After a three-year absence from Tucson, I have been struck by the level of development, not on the city’s outer fringes, which stopped expanding with the recession of 2008, but in the downtown. The streets of downtown Tucson were moribund the last time I visited. Only on New Year’s Eve, or some other special holiday, did they fill with revelers. Today, the ground level is filled with bars, restaurants and art galleries. Fourth Avenue, long the artistic, bohemian center of Tucson, has been repaved.
Tucson has managed to retain its historic roots, despite rampant growth. One of the city’s cultural traditions is the urge to put a guest house out back. The guest house is for visiting relatives.
Twenty-four years ago, Tucson artist Susan Kay Johnson decided to honor her recently-deceased father by organizing a small procession of her friends down Fourth Avenue on Dia de los Muertos, otherwise known as the Day of the Dead. The tradition of honoring the dead through putting on skeleton costumes and walking in a procession arose in Mexico and can be traced back to Aztec times. Of course, such processions are utterly absent in the dour, Protestant-permeated upper Midwest!
Last week, I passed the final test for adulthood. The exam? Not only did I make an appointment for my first colonoscopy, which we're supposed to do at about age 50, but I showed up for it and sailed through without making a single juvenile, smart-aleck remark. My restraint lasted until the next social occasion when I delivered a detailed monologue about the whole procedure. But by then, I had passed.
I love to do mushrooms! No, I am not using them to see visions and travel to distant lands from my living room. Instead, I have been charmed by the taste of the hundreds of edible shaggy cap mushrooms which sprung up in my lawn during the wet fall. People are prejudiced against lawn mushrooms because, it is true, some of them will kill you. Slowly and painfully. Or, if they don't kill you, they might inspire you to see visions and start a new religion. We don't want that. We have enough old religions.
Last week, I reported my thoughts as I looked out the window at bustling city scenes from a skyscraper in the middle of the night. Back home this week, I stepped onto the porch and into crisp night air back in northern Minnesota and experienced the exact opposite: absolute, complete silence. Earlier that day, an autumn gale pelted drizzle and falling leaves against the windows. Thunder rumbled in the distance. As the sun set, the sky cleared, the air stilled and by nightfall there was utter silence. No insects. Too cold. No ducks. Apparently we're out of their migratory path.
The city fathers of Vancouver, British Columbia, where I visited last week, made a fateful decision in the 1950s. They decided to build up, not out. Not only Vancouver's office space, but also its residential areas would consist of high-rises, not sprawling suburbs. The planners didn't have much choice. Vancouver is tucked tightly between a deep ocean harbor and mountains of the coastal range. There are suburbs around Vancouver, but they cling to the mountainsides which rise up from the harbor. Most people live downtown. My hotel room was on the 31st floor.
Crossed into Canada and back last week, which required I go through the checkpoints at the border, a process that undoes me every time. When I encounter people who have absolute power over the rest of my day, I seize up.
Christian Ponder, like every Viking quarterback in the history of the Minnesota Vikings franchise, has grumpy Minnesotans convinced he is the source of all that is wrong with the world. Ponder’s wife Samantha was in Fargo this week broadcasting for ESPN and couldn’t escape without seeing a poster chiding her husband: “Samantha, can Christian even pass the salt?” Nice insult. And typical of Upper Midwesterners to pile their rage on a single scapegoat, the Vikings quarterback. The Viking quarterback position is the least desirable job we have.
The bane of gardeners, purslane is the most common and persistent weed afloat. The flat little succulent turns over easily with a hoe. Once uprooted, purslane lies there as helpless as an overturned turtle. Don't be fooled. Don't declare victory. The battle against purslane has just begin. Throw it out in the lawn. Mow over the wilting, uprooted plant.