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Moving to New Mexico-The Land of Enchantment

Updated on August 12, 2017
k@ri profile image

Kari was an operating room nurse for 25 years before she retired. Uplifting quotes are always wanted, and Kari collects them.

See, New Mexico is in the United States of America

Moving to New Mexico

When I told friends on the east coast I was moving to New Mexico, they all wanted to know why I would want to move out of the country. I tried to explain that New Mexico was part of the United States. I discovered that people on the east coast had a geographical learning block, there is nothing past the Mississippi River except Los Vegas and California. Some knew of Taos and Vail, but the exact location of these fabled ski areas was not to be disclosed.

I was told I was moving to the desert. I packed accordingly and moved myself, my daughter and my cat to New Mexico. We flew out with the majority of our clothing and furnishings scheduled to arrive after we found a home. We arrived in Lubbock, TX in January. The cat's flight was an hour late. Once he arrived we went to rent a car to continue our adventure.

We Can't Rent You a Car Tonight

"I don't think we can rent you a car tonight", the guy behind the counter said. "It's snowing pretty good out there." After 12 hours of airports, this was not what I wanted to hear. I had reservations in another town 100 miles away. (Wait, did he say snow?! It doesn't snow in the desert, does it? Note to self: deal with that later.)

"Look", I said, "I can drive in the snow, I have driven plenty of times in the snow." "I don't know", he said, "It can get pretty icy on the overpasses." "So, if it gets too bad, I'll just stay at some motel', I told him. This brought a look of consternation to the man's face. He called over the other guy behind the counter. They had a quiet discussion and turned back to me. "There aren't any motels between here and there", he said.

This was when I knew I had arrived in the Twilight Zone. Coming from New Jersey, I could not imagine 100 miles of highway and no place to stay! "What do you mean, no place between here and there...surely there must be something", I said. They looked at each other nervously and looked back at me shaking their heads no. "No, nothing, there was one place, but it's closed now", the one said, a little hesitantly. I could see they were wondering who was this crazy lady, with the little girl and the cat in a box going meow, meow, meow. How long before she snapped...

"Look, just rent me the car!" I snapped at them, fed up and tired, and wondering how these idiots ever got a job. Surely there was some place to stay. I probably scared them, but I got the car and set out.

Four hours and 100 miles later, I was wondering what I had gotten myself into. The guys at the airport had been right, there was nothing between there and here but one McDonald's. Never had I experienced so much dark, dark empty space. Where were the street lights, where were the towns...and why was it snowing!

Welcome to New Mexico
Welcome to New Mexico | Source
Welcome to Clovis
Welcome to Clovis | Source
Main Street, Clovis, NM
Main Street, Clovis, NM | Source
The Mall, Clovis, NM
The Mall, Clovis, NM | Source
New Jersey
New Jersey | Source
More New Jersey
More New Jersey | Source

A New Dawn in Life

The next day dawned with brilliant sunshine and the clearest, bluest skies I had ever seen. This was so different from the East Coast in January! No dreary day, no greyness...just sun and light and brilliance. The sun soon melted any residual ice and snow. The ice storm of the night before seemed a little like a nightmare of my imagining by the time noon arrived.

Time to start my new life! I had a to-do list a mile long. The top priorities was find my new home, get a car and go by the hospital to introduce myself. I was to begin working in the operating room after I got settled. The radiant sun was beaming down on me and the future was ablaze with anticipation.

As we drove around town, I was distressed to find it so different from what I was used to. Having lived my entire life in the Northeast, I was used to two-story houses, trees, hills and water. I did not find any of these my first few days in New Mexico.

We looked for house without much luck. All the houses were in neighborhoods I would prefer not to take my daughter...much less the cat. Apartments were of the cinder-block building variety. I kept looking, thinking that something would come up that I could live in!

A week later, vowing I never wanted to eat out again, we moved from the Holiday Inn to a motel with a small kitchenette. The motel was pretty run down, but clean. And I could cook again! We had been eating out, breakfast, lunch and dinner for a week and I was in home-cooked withdrawal.

I had to make a decision soon, I had already delayed my furniture delivery for one week. The motel life was not for me, I was becoming irritable and irritating. I was sick of living in one room with no yard except a parking lot. Finally I broke down and rented a house on a month to month basis.

A Note About Disparity of View

The video shown above is the poorer part of Clovis. The one below has some new neighborhoods I have never seen, and is from the viewpoint of the few rich people in Clovis. The first video is a better representation of the city. The funny thing is that some of the businesses in the first video are next to some of the businesses in the second.  Funny how people focus only on what they want to see!

The First House

Our first home was a disconsolate two colored house. One half was pink and the other half was sky blue. Both colors were faded. The neighbors to the right had tinfoil for curtains, the people on the left had trash bags. Still it was better than being in one room! We found a new place the next month, but we would laugh every time we looked at the pictures of the two-tone house. It was so ugly it was cute!

The new house was an ordinary brick front ranch. The woman across the street watched her grandson during the day. He was my daughter's age. The two soon became great friends. Ahhh, ordinary never felt so good!

My Introduction to Walmart

I made friends with some of the women at work. My daughter started in a nice day care. We settled into a routine, the furniture arrived and the house felt like home. I missed the trees and the hills, but life was good.

I needed some new linens and decided to go to the mall. I went to JC Penny's and started looking around. After a while I determined that there were no linens on the ground floor, however, for the life of me, I could not find the escalators. I felt like I had been all over the store a few times and still I could not find them.

Finally I asked a salesperson for help. "Where are the escalators", I asked. The woman gave me an odd look and said, "Excuse me?" "I was wondering where the escalators are", I answered. "There are no escalators", she responded. The answer puzzled me. "Then how do you get upstairs?" I asked.

The woman looked at me apprehensively and said, "There is no upstairs." I was confused. "No upstairs", I said, bewildered. "Then were are the linens?" The woman edged back a step. "You can order linens through the catalogue", she said. Befuddled, I asked, "Through the catalogue? Don't you have any in the store?"

I could see I was upsetting the woman, but this idea was beyond my comprehension. Did she mean the mall had no second floor? That would mean the mall was one hallway. No, that couldn't be, who would build a mall with just one hallway. "Then were do you buy linens?" I asked. The woman smiled, this was a question she understood. "Walmart", she answered.

So began the conversion of a normal person to a Walmart shopper! I learned to go to Walmart for everything from toilet paper to cookware. A few years later, our Walmart changed locations and became a Super Walmart. After the conversion I could buy everything I needed at Walmart, any day of the week, day or night!

Clovis Football

Note how packed the stands are!
Note how packed the stands are! | Source

Football was Big

One day we finished early in the OR and I went shopping with a couple of the women. We went to Main Street to the only clothing store. I looked around and found a sweater that was nice. Funny, there was no price tag. The sales woman had been trailing us like a hound, we were the only people in the store. I asked her how much the sweater was. "Two Hundred and Fifty dollars", she answered.

The price astounded me. I could not imagine where you would wear a $250 sweater in this town. (This was in 1993 and, oh yea, my yankee was showing!) I had been out to eat in most of the restaurants. Even the "nice" restaurants gave you paper napkins. No one ever wore anything other than jeans, cowboy hats, boots and buck knives on their belts.

"Where in the world would you wear a $250 sweater in Clovis?" I asked the woman in disbelief. She never missed a beat, "The football game", she answered smiling. Not at all the answer I had been expecting considering we only had high school football.

As we left the store empty handed, I asked one of my friends to clarify the football comment. I found out that everybody dressed up and went to the games. Friday night was football night in Clovis, the whole town turned out for it. Clovis had been state champs for 10 years running. It took me living there 10 years before I went to a game.

There is a town in California named Clovis. Every year we would have one game with them. One year in California, the next year in Clovis. I don't know how this custom started or who came up with the idea, but it was the big enchilada of football games in Clovis!

Straight and Flat

My parents were coming for a visit, and needed directions from Albuquerque to my house. This was something I knew, I had taken the 4 hour drive to Albuquerque a few times. You only had to make two turns the whole way.

Take the interstate east out of Albuquerque, make a right at Santa Rosa, a left at Fort Sumner and you'll be here in about 4 hours. They wanted to know the names of the roads. "Don't worry about the names, there aren't that many roads in New Mexico", I told them.

They, like I, were amazed at how easy New Mexico is to navigate. The state is humongous, but the roads are few. Growing up on the east coast you get used to complicated directions. A 45 minute drive will involve several different interstates, parkways and highways. "Take the Parkway to I80 east, bear left onto 287 north, exit onto 23 north, get off on blah, blah, blah" are common directions in New Jersey.

New Mexico roads are long, straight and empty.  You occasionally get a curve in the road, but no sharp ones. An "S" curve would take about a mile or two to complete. The land is full of ranches.  You pass one every 10 to 20 miles.  I have driven 45 minutes or an hour without seeing any houses, turns or exits, just nothingness on nothingness with a few antelope thrown in for good measure.

Typical NM Driver...Never Expects A Turn

Big Scorpions

New Mexican Lobster...No Water Needed
New Mexican Lobster...No Water Needed | Source
Notice the similarities between this scorpion and the lobster above.  Yup, must be related!
Notice the similarities between this scorpion and the lobster above. Yup, must be related! | Source

Lobster in New Mexico

Reading the paper I noted that the supermarket had live lobster on sale for $3.99 a pound. I had to check this out! I had not had seafood since I came to New Mexico. What a buy!

At the supermarket, I went looking for the lobsters. I could not find any lobsters, no tanks, nothing! Where were these lobsters? I asked a man behind the meat counter where the lobsters were.

"Where are the lobsters?" I inquired. "They all died", he said in a displeased voice. Not having seen any lobster tanks, I asked the obvious question. "Didn't you have them in tanks?"

The man gave me a look that said I was obviously not the sharpest tool in the shed. He sighed heavily. Poor man having to deal with cretins like me all was really trying his patience! His answer? "Tank? They came in a crate."  The reply was delivered in an acerbic tone that told you anyone with half a brain would know you don't put lobsters in a tank.

"OooKkkay", was my giggly reply. I turned quickly and started walking away, not quickly enough that he didn't hear the laughter escape my lips. I was nearly in tears by the time I got outside! To this day, I can think to myself, "they came in a crate" if I need a laugh.

I guess when you are land-locked and your town's "lake" is a small pond, you would not know much about aquatic life. Still, I never realized someone could not know that lobsters lived in the water. Maybe he thought they were just large scorpion type creatures.

What Was That??

Huuuhhh??? | Source

A New Language

Post-operative teaching was done by the operating room nurses. One day I went out to the waiting area and called Jaramillo. Coming from New Jersey, I pronounced it phonetically. People looked up at me and then went back to reading. This was not my first mispronunciation, and would not be my last.

I went to the receptionist and asked how to say the name. "Harameyo", she said. Harameyo, harameyo, harameyo I repeated in my head as I went to try again. "Harameyo", I called again. This time the people looked up and the waiting room broke out in laughter. I guess they couldn't imagine someone being so stupid they didn't know how to pronounce the name. After all , it is a very common name there. Jaramillo is to New Mexico as Smith is to the east coast.

The first time I was giving post-op instructions, I finished reviewing the sheet, asked if they had any questions and looked up. Here was my patient, and their family, with their jaws hanging down to their knees. They had not understood one word I said it seemed. My yankee accent and rapid fire speech was more than they could handle.

People live at different speeds. On the east coast it is rush, rush, rush. In New Mexico siesta is more the speed. People speak slowly and smell the roses. The colloquisms are different also, in New Jersey it's "yous guys", in New Mexico it's "yoawl". In New Jersey we get ready to do something. In New Mexico we are fixin to do it.

Once I learned to slow down my speech, "yoawl" correctly and say "fixin to", people began to understand what I was saying. Personally I think it was adding in the "fixin to" that did it.

I Love This Movie!

We Still Take Checks--No ID Necessary

Can you go to your McDonald's and give them a check at the drive through? When I lived in New Mexico you could give them a check at McDonald's. You never needed ID, they just checked your name against the "bad check" list. This cracked me up! I would make sure to give them a check at least twice a year just to make sure their policy had not changed. Every time I would ask them if they wanted ID, every time they would answer the same thing. No, I'll just check the list.

Then there was the Taco Box (New Mexican Taco Bell), they had their check cashing policy posted by the drive through window. It stated that only local checks were accepted. What was their definition of local? They considered you local if you lived within a hundred mile radius of town. And, of course, no ID was necessary.

If you have ever watched the movie, "The Cowboy Way", you may remember the scene were they try to pay with a check at the Waldorf in NYC.  That scene had me rolling on the floor!  How would they know that you can't pay by check in NYC.  

Trailer for "The Cowboy Way"

Harvest Moon
Harvest Moon

A Land of Different Dimensions

Distance is different in New Mexico, I would drive 4 hours to get to Albuquerque, and that was only a little more than halfway across the state. I can drive through 3 states if I drive for 4 hours out of Maryland.

Time is different in New Mexico also. The first year I lived there I felt as if I had been transported back 30 years. The fears of the east coast didn't exist there. People still let their children have the run of the neighborhood. They knew that the neighbors would help keep an eye on them. People would laugh at me and tell me "those things only happen in the movies."

Cowboys are alive and well in New Mexico.  You can see them out riding the ranches or fixing fences.  I would see ads in the local papers for "Cowboy, own tack and horse required".  Not something I had ever seen advertised in the east!

As the years passed, I began to love New Mexico and to recognize it's unique beauty. You could see every sunrise and sunset. The rainbows are the best on earth. It may not rain often, but nature sure does put on a show when it does. Double rainbows were common and I even got to see a few triples.

You have not seen the true beauty of the moon until you see a giant orange harvest moon swell up out of the horizon and then surge into the sky. I had never seen a moon like that out east.

About an Hour and a Half Away, but Looks the Same

I Lived 1/4 Mile Straight Ahead From the Stop Sign

© 2009 Kari Poulsen


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