Monday, March 16, 2015

Arizona. (Tucson, anyway.)

God knows I could never live here permanently. Too much dry and dusty.  Too many venomous snakes. Too much blazing scorchery. Too many Joe Arpaios. Too much urban sprawl.

But, but, but…

After a Boston winter that would turn the most ardent of seasonites (as in “what I love most about living here is that we have four seasons”) into a mewling coach potato who curls into a fetal ball whenever an ad for Jamaica or Sandals appears, I completely appreciate the beauties of a March escape to the desert.

Thanks to my sister Kath and her husband Rick, I got to spend last week in warm and sunny Tucson.

Beyond the evergreen beauties of vacation - good company, lolling around, reading and napping – I’ve got to say that Tucson has an ample supply of “stuff” (attributes, attractions) that make it an excellent winter getaway.

  • In Tucson, it’s sunny.In Boston this winter, we have had precious few sunny days. There was a stretch of something like 40 days when we only had what could be called a sunny day twice. Sure, we’re used to gloomy overcast (albeit not this much gloomy overcast), but we’re also used to a few more sunny days. However brittle the snow, when the sky is blue and the sun is shining, it is easier to get out of the fetal position and off of the couch. In Tucson, it’s sunny.
  • In Tucson, it’s warm. In Boston this winter, we have had precious few warm days. We had a stretch of something like 40 days when it never got above freezing. Sure, we’re used to cold (albeit not this much cold), but we’re also used to a few days of January thaw. I won’t even get into my heating bill, but if I multiplied last month’s bill by 12, it would put me right about at the Federal poverty guideline for a household of one. Meaning if I had that as my income, I would expend it entirely on heat. And I haven’t exactly been jacking the heat up. I keep it at 68. I wear a fleece. I sleep in flannel PJ’s the thickness of movers’ pads. Plus I have a new and efficient HVAC system that I guess is not so efficient when you have a string of days when it never gets over 20 degrees. So, factor in the huge electricity rate increase and…I’m sitting there in a fleece, mitts, and a scarf around my neck paying an exorbitant heating bill. In Tucson, it’s warm.
  • In Tucson, there are interesting desert hikes. Other than one day, when we rested and exercise consisted of paddling across the pool to get a noodle to float on, we took some type of desert hike each day. Each was varied and interesting and, because the area has had more rain than usual, a lot greener and more flowery than when we were taking desert hikes last year. Quite beautiful. And even exciting. When we were on the tram to a trail head at Sabino Canyon, they gave instructions on what to do if you encountered a mountain lion. Not that I’m apt to encounter a mountain lion on the Rose Kennedy Greenway or the Esplanade, but it’s good to know that you stand tall, look the mountain lion in the eye, raise your arms over your head (better even if you have walking sticks), and, while slowing backing away, make noise. Like I said, in Tucson, there are interesting desert hikes.
  • In Tucson, there are javelinas. A javelina is a large peccary, ravenous for garbage, and we actually spotted one attempting to commandeer our lidded, roll-away garbage can and grab out the contents. Once a flashlight was trained on him, he disappeared into the sage brush. But I got to see a javelina nearly up close and personal, something that had eluded me on my earlier trip here. Sure, I wish we’d seen a marauding pack of javelinas, but I’ll take the lone ranger. It sure beats looking out back and seeing a rat tearing through the trash. So one thing that makes this town great is that, in Tucson, there are javelinas. Saguaro
  • In Tucson, there are saguaros. I’ll admit that, until last year, I had never heard the word pronounced, so I didn’t know that it’s a swah-ro cactus, not a sa-gwah-ro cactus. But I really enjoy seeing all the saguaros all over the place. Something about them just releases the inner cowgirl in me and makes me want to holler yippy-ki-yay-o, git along little dogie. This even though I think that most of the cowboy shows of my youth were supposed to take place in Wyoming, Nevada, or Montana – places devoid of saguaros. Nonetheless, I love the cowboy showiness of saguaros, and find the other sorts of cacti interesting as well. As a steady diet, I prefer a nice maple, copper beech or oak  – I like shade, I like leaves. But for a change of scenery, a plentitude of saguaros will do. And in Tucson, there are saguaros.

And now I am back to the land of slush, cold, heating bills, and snow piles that are forecast to be with us until mid-April at the earliest.

No, I couldn’t take a steady diet of Tucson, Arizona. But as a brief interlude in a brutal Boston winter, I’ll take it any old day.


In a weird twist, I have four first cousins – all from Chicago – who live in Arizona (Phoenix area), and until last year my brother was here (Flagstaff) as well.

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