Monday, September 29, 2008

GLOW

Further proof that Tucson is home to an extremely creative and active artist community is the annual performance art celebration called GLOW.

What makes GLOW such a unique experience is the fact that it is held in an outdoor field, at night, with several of the pieces being inter-active. How can you see artwork outdoors at night? Simple. Every piece incorporates light of one type or another. LEDs, flashlights, computer projectors, Christmas tree lights, etc. Just about anything that gives off illumination was used to light up the various pieces of art.

Alien
GLOW is held each year at the Triangle L Ranch in Oracle, a small town just north of Tucson. This year the event was held on September 12 and 13 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Admission was $10 for adults, $5 for kids.

Fun is the best way to describe the event. Attendees are encouraged to wear lighted clothing, and a glow-stick wrist band is handed out to everyone as they enter the gate.

Glowing eyeMiniature lights are used to light the path that winds through the grounds to take you to the various presentations. Our first stop was in front of an ‘alien’ that lit up when he spoke to the earthlings gathered in front of him. Whenever he wanted to emphasize a particular point in his speech, bubbles would burst forth from metallic openings in his body.

A short walk into a valley revealed a miniature solar system, complete with a flying saucer.

The glow - Solar SystemOne of my favorites was an area set up with a computer projector and sound system that broadcast eerie voices and sounds choreographed with ever-morphing images projected on a large white sheet. Kind of like an other worldly screen saver.

Even more cool technology was used to create an interactive heart monitor. Two large tom-tom drums were lit from inside, and connected to wired handles. When you grabbed the handle, sensors on it translated your heartbeats into drumbeats.

Shadow puppetsFurther down the path was a shadow puppet theater that, while not driven with lots of technology, was just as much fun as any of the high tech presentations.

If you missed The Glow this year, you’ll have to wait approximately 364 nights for the next one. It’s worth the wait. The experience is sure to leave you with a warm, um, glow inside.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Democratic Convention

I write this post under the category of ‘better late than never’. The Democratic Presidential convention was a couple of weeks ago, but was such an historic event I wanted to share the experience I had the night of Barack Obama’s acceptance speech.

In Tucson, the big event was to be held at the Congress Hotel downtown. Tucson is a very progressive city, and the Congress Hotel was sure to be jam packed with Democratic and Independent voters ready to celebrate the first black nominee for president of the United States.

Although the party at the Congress Hotel was guaranteed to be a great time, I decided one of the most emotionally uplifting places to watch Barack Obama’s acceptance speech would be at the Tucson-Southern Arizona Black Chamber of Commerce, which was also hosting an event that was open to the public.

The TBCC is located in a small single story building on Broadway street. Although not as large or as ostentatious as the Congress Hotel, the TCCC offered a warm welcome to visitors that would rival any other venue.

The room was set up with a projector pointed to a sheet on a blank wall, and the place was filled to capacity with like minded Tucsonians anxiously awaiting the arrival of Barack onstage.

When the big moment arrived, the room burst into applause as Barack took the stage. Just as suddenly, the room fell silent as Barack began to speak.

For many people, especially those that have been soured on politics during the past two administrations, comparing Barack Obama’s speeches to other political speakers is like the experience of thirsting in a sea of salt water, and then being handed a bottle of pure spring water. Filtered of political talking points, fear mongering, and obvious pandering. He is an intelligent speaker, reaching out to intelligent listeners.

Barack Obama As Barack made his goals and policies clear, the room would respond with applause and or appreciative remarks such as “Tell it, Barack!” There was a feeling of community in that small room. Of camaraderie. Of family.

The night of Barack Obama’s nomination was not only a historic night for our country, it was one of the best nights I’ve spent in Tucson.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Tucson Music Scene

I love the variety of musical talent and venues available in Tucson. I've already hinted at it in my post on Gaslight Theatre, but I've also enjoyed excellent live music at the Chicago Bar and Boondocks.

This coming Saturday the Retro Rockets will be performing at Lookout Bar and Grill.

With all of this local talent I had planned on creating a post for each of the places I discover here in Tucson. What I soon found out is there are so many places to experience great live music in Tucson, that there could be a Web site dedicated to nothing else but this topic!

And guess what? There is! It's called Tucson Music Scene, and one glance at the home page will give you a good idea of what a musically rich city Tucson is.

I'll still post about live musical events I attend, but for the heads up on when and where they are, check out Tucson Music Scene.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Crime Map of Tucson

I debated whether or not to just add this information to the post on finding an apartment in Tucson or to give it it's own post. I decided it was an important enough resource to be given it's own post.

There is a Web site called Spot Crime that creates almost real time maps of crime reports for major cities around the world. Here is the map for Tucson:

http://www.spotcrime.com/az/tucson

While I am dubious of its 100% accuracy, it probably gives a fairly accurate picture of reported criminal activity in Tucson. It would be a useful resource to help find "safe" areas of town if you're relocating here, or to compare with your own hometown.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Grocery Shopping for Organic and Natural Food
in Tucson

I rarely shopped at, or even looked for a natural or organic foods grocery store when I lived in Michigan. I had one or two friends that frequented these places, but as much as I considered myself a new-age liberal tree-hugger, going out of your way to shop for organic food seemed a little too “out there” even for me.

That changed very quickly once I moved to Tucson. There are so many choices, and the prices are so competitive with ‘regular’ groceries you have to ask yourself “Why wouldn’t you shop there?”

Of course there are conventional places to shop for groceries for when you reeaaally need to have that Twinkie, or it’s time to pick up some more Ban roll-on. Tucson has Bashas’ and Fry’s aplenty.

But today’s post is all about going natural, and for that you basically have three choices here in Tucson. Here they are, in alphabetical order:

Sunflower Farmers Market
Sunflower Farmer Market Sunflower is a small Western grocery store chain with two locations in Tucson. I’ve been to their location on Speedway Boulevard. Two things impressed me about Sunflowers. One is the sheer volume of fresh fruits and vegetables they have. It takes up most of the center of the store. This is the spot if you’re looking for variety in fresh fruits.

The second thing that impressed me was… the chocolate in their bulk food bins. I know, natural/organic foods and chocolate don’t seem to go together (“Hey, you got chocolate on my tofu!”). But trust me, this is some of the tastiest chocolate I’ve ever had. I recommend the chocolate covered peanuts and chocolate covered raisins.

I think their strategy is to lure you in with awesome chocolate, and then once you’re in the store you’ll think ‘as long as I’m here I might as well get some healthy food, too’.

Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe's Trader Joe’s is a larger grocery chain, and they have four locations throughout Tucson. I’ve shopped at the location at Wilmot road.

On my first shopping trip there, an employee was handing out fresh baked chocolate chip cookie samples. It’s almost as if these places are DARING you to buy junk food while you’re there.

I really like shopping at Trader Joe’s. They have a great variety of foods that you don’t often find in any grocery store. If you’re tired of having the same old same old for dinner every night, give Trader Joe’s a try. You’re bound to find something unique to take home.

Another bonus with Trader Joe’s is the quality of their house brand of foods has been excellent for the items I’ve tried, including their chocolate (I do buy fruits and vegetables too, honest!).

Whole Foods Market
Whole Foods Market On a recent Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Lewis Black was doing a bit on inflation in Zimbabwe. He showed a clip of a reporter that had just come out of a store where he had paid over a billion dollars for a can of beans. Lewis came back with “A billion dollars for a can of beans?!! I didn’t know Zimbabwe even HAD a Whole Foods Market!”

A billion dollars for a can of beans may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the prices here are noticeably higher than the other places I’ve shopped. This is probably where the misconception was born about natural and organic foods being so expensive.

Whole Foods does have two pluses. It has a nice variety of foods, and it has a wine selection that has a section for sulfate-free wines. It was the only one of the three food chains that did that as far as I know.

Whole Foods has two locations in Tucson, and I’ve shopped at the location on Speedway Boulevard. While standing outside taking a photo for this blog entry I noticed an old man in a security guard uniform keeping a close eye on me. Because, you know, a middle aged white guy with a digital camera is obviously a security threat. As I headed into the store to do my shopping he approached me about what I was up to. My blog explanation seemed to confuse the old gentleman even more and he talked about taking me ‘up to see the owners to see what they think of you taking pictures’. I thought for a moment the guy thought by taking his picture I was stealing a bit of his soul but then it dawned on me he probably didn’t have one. I realize now that since I mentioned a ‘blog’ and the ‘Internet’ he probably thought I had just stolen his identity.

securitas
"You kids get off my lawn!"

I told him I would be happy to go with him to see ‘the owners’ so I could let them know how the company they hired for security purposes was hassling paying customers that would also give them free Internet publicity. I left him muttering to himself about not knowing I was a customer, and finished my (last) shopping trip at Whole Foods Market.

So there you have it. Three choices with eight locations total, for natural and organic grocery shopping. My recommendations would be for Sunflower Farmers Market for fresh fruit and vegetable variety and totally awesome chocolate, and Trader Joe’s for a great variety of unique foods and an excellent house brand line of groceries.


Sunflower - http://www.sfmarkets.com/
Trader Joe’s - http://www.traderjoes.com
Whole Foods Market - http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gaslight Theatre and The Retro Rockets

The Gaslight Theatre bills itself as “The Hottest Thing to Hit Tucson Since Sunshine!” offering Musical Melodrama Open Year Round.

The Gaslight TheatreTrue to its name, Gaslight Theatre is a venue for live performances from local actors performing plays such as Beach Blanket Bebop (or "That's for Surfin'!") and Frankenstein Lives! (or “The Jolt’s On You!). They also host a “Family Concert Series” once each week that offers live music suitable for the entire family.

It was a live music event that served as my introduction to Gaslight Theatre. Last Monday I attended a concert featuring the local classic rock band called the Retro Rockets, and their first set promised to consist entirely of music by the Beatles.

A Gaslight SunsetOK, this photo has nothing to do with either the Retro Rockets or Gaslight Theatre. I just had to take this shot of the sunset reflecting off the clouds. It made me hungry for pizza.

The Retro Rockets aren’t just a tribute band to the Beatles and don’t limit themselves to Beatles music but they did a great job of covering early Beatles hits. They had a great time doing it as well, and took turns bantering with each other and the audience.

The audience appreciated it, and at the beginning of the evening were singing along with parts of the chorus of songs. By the end of the evening people were loosening up, and most of the audience was singing along to entire songs.

The Retro Rockets made it easy to sing along. After performing the first set of Beatles music, they filled their second set with such recognizable and feel-good hits like “Pretty Woman”, “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, “Long Cool Woman”, “I’m a Believer”, “Hang on Sloopy”, and “Do You Believe in Magic”.

The Retro RocketsThe Retro Rockets (photo courtesy of their MySpace page)

Tickets for performances at the Gaslight Theatre are sold in advance, and the Retro Rockets appeared to have sold out the house.

The seating at Gaslight Theatre consists of two or three chairs around a small wooden table, and if you’re hungry waitresses will bring you food - mostly sandwiches, some desserts, as well as beer and wine. It’s the latter two that I really appreciated. By the middle of the second set, when everyone was singing along to classic rock and roll, and I was sipping on my third beer, it struck me how much it felt like I was back in the early 70’s, booze cruising in a friends car, singing along with the radio.

And guess what? After all these years it’s still fun to listen to great music with friends while sipping on a barley pop or two. And MUCH safer than drinking and driving.

I had a great time at the Gaslight Theatre and plan to be back to take in a play or two and I’ll DEFINITELY be back for the live jazz music coming up in October.

The Web site for the Gaslight Theatre is http://www.thegaslighttheatre.com/ (have patience, it takes a while to load).

The Retro Rockets are booked throughout the rest of the year. Their schedule is on their Web site at http://www.myspace.com/tucsonretrorockets.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Happy Birthday Tucson!!!

Today is Tucson's 233 birthday!

Let's go places and eat things!

http://www.tucsonsbirthday.org/

Monday, August 18, 2008

Finding an Apartment in Tucson

I had a lot of help with this blog entry from someone I met at a recent Tucson Single Professionals event. His name is Dave and I asked him for his advice for renting an apartment in Tucson.

I asked Dave for his advice because he is a long time resident of Tucson and was recently involved with a project involving local real estate developers. This project allowed him to become familiar with quite a few rental properties and their managers. Another advantage is these properties are all nearby Dave’s neighborhood so he is very familiar with this area.

I told Dave I was looking for a safe, quiet neighborhood. Here is his list along with a few notes:

Cottonwood Creek. 3111 E 4th St. (520) 795-9856. Pricey at $760-$1100. Web site at: http://www.hslcottonwoodcreek.com.

Elcon Gardens Apartments. 3507 E 3rd St. (520) 795-2327.

Knollwood Terrace. 3528 E 2nd St. (520) 327-7125. Well-run, quiet. Manager has lived there, in addition to being manager, for about 10 years.

Las Villas Apartments. 3424 E 2nd St. (520) 325-6545. Quiet neighborhood.

Palace 3814 E 4th St. (520) 327-5671. Older residents.

Palm Gardens Apartments. 3727 E 5th St. (520) 325-4422. Being remodeled, responsible new owners.

One More Choice
I should point out that all of the places listed above are in what is known as ‘central Tucson’. Very close to shopping, dining, theaters, parks, and just a short drive to the downtown area. In other words, where the action is.

If you’re looking for a little slower pace, you may want to look in the foothills area. A very nice set of apartment complexes there is run by Tucson Rental Homes. They run thirteen complexes throughout Tucson, with three of them in the foothills area. Tucson Rental Homes are unique because they are (with the exception of single bedroom units) free standing units, so you don’t share walls or floor/ceilings with neighbors.

This remote and individual setting comes at a price of course. The price range for Tucson Rental Homes is $750-$795 for a single bedroom up to $1030-$1270 for a three bedroom unit.

Their main office and model units are at 4647 N Campbell Ave. Their phone number is (520) 299-4466, and their Web site is: http://www.tucsonrentalhomes.com.

Another Resource
If you’d like to do some more research, all of these rental units and more can be found at apartmentfinder.com.

* Of course, these prices were in effect at the time this blog was published. YMMV.

All of these apartments have been added to my blog’s Google map. The link to the map is here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Javalinas Coffee and Friends

One of the benefits coffee shops have is they can offer live musical performances in an intimate atmosphere. This is a great chance to experience local musical talent while enjoying the caffeinated beverage of your choice.

Two things need to come together for this to really work: good coffee and good musicians. I had a chance to partake of both of these recently at a place called Javalinas Coffee and Friends.

If you’re not native to the Southwest, a Javalina is a nasty looking wild beast resembling a wild boar. It has a mean disposition and will attack humans with no provocation. “Stay away” seems to be the most consistent recommendation when discussing javalina.

Javalinas Coffee and FriendsFortunately, nature loves balance. For the yin of the nasty beastie that is the javalina, there is the yang of Javalinas Coffee and Friends. The service there was not only NOT mean and surly, but some of the friendliest I’ve experienced. And not once did I ever feel in danger of being attacked.

Amber NorgaardAfter ordering the house coffee and finding a table I settled in to listen to the night’s entertainment. This night it was provided by Amber Norgaard singing her original songs and playing keyboard. Amber was accompanied by Will Clipman providing atmospheric background and percussion with a variety of bells, chimes, and drums as well as a couple of percussion instruments I’d never seen before.

Amber Norgaard and Will ClipmanThe small venue was packed, and it was easy to see why. Amber puts her heart and soul into her music and performances. She obviously enjoys what she does as she has recorded four CDs in as many years. Will is a four time Grammy nominee and two time winner of the Native American Music Award.

Javalinas is an excellent place to grab some after dinner coffee and entertainment. Because it is a small venue, the best advice is to get there early to ensure a place to sit.

Check out upcoming performances at Javelin’s Web site at: http://www.javalinas.com.

Amber's Web site is at: http://ambernorgaard.com/, and Will's Web site is at: http://willclipman.com/

Friday, August 8, 2008

Cloud Watching

How’s this for a low cost activity… grab a beverage, pull up a lawn chair and gaze up at the sky.

I consider myself to fairly observant of my surroundings, including natural splendor. I’ve been known to stop whatever I’m doing just to admire the color of a flower, the crisp quietness of a well manicured golf course, or the beauty of a sunset over Lake Michigan. But other than trying to see animal shapes in clouds when I was a kid, and the occasional cumulus filled summer sky, I’ve never considered myself a cloud watcher.

That has changed since living in Tucson. Since being here there’s hardly been a day when I haven’t glanced up at the sky and said to no one in particular: “Wow.”

It’s not that Michigan didn’t have clouds for me to admire. That’s one thing that Michigan has in abundance. Clouds. Or to be more exact, cloud cover. The winters there consist of six months of continuous, cold, gray, skies. It is, as a matter of fact, one of the cloudiest states in the U.S., with a 46% chance of seeing the sun on any particular day.

No, clouds I’ve seen. But Tucson clouds are different than Michigan clouds. They seem sharper, brighter, closer. There can be much more contrast as well, depending on the type of sky making it’s appearance over Tucson. Deep, dark grays to the east, while bright whites hover to the north and west. And there are almost always patches of blue sky reminding you that these floating visitors are temporary.

Like most giants, these white and gray behemoths have power. Not only to instantly turn a quiet, dry boulevard into a dangerous and impassable river. The clouds can also cast wide shadows over the mountains surrounding Tucson, or even conceal them completely, making even the mountains seem small by comparison.

I’m sure being a much higher elevation than Michigan helps explain clouds looking closer, (because they probably are!) But whatever the reason, the effect is similar to watching a movie on your television, or watching a movie at a theater. You just can’t help but be impressed by the sheer scope of it.

Of course I am writing this during the monsoon season, so this beautiful canvas of blue, white, and gray may disappear with the summer rains. But I plan to enjoy it while it’s here.

So grab a chair and gaze up at the sky. Because some movies deserve to be seen on the big screen.

Friday, August 1, 2008

There Once Was a Poet From Tucson…

What do you get when you combine a group of poets with no holds barred competition? The Poetry Slam! Whoever thought of this competition is a genius. What could be better than to listen to some the areas best poets recite original poetry knowing that the audience is free to cheer, boo, hiss, or snap their fingers while the poets are on stage baring their innermost, heartfelt feelings?

This was another great event I discovered through the Tucson Single Professionals. It was not only a competition, but a fundraiser for Team Tucson to help them go to the national competition in Milwaukee. Yes, there is a national Poetry Slam competition.

Team TucsonThis night’s competition was between Team Tucson and a team from the University of Arizona. It was held at the Poetry Center at 1508 E. Helen street. I haven’t been inside the Poetry Center yet, but the emcee for the night explained that it contains one of the largest collections of poetry available. Literary heaven, figuratively speaking.

The rules Poetry Slam were simple enough. There were ten rounds, each team allowed one poem per round. At the end of each round the audience applauded for the team they thought won the round. At the end of the ten rounds the team winning the most rounds won the competition.

MatthewThe emcee’s name was Matthew, and was also the coach for Team Tucson. His other duties included organizer and rule maker. One of the first things he did as rule maker was to throw out the rules he sent to the poets before the event. At the last minute the teams found out they: had to improvise a poem from a word suggested by the audience, had to give one of their poems to the other team to perform, and write a limerick about the other team. (This rule produced grimaces and groans from the teams. Limericks must not be held in high regard by poets.)

The competition began with a piece recited by Team Tucson. Three team members got onstage and performed with lines spoken alternately by one, two or all three of the poets in perfect staccato. It was beautiful to hear, and made it clear that presentation would be almost as important as the poetry itself.

With a name like “Poetry Slam” I had expected the poetry to be light-hearted. The second recital of the night from Team Tucson dashed those expectations quickly as the poet told a heart wrenching story of her sister, an abusive father, and an uncaring mother. It was brilliantly performed, but somehow seemed out of place given the night’s format.

Team University of ArizonaOne of the best performances of the night was from the U of A team. Team Tucson used the give-the-other-team-one-of-your-poems rule to hand the all male U of A team a poem about female sexuality. The artist took the poem and ran with it, totally embracing his feminine side and performed the piece with attitude. You go girl!

Listening to the competitionThe winner of the evening’s competition turned out to be Team Tucson, even though Matthew gave one of the Team Tucson rounds to U of A to even the score before the final round.

When it was all said and done there were lots of laughs, lots of applause, a few hisses, and a few "boo’s (mostly aimed at Matthew).

I discovered that poetry slam competition is held every second and fourth Saturdays during the school year at Bentley's House of Coffee and Tea, 1730 East Speedway. Very cool.

Here’s another bonus: one of the poets for Team Tucson has his own blog and will be blogging every day from the national competition. He is known as Faldwin the Bard, and you can visit his blog at: faldwin.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Google Map of My Posts

Since I've discovered so many cool places to see in and around Tucson, I thought I'd create a Google map to help you find them.

I'll be updating this map for each new place I discover. Future enhancements I have in mind are some less generic icons to mark the map locations.

You'll find the link to the map on the right side bar of this page, but here it is as well: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF&msa=0&msid=
117062054840879874833.000451856c60422cca6d0

Monday, July 28, 2008

Indoor Drive-In

Ooooo, have I made a great Tucson discovery! While I was dining at GRILL (see my July 8th post), I picked up a copy of the monthly calendar for “The Loft”. As it turns out, The Loft is the local ‘art theater’. Now there’s another term that can have many different meanings. Coming from my previous Midwestern community, ‘art theater’ usually meant an under funded movie house that was either in dire need of repair, or movies being held in a multi-purpose room of another local non-profit organization.

The Loft
I could tell right away this wouldn’t be the case with The Loft. The calendar was a well designed, multi-page, event packed showcase of The Loft’s movies and activities.

Here’s a sample of upcoming films for the month of July:

Special Events
THE UNITED ARTISTS 90TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW
Arizona Yoga Association presents "LIVING YOGA"
Special Screening of CARAMELO
ATOMIK CIRCUS - Arizona Premiere!
EL VAMPIRO with Live Music!

Cult Classics
RESERVOIR DOGS
BRAZIL
THE MONSTER SQUAD
AMERICAN PSYCHO
RUSHMORE

Mondo Monday Films
BREAKIN' 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO
BLOODY BIRTHDAY
HERCULES IN NEW YORK
ED WOOD'S BRIDE OF THE MONSTER
THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN

Essential Cinema
THE RULES OF THE GAME
WALKABOUT
LAST TANGO IN PARIS
KNIFE IN THE WATER
PLAYTIME

Local Film Events
FIRST FRIDAY SHORTS
Special Screening of CARAMELO

It’s like Christmas everyday for a film lover like myself. Check out the list of films they will be showing for The United Artists 90th Anniversary Celebration: Annie Hall (1977), A Hard Day’s Night (1964), Goldfinger (1964), The Magnificent Seven (1960).

My first real introduction to the Beatles was when I watched A Hard Day’s Night (Reporter to John: “What do you call that haircut?” John: “Arthur.”), and I can still remember when my uncle and my dad took me to see Goldfinger (Bond: “Do you expect me to talk?” Goldfinger: “No Mr. Bond. I expect you to die!”). I haven’t been able to see these films on the big screen since. What a treat this will be!
So it should be no surprise that: “The Loft has received many honors since its transition to a nonprofit arts organization. It has been named Best of Tucson by the readers of the Tucson Weekly every year since 2002. The Loft received a Lumie from the Tucson Pima Arts Council in 2005 for Emerging Arts Organization.
In 2007, the Arizona Commission on the Arts noted that The Loft is “one of the most important cinema organizations in the state."”[1]

Hot Rod Rumble!“Hot Rod Rumble!”
My first exposure (ha!) to The Loft was thanks to The Tucson Street Rod Association and their sponsorship of “Hot Rod Rumble!”

As I drove into the parking lot I was greeted with about two dozen pristine classic cars gleaming in the afternoon Arizona sun. It was a beautiful sight, and blended in perfectly with The Loft’s retro marquee announcing the day’s features.

I arrived about five minutes after the announced show time and heard the ticket seller tell the group in front of me that the theater was almost full, and they might not find seats together. True enough, and I found an open seat between what turned out to be two members of the Street Rod Association.

After some short announcements and prize give-a ways by the TSRA the theater darkened and the “previews” began. These were movie previews from the 50’s for other hot rod style movies. These were great fun to watch, but were for the most part extremely washed out. Almost to the point of being unwatchable. I hoped the feature film would be in better shape.

As the feature film started I was relieved to see that it was in fine shape. The movie starts on a dark and stormy night, and that’s just one of the clich├ęs I was to be treated to that afternoon.

I had expected to see a campy piece of 50’s cinema with performances ranging from bad to tolerable. As it turned out the movie held up fairly well after all these years. The plot involves a hot rod club and the murder of one of it’s members after a swinging jamboree. (I never really knew what a “jamboree” was until this movie’s example.) A bonus for my ears was the excellent jazz music played throughout this flick. Sitting through the credits afterward I noticed Maynard Ferguson as one of the musicians. Nice ‘get’ for a B movie like this.

Tucson Hot Rod
Tucson Hot RodAfter the movie ended I had a chance to take a few photos of some of the classic cars owned by members of The Tucson Street Rod Association.
Tucson Hot RodThe day turned out to be a great introduction to The Loft for me. My Saturday afternoons will never be the same!

Source:
[1] http://www.loftcinema.com/abouttheloft

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Busy in Bisbee

Ask around for fun things to do around Tucson and sooner or later you’re bound to hear “You should check out Bisbee!” Bisbee, as it turns out, is a small ‘artist’s community’ located about a two hour drive south of Tucson.

The term ‘artist’s community’ is bandied about so frequently that it’s come to mean just about any community that doesn’t fit neatly into any other category. Sedona is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of ‘artist’s community’ even though it has long been too expensive to live for any artist I’ve ever known.

Bisbee Strip Mining
But while Sedona probably attracted artists mainly because of its natural beauty, Bisbee had another draw: cheap housing. Incorporated in 1902, Bisbee was initially a copper rich boom town with its population reaching a high of over 9,000 by 1910. In 1917, open pit mining was successfully introduced to meet the heavy copper demand due to World War I. [1] In the photo above I circled and enlarged an earth mover to give you an idea of the size of this pit.

There is only so much copper you can strip from any mine and by 1975 the copper industry left Bisbee. What was bad news for copper miners turned out to be good news for starving artists and they grabbed up housing as the home prices of the fleeing miners plummeted.

Bisbee Houses
Drive into Bisbee and one of the first things you’ll notice is how the houses are stuck into the side of the mountains. Almost as if a huge canon loaded with cute little chateaus was haphazardly fired against the picturesque rocks. Once safely parked and outside of your car, the narrow, hilly streets are unlike almost any other town in the U.S. This is one of Bisbee’s most attractive qualities in my opinion. Many beautiful photo opportunities can be found, so be sure to bring your camera.

I was fortunate enough to be traveling with a friend from the area that was kind enough to take me on a tour of Bisbee. As we walked up and down main street I noticed a familiar pattern: antique shop, diner, jewelry shop. Every so often an art gallery would show up. OK, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit. But I’m willing to bet the antique shops outnumber the art galleries two to one. This is fine if you’ve come to town to shop for antiques. Not so much if you’re expecting a town full of beatniks and hippies, as I was. Bummer, dude.

Bisbee street
Ah, well. The weather was beautiful and my friend and I enjoyed exploring the local shops. She discovered some valuable jewelry information regarding items in her collection, and I came away with some killer honey. Literally. Killer Bee Honey to be exact. Tasty stuff. Another one of my discoveries was Old Bisbee Roasters coffee. This was worth the trip alone, for me. And who’s to say a perfectly brewed cup of joe doesn’t qualify as a work of art. Hey, you won’t get any argument from me.

Bisbee Angels
I'm sure there is a fascinating story to go along with the photo above. I was too scared to ask.

Bisbee is a fun day trip if you’re looking for a beautiful setting with unique architecture, and a fun day of food, jewelry, and antique shopping. They even have some art there.


Source: [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisbee,_Arizona

Friday, July 18, 2008

All They Wanna Do Is Talk, Talk

Have you ever just wanted to just sit down and have an intelligent conversation with friends? You know, just hash out the problems of the world over lunch?

Thanks to one member of the Tucson Single Professionals you can do just that. Robert Bulechek organizes this event, held every Wednesday at various restaurants around Tucson.

This function offers not only a chance for good conversation, but is also an excellent way to discover new restaurants in Tucson. The venue changes each month, and this month it is being held at Sabra’s Restaurant. Sabra’s is a small, unassuming restaurant that can be easy to miss as you go zipping by on Speedway Boulevard. Thankfully, I decided to make plans to attend a “Luncheon & Conversation” held here.

Sabra's Restaurant
Sabra’s Restaurant serves Mediterranean style food. That’s the generic term for what, in this case, turns out to be Kosher Jewish meals. Sabra’s is a certified kosher restaurant, which means the food is prepared and served under strict Jewish dietary laws. The food is certified Kosher under the supervision of Rabbi Israel Becker of Congregation Chofetz Chayim and Rabbi Joseph Shemtov of Congregation Young Israel Chabad-Lubavitch.

I grew up in West Michigan, which is a very conservative community, and dining variety was somewhat lacking. Unless your idea of variety is deciding whether to go to Fridays, Applebee’s, or Olive Garden. So this was a very special treat for me. I’ll admit, some of the choices were hard for me to visualize. Baba Ganoush, Tabouli, Sabich, Shakshuka, Malawach were all words I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard of before. The good news is the staff is very friendly and more than willing to help de-code the menu for any newbie gentiles.

Of course there were also words on the menu I did recognize and I was able to find several tasty sounding choices. You can order pizza, spaghetti, and salads if you really have no sense of adventure. On my first visit there I tried the mushroom soup, and on my second visit I had the tuna pita. While these choices may not be that far out of my comfort zone I’d have to rate them as one of the best bowls of mushroom soup I’ve ever had and THE best tuna pita. I think on my next visit I may be ready to try some Shakshuka.

The conversation part of the “Luncheon & Conversation” was provided by the members of Tucson Single Professionals that arrived at Sabra’s. On my first visit I was a stranger to everyone there but was quickly made to feel welcome. In addition to Robert our host, and myself, there were two other guys and two women named Pam and Corrina. (I’m sure there’s a Freudian reason why I remember only the women’s names, but that’s a topic for another post.) On my second visit, there was a slightly larger group of five women and three men. Again, everyone was made to feel like old friends gathering to chat over a good meal.

Robert does a great job of researching interesting topics of possible discussion, and sends them out with the email invitation for each event. In the two events I attended all that research went for naught however, as the group discussion took off on its own with topics such as skydiving, piloting a plane, moon phases, best places for brunch, best local Mexican food restaurants, and stories about the places you’re from.

In the end, we didn’t even come close to solving the world’s problems. We did enjoy each others company, good conversation, and great food. What better way is there to spend a lunch hour?

Tucson Singles Professionals is an excellent way to meet other single people in Tucson. Don’t worry if conversation is not your thing, TSP schedules regular activities such as wine tasting, AAA baseball games, dance lessons, concerts, etc. The events are as diverse as its members. TSP is free to join. You don’t have to live in Tucson, and you don’t even have to be professional, but you do need to be single. More information is at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TucsonSingleProfessionals/

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Classic Cars, Classic Rock, Classic Diner

One of the benefits of having beautiful sunshine and warm weather most of the year is how well automobile bodies hold up. Coming from Michigan I am constantly amazed at the beautiful condition of the cars rolling down the road alongside Petey and me.

The combination of great weather and proud owners of pristine older cars means that sooner or later the owners of these cars will want to show them off to anyone that may be interested. A quick search on Google revealed two classic car events that are regularly held in Tucson.

Little Anthonys Drive In
Of course Michigan is no stranger to automotive events! The Motor City is host to one of the largest classic car events each year called the Woodward Dream Cruise. My home town of Grand Rapids has started a very successful event in the same vein, called the 28th Street Cruise. Both of these events boast thousands of participants every year.

32 Ford
But while the Tucson events can’t match the number of classic cars that are on display, they make up for this by holding events a couple of times each month. As I write this article, there are bi-weekly events scheduled for the following three months. That means there are plenty of opportunities to get out and enjoy some of this family friendly fun.

Under the neon
Friendly is an apt description all the way around here. The owners of the cars are happy to talk about their passion for their hobby, Little Anthony’s is a friendly place to grab a bite to eat, and the people that show up are here to appreciate these lovingly restored classics.

Army Jeep
Variety is everywhere in the parking lot this night as you can see by the photos. The lineup included a 1968 Mustang, a 1932 Ford coupe, a 40’s era army Jeep, and my personal favorite, a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T sporting the awesome 440 Six Pack. There were Chevelles, GTOs, and circa 1940’s Oldsmobiles.

Red Rod
Adding to the nostalgia is the sound of classic rock music playing from a local DJ. His portable studio is set up in the midst of all this American iron and helps resurrect the ghosts of a Saturday night long ago when cool cars, rock and roll, and the local drive-in were what you spent the rest of the week waiting for.

Little Anthony’s is located at 7010 East Broadway Boulevard. Be there or be square.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Just a Walk in the Park

Not every activity in Tucson has to cost you money to participate in of course. Why not just get out of the house and get some exercise? I don’t have any hard facts in front of me to back me up, but if I had to guess I’d say that Tucson has one of the healthiest populations in the U.S. Hiking, walking, biking, jogging, are all well represented here.

One of the favorite local places to go is Reid Park, located at 1100 South Randolph Way. Yesterday I grabbed my camera and headed out for some fresh air and exercise.

Reid Park photo 1
Sandwiched between Broadway Boulevard to the north and 22nd street to the south, Reid Park (officially named Gene C. Reid Park) is easy to find in central Tucson. There is plenty of free parking around the area on a weekday. Weekends however are likely to offer fewer available parking spots.

In addition to a great place for a walk, Reid Park is also the home of DeMeester Outdoor Performance Center, which provides a venue for various events throughout the year. The last two weeks in June it hosted evening performances of “Shakespeare in the Park”.

Golfers will find a municipal course there, and tennis bums will discover at 25 lighted tennis courts [1] for you to practice your crosscourt backhand. If that isn’t enough activity for you, the Reid Park Zoo is also located here. [2]

I know I’ll hear from the baseball fans out there if I don’t also mention that Reid Park is also the home of Hi Corbett field, the pre-season home of the Colorado Rockies. The stadium is a beautiful art deco style design that was built in 1937 and has been renovated throughout the years. [3]

Reid Park photo 2
Okay, back to the walking trail. The official name is the David Bell Bike/Walking path and as the name implies, it’s not just for walkers and joggers. While I was there I saw cyclists, skateboarders, rollerbladers, and a very unique adult tricycle apparatus. Dogs are also welcome as long as they’re kept on a leash.

I was told that one lap around the 131 acre park is a three mile trek. Funny, it sure felt more like four miles to me. But then I arrived just a little later in the day than I would have liked. As with any outdoor activity in Tucson, you should plan on either being finished by 10:00 a.m. or not starting until about 6:00 p.m. during the summer months. I hit the path at about 9:00 a.m. when the outside temperature was at 84 degrees Fahrenheit. I was finished (both figuratively and literally!) at 10:00 a.m.

Reid Park photo 3
Of course when I got back home, I felt good about getting out and doing something positive for my health and well being. The next time you’re in the mood for a little fresh air and sunshine, take a walk in the park. Reid Park that is.

Sources:
[1] http://www.randolphtenniscenter.com/
[2] http://www.tucsonzoo.org/
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hi_Corbett_Field

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Grill

I’m a big fan of serendipity. You know, those “happy accidents” that can turn an expected experience into something else altogether.

That’s exactly what happened to me yesterday in downtown Tucson. I had planned on checking out an evening of performance art at the Arts Incubator Gallery. The first Monday of every month is supposed to be “7Up” night. This is where the gallery gives seven local performers 10 minutes each on stage for their art.

I had even called the gallery earlier in the week to confirm the time and was told 7:00 p.m. Seven at seven. That should be easy enough to remember. On the appointed Monday I arrived downtown and found a street side parking space near the gallery. But as I approached the galley’s address I was surprised to find a big iron gate guarding the entrance to the front door. Locked, dark and foreboding, there was obviously not going to be any art here tonight, performance or otherwise.

Bummer. Now what? Well, I hadn’t had my dinner yet. Maybe I could cruise back to central Tucson and grab a bite to eat at a restaurant I hadn’t tried yet. Just then a window full of 8x10 flyers caught my eye. I looked up and saw a huge lighted sign. GRILL was all it said.

GRILL
As I wandered inside it was immediately apparent that this wasn’t going to be your typical homogeneous Applebee’s or Olive Garden dining experience. I was reminded of the diners my father took me to when I was a kid. Chrome rimmed, red vinyl stools lined the central seating area. Booths were available against both side walls.

It wasn’t like I was suddenly transported back in time to when the restaurant was new. No, this place has seen thousands of diners meeting up with friends, reading a newspaper, chatting, getting some relief from the summer heat, and maybe even grabbing a bite to eat. The place has character, like an old friend.

As I sat down at one of the booths I was handed a glass of water and a menu by a very busy but friendly person. The cover of the menu announced I was at GRILL, offering fine dining, full bar, live music, catering, world domination. 100 East Congress Street. Located next to Wig-O-Rama.

I won’t bother listing the types of meals offered. If you’ve ever eaten in a real diner you’ll know the kind of down home, tasty food available at GRILL. Instead, I’ll provide an abridged version of page five of the menu:

Welcome to the Grill! A few things you should know:
THIS IS NOT YOUR HOUSE This is our house. We like it; Grill is a nice place to go, and we are determined to keep it that way. We’re fanatical about it, plum crazy. Please do not move our furniture around, stand on our chairs, mess with our lights, or plug your laptops into our outlets without discussing it with us first. We’ll work with you. Just let us know what you need... well, we might work with you. You can’t sleep here; there are all these motels and hotels nearby, and those nice bus stops we’ve got all over downtown, they’re there for you. We’re more than happy to help you out the door and point you in the right direction if that’s what you need. THE GOLDEN RULE This should be first, or have its own page or something, but it isn’t and it doesn’t. We have so many people here, all the time, lots of different people that are nothing like you, nothing like us. We are really into that. We do not tolerate racism, sexism, ageism… there are so many bad –isms that piss everyone off, but there are lots of good ones too. If you subscribe to a good –ism, that’s great, and we support you in your efforts, but we will frown heavily upon preaching or proselytizing in our restaurant, or even right out front of it. Just treat everyone here with the respect we say they deserve. CHEESE TOTS This doesn’t make sense, but we’re serious about this. We don’t put cheese on potatoes. Not on your tots, nor your fries or mashed potatoes (knishes are a special exception, but don’t ask us to explain why). The rule’s been in place so long that no one here remembers how it started. But tradition is tradition, and we are slaves to tradition. Well, we do adhere to that one thing. AND FURTHERMORE: MIRACLE DIETS, SELF-INFLICTED EATING DISORDERS, ETC. (Atkins, Vegan/Vegetarian, et al) So, you want no carbs, you want only non-stolen, non-animal product, that’s fine. But remember, this is Grill; the grill is the part of the car that killed Bambi, as in Fresh from the, and Hot off the… You do what you want to yourself, we don’t care, but it’s your decision. We serve meat, lots of meat. Here’s how you make plain white rice at home: One part rice, two parts water. Cook for 20 minutes. If you have food allergies, or religious reasons (pigs feet make you think of Satan?), then we’re sympathetic, we’ll do what we can. But hey, we’re not always sure if the soup is vegetarian or not. If there’s the word “VEGETARIAN” in the name, then it’s probably vegetarian. Maybe not. Bacon adds flavor. TATER TOT OR FRENCH FRY IN NOSE MAY COMPLICATE BREATHING (and other food warnings) Grill serves eggs and meat any way you want, but if you order your meat rare or your eggs undercooked, you must recognize you’re taking a risk. You are hereby warned and we are absolved of responsibility. Shellfish is also problematic. But you know that already. Be aware that any food may contain harmful bacteria, and the way to get rid of it is to cook it to at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit. And forks are dangerous. Don’t put them in or near you eyes. Hot coffee can burn you. Chew your food before swallowing. Don’t talk with your mouth full. Don’t talk to a big man’s girlfriend. Don’t eat off the floor. Put the lid down and lavese las manos. People on cell phones will be assiduously ignored. Do it outside.


As I sat there waiting for my order, I thought of how grateful I am for the Grills out there. Individualistic. Creative. Honest and unpretentious.

Oh, the food’s good too.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

One thing you can count on in Tucson is the natural beauty of the desert surroundings. But if your idea of a desert is hot, dry, barren sand you owe it to yourself to check out the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Vista like viewMuseum hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. October through February, and 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. March through September. The price for admittance for adults was $9.50 as of July, 2008.

Adobe viewThe museum is located just west of Tucson on a twisty, hilly, paved two lane road with a speed limit of 35 mph. The slower pace of the road is a perfect reminder to slow down once you get inside the museum. There is a lot of ground to cover and most of it is outside so dress appropriately and bring sunscreen and pick up a bottle of water at the entrance to the museum if you didn’t bring one with you.

Cactus flowerDuring the summer months try to get there when they open at 7:30 a.m. to beat the summer afternoon heat. My friend and I got there at 10:00 a.m. and stayed until about 2:00 p.m. The temperature was just over 100 degrees towards the end of our visit, which was getting a little warm after trudging around the desert trails for three hours.

Underground CaveNot all of the sights are outside however. There underground sections cut out to get a better view of some of the natural habitat of the wildlife there, as well as a small aquarium and even a cave to explore! In addition to their unique visual perspective, they offer a welcome respite from the heat of the day.

This would be a good time to point out the wide variety of exhibits at the museum. While my friend and I spent three hours walking the area we didn’t see every exhibit there. I recommend picking up the free self guiding tour map at the entrance. Take a few minutes to look it over and plan your day from there.

Here is a partial list of the current exhibits:
Reptiles & Invertebrates
Overlook (over the Avra Valley and six mountain ranges.)
Earth Sciences
Mountain Woodland
Desert Grassland
Cat Canyon
Desert Loop Trail
Life on the Rocks
Riparian (stream-side) Corridor
Bighorn
Walk-in Aviary
Desert Garden
Life Underground
Pollination Gardens
Hummingbird Aviary
Cactus Garden
Fishes & Amphibians

Cactus GardenIn addition to all of the exhibits, there are plenty of shaded rest stops, drinking fountains, restrooms, a gift shop and two restaurants that offer places to take a break from the day’s activities. There is even an ice cream shop to discover along the way!

Sparrow Hawk
Here are a few example of the wildlife you'll see during your visit to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.








Deer
Prairie DogI left the museum a little hot, a little tired, and a little more amazed at the beauty of the desert and knowing a little bit more about my new home here in Tucson.