Santa Fe is bold, colorful and surprising. The city feels reminiscent of a long-past era in a distant place. Winding alleyways and historic buildings — like relics of a bygone world — seduce visitors and residents alike. Brilliant blues, reds and yellows adorn jewelry store windows and tapestry displays. Art galleries and museums shine light on diverse backgrounds and histories, and restaurants showcase authentic foods from every corner of the Earth. And, at the center of this bustling chaos, one of Santa Fe’s longest-standing parking lot attendants embodies the city’s unique character of history and authenticity. Many Santa Feans can’t imagine turning into the lot without this cheerful man’s bright greeting.
Just a short walk from the Plaza, on Nusbaum Street — which takes up only a single, quickly fleeting city block — Ardry Adams has watched over the Sena Plaza parking lot several days a week for nearly three decades. Adams explained that following his then-fiancée here was the reason he moved from East Texas to Santa Fe twenty-seven years ago. He found his position by word of mouth, as is still common in Santa Fe. Tipped off by a connection through his former fiancée’s mother, Adams made a trip over to Santa Fe Guard and Security, which managed the lot at the time. And though he’s played a variety of roles over the years, Adams has been working under the company’s umbrella ever since.
Adams greets each of his customers with attention and courtesy. Adams might call out from his booth, strolling to meet his customers as if they were old friends suddenly reacquainted. “Where are we going today?” he often asks. “La Casa Sena or The Shed?” Only a laugh and a smile later, Adams greets his next visitor with the same joyful service as the last. And even through a pandemic-necessitated mask, he is always smiling. It’s hard not to smile back. His uplifting demeanor is contagious.
Thousands of locals, other New Mexicans and tourists have visited the parking lot over Adams’ many years of service. “You become this surrogate confidant,” Adams said. “People get comfortable talking to you about certain things.” Reflecting on his role in the community, Adams said that he enjoys working with people. “I’m an out-there person, definitely an extrovert,” he said. “Dealing with people, working around people, you just be yourself.”
Ardry Adams embodies a sense of gratitude. “How are you doing today?” a customer might ask. “I’m old, I woke up, I’m glad,” Adams often lightheartedly responds. A cancer survivor in his mid-sixties, Adams believes that gratitude is about life; he said that he is blessed to wake up each day. “I’m two years younger than my dad was when he passed away from cancer,” he said. “Same thing.” Adams said that his outlook on life comes from the balance between “darkness and light.” He is adamant about passing his attitude on.
Adams’ gratitude and humor are infectious. Hayward Simoneaux, who has owned Todos Santos Chocolates and Confections since it opened twenty-one years ago, said that he sees Adams’ influence on his customers. “I can almost always tell when someone walks in and they’ve had an interaction with Ardry,” he said. “They’re smiling. They’re laughing.” Simoneaux said that it’s easy to see Adams’ gratitude. “It’s obvious that he’s grateful for things that we take for granted,” he said, “small things.”
Adams said that he has learned many lessons over the years. Masked, sitting on an outdoor bench, he said that he is especially grateful for what he has now. “Measured against the stuff that’s going on in the newspaper today, I’m so glad every day that I can wake up,” he said. Adams approaches each day in the same way. “I tell people all the time,” he said, “try to do at least one good thing every day.”
Geoff Lambeth is a writer and photographer based in Santa Fe. He spends his free time backpacking, traveling to new places and enjoying old music. Passionate about pursuing under reported issues and sharing untold stories, Geoff aims to showcase a range of experiences and viewpoints through his work.