Posts Tagged ‘Tucson AZ’

Part of the year we live in a small Sonoran Desert age-restricted (55+) community. There are no boom boxes masquerading as cars, no outdoor rock concerts, no jake-brake-using diesel trucks. Little happens after dark. Everybody goes home and goes to bed. Contrary to popular myth, older people don’t blast their TVs, stereos or electric organs. When the power went out last week it took us a while to notice what was missing…sounds like the refrigerator running and the a.c. blowing. It was lovely, in an eerie sort of way.

Still, even here, the world in all its naked noisiness, all too frequently jars the quiet.

A10s from the Davis/Monthan website

A10s from the Davis/Monthan website

We live within miles of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Their mission? “Deploy, employ, support, and sustain attack airpower in support of Combatant Commanders anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. Train the finest attack pilots for the Combat Air Forces. Provide every member of Team D-M with responsive, tailored, mission-focused base support.” (http://www.dm.af.mil/index.asp). That translates into a lot of overhead noise (sometimes exceptionally loud) as mysterious unseeable objects hurdle by overhead. I guess I’m supposed to feel safe.

152nd Fighter Squadron  Air National Guard Tucson

152nd Fighter Squadron
Air National Guard Tucson

Adjoining D-M is the 162d Fighter Wing (162 FW) of the Arizona Air National Guard, stationed at Tucson Air National Guard Base, Arizona. They’re a premier training facility where air force pilots from around the world have come to train including from mid-eastern countries like Israel, Jordan, the United Arab Emigrates and Turkey as well as Thailand, Denmark, Sweden, Chile, Italy, Taiwan, Portugal and others. And yes, when they practice It’s Loud.

Then there are assorted helicopters at all hours of the day and night. Tucson Metro Police as well as Pima County Sheriffs are out there scanning for drug smugglers, runaway convicts and other assorted other n’r-do-wells. Oh and to keep up on accidents and traffic we’ve got the local TV stations. OK so we live less than thirty miles south of Tucson, and only forty miles north of Nogales and Mexico. So I know I have to accept big city and border issues noise.

sound levels  courtesy of Wikipdian

sound levels
courtesy of Wikipdian

Still, it’s those blasted leaf blowers and lawn mowers that can truly lay me low. We live in a very well kept, greenly landscaped community which requires a veritable battalion of gardeners to keep it pristine. While I appreciate the almost compulsive striving for neatness, when they start blowing at my back door at 6:30 am, count me out. I’m not alone: “The World Health Organization recommends general daytime outdoor noise levels of 55 dBA* or less, but 45 dBA to meet sleep criteria (3). Thus, even a 65-decibel leaf blower would be 100 times too loud** to allow healthful sleep (which often takes place during daytime hours for night workers and others). Noise can impair sleep even when the sleeper is not awakened. Acoustics experts say blower noise is especially irritating because of its particular pitch, the changing amplitude, and the lack of control by the hearer. (my emphasis added). (http://www.nonoise.org/quietnet/cqs/leafblow.htm

Hear, Hear. I hope.

The Scream  courtesy of the Edvard Munch Gallery

The Scream
courtesy of the Edvard Munch Gallery

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Walking from the parking lot to the terminal, the usual roar of the jets captures the senses. But entering the modestly sized Tucson airport terminal building, the mood changes. The architecture—clean lines, iodized metal surfaces, cylindrical in theme and minimalist in appearance—announces an airport small enough to find one’s bearings, and appealing to the the harried air traveler on a hot desert day. The simplicity of locating check in, boarding gates, the whole sense of a reasonably human-scaled enterprise contrasts so nicely with those massive, impersonal and rather terrifying places like Phoenix Sky Harbor to say nothing of LAX or O’Hare.

We were there to send our daughter and baby grandson off to the challenges of LAX, sitting in a sort of waiting alcove near Southwest Airlines ticketing, while I strolled about and happened to look up. In fact I was the only one there who happened to look up, catching from the corner of my eye glimpses of what? Aladdin? Ali Baba? Scherazade? Wait—flying carpets? Yes, flying carpets, curling with the breezes, magically translucent colors of many colors, many shapes, going this way and that, up and down, across and back. Ah, is this airport art subliminally suggesting to my primal brain the freedom of magic carpet conveyance? If so, it worked. As I say, no one else there seemed to notice the floating world above, even when I was moving tables and chairs, kneeling and and pointing my camera ceiling-ward.

It’s possible I imagined it all. But no. No amount of photoshopping could create the scene. And I don’t use Photoshop anyhow.

I don’t know the name of the artist who created this public art, but I do know these translucent pieces of magic carpet art cast a spell. Maybe, just maybe, in a thousand and one desert nights anything can happen. SRE (all photos © S R Euston)IMG_2451 - Version 2


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Come to the Book Festival!

Come to the Book Festival!

Last weekend, Tucson hosted its Fifth Annual Festival of Books. Part book celebration/extravaganza, part carnival (think kettle corn, life-sized chess games, a huge inflatable Ronald McDonald), in just a few years the two day festival, whose primary sponsors are the University of Arizona and Tucson’s Arizona Daily Star, has become the fourth largest in the nation, behind, in order, Miami, DC’s Library of Congress, and the LA Times. Over 400 authors across every genre (from blockbuster acclaimed to emerging) and 300 exhibitors provided two days of non-stop action—workshops, panels, readings and signings—to an estimated crowd of over 120,000 happy readers and writers of all ages. The complimentary Science City (“Get a Read on Science”) also offered tours, exhibits and open houses across the campus. All supported by an 1800 strong army of volunteers.

From the previous Sunday’s Star, we poured over the 50+ page free festival booklet and still managed to miss a bunch. (Nancy Turner author of one of my favorites, These Is My Words, please come back next year!) But in retrospect, no booklet, no matter how detailed, could have prepared me, the first time visitor. The festival’s too big and complex (and just plain fun) to comprehend without experiencing it. It’s a tribute to the festival planners that with so many moving parts it all seemed to work so smoothly.

There's Fun!

There’s Fun!

There's Food

There’s Food!

Saturday was overcast and chilly. We were greeted at the entrance by an enormous line snaking out of at the first booth. “Bet it’s a Jodi Picoult signing.” Yup. We wandered for blocks down the U of A mall which looked like a huge Bedouin encampment of peaked white exhibitor tents. We saw book publishers, author signing tents, used book stalls, e publishers, non-profit associations. In academic buildings, authors talked and led workshops. We tried to see Timothy Egan and Douglas Brinkley discuss Teddy Roosevelt but the 300+ seat auditorium had filled over 100 people ahead of us in line. Somewhere among the throngs, Ted Danson had spoken to an SRO crowd. Mystery, romance, screenplay, sci-fi, YA, children’s—the sheer volume of possibilities was overwhelming.



And More Tents

And More Tents!

Better prepared on Sunday, we arrived early enough to wander through some of the more interesting booths and soak up the perfect spring desert weather. I jumped online 45 minutes early to hear Luis Alberto Urrea, my latest favorite author. Thank heavens I got in. (More on his talk in the next blog.). Late afternoon as we were leaving, just like when we arrived on Saturday, a huge line was gathering at author signing booth #1. Who was it this time? Larry McMurtry.

A Beautiful Encampment

A Beautiful Encampment

A totally free event to participants (the event coordinators even manage to find free parking all around the campus) its first four years’ proceeds, over $700,000, have been donated to support local literacy programs.

For more info and to get ready for 2014 visit www.tucsonfestivalofbooks.org. See you there!

It's the Tucson Festival of Books

It’s the Tucson Festival of Books
© SR Euston

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One of the most exciting denizens of the Sonoran Desert is the Saguaro—spiny, grey green sentinels towering above the palo verde, mesquite and cholla desert. Last week we took a stroll up the Bajada Wash Trail in Saguaro National Park’s Tucson Mountain West District, just north of the Red Hills Visitor Center.

Picturesque, statuesque, these saguaro are among the “old ones” of the desert forest. Up to 150 years old and weighing in at 16,000 pounds or more (that’s 8 tons!), they rise 50 feet above the dirt and broken rock. Here’s a slide show of some of the grandest:


© SR Euston

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Javalinas at the Entrance© AME

Javelinas at the Entrance © AME

This week we visited one of Tucson’s premier attractions, the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. Over the West Mountains, the Desert Museum is pressed up against the foothills between Pima County’s Tucson Mountain Park and the western unit of Saguaro National Park.

Looking South from Patio © AME

Looking South from Patio

In the midst of this sweeping Sonoran desert landscape overlooking the Avra Valley, the Museum is home to 1200 plant types as well as 166 birds, 100 mammals, 276 amphibians, 531 reptiles, 11,000 fishes (their latest accomplishment is a brand new aquarium(!) spotlighting the Sonoran desert’s Colorado River and its terminus, the Sea of Cortez), and 620 invertebrates.

Harris Hawk© AME

Harris Hawk

Besides the new aquarium, along the two plus miles of paths there’s an earth sciences center, 22 gardens, a small animal room, a hummingbird pavilion, and natural habitat displays of native beavers, cats, javelinas, coyotes, bears, deer, wolves, parrots, prairie dogs, big horn sheep, tortoises, coatimundis, snakes, and raptors.

We were treated to a free flight raptor show featuring barn owls, falcons and hawks. Where we stopped to watch the show we soon discovered the nearby woman with the headset and leather glove was one of the handlers, who, with a tasty morsel, lured a Harris hawk to land on her hand.

Nest Sitting© AME

Nest Sitting

We also spent a long time in the hummingbird pavilion where the local species are nesting right now. Because the hummers aren’t in the wild, they’re provided with dog hair and other bits which, combined with cobwebs, are used to construct the tiny nests.

A highly trained army of docents patrols the grounds, providing information on everything from the plant and animal life to water fountain locations.

The Museum celebrated its 60th anniversary Labor Day 2012. From its humble (and dusty) beginnings, it has grown into a premier interpretative, educational and research facility, with a mission “to inspire people to live in harmony with the natural world by fostering love, appreciation, and understanding of the Sonoran Desert.”

It’s exactly that emotional bond—love, appreciation and understanding—a visitor feels viewing the animals held in “gentle captivity” as well as the carefully tended desert grounds. It’s the perfect introduction to this magnificent Sonoran desert.

Bobcats Nap© AME

Bobcats Nap

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