Monday, February 10, 2020

Arizona: Phoenix: We take our bathroom security very seriously

I stayed at a modest motel in Phoenix over the weekend.

I had occasion to use the restroom in the lobby building. It's kept locked. The door has a doorknob set higher than the norm, such that one must actually raise one's arm a bit to turn it. That was a surprising touch.

When I went to the reception desk to get a key, the woman reached into a drawer under her counter, then hefted a heavy-ass chain onto the tall counter between us. It was a chain that you'd find attached to a damp stone wall down in a dungeon.

Somehow, I didn't say anything, but I know my pupils must have dilated in surprise, and inside I was chortling. Holy geeeeeeee, are you kidding me?! And here I didn't have my camera with me.  Which I later rectified, as you can see from the fact that I did get some pics from a visit upon check out.

Motel restroom key chain. Phoenix, Arizona. February 2020.

Motel restroom key chain. Phoenix, Arizona. February 2020.

I wondered to myself if the weighty chain is also considered a potential weapon in case the lobby should be stormed by somebody with bad intentions. Because I could see that maybe happening at that motel. It has an Anything-Could-Happen-at-Any-Moment (and has already done) kinda vibe, in addition to a We-Don't-Put-Up-With-Any-Kinda-Your-Shit vibe.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Flashback to 2012: Caucasus Georgia: Georgians Are Not Afraid of Electricity

Sometimes it amazes me how completely clueless I can be about the most obvious things. Like un-shelled eggs inside a chicken. What did I think before? I think I thought nothing about it at all, thus was startled to see something so unexpected. Read on for the details.

Monday, February 20, 2012 

Georgia: Georgians Are Not Afraid of Electricity 

Georgians are not afraid of electricity like we Americans are.

Men and women regularly fix electrical things with pliers, tape, and I don't know what else.

My host, Irakli, opened up a power strip, fiddled with its guts, applied some tape on its cord, put it all back together again, and plugged in a radio.

Rustavi: Irakli fixes a powerstrip

Rustavi: Irakli fixes a powerstrip

Speaking of guts, my hostess, Neli, cleaned up a dead chicken while Irakli worked above. Did I know unlaid eggs were in a hen when it was butchered? I guess if I'd thought about it, I'd have maybe said yes. But I didn't, so I was morbidly scientifically interested in seeing this.

It's the damndest thing.

Rustavi: Eggs in hen

Rustavi: Eggs in hen

Rustavi: Eggs in hen

I didn't know this, but Neli uses these unlaid eggs in a special soup she makes of chicken broth, flour, milk and herbs. The soup I ate earlier today, from a different chicken.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Tucson, AZ: Threading

I had my brows and face threaded yesterday at a shop here in Tucson.

Holy mother of God it hurt! Maybe I exaggerate a little. But I don't know: It was intense.

I didn't remember such acute, scissor-like pain when I had my brows or face threaded before.

As I sat in the chair, I remembered past brow-zings with wax, tweezers or thread, some of which I collected in a post from 2015, and which I offer below:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Rootless Brow - zing

The other day, I had my brows waxed. While I lay on the table, I remembered other such times.

In Awassa, Ethiopia, two men at a salon threaded my brows. After my brows got cleaned up, I continued my walk "home," and saw:  
... there were 15 giant storks. Huge. One alighted, then disgorged food into the mouths of two gangly "teenagers." I watched, agog. A short walk further, directly before me, another tree filled with storks. Walking underneath (glad I had my hat on), I looked up and counted more than 10 oversize nests. As with the Bale Mountain forest, this was the stuff of medieval fairy tales.

Around the corner-ish from my temporary digs in Istanbul, I got my whole face threaded. Amazing how that works, cause you wouldn't think it would.

In 2010, on a road trip with my mother, I had my face cleaned up in a Walmart in Canyon City, Texas.

In Rustavi, Georgia, there were a couple of rugged waxings at a local salon. Yeow. But speaking of Caucasus Georgia, the Georgian women have spectacular brows.

Here's one woman's experience getting her brows done in Nice (waxed) and Palestine (tweezed).

Friday, January 17, 2020

Weekend in Yuma, Arizona, Part 5: Dateland

Dates, Dateland, Arizona. January 2020.


"Like a lot of people in Arizona, these [date] palms are not native to the Southwest."

On my way to Yuma, I zipped by Dateland. I promised myself to stop there on the way back home on Sunday. Which I did. 

The moment I walked into the Dateland travel store, I saw them. Jars of plump dates perched on the bar to the left. Succulent, decadent dates. Angled toward me in an inviting way, encouraging me to raise the steel lids, to pluck their thick bodies from the glass wombs, and gobble them up. Like a hen on a grub, fat and chewy.

I felt wonder at the prospect they might be available for tasting. I asked a store clerk: "Are these for tasting? Free?"

The clerk nodded affirmatively.

Oh, my. 

Spoiler alert:

Dates, Dateland, Arizona. January 2020.

The honey dates are the sweetest, moistest, sinful-est best.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Louisiana Loose End: New Roads and In Memorium

Ernest J. Gaines. Photo credit: Source: Academy of Achievement interview, 2001.

In memorium: Ernest J. Gaines

I've written several times about one of Louisiana's (and arguably, California's) sons, author Ernest J. Gaines.

He died in November.

Mr. Gaines was one of my two most important cultural interpreters for my time in Louisiana. (The other was James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux.)

Mr. Gaines told generations of stories of Louisiana. No, that's not right.

Mr. Gaines told stories of relationships. Relationships between men and women, between parents and children, between people who were enslaved and people who had supreme power over their daily lives, between people whose melanin content fell on a continuum from maple to walnut, between people whose ancestors originated in France and people whose ancestors came from what is now Senegal and Mali, between people who spoke French and people who spoke English, between black sharecroppers and white Cajun sharecroppers, between black Louisianans who stayed in Louisiana and those who joined the decades-long diaspora north or west.

Louisiana did play a role, of course. Louisiana was the one constant among the changing names and eras of Mr. Gaines' flawed heroes and heroines, villains, those who saw, those who saw and did not see, those who stood by, and those who stood up.

I drove three times to the New Roads area, driving by his house in nearby Oscar, pulling into the drive in front of his gate, pressing the intercom, in the hopes I'd be one of the lucky few to be able to visit the church on his grounds, the church he'd attended as a child, which he'd moved from its original location, to save it.  And, oh yes, to perhaps meet him in person. My attempts were for naught, alas.

En route to New Roads, Louisiana. January 2016.

New Roads, 2016

New Roads, Louisiana. January 2016.

On one of the New Roads trips, I poked into town.  I walked around one of the historic neighborhoods and took pictures of pretty bungalows, like these:

New Roads, Louisiana. January 2016.

New Roads, Louisiana. January 2016.

New Roads, Louisiana. January 2016.

Since I couldn't connect with Mr. Gaines directly, I looked for him through his past. As a tween, Mr. Gaines attended the St. Augustine Catholic School for several years before migrating to California. I found the church and attended a service there.

St. Augustine Catholic Church, New Roads, Louisiana. January 2016.

St. Augustine Catholic Church, New Roads, Louisiana. January 2016.

Wayward buggies

The "buggies" in New Roads, Louisiana, loiter wantonly just as they seem to do in all of Louisiana.

New Roads, Louisiana. January 2016.

On further reflection, the above photo suggests a conscious gathering of carts, likely up to no good.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Louisiana 2019 Loose End: Babies Jesus at the Flea Market

Babies Jesus at the Lafayette Jockey Lot. Lafayette, Louisiana. January 2019.

A year ago at this time, in South Louisiana, I said goodbye to my old travel mate and hello to my new. I was in the process of leaving my previous tourist-in-residence behind and en route to my new.

A friend and I visited the Lafayette Jockey Lot one morning, a weekend flea market, where I saw Babies Jesus.

Babies Jesus at the Lafayette Jockey Lot. Lafayette, Louisiana. January 2019.

Babies Jesus at the Lafayette Jockey Lot. Lafayette, Louisiana. January 2019.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

The Meaning of Yellow Flowers

Yellow flowers and rain gutter near Campbell and Fort Lowell. Tucson, Arizona. May 2019.

Yesterday, as I lay on my airbed reading a young-adult science fiction novel, I was warm; the surface supporting my body, soft. If I had to go to the bathroom, the toilet and sink were literally around the corner of my bedroom. Hungry? Get up and walk a few steps to my refrigerator or pantry, in clean socks, on a clean floor.

In a parallel universe, in Mexico City, was a young guy who'd slept on the street last night. It dropped into the 30s. In the past 18 months, he'd survived:
  • Journey in one of the caravans from Honduras to Mexico City
  • Journey into the US, where he was detained in an "icebox" for some time
  • Illness and despair when he returned to Mexico City
  • Year, in all, in Mexico City, with food and shelter insecurities
  • Isolation from family and friends back home, and the friends and short-term security he'd held while at Casa de los Amigos
  • Faltering hope

Such long-term hardship - beginning before he embarked on a self-rescue mission, when he joined that caravan from Central America - has pushed his spirit into a crevasse, and this weekend, maybe he is on a bus to Chiapas, Mexico, headed back in the direction of Honduras.  Honduras. Whose nickname from the Reagan era was: USS Honduras

He told me: "I don't want to keep suffering."

Here's the thing. There will be suffering in Honduras, too. But maybe it will be closer to family and old friends, so perhaps a more familiar suffering, with people who love him?

I say this with a question mark because I really don't have a clue. I can have an intellectual grasp of his life in this moment, but not the gut understanding of one who has also lived through a war. Because a war, it is, for the usual things: power and greed, both in-country and from out-of-country, and where men, women, and children, individuals like my cheeky, charming young guy are just collateral damage.

Oh, right. The yellow flowers.

In the U.S., yellow flowers bespeak happiness and joy. In Central America, death and funerals.