on missing Tucson

a list of things I wish I could have shipped to me from the Old Pueblo
  • sunsets
  • weather warmer than 35 degrees in the morning
  • tortillas from the Anita Street Market
  • a drink from the St Charles Tavern and a whole bunch of Pillsbury Wine
  • Brooklyn Pizza . . . but the garlic knots even more
  • half the contents of Trader Joe's, but specifically the flower section, the frozen ready-to-bake croissants, and the pumpkin body butter 
  • the Buffalo Exchange outlet (technically that's Nogales, but . . . )
  • my chiropractor, my mechanic, my hairdresser
  • the entire production (including hippie hill) of Love's Labors Lost
  • the All Soul's Procession
  • all my blues dancers
  • all the friends' babies I haven't gotten to kiss
  • all my dinner friends (you know . . . friends you invite to dinner). 

We love it here, but there are some things I miss an awful lot. 


on moving

a series of observations and anecdotes, roughly chronological, written with a gin & tonic in a crystal wine goblet in hand, one week after arriving in Missoula

About halfway through the loading the truck process, both the husband and I decided, entirely separately, that next time we are hiring people to pack and move our stuff, regardless of the cost. And despite the fact that we had ten lovely people helping us.

When you come to visit us (you are coming to visit us, right?), and if you drive (why would you? Allegiant flies out of Mesa for ridiculously cheap), do NOT stop in Salt Lake City. There were plenty of lovely Mormon hamlets all through Utah that provide cute roadside inns. Salt Lake is quite possibly the ugliest, jankiest downtown I've ever seen. We were offered meth, and were quite surprised when both our car and moving truck were not broken into overnight, if that gives you any idea.

Except for some boring parts in Idaho, the drive was quite pretty.

The Budget truck we rented kept tripping the "stop" mechanism on the gas nozzles, unless they were long enough/had a complete enough seal. We had to drive around looking for a nozzle that would work at every single stop. We have several $0.72  gas charges as a result. The company refunded us $108 and chastised us for not calling roadside assistance.

Utah apparently doesn't know how to set up road cones/barrels for construction purposes. We encountered one north of Page just sitting in the middle of the lane, its brothers all in a proper line on the shoulder. Both of us barely avoided that one. Later that night, with no warning or signs whatsoever, they took about four barrels to narrow the two lane road down to one. Colin (driving the truck) made the choice to sideswipe two barrels instead of jerking the truck too quickly. One of the barrels' rubber feet came flying toward the front of my car like an enormous frisbee, solidly hitting the bumper (though thankfully causing no damage). The entire night we were in Salt Lake, I dreamt over and over of watching Colin swerve in front of me, and then realizing that whatever was in the road was coming toward me too quick to avoid. Swerve, panic, brace for impact. Swerve, panic, brace for impact.

Once we made it into town, we unloaded the truck with only one other adult for help in three hours. It was like a Christmas miracle.

Missoula is unbearably gorgeous, even under the haze of smoke from all the nearby fires. We've eaten out for every meal thus far, and had a ridiculous amount of fantastic food, some of which I've posted. Tonight's, which I didn't post, was Brazilian bowls of rice and meat and toppings like chimichurri.

The Mexican food situation is not as dire as I feared. I have had a decent huevos rancheros, and look forward to trying several more. Most places have something reasonably spicy on the menu, and we have tried the most highly recommended Mexican food place in town. The salsa was reasonably hot, the food delicious, and will definitely serve to satisfy cravings. However, due to the town's weird liquor restriction laws, they don't have any tequila at all . . . and thus make their margaritas with something called "agave wine." (Luckily this failing is easily remedied, because the best margaritas are made at home.)

I had, stupidly, thought that the loading and driving would be the hard part. I was not anticipating the complete pit that the previous tenants/the management company had left our house for. The quick rundown: mouse feces, rotting food, and fruit flies in the kitchen; dog shit, maggots, hobo spiders, more mouse feces, and general filth and trash in the basement  & garage; hobo spiders all over the outside as well; filth in more corners than you can count. We have been so occupied cleaning that we have not yet unpacked anything except our clothes.

Nonetheless, we live in a section of town Colin keeps calling "the Shire." There is a fruit/veggie stand in the yard of a house just a block away. We saw a kid with an actual lemonade stand the other day. Most people don't even bother to fence their yards. Our neighbors all came out to say hi to us the second night we were here, and they're all great people.

That said, people here are weird. They drive weird, they move their carts weird in Costco, a large number of them have very large, bulbous noses. And they are weirdly almost entirely white.

I was not expecting things like just driving around town to be stressful. It's exhausting. And I have gone the wrong way down one way streets twice now.

There are very few chain stores, which is awesome, but the ones that exist are almost entirely concentrated into one part of town and seem to be forced into direct competition. The traffic in this area of town is the absolute worst.

There is no restriction on casinos, so there are tiny gas station/restaurant/casino hybrids everywhere. I always thought it was dumb that gambling was restricted so much, but the tiny casino things seem so trashy. And it's a stark contrast to the puritanical restriction on liquor sales. I'll take liquor over casinos any day.

The cats seem to have become closer as a result of the trauma of moving, and both they and the kid seem ecstatic to be here. I am waiting for the other shoe to fall.

The thrifting here is amazing.Think good thoughts for me about finding the perfect bike.

The first day we were here, it was in the high 90's. Since it has been 70s-80s. J keeps waking up, thinking it's cold, and putting on long sleeves and gloves.

Yelp and Zomato have been fantastic resources.

Our house will be amazing, once it's done.


on discourse and friendship

I remember the moments when my opinions on healthcare changed. There were two.

The first was early on in my teaching career. I avoided talking politics with my students - certainly current politics - but for some reason I was sitting at my desk and a student asked me what my opinion was on universal healthcare. I was slightly distracted, checking grades or something, and as she was right there and the class was doing something else, I answered honestly (and mostly parroting what my father believed): that I didn't know, that I was worried about what it would do to taxes and that I didn't trust the government to do a better job than what we currently have. My student, sharp as could be, said, "Miss, that's because you've never had to go without health insurance."

The other moment was not much longer later, when I was talking online to a friend that lives in Canada. He pointed out what I didn't know at the time, that the US is the only first world country that doesn't have universal health care.

These things gave me pause. They were major contributing factors to my changing my mind and the way I thought about the issue.

I have spent the last eight years teaching students how to think critically: how to take evidence as a whole and build a rational, logical argument based on that evidence, and how to determine what counts as quality evidence to begin with. I am routinely appalled by how many adults seem to have zero understanding of this process.

It used to be that when I disagreed with someone, particularly in the areas of religion or politics, I said nothing. Public conflict tends to make me deeply uncomfortable, and I told myself that there was no use discussing these topics - no one would change their minds and it would only succeed in making people angry.

Teaching taught me otherwise. (It is remarkable how much one learns by teaching. Sometimes I think my students taught me more than I ever managed to teach them.) Most people have never had their thought processes challenged. Most people don't automatically check to see how valid a source is. Most people don't stop to ask themselves how much bias they have on a topic, and they don't stop to consider how their privilege or social standing is affecting their beliefs. Most people can't point out logical fallacies, and even if they can, they don't seem to understand that a logical fallacy means an argument is objectively invalid. And the only way to get most people thinking rationally is by pointing out when they are not, and hope that, in return, someone will do the same for you. (The way to fix this is by systemic, high-quality public education, but that's a topic for another post.)

Put more simply: teaching taught me that if stupidity and ignorance isn't pointed out and something done to correct it, it grows exponentially.

There is a balance, though. It works best when the topic discussed is one that neither person is deeply emotionally connected to, as emotion essentially cancels out the rational thought processes of the frontal cortex. The problem is that the biggest social issues and the greatest founts of stupidity tend to be in places where people are deeply emotional. So you have a choice: you can either attempt to engage logically anyway, and hope that the logic triumphs once emotions have cooled, or you can not say anything on the big emotional topics and only start discourse on smaller issues. Sometimes thinking logically about something you're not emotional about can transfer over to things you are emotional about. And regardless, often the people who are watching the exchange benefit from it more than the ones involved.

I believe, strongly, in public discourse. I believe that, for us to move forward as a species, we have to have discussions on topics that affect us deeply, or we are doomed. I believe that refusing to engage or sequestering yourself so that you only hear opinions that mirror your own is a sign of weakness - an inescapable tragic flaw.

And yet there are times when I choose not to say anything, because the person has expressed something so horrifyingly ignorant (and usually hateful) that I cannot trust myself to avoid the ad hominem attack. Sometimes I have enough history with a person that I am not willing to risk our entire relationship just to make a point. Sometimes I know the topic is so entrenched in personal identity that there is almost no hope of change, and I let it slide. Sometimes I hope that someone else will have the courage to say what I don't.

I agonize over those moments. When a cis-male spews hate about a MTF transperson, or when a missionary says that adults should pay for their own food and health care, I cringe. I write out possible responses. Sometimes I hit delete, and I wonder if the point where discourse seems impossible is the point when it is no longer worth remaining friends.



They're not resolutions. I hate resolutions. They're more like . . . guidelines.

From now on:
More dancing and walks
More water
Better food, less of it
More tea before bed
More time with people I care about
More baths
More breathing
More of the things that make me happy, and less of the things that don't. 


the dirty banana

The first full day we were in Jamaica, we asked one of our waitresses ("String Bean" read her name tag) what she recommended for a drink that was strong and wasn't too sweet. She suggested a Dirty Banana (which wasn't on the menu) and we said okay without asking what was in it - and it was perfect, and I drank about a million of them before we left, and I don't even like bananas.

I made sure to spy on how they made it and wrote it down for when I came home - although since they just tended to throw ingredients together without measuring, it's taken me some time to perfect the proportions. Naturally the next step was to share them with you, dear reader.

Dirty Banana 

2 oz gold or dark rum (we've been using Appleton)
2 oz rum cream (the Caribbean version of Bailey's - we brought Sangster's back with us, but as it's not available in the States, you'll have to make do with whatever they have at Total Wine)
1/2 oz creme de cacao
1/2 oz simple syrup
1/2 ripe banana
Throw all ingredients in a blender. Add ice till the three cup mark; blend until smooth. Makes 2.