I Almost Prayed in Albuquerque: Author Unknown

In Summer 2007, I drove from San Diego to Cooperstown for Tony Gwynn’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. This is Part 8 of a nine-part series covering the first day of my journey.

After refueling, calling home, and chewing on a slab of beef jerky, I continued east toward Grants, N.M. The road took me through Holbrook and Chambers, through Sanders and Houck, past Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert, through Gallup and Thoreau (not named, as often thought, after the famed 19th-century author from Massachusetts). Again, we are connecting dots.

I arrived at Grants at 6:47 p.m. The game in Albuquerque was scheduled to start 13 minutes from now. I had 80 miles between me and the ballpark. Still, a few innings would be better than nothing. Until then, I had the open road, clear skies, and an abundance of comforting tunes.

Jason Falkner‘s Author Unknown accompanied me for the home stretch, a much easier drive than most of what I’d encountered but not as easy as it might have been had I not scheduled myself for 15 hours on the road. Whose idea was that, anyway, and why hadn’t they been informed that I was no longer 19 years old?

I stopped asking myself pointless questions and focused instead on the barrage of power pop masterpieces blasting through my speakers. Falkner, perhaps best known for his guitar work on Jellyfish’s debut album, Spilt Milk, is a classically trained pianist whose talents border on the disgusting. Although commercial success has eluded him, Falkner is a respected musician who has worked with the likes of Susanna Hoffs (The Bangles — “Manic Monday,” “Walk Like an Egyptian,” etc.), Beck, Air, and Sir Paul McCartney.

On Author Unknown, Falkner handles everything — writing, arranging, singing, playing of instruments (all of them), producing — with the result being one of the tightest pop albums of the ’90s. The fact that his efforts didn’t receive greater recognition reflects badly on the music industry in much the same way that, say, Bert Blyleven’s absence from the Hall of Fame does in that milieu. Lesser talents (take Lenny Kravitz, please) receive more attention because — well, I don’t really know why.

It’s romantic to believe that the paragons of a given discipline will be rewarded commensurate to their contributions, but as we are reminded yet again, the world doesn’t always work that way. Life isn’t fair, which brings us to Albuquerque.

I pulled into town just after 8 p.m. All was well, except for one small detail: The directions I’d scrawled in my planner were useless. In fact, they were worse than useless because I didn’t know they were useless so I followed them. (Who knew that two roads on opposite sides of Albuquerque borrowed Cesar Chavez’s name?)

I soon found myself in a remote area on the southwestern edge of town. I saw plenty of horses and trailers but nothing that resembled a ballpark.

Everything felt wrong about this place. A voice inside me said I should cut my losses and turn back, that something had gone awry and we needed to come up with a new plan.

I assumed the voice was lying (or at best, misinformed) and continued toward a tiny road called Powers Way. There I hung a right and headed deeper into a residential neighborhood with poor lighting. All I had were the last remnants of sunset and the hope of a ballpark around a corner that I suspected would never come.

Then, a sign appeared: “End County Maintained Road.” It wasn’t the sign I was hoping to find, but the message was clear enough: if there was a ballpark down that way, someone else would have to find it.

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