Nob Hill, New Mexico
(May 5, 2016)—The original Main Street of Albuquerque (Central Avenue) and a mile-stretch of historic Route 66, Nob Hill is the epicenter of transient-made-local flavor. Named after San Francisco, California’s Nob Hill, the Albuquerque Nob Hill is composed of irregular shops, boutiques, pubs, nightclubs, galleries and restaurants. The neighborhood is the axis where nocturnal beings meet diurnal beings and provides such visitors and patrons alike a tangled harmony of intrigue suitable for just about any palate. Despite its marked uniqueness and neon outlined personality (literally), Nob Hill wasn’t always a hustling and bustling focal point of Albuquerque.
Originally just a quaint and flowering neighborhood located east of Albuquerque’s downtown area, it was strictly just a place to which families returned from a long day of work and where they applauded the brilliance of our Southwestern sunsets. Furthermore, Nob Hill was Albuquerque’s first suburb, as opposed to a barrio, and was part of the University of New Mexico area. And being so far east from Downtown Albuquerque, not even the city proper’s street car system made it out to Nob Hill.
1937, however, would mark the start of a new dawn for this suburban stretch when Central Avenue (a.k.a. “Main Street”) would become a chunk of Route 66. Throughout the era, which was the age of the Great Depression, Nob Hill would be visited by the likes of any still hopeful Americans heading from East to West looking for work, love and a new beginning.
Moreover, Route 66 goes from Los Angeles, California to Chicago, Illinois. Despite the common thought that this historic route trails straight across all eight states, the route actually makes a detour here in New Mexico. Up until 1937, the Historic 66 came into New Mexico via Santa Rosa; way on the edge of the state, then jetted north to Santa Fe, and finally came down and connected again with the original Route 66 artery. In 1937, the government opened up Route 66 through Nob Hill. At the time, Central Ave. morphed from a country road to being the only paved road through New Mexico.
Today Nob Hill is (famous and even) visited by the famous; welcoming adoration from Samuel L. Jackson, Bryan Cranston, Tina Fey and many more. But most outstanding are the area’s prominent business men & women, who, dreadlocked or purple haired, are the ones to thank for Nob Hill’s welcoming and eclectic spirit.
Meet Paula, co-owner of Birdland (a groovy hippie store that’s been in business since 1994) and an insatiably perfect blend of everything Birdland reflects: creation, color, and cordiality.
Paula sells locally blown glass pipes, accessories, vintage poster art and quality tested dry herb and concentrate electronics. She’s all about sustainable connections, as everything, yes everything, Birdland markets comes from local suppliers. Furthermore, Birdland is making headway by becoming Nob Hill’s first medical cannabis dispensary. If you can dig it, make your way to Birdland and see its vibrancy for yourself!
Kitty-corner to the former is Astro-Zombies, a haven for Manga manics, comic jocks and as, Store Manager Joe told me, “We just sell cool stuff.” Now heading on 17 years of perpetual prosperity, Astro-Zombies is a known sanctuary for those in love with pop culture and fandom everything.
What’s more is that Astro-Zombies has been visited by The Goonies babe, Josh Brolin; Director of The Avengers, Joss Whedon; The Walking Dead comic genius, Robert Kirkman; and countless others. Evidence of their just “dropping in”, according to Store Manager Joe, is their doodles on the Astro-Zombie ceiling. The place is just totally nippin’!… Yes, this is my lame attempt at being original with slang words (i.e. ‘nippin’’, as in ‘cool’). Ok, not everyone is as awesome as Astro-Zombies- therefore, all the more reason to check them out now and today!
Next door is Larry’s Hats; a micro shop specializing in hats that have, no joke, been frozen in time and reflect styles of the Victorian era, the Gilded Age, and 1940’s period zoot suit fedoras and pork pie hats. Ms. Julie, a part-time worker of the joint and longtime friend of Store Owner Larry Koch (pronounced ‘cook’), was a character of true jubilance as she welcomed me into the shop. Here she is showcasing one of her favorite hats, and one she says, “Is just my color.”
Next we visited was Masks Y Mas; a local custom furniture and unique gifts shop gushing with glitter laden candy skulls, Dia de los Muertos figurines, and terrifyingly lovely canvas art. Kiko Torres, Store Owner, sure did hit the nail on the head by providing Nob Hill with its very own international anthology of magical, mystical and esoteric creations.
Last we toured was Sachs Body Modification where we were welcomed by a green and seducing vixen, showcasing her supple and tattooed mannequin breasts in the storefront window.
Of course there is plenty more exploration and adventure offered by Nob Hill, but it’s an area that requires multiple days of inspection and probing. It’s a place that one must visit multiple times a year, every season, and for every event to truly understand its complexity, style and historical foundation. So, I guess that just means you’ll have to check back here another time where you can join me on my undertakings of Nob Hill as I delve further into its limitless kaleidoscopic-chromatic depths. See you soon!