Monday, June 8, 2009

Weekend Catchup: The Devil Went Down To Tucson

Travel is a funny thing.

There's so much anticipation and planning that goes into it, and then it seems to be over so suddenly. I swear if I had a bajillion dollars I would take last-minute grab-a-bag trips that lasted a month. That seems like the more pleasant ratio of planning to enjoyment, don't you think?

I did get to travel alone for the first time in a few years, which led to some interesting observations that either a) prove me to be the introspective, deep thinker I'd like to believe I am, or b) prove me to be completely insane. You pick!

Don't believe me?

Things that went through my head during the 2 hour wait:

* The airport smells at that hour of the morning (7am). I don't know why, but it really does. I was wishing desperately for a bottle of patchouli.

* I love small talk on the train to the terminals. A nice woman and I were chatting about the weird fans in the tunnels and how sometimes we almost expect the train to just shoot out the end of the tunnel like the Wonkavator. The guy next to us laughed rather more loudly than the joke warranted, and then did the accidental boob graze on his way out. Ah, just like sweet home Chicago!

* I was deeply amused by 2 rather old women (probably early 80s) who were giggling like teenagers over pictures of Brad Pitt in "US" magazine, and who were chatting cattily about Kate Gosselin's goofy hairdo.

* I love to look around at all the people and wonder where they're all going, don't you? Is that girl with too much makeup some kind of runaway? Is this just the first leg of her trip or the last after a long and disappointing foray into internet love? And how about that large family there... they're all doing their own thing (iPods, laptops, phones), and you wouldn't even know they were together except for their almost Osmond-like similarity of features. Where are they off to? Are they just on their way home and totally sick of each other, or is this just the start and the way they are?

* Old men shoes... I love them. They just don't give a hoot what you think of their Bass Weejuns with socks.

See? Insane.

I was happy to have ended up with a window seat; my favorite part about flying is the takeoff and we had a particularly spectacular one, as it was a bit overcast. We headed up and up and then into the low-hanging clouds, and then popped out above them into a magnificent view of the Rockies. There were shadows on the tops of the clouds from the higher ones riding the atmosphere... glorious.

And so, on to Tucson! (You can see photos of the trip this here... if you have a few minutes to kill, go look!)

Upon arrival at 9:30 AM, it was already pretty toasty... it hit 107 that day. It's actually not that bad if you stay in the shade and take it easy, but still.

I was really glad to see my mom and of course the kid... it had been a more different two week break from motherhood than I've had in... hm. I couldn't even tell you. Not different in a bad way, but rather in an "oh yeah you have a whole life of your own to lead...get to it!" sort of a way. I've been in mom-mode so completely and for so long that I sort of forgot that about the fact of my own existence, if that makes any sense? It was nice to have the touchstone of their familiarity and routine.

Our plan was to drive down to Bisbee, AZ and explore the town... we didn't actually realize it was 100 miles from Tucson until hit that "are we there yet" moment while in the middle of a whole lot of gorgeous nothingness... it is really quite beautiful in the desert, it's not the wasteland you might think.

Once in Bisbee, we found we had it mostly to ourselves (tourist season being over after Memorial Day), and had a nice lunch in the Copper Queen Hotel (reputed to be haunted, but I got absolutely no vibes... not even an "oooh, old building" one. Hm.), followed by some walking in the town. I couldn't believe how much art there was there, from paint and pottery to metal sculpture. It's probably even better in Winter... note to self.

We stopped in what I can only describe as a tschotchke paradise (I think that's the right place, anyway... did I mention it was 107 degrees and my brain was melting?). There was so much stuff in that shop (3 floors worth!) that it was almost painful not to be able to see everything. Each piece in the cases had a hand-lettered tag describing the piece, and it all ranged from 50's-era cowboy kitsch to Depression-era glass to old books that you just know smelled great to an entire basket of Barry Goldwater pins.

There was also this old alarm clock that at some point had a twirling ballerina, but now the ballerina lies dead and tilted behind the plastic. I saw so much looking at this - the little girl's farmhouse room where it was a treasured possession, the dusty spread outside the window where Daddy was trying so hard to make the fields work - but she knew they'd have to leave soon. She just hoped she'd be able to take a few things with.

I don't know what tune this might have played, but I bet that the old woman the little girl became still hummed it sometimes when she cast her thoughts back to that little room at the top of the stairs.


I want to go back just to spend awhile there. It's like Needful Things opened an outlet.

My favorite moment... walking past the many art galleries and spying in one of them a woman dressed rather like Holly Golightly, head cocked to the side in her black dress, hat and pumps, contemplating a painting, hand on chin. I tried for a photo (nothing like freaking out the locals, but she was accommodating and posed happily), but it didn't come out. Alas.

On the way home (and man that really was a long drive) we passed by a Border Patrol incident in progress... about 20 adults, sitting in a group under a tree, while the big white vans waited on the side of the road and the officers stood around them with sun-glassed authority. They work so hard to get there that you feel bad knowing that all that planning and dangerous trekking was for nothing... talk about travel being a funny thing.

Friday was busy but fun. We got going early and did a walking tour of downtown Tucson. We saw some really lovely art and old buildings that you just wouldn't see driving by the same place every day for a year... I think every resident should do this once.

The city of Tucson has a lot of art in public places such as underpasses and street signs. In particular there I liked the series of photos of neighborhoods and people from the past 100 years or so, done in black and white tiles. They're almost shrine-like, and really give me the feeling of a shared past of American culture - the bobby-soxers in the barrio neighborhoods of Tucson were no different than the ones in Chicago or New York.

After our walking around the city we sat down to a delicious southwestern lunch and did a little shopping in the art galleries that surrounded the restaurant (the last stop on the walking tour, naturally), then headed to Mt. Lemmon for a little cooling off and some killer views. Halfway up you'd swear you were somewhere north of Boulder; it's absolutely amazing how quickly the climate and surroundings changed. The road up there even gets closed in Winter due to heavy snowfall... not what you'd expect right outside of Tucson!

Near the top of Mt. Lemmon is the town of Summerhaven, a beautiful little mountain town that almost didn't survive the 2003 fire that devastated it. Everything was gone, but these folks came back even stronger than they were. It was deeply inspiring to see the shops and homes rebuilt.

We stopped in The Living Rainbow gift shop and I purchased a few of the owners Fire Beads. She had a shed full of thousands of glass beads behind the original store which burned to the ground in the fire. When sifting through the wreckage she found many of the beads had melted together and were in pieces... but they were still there. She was able to salvage a lot of the glass and make *new* beads which she features in some of her art and which are also embedded in the sidewalks outside of the shop; that she could find beauty and art in all that devastation is an amazing thing.

And the saguaros were blooming.

Saturday we were headed home after a nice breakfast and half an hour of watching F-16s taking off and landing (best reason for a half an hour delay EVER). We hit a bit of turbulence (read: massive air pocket) on the way back that was bad enough to send the flight attendant pogo-ing into the air. I love it even though it makes me nauseated... it's freaky, sure, but what can you do but enjoy it? It's not like you can do anything to stop it, so you might as well treat it like a roller coaster... an untethered, airborne, flying rollercoaster. Wheeeeee! We were picked up by Melissa, who was kind enough to drive out and get us, and then it was back home again. (I totally owe her.)

The cats were pleased.

We didn't get much done Sunday except for nails and painting pictures and getting out for dinner with Colorado Alterna-Dad; a nice relaxing day.

Tomorrow... the kid's very own travelogue of her adventures in Arizona! I'm going to take dictation tonight and post it verbatim, if I can squash my need to be grammatically correct long enough; at least I know it'll be spelled correctly! (I'm so mean, I know.)


Julie said...

I had a great time, too, especially our Mt Lemmon drive and our slow and easy stroll to the airport. You should go see this:
for some great Tucson art, public and private (I wish I had known about this guy when you were here - I only read about him this morning, and I plan on sending him some photos for his collage).

Chris said...

I wouldn't necessarily blame the guy for an intentional boob-graze. I mean, it's kinda hard not to graze your boobs. You've got big boobs. I'm just sayin'.

curegirl0421 said...

@ Mom - Yes, Mt. Lemmon was gorgeous and that guys murals are awesome! I was tickled that he had a picture of one of the murals that caught my eye too.

@ Chris - Internally, I forgave him because, ya know, they're hard to miss. And MAGNIFICENT. hahahaha

Chris said...

They're real and they're spectacular! (Seinfeld)