Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mustard or Mayo?...the fall color continues in Sabino Canyon..."but we don't need to know big words"

Which condiment defines your personality--the yellow stuff or the white stuff? I just read a hilarious essay, reprinted in a newsmagazine the other day, that posits that there are two kinds of people in the world: mustard people and mayonnaise people. (I, being bi-racial, proudly claim that I am both.) Also, geography comes into play--the South, Portland OR, and France. Click here for a link to the original. Really--go back and click on the link'! You must read it outloud--or at least hear it in your head--with a Southern Accent.


My mustard-half went for his usual longer weekend run yesterday...and took the iPhone along this time...the late autumnal color continues in Sabino Canyon: Cottonwood, Sycamore, Arizona Ash along the creek--glorious!

...behold--in the desert: little fishies!!
...ahh, December mornings in the desert...


Now, for the latest in high-school-student remarks:

I was trying to encourage students in their vocabulary-learning the other day by pointing out that there is a correlation between the size of one's vocabulary and the potential for one's future income...

Right away--'correlation' was too fancy a word for some of them..

And then, a couple of girls--who in all sincerity say that they want to become pediatricians--said to me:
"But, mister, we don't need to learn big words--we're going to be working with children!"
Breathless, I could not sustain a poker face.
One of the girls then said: "Well, we don't want to, you know, make children feel uncomfortable."
To which her friend added: "Yeah, so you see, we don't need to worry about getting a bigger vocabulary."

Please, could I have a pediatrician come talk to these misguided adolescents? Egad.

A few minutes later, another student, getting ready to write the date down on a quiz paper: "So, like, is "12" for December?"

Yes, it, like, is.
And I, like, so need a vacation.

One more week...just one more week...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Blackett's Ridge Trail

...another weekend to stay away from the shopping centers...a perfect December Saturday in Tucson--sunny and in the 70's after a frosty morning, ideal for a  hike:
...a ten-minute-drive from where we live; starting in Sabino Canyon and ending up on a 'peninsula in the sky,' on the ridge between Sabino and Bear Canyons, just high enough to be above the 'saguaro zone'...

Just beginning to climb from the canyon up onto the ridge...
...the sycamores and cottonwoods down along the creek 
are beginning their autumnal show;
still amazes me how the fall color
(what little of it there is on the desert floor)
peaks in December here:

...the deer are so docile here--never nonplused by the hikers--
no hunting allowed...
human, that is--
there is a reasonably healthy
mountain lion population in the Santa Catalinas...

...from about halfway up, looking off to the SW
 toward distinctive Baboquivari peak, the 'navel of creation,'
according to local native Tohono O'odham legend...

...almost at the top--a framed view of Thimble Peak,
one of the 'landmark' mountains behind Tucson:

(were he alive today,
would Ansel Adams carry an iPhone for photography?)

...the canyon below is one of the best weekend running-routes... can just make out the ribbon of riparian color below, following the watercourse...
(I just had to include the photo of my friend: 'man vs. mountains'--
to try to show the scale and steepness of the landscape)

...looking south, over Bear Canyon and the far East side of Tucson, toward the Rincon mountains, and in the distance, the Santa Rita mountains...

 ...the end of the trail;
time for lunch among the sunning chipmunks...
then back down again...

Truly, one of the best hikes around Tucson:
stupendous views all around,
city and wilderness panoramas,
without having to plan an entire day to do it--
accessible, but still a good, steep, workout,
and the notion of hiking from one ecosystem up into another one is fun...
(The trail is marked in red below...)
For more information, click on:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Late fall hike--Pima Canyon...
...& the things one hears in a classroom

Last Thursday...My wife and I went for a hike in Pima Canyon--
     so close to the city, so far from the malls:
...cottonwoods turning golden, a chill in the air...


Recently heard in the high-school classroom:

....a conversation between teacher and 15-y.o. student:
St.: My P.E. teacher was so rude to me this morning.
Tchr.: What do you mean?
St.: He called me a b****!
Tchr.: Oh, come on--I'm sure he did not.
St.: No, really--he said to me that I was 'habitually late'...
Tchr.: (trying to stifle eye-roll and gasp) Wait--do you know what the word 'habitually' means? He was most surely not calling you a bad word.
St.: 'habitually?'--no.
Tchr.: Okay, think...'habits?' Like--are you always or usually late?
St.: Well, yeah, I guess so...
Tchr.: So, do you get now what 'habitually' means?
St.: Oh...Oh now I do.

"...oh, really? Ohmygod, I thought Asia was a country in Africa."


...and, speaking of Asia--the recent rumblings on the Korean peninsula got me looking back at a couple of old photos, and I came across this one:

...a glimpse into North Korea from a hilltop observation point--one of the few accessible to tourists--in South Korea. This view overlooks the Han River estuary, NW of Seoul; taken in the autumn, when the rice paddies are golden.

Note that all of the North Korean hillsides in the horizon are completely deforested. No North Koreans live permanently in this region, which is a 'propaganda village' zone; loudspeakers blare slogans, hoping to 'convert' the capitalist South.

This year is both the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Japanese colonization/occupation (which lasted from 1910 to 1945) and the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War.

It's crazy that this is sometimes referred to as 'the Forgotten War;' as many Americans died in the three years of the Korean war as during the ten years of Vietnam, and millions of Korean civilians, and hundreds of thousands of Chinese, perished.

The Korean peninsula was completely razed, napalm was first widely used--and all of that to end up with a cease-fire (the war is technically still 'on') and a border essentially where the line was at the beginning of the war...And before this, Korea was a unified nation for over a thousand years...

The last remnants of the Cold War--still simmering in NE Asia...  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Back east, down South, along the canal: Fall

Last weekend, I had four-days-in-a-row off; so, a quick trip back to Georgia to visit family and friends.

It's been fourteen years since I spent any time during the autumn back east...and after a few years of living in the desert, it was refreshing to be back in all the foliage. Fall in the Piedmont Southeast is not as spectacular as New England or North Carolina, but still lovely. I made sure to make time to run along the Augusta Canal on Saturday--a perfect November morning...

From the still waters behind the dam north of the city,...
... the trail continues for miles, running along the ridge between the Savannah River on one side, and the Canal on the other.
When I still lived in Augusta, it was a 'hidden treasure;' relatively few people biked, ran, or, it's a popular place for those activities.

In the century-and-a-half since the canal was dug (in the 1840's by Irish immigrants, and enlarged in the 1870's by Chinese immigrant labor), the trees have grown back up between the Canal and the River--a forest oasis along the Savannah...I took my phone with me, and stopped every now and then to take a few pictures...The weather was so perfect for running that I lost track of time a bit...
 ...and before I knew it, I was almost downtown--five miles from the starting point.

Here is the 19th-century Sibley Mill--with the obelisk chimney being the only remnants of the old Confederate Powder Works, built in the 1860's. During the Civil War, Augusta was the only place in the entire South that manufactured gunpowder. The canal made Augusta the only real industrial area in the Confederacy. After the Civil War, during the Union Occupation, the Factory was, understandably, dismantled...

 ...but the chimney was allowed to remain, and jt has become a Confederate monument of sorts:
 ...For many people not from the region, the South's preoccupation with the Civil War, even a century and a half after the fact, seems strange...but it is alive and well, and not to be minimized...

Also along the Canal is a bit of Victorian Utilitarian architecture--the old Augusta Water Works, built back in the 19th century, is being restored:

 ...and some granite arches that supported a short aqueduct that used to transport a local creek over the canal before flowing down into the River...

Ecologically, the area is interesting as the convergence zone between the northern limit of subtropical riparian habitat (Spanish moss, alligators, etc.) and the southern limit of temperate deciduous forests more common in the Appalachian mountains...

Lots of lovely spots. I wish I had discovered the place when I was younger--I didn't really know about the Canal trail until I was a sophomore in college, when I began biking there at least once a week...
...and, before returning to Tucson, the now-obligatory foot-shot: 'I was there.'
So--from the locks at the headwaters of the Canal to downtown and back: TEN MILES!
I've never run that far before--a milestone for me--funny that it should happen when in GA,
where, growing up, I never thought that, one day, I'd enjoy running...
(For more information:
The Augusta Canal is now a National Park Service National Heritage Area.)

=========================================== closing, an unrelated view from the plane:

Atlanta: huge, sprawling, the self-proclaimed capital of the 'New South,'
stretching to the horizon, even from some 30,000 feet up...
still, it's amazing how much 'forest' survives in this city...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Local color; fall above Tucson

Autumn color in the desert? True--saguaros don't have leaves that turn crimson, but in the mountains around Tucson, there IS some fall color to be found--you just have to go UP...

...and you have to be prepared not to be underwhelmed--in the Santa Catalinas you won't find entire slopes covered in a patchwork of orange and yellow. (This is not New England or North Carolina or Korea...) But just 30 minutes from the desert floor, you can find splashes of fall foliage in the mountaintop evergreens--just enough to make you feel like you're elsewhere...

This past Sunday, some out-of-town friends were visiting us, so we drove up the Catalina highway to the top of Mt. Lemmon.

Although the pine forest starts at about 6000' elevation, you have to go up above 8000' to truly arrive in the mixed evergreen zone--and in that zone are a few stands of aspens--some sparse...
...and then, closer to 9000', the groves of aspen are larger--an impressive splash of brightness among the conifers:
 ...and a wonder to walk under:

...the slopes of Ski Valley resort at the top of Mt. Lemmon are still summer-green, but autumnally-lined:

Nearby is a little valley known as 'Bear Wallow'--probably the best spot in the Santa Catalinas to go 'leaf-peeping'--and this was the peak color weekend...

This area got its first dusting of snow a week or so ago...
winter's not far off, even if today's high down in the city was in the mid-80's...

(still trying to 'bloom where we're planted,' S. & I...
in between bouts of wishing to be elsewhere,
we're enjoying 'here'...having out-of-town friends
visiting us from less pleasant climes helps...)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

...on running and radishes...

First, check out this NY Times article, about an event 'in our backyard' today:

And here's the official website:

Crazy people, eh? I mean--TWENTY-SIX MILES UPHILL all the way!!!!!
Down at the base of the mountain, I did my weekend 7-mile run in Sabino Canyon...doesn't really seem like an 'accomplishment,' when thinking of the hundreds of people who ran UP the Santa Catalinas today...and it was indeed a picture perfect October day in Tucson...

...entirely unrelated, now...

I was washing some vegetables this evening, getting ready to pack some work-lunches for the upcoming week, and I'm chopping the leafy tops off some radishes, when, from the childhood recesses of my brain come the words--the name, really--"Roger Radish."


Yes, Roger Radish. And Penelope Strawberry...


This is the cover of a children's book--and I actually had this book--one in a series--when I was a little kid...

(More information about this British series of children's books from the 1970's:

...ahh, the wonder of Google image search...a thought comes to me in the kitchen, and I can run in the next room and type something on the computer--and instantly a childhood memory is no longer simply a cerebral approximation, but a reproduction on the computer screen.

I think I was 4 or 5 years old, living in Germany, the last time I saw that book...

Radishes ready;
plan to run more later...

(...view of the entrance to Bear Canyon, parallel to Sabino Canyon, well below Mt. Lemmon;
ran with the cellphone one afternoon last week...)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunset from Gates Pass. "Bloom."

Tonight, before dinner, we drove across to the western edge of the city to watch the sunset:

Wherever you live, find what's good about it and enjoy it.

"Bloom where you're planted." Those words--corny enough, I agree--ring through our ears now and again as we come to terms with Tucson-as-our-'home.' I had never seen that expression until our first trip to Central America--we came across those words, (cross-stitched, no less), in a missionary home--must have been a well-intentioned gift from someone 'back home' to encourage voluntary souls in their tropical assignment...
As corny as my first impression was of those words, over the past few years, we've come grudgingly to accept it as good advice.

Last night, as we made dinner, we had the television on, and two travel-shows featured, back to back, Seattle and Guatemala...We grew wistful for the Pacific Northwest and Central America as we waited for our food to cook...

But there is no utopia.
So--resolved: enjoy the good things where we are.

Tucson: pedestrian urbanity? Nope. Progressive local politics? Nope. Thriving high-wage economy? So no, at least not right now. (And don't get me started on the now-nationally-ridiculed lack of syntax during a recent state gubernatorial debate!) But clean air and wide open outdoor vistas? Yep. Technicolor sunsets? Oh yeah.

So. Blooming.

(Incidentally, last night's dinner--my local attempt at re-creating the Kogi-truck fare described in the last posting: we did a vegetarian version this time--a pepper-jack/kimchee/pineapple/sesame quesadilla with black beans on the side--made with local Tucson tortillas and kimchee from the Korean grocer down the street from where I work: Viva la comida del Seoul!)