(Words and pictures by Verbal Kensington)
An old, white, Bronco is barreling straight towards our windshield. We’re parked on the side of the road, powered down with the headlights still on, keys stuck in the ignition, caught like deer in the literal headlights. He’s just run a Jeep off of the road in front of us, and we can hear the engine revving as he speeds towards us. We brace ourselves for impact – but he swerves away at the last second, screeching to a halt in line with the driver’s side window. When he realizes we are two women alone in the car, his angry scowl turns to a confused grimace – and he cackles a greeting, “Have a great night, ladies!” before gunning it, and careening around the corner.
Welcome to Albuquerque.
Even the plants here are trying to kill us. We pitch our teepee in a backyard carpeted in goatheads – tiny demons spawned from weed hell, which work their brittle spines through our flip hops before embedding themselves in flesh. It takes five minutes for the air mattress to meet its demise. It’s going to be a long night.
With a day to kill in the Burque, we decide to start with a leisurely breakfast. Cecilia’s Cafe is my favorite thing about Albuquerque – real chilaquiles and huevos rancheros made with Hatch green chiles – so we make the trek crosstown to fill our bellies.
Afterwards, the ladies spend the day hitting the thrift stores, searching for costumes and travel-friendly accessories. The Thrift Town yields the most promising swag, and after a leisurely afternoon of popping tags, we boogie back to the host house to prep. Truck pick-up is in full swing, and we need to meet the others at the prep site to build out the trucks. Tonight’s location is in Santa Fe – about an hour and a half from our host location – so we’ll be staying overnight in the trucks, before returning. We load up everything we’ll need for the night, and head towards our destination.
In Sante Fe, we connect with the rest of the crew. Our location is the quiet street in front of a boarded-up bowling alley – just past the Meowwolf workshop. Our Albuquerque hosts, MaryEllen and Charlie, are getting married tonight – and we’ll be a part of the festivities. A frenzy of truck-building begins – we’re racing the evening light, and nearing completion as a few local artists roll in to join us.
As dark falls, we’re close to completion. The first participants begin to roll in, and we hit the ground running. Tonight, I’ll be volunteering with 24ft Studios – brainchild of Rick Abruzzo. He’s converted a 24-foot box truck into a mobile movie set, where he’ll be filming participants as they act out scenes from a popular movie. I’m tonight’s fluffer – I’ll be getting people pumped to participate, and helping them into and out of their costumes.
Our first few folks are a little tentative, but we soon find our groove. Rick assigns a scene based on the number of people in each group – they are dressed to match, and then posed in front of the corresponding backdrop. We shoot two scenes per group, feeding our actors their lines, while Rick records them on their own cellphones. He encourages them to post their videos via social media, so others can share in the fun, and most are very obliging.
After an hour or two of fun in the movie studio, I’m relieved by a replacement. For the first time, I have the chance to really check out the Night Market – the other trucks are in full swing now, the entire EveryHere Logistics team immersed in their roles. Yaasika Qupid is dressed as a Junior Ranger, working the Uncanny Valley National Park with Aimee and Tess Aquarium . I wander my way to the other side of the street, where I stumble across a booth of typists writing Love Letters to the World. Che, the adorable outspoken child of the Love Letter team, guides me through the process – I can either write my own message, or have it transcribed – it will then be read out loud from the top of a very tall ladder, with the use of a magic bullhorn.
Che helps me transcribe my own letter, writing carefully by hand onto a sheet of paper positioned over carbon. She prefers to write by hand, as opposed to using the optional typewriter – she feels that handwritten messages hold more magic, and I trust her judgement. She makes helpful suggestions for honing my message, and pens it with care. When done, she hands me a copy to keep, and places the other in a pile to be read throughout the course of the night. She then takes a moment to pause from her writing, performing a song and dance she has practiced for this occasion.
Her performance is priceless – and after thanking her for sharing, and for her help with my message, I move on to the neighboring vehicle. It is a fully restored vintage ice cream truck, converted to become Poetry in Motion. The vehicle, whose exterior is covered with movable word magnets, is the interactive exhibit of Ilan Shamir , storyteller extraordinaire, and founder of Your True Nature. Ilan describes how he
It’s easy to be inspired by this project – after a few moments, I find myself writing my own poem on the side of the vehicle, shifting the magnetic words to form my own ephemeral art. I snap a picture, and Ilan invites me to listen to a spoken-word piece he calls “Advice from a Tree”. Several others gather around as he begins to beat a hand drum, reciting the rhythmic words to his own beat. Everyone watching is captivated – the poem is beautiful, and he performs it with true feeling. When it’s complete, the crowd is quiet. I thank him for sharing, and move on to check out the rest of the Night Market.