3/28/2008

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Arizona and Jim Crow

I honestly thought moving west I'd be leaving racism behind. Unfortunately, I've discovered that in Arizona to transact almost any public business you'd better have your birth certificate in hand. See, it seems that folks out here are terrified of Mexicans. They are convinced that they're just dying to steal all their money, attend their colleges (how they steal and education is beyond me), and steal the elections by voting.

For almost everything I've done from getting a driver's license to registering to vote to registering for a class at a college I've had to prove that I'm a U.S. Citizen. It's almost to the point of ridiculous. But, that's fear for you and a Republican legislature who feeds on xenophobia.

Yes, I'm sure that there may be some legitimate concerns and I could see requiring such proof if someone is applying for welfare, work, or a benefit program. But really - school? Even if they're illegal they have to pay so what's the big deal? You're still getting the money.

Anyway, guess racism is always around it just hits whomever is the biggest minority in the area. Glad I have a wallet sized copy of my birth certificate or I'd be in big trouble in these parts!

3/26/2008

Easter in PV

Friday morning we left Tucson headed to Prescott Valley to spend Easter weekend with Michael's family. We arrived in Phoenix after lunch and visited Michael's friend, George, who is recuperating from heart problems at a nursing home. We had a great visit and George is full of life and mischief even at 77 years old!

After Phoenix we headed up to PV. We arrived at Michael's dad's house and had a long chat, looked at picture albums and finally went to bed about one in the morning. The next morning Mr. Koch was up early (as always) and we had breakfast at The Back Burner. The food was terrific.

I realized during breakfast that Michael's dad seems to be coming to terms with things. He was very friendly and we chatted and joked. That's a great feeling after all these years!

After breakfast I met Michael's Uncle Bob who reminded me of a bit more abrasive version of my Great Uncle Elmer. Quite a character. He's an ex-sailor from Millwaukee and was Michael's mom's brother.

We also stopped by to see Michael's new Great-Nephew Julian James Hurtado and his parents, Lori and Robert.

A bit later we picked up Michael's youngest nephew, Max and went out to get his oldest nephew and godson, Peter. We had planned to take Peter shopping for his birthday which was last week. So we drove into Prescott and toured around a bit. Michael took me to Watson Lake, a beautiful area where he used to go swimming and fishing. Unfortunately, the signs say there is no swimming there now. Then we went on into Prescott to see Whiskey Row. It's a charming town and I'm looking forward to going back and spending more time there.

After that we hit the mall with Max and Peter for shoes followed by lunch at In 'n' Out burger. Michael didn't like it too much but the fries were top notch.

Later we dropped off Peter for work and took Max to see Drillbit Taylor at the movies. After the movie we met his sister and dad for supper at Native New Yorker. It was great fun.

After dropping off Michael's dad we went back to his sister Sandy's house to visit and dye Easter eggs. About 12:30 we decided to go back to Mr. Koch's but found that Michael's brother, Bill, had locked us out of the house. So, we drove back to Sandy's and used our air mattress and her couch to crash for the night.

On Sunday we had a cookout with his whole family including his niece, Lori; her husband, Robert; and their new baby, Julian.

Later in the afternoon we headed up to Jerome, in the mountains where we had reservations at a haunted hotel - the Mile High Inn.

Jerome is charming. It's an old mining town that was once dubbed the "Wickedest Town in the West". After many years as almost a ghost town it was rescued in the 70's by hippies and artists and is now a historic town with galleries, saloons, shops, and restaurants. It also has spectacular views across the Verde Valley toward Sedona and Flagstaff.

We had a great supper at the grill downstairs from the hotel then retired for the night to see if we could catch any ghosts. Unfortunately, we didn't see any ghosts but had a great time in a Victorian era hotel!

After our complimentary breakfast (with some of the best pancakes I've had since my Daddy made Sunday breakfast) - we headed down the mountains and through the valley to Sedona. Sedona is known for it's "new age" reputation and there were quite a few stores and shops with those themes but what is most striking are the beautiful red rocks around the town. Gorgeous scenery.

After Sedona we made our way down Interstate 17 to Phoenix and finding George napping decided not to wake him and headed on to Tucson. What a day!

Lots of fun packed into 72 hours!




3/19/2008

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

Yesterday we spent the afternoon at the ballpark, Tucson Electric Park to be exact, watching the San Diego Padres vs. the Chicago White Sox in a Spring Training game.

Spring Training seems to be in danger here in Tucson as the MLB teams want the city and county to spend millions (many millions) on new facilities or "upgrades". Tucson has been reluctant in these economic times to burden its citizens further with the requisite taxes such an outlay of cash would mean. Meanwhile, Phoenix which seems to have the same philosophy on taxes that many east coast cities do (never met a tax they didn't like) is eager to steal the teams away with sweet financial packages and deals. So, Spring Training in the nice intimate ballparks of Tucson may be a thing of the past as they move to multi-billion dollar stadiums in Phoenix.

With that in mind we decided to take advantage of the reasonable prices and enjoy a Tuesday afternoon game between my Pads and the Sox. There are some great advantages to small stadiums not the least of which is parking. Though we arrived minutes before the game thanks to a wrong turn (must learn to trust the GPS) we were able to park a reasonable distance from the gate. There were no long lines anywhere although the ballpark was about 3/4 full.

Once inside we stopped at Charro's which is a TEP standard for a Quesadilla (Michael) and Churro (Buck). We also got fresh squeezed lemonade. Unfortunately, during our walk to our seats we managed to miss the top of the first inning with the Pads scoring three runs.

Soon we found our seats which were just past the third base line and settled in for a warm afternoon. The temperature was around 70 which made a warm but not too warm day. Like most smaller ballparks you're close enough to the action to really enjoy it. The fans down front enjoyed chatting with the third base coach and Chicago's guy, Cox, seemed pretty friendly with the fans.

San Diego seems to be a little weak at shortstop, they had two errors but I think they only were charged with one. We saw a lot of double plays on San Diego's part during the afternoon and one nice home run. The final score was San Diego 5, Chicago 0.

After our ballgame we checked out one of Tucson's oldest local grocers, the Rincon Market. I'd expected something a little more unusual from some of the stuff I'd heard. But, it was fairly standard for groceries. Their baked goods looked really good and they have a hot foods department, but I wasn't too keen on eating in the grocery store so we decided to lunch at Chuy's.

After we ate we looked at cameras. We decided to just buy a digital camera since we were spending so much on disposable film cameras lately (almost $100 since leaving SC with processing!) We tried Best Buy first and found one we liked, a Canon Powershot 8 megapixel. Unfortunately, they were out and didn't know when they'd have more. So we decided to try Circuit City and found exactly the same price. It's a great camera and I'm very pleased so far with its capabilities.

We finished off the day with a "quick" trip to Basha's for some breakfast groceries. Of course, no trip to the grocery store is ever quick. Well, it can be quick but it never seems to be cheap. I have noticed that food out here seems be a bit more expensive than South Carolina. We talked a little about joining Costco for some of the things we get regularly (my fries, household supplies, etc.)

All in all a very enjoyable day in Tucson.

3/16/2008

Rain, Snow, and Cold!

I thought I left this weather! After several days in the upper 80's this morning dawned cloudy and cold. In the early afternoon it began raining quite steadily and the sky was very dark.

By four o'clock when we ventured out to the grocery store and to get some supper at Denny's it was in the mid 40's and windy. We couldn't see the Catalina mountains for the thick clouds covering them. To the south we could watch clouds climb over the mountains and bring rain showers across the Santa Cruz river and into Tucson.

Just before we got to Denny's we passed a car on Oracle that was covered in snow. We figured at that point it must be snowing in the mountains. Sure enough when we came out of Denny's and looked back at the mountains the clouds had cleared and the entire range was covered in snow!

Wild weather, but I've heard people say that it's actually snowed further north as late as Easter so, guess it's not too weird. Still, you don't expect rain, cold and snow in the desert really.

At least we don't have to worry about tornadoes like back home. We talked to Joyce yesterday and they were in the midst of terrible storms with tornadoes touching down around Newberry and Prosperity. One home was destroyed according to Joyce and new reports mentioned 4 people injured.

It's supposed to be nice by Tuesday when we go to the baseball game. The temps are supposed to be back into the 70's and mild. That will be nice. Hopefully, the weather will stay nice for our trip to Prescott Valley later in the week. It's usually cooler up there and the last time we went it was in the 50's.

3/11/2008

We're "Domestic Partners"

Well, this afternoon we made it quasi-official. We went down to the City Hall here in Tucson and registered as "Domestic Partners". It's not even in the same galaxy (universe?) as marriage but it is recognized by the city which means that when we use city services we are treated as a "couple" and we are guaranteed visitation rights at all medical facilities within the city limits of Tucson. Hey, it's something and a hell of a lot more than we had anywhere in South Carolina!

So, after ten years together we have some piece of official paperwork attesting to the our relationship. Check it out below...

Michael Gets His Piano

Michael's piano arrived a little while ago and he's been playing ever since. The piano is an Essex, which is designed and produced by Steinway. It has a beautiful sound and beautiful cabinet as well. The color he chose was mahogany.
The Tucson Steinway Piano Gallery proved to be a wonderful place to shop for and purchase the piano. Of course, a Steinway or one of their subsidiaries was the only real choice for Michael. John Simon, the owner of the gallery helped immensely in choosing a great instrument and filling us in on the background of both the Essex and Boston brands that are produced by Steinway.

So, Michael is making music once again and I'll have to see if I can pull him off for a little while to run some errands. We still have to take our "Domestic Partnership" registration to City Hall downtown!

Oh well, at least I can enjoy the music again.

3/09/2008

The Catalinas

This morning started simply enough. Michael wanted to get some fixative for one of his chalk works and I wanted to pick up some silk greenery to go in the vase on the kitchen table so off we went to Michael's up the street.

After looking around in there for a while we decided to have lunch at one of our new favorite spots - Chuy's. They have very good food in a relaxed atmosphere and the prices are pretty good too. While eating we decided since it was such a nice day (about 75 at the time) we should go for a drive. Michael suggested we drive up to Mt. Lemmon in the Catalina Mountains.

After figuring out which road to take out of town and into the mountains we headed up, and up, and up. The views were beautiful covering everything from desert to grassland to rock and finally alpine forest.

Around 5000 ft the scenery gives way to pines and patches of snow while the temperature steadily drops with almost every curve in the road. We saw lovely views of the valleys and eventually found ourselves at the little town of Summerhaven perched around 8000 ft. When we arrived there the temperature was in the 40's!


Summerhaven sports a general store and gift shop along with very handy restrooms after the 24 mile drive up the mountains! They also have a small cafe but since we'd already eaten in Tucson we didn't try it out.

Ponderosa pines forest the upper elevations of the mountains reminding you that although surrounded by desert these are still part of the Rockies. Mount Lemmon is also the southernmost ski resort in the nation and usually has snow through April.

On the way back down the mountain we stopped several times to take in the scenery. The views are magnificent and there is still quite a lot of snow in the higher elevations. You can check out some of the photos we shot at our Picasa Gallery.

At one point we stopped into a visitor center for the Coronado National Forest and met the ranger there who also happens to be an artist. Some of her watercolors were available at the gift shop.

We got back to Tucson around 4:30 to temperatures still in the upper 70's and news tonight that Michael's niece, Lori, has given birth to her son! His name is Julian James and he weighed in at 5 pounds 15 ounces. (Lori is very petite!)

Our next "scheduled" activity is a baseball game. We've got tickets to a Spring Training game between the Chicago White Sox and the San Diego Padres on the 18th. After that we'll head back up to Prescott Valley for a couple days for Peter's birthday and to visit Lori, Robert and little Julian.

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