New digs

Come on in

About 2 days ago it looked like this:

which mostly obscured it’s amazing qualities.

It took two days of unpacking and rearranging, buying a few things and repacking all the stuff I had brought over and didn’t need (“furnished apartment” is a very loose term with a very wide range of possible furnishings…).

But now it looks like this from the front door:

With St. Camille in residence.

I’m calling it Hemingway’s hideaway because the leather furniture and wood/rattan accents make me want to drink bourbon and write the next American novel. I figure I’m capable of at least one of those things.

The door straight ahead goes into the bathroom, which has a beautiful though perpetually tarnished copper sink:

And this back towards the front door-ish. The mirror makes everything slightly distorted:

There’s a wee kitchenette – emphasis on wee:

That I can hide when I have guests:

While I distract them with views of my (equally wee) patio:

Did I mention the pool?

I love this place. It rained last night and the roof leaked in my “bedroom” and I still love it. I’ve woken up both mornings happy. I feel like I can do some solid work here and it’s making life in Tucson in the summertime very bearable.

Come visit. I’ll have a bourbon waiting for you.

Saying goodbye to Noelle

One of my best girls is moving away this week. Her husband got a job in Chicago so they’re leaving the land of endless sun and heading north for the winter. The pros include close proximity to their parents and siblings and the cons include a lack of proximity to me. I’m happy for her, I’m bummed out for me, you know…

To celebrate our last weekend in close digs, Jen, Noelle and I took 3 of their 4 collective children to a resort for a mini weekend.

I got there late because I moved into my new place this weekend (more about that tomorrow) so I arrived just in time for dinner, which is always my favorite time to show up anywhere.

We started with chips and salsa and martinis

That salsas on the left has roasted tomato, cucumber and corn. Delicioso.

You’d think we’d know better than to order a second round… but you’d be wrong. Apparently we think we’re still 21.

We’re not.

At all.

To counter the vodka, we upped our dairy quotient with some queso fundido con chorizo

And a curious roasted duck quesadilla.

which seemed like a good idea but in fact is not a combination that should be repeated anywhere.

After dinner the kids watched a movie

Noelle’s kids love Jen’s baby Ruby

while we three sat on the patio and talked about how long we’ve known each other and how nice it’s been to live close to each other for the past couple of months. We’ve known each other 20+ years and all moved around a lot during that time but still managed to keep in touch and stay close. I know that this move is just another in the series of life adventures even though I’m still sad.

Miss Noelle, I wish you a safe voyage north. I fully expect that you’ll have your house unpacked, kids in school and know all your neighbors within days of setting foot on Illinois soil. Arizona is poorer for losing your focused cheerful energy.

I already miss you but I know you’ll be back to visit in October when I’ll insist on a picture of the three of us together! But until then, this is one of my favorites of you and 2 of your boys.

Travel safe. See you soon. XOX

A Kaitlyn and Ryan Retrospective

Ryan left today to join the Les Miserables tour in LA. I hope they have a great time together for the next 6 weeks.

Some friendships are hard to encapsulate in words. Ryan and I do better in pictures. So, here’s a taste of the past 5 years.

Arcata, California

It all started with a tour bus (Lucy) and a rug that Ryan “borrowed” from somewhere in Idaho. This rug still resides in Ryan’s work box and gets pulled out for special occasions.

Climbing a giant rock on the beach in Arcata California. We also saw the Redwoods on this day. A perfect memory that stands out from our Producers tour.

Miami, FL

Halloween in Miami FL, the year that everyone threw a costume together at the last minute. I went as Mrs. Bob the Builder and Ryan bought his $5 cop costume in the kid section of the local Walgreens. He also spent the night writing people citations for behavior ranging from “not enough enthusiasm” to “boring costume idea.”

Photo fun in Washington DC

It’s hard to comment on this picture but I feel I should include it…

Dallas TX

Our Wizard of Oz closing night  in Dallas TX.

And San Diego, CA.

I’m expecting him to shake things up in Les Mis and I can’t wait to hear all about it.

Until next time, McAlpine…

Apparently It’s Next Time

I saw my brother yesterday in Gilbert AZ:

This marks the first time ever that I’ve seen all my immediate family where they live within the space of one week. Nate and I hung out last night and then went to breakfast this morning. The breakfast loving gene runs strong in our family and the Farmhouse Restaurant in Gilbert, AZ:

Offers a whole variety of egg scrambles – mine had potatoes, bacon and green onions – in a sweet little space with accomodating waitstaff. I’d recommend it in a minute.

We then parted ways. Nate drove to Globe and I drove to Tucson, staring at the horizon and taking really deep breaths the whole way.

I lived in Tucson for 10 years before going on tour with musical theatre shows. When I left, I packed up my stuff and put it in a storage shed, parked my truck in a different storage space, arranged for my friend Karen to forward my mail and took off.

Since I started touring, I’ve been back to Tucson every year and it goes like this:

1. A month before I arrive, I decide how long I’ll be there and figure out how many social engagements I can fit in. I send out a bunch of emails asking if my friends have time to hang out and then spend the next 2 weeks fielding return emails and scheduling lunches, dinners, drinks etc. and fitting everyone in. Sometimes this means a day where I have breakfast, lunch, happy hour, dinner and late night drinks all with separate people. On those days I have 5 opportunities in 24 hours to try not to talk nonstop about my crazy job. A blog has been a good solution to this problem. Now I can write about my life and my friends can read, which frees me up to listen to their stories over food and adult beverages and we don’t have to talk about me at all.  Note to all my friends who don’t read my blog, if you start reading we can talk more about you.

2. I pick up my truck and spend the first afternoon getting it through emissions, registering it and changing the oil. Every year it develops another tic or some kind of weird behavior that I chalk up to abandonment issues and power games. I’m pretty sure I’ve given it a complex by leaving it alone so much of the year. I fear it’s turned into one of those weird hermits with no gauge of normal truck behavior because it’s segregated from society and forced to recreate with the RVs stored around it.

3. I check on my storage shed, which is more and more of a mess every time I visit. I wade through dusty boxes filled with God knows what, knowing that there are things in there I’ve forgotten about and no longer want or need or would use or have any idea why I kept. I’m always searching for something and trying to remember where the 5-years-ago me might have stored it, usually with little success. I throw some stuff out, pack a lot more things away, rearrange a few things and hours later covered with dust I look at the giant mess, shake my head, roll down the door and drive away thinking “The next time I come into town I really need to figure out a different way to store everything.”

4. I collect my mail. Then I look at the giant pile and know that I’ll lose an hour of my life going through all the junk mail and cursing the credit card companies that won’t stop sending me card offers. Trees are dying, I don’t want another credit card, if I bake you cookies will you please for the LOVE OF GOD stop sending me mail??? Seriously, send me an address. I’m getting out the butter and sugar right now.

5. I spend every remaining waking moment seeing friends, running errands, complaining about the heat and saying “I will NEVER live here again” in very disdainful tones.

6. Right before I leave, I email the people I didn’t see and say “I’ll see you next time. How in the world do you live here? It’s hellish!!”

7. I jet out of town after too few days saying “Next Time” to everything I didn’t finish.

Now, for the first time in 5 years, I will be stretching the above madness over 6 weeks instead of 6 days. And while I have big renovation plans (STORAGE SHED) I also have a lot of writing work to do so I won’t be a whit surprised if I fly out of this city with even less done than I usually accomplish.

So, for the next few days I’ve got a truck whose ego needs stroking so it will run for the entire 6 weeks I’m here, a laptop that needs technical attention because it’s acting all feverish and virus stricken, apartment sublet keys and instructions to procure, a rental car to return, loose ends to wind up, a weekend in New Mexico and THEN finally, I move in to my own little place for 6 blessed weeks and stare at the wall in silence for the first 24 hours until my brain reboots.

Welcome to the official season known as “Next Time.”

Fishnets and a Bordello Boutique

If you haven’t seen a Roller Derby game, now’s the time.

 Two teams of girls on skates going in circles. What’s better than that? How about fishnets? And great names.

I mean, Bev Rage?? Kinda awesome. She’s a part of the champion Tucson team, the Furious Truckstop Waitresses, who laid waste to the Prescott team, the Whiskey Row-llers, on Saturday night. It was a bloodbath with a final score of 224 to 80. That’s an obliteration. But the FTW is a better team with better skaters. The Whiskey Row-ller’s only strong point is this chica:

Buffy something or other (the FTW also have much better names and better outfits…), a bruiser with a black mouth guard, a fierce neck tattoo and a general crushing demeanor who spent most of her time on the penalty chairs for her casual dismissal of every rule.

Skates in the air: never good, though Buffy looks pleased.

We spent a couple hours watching Buffy body check the opposition and yell at the ref through her mouth guard while the FTW sidestepped all the Whiskey blockers and scored points until they got tired and called off the jam.  A very solid Saturday night.

My friend Missy and I spent Easter Sunday in Jerome, a little mining town over the mountain from Prescott, AZ.

Virgin Guadalupe gets a lot of love in the Southwest.

More strange yard art:

Why does the hulk have a dryer on his head and his leg in the air? Why ask why… At some point, I expect to see John Dempsey’s backyard turn into a type of Tinker Town.

He and his wife Mary run a shop called House of Joy, housed in the building that once held a brothel in Jerome. They call their shop a brothel boutique (very likely the only one in all the world) and they sell brothel-esque paraphernalia (sequin pasties, anyone?), original brothel inspired artwork inclusive of pin up girls and glitter and a fair amount of antique pieces found in and around Jerome. I was kind of intrigued with their brothel tokens that looked like metal poker chips. Miners bought them and redeemed them with prostitutes, which is a reasonable system that kept all the money in one location thus reducing risk to the girls who could have gotten robbed in addition to everything else

In continuation of our bordello themed exploits, Missy and I ate dinner at an Italian place called Belgian Jenny’s Bordello Pizzeria. I’m going to classify the name as incredible, the food as good, the décor as disturbing (Christmas decorations should come down by April…) and the service as abysmal. I wouldn’t recommend it but I do love the name.  We then came home to watch trashy movies and hang out.

I’m calling that a great Easter. I hope yours was equally as interesting.

Tomorrow, California.

See you then.

For you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup

Woke up crabby and tired. Never good. Went to my favorite breakfast place in Tucson only to discover that they’d changed the menu and I didn’t love their food as much as I remembered.


I felt at loose ends anyway since I had nothing specific I wanted to see, a doctor’s appointment for my annual ob/gyn check up smack in the middle of the afternoon killing my ability to make plans and several failed attempts to see my friend Jen. I gritted my teeth and did some writing and hated it. I wrote an angry facebook status about wanting to punch someone in the face, got caught in traffic on my way to the doctor’s office and arrived late to find the waiting room crammed full of people.

Then I waited two hours to see the doctor.

Two hours during which time a 2 year old child (with stained pants and the continual smell of pee wafting around her) ran around next to me hollering and watching a hyper frantic anime cartoon repeatedly on her mom’s phone, cried when she was told not to pick her nose and then peed her pants (again??) in the chair next to me and was led sobbing out of the room.

Two Hours.

Two hours in which the receptionist’s face got grimmer and tighter and less friendly as ranks of women filed up to the counter to ask when the doctor might see them and she kept shaking her head, walking into the clinic and coming back with no good news.

Two hours in which the boyfriends of some young looking girls grew restless and asked louder and louder questions about how much longer? Exactly?

Two hours in which I watched my last chance to see Jen drift away and I had to go out to my car and eat a protein bar so I didn’t rip off the receptionist’s head and feed it to the loudest boyfriend. I tried to heed Bruce’s advice and “control my breath so I could control my life” but anger and irritation is SO much easier.

Two terrible no good very bad long boring hours.

I finally got in the clinic to be seen and met the sweetest most apologetic nurse, Margaret, who did everything she could to get me out of there as quickly as possible and filled up my water bottle twice (in Tucson that’s better than someone handing you free money). Then I met the doctor who was also great and apologetic and worked fast but didn’t seem aggravated or annoyed. Good people. Sucky situation. My best suggestion is that the clinic teams up with (insert giant chain restaurant here) and get those blinky flashy coaster things. Give them to patients when they check in, tell them not to go more than 15 minutes away and call them when the doctor’s ready. How hard would that be? Can’t be worse than a waiting room full of agitation.

I left the clinic at 5 and contemplated – with no pleasure – a 530 yoga class. I didn’t want to go but figured that with a facebook status about punching, the least I could do (karmically speaking) was sweat out some of the hate. So I showed up at the studio (and PS Tucson, replace the carpet in your studio. It smells terrible. Or better yet, rip it out and get hard wood floors. Otherwise, the room is great.) Anyway, I go into the room and get into savasana and try to breathe before class starts.  People are drifting in and out of the room and then two women start talking! In the studio!! This is not right. The Bikram studio is a quiet zone and there should be no talking. Go outside! But these two girls are chatting about vacations and husbands and kids and what all and then other people in the studio sit up and start talking amongst themselves while I’m lying in savasana with my fists clenched channeling my inner librarian and thinking SSSSSSHHHHHHHHH! as loudly as possible hoping my thought waves knock them silent. I think this is using yoga power for evil, but I’m not certain.

Finally the teacher, Bob, comes in and turns on the light and says we’re getting started. We stand up to start the first round of breathing and a late person arrives. Tucson is the only Bikram studio I’ve been in that allows latecomers and this is the second class I’ve taken where people have been late. Late guy #1 bumbles into class and sets up right in front of me. I try to ignore him in the mirror and breathe when late guy #2 comes in about 20 seconds later and sets up right behind me.

Really really???

Again, I try to ignore them while they fumble around with towels and water and organization and find the rhythm of the exercise when late guy #3 (!!!!!) comes in after we’ve completed the first set of breathing and walks through the whole class to set up on the far end of the room.

By this time my outrage is barely contained and I’m bound to make this the most focused intense class of my life when Bob starts in with the Bikram dialogue and something seems… different about his approach.

Oh, I know. Clearly he’s an auctioneer in his other life.

An AUCTIONEER! Who does Bikram! What does a yoga auctioneer sound like? Here’s a sample:

WE’re gonna start with half moon pose feet together HEELS touching TOES touching ARMS UP fingers interlaced release your index Fingers And REACH! (breath) REACH to the right and then to the left GO all the way down PUSH your hips out (breath) DON’T let that hip roll in CHIN up THROAT visible! (breath) Now go down go down go down left right Left Right LEFT RIGHT COME TO THE MIDDLE AND STOP!!!

Are. You. Serious???!!!!

And so it went for the whole class. (Right leg right leg right leg lamppost concrete no knee LOCK that knee FOCUS on the thigh YOU HAVE NO KNEE Pick Up Your Left Foot AND BREATHE!) Plus he told stories and counted one Mississippi 2 Mississippi and referenced that old joke about the little boy misspelling and the teacher asking where the other “p” was and the boy saying it was running down his leg.

Pee jokes! In Bikram!

Man, I tried to hold onto the anger and outrage and then I just gave in and started laughing. I couldn’t help it. So ridiculous.

And this all leads to my Bikram lesson of the day: it doesn’t have to be serious.

It’s not all about the pain and agony and discipline. Sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes it’s silly. Sometimes you get an auctioneer.

And this marks the end of my Tucson stay. I’m driving up to Prescott this afternoon and headed to California on Monday.

Roller Derby Girls tonight!! So come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you all about it.

Happy Easter weekend.

See you tomorrow.

We are what we repeatedly do.

I met my friend Carol at one of my favorite Tucson places for lunch.

Vegetables! For a change of pace…

Carol is one of my (non-smug) married girlfriends who loves what I do. (See also Jen, PN, Diane, Jess and Bet) Were these girls single, they’d be out wandering the world. Instead they’re immersed in the important business of looking out for their husbands and raising their kids to be good citizens, work both critically overlooked and underappreciated. Because I’m unobligated in that way, I feel like an advance scout sent out to experience foreign lands and come back with stories. When they have the time and wherewithal to travel, they’ll have plenty of ideas of where to go.

After lunch I went to the Sam Hughes neighborhood near the University of Arizona area and tracked down a metal artist I remembered seeing there. Please meet Ned Egen:

His truck:

His work bench:

And the yard around his house:

Isn’t that a terrible picture?? I had such difficulty photographing his yard.

Between the light and the negative space in his sculpture against a unsolid background of trees, cactus and vines my camera did. not. know. where. to. look. I had much more success in his back yard.

But back to Ned. He walked out of his house right when I drove up and spent about an hour and a half walking me around and talking to me. Delightful.

Ned’s a former chemistry professor at the University of Arizona who also developed, started and ran his own biotech company and made his yard into a metal jungle. He says he fell in love with steel in his 20s when he lived on the east coast. He’d photograph bridges and girders and junk piles, fascinated by the way metal rusted and cured and looked. He started collecting steel pieces and when he moved to Tucson, he moved about 1000lbs of steel with him and started creating a junk pile in his back yard that quickly grew to about 10 tons.

He learned to weld in his 30s so he could make wood burning stoves for his house. He made two stoves and put his welder away but continued to collect steel pieces and take pictures and he says he made his first sculpture when he turned 40.

 His wife, Sue, is a fiber artist and loves flowers. Ned says Sue always incorporated flowers into her artwork so it seemed natural that he would make flowers.

They remain his favorite subjects.

He recycles old water heaters and uses the blue enameled inner lining to for these flowers.

He also loves faces

 And many of his anthropomorphic sculptures are kinetic with springs that make them bend and spring and boing when you touch them.

I photographed about a quarter of his work and thought to ask him a question that’s been on my mind since seeing so many prolific collectors and artists across this country. Namely, how long did it take him to do all this? He said it took him several years but he was also working 2 full time jobs. He looked around the yard while we talked and said he thought he could recreate the whole thing in a year if he did nothing else.


I was shocked. He was amused. He says he works quickly, he doesn’t stockpile ideas and he usually has about 30 things he’s working on simultaneously. If he gets stuck in one project and can’t figure out how to move forward or finish it, he moves on to another project and finds that it unsticks him. He had a very practical attitude towards work. He loves metal, what it can do and how it looks. He likes to work. He works every day.

He said he’s had a lot of walk up business in the past week and it makes him a bit nervous because he doesn’t want to sell more than he can easily replace. He wants the yard to continue to look like it does now. I think he was intrigued by my questioning, my interest and my itinerant lifestyle and figured I had things on my mind that went deeper than just his artwork and his yard.

He’s right.

But that’s a subject for another post. I think I need to mull it all over a bit more before I write about it.

One more day in Tucson and then I’m headed north and west.

See you tomorrow.

The life you could have while other people watch TV

Ross Ward said he built Tinker Town while other people were watching TV. Yesterday I saw the results of another man’s life work and I’m pretty sure he didn’t watch any TV either.

That’s the DeGrazia Mission in the Sun in northern Tucson. Built by an artist named Ted Degrazia in honor of the Virgin Guadalupe

Painted inside:

With an open roof to let the prayers of the people find their way to God.

Ted DeGrazia lived in Arizona during the 20th century (1909-1982), trained at the University of Arizona, worked with painters like Diego Rivera and became internationally famous when UNICEF reproduced one of his paintings on their cards. His work pervades the Southwest and I never cared for his style, thinking it was all these big eyed kids that look like a Southwest version of Precious Moments.

But several years ago a friend of mine got married in this chapel and I remembered it being beautiful so I wanted to revisit it. I didn’t know about the Gallery of the Sun next door.

I didn’t know he did work like this:

Or this:

Or that he designed and built this gallery, the chapel, and several houses with his hands and hand tools, framing it with an axe and a hammer and applying adobe by hand. I didn’t realize that he filled the gallery with 15,000 original pieces of artwork.


That’s just a fraction of his actual work since he sold many of his paintings and stacked a 100 others on the back of a mule and dragged them into the mountains and set them on fire in 1976 in protest of tax laws. How can one man get so much done?

I loved this recreation of his studio:

And the way each portion of the gallery flows into the next, taking you on a journey of his artistic process.

In addition to everything else (he was also a musician and published his own music, you know, in his spare time…) he built a little gallery for his friends on his land and now a group of his artist contemporaries take turns using the studio and selling their work to visiting DeGrazia fans. El Cruz Armendariz is the guest artist of the week and he sang me a song and told me stories about working with DeGrazia and his close relationship with the Native Americans in the area.

Even though I’m not a fan of DeGrazia’s most popular work, I think this gallery is the perfect representation of Southwestern art and anyone who visits Tucson should make a trip north and check it out.
And speaking of things I never knew existed, how about this Wishing Shrine called El Tiradito in South Tucson’s Barrio Viejo?

El Tiradito means Castaway, Fallen One or Outcast and this sacred spot was dedicated to sinners way back in the 19th century.

The residents of Barrio Viejo fought to keep the city from tearing down the shrine in 1971 and as a result, some historic buildings in this area were saved and can still be seen, like this little nearby museum dedicated to the area.

Many stories about the origins of El Tiradito float around but each story has a common thread of murder and betrayal, some with romantic Romeo and Juliet overtones and some violent and bloody, more like Macbeth.

People visit El Tiradito to light candles and pray for the wayward sinners they know or to make wishes.

Legend has it that if you light a candle and make a wish and the candle stays lit all night, your wish will come true. Here’s mine:

I haven’t yet gone back to check and see if it’s still lit. I think I’d rather not know.

After an afternoon spent wandering through historic Tucson and soaking up Southwest flavor, I showed up early for my Bikram class, pretty excited to be there. Did it go well? No. Do I know why? No. Does that lead to my Bikram thoughts of the day? Yes.
Bikram lesson of the day: The Practice is a practice.
My yogi friend Joe says “we work with the bodies we have today.” And my body that day was not having it. Class was SO HARD. Jules and I had talked about how Bikram can push you around, press you to the furthest reaches of your ability, break things open inside you and make you cry. I’ve never had that experience with any other kind of yoga. Is it the heat? The sameness of the classes? The extreme body bends one way and then the other? I don’t know.
I do know that it’s the first physical activity I’ve done where I’ve gotten benefits right from the very beginning. Bikram says no one is too old or too sick or too broken to do Bikram yoga. Do what you can. Stay in the room. Do a little more tomorrow. Or, in my case, do a lot less than you did yesterday. I had less of everything except my will. My will was stronger and I had so much less to work with that in some postures all I had was effort. I just plain couldn’t do them. Couldn’t keep my balance, couldn’t get off the floor, couldn’t do it. And it took all my will just to try.
And then I cried during the final savasana. Why? Opening up, letting go, trying. All these things are hard and cause pain and sometimes tears. Just is what it is. I know the room was hot and I hadn’t eaten enough or drunk enough water. But sometimes I just cry. Fortunately, in Bikram is looks like sweat so no one knows and it all has the same benefit: Release. They say the cure for everything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea. I’m only lacking the sea.

After that rough class, I recovered with dinner:

And drinks:

And friends:

Thanks for coming by. More Tucson tomorrow.
See you then.

This post brought to you by Bikram and Jules

Isn’t that pretty? That’s how my night ended. Some griping first, and then the good stuff.

The problem with visiting Tucson is my stuff. I don’t live here. But I used to live here so I have stuff stored here and a truck.

My day started with moving my truck, or rather trying to move it. My storage facility moved my truck to a bigger (more expensive) empty space some time back because they were doing construction but they charged me for a smaller space and then they forgot about it and didn’t move it back. A month ago they realized their error and wanted to charge me the more expensive rate and have me pay back all the months it had been in that space when it hadn’t been my choice to begin with! I don’t live in Tucson so any change in my storage units requires lots of phone calls and negotiations.  Is there anything more futile than fighting long distance by phone over something neither of you has control over? I think not. But now I’m in town and told them I’d be happy to move it to a smaller space. Then my truck wouldn’t start. !@*$(@Y#$%!!! I feel like such a girl when that happens because I never know what’s wrong and I can’t fix it. A failing on my part as I could learn but I haven’t. I just want it to run. Is that so wrong??

I guess the battery died so the storage guy helped me jump it and what was a 15 minute procedure turned into an hour plus paperwork; so by the time I visited my storage shed I was already irritated and ready to get more so.

And… just… Yikes. I have so much stuff. Some of it I love and some of it I’d happily throw out, but I’m never in town for long enough and throwing stuff out would require spending my limited time going through all the boxes, making decisions, taking it all somewhere, yadda yadda…. It makes me tired just typing that. Regardless, at the end of it I’m rolling down that door and locking it up and not doing anything different with the stuff I want to keep.

Bottom line: I don’t want all my stuff in boxes. I want it in a house. Spread out with some room to breathe. I want to be able to visit my things and see them all. But while I’m a nomadic gypsy, it’s financially imprudent to spend money on a place just so I can see my stuff. But every time I visit I kinda sorta wish I could rescue a few things and torch the rest of it and be free. I know I’d miss all those little things, my books and paintings and such and I do want a place… eventually… just not now… ergo, boxes. Sigh.

3 hot dusty frustrating hours later wherein I opened a bunch of boxes and sorted and reorganized a bunch of things so I could find them again and found room for more things, like my sewing machine, I looked at my watch and realized I had about 30 minutes to get to Bikram at orange grove and oracle. Once again, a mad race across a city to find a place I’ve never been and get into a yoga frame of mind before I have to be all in it. I arrived as Nicole was locking the door. Literally the latest I have ever been for a class. At least this time I knew enough to turn off my radio while I was driving and try to focus so I wasn’t completely frantic and crazy when I walked in. Nicole asked me if I’d been at that studio before, had me sign a waver and told me I had 30 seconds to change before class started.

So much for serenity now.

I walked in the room, saw my friend Jules, found a spot near her, had time for one deep breath and then dove right in.

Basically, taking time off sucks. It’s been 5-6 days since I last did Bikram and I can feel it. Or the lack of it. But fortunately, I’ve done Bikram enough now that I’m not all the way back at square one when I take time off. More like square 2. Possibly 2.5. But it’s still a relearning, how to breathe, how to stretch, how to stay in the moment, how to listen. The teacher, Nicole, said my words of wisdom today.

Bikram lesson of the day: It’s will over matter.

That’s different from mind over matter, isn’t it? Mind over matter is letting your brain control your body. Will over matter is exerting yourself on yourself. Making yourself do it. Making the stretch, holding the pose, gritting your teeth, letting it hurt, breathing through it. Not giving up when you want to. Pushing yourself further and deeper. Nicole is the first teacher I’ve had to be specific that some poses will hurt. Are supposed to hurt. She also said where they should hurt. And the kind of pain you should feel. Stretching pain vs. stabbing pain. Some poses make you feel dizzy and nauseous and that’s ok. They should. It means they’re working. Your body is working in a way it’s unused to. Let it be. Breathe.

Jules and I had dinner after and talked about the things we’ve learned in Bikram. We’re both kinesthetic learners and things we learn physically make a big impact on us mentally and spiritually. She said two things that really stayed with me:

1. Lean into the discomfort.

I love that. Don’t lean away. Lean into it. Acknowledge it. Let it be uncomfortable. It’s supposed to be uncomfortable. If it were comfortable, you wouldn’t be working.

2. When you rest, rest completely.

How hard is that??! In life or in Bikram? It’s such good practice in Bikram to soak up those 20 second savasanas between poses. To learn to rest completely after activity so your body can absorb the fresh oxygenated blood or relax muscles or whatever. And in life, imagine how much productive we would be if we rested completely when we rested?

We talked about our lives in transition. How productive and difficult it is to transfer Bikram lessons to our shifting lives and how much we’ve learned about life in these classes while sweating it out, doing the work, and pushing ourselves beyond our flexibility.

It’s hard. That’s good.

On the flip side, we also talked about pole dancing and boys and then we went for a moonlight walk through the River walk under a nearly full moon.

Moonlight walks, philosophical talks, Vietnamese food and a sweaty Bikram class = complete satisfaction.

More Tucson tomorrow. See you then.


Eating in Bisbee and hiking in Ramsey Canyon

I saw my friend Jess over the weekend.She made me dinner, which is the ultimate show of love in my world, and we spent the evening in her kitchen drinking wine and talking about where we can next go scuba diving together. We went to Florida for our last trip and dove under less than great conditions in West Palm Beach; so, we’re hoping for something tropical next time. 

The next morning we drove into Bisbee, a little mining town in the mountains of the AZ/Mexico border. In the last 50 years it’s gone from booming to busted and is now starting (hopefully) to come back. It looks like someone has invested money into the historic downtown area and a couple restaurants are thriving, like this place: 

I had delicious Huevos Rancheros, the beginning of my “I’m in Tucson so bring on the Mexican food!” spree: 

Dontcha love the diner brownware circa 1973?  We ate too much and then drove up the road to Ramsey Canyon to work it off. 

Animals run free here because the canyon is a nature preserve:

 There are plenty of birds, like this little owl hunched down in his tree: 

No hunters come up here, so turkeys are safe: 

And the occasional snake: 

A sunny, cool day with blue skies: 

Jess told me we’d be hiking up to a waterfall but she left the slot canyon as a surprise: 

I’ve never seen a slot canyon in this area. 

I love the way the light comes through 

The waterfall wasn’t raging: 

But the stillness: 

And greenery:

 And relative remoteness of the area made it an ideal afternoon.

Doesn’t this look like something Monet would paint? 

I never see Jess enough so it was a treat to spend a whole day hiking around with her.

I drove into Tucson late afternoon and spent the evening with another dear friend of mine, Diane. We ate Mexican food (twice in one day!) and told stories and I spent the night at her house. Now I’m sitting at her kitchen table drinking coffee, writing and contemplating my day.  I get to unpack my car for the first time since Toronto. I’ll leave some stuff here in my Tucson storage shed and drive out of AZ about 200lb lighter than I came in. Cannot. Wait.

I’ll also have several days to see Tucson like a tourist. Come back tomorrow to see what the Old Pueblo has to offer.

See you then.