Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Tucson Christmas

December 16 - 25, 2015:

Pack Rats are an issue again this year and are striking fear around the campground.  A number of campers are having issues with pack rats building nests in the under carriage of their RV’s or vehicles.  We are in the desert where they thrive and they find RV’s and vehicles to be very nice nesting places.  The popular theory to deter them is to string lights all around the vehicle and under hood areas.  This however, hasn’t proven very effective and since poison is out of the question, trapping seems to be the next best viable option.  We haven’t had any Pack Rats yet, but since they are in an RV next to us, we are concerned.  This could get interesting ?

Oddly, flipping through the TV channels last night, I found the the classic horror movie, “The Giant Claw” playing. It is about a giant bird with a protective antimatter shield terrorizing the world, perched on the Empire State building in NYC with people running and screaming in the streets.  A secret weapon was built by a couple of scientists to penetrate the birds shield to enable killing it by conventional weapons.  We may need this weapon here to deal with the Pack Rat situation.

The terrifying Giant Claw
It was a cold night at La Cocina and as result, Lana and Kevin played inside the cantina.  It was filled to capacity with a large birthday party and various other hungry diners.  A second birthday group eventually showed up and several “Happy Birthdays” were sung.  By 9 PM the cantina cleared of diners and the party crowd was left allowing Kevin to unleash into a somewhat rousing rendition of  “Johnny be good”.  

After driving around for a year, I decided to add side step bars to the Jeep, which you would think should be standard equipment.  I ordered them on Amazon, received them in about 3 days and as advertised were an easy bolt on.  They look nice, but actually are not very effective, in fact they sort of get in my way when getting in and out of the Jeep.

New step rails

We unpacked our one Christmas box and put up our little tree this week along with a string of colored lights on the front of the RV.  The Christmas presents must also be of a manageable size for the RV. Bigger is not always better !

That's an RV Christmas 

A sampling of Twinkles gifts

I went out on Thursday to explore around Tucson, to see what is new or has changed since last year.  I saw some positive signs of much construction and renovation of historic houses in the Barrio Libre section.  There are 27 of these neighborhoods in Tucson of differing ages and architectural styles.  The original Spanish walled outpost from around 1860 is where the city of Tucson started.  The older sections of Tucson were originally all Mexican, of mostly adobe construction. The surviving houses from this period are now appreciated and highly sought after for renovation. The real charm and treasure of Tucson is the cross cultural Spanish/Mexican/Anglo “get along together” respect and attitude.  Where else could you have a statue of Mexican revolutionary Poncho Villa in a downtown park ? 

Tucson street side art

Another Tucson art panel

We stand with Rosa is a Tucson movement to keep Rosa
from being deported back to Mexico

A Baptist church in Tucson

Interesting mural

Ugly but honest ?

A Christmas shrine in a Tucson window

Kindness, Beauty and Truth in downtown Tucson

There were two good campground concerts this week.  On Friday evening it was a group called C,S &M that really does justice to Crosby, Stills and Nash (C,S & N).  They were way better than expected and had a decent comedy routine as well.   On Tuesday it was Heather “Lil’ Mama” Hardy who is a classically trained violinist who now does mostly blues.  She plays around town with many of the local blues players in various formats.  The bands that come into the campground usually tone down down their volume and are expected to do a more “senior” repertoire.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, at least here people are listening and applauding and often times the musicians are making more money than they would in a bar or club.  

Saturday evening we went out to dinner with a few campground friends to celebrate Jack and Carole Cornell’s  50th wedding anniversary. 

That's Jack and Carole at left rear of the table

Wednesday night I am back to the Hotel Congress for a music event.  It was a great show with a couple of Tucsons’ most legendary, or perhaps notorious, musicians along with a couple of rising local stars.  As I was leaning against the bar, this hunched over man with a cane hobbled in and a number of people came over to give him hugs.  I had no idea who he was but thought he must be somebody special, which became apparent when he took the stage.  I had never heard of Billy Sedlmayr, but I was mesmerized by a song he played called “Tucson Kills”.  Latter, I did a search on the internet and found his full story and what an incredibly wild, crazy and sad story it is.  I also found a great video of his song Tucson Kills done at LaCocina.  This show kicked off with Gabriel Sullivan and Brian Lopez who just returned from a European tour.  They were so good and compliment each other perfectly.  

Gabriel Sullivan and Brian Lopez

I’m reading a book about Everett Rouse in hopes of understanding his short but famous life.  He did some wandering around the southwest in the early 1900’s visiting many of the places we have been to.  He mysteriously disappeared on a trek, a massive search effort took place, but he was never found.  He was an artist and intellectual of sorts, if that is possible, at the age of only 20 years.  He actually became much more famous and revered after his death.

We have traveled on many of his paths

Christmas is a family type of holiday that can be kind of weird and sad for us wandering nomads.  My oldest daughter Jessica celebrated her birthday on the 23rd which always brings back fond Christmas memories for me.  Happy Birthday Jessica !  On the sad side, this is the first Christmas that I will not be speaking to or visiting my dear mother who I am sure is now in a better place.  This Christmas we will be spending it here at Desert Trails for the first time, while in past years we always went to my sisters house in Phoenix.  

We had a sort of block party in our “M” Row of the campground on Christmas Eve.  Actually it started around 3 PM and continued into the evening with lots of food, drink and merriment. 

The "M" Row Christmas Eve Party

Christmas morning, we opened our presents which were kept conservative this year.  This was followed by a Christmas pot luck dinner with turkey and ham supplied by the campground. There was much heavy duty eating which is usually the case when it is free.  This was followed by the singing of Christmas carols and the arrival of Santa Claus.  Afterwards a walk out into the desert behind the campground felt especially nice.  It was then more deserts at a neighboring RV.

This is a good place to end this blog with one final week to go in the year,

Twinkles and Slick 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Desert Trails

December 8 - 15, 2015:

We arrived back in Tucson at 11 PM and it was about midnight by the time we arrived back at Desert Trail RV Park.  The old gang is all here, it’s like a home coming week!  This is the start of our 4th winter here and Twinkles is having a glorious time seeing everyone and planning her activities.  I’m mostly the anti-social type but have to admit it’s nice staying in one place for a while and the people here are extremely friendly and nice.

Nice to be back in the neighborhood again

They had a most excellent concert here on Tuesday evening by a local member of the local Pascua Yaqui indian tribe named Gabriel Ayala. He is a world class classical guitarist who is amazing and inspirational to watch and listen to, another one of those “anything is possible in American” success stories.  He told how he started playing late, at age 15, then practiced daily until he passed out to catch up.  He did much more than catch up ! 

I am feeling soft and weak so I joined LA fitness for the next couple of months, you can pay month by month and it’s not too far away. All those young pumped up bodies will hopefully motivate me.  These places always schedule you for an assessment with a personal trainer, which turns out to be a sales pitch to use a personal trainer, which I have no interest in at all.  I actually hate the gym, but it feels so good to get pumped up a bit. 

Next stop was the local Pima County Library of which I am a card carrying member.  They renovated it this year, took away much of the books, but added many computer terminals and the free WiFi is very very good. I suppose this is the way of the future with getting your books on line.

The music scene here is great as usual, could see live music every night if I desired.  Wednesday night I go to Monterey Court in Tucson for their monthly Tucson Songwriters Showcase event.  There were nine musicians who took turns playing original songs, it was excellent.  I will definitely be making this a regular activity this year.  This place is amazing, they have live music almost every night.

The stage at Monterey Court

Friday night I’m off to downtown Tucson to the Hotel Congress for a concert event.  A couple of my favorite musicians in Tucson, Miss Lana Rebel and Kevin Michael Mayfield are having a CD release show. They have their full band which I have not seen before.  The Hotel Congress is one of the college crowd hot spots spots in Tucson and the place was packed.

Show poster

Miss Lana and Kevin

Monday night it’s back to the Chicago Bar to see the Ronstadt Generations Band play.  They are so good, I especially like it when do the Spanish songs and polkas.  The Chicago Bar is a real dedicated live music club where people actually go and listen to the music and dance.

Live at the Chicago Bar every Monday

Thursday morning I go on a moderate hike at Tucson Mountain Park, needing to get some Sonoran Desert views.  The cactus and plants here are so vibrantly green at this time, doesn’t seem much like a desert.

View from the trail

Something to ponder left along the trail

Friday night and again on Monday it rained and we are having a cold spell for a few days. It’s actually colder here than in our home town in central New Jersey.  It was 24 degrees at 7 AM on December 16th, that just isn't right ?  

We go to the Tucson 4th street winter festival on Sunday, it’s a great street event, probably the best one we have seen anywhere in our travels.  They have lots of artistic and creative vendors, food and music and it was a beautiful day.  I saw my favorite street performers, St. Cinder playing again on the sidewalk, they are so good and they were selling CD’s like crazy, something rare these days.

Lots of Lemonade in front of the Hippie Gypsy store

Shirt on the left was my favorite

In poor taste

Lots to eat

Big crowds

The kid is fascinated by the cat

These guys are define awesome !

Large pieces of smoking meat

Sunday evening at Desert Trails, the premium area of the campground, known as “the Circle 7” held their annual Luminarias Christmas event.  Huge tables filled with desert items, hot chocolate, hot cider and many christmas lights and fires, all good.

Many lights

Well, then it’s back to the gym on Monday, the muscles are hurting, but if it’s any consolation, I’m still in better shape than many of these kids. 

The Tucson Museum of Art is having a western pulp fiction exhibit which I needed to see.  It was really a good exhibit of art used in western pulp fiction books and magazines from the 1920's to the present.  They also had great exhibits on Latin American folk art and ancient objects from 1600 BC to the present. 

Collecting these could be my new obsession

The good guys are always white anglos' ?

There is always a damsel in distress

Adam and Eve objects

Tree of Life pottery

I'm striving to do this

Amazing ancient bowls

Duane Bryers southern Arizona artist 1911-2012
is a incredible story

Twinkles is having a great time food shopping in Tucson at Trader Joe's and Sprouts, a couple of her favorite activities here.  

Enough activity for this week, now to concentrate on Christmas and our plans for next year.

Twinkles and Slick  

Friday, December 11, 2015

Phoenix to Tucson and family time in New Jersey

November 30 - December 7, 2015:

This is how I want to remember Mom

Happier Days

First order of business is a doctor appointment to get Twinkles arm cast removed which goes well.  She has been looking forward to this day for a long time.  It’s then back to the campground to quickly pack up and get on the road for Tucson.  We take route 85 which is a mile from the campground to Gila Bend and then route 8 to Casa Grande where we get onto I-10.  This is a somewhat longer and slower route to take, compared to straight through Phoenix on I-10, but far less traffic and stress and we are in no hurry and I certainly don't need more stress.  I arrive at our destination Desert Trails RV Park around 3 PM about an hour later than Twinkles who is already out socializing.  We get into our site and make the basic connections just in time for “happy hour”. 

Getting prepared for the trip on Wednesday is the next priority, what to take, how many bags and carry-ons ?  It’s not that much colder in New Jersey at present, but we still need warm clothes.   

At the Tucson airport, the news is about yet another terrorist type killing spree in California, just the thing to add some anxiety to the day.  Otherwise our flights are on time, the flying conditions are good and my center seat turns into a window seat when I agree to switch with a woman to be next to her husband.  I always find it calming when flying to look down at the amazing patterns and sculptures of the western landscape from the air and then the snow covered peaks.  Our connecting flight arrives at Newark at 11 PM, then the usual craziness with a long wait for baggage and car rental shuttle.  It was 2 AM by the time we arrived at our hotel in Hightstown, NJ, a long day !

I never tire of these views

This week is all about friends and family although I did manage to sneak over and start the 38 Dodge up and rev’d the engine a few times.  

We had a neighborhood friends get together for dinner on Thursday evening that was very nice. On Friday, it was a Christmas tree cutting session with my son Jeremy and grand daughter Sierra.  This was a welcome rite of Christmas, something that can't be duplicated in Arizona.  Saturday evening was a family dinner (more like a feast, (thanks to Lee and Lisa !) with my sisters Doris and Marie and their children and grandchildren.  My daughter Jessica also arrived from Florida.

Sierra with her leopard skin boots

Helping Dad cut the tree

She will driving soon enough !

Jeremy and Sierra in the sled

Checking out the Goats

Saturday was my Moms funeral in Cranbury, New Jersey at 10 AM and very well attended by the Everett clan and several Dey and Stout members on my mothers side.  I saw many people that sad to say, I haven’t seen in decades.  Afterwards most family members came back to the house for a luncheon and a grand family reunion.  This was followed in the evening with a ride to Princeton to check out the holiday sights.  Sunday was spent at my son’s house, eating leftovers, then a trip to the airport to drop off my daughter Jessica followed by another meal with my son Jeremy, Sierra and my sisters family.  Monday we had breakfast at the old Hightstown Diner with my son Jeremy and Sierra.  We latter caught up to my sister Marie and her family at the another local diner for a coffee. Overall it was a sad occasion but we saw many people who I haven’t seen in a very long time, the weather cooperated and and everything turned out well.

Old photos

A porch full of family

Son Jeremy, daughter Jessica, granddaughter Sierra and half sister Stephanie

We had flights back to Tucson on Monday afternoon.  The ride to Newark and our flights were without incident and we arrived back at Tucson ahead of schedule at 11 PM.

The view in Chicago airport terminal
View from the plane window

We will now get back into a normal routine of more exercise, healthy eating and that warm Arizona sun.  This year has been a great one for us but has gone way too fast.  We are done traveling for this year  and have no real definite plan for the next one, but rest assured it will be interesting.

Live long and well my friends, 
Twinkles and Slick