Sunday, January 20, 2013

Musings at Year's Beginning

The New Year came and passed, with the the transition from 2012 to 2013 occurring while I was asleep in Tucson, Arizona.  C and I cobbled together a trip south for two primary purposes: visit my parents, who I had not seen in a long while, and enjoy some warmth and sunshine.  I'll address the second goal first by raising the following question for public philosophical consumption: In what kind of cruel world is it warmer in Anchorage than southern Arizona?  We woke up everyday to face unusually cold temperatures for the Sonorran desert, while Anchorage experienced unseasonable warmth.  Frankly, I was just as glad to miss the thaw.  I assure you, temperatures in the forties are no fun in January in Anchorage.  Our snow turns to ice, our ski trails turn to ice rinks, and our moods sour appreciably.  But I had been hoping for soul-restoring heat, which the good people of Tucson had apparently put back into storage for our visit, perhaps out of a misplaced desire to make us feel at home.  At least the sun came out and we reveled in its brightness.

My folks came over from their home some four hours further east to meet C and I for the duration.  We waited until late in the year to piece together our plans and had no available way of flying near their home at any reasonable price, so settled on Tucson as a convenient location to meet.  We spent the week sight-seeing, eating, and visiting.  C and I got out to run on local trails - serpents of dirt winding through forests of cacti - and did one hike through the desert.  But mostly we just sat around looking at one another, asking over and over, "Where do you want to eat?"

(With my parents, after wondering where we should eat lunch but before we started wondering where to eat dinner.)

If the question was posed to me the answer was usually, "somewhere that serves tacos."  And we did find a few places to trade our hard earned cash for corn tortillas and meat.  It is always a treat to be back in a part of the country where you can find $1.50 tacos served from counters or trucks where English is a second (and often un-mastered language) and the available fillings include head meat.  Of course these days, that means just about anywhere except for Anchorage.  I'll probably never know why is it so hard to make a good and cheap taco in this town.

One consequence of spending a week with my parents is that they inevitably fall back into their roles as disciplinarians.  As such, I spent much of the time as follows:

It is probably a good thing they didn't find the beer I snuck into the condo we rented, because I found out the number of lashings for drinking spiritous liquors was pretty severe (though not as bad as for misbehaving to girls):

This was really the first time I had visited Tucson.  I was in town once before over New Years to see Billy Bacon and the Forbidden Pigs play a special New Year's show.  That trip was a quick surgical strike: arrive, park, rock, depart.  Really the kind of trip that only happens fueled by youth.  On that occasion, I didn't really see any part of town other than the concert venue.  I was struck this time by three things that Tucson has in abundance: bike shops, tattoo shops, and head shops.  I'm pretty sure that any time, day or night, you could find a new Shimano Dura-Ace cassette, get an image to commemorate the 2013 presidential inauguration forever preserved across your chest, or buy a bong.  Curiously, we never went into a single one of the above businesses, although I'm pretty sure Mom would look pretty hardcore with some ink.

We did plan to do some wig shopping, so you can imagine my disappointment when we found the wig shop shuddered:

One look at the current state of Wig-O-Rama suggests that downtown Tucson has not found its stride.  It didn't seem to faze this guy, though:

I'm pretty sure he was planning a reception, or maybe a corporate event.  We ran into him again a few blocks later as C and I walked the Turquoise Trail, a painted stripe connecting historic sites in the city center that appears to attract a fraction of the tourist traffic of the Freedom Trail through Boston.  He offered us a blessing, which isn't exactly what I expected him to offer up, but we thanked him for it just the same.

Our week of deep desert chill came to an end, and we returned home.  I expected irony to follow and for Anchorage to plunge into bitter cold while Tucson soared into the 70s.  As near as I can tell, Tucson saw the opportunity and predictably warmed up, but Anchorage dropped the ball.  Instead, it has stayed warm here and even rained for two solid days, which did nothing but melt the snow and leave a sheet of ice in its wake.  Maybe you saw the viral photos of children ice skating on neighborhood streets?  We lived it.  At the beginning of the year, C and I registered to compete in the AMH Anchorage Cup, a series of ski races throughout the season.  Defying all sense of compassion, the race organizers declined to cancel the race last weekend, and C and I joined over 100 other people lacking the good sense to stay home.  I've never been so wet on skis.  The trails were slush and turning to puddles.  And I got my butt kicked by people who know how to ski fast.  But it was good fun (though look back a post or two for the discussion on Type 2 fun and take a guess into which category a ski race in the rain falls).

Few more pictures from in and around Tucson:

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