Tag Archives: Tucson

Oh My Gluten (Free)

My sister is flying across the country tomorrow to visit me. She’ll be staying with me for five whole days. YAY! I love family visits. I don’t get them very often, so I hope to make the most of it, with the usual food, fun, and frivolity.

She’s gluten-free (and I’m not), so that just adds to the fun of preparing for her stay. I’m not being sarcastic. I actually enjoyed my gluten-free scavenger hunt at Trader Joe’s tonight. I googled “Trader Joe’s gluten free” and found a list that included these yummy items. (I can’t wait to try that almond cashew macadamia drink.)


For dessert, we can snack on Lara Bars. I love the cashew/date ones. I hope she leaves those for me. Actually, they’re the only ones I’ve tried. That lemon bar looks good right now. Hope I can wait till she gets here.


I also bought some fruits and veggies, and made a centerpiece to welcome her into my home. Luckily, my sister gets my sense of humor.


Is wine gluten-free? Oops. I just might have to consume these all by myself.


I KNOW these aren’t gluten free. Impulse purchase!


Tucson is an International City of Gastronomy, which means we’ll definitely be going out to sample some gluten-free tacos, tamales, burritos, salads, baked goods, and Margaritas while she’s in town. I’ve got my Best of Tucson issue on the coffee table so we can find all the best places.


Needless to say, I might not be posting anything for the next five days. But after that, I just might have some food photos to share!

nanopoblano2019 Badge

This is post #5 (but who’s counting?) of NanoPoblano2019. Don’t know what NanoPoblano2019 is? Just click the link! It’s gluten-free, too!


Happy Saguaro Sunday

This weekend, I opened my front door and saw snow. That’s right, SNOW, right here in Tucson, Arizona. And not just ordinary snow.

I saw:

  • snow in the desert
  • snow next to tall saguaro cacti
  • big, flat snowflakes. They were about 1 to 2 inches in diameter and looked like little flying saucers
  • snow on 9,000-foot tall mountains
  • an icy-cold stream flowing down from those mountains, and I waded through it!

Here, have a look:

Saguaro National Park:
Saguaro NP Snow 1

Saguaro NP Snow 2-2

Catalina State Park:

CSP Snow 022319 5

Happy snowy saguaro Sunday!


Funny Looking Snowmen

It rarely snows in Tucson, Arizona, but when it does, it’s a pretty big deal.

There was a dusting of snow to our north last night, and probably five inches of the stuff 25 miles up the road, in Oracle State Park, which is where I went today to take photos. The place was swarming with “snow peepers,” and some of them were building snowmen.

Here’s one of my snowmen photos. But this snowman isn’t really a man, is it? Because he (it?) has three ears (horns?) and wings (gigantic shoulder muscles?). Obviously, it was built by a bunch of men with issues. I won’t say what their issues are, but what’s that guy in the red jacket pointing at?

Snowman 1-2

I do think this snowman is kind of lovable. Just look at that expression.

Here’s another snowman. This one is more typical of the ones I saw in Oracle today:

Snowman 2

A 3-foot tall snow person with eyes made from a plant called “desert broom.”

Obviously, we southwest Arizona residents aren’t too good at building snowmen. But then, can you blame us? It only snows one day a year here! We need more practice.

On my way out of the park, I spotted this 2-foot tall model pointing the way:

Snowman 3

Actually, I think its arm fell off.

I think this minimalist sculpture was the best little snowman of all.

If you like snowmen, you’ll probably enjoy listening to my song about them, called “Gonna Build a Snowman.” It’s guaranteed to get you in touch with your inner child, and you can listen now, for free, here:


Just click the link, then click “Gonna Build a Snowman.”

Happy Snow Year!




In spring

yellow makes me feel like laughing

the tickle of a lemon breeze

ruffles my hair and

puckers my lips

In summer

it pours from the sun

like hot flat sheets of maple syrup

drenching my body

in liquid sugar

In autumn

yellow turns to orange

and licks my face like a ginger cat


until I try to catch it

In winter

it’s a trickle of iced tea

dropping in to say

stick around

I’ll be back soon.

Acacia Flower

Hanging Out with Bats

Tucson has a large bat population. In 2008, there were about 200,000 bats living here. Who knows how many more there are now. Most of them migrate north from Mexico in April and stay until October.

By day, the bats hang out under bridges, emerging en masse at sunset for their nightly feeding frenzy. People gather near the bridges to watch the bats take off. Bat-watching is excellent and cheap entertainment.

Several years ago, a small group of folks in Tucson came up with the slogan, “Keep Tucson Shitty,” in response to Austin’s “Keep Austin Weird.” They did it as a joke, and it was embraced by another faction who were upset about the sudden gentrification of the scrappier parts of downtown. But “Keep Tucson Shitty” never caught on. Too many people were appalled and resented anything resembling a put-down of their beloved “Old Pueblo.”

I can understand why they would be appalled. I love Tucson’s beauty, its character, its blending of cultures, its mountains and sunsets and desert flowers. The last thing we want people to think of when they think of Tucson is excrement.

However, I think I’ve come up with a solution that will satisfy everyone. How about the slogan, “Keep Tucson Batty”? It might just be the compromise this town needs. On the one hand, it lets others know that Tucson’s a nature-loving town that values its bats and supports sustainable lifestyles, while on the other hand it recognizes the scruffiness that sets us apart from Phoenix.

I’ve even written a song (well, the lyrics, anyway) to go with the slogan. It’s sung to the melody of that Cuban classic, “Guantanamera,” with apologies to Jose Martí (Cuba’s national poet who wrote the lyrics originally used in the song).

I call my version “Guano-tanamera.”


Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera


Verse 1:

I am a bat on a mission

For tasty bugs I am wishin’

Rather eat flies than go fishin’

Can’t drive, I don’t have ignition

Can’t fry an egg in the kitchen

But I have perfect night vision



Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera


Verse 2:

We bats cannot go out shopping

For tasty tacos and toppings

That’s why each night without stopping

Out from the bridge we come popping

Over our guano you’ll be hopping

Or all your floors you’ll be mopping



Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera


Verse 3:

Although I look kinda scary

I’m just a little bit hairy

My name’s not Tom, Dick, or Larry

But I can fly like a fairy

Over the town and the dairy

And City Hall where folks marry!



Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera



Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera.


House Painting in America (With Apologies to Richard Brautigan)

I live in a brick house. I know what song you’re probably humming in your head right now. But no, my house isn’t like that — not “mighty-mighty” at all. It’s just a modest, three-bedroom ranch on the outskirts of Tucson, a structurally solid little home à la The Three Little Pigs. But if I don’t slap some fresh paint on those peeling wooden posts and beams soon, I fear that a coyote might come along and blow the whole thing down.

I’ve lived in this home for almost twelve years, and up until now it hasn’t needed much. It looked just fine when I bought it, but the scorching desert sun, the monsoon rains, and the wind-blown dust have begun to take their toll. Just in case you don’t believe me about the sad state of my current abode, take another look at the above photo.

Can you see the faded color, the peeling paint, the rust on the metal doors and window bars? (For some reason, window bars were all the rage back in 1971, when the house was built.) I’m debating whether or not to get rid of those bars. All the experts (by experts I mean Google articles) say that removing the bars increases the home’s resale value. It’s good for curb appeal, they say, and it gives the impression of a safe neighborhood. But I say that removing the bars gives the impression of a house that can be broken into easily. I’m especially sensitive to that possibility. Burglars once let themselves in through the barred – but unlocked – back door, which I’d forgotten to lock when I went out to spend the day at a Blues Festival. How ironic is that? Blues all day, more blues when I got home. I should have sat down and written a blues song right then and there, but I couldn’t, because the thieves had stolen my guitar.

But when it came to painting my house, the dilemma about window bars turned out to be the least of my problems. Securing a painter was the hard part. Not knowing where to start searching, I posted a plea on Facebook. “Looking for a house painter in Tucson” yielded no comments at first. After my second post, though, I got a response. A friend recommended her house painter. Things were going well until he didn’t respond when I asked him to put his quote in writing. Needless to say, I decided not to go with him. After a second quote that was twice as high as the first, I finally found who I was looking for – a friend of a friend, a good quote, and a reliable response. I have to admit that I didn’t ask him to put his quote in writing (since he was a friend of a friend) and I hope I don’t live to regret that … but so far the work looks good and I’m not worried. If I have to write a blues song, though, I’m prepared this time. I have another guitar.

This painter is spraying my house with a garden hose as I type this. Should I ask him if he’s going to scrape? How does one oversee the painting of one’s house, when one does not know the first thing about painting a house?

Another dilemma has been choosing paint colors. As you can see from the “before” photo, the bricks are a reddish-orange, and the current trim is a dark teal, faded in most areas to a light teal. I like teal, but my absolute least favorite color is reddish-orange. Especially when combined with teal. Ugh! Orange and teal. I hate orange and teal! It reminds me of a football jersey. Maybe I’m thinking of the Miami Dolphins. I’m from Buffalo, and the Dolphins are the Bills’ arch nemesis, so maybe the hatred of orange and teal was ingrained in me at an early age. But I digress.

Reddish-orange is okay when paired with brown, gold, and green, though. I’m picturing autumn in upstate New York. Those beautiful golden colors that warm the heart just as the air is starting to feel frosty around the nose and ears. I guess I’ve come to peace with the reddish-orange bricks, as long as I surround them with a fall color, like brown.

But what to do about the front door? I’ve always liked the concept of making a bold statement, even if I’ve been too shy to make one myself. I’ve seen houses with red doors, black doors, wooden doors, doors that say, “I’m not shy and I’m inviting you in.” “Right this way to a dynamic life.” “This portal leads to treasure.” OK, now I’m exaggerating. But what if my heretofore drab little brick ranch had a black, gold, or red door? What would that say about me, the owner of such a grand portal? I decided to check with my good friend, Google.

According to Google, a door color is not something to be taken lightly. The correct door color will attract positive energy, or chi, into your home, and therefore is very important. Not wanting to take any chances with chi, I decided to let Google lead me further … right into the world of feng shui. Follow me.

Don’t worry, you won’t have to follow very far. I didn’t. I just read one or two articles and made up my mind. Green. According to feng shui, if your front door faces east, like mine does, you need to have a door that is the colors of the element of wood: either green or brown. You should never paint your door red, purple, white or gray. Voilà, problem solved. I consulted my paint brochure and there, on page two, was a combination I fell instantly in love with: Mayan Chocolate and Flagstone Quartzite. Flagstone Quartzite is just a fancy name for sage green. It’s an exact match to the prickly pear cactuses (yes, cactuses, not cacti) that stand a little too tall in front of my front picture window, and which I need to carefully trim. (Please note that the Desert Museum’s official word for the plural form of cactus is cactuses, because they claim that most people just don’t use those old Latin plurals like cacti and octopi anymore. I’d say they’ve got a point. Pun intended.)

But again, I digress. The color scheme of my house is now set. Chocolate for most of the trim, a lighter brown for certain other parts of the trim, including window bars, and that lovely sage green for the front door. I can’t wait to see how it all comes together, and I guess you could say I’m a little obsessed. Everywhere I go, I find myself checking out color schemes on houses, even if they’re nothing like my own. But then when I picture that brown/tan/sage/brick red combo in my head, I feel my whole body relax. Is there such a thing as color therapy? (Oh yes, there is. I wrote about it in a previous blog post.) But this is different. I’m coloring a picture that I’m going to have to live with for a long time. Every time I turn into my driveway, there it will be. I’m so glad I won’t have to see that red/teal combination ever again.

So, what does all of this have to do with Richard Brautigan? For some reason, I liked using the title “House Painting in America” for this blog post because it reminded me of Richard Brautigan’s 1967 novel, Trout Fishing in America. I probably read it in 1971, the year my house was built. (It was required reading in one of my college English classes.) I just Googled the book and there it was, its iconic cover with a bespectacled Richard Brautigan and his muse filling my computer screen. Startlingly, I realized that the cover of Trout Fishing in America just happens to be sort of a brick red color, with a brown and tan photo in the middle. Well. I’ll have to go down to the used bookstore and buy myself a copy. I’ll bet if I open it up, there’ll be a sage green door on page one.

Paying My Rent

Yesterday, I carried a sign and marched with 15,000 people through the streets of Tucson. We walked in solidarity with millions of others around the world as part of the Women’s March on Washington.

Although I have a lot to say about that march, I want to focus on some amazing connections that happened to me afterwards.

I returned home feeling tired yet energized. After posting photos on Facebook and Instagram, reading friends’ posts, and then their links, and then the links within those links, I finally settled down at my kitchen table with a carry-out dinner. My eyes fell upon the small neighborhood newspaper that had been in my mailbox when I got home. I opened it. The first thing that caught my eye was an unexpected article about the multinational biotech company, Monsanto.

Monsanto wants to buy 155 acres in Marana, a rural town adjacent to Tucson, so that it can build a 7-acre greenhouse focusing on corn and soybean seed research. Their proposed purchase of the land has been the subject of controversy in Marana (which gets its name from the Spanish maraña, or “tangled web”). Some of its residents see the move as an opportunity for jobs, while others are worried about the impact on the land, water, and surrounding crops. (Monsanto produces the herbicide Roundup. Roundup’s main ingredient — glyphosate — has been proven to be harmful to bees and is a possible human carcinogen.) But Monsanto argues that even though they’ll be using some GMO seeds and “limited” herbicides, neither will escape from their greenhouses. This has been viewed with suspicion by several Marana residents, who also are concerned about the effect that Monsanto’s presence could have on Tucson’s new reputation as an International City of Gastronomy. (Tucson prides itself on its rich cultural heritage, which includes indigenous crops, dry farming methods, and unique culinary offerings.) And they wonder what Monsanto will eventually be doing with the other 148 acres.

There already have been four town meetings to discuss the plan. Those meetings were filled with people who came there to listen, learn, and protest. From what I read, it sounded like Monsanto was given plenty of time to make its presentations. Then the residents got to ask questions and make comments. Some mentioned environmental concerns. Not to worry, responded Monsanto, because the greenhouse will be sealed up tight. The county administrator and the Tucson chamber of commerce president also noted that the project would bring jobs and increased tax revenue to Marana (despite negotiations to give Monsanto a two-thirds property tax incentive).

I got up from the table and started doing dishes. While washing plates, my thoughts started to take shape. I was getting a picture in my mind of an interconnected pattern, like a tree with many branches. I stopped in the middle of my chore, rinsed and dried off my hands, and almost ran to my computer. Once there, I closed my eyes and let my thoughts run down into my fingertips and onto the screen. I had to get that tangled web of words out before they disappeared like the water that had been running down my kitchen drain.

But, after typing my draft, and feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of those ideas swirling around in my head, I suddenly had another idea, one that would help me to sort things out. I would create an issues notebook.

I found an empty three-ring binder and filled it up with blank lined paper. I grabbed a pencil. But where to start? So many issues, so many facts to check (and also, so little time). I started by making sections, one for each major issue that I thought might need fixing. The first one I thought of was “Environment.” I decided to begin there.

I went back to the computer and googled Monsanto. That’s when the amazing interconnection began to reveal itself. The best way to describe it is like this:

  • I went to the women’s march
  • I came home and, by chance, I read the article about Monsanto
  • I began researching Monsanto
  • I needed a break and decided to do a crossword puzzle instead
  • I got stuck on some of the words. One was a five-letter word meaning “groups who share views” which probably ends with the letters “cs.”
  • I resumed my research about Monsanto
  • I learned that it was purchased by Bayer (pending approval)
  • I googled Bayer
  • I learned to my horror that Bayer used people in German concentration camps as slave labor and for their experiments (and that its parent company at the time, IG Farben, invented the gas used in those concentration camps)
  • I wanted to know who owns Bayer now
  • I found out that Bayer isn’t owned by anyone other than its stockholders, but it is one of many companies managed by the Capital Group investment firm
  • This led me to an article listing the four major investment firms in the world, which manage the trillions of dollars that exist in the world’s portfolio of investments
  • I read another article about the 147 companies that control 80% of the world’s economy
  • I decided to go to the original source of the article about the 147 companies (The network of global corporate control, 2011, by Vitali, Glattfelder, and Battiston)
  • I skimmed that article and learned about how interconnected those 147 companies are, and how unstable that makes the world economy (when one company falls, many others follow)
  • I read about how fund managers use something called “topology” to describe the mathematical interdependence of these companies visually
  • I was shocked when I saw that word, “topology,” because I’ve just finished reading a novel about a math genius whose field was “topology.” (The book is A Doubter’s Almanac, by Ethan Canin, and I had to look up “topology” while I was reading it.)
  • And then the final connection of all the dots (ta-da!): In the article was the word “blocs,” which may just be the answer to that crossword puzzle clue (“groups who share views” ending with the letters “cs.”).

Whew. A real maraña.

I’ve decided that I need to focus on one issue in my notebook at a time, and take action on that. Maybe I will choose The Environment (or maybe it has already chosen me).

That’s how I’ll start paying my rent for living on the planet.