Tuesday, May 22, 2007


April 5
On an early morning walk, I find a park
with views of the mountains.
The streets are clean
and level, with cactus and orange trees
(that's what that
heavenly scent is).
People are jogging and walking dogs.


speckled woodpeckers
garbage truck (Tucson Recycles)

train whistle
mourning doves
a cardinal that looks bigger than
the ones in Brooklyn—
maybe it's not a cardinal

a plane takes off—
the familiar sound of
overhead planes
the airport isn't far

A poster:
"Humanitarian aid
is not a crime."

A bumper sticker:

"Annoy a Republican. Quote the Constitution."

The house next door is for sale, 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, $694,000.

Breakfast: zucchini & egg pizza,
sliced apples
with cinnamoned apple sauce,
warm coffee cake (I take some with me
my day trip to Reid Park).

Bob and Susan, the couple at table, are bi-coastal:
they live in Westchester for 6 months
She's a docent at the Katonah Museum of Art.
Then they drive cross country
, stopping in Richmond
(where one son lives), then Tucson (another son)
and finally Seattle to
another son owns.
They are
leaving after breakfast, but first Susan
has to get her signal lights fixed.

Bob wants to talk politics, but first he asks,

"Are you liberal?"
Left of
liberal, I say.
Oh good, he says.

I ask him what the Humanitarian poster
He says it's in support of people who help people
crossing the Arizona desert into the U.S.
— offering them food, water and
medical assistance.
These people
have been arrested for their deeds.

What does "Arizona" mean?
I mean, is it a Native American name or Spanish
It looks like maybe "Arid Area."
I don't think that's it, though.

a Museum of MInerals on the UA campus.

This makes the 22nd state I've been to:
(airports only)
South Carolina

North Carolina
Washington, DC (not a state, though)
Delaware (train station only)
New Jersey
New York

Rhode Island
New Hampshire

States I would like to go:

Illinois (Chicago)

I used to have nightly dreams
about going to Alaska.

April 6
Breakfast with a physicist from Tallahasee.
is giving a talk at the university.
He is originally from Los Alamos, New
He grew up in an isolated community
of scientists who worked
on the atom bomb.

He mentions a colleague who is a theorist.
What's a
theorist I ask.
A person who tells scientists what they discovered,
he says.

Artists can be theorists, too.
(Speaking for myself),
I often don't know what I'm after
til after I've
finished a painting.
I start out with one idea,
but end up with
something very different—a happy surprise
if I'm

Then I try to figure out
how I did it and worry
if I can do it again.
But as Matvey Levenstein said,
"If you did it once, you can
do it again."
I often think of his reassuring words.

Breakfast is vanilla yogurt and grapefruit
topped with granola. It's very
The physicist says it was interesting to talk
about art instead
of science for a change.

Tohono Chul Drop my bottle of brown ink
on a brick bench. No rain will wash it away til July.

The cactus are blooming.
There are signs warning of snakes.
I'd like to see a snake.
And/or tarantula.
And/or a roadrunner.

Joanie calls while I wait for the bus back to Centro/downtown.
She says Betty is coming out to Arizona in 2 weeks. Too bad we
couldn't have coordinated our trips. She's flying to Phoenix and
driving down to Bisbee.
After that, she's driving to Sedona.
Oh wouldn't I love to go there.

On the l-o-o-o-n-g bus ride back to town,
a fervent young Born Again Christian discusses Biblical interpretation
with a Jehovah's Witness. The BAC has the Bible memorized
and is able to quote scripture left and right. He talks a lot
about guilt and fire and brimstone.

He admits that he had been guilty of sorcery.
I whisper to the JW who is sitting next to me, "What's sorcery?"

He isn't exactly sure, but thinks it's palm reading and
predicting the future.

APRIL 7 Private tour of Tucson with Dorothy, including trip to
The Desert Museum.

What I learn about Tucson:
Tucson is surrounded by 4 mountains ranges —
Rincon, to the East
Tucson, to the West
Santa Catalina, to the North
Santa Rita, the largest, to the South

Tucson has a population of 1.2 million

What I learn about Mesquite:

It is called the
Tree of Life
because it provides shelter and food

It was eaten by the indigenous people,
the Hohokum. It is full of protein and
has few carbohydrates.

The wood is very hard and used for
building huts as well as furniture.

The wood is aromatic when burned
and is used for cooking.

The bark can be used to make black ink.

The leaves are used for tea.

What I learn about hummingbirds:

They make their nests out of tree materials
and spider webs.

Some hummingbirds, including the Rufus,
migrate as far as Alaska.

The color ring aound the males' necks is called a

More Arizona facts:

the ocotilla—spindly, sharp shrubs with red flowers—
are called living fences.

It is illegal to tear down a Saguaro.

The Hohokum have had several names through
history: Pima, Papago and Tohono O'Odham.

In the evening, I go to a UA women's softball
game. They're playing Arizona State. It's on ESPN.
I talk to R on my cell during the entire the game.
It's sleeting and freezing in New York, but it's a
beautiful night in Tucson. UA wins, 1-0.

APRIL 8 Easter Sunday. Another beautiful day,
weather-wise. I meet Leslie at breakfast.
She's from Charlotte, NC. I suggest we share
a cab out to the Mission (on my list of things to
see in Tucson). She says why don't we rent
a car instead.

My camera's kinda broken.

San Xavier Mission The smell of fires cooking
tortillas. Susan said we must try the ones with honey
and confectioners sugar.

Leslie is in the church, at Mass. I am drawing.
A young boy asks if I sell my drawings. His mother
tells me I should visit Bisbee. There are lots of
artists there.

San Xavier is called the White Dove of the Desert.
They started building it in 1594. There is a wooden
figure of St. Francis in the nave of the church.
People stand in line to touch it and pin milagros on His
white coverlet.

We leave the Mission — no sweet tortillas — and head south.
By now we're very hungry. We stop in Tubac, a pretty
artist colony, but since there are no restaurants open,
we don't stop. Before long, we are at the border in Nogales.
There's nothing appealing there. We decide not to
cross the border.

So we're driving and driving, that is, Leslie's driving.
She's a good driver, calm and careful. We're heading
back to Tucson on Route 82. The scenery is eye-boggling—

yellow rolling hills,
mauve mountains and big azure sky.
Finally, in Sonoita, we spy a restaurant, the Steak-Out.
All wood and sawdust. We really enjoy our steak dinners
with live music by a country/western duo.

APRIL 9 Last day in Tucson. The weather is perfect again,
sunny, cloudless, with a gentle breeze. At breakfast
(blueberry French toast, sausages, a slice of melon
scooped out in the middle in an "O," topped with
strawberries and very big blackberries), the guests
are Christine from Cleveland, who is the Plains Dealer
Sunday Magazine editor. She used to be a reporter
and misses that excitement; Ken, who knows the
ex-mayor of Shaker Heights. The mere mention of politics
prompts the inevitable discussion about the Iraq war.

This bothers Susan in the kitchen.
"I'm so tired of that war talk," she says.
"A lot of talk and no one does anything about it."

Ken is here with Ann. She is very friendly
and nice. She divides her time between Montclair
and Narragansett. She offers to give me a tour of
the Gilbert Stuart birthplace the next time I'm
in Rhode Island. She's a docent there.

APRIL 9-10
Late night flight back to New York.
They have trouble finding a seat for me—they've
double-seated people. For my trouble, a nice steward
gives me a free set of headphones. The movie is
The Pursuit of Happyness.

Tuesday morning, very early, arrive in Newark.
It's freezing! R has made me a colorful
WELCOME HOME sign. Such a doll!

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