Posts Tagged ‘Tucson’


This afternoon I was shooting the shit with a friend, swapping stories, and he related one of the better bar-gig tales I’ve ever heard:

In the early ’80s he was playing in a country band in Tucson, and they had a regular weekend job playing in a bar out in Avra Valley (west of the Tucson Mountains, and at the time still very much a part of the wild west). The clientele consisted of shitkickers and bikers, who of course didn’t mix.

As one would expect — what with the cost of a new Harley running to close to $30,000 — the bikers were a lot better off than the cowboys, and a lot of them held well paying jobs; their head honcho, for instance, owned a wrecking yard.

Anyway, there was a regular, a local who worked as a postman, who was enough of an alkie that he’d sometimes stop at the bar in his mail truck for a beer or two after completing his route before returning to the station.

That wasn’t so bad, but on weekends he’d drive his Cadillac to the bar, get tanked, and turn into all hands, harassing the waitresses.

This didn’t apparently didn’t sit well with at least some of the bikers, who didn’t like the guy anyway, but rather than resolve the situation in the normal manner (violence), they decided to teach the asshole a profitable (for them), expensive (for him) lesson.

One Saturday night, after the gig ended, my pal was packing up his drum kit, when he and the rest of the guys in the band heard a blood-curdling scream from outside. They ran out and found the drunk postman yelling his head off.

When he went out the door to weave his way home in his Cadillac, all he found was a chassis. What was left of the car was up on blocks, the wheels gone, as were the windshield, hood, doors, and rear window.

The bikers had done this with people going into and out of the bar all night. Evidently, people disliked the jerk sufficiently that they ignored the dismantling of the vehicle or were afraid of the bikers, or both. In either case, the bikers had taken a good hour or two to dismantle the car in public view — okay, in an unlit dirt parking lot — and no one reported them.

This incident likely cost the asshole a good two or three grand and likely netted the bikers at least several hundred bucks through sales of the parts at the wrecking yard.

I hope they threw a great party with the money.

 

 


This evening I did something stupid: I locked myself out of the house. I was doing laundry, put on a clean pair of jeans, took the dirty ones off, took everything out of my pockets, and laid it on my desk. I put my old jeans in the basket, walked outside to put the laundry in the washer, pulled the door shut behind me, and went “Oh shit!” I’d locked myself out of the house wearing only flip flops and a pair of jeans.

Fortunately, my neighbor was home, sitting out on his patio drinking beer and listening to Banda and Norteños blasting from his boom box (or whatever the equivalent is nowadays). I walked over to the fence and yelled, “Hey neighbor! I just did something stupid — locked myself out of the house!” Fortunately, he’s a master mechanic and has every tool under the sun. We tried drilling out the lock first, which didn’t work. Then he hauled out a grinder, ground off the door handle amid a cascade of sparks, and after another ten minutes we managed to get the door open.

I thanked him, walked in, locked the remaining dead bolt, drove up to Home Depot, bought another lock, and then drove to Total Wine, where I bought a 12er of Bud Light, and a bottle of pretty decent tequila.

Upon returning home, I installed the lock, grabbed the bottle of tequila and the 12er of Bud Light (the official beer of Tucson), let myself into my neighbor’s yard, walked back to his patio accompanied by his vicious dogs — I’m on their good side due to occasionally feeding them meat scraps — sat down, and we started talking about our lives and families.

We eventually got around to reminiscing about what the ‘hood was like 20 years ago when we were a lot younger and his wife, who died from cancer a year ago, was still around: gun shots a few blocks away most nights, but also parties on the weekend going until 3:00 a.m. with dozens of people drinking to oblivion and trucks parked in the yard booming out Rancheras, Norteños, Rock en Español, and Banda. For my part, I’d sometimes have louder-than-hell band rehearsals going until midnight. Sometimes on week nights. Nobody ever complained. It was a fun time.

But times have changed. My neighbor looked at me and said, “Now? . . . . . Some asshole would call the cops.”

I could only agree.

Before I left, I ended by telling him one of my favorite anecdotes.

About the time this was all happening I had a girlfriend who was a dedicated vegetarian who didn’t speak Spanish, and I was sometimes playing music with Indians (don’t get on me about the term — that’s what they call themselves) — a good Apache friend regularly and for years, and occasionally Yaquis and T’ohono O’odhams.

Well, I got an invitation to a birthday party down by St. Mary’s Hospitals for one of the T.O. musicians, and the girlfriend and I went. We were the only white people there out of 50 or 60 others; almost all them were T.O.s, some of whom didn’t even speak Spanish let alone English.

After we arrived, I hauled my gear out of the truck and went to the backyard where I played music and drank beer with the guys for about an hour.

When we took a break, I walked into the house to grab a bite, walked into the kitchen, and found the GF standing there with a bowl of clear soup in her hand, with garbanzos floating on the surface. She told me that she hadn’t been able to talk to any of the other women, because none of them spoke English. She also told me that the soup was really good, but that she couldn’t figure out what the chewy stuff was on the bottom.

I didn’t have the heart to tell her.

I still don’t think she’s ever consciously eaten meat since then.

Good times. Damn but I miss ’em.

 


(Well, even 24 in 96 is stretching it a bit — but it sounds better than 24 in 114, which is still pushing it because there are a few of the 24 that I’ve tried previously and that are lurking in the ‘fridge. Anyway . . . )

A few days ago, I got an offer I wouldn’t refuse from TotalWine: 15% off 24 beer singles.

I decided to use the offer to sample a bunch of brews I’ve never tried before — almost all microbrews, and mostly regional (Western US, and especially Arizona) microbrews. Here are the results, which were nowhere near as good as I’d hoped, but there were some bright spots.

I’ve omitted a lot of brews I’m familiar with and that I think are very good but overpriced (Rogue, Anderson Valley, Dogfish Head, Stone), and am sticking here with the ones I tried for the first time, and, from memory, a number of the good local beers available in bottles at a reasonable price. I’ve put the states or countries of origin after the beers.

First, what I consider the really good:

  • Breckenridge Brewery amber ale (Colorado)
  • Breckenridge Brewery vanilla porter (Colorado)
  • Nimbus Monkey Shines (extremely high octane brown ale — overpriced, but very good) (Tucson, Arizona)
  • Boulder Shake chocolate porter (Colorado)
  • Moose Drool brown ale (Montana)

Next, what I consider the good:

  • Alaskan amber (Alaska — duh!)
  • Full Sail amber (Oregon)
  • Left Hand milk stout (Colorado)
  • Foster’s Extra Special Bitter — labeled as just “Foster’s Ale” — a great buy (Australia)
  • Nimbus red (Tucson, Arizona)
  • Barrio rojo (Tucson, Arizona)
  • Nimbus brown (Tucson, Arizona)
  • San Tan Devil’s Ale (an over-hopped but good pale ale) (Arizona)
  • Lost Coast Stout (California)
  • Nimbus pale ale (this used to be a great beer, but the yeast mutated about 20 years ago, and now I’d only rank it as good) (Tucson, Arizona)
  • Alien amber ale (brewed in — where else? — Roswell, NM)

After that, what I consider only okay:

  • More than half of them

Now, two that I consider bad:

  • Grand Canyon amber ale (I find it sour) (Arizona)
  • Barrio Blonde (I find it bland and skunky, almost as bad as Corona) (Tucson, Arizona)

Now, two that I consider horrendous:

  • Magic Hat not quite pale ale (I find it like drinking perfume mixed with vinegar) (Vermont)
  • Estrella Jalisco (I had a few sips from one several weeks ago and poured out the rest of the bottle) (Mexico)

As for the best buys, I’d have to go with the Foster’s ESB ($2.29 for a 25.4-oz. can), Full Sail Amber ($6.99 a sixer). Moose Drool Brown ($7.99 a sixer), and Boulder Shake chocolate porter ($7.99 a sixer).

Enough beer snobbery. What’s your favorite brew?

 

 


Since I had nothing better to do, I bought a 12-er of Bud Light (the official beer of Tucson)  and toddled on over to one of my neighbor’s places tonight.

His two 80-or-90 pound  mutts threatened me when I walked through the gate, until I said, “Knock off the shit, motherfuckers” and put my hand down toward them, fingers curled back, so they could sniff me. They were fine after that.

There were only the three of us tonight — yours truly, my neighbor, and his gay nephew — a really nice guy I’ve known for years.

This is how much things have been changing: my neighbor’s nephew (early 40s) is very open about being gay, and that ain’t all that unusual around here anymore. It’s “fine, whatever…” Nobody gives a shit.

But his boyfriend, from Hermosillo, keeps it all a secret. Up here, not so much. Down there, yeah, a secret. A shameful secret.

One hopes that the more tolerant attitudes up here along the border will seep down. Maybe. Probably.

One other really weird thing we talked about was one of my ex-GFs, a Texan from Houston. She’s a barely disguised racist — against Mexicans — not that she’ll admit it — but is fine with black people.

Weird, yeah. I know.

I think my neighbors were kind of disgusted that I’d have anything to do with — let alone have sex with — such an asshole, but didn’t want to say anything about it.

Go figure. Needless to say, that’s over with.

And this is over with for now: another tale from the hood.

Stay tuned.

(More utterly depressing pictures from out my front door shortly.)

 


Things have gotten more sedate. I’m not happy about that. Neither are most of my neighbors.

On the positive side, since I moved here 25 years ago, it’s extremely rare to hear gun shots. A quarter of a century ago, it was a nightly occurrence. For the most part, they were a good quarter to half mile away so I paid them little attention, other than thinking, “that ain’t good — but it’s south of Grant, so screw it.”

Now, it’s been months since I’ve heard shots. This is a good thing.

On the other hand, there’s way less partying than a couple of decades ago, which is a bad thing.

Then, we’d have band practice in my living room, playing pretty loud, and no one ever called the cops. Even when we played until midnight.

And the neighbors would have parties on weekends going until 2:00 or 3:00 am, with pickups parked in the front yard, doors open, blasting rancheros, banda, and norteños. It was glorious. No one gave a shit, or at least no one would call the cops.

Beer, bacanora, mota, and the occasional blast. Such fun. We were mostly in our 20s, 30s, and 40s then.

Now, we’re in our 50s and 60s, and the kids — who I’ve known since they were actually kids — on the east side have taken over the house.

My neighbor on the west side, a good friend who I’ve known for over 20 years, is by himself now. His wife, Angie, of decades died a few months ago, and he wanted to talk tonight so we buried the better part of a case of Bud Light (the official beer of Tucson) over a couple of hours.

I found out something touching while talking with him tonight: she actually liked me. I thought she hated me. Over the years, I had a string of (literally and unfortunately) crazy girlfriends, which they found quite amusing (“Charles has another one!”). About 15 years ago, after Angie’s younger sister got divorced, she and I looked at each other and went “Oh yes!” until Angie told me, and presumably the equivalent to her sister, “Stay away from her!”

At the time, I was really offended and thought she said that simply because I was white. I was wrong. She was trying to protect her sister. The awful part is that if things had worked out I’d have happily married her sister.

C’est la vie.

After returning home, I went over to a party with my neighbors on the east side of the house. They were celebrating the upcoming birth of their daughter, due in November.

More beer, more mota, and good Mexican food.

Of late, life is more sedate, but still pretty good.

¡Salud!

 


(For the last few months we’ve been running the best posts from years past, posts that will be new to most of our subscribers. This one is from 2013. We’ll be posting more blasts from the past for the next several months, and will intersperse them with new material.)

* * *

Yesterday I was talking with a friend, one of my band mates, and mentioned that the (Tucson) cops had beaten my neighbor across the street, arrested him, and charged him with assaulting an officer and resisting arrest. (Why, yes, how did you guess? I don’t live in a gated community.)

My friend then mentioned that Tucson cops had beaten one of his coworkers so badly a few weeks ago that the guy ended up with traumatic brain injury and a speech impediment. (And, yes, now that you ask, the coworker is Mexican.)

He lived in an apartment on the south side, and heard his next door neighbor beating his girlfriend. He intervened and got in a fight with the neighbor. At that point, the cops arrived, and the beaten neighbor woman claimed my friend’s coworker had assaulted her and her boyfriend. This enraged my friend’s coworker, he went verbally ballistic, and out came the truncheons. Following the beating the cops gave him, they charged him with assaulting an officer (no cops were injured, of course) and resisting arrest.

Because of the brain injury he sustained, my pal’s beaten coworker is now suing the police and the city. This incident could cost the city (meaning the city’s taxpayers) hundreds of thousands and perhaps over a million bucks.

But this is nothing new. Back in the 1970s, eight Tucson cops beat a political-activist friend of mine and charged him with — ta-da — assaulting an officer, resisting arrest, and aggravated assault. (None of the cops were injured, of course, and the only evidence was the testimony of the cops.) The county attorney brought the case to trial, and all of the cops perjured themselves. Fortunately, the victim had a good attorney who picked apart the cops’ testimony revealing numerous irreconcilable inconsistencies, and he was acquitted. The victim never received any compensation, and none of the cops were ever charged with perjury or conspiracy.

While I lived in San Francisco in the 1980s, a friend of mine who was carrying her one-year-old baby encountered two SF cops beating a guy, who was down on the ground, with truncheons near the entrance to the 24th Street BART station. She yelled at them to stop, and they maced her and the baby. You can guess what they charged her with.

In the same city in 1992, another friend of mine–Keith McHenry, a well known activist, who was under surveillance by the cops–was beaten so badly at a demonstration that he needed reconstructive facial surgery. Again, it’s not hard to guess who got charged–my friend or the cop who smashed in his face–and with what.

How do cops get away with such brutal crap? There are several reasons. The first is that they have all the resources of the state behind them, while their victims are usually poor. The second is that the cops are normally buddy-buddy with prosecutors. The third is that witnesses are often afraid of the cops and reluctant to come forward. (Here in Tucson, some witnesses and victims are undocumented immigrants, who for good reason rarely come forward.) The fourth reason is related to the third–that the only witnesses to beating incidents who testify are very often only the cops themselves. A fifth reason is that police routinely perjure themselves. (Nobody has less respect for the law than cops. Even “good cops” routinely perjure themselves to protect their brutal colleagues, because of peer pressure.) And a sixth reason is that juries tend to skew toward older white people — in other words, people who are likely to believe cops and are not likely to be sympathetic to black, brown, or poor white beating victims — and the state’s attorneys always do their best to get such juries. As a defense attorney once told a friend, prosecutors always try to get “Mormons and morons” seated on juries in police beating cases–people gullible enough to believe the testimony of cops.

Because of all this, it’s very difficult for victims to win police brutality cases. A few years ago an attorney who sometimes handles such cases showed me a large blow-up photo he had used in court. It showed the swollen, battered face of one of his clients. The police had beaten him with a long (D-cell) metal flashlight so badly that they caved in one of the victim’s eye sockets and then charged him with (Do I even need to mention this?) assaulting an officer and resisting arrest. The victim lost the brutality case.

I’ve seen proposals recently that cops wear helmet cameras to record everything they do. This is being sold as a crime-fighting move. It’s a good idea, but I doubt that it will have any effect on crime other than  reducing crime committed by the cops themselves. And then only if there’s no way for the cops to turn the cameras off. But even if supposedly constant-recording helmet cams become standard, how much do you want to bet that they won’t many, many times “malfunction” in assaulting-an-officer / resisting-arrest cases?


Howdy from Tucson, where the final day of Spring came in at (depending  on which forecast you believe) somewhere between 112 and 114 degrees F (45 degrees C for you furriners). (Update: it was actually 115 F.)

It’s supposed to be even warmer tomorrow (make that in a few hours). (Update: It was warmer: 116 (47 C) ; in Phoenix it was 119. As I write, the high today was a mere 115, and we’re in for a major cooling spell this weekend, where the highs won’t get much above 110.)

About three weeks ago, after our first string of 100+ degree days, one of the local weathermen (Kevin Jeanes on KOLD — and sorry for the political incorrectness, that should be “weatherperson” or “person of weather”) with, shall we say a dry sense of humor, commented that the temperature was “all the way down to 99, and it’ll be even cooler tomorrow at 97.” (Again, for those of you who use a rational temperature scale, that translates to 37 C and 36 C.)

For those who haven’t been paying attention to U.S. climate models, they predict that this region, the desert Southwest, will be the hardest hit of the “lower 48.” And indeed it has been. We’ve been in a prolonged drought for nearly 20 years (broken last year by “normal” rainfall), and two of the last three years, 2014 and 2016, were the hottest on record. We just experienced the second warmest Spring ever, with the hottest March (high and mid 90s temperatures starting around March 1).

So, yeah, global warming is a “hoax.” We need to burn more coal. Donald Trump is an intelligent, honest, compassionate human being. And the unfettered greed inherent in capitalism isn’t a death sentence for the planet.

Things seem bleak, but we’re not totally screwed. There are things we can do individually and collectively to adapt and to counter global warming.

One thing damn near everyone can do is to plant trees. If done on a mass scale, this can reverse desertification. Even on an individual scale, it’s one of the best things we can do.

Gardening is another individual approach that makes sense. It involves far less expense than transporting food for thousands of miles, and involves far less waste. It also yields health benefits via relaxation, if nothing else.

Another individual approach, in arid regions, is to use xeriscaping, using native plants and a carpeting of rocks in place of lawns and non-native plants. This saves water — a lot of it, and it looks better than lawns.

Then there’s water harvesting — again, something damn near everyone (at least every property owner) can do at reasonable cost that will be amortized in a relatively few years. Even if you’re just channeling rain water from your roof and patio into wells for your fruit trees (as I am), it helps.

And then there’s passive solar heating (just think big picture windows facing south with an overhang that cuts off the sun in the summer months) and solar hot water heating (ultra easy — I built a solar hot water heater out of two old hot water heaters painted flat black [stripped of their external metal jacket and insulation], plumbing fittings, an old window, and scrap plywood and 2X4s about 20 years ago — a friend is still using it).

Then there’s ultra-insulation. Think straw bale and rammed earth construction. These energy-saving approaches can be used almost anywhere, and will often result in extremely energy-efficient dwellings.

To go even further on the individual scale, basements make a hell of a lot of sense in desert areas. Temperatures in them are a good 25 degrees F below surface temperatures, and there aren’t even seepage problems in deserts. The only reason they haven’t been adopted on a mass scale in the sprawlopalises  of the Southwest is that land, historically, has been so damn cheap that builders have foregone them in place of slab construction, which yields better short-term profits. If you’re having a place built in this area, think about adding a basement.

As for societal approaches, they’re so obvious that I’ll mention them only in passing. First and foremost, a direct tax on carbon emissions — screw carbon “offsets”: they’re a recipe for fraud; massive public investment in clean energy; energy-efficient transport and appliances; mass investment in public transit, including bicycle projects; tree planting on a mass scale; and subsidies for individual clean energy projects, passive-solar retrofits, water harvesting,  and energy-efficient construction.

Why do I think all of this is important? There are a couple of reasons.

One is that if adopted widely all of this would help save the planet (or at least make the lives of our children and their children better). The other is that it would keep people involved, and at least marginally hopeful. People without hope are easy to control and manipulate. Real, positive change is possible only when people have hope.

If you haven’t already done so — even on the smallest individual scale — please join those of us trying to create real change, please join those of us creating hope.