I can’t recommend going to Pueblo, although I had a good time, which says more about me and my capability for amusement than it does about Pueblo. And more about how much more easily Ray and Lee get along, how they cope with changes in the routine. The trip was a belated birthday present: there’s a limit to how much I can cope with being spoiled, okay?
The Sangre de Cristo Art Museum is an odd construct – an arts complex in which more enjoyment and attention is devoted to the kids’ museum than the one for adults. The kids’ museum wasn’t as fun as the one in Santa Fe, but the one in Pueblo was still very nice.
The Pueblo kids’ museum focuses on art, naturally enough; the focus both defines and limits the place. For example, there was a free kids’ pottery class over in the adults’ building, an area filled with blocks to make mazes out of, little tables with exercises in color, shading, etc. – but no ‘what ifs.’ What if you take a square frame and try to blow a giant bubble with it? Will it be round or square? What if you have a pendulum with a marker on it, and you shake the paper underneath it? Art without some science always comes across as a little dry. Frivolous. (The reverse seems tragic.)
My favorite part of the museums was a kinetic sculpture with heavy balls (like pool balls), a heavy-gauge wire track, a motor to pull the balls back to the top, and various doodads to spin and dance when the balls hit them.
The museum for adults was well-built but small, and the art inside not really compelling. (Something I’ve had to learn lately in writing is the difference between “interesting” and “compelling.” The art in the adult side was “interesting.”) The art tended to modern art of the stuff-hanging-on-a-wall or sitting-on-a-pedestal type. Being modern art, this was no excuse – the best modern art pieces are stuff-you-might-play-with, not overbred dalmatians waiting to have their pictures taken. Modern (and following) art should have a quality of eliciting, much the way fluffy clouds on a sunny day do, but with more emotional and intellectual impact.
All of which is to say, I found some things I liked, but nothing I loved.
Afterward, we drove around, looking for the Pueblo Riverwalk (we must have passed it four times before we found it). The river itself sits past the railroad tracks and is quite restrained and unlovely, although I squealed with delight when I first saw it, because the cement embankment that separates the railyards from the river was painted with gigantic murals, graffiti higher than a house, and all of it a bit mad. Pictures of saints, pictures of weird cosmologies. Across the river was some kind of historical district filled with the most depressingly derelict houses – good houses gone multi-unit, unmown, unloved.
We recrossed the river after being harassed by a number of one-way streets and stopped at a reassuring shop filled with Southwestern-style furniture, tin-framed mirrors, ceramic crosses and lizards, and wall tiles with the motto “Mi casa es su casa.” The owner revealed the riverwalk was only a block away – and that, due to the thickness, in the fifteen years he’d owned the store, there had never been a problems with any of the sandstone tables.
The riverwalk is a tame section of stream (a rivulet of the river) along which one may promenade. Part of the walk was blocked off for a wedding, but otherwise we walked the whole damned thing. I was hoping for rain – it was perfect weather for it, warm and still.
The riverwalk was almost, but not quite: not enough people for a gorgeous Saturday night, not enough boutiques (i.e., none), not enough goofy art, not enough vendors with irresistibly greasy street food, not enough length: tame.
Downtown was odd. For one, it’s a huge area, all filled with brick buildings. And no section has been “fixed” or set up as a place for people to wander about and spend money and see things that are nice to look at while one eats snacks and drinks coffee. I don’t remember seeing a single Starbucks downtown – and a downtown without a Starbucks, nowadays, is a remarkable thing. The only coffee shop we passed was closed, on a Saturday afternoon.
We ate at Fifteen twenty-one, a small restaurant built into what looked like the only consecutive row of open shops in the entire downtown area. The ambiance was simple and unobtrusive. The food was superb. How to crust a leg of lamb in herbs and salt without the salt becoming overwhelming – the crust wasn’t removed – I will have to consider. Lee had escargot. “Gorgonzola was the right way to go,” he said. But the place was almost abandoned – us and one other couple. The owners should have picked a different location – or else they should be getting free rent.
Afterward, we went to Tinseltown and saw Star Trek. I cheered at the end.
The next morning I sat in the breakfast area of a chain motel, watching people in t-shirts request omelets from the complementary chef. A chef. In a motel. But only for breakfast.
From a steel town of no attraction for years and years (or so I’ve heard) to some half-assed effort to acquire a predictable type of appeal, failing in its lack of (like wine) terroir. If only I could pick up that restaurant and bring it back to the Springs with me.