|We love the Southwest.|
SANTA FE, N.M. -- John and I are on an extended, working road trip throughout the West. We love the scrubby, desert landscape, the mountains, and the big skies. We’re doing the Airbnb, VRBO thing, because we want to get the feel of what it’s like to actually live in a place, as opposed to staying in a hotel. Sometimes, though, the accommodations can cause one to rethink this strategy. The thing is, this place looks above average in the marketing materials and has wonderful reviews. We're not overly critical or picky, either. I guess finding a vacation rental is kind of like using an online dating service. There could be two terrific people, but in the end, they just don't have anything in common.
If you have a zealous obsession for all things Southwest, the Santa Fe condo we’ve rented just might be the place for you. Swaddle yourself in Native American blankets you’ve ripped off the walls, and imagine you’re transported to a gallery overflowing with cultural prints, Zapotec rugs, and knock-off woven baskets that scream This is Santa Fe, MF! Be sure to pay special attention to the largest piece of framed artwork – a New Mexican version of a Thomas Kinkade painting, full of almost realistic light as illustrated by teepee fires and alpenglow illuminating the artist’s representation of a nearby reservation. Lest you miss it, the track lighting has a spot aimed directly at this framed print, whispering, “Look at me.”
There’s a fetching bench enveloped in serape fabric and lined with exotic, woven pillows. It’s one of the attractive features that catch your eye in the photos advertising this vacation rental. It practically begs you to cuddle up with a book. May I suggest Tony Hillerman? Fear not, you won’t doze off reading, despite how much sightseeing you’ve done, or tamales you’ve eaten, or margaritas you’ve sipped, because the seating is less comfortable than the bleachers in a junior high gymnasium. The fact there are so many pillows only adds insult to injury because you’ve been lulled into thinking this nook will be über cozy. It reminds me of the old “Saturday Night Live” bit where Billy Crystal pimps Fernando Lamas in a thick Latin accent saying, “It is better to look good, than to feel good.” Indeed, this bench beckons with its charming façade, but please don’t be fooled. You will be butt hurt.
|A tisket a tasket|
As an aside, if you believe you “should” be reading more (I do advise not “shoulding” all over yourself, by the way), you are off the hook if you sleep on the right side of the bed in the master bedroom. The lightbulb wattage is so low you’ll need one of those lighted coal miner helmets to get through the first page. Speaking of lights… We counted no fewer than six lamps in this place which call for 3-way bulbs but do not have them. Ordinarily I don’t recommend 3-ways, but when it comes to lighting, they are essential. It is very unsatisfying to twist that knob turning on a lamp and have nothing happen… upon another two twists, the glow does not increase.
It’s clear the owner of this place is just plain cheap. They have made a frugal decision not to provide the better-quality lightbulbs. In fact, when we arrived, the 3-bulb vanity lights over the two bathroom sinks only had two bulbs in them. The property manager graciously rushed over with fluorescent replacements and the bathrooms are now, as John says, brighter than an NFL locker room. As a woman, I maintain there is a happy medium between bathroom vanity lights that are too dim to primp by, and so harsh that we forget everything we’ve learned about self-love and self-acceptance.
|Pretty view, though|
A very large deck shows off the glorious Sangre de Cristo mountains overlooking Santa Fe. Even in late May there’s still a bit of snow frosting the tops of these peaks. This is the outstanding feature of the condo. Sadly, several deficiencies destroy the Zen one hopes for. First of all, there is no, nada, zilch comfortable seating; just a round cafe table and four wrought iron chairs that poke you in various body parts. Second, the joy I got from watching a prairie dog frolic in the sand and brush below was squelched when someone came along and appeared to scatter poison into the creature’s hole. Finally, the serenity of meditation in this outdoor space is interrupted by traffic, including Hell’s Angels wannabes. The state highway is spitting distance from the balcony and the hogs come rolling through with startling regularity at full throttle. Most seem not to wear helmets, which is just plain stupid, especially since, as empirical evidence shows, drivers here are among the nation’s worst. There is more honking than in Chicago, Los Angeles or New York, which seems odd for a city that otherwise is laid back and prides itself on culture.
|Last cassette I played was a Raffi tape|
Speaking of culture… Vintage, retro and old-school fanatics, have I got some treats for you! Get out your Best of Bread, BTO or America cassettes and your pre-2012 iPods because there is a really rad stereo setup here for you to pop in those tapes, and – BONUS!!! – a cool iPod doc with a 30-pin connection that sits atop the awesome, countertop microwave and (before John unplugged it) blinks at you to remind it is there! Honestly, there’s probably an 8-track player around here somewhere. But, wait, there’s more!
The condo boasts TWO (caps theirs) flat screen TVs. The one in the main living area is a 2010 Sony model and the one in the master is something called an Insignia, a low-end brand found at Best Buy. While the rest of the world is unplugging, and streaming has become de rigueur, there is nary a Roku, Fire stick, or Apple TV to be found. There’s Direct TV with movie channels but no OnDemand, and a DVD player. Too bad we sent what was left of our DVDs to Goodwill.
The kitchen is a time capsule… not one digital thing about it. Back to basics, right?! The Whirlpool fridge is 32 years old. Seriously, the proof is inside: Manufactured in April 1987. So, if you yearn for filling and cracking cheap, plastic ice cube trays, you’ll be in heaven! I have a tip though: Save yourself the trouble and go buy a bag or two of ice.The electric (eww) range has nifty dials and an analog timer. According to GE’s coded model numbers, this beauty was manufactured in 1973. Is that even possible? Beware, the oven gives off a noxious odor, like burning plastic, while in use. Maybe most people just eat out for every meal when they’re visiting Santa Fe because some of the reviews actually refer to this kitchen as “well appointed,” and I suppose if you’re from June Cleaver’s generation it would be…
They were very careful in the featured photos of this place not to show any of the appliances, except for one sideways glance at the 1997 GE Potscrubber 640 dishwasher. There’s a Panasonic “The Genius” microwave, circa 1995, taking up valuable counter space. Today I noticed a big crack in the door, so of course I’m wondering, Is radiation leaking from this thing?
|Do I need a Silkwood shower?|
A couple of random observations before concluding this review… The ceiling fan in the master bedroom is fine, but the light doesn’t work… (What is it with lights here?!) There’s a toilet in the very odd adjoining 1.5 bath/laundry setup that is very low to the ground, reminiscent of elementary school lavs…
Some of the instructions to renters remind us that “this is not a hotel.” To prove it, they ask us to wash the linens and towels prior to leaving, despite the fact we’ve paid a cleaning fee. Geez. And this is the most expensive rental we’ve had since leaving L.A. Okay, I thought, grudgingly… until we learned we have to get our car out of the parking lot before 8 a.m. on departure day for re-striping of the parking spaces! The day before, the water will be turned off for an indeterminate amount of time – not the first time on our adventure that we’ve fallen victim to utility work. But that’s another story.