Friday, December 30, 2005

Nogales - La Roca


Everyone should go to Nogales at least once. I can't explain how disturbing it is to cross the imaginary line between the American Dream and....well, you'll have to see it for yourself. I prefer to avoid repeating the common idea that Mexico is poverty and poverty is Mexican - my point is this uneven modernity is shocking. I am no stranger to "third world" environments after growing up in Paraguay but to see them juxtaposed by the U.S. border; well, I had never experienced that before. Mexico and the USA could geographically be the same country. So why is one so priviledged over the other?

I must mention that there's a spot you wouldn't know to look for without the tip. It's a restaurant called La Roca and it's down a somewhat seedy alley but when you get inside the courtyard it's unbelievable. We only hung out at the bar, but I bet the food is good. Ask anyone, "Donde esta La Roca?" and they will probably be able to show you the way.

This photo from inside La Roca is courtesy of Mia.

Tucson Mountain Park - Gates Pass



I am perched on a boulder overlooking Gates Pass Road, part of the valley and Old Tucson Studios. The sun is warm on my back and I wonder why I don't do this more often. Why doesn't everyone do this more often? The cars drive by below. What could they be doing that is more important than this?

I have been boulder climbing up and down this mountain side. I'm not used to it so I take it steady and slow. I keep trying to look ahead and map out a route - there is no trail, no easy way. It's more effective to find one foot hold at a time and just keep moving. On my way down I realize just how pointless it is to think. My body knows how to do this better than my brain. Navigating the boulder field is as much work of the arms as it is of the legs. Every muscle in the body has to contract and release at the right time in order to maintain balance, shift the weight at the perfect moment. I couldn't orchestrate that with my brain even if I had a clue how. It would be like trying to breathe, trying to will my lungs to expand, the bronchi to open. I am surprised by the grace of my own body, the way it knows how to lower itself down the face of a boulder, how it stretches and flexes in this unusual way that somehow seems more natural than walking upright, in a straight line, on concrete. I can see a few well-traveled trails from here. I'm trying to choose one. The side of this mountain is warming up and the hush is giving way to the ruckus of cactus wrens, cardinals and sparrows. I think about what a stunning sunset will happen here tonight and I wish I could bring Andrew so that we could sit on this boulder together and kiss when the sun sinks under the foothills. I start down the mountain again and I hear loud western music coming from Old Tucson. I decide to hike to the shack over that way. I have all day. As I continue on I hear the gunshots from a high noon showdown. A cowboy is fallen. There's a kleenex tied to a branch. I blow my nose with somebody's long forgotten trail marker. As I walk on I find a water bottle, an orange construction light, two crosses made from fuzzy tube cleaner; one green, one blue. I think about getting killed by an arrow. I come to a fence, it ends. I come to the shack. It's very delapidated but it looks like the chimney was built to work. There is manure on the trail and sure enough, there are riders. I hear their voices. I get out of there as fast as I can because I don't want to be a part of their tourist experience and I doubt they want to see a hiker right here in their expensive, mediocre, disneyesque old west. The sun has risen high in the sky and I need to get back to the car where I can eat a granola bar.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Catalina State Park - Romero Pools


On Thanksgiving we went to the Romero Pools - they deserve a mention. The whole hike from start to finish took us four hours including a 30 minute break for a snack at the pools. The water's pretty low this time of year so the pools are a little mossy and not deep enough to be inviting for a dip, but the beauty of the shallow pools and the rock shaped smoothly and dramatically by centuries of water moving through the canyon is worth it, in my opinion. The views of the valley are pretty intense, also.

The climb up is hard work and it's not a cakewalk coming down either; some parts of the trail are very rocky and/or steep. Not a hike for everyone, but durring the summer hikers might be rewarded with a refreshing dip in the pools, which would make it worth it.

For more pictures visit my photo gallery.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Salt River Tubing

Andrew and I made the drive to the Salt River last fourth of July weekend. We had heard about the tubing and drove almost three hours to arrive in the national park (beautiful mountains speckled with cacti –but not much green otherwise as is the case in most of AZ). Let me describe this experience to you in present tense: Almost hidden in the basin there is this little river, and at the end of the road there's this tubing place. It's like the Disneyland of tubing. There's a huge parking lot promptly filling as good ol' American youth spill out of their pick ups in bikinis and swim trunks. Of course, everyone has their cooler of Bud Light. So at the end of the parking lot is a big ass warehouse where everyone is renting their tubes and being loaded onto school buses. Yes, school busses –there’s that many people. There are also Coke promo girls trying to hand out bottles of Coke Zero (I mean how many kinds of Coke do we need, anyway?) and there's a snack bar and a radio station booth. It's like beach MTV but for the beachless and poor. I mean, this is how exciting a little bit of water is in Arizona. So they load us onto this bus and we get dropped off on the side of the road and waddle down to the river. The water is cold, but not ice cold - just really refreshing cold. After twenty minutes of screwing with a bungee cord and the cooler trying to tie it to the inner tube we finally push off. The cooler won't stay upright and fills with water but it somehow stays afloat anyway. So there we are, floating in foot deep water with dozens of other people. I have a hat and sunglasses on. I spray myself with my spray bottle to cool the parts of me that aren't in the water. "This is totally ridiculous" Andrew states as he floats past me in shorts, water shoes, a tee shirt, hat and glasses with a cooler strapped to his tube. "Let's sing a tubing song!" I suggest. He practically growls at me.

The sun is beating on us hard but is feels good to me. The banks are lush and green and there are a few wispy white clouds in the sky. I’m enjoying the view when I hear girly screams and rushing water. We’re heading towards rapids. Andrew and I have no idea what to expect. As we come closer we see people in their tubes picking up speed and being tossed and bobbed across a stretch of the river. Andrew is not a good swimmer. We feel our selves pick up speed and Andrew hangs onto my ankles. We both lift our rears out of the water because there are big rocks ahead. As we get bobbed about we laugh and simultaneously have an “Oh shit!” look on our faces. It’s over in a second, but it was thrilling not because it was really that violent but because it was fast enough and deep enough to be just out of our control.

The three hour float is peppered with drunk hellos from tubers floating by, bumping into people, getting caught on the bank or in a whirlpool, rescuing each other, and staring into the shallow water to spot fish. At lunch we “pull over” and decide to have a bite on the shore. As we’re eating slightly waterlogged Pringles a park ranger pulls up and asks us if we’ve seen somebody with a fishing pole. We haven’t seen anyone else on the bank. Then the ranger proceeds to tell us that someone has drowned and they are “fishing” for the body. “Yup, they usually go down right here,” he says nonchalantly, hops back in his truck and drives away. “Did he just say what I think he said?” I ask. Andrew nods. I can’t decide if this is just another thrill prop in the Disneyland of tubing or the real thing. How can all these people be so happy floating down the river of death? We continue to float too, and it turns out to be a real “recreational hazard”, this drowning thing, as a fan boat passes us searching for the body. As the helicopter zips low overhead again and again people wave and flash the pilot. I look on feeling a little bit grim knowing he might be distracted by breasts in the search for a floating corpse.

I can’t lie, the inner tubing at Salt River is fun, and maybe it’s the danger that really makes it. I do however highly suggest that you prepare before going. There are plenty of good tips at the company’s website. And don’t underestimate the importance of sun block. Andrew’s feet were so badly burned that he could hardly walk for three days.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Mount Lemmon


I was rather stunned the first time I went up to Mount Lemmon. It was such a straight shot: follow Speedway east, then go north on up to Catalina Highway and follow that all the way to the end, basically. It only took about an hour from our doorstep (near the UA) to the top, but I felt as if we had exited the Southwest entirely. The desert, the cacti, the sand all fell away as we climbed, replaced by denser and denser vegetation, evergreens and deciduous trees. The temperature dropped by what felt like twenty degrees. Tucson was sprawled out below us, looking smaller than I would have guessed.

At the end of the road we found two tiny communities: Ski Valley and Summerhaven. Ski Valley has the ski lift, obviously, that will take you uphill for $9 even when there is no snow, which is most of the time. Even from the parking lot the view is spectacular. There’s also a gift shop and what not. The restaurant is said to have a great view.

Summerhaven has two eateries and a few gift shops as well. Most of Summerhaven was burned down a few years ago in a forest fire. Forest fires are a very real and common danger in the Tucson area. I’m amazed that these people bother rebuilding, to tell you the truth. You can still see a few of the charred building remains and large patches of the mountainside are dead or just starting to show new growth.

In my opinion, the best things about Summerhaven are the hiking with spectacular views and some fun boulder climbing, and the pie. The last time I went with a few friends from the Spanish Department we went all the way to the end of the road and hiked the Marshall Gulch Train and returned on the Aspen Trail. There’s a spot on the Aspen Trail where if you a climb a little boulder you can sit and look out at a spectacular vista. It’s a little bit tucked away, sort of private and romantic and very beautiful. It would be a memorable spot for say, proposing marriage, eating a granola bar, shooting a music video, etc.

After that hike (which takes about three hours by the way and is not recommendable for the very out of shape) we got a picnic table and had lunch, which would have been more fun had we been joined by a bear or if the sun had stayed out. Then we warmed up at Mount Lemmon Café and had a piece of their famous pie. The service wasn’t great, but I gather it’s hard for them to find full time help all the way up there and it’s a popular spot for tourists. Point being, they were crazy busy and under staffed. However, a piece of pie heated up a la mode with a cup of coffee is a wonderful thing for two (or three) people to share after a long hike.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Artemio Rodriguez



This past weekend Andrew and I went to see Artemio Rodriguez do a wood print demonstration at the university's museum of art. It was cool. He has a new book out that could make someone a unique Christmas present.

The Tanque Verde Swap Meet


Andrew (read: boyfriend) introduced me to the Tanque Verde Swap Meet. (A co-worker of his has a table there on weekends.) The first time we went it reminded me a little of the flea market in Oaxaca City, except it's outdoors, more spread out, cleaner, etc. Rows of booths and tables selling used articles, candy, clothes, stuff made in China, toys, tools, kitchen supplies, fresh produce, jewelry, electronics, CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes, video games, food etc. etc. I have purchased three sequined belts, five pairs of flip flops, fifteen pairs of earrings, one CD (Los Horoscopos), one Loteria game, tomatoes, onions, one Sonoran hotdog, one Coke and four garden plants after three trips to the TVSM.

We've never been there at night, they say it is much more festive then, but it's still rather festive in the afternoon. It's obvious that people go there for commerce but also just to hang out. There's definitely a sense of community. They even have pony rides in the evening. People take their kids and dogs.

I bought all five of the pairs of flip flops the very first time I went. I wear flip flops pretty religiously and I would say "buyer beware" because the straps already busted on one pair. I took my time checking out the women's clothes (which reminded me of a store on Clark Street in Chicago called "Chica's Secret") but I can only go so ghettofab. I mean, I like the style and am even considering getting a gold necklace that says "Hot Latina" to represent my barrio sisters in the G School (G for Graduate). I like to displace signifiers whenever possible, but I can't stand synthetic fabrics which pretty much puts all the bootie-licious ass pants and frilly ho blouses (as my sister calls them) sold at the TVSM off limits for me.

There's something fascinating about the imitation of high fashion. Bebe and Louis Vitton knock offs are everywhere. Why do people even bother buying the crap? Because if you can't afford to buy a "nice thing" you buy something that represents a "nice thing". It is no longer the thing itself that matters but what it represents. It's like melodramatic acting in a telenovela.

I
have recently developed an interest in Pasito Durangense and other types of Tecnobanda music, and the TVSM is definitely a good place for buying it. There's actually a variety of musica en español to be found, but if you look white you may be stared down by a girl working the store by entrance B. Apparently she thought my nails were too short. It'll be fisticuffs next time.

When you're not getting into cat fights at the TVSM you can purchase a beer from one of the characteristic beer selling units, that is, a keg on a golf cart. There's food too, and as I mentioned, plenty of video games to play. And you can always browse the odder stuff. People sell some weird shit sometimes, like their tripped out SUV with brand new dubs or their grandmother. (Okay, I've never seen anyone sell their grandmother there - yet.)



Introducing Tucson Querido

I decided to name this blog "Tucson Querido" after a classic argentine tango called "Mi Buenos Aires Querido", which just happens to be another city that I love. ("Querido" means beloved in Spanish.)

The mission of this blog is to tell stories about Tucson through my own personal lense. Being an MA candidate in Hispanic Literature at the University of Arizona and highly motivated by Latin American Cultural Studies, I'm especially interested in the Mexican influence found in cultural phenomenons of Tucson and surrounding areas, but I vow not to get academic up in here. I promise you will be entertained and inspired to share your own Tucson adventures.