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.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Weekend in Yuma, Arizona, Part 3: Elvis is Still in the Building

Elvis competition 2020, Quechan Casino. Winterhaven, California. January 2020.

Without hesitation, I plunked down 40 bucks to go to the Saturday night Elvis Presley impersonator competition at the Quechan Casino in Winterhaven, California, just outside of Yuma.

Elvis competition 2020, Quechan Casino. Winterhaven, California. January 2020.

For me to throw down 40 bucks for a couple of hours of entertainment is extraordinary. I'm not even particularly swoon-y over Elvis, though I do admire the singer's recorded-for-posterity voice, persona, swagger, and good looks. I liked watching his movies as a kid, and I have a cousin who, as a teen and young man, looked very much like Elvis in his prime.

While I lived in South Louisiana, I found this hypnotic song between Elvis and Kitty White, singing Crawfish, from his movie King Creole:

So. TEN Elvises on stage? When would this opportunity ever come by again? And what else could compete on a Saturday night in Yuma? This had all the cachet of going to the Olean Testicle Festival, but in a climate-controlled room in a comfortable seat!

The Elvises delivered, with the exception of the guy who chose to sing - out of all of the songs in Elvis' immense catalog - the so-called American Trilogy.

The American Trilogy is a medley of three songs:
  • I Wish I Was in Dixie
  • Battle Hymn Republic
  • All My Trials (or Sorrows)

Why, of all songs, would an Elvis competitor choose this song? And why would the contest folks permit it?

Presenting all three songs in this emo-inducing medley gives equal weight to a sentimental yearning for the "grace" of a plantation idyll, to marching Union solders, and to the cry of a mother to her infant.  ....

Oh I wish I was in the land of cotton
Old times there are not forgotten
Look away, look away, look away Dixieland.

Dixie doesn't deserve any fair-handedness. Dixie is a dark, dark period in our history, and we need to treat it as such, and stop romanticizing it.

Except in the group shots on stage, there are no photos of that Elvis who chose to sing this song.

A slide show of Elvises below:

Elvis Presley Competition 2020


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.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Tucson, AZ: A Human Heart in Hands

Heart-holder outside Borderlinks. Tucson, Arizona. September 2019.

I took these photos in September.

The person holding the big heart stands outside the Borderlinks entrance on 6th Avenue.

At first, I presumed the heart-holder to be a woman. Probably is. But when I looked again at the photos, the person's gender is uncertain. 

Heart-holder outside Borderlinks. Tucson, Arizona. September 2019.

This is fitting. I like that we are in a place where a person is (increasingly) able to adorn themselves in any manner they wish, including crossing traditional gender lines for hair, clothing, cosmetics, colors, how they carry themselves, or how they express their love.

The tall, rosy, heart-holder still stood when I was again at Borderlinks in December, for another desert run for Tucson Samaritans. I was glad to see them.

Friday, January 3, 2020

2000th Blog Post

Newspaper toilet paper at Mtskheta museum, near Tbilisi, Caucasus Georgia. November 2011.

I recently published my 2000th blog post. 

A retrospective of benchmark posts

I've been writing Living Rootless for nine years now.

In the past nine years, blog rules, roles and rolls have evolved.


Prior to 2010, when I first entered the blogosphere as a writer (in pre-Living Rootless iterations), earnest bloggers promulgated earnest rules. A memorable rule was the dictate to be transparent about all edits to protect the sanctity of one's original published blog post. To be transparent, a blog writer should overlay a strikethrough across the old text and highlight the new.

There was a puzzling presumption of ethics that went with this rule. Never mind that writers of prose, poetry, plays, stand-up comedy, songs, and performance art edit their work all the time, stopping only when the piece is literally cast in an unchangeable form, such as print or film. Even then, an author can serve up new, revised editions in the future.

Yeah, well, I never followed this blog rule.


The popularity of blogs seems to have peaked a couple of years after I debuted Living Rootless.

The monetization appeal

At the time, the web was awash with how-to's for monetization, the importance of SEO, how to get the best placement on the various search engines, "link love," ad placements, guest posts, "Best of" lists, etc., etc.

There was a moment, early on, when I included some ads, got my blog onto various blog registries and search engines, played about with meta tags, and so on. It wasn't long, however, before I discovered how all this began to influence decisions vis a vis content and the frequency with which I posted.

At the end of the day, I wanted to write a blog that:
  1. Gives me pleasure in the writing, and in the revisiting of moments that I would likely forget otherwise
  2. Exercises my writing muscles
  3. Might be of interest to my descendants
  4. Pleases any strangers that stop by

 I stripped away the ads and felt freer for the loss.

Blog disrupters

Other social media platforms that entice with the promise of fame-by-followers have waxed and waned since the height of blogs: Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube ...

Most of the blogs I used to follow lay fallow.

The reasons vary:
  1. Their authors moved to a new chapter in their lives, and therefore, their blogs are complete.
  2. Their authors migrated to Instagram or other venues and intentionally abandoned their blogs. 
  3. Blogging was a trend, and as with all trends, writers and readers exchanged the old for new.
  4. Authors followed the common wisdom to build an online presence across multiple platforms, and have been unable to maintain their blogs while also feeding content to their Twitter or Instagram accounts, which are greedy little birds. Related: Former blog readers found 24-7, constantly changing content in the smaller, snappier social platforms, and turned their attention to these. 
  5. An indirect factor, perhaps: Wordpress did a bang-up job of marketing itself as the premier blog platform for the mass of bloggers, with a companion message against Blogger as a loser platform. The problem here? Wordpress, when done up well, is a sleek, elegant application to host one's blog. But Wordpress' dirty little secret is that it is difficult to learn for most. I've tried several times to build a wordpress site, and although I've got more technical savvy than the typical blogger, I've quit the attempt each time because the learning curve is such a frustrating, counter-intuitive pain in the ass. Blogger has its limitations, to be sure, but almost anyone can get one up and running in minutes. How many would-be bloggers attempted to use the presumed best platform to launch a blog, only to be cowed into surrender? 

Future roles

I don't know the future of blogs.

If blogs decline in a major way, the likelihood of a blog platform such as Blogger (owned by Google) being terminated will become a concern. Transferring a blog, especially one as long-lived as mine, from one platform to another, is a task fraught with anxiety over the possibility of partial or wholesale loss of content, formatting, images, links, permissions, etc.


Blog rolls - lists of blogs that a blogger follows - used to be a really big thing. To get on someone's blog roll was a way to boost one's blog rank in search engines, thereby drawing more readers to one's blog, thereby lying in wait for them to click on one of your monetization ads, thereby ....

From a less jaded perspective, blog rolls are a convenient vehicle for a blogger to track the blogs they personally enjoy reading. They are also a valuable service to a blog's readers who might be interested in the same blogs the author finds appealing.

The longer one's blog roll, the more arduous the task of checking currency of the list. All too often, a blog on a list is defunct.

(Ha! This reminds me of a related housekeeping issue, especially for a nine-year blogger like me - not having a system for checking past posts for dead links - guilty!)

Here's to a 10th year of Living Rootless.       

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Flashback to 2011: Email Accounts Maintenance

Below flashes back to my January 2, 2011, post on email accounts maintenance.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Email Accounts Maintenance

Too many email accounts?

I dumped one email account today. Which brings me down to eleven. How'd I get so many email accounts? I've got:
  1. The one with my real name that I use professionally;
  2. The one I use for newspaper and other media registration so I can submit online commentary;
  3. The one I use for a flickr account;
  4. The two "stupid" accounts I set up with two different providers for when I am on the road;
  5. The one I set up to join a listserv and maintain anonymity;
  6. The one I had to set up with a particular provider so I could join a group related to the listserv;
  7. The one I set up to replace the one google shut down, only to regain the earlier one just a few days after I created the replacement account;
  8. The one I use with facebook
  9. The one I use for administrative stuff; and
  10. The one I set up for a genealogical archive, which I'll hand off one day.

It's absurd. Can I be rootless with so many email accounts? Does having 11 email accounts fall into the too-much-stuff category? I don't know  Probably yes Yes, but I'm not ready today to delete any more than the one I released today. Perhaps tomorrow.

Here's what some others have to say on the topic:

You can also get a 10-minute email account. Genius.

Account maintenance today

I made sure every account had a designated password-recovery account the provider can send a password reset email to.

I reviewed all of the passwords to make sure they were strong, but still simple for me to remember. I changed many of them.

Or you can go here to find out how long it would take for a "brute assault," using computers, to crack your password. It's suggested you not enter the exact password you use or intend to use. The site's owner, Eric Wolfram, writes this interesting article about good passwords.[2020 update: Go here for what I believe is the current best practice for most of us - passphrases instead of passwords.]


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Word of the Year 2020: Build 1: After the Floods

Washington State Park, Missouri. October 2009.

In 2018, my word of the year was Courage.
In 2019, Action.

This year: Build.

I've gone round and round about the best word for 2020 to describe what I'd like to do in the coming year. Build. Create. Foundation. Connect.

Build doesn't quite do the trick, but it is good enough. And, "good enough," I've found, is often ..... good enough. Good enough to keep oneself from staying lost, good enough to enrich one's finite time on the planet, and good enough to prepare one's body and spirit for the inevitable vicissitudes to come.

Mineral Spring Park, Borjomi, Caucasus Georgia. April 2012.

My pen name, Mzuri, has two meanings for me.

One is its translation from Swahili: fine, good.

Another is that it sounds like the name, Missouri, as in the river.

As with the desert, a river is both beautiful and deadly, indiscriminately. 

My ''house" was built - generations before my birth - on a river flood plain. I was born on the flood plain, grew up on the flood plain, spent a goodly amount of my adult life on the flood plain.

Periodically, floods came into my house, then retreated. I could right overturned furniture, sweep and mop much - never all - of the mud left behind, launder soiled clothes and curtains and rugs. For most of my life, I had not the vision to see that the foundation of my house needed repair. Well, and I really didn't want to see it, anyway. It would cost too much to fix, and I didn't have the resources to do that.

... let's fast forward through the flood analogy, shall we?

Eventually, I did see the failing foundation, and I gathered some resources to repair it, with some success. Until the next flood, then the one after, and the one after - which simply washed away the house, leaving behind the repaired foundation.

This past year, I've been living in a tent next to that foundation, the house above it gone.

I could choose to rebuild on that foundation in that flood plain. But no, I think not.

Mtkvari River, near Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia. September 2011.

Instead, I'm going to build a new home on a new foundation, within sight of the beautiful river, but on higher ground, in stable soil, and in connection with people who live in the light.

Hahahahaha, not that I'm ready to plop down my physical roots yet.