I was a clumsy child. Water was the one place I felt physically powerful, sometimes even graceful. My after-school dance classes—ballet, jazz, tap and modern—seemed somehow to amplify my constant sense of awkwardness. But I naturally excelled at swimming, and I enjoyed the lessons and the practice. My favorite part of visiting the county pool or our modest, backyard above-ground was floating. Parallel to Earth, unburdened by gravity, eyes toward the sky, I felt weightless.
My favorite part of visiting the pool was floating. Parallel to Earth, unburdened by gravity, eyes toward the sky, I felt weightless.
I'm still way into floating—plus soaking, gamboling and being-here-now. In the high desert, water is a much more precious resource than it was in the Deep South of my childhood. Here in the Southwest, agua is the closest thing we have to a precious elixir. Within a hundredish miles of Albuquerque, there are some swimming holes, cement ponds (to borrow a Grannyism) and lakes to float in, dip your toes in, cliff jump into and sun yourself by.
For the sake of your mental health and our collective cultural IQ, let’s hope you’re not saving your entire to-read list for summertime, but the dog days of summer are the perfect time to curl up and attack that intimidating novel or nonfiction tome. Statistically, folks tend to read more fiction during the months-long heat wave.
For many of us, the transition to adulthood meant an end to the May-August break. But it's worth the time and effort to fit good, clean fun into your schedule. So here's the Alibi 's 2015 guide to the hottest man-made and natural bodies of water in or near Albuquerque. Summer reading suggestions for each locale are included.
At the city pool
In the Albuquerque metro, the city operates seven outdoor pools and five indoor pools. West Mesa Aquatic Center (6705 Fortuna NW) is arguably the star of the show, with its outdoor Olympic pool with two water slides and an indoor recreation area featuring a huge water slide and zero-slope beachlike entry. Highland Pool (400 Jackson SE) is open year-round, and this large pool is usually set up for lane swim, so it's a great place to get your focused sessions on. Los Altos Pool (10100 Lomas NE), Sandia Pool (7801 Candelaria NE) and Valley Pool (1505 Candelaria NW) are all fine indoor pools, and Sandia and Valley have diving boards.
For outdoor swimming, East San Jose Pool (2015 Galena SE), Eisenhower Pool (11001 Camero NE), Montgomery Pool (5301 Palo Duro NE), Rio Grande Pool (1410 Iron SW) and Wilson Pool (6000 Anderson SE) are all relatively shallow and boast wading pools, so these score high as kid-friendly options. Sierra Vista Pool (5001 Montaño NW) and Sunport Pool (2033 Columbia SE) offer both wading pools for the kids and regular, adult pools. While the Wells Park Spray Pad (500 Mountain NW) isn't a pool per se, this play park is loaded with water features to keep the young at heart cool. For info on hours, admission fees, rules and regulations at city pools, visit bit.ly/ABQpools.
Nonfiction: Selfish, Shallow & Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids (Picador, hardcover; $26)—This anthology of essays, edited by Meghan Daum, brings the subject of being childless by choice further out into the light. I can’t think of a better place to relate to this nuanced, thoughtful book than a crowded city pool punctuated by the screams of tiny humans.
Fiction: Hill William (Fat Possum; softcover; $14.95)—Inevitably drawing comparison to the work of Breece D’J Pancake, there's a compassion in Scott McClanahan's West Virginia landscape that wasn't there in Pancake’s gritty, macho oeuvre. A communal pool has the right vibe for the author’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale. And Fat Possum has teamed with Tyrant Books to present a special edition of Hill William with a limited-edition 7-inch by McClanahan’s country band Holler Boys.
A turquoise gem
The Blue Hole of Santa Rosa lies 114 miles east of Albuquerque. This artesian aquifer is the most popular scuba destination in the Southwest. But you don't have to strap on a tank to enjoy Blue Hole. It's also a popular cliff-jumping destination. At a constant 61 degrees, the water boasts outstanding clarity; that's why divers from all over make the pilgrimage to Santa Rosa, N.M. The surface perimeter of this desert gem is only 80 feet, but scuba divers explore 80 feet down at the roomier, 130-foot circumference of the bottom of Blue Hole. Within walls of unhewn limestone, this natural jewel gleams turquoise and burnt umber. Flashes of bright orange goldfish dart by in its crystalline depths. For more info visit santarosabluehole.com.
Nonfiction: Rain: A Natural and Cultural History (Marian Wood/Putnam, hardcover; $25)—Cynthia Barnett's nonfiction study of precipitation isn’t the sort of doom-and-gloom work one might expect after hearing the author’s occupation is environmental journalism. Leaning more “there will come soft rains” (both Teasdale’s and Bradbury’s visions) than disaster reportage, revel in Rain near a desert spring.
Nonfiction: Your Band Sucks: What I Saw at Indie Rock's Failed Revolution (But Can No Longer Hear) (Viking, hardcover; $27.99)—Post-hardcore outfit Bitch Magnet's longtime guitarist Jon Fine is also an established journalist and critic who’s particularly renowned for his food and wine journalism. Read his new memoir Your Band Sucks after visiting the aforementioned echo amphitheater.
Fiction: Black Glass: Short Fiction (Penguin, hardcover; $27.95)—First published in 1998, Karen Joy Fowler’s award-winning collection of surreal, sci-fi fairy tales takes on existential and feminist themes. Marian Wood/Putnam reissues this anthology paperback with an introductory essay by the author and stunning minimalist cover design in June 2015. The alternate history quality of Fowler’s short fiction should go well with the storied landscape of Abiquiú.
I’m totally breaking my own rule here because Bottomless Lakes State Park is 211 miles from my southeast Albuquerque adobe. I’m sure I've injured the reader's faith in me by straying from my own formula but now hear this: The nine lakes here are well worth the clicks you’ll put on the odometer. From Lazy Lagoon and Lost Lake to Mirror Lake and Devil’s Inkwell, these glorious bodies of water aren’t really “bottomless,” despite the stories you may have heard. But endless exploration does await there. Learn more about the park’s infinite nature at bit.ly/bottomlessNM.
Fiction: Haints Stay (Two Dollar Radio, softcover; $15.99)—Get your indie lit on with Colin Winnette's Acid Western novel Haints Stay, publishing on Two Dollar Radio in early June 2015. “Haint” is a colloquial Southern term for ghost, haunt or lost soul, and this surreal fiction lives up to its imploring title. If you dig noir-y Westerns but like a little mescaline in your campfire coffee, this is your new favorite book. Read this tale about bloodthirsty contract killers and family secrets at the lake, and you’ll be lost in the dark, riveting drama.