Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Stuff: Goodbye, Georgia Towel

My Georgian towel. May 2019.

This towel looks homely, doesn't it? Colors dimmed and dull, threads worn, edges frayed? The colors, even when they were fresh, never fashionable?

It's not a soft towel, and that's why I favored it, because its ridged texture felt like a luxe exfoliating cloth on my skin after a shower. It's the towel of hearty Svans of the Caucasus Mountains.

I brought this towel back from Georgia, the result of a swap of towels with my hostess in Old Rustavi, Nely. I gave her one of my softer, thick towels in exchange for this thin, austere one, because I'd become so fond of it.

After eight happy years with my towel of the Caucasus, yesterday was the day that I cut it into rectangles so I could re-purpose it into cleaning rags.

I'll toss it away, bit by bit, after I distribute some of its Georgian DNA, accompanied by scouring powder or bleachy spray, over my kitchen and bathroom surfaces in the Sonoran Desert, far from the Black Sea.

An honorable end to its years of service to softer humanoid surfaces.

My Georgian towel. May 2019.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tucson, AZ: Year of the Lizard

Lizard eating insect. Opelousas, Louisiana. April 2015.

I like lizards. Even their name: Lizard.

Lizard looking for love. Opelousas, Louisiana. April 2015.

In places past, I collected: 

Side-splotched lizard. El Paso, Texas. August 2016.

Tucson will be the year of the lizard.

Lizard, Tohono Chul Botanical Gardens, Tucson, Arizona. May 2019.

Lizard art. Tucson, Arizona. March 2019.

Compendia of lizards in these here parts:

Lizard art. Desert Diamond Casino. Sahuarita, Arizona. May 2019.

Below is a slide show of my cumulative lizard collection, so it will grow as my time in Arizona grows. Mostly from Arizona, but some from other places.


Do dinosaurs count as lizards? I'll have to think about that.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Tucson, AZ: International Wildlife Museum

International Wildlife Museum, Tucson, Arizona. May 2019.

Yesterday was International Museum Day, and the International Wildlife Museum in Tucson threw open its doors for free admission. I was in!

International Wildlife Museum, Tucson, Arizona. May 2019.

The diorama of the bobcat snatching a bird from the air reminded me of this preposterous situation I witnessed by an Arkansas road, where a duck had died in the clutching branches of a tree:

Duck caught in branches, Arkansas. January 2012.

Tucson's International Wildlife Museum is petite compared to Chicago's Field Museum and Springfield's Wonder of Wildlife extravaganza, and some of the animal specimens are showing signs of age, but I like how the Tucson museum makes so many exhibits touchable to visitors.

International Wildlife Museum, Tucson, Arizona. May 2019.

I could stroke the head and mane of this ram and sweep my hand over the horns.

International Wildlife Museum, Tucson, Arizona. May 2019.

It felt nice to be greeted from on high by this giraffe when I entered a new room.

International Wildlife Museum, Tucson, Arizona. May 2019.

International Wildlife Museum, Tucson, Arizona. May 2019.

International Wildlife Museum, Tucson, Arizona. May 2019.

International Wildlife Museum, Tucson, Arizona. May 2019.

International Wildlife Museum, Tucson, Arizona. May 2019.

International Wildlife Museum, Tucson, Arizona. May 2019.

International Wildlife Museum, Tucson, Arizona. May 2019.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Tucson, AZ: Tohono O'odham: Tepary Beans

Tepary beans and tortilla, Waila Festival, Sahuarita, Arizona. May 2019.

Yesterday a friend and I went to the 3rd Annual Waila Festival at the Desert Diamond Casino in Sahuarita, which is a town not far from Tucson.

The Waila Festival brings together various elements of the Tohono O'odham communities in the region, such as music, food, jewelry, woodwork, and other artisanal products.

My friend and I shared a bowl of tepary beans and short rib meat, paired with a tortilla.

Before we ordered the dish, the festival vendor gave me a spoonful for tasting. Not much spicing, but the bean itself had a flavor new to me. It carries a bit of its own spice in its little body, which I was curious to investigate further. There were about as many tender morsels of short-rib meat in the mix as one might see in one's childhood kitchen in a large family, and mom is stretching the expensive stuff so everyone can have a little.

The tortilla was thin-thin and fried, wilty from its weight in oil, with a hint of sweetness, I thought.

I'd never heard of tepary beans, so when I got home, I looked them up. National Public Radio's, The Salt, did a piece in 2018 on tepary beans and their connection to Tohono O'odham's heritage: Arizona's Tepary Beans Preserve A Native Past, Hold Promise For The Future. A related video below from KJZZ in Phoenix:

KJZZ also did a cute video about tepary beans here:

Tepary beans "taste like the desert."

Monday, May 13, 2019

Sierra Vista, AZ: Stormy Clouds

Stormy clouds and light, Highway 90 near Sierra Vista, Arizona. May 2019.

On the way back to Tucson from hummingbird banding, cloudy skies over a light-filled bowl inside a mountain circle bid me pull over to the side of the road to take photos.

Stormy clouds and light, Highway 90 near Sierra Vista, Arizona. May 2019.

Stormy clouds and light, Highway 90 near Sierra Vista, Arizona. May 2019.

Stormy clouds and light, Highway 90 near Sierra Vista, Arizona. May 2019.

Stormy clouds and light, Highway 90 near Sierra Vista, Arizona. May 2019.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Sierra Vista, AZ: Hummingbird Banding

Cholla in bloom, San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, Arizona. May 2019.

In my elementary and middle school eras, the same girl sat behind me in homeroom. Karen had long brown hair, with every thick strand always in perfect place. Many mornings, Karen would lean over her school desk toward the back of my head to tell me a joke. It was usually off-color. Several of Karen's jokes are imprinted into my brain. 

Cholla in bloom, San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, Arizona. May 2019.

One of them was a question-and-answer joke:

Karen: Have you ever smelled mothballs? 
Me: Yes.
Karen: How'd you get their tiny little legs apart?

Cholla in bloom, San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, Arizona. May 2019.

Early this month, as I stood in line one evening at my local Fry's grocery store, the woman in front of me exclaimed to the cashier that she'd just returned from hummingbird banding, and how exhilarating it was.

Cholla in bloom, San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, Arizona. May 2019.

I had two immediate reactions: 
  • I must go there!
  • How'd they get their tiny little legs apart? 

Cholla in bloom, San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, Arizona. May 2019.

I did go.

You may wonder why I've planted so many flowering cholla photos in an article on hummingbird banding.

Cholla in bloom, San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, Arizona. May 2019.

The empty hummingbird feeder below - rigged up with a remote-control trap - tells the story. The bulk of the north-flying migrant hummingbirds have already passed through, leaving mostly the resident flutterbirds, who maybe weren't in the mood for tricky human shenanigans on the day of my visit.

Hummingbird trap, San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, Arizona. May 2019.

However, one lady hummingbird took a hit for the home team, and I've got some of the weighing, banding, and release rituals captured in the video below:

Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory (SABO) volunteers do the trapping, recording, banding, and releasing at the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, which is outside Sierra Vista.

One of the volunteers suggested I return the last week of August or the first week of September to enjoy the height of the southbound migration. I will do so, for sure.

Cholla in bloom, San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, Arizona. May 2019.

When I lived in Alamogordo, I was a lucky chick to participate in duck banding at the annual Bosque del Apache National Refuge's Festival of Cranes. I got to hold a newly-banded duck and release it into the air. Gosh, that was fun. A video of a group release below:

In case you can never get enough of flowering chollas, you can find the video of same swaying in the breeze here.

Cholla in bloom, San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, Arizona. May 2019.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Tucson, AZ: International Day of Jazz 2019

Ada Redd Austin, Tucson, Arizona. April 2019.

Being so new to Tucson, the jazz-related organizations here perplex me. Like the Broussards in Abbeville, Louisiana, they share a surname, but not a close familial connection, other than jazz? Families can be so complicated, can't they?

Gospel choir, Tucson, Arizona. April 2019.

Which is a lead-in to my frustration that the marketing for the specific International Jazz Day event at Jacome Plaza, hosted by the (one of?) Tucson Jazz Society, in downtown Tucson, was so dismal, it required assiduous detective work to find it so I could share the details with friends. Which likely contributed to the low turnout despite the excellence of some of the performers.

Jazz trio, Tucson, Arizona. April 2019.

It's only out of appreciation for the same organization's hosting of the Sunday jazz jams at Brother John's that I worked so hard to find the damn information. If not for that, after about 10 minutes of searching, I'd have said fuck it, and sought out one of the other International Jazz Day events in Tucson.

Now that I've spilled my ire, look at this ridiculously delicious sweet-n-spicy hot dog that I gobbled messily while listening to the lovely student performance of classical music that opened up the evening's event.

Sweet 'n spicy hot dog, Tucson, Arizona. April 2019.

If one's gut system devours a low-brow hot dog while one's brain matter sips high-brow music, do the two average out to middle-brow?

Speaking of family, the gentleman who cheffed the food truck at the event is the same man who takes photographs of mellow jazz, beer, and BBQ folks on Sunday afternoons at Brother John's, selling them the prints.

But on to the music.

Hoo-wee, Ada Redd Austin's voice is lush, elastic, muscular. A taste below, which includes not only an example of Ms. Austin's rich voice, but the enthusiastic collaboration of pianist Lamont Arthur and the helpful audience, who knew the words.

A jazz trio put us in a chill zone.

Neamen Lyles closed us out with a wowww set. Mr. Lyles kicked ass with his own strong self, and every single member of Hands and Feet did it up just as fine.

Neamen Lyles and Hands and Feet, Tucson, Arizona. April 2019.

A short video here:

And a longer video here:

What a glorious way to end a day.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Tucson, AZ: A Walk in Keeling Neighborhood

Keeling neighborhood, Tucson, Arizona. May 2019.

My plan in Alamogordo, Lafayette, Opelousas, and El Paso was: Get photos of different neighborhoods in each city. But my pattern was to deliver only one or two.

Keeling neighborhood, Tucson, Arizona. May 2019.

There's a good chance Tucson won't be any different, but anyhoo, here's a walk in one of Tucson's neighorhoods: Keeling. It's in central Tucson. I think it qualifies as part of midtown. I'm still fuzzy on midtown's borders.

Keeling neighborhood, Tucson, Arizona. May 2019.

A slideshow below, which I'll add to from time to time. Or not.

Keeling Neighborhood

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Rootless: A New Vehicular Mate, Part 4: Empty

Empty car, Tucson, Arizona. May 2019.

Now that I've moved into my digs-for-a-year, I have an empty car. It's the first time in six months. Six months.

The empty car is my new vehicular mate, my Prius. Which I've come to believe is darn cute.

Once I scooped out all of the stuff, I put the rear seats down to protect the upholstery. I climbed in and stretched out in the back to imagine how it will be to sleep in the car when I camp next.

You can see the collapsible walking poles I bought for the treacherous paths in Caucasus Georgia; the sleeping bag that is so old, you'd have to do radioactive dating to ascertain its age; and the door mat that I found at Lake Catherine State Park, left behind by a previous camper.

Related posts: 

My New Vehicular Mate, Part 1
My New Vehicular Mate, Part 2
My New Vehicular Mate, Part 3
My New Vehicular Mate, Part 4

Friday, May 3, 2019

Rootless: Moving Days and Blind Spots

House moving, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. December 2011.

The last Friday in April was moving day in Tucson, out of Temporary Home #2, and into what is my permanent home for the year.

Have I finally learned there is almost always a move-out surprise? Hopefully, with this move-out, I did. But before I get to that surprise ...

I visit the ghosts of moves-out past

Leaving Ferguson 2018.

Leaving El Paso 2017.

Leaving Opelousas 2016.

Leaving Alamogordo 2013.

Leaving Caucasus Georgia 2012.

The present move-out

My move from the shared house to the apartment ALMOST went smooth as silk. But suddenly I heard one of my housemates calling my name repeatedly from downstairs. “Mzuri! Mzuri! MZURI!” I couldn’t imagine what the heck was going on, and selfishly, I felt a momentary irritation, as I was so near the finish line, with only a few tasks to complete before I left.

But I finally caught the urgency in my housemate's voice, and I skedaddled downstairs to see what was what. I imagined that one of our other housemates had collapsed and required emergency assistance.

Well, it did involve another housemate, but it seems he had gotten physical with his mate. I'll call him "Jack." In the course of my six-week stay in the shared household, I had already noticed some yellow flags about Jack's attitudes toward women in general and toward his mate, specifically.

Jack and his partner had gotten into an argument and she’d decided to leave. Jack had forcefully commandeered some personal items from her, which she needed to have in order to leave, and he refused to release the items to her.

A disturbing phone conversation with the absentee landlady, from whom the other housemate and I had requested an intervention, revealed the landlady's dismissive view of the physical and verbal intimidation that we witnessed.

In short order, Jack turned his ugly wrath onto me, dumping personal attacks on top of my head – which is his M.O. with his mate. In the moment, Jack’s diatribe rolled off my back because I knew his verbal vomit had nothing to do with me, and only had to do with Jack, but suddenly in the afternoon, after I’d got mostly unloaded into my new apartment, I felt shaken.

Blind spots

When people assault you with personally vicious words, it leaves stripes, and then when others - such as the landlady, in this instance - dismiss the verbal violence as just a passing storm, it inflames the wounds. I had several bad moments of  aftershocks throughout the weekend.

It's easier to blame the victim for such onslaughts, isn't it? Or cast doubt about the target's interpretation or veracity or levels of "sensitivity"? Or just pretend it didn't happen? If we can make any of these stick, then that lets us off the hook from having to ruffle the status quo in our family, job, faith community, volunteer organization, or social groups - wherever it is abusers swing their machetes. 

I've seen it happen to me and to others in my family, social, and professional circles. 

By letting ourselves off the hook from doing anything about the abusers in our midsts, we can:
  1. Sustain the fiction that our group or organization is tight and strong; 
  2. Avoid making ourselves a target; 
  3. Sidestep the time, money, and energy to remove them from their position and secure a replacement; 
  4. Spare ourselves from public embarrassment and scrutiny; and
  5. Allow the abusers to continue doing the useful things they do for our group, so we don't have to step up to do them.

Heck, every day, we see our president dump slop onto the heads of anyone who disagrees with him, irrespective of their youth or their abilities to protect themselves from the onslaught emotionally, financially, socially, or professionally. Disgusting stuff. Ugly stuff.

When we turn a blind eye to such abuse, we can tolerate all kinds of awfulness. We find ways to justify our blindness.

Every day, for me, to see the headlines on the president's attack du jour is like watching the plane plow into the World Trade Center over and over and over and over again.

I can intellectualize my experience of such abuse on both the national scale and on the domestic scale, such as what happened on my moving-out day. I can practice detachment. This is useful, up to a point. It's like rubbing sunscreen into my skin: helpful, but some harmful rays still get through.

My spirit flags at times.

Thus was my most recent moving day.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Flashback: The Economics of Laundry

Clothes drying on branch, Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia. September 2011.

When I moved to Lafayette, Louisiana, I had to plug money into a washer and dryer to do laundry. This prompted my 2013 post: The Economics of Laundry., which I've pasted below.

Now that I'm in my 'permanent' domicile in Tucson, I'm again factoring in the economics of laundry, as my apartment has laundry facilities on site, but one pays. And, indeed, nowadays one does pay via pre-pay laundry card instead of having to negotiate the cumbersome quarters I messed with in the past.

Here in Tucson, it's $1.75 for one wash load and $1.25 for one dryer cycle of about 20 minutes. I still avoid buying white and light-colored clothing so I can throw all of my stuff into one load. Three out of four weeks, I do only one load of laundry per week.

November 2013
Rootless: The Economics of Laundry

Laundry day, Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia. August 2011.

I dislike having to use a laundromat. Although one can pass the time at a laundromat in a relaxing or productive manner in a number of ways, still, I feel trapped there.
In Alamogordo, it was great – I had the use of a free (!) washer and dryer only steps from my front door. The distance was no greater than when I had my house and I had my machines in the basement.
In Playa del Carmen, it was also good – it was affordable to drop my laundry off at a commercial laundry, where staff would wash, dry, and fold (!) my stuff, and I could pick it up at the end of the day. I’m not sure if this would have been as economical if I lived there long-term, but for the time I was there, I loved this neighborhood amenity.
In Caucasus Georgia, well, yikes. My first hostess had no machines, so I did all my washing and drying by hand. In my second hostess’ home, there was a washing machine (yay!) and we hung our clothes out to dry. Because water and sometimes electricity were unavailable, it was good policy to not delay one’s washing routine, as the outages were unpredictable.

Laundry day, Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia. August 2011.
Here in Lafayette, I’m delighted that I’ve got a washer and dryer on site. The laundry shed is almost as conveniently close as it was in Alamogordo. What’s even better is that the machines are in good working order, and fast. The wash takes half an hour and the dryer takes 45 minutes.
The downside: Each load costs $1.50 for each machine.

Laundry day, Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia. August 2011.

The economic consequences of my new laundry situation:
  • The machines take only quarters, so part of my new living routine must include the regular acquisition of same. This isn’t that simple for me, because I don’t use cash much in my transactions. To feed the weekly quarter habit, I’ll need to score 12 quarters! Maybe I’ll find a place where I can get a month’s supply at a time. …. Ah, just realized I can stop at a local laundromat (and maybe a car wash) and get quarters from their money-changing machines. (On a national scale, all this money-changing for washing clothes and vehicles seems like a lot of busy work. … surely some places are going to pre-loaded cards by now?)
  • Each washer/dryer load costs $3, so if I separate my colors and whites, that’s $6 per week. Which works out to $312 per year.
  • This is an incentive to do my clothes in one load per week to save $156.
  • The cost is also an incentive to avoid buying white fabrics in the future. As it is, I have already tossed my whites in with my colors to achieve one load of wash instead of two.