquerque (6400 San Mateo NE) also has an awesome pottery yard; an adjacent nursery adds to the spacious atmosphere. “Darby” McQuade owns both operations. McQuade is a world traveler and importer who began his New Mexican career in the 1970s, selling rarities out of a truck parked near the Santa Fe Plaza.
The sort of free spirit, free-enterprise thinking that brought businesses like Jackalope to life in New Mexico had something to do with an influx of flower children during the aforementioned 1970s. They came out here to escape the city and do business. Put that in your pipe and smoke it as you peruse Birdland the Hippie Store for far-out gifts and groovy swag this high holiday season. Birdland is one of the only places in town where you can get incense, jewelry, costumes, buttons, posters, art glass and all the other ephemera and accoutrements of a vibrant and timeless subculture based on peaceful, pure partying playtime. Locally owned and operated by Deadhead Jay Steinberg since 1994, Birdland (3213 Central NE) gratefully rocks.
American Wildlife Taxidermy
If flower power ain’t your thing—if hunting and fishing for animals is more familiar than hunting for a kind veggie burrito—American Wildlife Taxidermy(4410 Central SE) has some wonderful ideas for holiday gifts; just give one of their representatives a call at 268-1615. Better yet, visit the studio founded by D.L. Gruben, a Central Avenue fixture since 1973. While other businesses in the area have risen and fallen over the years, American Wildlife Taxidermy provides a service that never grows old. By efficiently seeing to post-hunt preservation, mounting and carcass display needs, the knowledgeable craftspeople at American Wildlife Taxidermy will imbue your hunting trophies with a lifelike luster that’s sure to be the hit of almost any holiday party.
Charley’s 33’s and CDs
Your holiday parties will require music to distract from the grandeur of this or that stuffed elk or swordfish. And if there’s one goddamn-good local, indie record store in town to make the former possible, it ought to be Charley’s 33’s and CDs (7602 Menaul NE). Charley’s has stacks of wax—well bin-fulls actually—and heaps of recorded music in a plethora of formats from ancient to contemporary. Its selection of various musical genres is the utmost, and their collection of releases by indie labels, both local and regional, is compelling. The store has been locally owned since its 1988 inception but was updated for the 21st century by former longtime employees Colleen Corrie and Dave Chapman. There’s also a heap of vintage clothing to be browsed. I’m sure they have some holiday-themed recordings thrown in there somewhere ... maybe where the malt shop used to be.
Speaking of what used to be and what has evolved over time, the corner of Yale and Lead presents an interesting history. There used to be a Conoco station there. For a long time after that, it was the home of R.C. Hallett’s World Champion Bicycle Shop. When Hallett downsized, the place sat empty for a while, and a variety of small businesses came and went too. Then Free Radicals(300 Yale SE) entered the fray. Peculiarly punk with a dash of wanton rockabilly and custom car culture thrown in for spice, Free Radicals has a serious array of killer clothes, accessories and attitude for all sexes and genders to make any holiday shopper glammed out or gloriously grungy in their braces and leather boots. Besides being the most with regards to rocanrol fashion, owner Nan Morningstar and her staff have engendered a solid sense of community, featuring work by Burque creatives and supporting the local scene.
So, yeah Albuquerque ... it’s different alright, but not in a way that makes it fair to try to rhyme it with a word that only begins to tell the city’s story. Really Burque is a singular place populated by creative, tenacious sorts who may eschew the mainstream but still excel at doing business. And for the ultimate Burque holiday shopping experience, partaking in what is genuinely ours should be a required part of the celebration.