Saturday, August 4, 2007

Thoughts on a 'humid' Tucson night.

When the humidity here in southern AZ climbs above 25%, people start complaining about how 'muggy' it is.
But back east--whether you're in Boston or Savannah, on an August midnight when it's still in the 80's and the humidity is above 80% as well--now THAT's ' humidity.' Oh, and the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua from May to November? Ay...Gimme Tucson anytime...

And so here we are, parrots asleep, ceiling fans humming.

July 2007 turned out to be one of the three wettest months ever recorded in Tucson--a whopping six inches of precipitation! A 'wet' desert indeed...The dry 'washes' have turned into 'rivers' worthy of the name...for a few days or weeks, at least, before they become sun-baked ditches again...
...and so things are greening, as the photo below of nearby Sabino canyon shows:
(and it's only a 15 minute drive from where we live!!)
(click on any of the photos for a larger 'usually' works...)

Beauty and greenery recorded on a digital camera notwithstanding, the Sonoran desert can be harsh.

It's a new and bizarre thing for me to live in a place where the local newspaper regularly has articles about bodies found in the desert--death from exposure, already nearing 200 just since January 2007!--almost all of them undocumented immigrants, 'illegals,' 'economic refugees,' call them what you will--they are people who have died while crossing the desert, looking for better-paying jobs, looking to join their husbands or wives living and working in the 'land of opportunity.'

I think this recent cartoon (from the Tucson Weekly) captures the heartbreaking irony well:

Radically different from the 'foundation myths' of Ellis Island, no?


The other day, to take a welcome break from the endless unpacking and errand-running that accompany getting settled in a new city, we drove south down I-19--perhaps the only Interstate highway in the nation that has kilometer-signage instead of mile-markers--to Tumacácori (more in a future blog) and Tubac.

Tubac bills itself as the place 'where art and history meet.' I have to gag a bit on that p.r. schmooz-ese.
But it is a historic place full of art galleries; there you have it. There we went.

We stopped in a rug gallery for a bit--looking to see Navajo and Hopi rugs, finding fabulous things from Oaxaca as well. We began talking with the gallery-employee, who quickly informed us that the gallery also carried many pieces from Iran, Afghanistan, etc...I 'joked' with her--"oh, all those -stan-countries in the 'Axis of Evil,' eh?"
She froze for a bit, not knowing if I was kidding. One should be careful these days...

At ease, she continued showing us things, even though she got the vibes that we are not currently in the market for heirloom-floor-coverings-from-despotic-lands. She didn't mind, she was very kind...We began talking about 'cross-pollination' of ideas and motifs in textiles throughout history and various cultures and religions, and how motifs change based on people's daily lives, etc. etc...and I mentioned I'd read an article about the 'war-rugs' that began appearing in Afghanistan during the Soviet-war back in the 1980's...

Well, lo and behold, she said, 'we have some of them!'
She went into the 'vault' (seriously, that's what it was) and pulled out some pieces for us to see, unfurling them on the floor at our feet. I felt like an anthropologist, walking on a flying carpet of historical documentation.
Yes, really, that's how it felt. ;-)

Here's one. At first it doesn't necessarily scream out 'war,' --you just see geometrical motifs, a 'link' motif on the outside edge representing prosperity, perhaps...but look closer, and you see that the 'tree-of-life' motifs on either side are divided by a red diagonal line full of a convoy of war vehicles; jeeps, hummers, etc...

(click on pictures for detail)

We were shown several more--including some from the post 9-11 era in which instead of the Soviets, the US and/or the UN are depicted--these I won't post for fear of being labeled a pro- or anti-war-propagandist, depending on one's view. (In hindsight, I do feel bad that I made the gallery-worker nervous by saying that the rugs came from the 'axis of evil countries'...) And with current legislative debate about governmental spying powers, well...

But here's another one: Again, a cursory glance might not make you think you're looking at a textile-testament of violence in wool, but in this rug, the tanks, grenades, helicopters, bombers, and missiles quickly assert themselves after a second viewing.

Crazy crazy world. Where are the flowers and antelope of yesteryear?

Then again, even a thousand years ago--in 'civiilized' Western Europe, we have the Bayeux tapestry recording the Norman Conquest. Wool or linen, Kalachnikovs or crossbows--the history we weave...


Back to the atmosphere.

Last night, the local news replayed again and again video footage of a funnel-cloud sighted south of Tucson, in Sierra Vista, my erstwhile childhood 'hometown' of three years. Tornadoes are very very rare in Arizona. Gracias a Dios. (Ah, how the weather always makes the news...) A few weeks ago, right after we moved here and the monsoons first began, one afternoon, I saw this from our front yard--not a funnel cloud, but definitely not kite-flying weather:

And then, just a few days later, after grocery-shopping...cliché, cliché, yes, it screams, but to drive home and see the rainbow ending precisely over 'home,' with a weeks' worth of food...not bad:

The rainbow-motif continues in the blog, I guess, after last year's posting...

Utility bills, (shocking as they may be) are presently beginning to arrive at our rainbow's truly are 'home' in Tucson, now...


And living here now, we're getting to know the street names.

Spanish, Spanglish and 'Manglish' (My term for mangled spanglish) abound in the local toponymy. A local columnist recently wrote about it. (THIS is the link to the column--WORTH reading! It's banal title: "Some street names in Spanish are ridiculous")

Just the other day, we drove by "Calle Sin Nombre." Oh, to live where the streets have no name--you too (ahem) can do so...'Rancho sin vacas' is the name of a development--Oh yeah--I live north of the "Rillito River" (which means 'little river river') in that cow-less-ranch place...One neighborhood is full of virtue, since some of the streets are named "Calle sin pecado" (sin-less street) and "Calle sin envidia" (street without envy). And okay--we all know a San precedes a guy's name--as in SAN Diego, or SAN Francisco--and that Santa precedes a female name or noun, as in Santa Fe or Santa Anna. (So...why is it 'Santa' Claus in English, hmm...)But here in Tucson there is a 'confused' 'San Anna' street...and also a place that is Santa 'FEE'...Hmm...

Since 1987, however, the county has had a polcy requiring Spanish street names to be reviewed by a qualified Spanish-speaking interpreter--a bit of local linguistic idiosyncracy bureaucratized away...Gracias to los rubber stampedos...

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