Friday, 14 August 2009

The 'Odd'yssey (Part 9)

Yesterday was our first full day in Albuquerque, New Mexico after a couple of weeks spent travelling in and near Texas. Consequently, we were very appreciative of the opportunity to sleep in a bed that we were going to be in for more than 1 or 2 nights. It was also nice not to be sharing a room with one other adult and two children. We lay in bed until after Ian (Christine’s husband) had gone to work and Chris had taken the children to day care. It was a very relaxing start to the day, made even nicer by some filtered coffee and the chance to watch the morning news while waiting for the washing to finish.

Meg and Chris had decided to go and look at some display homes (Christine for ideas for her own home, Meg because…well, does she really need a reason?). They dropped Wayne off at ‘the Lab’ and headed out to an area called Loma Colorado, which is slightly misnamed because it is in Rio Rancho, New Mexico and the state of Colorado is a significant distance north of there. Unfortunately, they didn’t make it there very quickly because, as they were on their way, Chris received a phone call from Day Care to say that Jessie had a rash and that they needed to come and pick her up (it was later revealed that Jessie had been running around outside just before this, and the Doctor identified it as a heat rash, but it never hurts to be too careful).

After Jessie was collected, the trip out to Rio Rancho (it is in the northern part of the city of Albuquerque) was completed, and some of the houses were able to be inspected. Albuquerque has a very interesting mix of house styles. Most of the area makes use of the natural earth tones of the region, so flying over the city means a patchwork of browns, reds, pinks and greens which looks particularly lovely from the air. Many of the houses in the area are of the ‘adobe’ or ‘pueblo revival’ style which might be familiar to any of you who have seen westerns set in Mexico. We are always fascinated to drive around the city and see the contrast between these; more typical American house styles; and a harder edged mix between the two.

The houses that Meg and Chris got to inspect were of the more typical western style with a sloping roof having been built by Pulte Homes. There were many to look at which featured some very up to date mod-cons and some lovely architecture. Both came away (somewhat earlier than expected because of concern for Jessie) with a couple of houses that they particularly liked and some excellent ideas for interior designs. Meg, in particular, was enamoured of a couple of houses but as she thought through their strengths and weaknesses decided on the Santa Cruz (if you are interested in seeing it, just follow the hyperlink). Now all we need to do is find a few hundred thousand US Dollars and we will be able to buy it.

Meanwhile, Wayne was still at ‘the Lab’ which is the nickname given to the Baseball Stadium in Albuquerque that plays host to the Albuquerque Isotopes. The Isotopes play in the league, which is just below the Major League level, called AAA (or Triple A). Interestingly, the team in Albuquerque used to be known as ‘the Dukes’, however that team moved to Portland, Oregon in 2001 and changed their name to ‘the Beavers’. In 2003 the ‘Calgary Cannons’ moved their team to New Mexico and a decision had to be made about what to call them. In a Simpsons’ episode from 2001 called ‘Hungry Hungry Homer’, Homer Simpson discovers that his beloved Springfield Isotopes are to be moved to Albuquerque and fights to prevent that from happening. Because of this, the new Albuquerque team decided to call themselves the ‘Isotopes’ (which is also apt because New Mexico plays host to a number of significant facilities dealing with nuclear technology).

Back in 2004 a gentleman called Morgan Spurlock made a documentary about the impact of fast food on the human body called ‘Super Size Me’. If you haven’t seen it, Meg and Wayne recommend that you do, because it is very, very funny. It is also very disturbing and you might find that you do not wish to eat McDonalds (or any other fast food) for a considerable time afterwards. In 2008 he released another film, ‘Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?’ which takes a look at both sides of the war against terrorism. As well, he has made a reality television series called ‘30 Days’ in which a person spends 30 days immersing themselves in a life markedly different from what they are used to (being in prison, a devout Christian living in a Muslim family, a homophobe staying with a homosexual person, etc.).

As it turns out, because ‘the Simpsons’ is celebrating 20 years in production, Fox had commissioned Morgan to produce a documentary looking at the impact of ‘the Simpsons’ on American (and world) culture. One part of the documentary involved going to an Albuquerque Isotopes baseball game and interviewing people in the crowd about their feelings about the show. It will come as no surprise to those of you reading this (because otherwise why would we have gone to all this trouble to communicate this information) that yesterday also happened to be the day when this part of the documentary was to be filmed. It was, however, sheer coincidence that Wayne was to be there on this day, it was just the only day that the Isotopes were playing in town while we were in Albuquerque.

Because it is not Major League Baseball, tickets were considerably cheaper than at the other two games we had been to during this trip, and Wayne was able to get a great seat behind home plate which allowed him to see the whole field and get a good view of all the action. Before the game began, however, he ventured into the Isotopes shop to look at the various merchandise available. If you were truly a fanatical fan you could kit out your house, your car, your wife, your children (including tiny babies), your pets, your golf clubs and an enormous variety of other things, let alone yourself, in gear with the Isotopes logo on it. While Wayne was in there, Morgan and the camera crew came in and Wayne found himself in the background of a shot while they were purchasing Isotopes gear. He was very excited at the thought of being on US television for a second time (he and Meg were in the audience for a taping of the show ‘Deal or No Deal’ while on their honeymoon back in 2007).

The game itself was a very exciting one, against the Tacoma Rainiers, and Wayne enjoyed his excellent viewing position for the first inning and a half. However, as the temperature started to climb into the 90’s it became very hot, so he decided to retreat back under the cover of the grand stand. This gave him the opportunity to explore the rest of the stadium, as well as to chat to a number of people who all expressed astonishment that an Australian would be among them watching (relatively knowledgably) a game of baseball. As the game progressed into the sixth inning, the shade from the grandstand moved over Wayne’s ticketed seat, so he moved back down to watch the last couple of innings in the comfort of his seat.

By the bottom of the seventh the game was very close and tension was high when Wayne found himself being asked by one of the documentary crew (who incidentally grew up in Perth, before moving to the United States) if he would consent to being interviewed for the documentary. Being something of a Simpson’s fan (as well as a fan of ‘Super Size Me’) Wayne jumped at the opportunity, although it was a bit of a wrench to drag himself away from a game which was so close. Being interviewed by Morgan was good fun, he expressed amazement at the amount of travel we have done in the last few years and asked numerous questions about the impact that Wayne perceived ‘the Simpsons’ had had upon Australia. Wayne was even persuaded to sing the song from the episode ‘Homer at the Bat’ and talk about the impact that the show had personally had upon him. Because of events on the field there were breaks in the filming and Morgan told Wayne about some of his own experiences in the places that we have been.

During one of the breaks, Meg rang Wayne on the mobile, so Wayne took the opportunity to put Morgan on so that he could ask Meg some questions as well. All in all, Wayne couldn’t speak more highly of what a ‘good bloke’ Morgan Spurlock is. He noted that, before and after the interview Morgan was constantly being asked to sign autographs and have pictures taken. A local radio DJ organised to interview him about his impressions of Albuquerque and he was really gracious with everyone that he dealt with. Having flown in specifically for the game, he and the crew were off to the airport almost immediately after (Wayne was the final interview for the day) to fly back to New York. The documentary is to be aired in January and no doubt, in the editing process, much (if not all) of Wayne’s involvement might be taken out. Nonetheless, it was still a really positive experience, as was the fact that the Isotopes scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning and were able to close out the ninth for a win, Isotopes 8 Rainiers 6.

After the game, Chris and Meg picked Wayne up from the stadium and were able to travel back to the Day Care centre in time to pick up Samuel and head home. Later, Chris had to take Jessie to the Doctor (once you have left sick you really need a Dr’s certificate in order to be readmitted) so Wayne and Meg got to chat to Samuel about robots and watch ‘Curious George’ with him. All in all, it was a very positive day, reinforcing Meg and Wayne’s feelings about Albuquerque as a whole.

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