Friends, Family, and Traveling.

I am a travel writer. I can prove it. Just look up my name at BigBlendMagazines.com and you will see several articles I’ve written about interesting places. I take notes and photos and when I get home, I hide away in my office and write up my experience.

I love seeing new things, visiting people, eating, and all the other stuff included in a good life. However, I’m terrible about keeping track of what I’m doing. I’ve never been a journaling type of person like many of the writers I know. I’ve tried, but it’s never been consistent. I post stuff now and then, mostly food pictures. I haven’t been able to do this on a regular basis.  So…..

I left my husband and dog at home a few days ago and headed north. I am determined to journal, photo, and share my travel experience through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and my blog. What I haven’t shared, so far, is the work I’ve done on a bathroom in a house in Colorado. 

After three days of cutting and setting tiles, I was too tired to post anything. Now that the tiles are stuck to the wall, I can unstick myself from Colorado and head towards Kansas.  Let’s see what’s interesting out there.

Nightlife in Tucson

I faced the street and watched people walk by the window at Pizzeria Bianco. Some are hurrying to catch the jazz show at the Rialto Theater. People strolled by, young men and women decked out in their Friday fancies. Older people walked up to peer in the door to see if there was a waiting line at the restaurant. It was a steady stream of humanity and I couldn’t be happier.

When I moved to Tucson in 1979, I worked downtown. It was a vibrant place during the day. Jacome’s Department Store, Walgreens, Woolworth, Harry Horowitz Jewelry, Lerner’s, Café Poca Cosa, Wig-O-Rama, Crescent Tobacco Shop, the Chicago store, Johnny Gibson’s Gym Equipment, Ronstadt Hardware, the Downtown Coffee Shop, and so many more businesses that I can’t remember. Over the years, the shops closed and disappeared. Buildings were neglected and a couple were turned into parking garages. Downtown died. There were still shows at the Tucson Community Center, but the night life was scarce and it wasn’t a place I wanted to walk at night.

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Nightlife in downtown Tucson languished for years and years. I grieved. I wanted the lively place I remembered and I couldn’t have it. It didn’t exist.

Over the decades, a few places opened here and there. The Congress Hotel started having music events. The historic Rialto Theater opened in 1995 as a music venue, but still, downtown wasn’t an exciting place to be unless there was an event. In 2005, the Fox Theater opened on New Year’s Eve featuring Bruce Hornsby. Still, downtown wasn’t what it could be. A couple of art galleries opened, a couple of small restaurants opened. Café Poca Cosa moved to its current location on Pennington and changed from the quaint Mexican themed restaurant in the Santa Rosa Hotel to an urban gem serving the same fabulous food. Most of the businesses were open during the day and there were and are quite a few lunch places catering to the daytime working people, but most of the lunch joints close after the lunch rush.

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In 2008 and 2009, I worked as a phone company engineer. My assigned area was downtown Tucson. Old buildings were being gutted or demolished and aerial phone cables needed to be buried. Some of the buried cables had to be removed because the building was scheduled to be demolished like the Santa Rosa Hotel. The building was obliterated from the corner of Broadway and Scott and a new multistoried office building took its place. This was the visible beginning of downtown Tucson’s rejuvenation.

I heard Tucson was getting a modern streetcar.  I can’t even begin to tell you the controversy involved in that. Even though some of the funding came from federal grants, some came from private sources, and yes, the city pitched in some money, people grumbled about what a waste it was. I heard complaints that no one would ride the streetcar, no one went downtown but college students, and there was nothing to do downtown. I didn’t care and I wouldn’t let other’s negative attitudes dissuade me. I was excited about the streetcar.  I knew it would be good for Tucson.

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The roads downtown were torn up, roads closed, businesses were inconvenienced, and people complained. You never knew where you would be routed on a day to day basis when you drove through downtown. Parking was disrupted and a couple of parking lots disappeared. While they were laying the tracks, I noticed other building going up. Some were new buildings taking the place of my favorite parking lots and other buildings were transformed.

In July of 2014, Sun Link, Tucson’s modern streetcar opened its doors to the public. The first weekend, all rides were free and we made an event out of it. I and my friends rode the streetcar from end to end. The route is only 3.9 miles going from the Mercado district which is west of Interstate 10 to the University Medical Center on Campbell and Helen. The streetcar travels through downtown, 4th Avenue, the University of Arizona Main Gate area and through campus.  There are many places to get on and off and it runs until 2:00 am on the weekends. I think it’s a perfect way to travel if you want to get a snoot full and not drive home.

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Every time I go downtown, I discover new businesses. Many are restaurants, but there are some gift shops, art galleries, an olive oil vendor, a kitchen gadget place, and I suspect over time, the jewelry shops will return, as will a clothing stores, a card shop, and all the other shops that make living in a downtown area possible.

Did I mention all the student housing downtown? The old Greyhound bus depot was replaced by an apartment complex of gleaming glass where all you have to do is walk downstairs to find the World of Beer and pizza. Young people fill the area, some watching the numerous televisions filled with sports while others are out walking their dogs. The Rialto is right around the corner and Club Congress is across the street.

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Who knows how long it will last, but for now, nightlife in downtown Tucson lives again. I am pleased.

Off Kilter

On November 13, 2015, The French people suffered multiple attacks, killing innocent people that were doing everyday things, like eating, listening to a concert, going to a soccer game, or practicing their religion. It was a coordinated attack by terrorists that will be specifically unnamed because we cannot give them any more power.

This week forty three people were killed in a suicide bombing in Beirut, Lebanon. Did you hear about that? Do you really care? It’s just another act of violence in a far away country. It didn’t matter that many of those people were doing their daily shopping at a market. People that had nothing to do with the political situation in the place they lived. Past tense, had lived. Not living now.

A rancher was shot in Idaho by law enforcement. The rancher’s bull had been hit by a car. The Sherriff’s department called him and asked him to come take care of the bull because the injured bull charged the people around it. The rancher had a shotgun, because that’s how you put down a large animal that is injured, a bullet to the head. The end result was the rancher was shot, his wife and two others were handcuffed and the bull lay bleeding on the pavement because the deputies shot it in the stomach instead of the head. You can read about this on the web. I wasn’t there, I can’t say for sure, but something stinks here besides the dead bull.

Every night my husband watches the news on Al Jezera. I listen and sometimes I watch. I am appalled by the devastation in Syria. I see the apartment buildings reduced to rubble. I see so many refugees. I see injured people, dead people, and hopeless people. I don’t understand why some people feel it necessary to destroy everything around them. I cannot see how the destruction and death does anything to further any cause.

Young women, girls really, are kidnapped in a country where the people aren’t white. We make noises of outrage, but what can we do? It’s not here and they aren’t our daughters. Why were they taken? Because some people believe women shouldn’t be educated. Half of those girls were returned months later as women and pregnant. They will be ostracized by their families. Where do they go and what do they do? They aren’t educated and they are very young.

Tens of thousands of people are displaced by the violence in their home towns. They don’t want to leave their homes, but if they stay, they will probably die, or worse. Women seem to have a more difficult role especially when war and violence rule. Refugee camps don’t have proper sanitation, housing, and in some parts of the world, they don’t have food.

In America, we have racial tension, looting, killing, and vandalism. It’s more violence. Violence does not fix anything. It does not open anyone’s eyes to the plight of the oppressed. All it does is piss everyone else off. Being pissed off closes minds. Who wants to listen to your problems if you’re in the middle of destroying a neighbor’s car. Did that business owner do something to you that offended you? Don’t do business with them and tell your friends about. Don’t break everything. No one benefits.  Breaking someone’s stuff isn’t going to make that person understand you or your position. All it does is harden their heart and mind against you.

We humans hate. You have the wrong colored skin. You practice the wrong religion. You follow the wrong political party. You are wrong to love someone of the same sex. You don’t belong to one of the two sexes but you fit somewhere in between and that’s wrong. We hate women. We hate men. We hate the poor. We hate the rich. We hate animals. We hate our environment. You are different than me, so I hate you because I don’t understand you. I don’t want to understand you, I just hate you. I hate the fact my hands are shaking as I type this.

The organizers, the movers and shakers, the people that initiate and perpetuate the violence are not going to go away. As we’ve seen recently, when one group is dismantled through arrests and death another one grows in its place. It is like the hydra of violence. The only people that benefit are the immortal heads of the hydra itself. The hydra is powerful.

The powerful want change and they want to dominate that change whether it is a change of religion, elimination of one ethnic group or another, oppression of people they believe to be less than them, or they want more resources. They want to dictate how the rest of the world should be. These goals cannot be achieved through violence. Only hate, aggression, and destruction result from violence.

This blog is off topic from my normal travel and writing blog. I’m off kilter from this most recent round of destruction and since this my rant and my blog, I’m going to tell you what I want. I want education, tolerance, social and economical parity or at least some semblance of it. Throughout the world I want the people to have the ability to provide for themselves. These things won’t eliminate the violence. I suspect violence is part of human nature. My hope is if the people’s needs are met, then when the terrorist recruiters come around looking for followers there will be fewer willing to listen.  Maybe we can create a world where we want to live and create, not destroy and dominate.

Wandering

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to go places. When I was very young I don’t remember straying far from home, but as I got older, eight or nine years old, I started wandering.  This was the 1960’s and most of us kids were left to our own devices during the summer. We didn’t wear protective gear and everyone played in the streets.

We moved to a new housing development just outside Colorado Springs when I was six. When I wasn’t in school, after my chores were done, I played outside. My parents required that I was home by dinner. That was my main limitation, except I wasn’t supposed to go down by the pond or over to the rail road tracks.

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I remember being fascinated by that pond, with its rickety wooden planked dock and mud flats. There were fish in the pond. They were carp, but who cared. I didn’t have a fishing pole, but I was inventive and it was fun. One time I was down in the mud and one leg sunk down well above my knees. I managed to get out and hose myself off at home before my mom saw me, but that was the first time I had a clue that maybe the pond was dangerous. I didn’t know how to swim and my parents warning finally sunk in. It didn’t stop me from going back again and again.

Once I learned how to ride a bike, I wandered further afield. I loved the rail road tracks even though the trains scared the heck out of me. I liked the slag rocks. The melted stuff had pretty colors and weird shapes. The other kids and I would tell scary stories of how people would lose an arm or a leg or get completely squished by the train. I think it was these stories that contributed to my fascination with the train even more than the weird slag rocks.

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We moved to Florence, Colorado, when I was in the fifth grade. Summers were spent on my bike or at the pool. I rode all over the place. I wanted to see what was out there. I rode my bike to the small old coal mining towns a couple miles south, just to see what was there.

When I finally had my own car at the ripe old age of seventeen, I drove everywhere around the area. I worked so I had gas money. I explored Canon City, Wetmore, the mountains, Skyline Drive, and some back roads. One weekend my boyfriend and I ended up in Walsenburg via the mountainous back roads. I called my parents from a pay phone (no cell phones then) and they were mad. I don’t remember how long I was grounded after that.

Going To The Sun Road, Glacier National Park, MT
Going To The Sun Road, Glacier National Park, MT

Once I left home, the wandering bug never left me. My only constraints were time and money. I went somewhere every chance I got. After I moved to Tucson, I got a passport and off I went to the Cayman Islands, Hawaii, China, Scotland, New Zealand, Mexico, Canada, British Virgin Islands, Costa Rica, and Argentina and I’m not done yet.

I didn’t write before 2011. I’d never thought about travel writing. Yes, I read travel books, but the idea that I could write about my travels never occurred to me. Then I took a creative non-fiction class and wrote my first travel piece about Volcano National Park in Hawaii. With loads of encouragement and some shoving by Lisa Smith and Nancy Reid, publishers of Big Blend Magazines, I’ve written several other pieces. What I’m coming to realize is I like travel writing.

Argentine cowboy with limoncello
Argentine cowboy with limoncello

Some of this has to do with Big Blend Magazines Spirit of America tour. Lisa and Nancy’s goal is to visit all the National Parks and Monuments in the United States and Territories. Right now there are around 407 units but the number keeps changing as more places are added. Their enthusiasm for the project is infectious and it feeds into my desire to wander.

I’ve accompanied the Big Blend women to several National Parks or Monuments and wrote the articles about the park for the magazine. The best part of this was going to places I might not have ever visited. I rather like the smaller more obscure places. Most people have heard of The Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, or Glacier National Parks. Have you heard of Fort Bowie, Pipe Spring, or Tumacacori?  Each place has that something special about it, but I’m finding I like the little bit of obscure human history captured by these smaller tucked away parks and monuments.

Organ Pip Cactus National Monument, AZ
Organ Pip Cactus National Monument, AZ

I just finished a piece for Big Blend on Pipe Spring National Monument. You’ll be able to read it in the November, 2015 issue. The next piece on my schedule is about the National Bison Range followed by a piece on the Izaak Walton Inn. The best part of it is I’m excited to write these pieces. For me, it’s slowly changing from an assignment and a deadline to a desire to share an experience.

Of course, this means I have to keep traveling. And writing. Oh gee, such pressure.

Sunflower
Sunflower