Tucson and On

I’ve made a boo boo. A big one. For now all I can do is swallow the regret like a Tums and press forward, hoping that writing eases the pain in my stomach.

It’s been a while since we last spoke. I’m in my parents retirement home in Tucson, a place they’ve worked hard for but have yet to reap the benefits of. It’s a quaint two bedroom manufactured mobile home, though I wouldn’t really call it a mobile home. I get some curious looks rallying around in the golf cart, since the neighborhood is private and requires that residents be 55+. It’s been four years since I was in Tucson last, catching greyhounds around the West coast at the age of 19 on a similar free-fall adventure. I’ve been reading for the first time since Washington, substituting my own novice motorcycle adventures for those of Ted Simon, a brave man who literally traversed the planet on two wheels. “Jupiter’s Travels” is the name of the book. In 1974 this man traveled 64,000 miles through fifty-three countries over four years. He too had only a few months motorcycling experience before leaving. As I bask in the desert sun, on vacation from my vacation, my mind wanders Egypt, Brazil, Australia, though the last few days I’ve been stationary. When he passed through the U.S. he came right through Tucson. It’s been really inspiring, half of me is thinking I might not end my journey in New Orleans. The book is wonderfully written, and by comparison my writings would have seemed uncreative if the winds of change hadn’t blown them through the desert.

I spent a few days in Phoenix, and the highlight once again involved performing for a group of kids. My cousin, slightly younger than myself, is a teacher in the Teach for America program. Since I arrived a day early, I told her I’d stop in and meet her class. It’d been about a week since I left San Fran for Yosemite, experiencing the rare satisfaction of passing the last stoplight I’d see for a few days. On the freeway coming through Arizona to Phoenix I was merged into by a green Suburban, and to stop him I had to lay into my toy-like horn. Thanks Japan.

In Phoenix I adjusted as I made my way through towering skyscrapers and raced a light rail transit completely covered in decals, so as to replicate the Coors Light train. It came up behind me to my left, and for a moment I expected to see the college kids waiting on the platform to pull out parkas, beanies and beer cans from their backpacks amidst flurries of snowflakes and rock music. As I rode a few minutes outside of downtown, you could almost feel the income per capita plummet, the number of pedestrians becoming fewer, and darker skinned. Signs read mostly in Spanish, and bars cover doors and windows. Those few miles on a single road were book ended by the luxurious ASU life and a rough Hispanic neighborhood.

My cousin Danielle is the only science teacher in the entire high school, teaching Freshman through seniors in a place where if a helicopter flies over the school more than three times they go into lockdown. Compared to the life these kids live, her and I (and you, probably) come from a world completely apart. Some of the kids are in gangs, some have been stabbed, some are pregnant, and some may be reading this right now.

When I arrived they were typing out an essay. They were seniors, and the class was relaxed, tangible evidence of the mutual respect that occurs between young students and a young teacher. With ten minutes left in the period, I gathered them on one side of the room, strapped my GoPro atop one of the students heads, and proceeded to brighten both their day and mine with a short magic show. It went great, I got some good footage, and the class let out rippling with energy. Word spread quickly, and when Dani & I left for her next class several kids approached us. I did another show for her next class, and though it wasn’t as good as the first, I was still very happy I did it. “These kids don’t get much” my cousin said. She teaches every day from 7-4, and goes to school from 4:30 to 9 half the week. She is among the legions of unsung heroes in our failing public education system, and I admire her greatly. I left the school smiling, joyful to have given my gift.

I intended to perform at First Friday, a monthly artwalk event in Phoenix. It’s an evening gig, which is unusual for me. We got out there a little late, and the vibe was more like a party than a festival, with a lot of young teenagers, loud music, and police. I decided against it, and we meandered for a while, taking in the sights. The next day I was to head to Sedona, a trip I was very excited for.
ImageSedona was incredible, and I believe I’ll save writing about it until after I’ve revisited, which I plan to do when I leave Tucson. I’ve been visiting family here for a few days, and working on the bike, which is how I managed to turn a 20 minute regular maintenance task into a two-day repair. Through negligence, I’ve hurt my baby, just below her heart. Changing the oil, I over-tightened the steel oil plug bolt till it stripped the threads and tore a sizable piece of aluminum flesh from the bottom of the crankcase. I looked into using a thread-repair kit, but this would involve flipping her on her side, completely cleaning the drain before inserting some epoxies in hopes that the resulting threads would seal, healing the hemorrhage and keeping her vital lifeblood from draining out. Instead, my grandfather recommended using a rubber plug, which, once inserted, could be expanded to fill the wound. The first one split and left my love bleeding droplets overnight. This ain’t the first time my ignorance has hurt a love of mine, but I am determined to right my wrongs. I switched out the plug for a different type, it’s been a day and a half, and so far it’s held up, though I did have nightmares about it. At every stop I lean down and feel her underside, and when my gloves come up dry I heave a sigh of relief. Only time will tell if she’ll forgive me for me error.

I couldn’t have broke down in a better place though. I’m with family, who has ensured I stay entertained and well fed. Early in college I realized how important it is for me to spend quality time with my elders. For most of our species existence, knowledge has come only from two sources: your personal experience, and your community ancestors. Not until the invention of writing and its evolutionary forms did we deviate from the rich resource that is the lives of our relatives. What I’m learning to do is balance the information given to me with the information I’ve gained while on my path, making sure my decisions are mine. I am incredibly grateful to have the family I do.

Tucson is a very special place, and it’s always been one of my favorite vacation locations. The heat is dry, which is much more bearable than the heavy humidity I experienced in New Orleans. The mountains, frequent occurrences, catch the sunlight and glow beautifully warm colors. Amongst the forests of cacti there is a whole different range of wildlife. Scorpions, tarantulas, and rattlesnakes make walking in the dark a different experience. I am loving the sunshine and really enjoying my downtime here.
I’m in downtown Tucson right now, getting ready to go scout out the 39th annual Meet Yourself Folklife Festival. I haven’t worked since San Fran, and I’m bubbling with magic. It’s the time of the year when the desert is flooded with butterflies, which I’ll take as a good omen. I’ll let you know how it goes.