Tucson: Feb 14-17, 2019

Feb 14, 2019

In Tucson for a few days before we read, so a nice break in our galloping road trip.  We catch up on arrangements for readings ahead, business back home, and laundry. David and Laura Wilk are here on a little respite from east coast winter and to visit Laura’s sister and her husband who live here.  We drive up a little into the hills in Tucson where they have rented an older, but beautiful place.  Just off a main road we turn onto desert gravel and huge Saguaro cactus all around. Suddenly right in front of us a bobcat leisurely strolls across the road then pauses while we stop the car and stare and shout “That’s a bobcat!” Hardly acknowledging us, the bobcat effortlessly hops up on the adobe wall surrounding a neighboring house. He or she is over and gone before we can get our cameras out.  When we pull into David and Laura’s for lunch we are all agog and babbling about seeing the bobcat.  We have a sushi lunch out on their southwest tiled patio. So nice to eat outside even though the chalky sky is threatening rain.  They are such fun to talk to and we chatter on about politics, mothers, folks we know, and our kids.  (MO)


On Thursday we went to have lunch with Maureen’s friends David and Laura Wilk in the foothills. Before pulling into their drive, I saw a flash of an animal in the road. We pulled up and sat still.  At first I thought it was a coyote, but then Maureen explained it was a bobcat.  After watching the big cat climb over the wall into a neighbor’s yard, we looked over our shoulders as we walked toward the house. Sitting in the yard, we ate sushi, took selfies and talked about our lives, the political world, and the lives of poets and friends. I had a long talk with Laura about our mothers and the book I am writing about my mother. We both have had losses in the mother area and we compared stories. Laura had a great idea: Jeff Bezos should buy Fox News.  I was very happy to meet both David and Laura; both are excited about life, the sky, and the sharp points on the Catalina mountains reaching over the roof of their house.  (BH)

David and I are both from Minnesota and I tell him about my idea for the 10 acres of farm homestead my uncle left me there.  In honor of my uncle it would be called “The Bud Phalen Potato Project.”  David gives me lots of ideas for contacts. My project is to plant potatoes on the 10 acres (which has amazing rich black Minnesota soil earth) and then donate them to a food pantry or homeless kitchen in the vicinity.  He mentions that there are a number of young people wanting to farm, but don’t have the money to start and that through the American Farmland Trust I might find out more about them.  He also tells me about a Minnesota Food Coop in Minneapolis and a book to find by a food activist titled Sweet CornTurn Here.  Now I’m all excited about my potato project again!

Earlier, remembering Laura’s gorgeous fabric art and paintings, I ask about her work.  Then we digress and she describes a resent revelation she had in Manhattan at the Natural History Museum that changed her way of thinking about things.  This leads to a great story that occurred a little after that about an astounding, mind-expanding encounter with a psychic séance that has yet to play out.

Back at our casita that night the rain comes down in beneficial torrents.   (MO)

Friday, Feb 15, 2018

This is a photo that Katrina Mangin took of the flowing Rillito River today on her cell phone.  Usually it is a completely dry river bed where people hike.   This other photo shows how the river in its everyday state (BH):

After a yoga class this morning, I went over to Karuna on the corner of Grant and Campbell to wait for Harriette and Zay Hartigan. All three of us look more weathered than we did eight years ago. And 43 years ago Harriette was a hip, long-legged, long-haired photographer. She snapped the home birth of my daughter and a few years later my son. (While we are chatting, my phone rings. It is Michah saying hello to everyone.) Zay was just a little boy back then, along with his other two brothers, John and Geordie.  Now Zay is a tall cowboy, looking after a ranch, his mother, the woman who owns the ranch and his daughter.  He grew up in a household of mostly boys; now he is surrounded by women.  (When I say that, he smiles and taps the table.) For many years after Linnee’s birth, Harriette lived the life of a midwife photographer. Now she is an 80-year-old cowgirl living on a ranch outside of Patagonia.    (BH)

Photo by Harriette. Reflection in Karuna window.

Zay by BH

On Friday night we met David and Laura and Laura’s sister, Katrina Mangin, and Charles A. at Zemam’s Ethiopian restaurant on Speedway.  We devoured authentic cuisine and had a rollicking good time.  I tried to use the spongy Injera flatbread to scoop of the meal, but had to resort to a plain old American fork for some of it. I’m sure there is an elegant technique and I have been meaning to learn it.  (MO)


Zemam’s on Speedway Blvd. used to be an old local all-around restaurant, the Garland, but now it is a delicious Ethiopian restaurant.  The five us moved around the table chatting with each other, all of us excited talkers with a lot to talk about.   When sitting beside Katrina she described the ecology classes she teaches at U of A. Then she told me the story about her husband, Richard Thompson, and how when he was a young grad student, he believed there was a dinosaur in Arizona and he set out to find one.   He scraped and dusted one bone after another and followed the trail—one day he looked up and low and behold he saw the outline of a huge dinosaur in the rock wall.   He contacted the local Desert Museum and now Sonorasaurus is in the Desert Museum.  It is called Sonorasaurus thompsoni after him.  See wikipedia  (BH) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonorasaurus

Charles & David (BH)

Barbara, Katrina, Charles, Cavid, Maureen, Laura

Feb 16, 2019

Now it’s Saturday morning and the children are playing in the backyard outside the casita window. Their energy rises in shrieks, hoots, and lyrical hollering. Tonight we read for POG at the Steinfeld Warehouse here in Tucson on the other side of the rail tracks. (MO)

Steinfeld Bldg by BH

Because I have such a connection with Tucson, it was the perfect place for Maureen and I to take a longer stop. Funny how Tucson has become this spot where so many old friends from Detroit came at one point or another to live. In the morning I met up with Anne Hernandez Urban, the first babysitter for my daughter, and then a life long friend. In 1983 she helped me load up my car and then drove to NYC with me, returning to Detroit to help Allen take care of the children until I found a place for us to live. Then she moved to Tucson and helped her husband raise his youngest son. She’s spent her life working for public health for women and as a librarian for young children.   (BH)

Barb & Anne

At night Maureen and I drove over to the Steinfeld Warehouse for our POG reading.  Charles & Cynthia used to have their studio in that building. I remember when I first arrived in Tucson climbing up the back stairs to this rickety warehouse full of artists for a meeting of a Charles Olson reading group. The audience at our reading was mostly poets and many old friends, including Steve Salmoni, Lisa Cooper Anderson and her husband, Tom; I was especially happy to give a big hug to a dear friend, Tenney Nathanson; and surprise surprise Cynthia Hogue, Mary Rose Larkin and Joan Larkin have moved to Tucson and were in the audience and Charles Borkhuis and his wife Kathy were passing through town, and there, too.  Also old friends originally from Detroit, Yvonne Reinke and Gary Gibson. Yvonne and Gary took my apartment when I moved from Detroit to NYC in 1983.   They still have some record with my name scribbled on the covers. I was especially thankful for Cynthia Miller’s h introduction; she quoted from Jon Curley’s recent review of my new novel.   Then while I was reading passages from the novel that took place in Tucson, that great Tucson train horn blasted its sound through the space.   (BH)  https://www.joncurley.com/blog/sketching-ecstasy-elegy-and-selves-just-like-that

 See POG blog for a photo of the beautiful broadside Charles made for the reading and for a link to an audio of the reading.  Also see David Wilk’s blog, Writer’s Cast: the Voice of Writing  for a review of the reading and another recording.

Photo of Q & A by David Wilk

The audience at POG was exciting to read to.  An eclectic crowd so engaged in language and so fun and easy going in their pertinent questions at the Q&A after we read.  Kelsi Vanada, a former student at Naropa University in Boulder, who now lives here in Tucson, came to hear us.  Loved seeing her again and getting to catch up and learn where she is in this expanding world now. And Joan Larkin, wonderful poet and friend from forever, is now in Tucson and came.  It was so great to see her again. She and Bob Hershon, of Hanging loose Press, coming from Brooklyn, NY, will be reading right here in about a week. Wish we had more time to stay and hear them.  David (Wilk) came and recorded us (as did POG) on an impressive, tiny, high tech device. Surprised and elated to see Charles Borkhuis, who travels around a bit and fortuitously for us, happened to be in Tucson.  Big shout out to Charles Alexander for an inspired introduction to my reading and to Cynthia (Miller) who gave a beautiful, welcome home introduction and praise for Barbara.  Cynthia also did a fantastic job of setting up a delicious buffet of poetry-reading-style tidbits and drinks.  My favorite was the hot apple cider.  And of course a little wine.  And special thanks to Young POG members and volunteers, Cameron especially (who is now on the POG board).  Not knowing many folks in Tucson, I so enjoyed meeting the many dedicated poets and writers, spouses and friends that came.  Some of us gathered at the Red Garter Saloon after and in the glow of ruby lights the night played on. (MO)


David, Maureen, Cynthia, Charles, Lisa, Tom and Tenney (BH)


BH: almost the entire audience in two shots, glued together in photoshop,


Mean while as we travel here on earth: One of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration, NASA’s Opportunity rover mission has ended after almost 15 years exploring the surface of Mars and helping lay the groundwork for NASA’s return to the Red Planet.  My son, Kyran, and his wife, my daughter-in-law, Nicole, work for NASA at the Jet Propulsion lab in Pasadena.  They have both worked on the Mar’s rovers and landers, including Curiosity and Opportunity.  Nicole is part of the team for the next rover, Mars 2020, and Kyran is on project with Insight, the latest lander.  Having such family involvement has heightened my interest in science and space exploration.  I felt pretty close to Opportunity as a picture of that little rover has been on my fridge for years.  Designed to last just 90 Martian days and travel 1,100 yards (1,000 meters), Opportunity vastly surpassed all expectations in its endurance, scientific value and longevity. In addition to exceeding its life expectancy by 60 times, the rover traveled more than 28 miles (45 kilometers) by the time it reached its most appropriate final resting spot on Mars — Perseverance Valley.  So I felt as tho someone I knew was gone when I read that Opportunity stopped communicating with Earth after a severe Mars-wide dust storm blanketed its location in June 2018 and since then JPL engineers tried more than a thousand commands to restore contact but to no avail.  (MO)


Here’s the broadside that Charles Alexander made for our reading:


After we arrived in a friend’s place in Phoenix, we received this email-poem from David Wilk.

I wrote this for you both, thinking about last night’s fun reading:

Maureen and Barbara come to town and then depart, but not before the train passes by with a greeting, calling out their names

Just about now
the moon is exploding –
happy to see us
as we cross the desert?
first a bobcat calls your name
then a glass of water, we drive
across the Catalinas
and on into California
children are calling
come back, they say
we need your music
to start the day
Bye for now