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Note · · Tucson

Feb 07, 2017

A great day for people whose favorite books are hats!

Note · · Tucson

Feb 02, 2017

The calls are coming from inside the house.

Note · · Tucson

Mulligrubs

plural noun · mul·li·grubs · ˈməlēˌgrəbzˈ
1 : a despondent, sullen, or ill-tempered mood : sulks, blues. 2 : a griping of the intestines : colic.

Mullygrubs

Note · · Tucson

Almodóvar on Faking It

Do things ever happen in your life and in order to get by without giving up hope or losing your cool you “fake it till you make it?” Then, in the middle of doing that, does something else happen? And does it make you think: Well, my coping strategy for things like this has been to fake it, but I'm already just rolling with the punches as it is and now this all is beginning to feel more like a dance piece choreographed by a calculus professor than an article in Popular Psychology.

Of course they do. Of course it does.

Some of us are better at faking it in the roles we're in and we have to create for ourselves to get by. That is what I took away from an article that has been sitting in a stack of things on the nightstand to get around to reading since Hiram passed it to me last month. The stack is tall enough now that it was probably interfering with my sleep so I was about to throw the piece out with the rest of the mess without looking at it. Pedro’s pensive gaze in the accompanying photo wouldn’t let me though. 

Mr. Almodóvar, too, was watching his mother, Francisca Caballero, who died in 1999, as he grew up in the La Mancha region of Spain and agreed that many of his characters were inspired by her. “She had the capacity to fake things, fake things in order to solve problems,” he said, explaining that as opposed to the men in his family, the women “would resolve situations with the greatest naturalism, with the greatest ease, they would just fake that certain things were happening in order to protect us as children, and they did it with the greatest conviction.”

He added, “Life is filled with these miniature plays, scenarios, where people are forced to act or fake, and women are naturally born actresses.”

Julie Bloom, “Pedro Almodóvar and His ‘Cinema of Women’,” New York Times, December 2, 2016

Making tall stacks of all the things to get around to reading is, of course, a completely different coping mechanism.  

Note · · Tucson

On Mindfulness

There's a lot going on in the world so something that it's easy to forget is that if you are right now eating Nutella on your toast and you suddenly have an itch to scratch in your pajamas eventually you will have some explaining to do.

Note · · Tucson

Dancing Backwards and in High Feels

Good and bad things happened this year. I won't take credit for more than a couple of them because the only things I actually set out to accomplish were to:

  • Stop being a such a dick to call center reps.
  • Become proficient in using Node JS for front-end web development work.

Neither one of those things is easy or impossible. What's more, for most of the people in my life, the first is the only one I can really ask you to do. When you do, you will feel so much better. I promise.

Here's a long-winded breakdown of everything else.

December

  • All I want for Christmas is no more tamale memes. The tamales are fine though. I want the tamales.
  • I attend my niece's Christmas pageant in Hermosillo. My god, they are serious about costumes.
  • We spend Christmas with Hiram and his Family in Hermosillo in their new sub-division home.

November

  • When we first met, Hiram had never tasted sour cream as it is sold in the United States (and is a staple in Gringo interpretations of Mexican food). Now he seems to prefer it.
  • I enjoy meeting Alejandro Cartagena at the Center for Creative Photography, where he gives a presenation about home ownership in Mexico: Building Narratives Around the Dream of Homeownership, Suburbs and A Sense of Place. Also, he has copies of his book, Carpoolers.
  • Days before the election, I'm not as confident about Trump not winning as most of my friends are. My extended family, most of whom are Latter Day Saint or conservative Christians, but who nonetheless usually express support and enthusiasm about my marriage and my immigrant husband, have been ominously quiet about a candidate rallying frightened and angry people with more fear and anger.
  • The election is an awful disappointment. Most everyone I know is sick to their stomach. Some literally.
  • My friend Nathan sums up my feelings that night when he writes:

As I go to bed, I'm shocked at the realization that so many of my fellow Americans (and likely friends and family) support racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia and actually turn a blind eye to actual corruption in order to hate a woman for innuendo. Sorry guys, but if you voted for Trump, I hate you a bit right now. I weep for my country. I weep for those that aren't privileged enough to make it through the next four years. The rest of us have to deal with an Executive, Legislative and likely Judiciary branch that will redefine our constitution to ensure that hatred will be a cornerstone of our country's values.

  • After a week of feeling miserable and not knowing what to say to people about what I'm feeling, I run into a friend I haven't seen in years. He greets me with, "How are you?" When I answer, "I'm not giving up," it's comforting when he get it and nods.
  • This year I am thankful for friends who get it and are not silent.
  • Thanksgiving in Rocky Point. Hiram is there for work. I need to use my vacation time, so I tag along, doing my own thing for a week, and when I'm not, staring at the sea through a hotel window.

October

  • Hiram and I housesit for Ken. It is pleasant to be surrounded by his good taste, to wake up with his cat, and to use his washer and dryer.
  • We have been reading aloud John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley.
  • My mother appears to me in a dream scolding me for not keeping our place in Rocky Point, where dentistry is available at a discount. 
  • Linus, who I nannied for when he was a baby, turns 18. Do not be sad when your childhood friends start turning into old people; instead, be happy you are still around when your child friends start turning into young people.

September

  • The neighbors' pomegranate tree has born fruit and it's hanging over their wall. It's all I can do not to snatch a couple.
  • A window washer I often see around downtown falls from his unicyle at University and Euclid and demonstrates what it truly means to land on one's feet.
  • New housing, mostly apartments, are going up all over downtown Tucson. What a difference from the barrio of my twenties. How long before Midtown Liquors has an olive bar?
  • We go to the Himmel branch of the public library and get Hiram a library card. While we're there, I discover you can check out seeds to plant a garden. The deal is, after your harvest you return some seeds. God, I love the library system here.
  • Herzog's Heart of Glass is weird and beautiful.
  • We attend my Nephew's graduation from the Motorcycle Mechanic Institute in Phoenix. Driving back to Tucson afterward, Hiram comments "There was a lot of testosterone in that room."
  • We visit Biosphere 2 for the first time as tourists. I had been there years ago when my friend Charlotte was part of the second group of Biospherians, and another time for work, but never as someone taking the tour.

August

  • Nights and weekends over the summer we go to a cafe with frosty air-conditioning, strong coffee and pastries from Nadine's and work on our websites.
  • For Christmas last year, Hiram gave me photographer Dan Winters' beautiful book, Road to Seeing. The layout and writing encouraged me to do something different with my website. To make it more friendly to written work as well as accomodating the different incarnations my blog has taken over the years.
  • We celebrate our second wedding anniversary at Feast. When Kevin the sommelier helps us choose from three grenaches, he convincingly describes the vineyards each comes from as if we are riding bikes from one to the other. He describes the countryside, the plants and smells in the air, the sunlight. After each, we get back on our bikes and pedal to the next. By the time we pick a bottle, we feel as if we have taken a vacation.
  • We visit Puerto Peñasco where it is muggy as all get out. The humidity makes Hiram's hair a delightful mess. His summer curls give me life.
  • We spend a long weekend in Bisbee. I did not know Bisbee is cooler than Tucson in the middle of Summer. Please don't tell anyone. I want it to be our secret.

July

  • Aggressive cream pie samples sounds like clickbait but really it's one of the best reasons to shop at Fry's supermarket this summer.
  • We have been enjoying the online movie streaming service MUBI all summer, but we sign up for a free month of Netflix streaming so we can watch the new Pee Wee Herman movie. Once we have seen that, we watch as many episodes of Malcolm in The Middle we can before the offer expires.
  • I have a crown replaced.
  • Bill Cunningham passes away.
  • Magda, the cruiser style bicycle I have had since 2003, and which has served both me and Hiram for many Sunday afternoon rides, is stolen. Thank you for your service, Magda.
     

    Hiram & Magda

  • We watch Carlos Reygadas' film, Battle in Heaven. It's not an easy movie to watch but you should. Also, it's a sad milestone for us as we have enjoyed discovering his films so much this year. Now that we've seen them all, what will we do until he makes more? We'll probably watch Silent Light and Post Tenebras Lux a few more times.
  • Hiram continues to spoil me by making fresh tortillas at breakfast.

June

  • If Sauce ever discontinues its two-for-one summer sampler, we will probably starve to death.
  • Hiram says he feels very American when he schedules appointments during his lunch hour. "I can go to the bank during my lunch hour. I try to schedule my dentist appointments during my lunch hour. I often run errands on my lunch hour." And so on. This makes me smile.
  • Bridgitte Thum's music mix on KXCI is the best. It is bittersweet, happy and sad all at once. She played National Lampoon’s Deteriorata, which I had forgotten all about.
  • I have nightmares about the Orlando shooter and walking through a landscape filled with rattlesnakes.
  • We planned to see the toy trains show with Homer. When that was a bust, he gives us a private tour of the Tucson Presidio where he has been involved as a docent and the President of the Presidio's Trust.

May

  • We're economizing this year and decide to not take a vacation that involves airfare. Hiram has business to take care of in Hermosillo, so I suggest when that's out of the way we go to Guaymas for a few days.
  • I wonder what has happened to the passenger rail stations of Mexico's past. We visit what's left of the stations in Guaymas, Empalme, and Benjamin Hill. We try to visit the Hermosillo and Nogales stations, but are turned away.
  • We climb Tetakawi.
  • We try to visit the Librería Bohemia Amado Nervo in Guaymas. There's a big black bow on the door and a court order. Neither one of those things is ever good, I think.
  • We spend a lot of our free time at a cafe with air conditioning.
     

    Librería Bohemia Amado Nervo

April

  • I always tell myself I won't eat the tortilla chips at El Minuto, but I always do.
  • The last few years I have been commuting between Rocky Point and Tucson. This means that I haven't spent many weekends in Tucson. Now Hiram has moved to Tucson and we can make plans to do weekend things here. Like a wine tasting at Feast. Getting in isn't as easy as I thought it would be, but at the last minute we get seats. We learn all about Spanish reds with a group of older folks from Green Valley who drive into town a couple times a month for "Wine School."
  • An internet radio mix includes a version of America's Tin Man. I remember hearing it on the radio a lot when I was kid about the time my parents were divorcing. The version the DJ was playing was performed by what sounded like a recording of a grade school chorus and band assembly. It took me back and perhaps because of the children's voices, I was a bit emotional thinking about what my brothers must have been feeling during that time.
  • Hiram insists on pairing the socks when we do laundry. I am not complaining.
  • In a dream, Hiram threatens to buy three Jack in the Box tacos. But even in dream math, I know those tacos must be bought in pairs.
  • One Saturday, Ken takes us on a tour of some of the specialty food markets around Tucson close to his heart.
     
    Ken w/pitaya
  • Driving through the small Sonoran town of Imuris I see a woman giving a man a haircut in the front yard of a farmhouse. It is the most beautiful photograph I did not take all year.
  • We visit the Un Mundo sin Fronteras exhibit at MUSAS in Hermosillo. It includes our friend Francois' images of objects left behind by desert crossers. The exhibit is beautiful and heartbreaking.

March

  • Now I am old enough to remember when frozen yogurt and yogurt both tasted like yogurt.
  • Mornings this month I lay in bed enjoying the spring air. I have been recalling documentaries, experimental music, radio theatre programs I'd hear on NPR and Pacifica, and college radio stations when I was a teenager in the eighties and the escape they offered from my insular Mormon life at the time.
  • We attend Homer's annual non-denominational egg decorating event. It is the first time Hiram has dyed eggs.
  • I'm amused that previous staples of college age poverty, things like recycled wood furnishings and single servings of brewed coffee, are contemporary specialties. Of course the $4 pour-overs appear to use actual filters instead of paper towels, but it’s probably just a matter of time.
  • We take the Basic Bicycle maintenance class with Carlyn at BICAS.
  • I have had a cough for weeks now. I see my doctor. He says it's allergies. "Every year you come to see me with the same cough you and everyone else has this time of year. You have allergies." He gives me a steroid shot.
  • Hiram goes to Ensenada for a meeting. I promise him banana bread when he returns, though I think he'd probably settle for me clipping my toenails.

February

  • My father passes away. I loved him and I don't doubt he loved me. He was a great story teller and a charming man and he worked hard all of his life. We lost touch about ten years ago after he disappeared into his most recent marriage, as he tended to do. It was his fifth. Each time he married again there was more distance between us when my alliances didn't shift from him and my mother to him and his new wife and family. I wish it hadn't always been so all-or-nothing.
  • For years I have thought café automático was Spanish for instant coffee. It turns out at some point Hiram and his mom called it that when they were joking with each other and I overheard without understanding and started calling it that, thinking I had learned a new regionalism. “We didnt want to correct you.”
    I have been asking confused Mexican waitresses for automatic coffee for years now.
  • We pack up the casita in Rocky Point and move our things there to Tucson.
  • How does the old expression go? I can do anything you can do, bitter. Dancing backwards and in high feels.

January

  • The morning I learn David Bowie has died, I cry while making the bed, thinking life is so short.
  • Hiram and I spend as many nights as we can eating soup on the patio at the Blue Marlin Smoke House.
  • With Hiram now a permanent resident in the US, we give our month's notice for the casita in Rocky Point and start figuring out what to keep and not. There are a lot of redundancies. Who needs an iron?
Richard & Hiram, post tacos

Photo: Jeff Davis

Note · · Hermosillo

Oompa, Oopma, Boom, Boom, Boom

Not at all as heartwarming as Queen Elizabeth's holiday message of community this year. Definitely longer than the President-elect's lonely, angry fisted little tweet.  It's Christmas 2016.

At the exact moment our winter vacation begins, Hiram and I get on a bus and travel through the night to our family in Hermosillo.

During the day on Christmas Eve, presents are bought and wrapped at the department store. People stand in line for an hour to get gifts wrapped. I wonder out loud if it wouldn’t be faster for them to just wrap the packages themselves. “It’s free," someone says.

Well, there you go.

When my mother-in-law asks how we should prepare the turkey this year. Hiram and I break into laughter.

“What?” She asks. “What!?” She insists.

“Every year you ask us how we think we should prepare the bird. Then at the last minute you make it exactly as you always have. It’s delicious. But it's not how we would make it and it cracks us up that we have this conversation every year.”

“Well this year, you guys can do everything. Make it how you like. I’m not touching it."

Hiram and I go downtown to the beauty district and see our barber here. We get the haircuts we want. I forget to ask about my eyebrows. We stop back in after lunch to have the wandering tumbleweeds on my forehead corralled.

Me at Estética Valenzuela

We go for a walk around downtown. I want to see what is happening with the Radiomotores car parts and toy store since Alejandro passed away. We arrive at the shop, press our noses to the glass windows long enough to get a glimpse of the chaos inside — garbage and empty display cases and more garbage — and immediately three bicycle cops arrive wanting to know what were are doing there.

“Someone reported you guys here behaving strangely.”

“That’s interesting to me,” Hiram says. “We haven't been here ten seconds. That’s hardly enough time for us to get here, for someone to see us, for them to contact you, and for you to arrive.”

“Maybe it was someone else then,” says the officer. Then his eyes do that I’m scanning your pockets while trying not to lose eye-contact with you thing officials do. “What are you doing here?"

“I'm visiting from Tucson. I am taking pictures of things downtown,” I say, in my tourist Spanish, holding up my camera.

Strange behavior indeed.

We head back to the car. Along the way I buy a stick pony for my niece. If I were a three-year-old, I would want a stick pony. Honestly, I would still like one. I’m not embarrassed by that, but our place is crowded with stuff as it is; there's just no room for a stick pony in our lives right now. I hope my niece will enjoy the stick pony I have always wanted.

At home, Mom has the turkey prepped and ready to go in the oven. “I have the turkey ready. All you guys have to do is put it in the oven. What time do you think it should go in?”

Hiram and I look at each other.

“What time is mass?” I ask. “What time will you be back?”
“What time will we be back?"

Every year since I started spending Christmas with Hiram and his family, I have gone to Christmas Eve mass with them. The joke is—it’s only sort of a joke though—the joke is that if I want to eat dinner with the family, I also have to go to mass. But this year I insist and don't go.

I can’t say I am ever in the mood for mass, but I usually end up enjoying it. The carols remind me of happy times when I was a kid and, because they’re in Spanish, my first Mexican Christmas in Cuernavaca. There is the part of the mass where you turn and wish complete strangers peace and shake their hand. Also, there are often guitars and bells in the mix. If that's not enough to keep me from being bored, there are always people to watch. If all else fails, I pretend the Spanish language sermon is actually being given in Latin and I am trying to understand it.

This year we were going to a mass given by a priest whose delivery I’m not crazy about. It wasn't to be the hippie Jesuit with the illegally parked car that is blocking the gate to the parking lot and needs a jump. And it wasn’t to be the Spaniard who texts while he’s giving his sermon about gratitude and cold cow spit. It was to be a priest who I can never tell if it's him or his congregation who falls asleep first.

What's worse though is the two statuettes he has representing the baby Jesus. There is a dark-skinned Jesus that resembles the majority of the people in the congregation. Then there’s the blond-haired, blue-eyed baby Jesus that looks more like the Aryan kid on the Kinder brand chocolate bars at supermarket checkout stands everywhere here.

After the mass, the little statues are lifted from their plaster of Paris mangers and walked through the chapel so everyone can wish the “newborn” a happy birthday. Pious old women snatch up their toddler grandchildren and elbow their way through all of the other grandmothers and grandchildren to give Blonde Jesus a birthday kiss.

Meanwhile, an altar boy giggles uncomfortably as he carries Brown Jesus around the chapel to arm’s length fanfare: Everyone including the priest on his microphone, jokes how sad it is no one shows poor Brown Jesus any love. “Haha!”

Haha? There’s so much that can be said about this thing with the Baby Jesus statuettes. Be my guest. For me this year, it’s enough to say I'm not up for being there for it.

So I don’t go to mass. I stay at home and make mashed potatoes.

By the time everyone gets back from mass, the food is ready. We make a toast, eat dinner, tell stories, eat even more. We share stories about Christmas where we everyone at the table is from: Here in Sonora, in Mexico City, and in Arizona.

Fireworks outside signal it's midnight. Christ is born. Time to open presents. Time to say thank you and fib about liking the clothes you just got. Time to smile for pictures. Time to try and stay awake just a little longer.

After the guests leave and the dishes are washed and the open bottle on the counter is finished off, Hiram and I walk out onto the patio to see if it is still raining. Nope. We’re stuffed and exhausted and regretting the second piece of pie. There are still fireworks going off and and banda music in the background. Oompa, oompa, boom, boom, boom. It is almost 3:00 in the morning. We wish each other a Merry Christmas.
“Merry Christmas, Churro.”
“Merry Christmas, Pipo."

Then we turn, look up at the sky, and fart for thirty seconds straight before going inside to bed.

Note · · Hermosillo

Annual Holiday Misophonia Post

Misophonia is the gift that keeps giving. And smacking, snapping, popping, chomping, crunching, sucking its teeth, slurping, burping, licking its fingers, and standing in front of you talking with a mouth full of food.

Gum Head

Gum Head at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Photo by Chris Clogg

Note · · Tucson

The Invention of America

I have been agonizing over just the right Christmas card to get you guys this year. It's not easy. I was hoping to find something as clever as that hilarious meme you shared recently about how if so many people had bought Fifty Shades of Grey then they couldn't sincerely be offended by some very successful businessman bragging about grabbing women by the hooha. Haha! So true. Which reminds me: Did you buy the book or wait for the movie?

Anyhow, many of the cards say nothing at all about Christmas and most of the others are about some immigrant baby and his virgin mother. As if. Sad.

There also seem to be no Driving Miss Daisy themed cards with Sharpton or Obama as Hillary's driver. Get it? Those are so funny and not at all offensive. I'm not sure how they'd make it about Christmas though, I guess.

Oh well, know that I tried!

Books on a shelf

Note · · Tucson

Please and Thank You

Waiting for a marriage license

Waiting for our marriage license in San Diego

Facebook is an awkward and uncomfortable place to be talking about many of the things a family may or may not have not talked about before. But it happens. Facebook is also most likely where I will find out what's on the minds of you immediate and extended family who, over the years, have relied on it to keep in touch and reconnect. It has meant a lot to me when some of you have expressed your support for my and Hiram's equality and our pursuit of the same opportunities you, our parents, and their parents have had. Thank you. When you have reached out like that, please know you have warmed my heart.

Thank you to the sister who went out of her way years ago when she first met Hiram and told us that if we ever got married, "You have to include me in the wedding." Thank you to a niece for being part of the LGBT Straight Alliance at her school. Thank you to the return missionary cousin who messaged me, “By the way, I am gay too.” Thank you to the cousin and aunt who, after we reconnected because of Facebook, called and said they always knew I was gay and always loved me just the same. Thank you to the in-laws who "Like" or leave enthusiastic comments on the "Hiram & Richard" photos we share. And thank you to those family members who keep me in the loop on their kids' graduations and new jobs and other important events of the people in the families you have created.

All I really have is please and thank you. Thank you for being courageous enough to stand by us in spite of the angrier voices and personalities of our religious and political communities when that is the case. Thank you for reaching out and showing your support those times when it is just the right thing to do even if it isn't the comfortable thing to do.

I am gay. The person I have loved for the last ten years and eventually cried tears of joy with when we were able to marry two years ago is an immigrant. What is at stake in this election for the family we are creating is all frighteningly real to me. Please be on the right side of history here. Please do the right thing and do not vote for a candidate who encourages you to fear immigrants, who has promised to appoint justices who would invalidate our marriage, and who just in general appeals to anger instead of love.

Note · · Tucson

Out of Pocket

Problematic escalators at BART stations are replaced with enormous slides of blue porcelain and brushed aluminum built by Dyson. At first the setup is praised as a faster and more hygienic approach to getting people onto the platforms but when it unexpectedly makes things easier for pickpockets, the project is scrapped.

Note · · Puerto Peñasco

Sea Change

We're on one of those cruises. At the Nutcracker tea dance we make friends and gyrate to classical standards reimagined on jazz flute laced with a fierce backbeat. Too tired to keep our dinner plans, we return to the room and lament that wearing flip-flops in public always makes our feet itch.

Sea Change

Note · · Tucson

Fang

Korean fabric dragon sculpture

As a child, I enjoyed the David Bowie song, Fang. When it was on the radio I sang along: Faaa-ang! What you bite you have to swallow, Faaa-ang!