Notes · · Tucson

A Very California Experience

Agave plants

We're back from our Thanksgiving road trip. We had a very California experience. We ate vegan frozen yogurt on Sunset Boulevard. We learned a new word: chipster (Chicano hipster). We got lost walking ten miles all over downtown Los Angeles. Do they still say nobody walks in L.A.? We saw lots of people walking. Hello! we'd say and people were mostly friendly and said hello back and offered directions. Others were crazy and didn't notice us at all, including the angry guy chasing after the babbling guy with a length of steel pipe. But that was okay. You can't always talk to everyone. On the 5 we saw rain and rainbows, snow, cows, and lots of different types of fruit trees. We listened to audiobooks.  Anne Lamott and Joan Didion had lots to say. David Sedaris and Kiese Laymon did too. 

Santa Cruz was cold and green and beautiful. The friends we were visiting there live in the hills of Aptos. Hiram was meeting Julie and Lesa for the first time. As he drove the winding road up through the hills to Julie's house, I expected to see Ewoks and he wondered aloud if she lived in a cabin with whistling dwarves and little birds that do housework. She doesn't, but there are squirrels and deer and joggers. They jump from tree to tree, pass through the yard, and make their way up and down the street. Lesa doesn't live in a cabin with dwarves either, but she does have stylish children. I didn't ask if they whistle.

Hiram in Aptos
Me in Aptos

Julie turned us on to Santiago Artemis's “No Time for Shame” on Netflix. "Every episode is about the shoulder pads." Then we wanted to turn her on to “La Casa de Las Flores.” Have you seen season one? Isn't it outrageous? A telenovela for the smart Gen-X Mexican demographic. It did feel a little slow and desaturated after Santi's many outfit changes, so if you're going to watch both shows, I'd recommend starting with Casa de Las Flores; then, when you're warmed up, move on to Santiago. 

Also, it's important to watch Casa de Las Flores in Spanish. There's an English version but with the dub you miss out on Cecila Suarez' staccato delivery. I wouldn't want you to watch the show without it. 

Notes · · Tucson


Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit - all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.

― Brian Eno, A Year With Swollen Appendices

Notes · · Tucson

Christmas in October

Sooner than later all sorts of people will be up in arms about people saying Merry Christmas again. I think I'd settle for people just saying good morning to each other again.

Notes · · Tucson

Amanda Gris

What if the novel in you is one you yourself would never read? A beach novel, a blockbuster, a long, windy, character-driven literary drama that ends sadly? What if the one novel in you is the opposite of your idea of yourself?
― Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays

Notes · · Tucson

Sometimes it’s harder to notice a place you think you know well

Sometimes it's harder to notice a place you think you know well; your eyes glide over it, seeing it but not seeing it at all. It's almost as if familiarity gives you a kind of temporary blindness. I had to force myself to look harder and try to see beyond the concept of library that was so latent in my brain. ― Susan Orlean, The Library Book

Notes · · Mexico City

In which Diego shaves me.

Diego shaves me in Roma

Diego shaves me.

Hiram took this photo of me getting a shave at the shop "Famous" near where we are staying in Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood. This is the first time I have gotten a shave at a barber shop. I don’t think the barber, Diego, believed I speak Spanish because we both had to repeat ourselves a lot. Or perhaps this being my first shave in Spanish, I was speaking Spanish but not the Spanish you use when getting a shave. Perhaps because I didn’t understand what he was asking me to do or perhaps because I continue to be haunted by the beautiful film Roma, when Diego put the chair down and told me to stretch out, I tried to put legs up like the film’s protagonist Cleo at her OB Gyn appointment. It was a good shave.

Notes · · Tucson

Arbitrary Stupid Goal

There are many things to enjoy and think about in Tamara Shopsin's Arbitrary Stupid Goal, a memoir of family and friendships and neighborhood characters and places in a not-so-long-ago New York City that sounds as if it mostly doesn't exist anymore or won't soon. I enjoyed it and perhaps you will too.

But I also want to say that something I especially liked about the copy I borrowed from the library was how whoever put the mylar jacket on it, played with the already cool duotone design to make it even more fun than it already was. Well done, Pima County.

Notes · · Hermosillo

They are called Mexican wedding shirts

I have been to two Mexican weddings in the past year. Both times I have agonized over what shirt to wear.

Last night my sister-in-law married her sweetheart in a cozy ceremony in the garden of a hotel in Hermosillo. As I was putting on a tie I had brought to wear with the white shirt and black slacks I had bought earlier in the week, Hiram asked if I didn't have another shirt.

"I'm afraid people will think you are a waiter."

So I lost the tie and wore the other shirt — the one with the tiny polka dots. 

On the way to the hotel, we passed a pair of missionaries dressed in exactly the same clothes I was going to wear originally.

Ho hum.

It's hot in the summer in Hermosillo and it's just as well I didn't wear the tie, which I had only retrieved in the first place from a box from the nineties in the closet because I felt guilty for not wearing a blazer I don't own.

At the wedding I took some photos because I can't not take photos. Later, looking at Hiram's brothers in the pictures I had a thought.

Light bulb.

What they are wearing is what English speakers call Mexican wedding shirts. They are for sale in many places in Tucson in many colors and styles, new and vintage, expensive and not.

The answer to my question of what shirt to wear was sewn into the shirt I could have worn. 

Family and friends at Zayra and Arturo's wedding

Family and friends at Zayra and Arturo's wedding