Sunday, March 1, 2009

Beauty in the chaos

We've lived in Albuquerque for 2.5 years now - it seems like just yesterday I was in Chicago walking up seventy-five steps to get to my tiny studio apartment that had such poor water pressure, we had to use a spaghetti pot with water to help flush the toilet. Ah, memories.

Lately Albuquerque feels more like home than previous homes including both Chicago and even Maryland. We're in love with the weather, mountain views with plateau sunsets, smokey green chile local food, down-to-earth residents, and overall enthusiasm towards life out here. Things have fallen into place for us we feel largely because we followed our instincts to move out here together (yikes - after only knowing each other for four months).

I find pleasure in the small things in life - the random chaos that seems to weave throughout my entire day of lots of small, unique connections if less awake I'd miss. As a web geek, largely my recent 'wow' moments have been inspired by online experience that trickle over into 'real' world.

In Albuquerque, there is a local community site, Duke City Fix. The site was started by a small group of locals that had a vision to connect the community in an online meaningful format. The result - the site is up to 4,000 avid participants (out of a city that is 800,000 residents) and drives real world connections in meaningful ways.

Last month I planned a networking gig that pulled LinkedIn contacts and invited them to connect in the 'real' world for a happy hour. It drew about 60 local professionals out after work, and was a great success. However, after four hours straight of intense discussions and fake laughs, one can't help but feel a little drained.

On my way out of the bar, a stranger tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a napkin - with a portrait of me on it. It is a deliciously wonderful gesture, something that made my whole night, and the words written around the edges of the sketch were raw - "A night, an evening, time spent, time lost, begin again." I could not have summed up the networking experience better myself, and here, a breath of fresh air stands Bruce McCollum, a local napkin artist and musician in the band Martini Tones, making my night.

Inspired by the interaction, I zipped home and blogged about the experience on Duke City Fix. The post gets featured on the homepage, and feedback starts rolling in. Lots of people in Albuquerque have met Bruce, loved Bruce, and been lucky enough to receive a napkin portrait as well. There's more - a local gallery, Wooden Cow, exhibits his work - both the napkin sketches and the sketches blown up on canvas. Then, even better, Bruce himself catches wind of the online fervor about his work, joins the site, and gets the positive feedback that there are tons of locals who love him. Full circle.

Simultaneously, I enter a random "I love Albuquerque" contest where within twenty-five words you have to write a love poem to the city. I type out a sarcastic entry, hit send, and get a phone call a few weeks later - "Ms. Marshall, you're a finalist in our contest". Oh shoot, should have put more energy into it, and hope I can remember what I wrote!

The hosts of the contest, Local iQ (an independent arts publication) and AIBA (Albuquerque Independent Business Alliance), throw a party at a local Irish pub on last Thursday. Not only do I go, but I of course rally a group of pals to come along with to part take in the shenanigans.

Upon arrival, I run into lots of people that I know, and meet a handful of new, wildly interesting people. One of which is Raine Klover, the owner of Wooden Cow Gallery and one of my Duke City Fix pals. She recognized me from my 120x120 pixel image on the site - small world. One thing leads to another, Raine mentions that my artwork (martini women) might be a fit for her gallery, and now I'm in the process of organizing some pieces to submit for review.

Oh, and to add to the 'pay it forward' karma train, after the poetry party I had a vivid dream that my deceased artist grandmother, Frances Trammel, visited me and we had a long talk about art and continuing to paint. Then two days later for the first time in two years I sell a painting through a wonderful new connection I made on Twitter.

Beauty in the chaos. Wonder in the small details. There is something to say about a city this size filled with people that wear their hearts on their sleeves.

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