Sunday, January 29, 2006

Garden of Gethsemane - Santa Cruz River Park

These sculptures are the work of Felix Lucero. If you are ever running/walking/biking the Santa Cruz River Park (great place to see roadrunners lizard hunting in the summer mornings) and want to take a break in the cool solace of this garden - you know - chill with Christ & Co. - you'll be welcome.

Lucha Libre

This is why I love the University of Arizona. You never know what you are going to see...

David Tineo, Joshua Sarantitis and William Wilson

These are some of my favorite Tucson mural photos (I did a little series last summer). These are murals by Joshua Sarantitis and William Wilson as part of the Barrio Anita Mural Project. I originally did this post in David Tineo's honor as Tucson's most celebrated muralist and in light of his loss of sight. I would like to expand my mural project to post a comprehensive listing of Tucson murals and their authors. If you have suggestions please contribute. THANKS!

"A" Mountain - Sentinel Peak

Have you ever been to "A" Mountain on a Sunday afternoon? The drive takes you up and up until you can almost see your house from here. You pull your boyfriend's car over to watch the hobby gliders. They are silent and graceful. There's a steady stream of traffic and Reggaeton peppers the air as hispanic hot rods scoop the loop. You park to go for a hike as lovers neck in the pickup next door. Your boyfriend says, "I hope we find her giving him a blowjob when we come back." But alas, when you return an hour later there's only a different pickup and three Mexicans in cowboy hats, smoking and looking like they wish they had girlfriends. You do a burn out in the parking lot at your boyfriend's prompting. You leave a plume of rubber smoke and you're happy it's just a Sunday afternoon.

PRESENTE: inside the migrant trail walk

Last night I went to The Screening Room downtown to see this documentary by J.M. Aragon with music by Jose "Pepo" Saavedra. (Aragon has an accent on the "o" but my Html is acting up.) It was described as "a documentary that uses artistic video imagery accompanied by a compelling musical score to convey a reflective look into the Migrant Trail Walk of 2005."

As Aragon brought up in the Q&A, migrant issue film/art is becoming its own genre in this country, bringing film and documentary makers from all over to AZ. This puts anyone who wants to participate in this "genre" in the position of competing against projects that have serious funds. Take for example the documentary Crossing Arizona that just debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. That said, Aragon should be commended for taking on this endeavor with the backing of the small non-profit Panleft Productions, whose funds are so limited that if you clicked on the previous link, it is likely that you couldn't find the website. They need a new host. (I should have donated some money last night.)

As I sat through the documentary there were long moments of slow motion sequences of white people just walking. At first I thought, "This is some really long filler." and then I realized "They walked for seven days in the desert in the summer. You can see it's hot and grueling. That's what these shots are really trying to convey." Sure enough, that's along the lines of what Aragon stated during the Q&A. Even so, I was left with the overwhelming dissatisfaction of the "That's it?" moment at the end. There are so many questions. I wanted more answers. I wanted more stories. I wanted more words.

That leads me to my next point. Why did Aragon choose to do a documentary about privileged people sorta "recreating" the crossing experience of impoverished illegal immigrants? Why didn't he choose to do a documentary about actual border crossers? Like he said in his defense, that would have been a different project and difficult to do the right way. His documentary is what it is - and it is uplifting and hopeful to see privileged people making these kinds of statements while acknowledging their privilege. But I still can't help but yearn for a different project. When will the migrants themselves have voices? Yes, it would imply a huge risk for them and possibly even the producers, but sometimes people have to stand up and take those risks. I think we're seeing that.

In conclusion, I would like to congratulate Aragon once again and I do hope his work gets great circulation. Also, I've been listening to Pepo's music for about a year now, but it never moved me as much as in the context of Aragon's images.

Photo as it appears on The Screening Room Website.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Laverna's Coffee Shop

I have a preference for off the beaten path, quirky places with unexpected character. That's why I was pleased to find Laverna's while wandering around, waiting for an oil change. Tucked off Broadway at 220 Plumer, the place has a ski lodge look from the outside, but is all family owned greasy spoon on the inside. The charm of the traditional dinner style counter a la Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore is only complimented by the LIVING ROOM right next to it, in the middle of the restaurant. That's right. There's a sofa, TV and kids playing with toys on the floor, creating a momentary feeling of having wandered into someone's private domestic space, but it's okay, because - like the ghost of Christmas past - nobody really seems to notice I'm there.

I wasn't surprised to find that Tucson Weekly gave Laverna's the Best Working Man's Breakfast title in 1995. The scrambled eggs with chorizo, as pictured above, were just as spicey as I bet they were in 1995. The staff was very pleasant, also.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

San Xavier del Bac

The afternoon I drove to San Xavier
I knew the way
as if by heart
the tires kicked up the dusty path
I pet the lion's stony head

You were in the church
sitting and praying
and crying
for what I'll die without knowing
maybe your pregnant belly
will grow up to be someone
who will tell me your story
but that's not important

I'm not writing to ask
I can guess
I'm saying I'm sorry
you probably felt alone
but I was there
I just didn't make a sound.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Sam Hughes' Place - Championship Dining

Andrew and I live only a few blocks from this establishment, so every time we drive by we make fun of the sign at Sam Hughes' Place restaurant which reads, "Championship Dining".

Is eating there an x-treme sport? Do they host "Iron Chef Tucson"? Finally we checked it out.

Instead of re-inventing the wheel I will direct you to the Tucson Citizen where they reviewed the place. I just wanted to include this photo of what they refer to as "delicate crackers arranged vertically in a pile of herb cream cheese". I just couldn't picture it until I saw it with mine own two eyes.

I would also like to add that the salmon is yummy.

Friday, January 06, 2006

No More Deaths

Humanitarian Aid is Never a Crime

On July 9, 2005 two No More Deaths volunteers, Shanti Sellz and Daniel Strauss, were arrested by the United States Border Patrol while medically evacuating 3 people in distress from the desert near Arivaca, Arizona. Shanti and Daniel go on trial December 20, and are facing charges that could land them in prison for fifteen years.

Join with border activists, humanitarians, faith-based groups, and others who are supporting Shanti and Daniel in saying Humanitarian Aid is Never a Crime by posting this message on your Web site, journal, or blog.

Get a copy of this message here.

Shanti Sellz and Daniel Strauss Trial Drags On

This is the afternoon January 5th press conference outside the court.

I promise that this is about as political as I will get on this blog. I leave the political stuff to Jerome and Michael.

The No More Deaths volunteers are still on trial. If you're unfamiliar with their story, you can check out these links to ePluribus Media, The Durango Hearald, The Denver Post, Amnesty International, NPR, The Arizona Daily Star.

That's just a handful of the press coverage, of course. The press coverage to be found online is overwhelming, because the story really is bizarre...

But as if the story itself weren't bizarre enough, some of the websites I discovered while researching the story are downright disturbing. For example,

Glenn Spencer's American Patrol Report which refers to the volunteers as "Reconquistas" with a Loony Tunes icon next to their news article and includes racist and degrading images and comments such as "No way, Jose" and Mexican flags with exes through them, etc.

But I don't want to focus only on the most radical. I mean, in the elevator to the courtroom this morning a woman rather suspiciously and antagonistically asked me if I am a vigilante. She didn't apologize when I told her that I'm a member of the UA NMD Club, either.

But like I said, I don't want to focus on the most radical.

I had busted ass to get to court on time just to have the trial put into recess AGAIN, this time until Jan 10. There was no explanation as to why, but I suspect the judge is sick. Honestly, in his defense, he looked like crap.

Anyway, I will try to attend court on the tenth and post updates. In the meantime, if anyone is interested in going with me, let me know. If you're interested in taking whatever action you can,
I have included a link to the NMD action kit which includes a postcard to the DA asking that the charges be dropped.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

East Coast Super Subs

This little gem hidden back on 187 N Park Ave serves up a mean sub. Tasty but so calorie packed that you have to go weld a bridge afterwards. Colorful, laid back, good service. I walked past about fifty times before I tried it out; glad that I finally did.

Saguaro National Park - Hugh Norris Trail

I claim Amole Peak for Paraguay.

It's hard to write anything new about this famous trail (see for example this review on which has been raved about the world over. Some say it is the easiest summit hike in the state of Arizona. Some describe it as "moderate" or even "strenuous". I would call it A HARD CORE ASS KICKER. I can hike all day without tiring if the trail is fairly flat, but this trail is about two hours of uphill grade after an initial staircase climb that nearly made me vomit. (And then it's about two more hours to get back, although thankfully, that is mostly downhill.) It's true, I had a pack, but it wasn't more than a few pounds. I think people who write trail reports online are either a) Olympic hikers or b) can't admit that a trail kicked their ass because nobody else did. Well, let me be the first: THIS TRAIL KICKED MY ASS. That said, I would still recommend it to anyone. (And thanks to Chip, the friendliest Park Ranger ever who recommended it to me.)

People who write about this trail often use the phrase "rejuvenation of the soul" or "spiritual renewal". My feeling is why go to church when you have trails like this? It is communion with God - and she is awesome. From this trail you get views across the broad basin of the Avra Valley, its farms, and what appears to be a very straight road but is actually the canal of the controversial Central Arizona Project (CAP), which delivers water from the Colorado River to Phoenix and Tucson. You can also see the Roskruge, Waterman, and Silver Bell ranges as well as the loftier Santa Rosa Mountains nearly 40 miles away. I was able to pick out Kitt Peak, but can anyone name what appears to be a large mining endeavor in Avra Valley? (See photo).

I started on the trail at about 9:30 am. It was so quiet that I kept stopping to identify a noise that turned out to be the crinkling of the plastic water bottle in my backpack. After I made the initial climb without vomiting, the first "mini summit" revealed a boulder and cacti garden like no other. A ways down the trail I came upon the old mine and faced with the temptation to investigate further, found it easy to resist. I didn't want to end up like the twelve coal miners from West Virginia whose fate had just been revealed that morning, may they rest in peace. At several points my phone rang; the office asking me if I needed desk copies for the upcoming semester, a wrong number from Chicago asking for "Nacho", Andrew picture messaging me a photo of his office building as retaliation for me having previously sent him a photo of Kitt Peak. So we can safely say there's service up there. I didn't run into many other hikers UNTIL I got to Amole Peak. All hell was breaking loose with a four person party of giggling Asian girls, about twenty seniors wearing blueblockers, and a mother with three teenagers at different points on the trail yelling at each other across the valley. We needed traffic signals. I was sorely disappointed because I had naively envisioned eating my mozzarella, sundried tomato spinach sandwich on Focaccia on Wasson's Peak by myself, taking in the majesty in silence from the very top of a summit named after a controversial early editor of the Tucson Citizen. But alas, that was not going to happen. So I climbed Amole Peak instead and set up camp. No one challenged me. I read a little bit of Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees. My favorite line so far is "Arizona didn't do anything halfway. If Arizona was a movie you wouldn't believe it. You'd say it was too corny for words."

See the photos at my photo gallery.

New Year's Eve @ Hotel Congress

Who knows if it was fun last year or if it will be as good next year, but I wanted to comment on the quality of the 2006 New Year's Eve Shindig at Hotel Congress and thank Lea and Eric for inviting us. There was an outdoor stage (with heat lamps for those who refuse to wear even the lightest of sleeves). Congress hosted several musicians, including Howe Gelb. There was a dance floor inside, which was also very fun. The DJ could use some help with his mixing but I do salute him for playing Missy Eliott rapping "Get Your Freak On" over a Le Tigre song. We got down to that. There were several bars working hard on keeping us lubed up - I also salute the bartenders. The real crown jewel was somewhere between the fake snow machine and the lit ball they dropped about a whole five feet at midnight. Awesome. (But actually, the REAL crown jewel was the kiss I got as that ball dropped. Thanks, stud.)


Yes, Tubac is cute and my friends liked it, but I'd like to point out that certain advertisements refer to it as a "historical" place, yet to me it looks mostly "constructed" and kind of like a "tourist trap". There are many vendors of "Mexican and southwestern" crafts - some neat stuff, I admit. I also admit that the prices are not much higher than "Nogales" (but in Nogales one may be more successful at "bartering", as I was). However, I just didn't get a historical, or "authentic" feel from the place. Amanda, Mia, Karleigh, "Andrew", Kate, Ray, feel free to comment. *The excessive use of quotes in this posting is for entertainment purposes only.*