As a dutiful college student at New Mexico State University, I shared a number of German courses with fellow student Doug. Doug was an amiable guy. Other than a New Year’s Eve road trip to Tucson to see Billy Bacon and the Forbidden Pigs play Club Congress, we never spent much time together outside of class, but our social orbits aligned at times. Doug played guitar. Proving once and for all the value of language degree, he went on to form a well-regarded Kiddie Rock band called the Jellydots. I had no idea Kiddie Rock was a thing. Black Metal? Sure. Tex-Mex-Blues-a-Billy? Of course! Billy Bacon established—or at least perfected—that genre years ago! But Kiddie Rock? Well, you learn something new every day. Or at least every now and again.
The relentless tentacles of Facebook connected Doug and I some years ago, which is when I first learned about the Jellydots. I downloaded (bought and paid for) some songs. One such song, called “San Diego,” included the following question in its chorus: “Why don’t we go to San Diego?” [For those interested, the song can be streamed at the Jellydots website here.] Why indeed. I like to think that Doug’s song resonated at some level, and is what propelled me and C to visit what is, essentially, a dusty border town with high-rises and the pretension to rise above its station. But really it was just the Esri User Conference that brought us to town.
C was sent to the Esri User Conference, presumably to confer with Esri users, and spent the better part of ten days in and around the massive San Diego Convention Center. She was, unfortunately, a week too early to revel in San Diego’s Comic-Con, and cannot compare its costumed excess to what we observed in Phoenix. I followed and joined her for a three day weekend, in large part to experience the single feature that, in my estimation, makes San Diego the envy of urban centers the world over: an airport you can walk to.
Is there another major airport anywhere you can easily walk to? This is not a rhetorical question. Does anyone know? Is there such an airport? I don’t mean airports that you can get to, however easily, by public transportation. Washington National is certainly convenient, but I’m not sure if you can safely approach it on foot. Same with Logan. At San Diego, I shouldered my bag, walked outside the terminal, crossed one street at a conveniently placed cross-walk, and strolled into town along a pedestrian and bike path along the waterfront. Thirty minutes later I met C and sister M at the Hyatt.
I have walked to precisely one other airport, this one in Albuquerque. So I guess I just answered my own question. I had not intended on doing so. I had planned to take the bus. Albuquerque is a big city, right? Am I wrong in thinking it should have public transportation to and from New Mexico’s only major airport? Well, I researched bus routes prior to that particular trip, and there was in fact a route to the airport. I could catch the bus on Central Avenue, which was fine as I was in town to visit the law school and would be close to a bus stop. Unsure of the frequency, I gave myself plenty of time, which proved fortuitous as the bus only ran during the commuter hours in the morning and evening. What the hell? Is the bus line there to serve airport employees alone? It seemed that the city transit authority never considered that visitors to the city might also be interested in the bus route and that their schedules may prove more variable than the typical 8 to 5 work day. I considered calling a cab, but decided to walk instead. Distance wise, it was fine, but there wasn’t much of a sidewalk, and I had to share the road on my final approach. As I neared the terminal, a car pulled to a stop next to me. I assumed the driver was about to offer me a ride, which I appreciated. Not anticipating much of a walk, I had not packed or worn shoes that were up to the task, and my feet were aching.
“Hey, can I buy gas around here?”
“Gas. Where is the closest gas?”
“What part of my walking to the airport makes you think I have any idea where you can buy gas?”
The window went back up, the car sped away, and I limped onward.
So while the Albuquerque airport is within striking distance of passengers on foot, it is not (or at least was not—perhaps it has been upgraded) particularly welcoming to foot traffic. San Diego, on the other hand, proudly includes walking directions to and from the airport on its website. I acknowledge this feature is probably of most use to the tourist. Or perhaps the small handful of people that can afford to live downtown, most of whom, based on San Diego real estate prices, likely hire helicopters to lift them from private helipad to privately charted jet rather than mix with the rabble found on city sidewalks or commercial airlines. But still, a walkable airport should be the goal of any and every municipality.
Having accomplished my one and only goal for this trip within an hour of hitting the ground, what else was there to do? We considered hopping the border and exploring Mexico, but only two of the three of us had passports. We considered an evening at the Old Globe Theater—Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead was playing—but failed at getting tickets. We thought about a Padres game, but could not be bothered. So that left eating burritos and eating sea urchin, both of which we did with abandon. Well, both of which I did with abandon. C and sister M took a pass on the sea urchin, which just puzzles me. What is not to like about the cutest of all the tide pool detritus?
Now back in Anchorage, I’m left searching for rhymes for “walkable” and “urchin.” It seems Doug’s song needs an additional verse that really captures all the city has to offer.