July 19, 2011 at 7:16 PM

Missing Santa Fe: Part II

"You just had to be there, to participate, to strike your best cruising pose along that lazy river of automotive life..."

By José Smith

The Beans & Chile

José Smith is a writer, stay-at-home dad and fiend of excellent essays.

Advertisement

(SantaFe.com blogger José Smith continues his countdown of now-gone and quickly fading Santa Fe secrets. Read his first entry in the series.)

#3 The Cruise Line

On West Alameda, roughly between Galisteo Street and Cathedral Place, we used to cruise on Friday and Saturday nights. You can still find lines of vehicles clogging this length of road,  but now it’s just traffic lurching along. To cruise in Santa Fe was to connect, to gawk, to holler, to maddog, to see what was going on and going down. It reminds me of a Beatles' lyric from their Revolver album: “keeping an eye on the world going by my window/taking my time.” The cruise line was all the characters of Santa Fe’s small world, floating by one another, taking our time. Windows up, windows down; you could be in the parade or sit back and watch it all roll by. Ride low or ride high. Shiny rims were good. A trunk-rattling deep bass was better. You didn’t have to have a cool ride either. You just had to be there, to participate, to strike your best cruising pose along that lazy river of automotive life. 

#2 The Yucca Drive-in

The American landscape has been carved up into a tangle of asphalt veins and endless outposts that cater to every whim and need of the automobile. The drive-in movie experience is, or, I should say, was, an example of how our culture adjusted itself so that the car could be integrated into our experiences. Santa Fe was no exception. The Yucca Drive-In, which closed down in the early '90s and was later demolished, used to be on the southeast corner of Cerrillos Road and Vegas Verdes. It’s totally gone now, a figment in Santa Fe’s imagination. 

I find it strange that drive-ins in general have pretty much vanished, while our obsession and use of vehicles has only intensified. We don’t drive any less. Our cars are more comfortable. So why are we not piling the family into the car and driving down to the old outdoor silver screen anymore? What was it that drive-ins stopped fulfilling? 

The easy answer is that they stopped "full-filling" the pockets of those who owned them. If memory serves, admission into the drive-in was like $10-$15 bucks per car. Not per person. Per car. I think the economics of this great movie-going deal just stopped adding up. Somebody must have pointed out that there was a lot more money to be made by catering to the individual and in modifying the world to the sensibilities of the one, not to carloads of many. It’s ironic, though, that, as individualizing and disconnecting as the automobile can be, there was something communal about those carloads of people sitting together in the same vehicle watching a movie. It just seems that like bowling, or cruising, or going to the drive-in, there’s less and less chances for us to mingle with family, friends, and the community at-large nowadays. I miss that in general and I miss those opportunities in Santa Fe.

Advertisement