Freedom is Never Free!

It’s November 11, which means that here in the States, we’re observing our national holiday to recognize veterans of the armed forces – the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines.

At the end of October, I received this incredible email at work:

Saturday, November 8th ASU is hosting Notre Dame at 1:30 p.m.  With a desire to honor all of our veterans at ASU, a limited number of tickets have been made available for our veteran faculty and staff. You served with honor, now we honor you. Thank you for your service!

This came from the Salute to Service committee out of the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, a wonderful campus and community resource for veterans and their dependents at ASU. November 3-14 had been designated as “Salute to Service” week – a week of events with focus on military appreciation built around Pat Tillman’s birthday, November 6, and today, Veteran’s Day, November 11. With this, ASU celebrates the entire week as a way to honor vets and Pat Tillman in continuing his legacy as a heroic Sun Devil and pro football star who sacrificed his life in serving our country.

 

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Callaghan was especially excited about the opportunity to go to Saturday’s game against Notre Dame because he’d never been to a college football game before. Coming from France, he had no real concept of the importance or spirit of athletics at the American university (there’s no equivalent of it over there – no collegiate athletics programs, no mascots, no school colors, no marching bands, no cheerleaders or rivalries or tail-gate parties or events like homecoming or play-offs, etc.), but he had heard all the stories. I mean, he knew about it, but he’d never experienced it.

Man, did he get a first-class education in American college football spirit on Saturday! We walked down to the stadium – the joy of living downtown will never fade – where he dipped his virgin toe into the traditional institution of American college football. His foray turned out to be more of a head-first dive straight into the insanity that was Sun Devil Stadium that day. The game against legendary and well-seated Notre Dame proved to be a phenomenal, exciting, well-fought battle on Frank Kush field (55-31 ASU, final).

As you can imagine, the Sun Devils’ victory parlayed into an outrageous all-night party at the many bars, clubs and restaurants up and down Mill Avenue, the main street of Tempe.

Later that night, the passionate and gracious Notre Dame fans we spotted on Mill stood out in their navy and gold gear as they took in the chaos of the festivities with wide eyes. It was like a UFO had deposited the Fighting Irish fans in downtown Tempe, and they had no idea where they were. We saw them wandering slowly down the street in their unseasonal-to-them shorts and t-shirts, looking around with dazed expressions, and maybe it was just me, but I didn’t think they were thinking, damn, we lost, so much as, damn, now we have to get on the plane and go back to freezing Indiana. Because that’s what I would have been thinking, if I were them. (Aside: I’m certain that Arizona gets some of its transplants because people decide to move here after visiting from their cold places to support their teams playing the Sun Devils in sunny Tempe. It got up to 90 degrees that day. Callaghan and I were in long-sleeve t-shirts because we wanted to avoid getting farmers’ tans, but most people were in regular t-shirts or tank tops and shorts. You can generally get away with that year-round out here.)

Here are some pics from Saturday:

 

Tickets to the game. Thank you, Pat Tillman Veterans Center and Salute to Service committee!

Tickets to the game. Thank you, Pat Tillman Veterans Center and Salute to Service committee!

 

Entering Sun Devil territory. Fear the Fork!

Entering Sun Devil territory. Fear the Fork!

 

Sun Devil Stadium is built into the cactus-studded "A" Butte at the north end of the Tempe campus.

Sun Devil Stadium is built into the cactus-studded “A” Butte at the north end of the Tempe campus.

 

Score!

Score!

 

The game aired on ABC.

The game aired on ABC.

 

The Sun Devils played an enormous game. The spirit of Pat Tillman was with us, and we veterans in the crowd were recognized.

The Sun Devils played an enormous game. The spirit of Pat Tillman was with us, and we veterans in the crowd were recognized.

 

This brings us to today, a day off, and, most importantly, a day to remember and reflect with gratitude. Happy Veteran’s Day, and to all of you vets out there, thank you for your service!

Blog Design Change!

I took a critical look at my blog over the weekend and said to myself, “Self, your blog needs a design overhaul.” I clearly remember sitting in the Little House in the Rhône-Alpes in France back in the fall of 2012, selecting and setting up my first theme and writing my first post. Now it’s 18 months and 161 posts later, and I’m in a totally different place in more ways than one. My blog should reflect that, I thought.

I decided on a new theme, found a dusky photo of Tempe Town Lake I’d recently taken from half-way up “A” Mountain (representing our downtown Tempe neighborhood), and, early yesterday morning, asked Callaghan if he would be so kind as to lend his clicking finger to an impromptu photo-shoot, because what better way to start your day than to go outside and take a million pictures of your overly-detail-oriented partner? (I wanted Virgil’s cute cactus garden in the background!) I also updated content where updates were needed and just generally cleaned things up a bit. We threw it all together last night. It took less than an hour, but the minimal, streamlined result pleases me very much.

So that’s the main thing. The only other thing I wanted to tell you about today was… and this is random (with so much going on all over the place, this week already feels more random than usual, and it’s only Tuesday)…

You know you watch too many horror movies when you hear the low tinkling of a classic lullaby from a back corner of your apartment, and when you cautiously venture forth to investigate, the following dialogue takes place:

“Are you listening to a creepy lullaby?” I called to Callaghan, who was somewhere.

Or it’s the ghost of a child. This apartment complex is probably between 50-60 years old, so a lot could have happened.

“I’m watching sleeping puppies and kitties! Haha! I’m almost done, Baby.”

He was in the bathroom with his tablet, watching cute animal videos!

It was Brahms’ “Lullaby and Goodnight,” and actually, I did have an eerie experience involving that particular nursery rhyme when I was a teenage babysitter. But that’s a story for another time.

 

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Ethan 103 played at the Big Fish for their last show of the year, and we were there!

I missed you all here last Friday; hopefully, that absence will translate to a blogging schedule change in the near future. Time will tell, as they say. With 2014 right around the corner, changes are inevitable!

On Friday night, the Big Fish Pub hosted M2N’s annual end of the year PJ party, and Arizona Native American punk rock band Ethan 103 played a set. Front-man Wayne and his wife, Nicky, have been long-time friends, and it was great to see them again after being gone for three years! The band delivered a solid performance, as usual. Good times. Local people, you should check these guys out!

Here are some visuals:

 

Ethan 103 at the Big Fish Pub, 12/20/2013

Ethan 103 at the Big Fish Pub, 12/20/2013

 

L-R: Nicky, Wayne, me and Callaghan after Ethan 103's set at the Big Fish Pub, 12/20/2013

L-R: Nicky, Wayne, me and Callaghan after Ethan 103’s set at the Big Fish Pub, 12/20/2013

 

 

And on Sunday morning, we found ourselves at (what’s becoming) our usual Sunday-morning haunt:

 

Why hello, Hayden Mill! We meet again.

Why hello, Hayden Mill! We meet again.

 

This time, we approached the front of the mill to peek inside.

This time, we approached the front of the mill to peek inside.

 

The mill suffered a fire or two in the early twentieth century.

The mill suffered a fire or two in the early twentieth century.

 

Looks pretty haunted to me… and gorgeous. Old, storied places speak to my soul; maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to this mill.

That’s it for my brief weekend wrap-up… I hope you’re all enjoying a relatively relaxed Christmas week!

 

 

 

 

THANKSgiving, “A” Mountain and the Hayden Flour Mill

Today was my first Thanksgiving in the States since 2011, which means that it was my first Thanksgiving in two years! It’s so good to be back. If I’m going to tick off a list of reasons to be thankful, I’d have to put that up in the Top 5.

We started out the day with coffee on our balcony.

 

Thanksgiving morning in our neighborhood was peaceful.

Thanksgiving morning in our neighborhood was peaceful.

 

 

Then we headed out the door, walked down the street, and hiked up “A” Mountain.

 

The "A" on "A" Mountain, as seen from the path just below... awkward angle, I know, but there it is!

The “A” on “A” Mountain, as seen from the path just below… awkward angle, I know, but there it is!

 

How I have missed it!

I always enjoy that little hike and the view of Tempe and The Valley beyond, but my focus this morning was on the old Hayden flour mill on the subsequently named Mill Ave, our main street here in Tempe (which, by the way, was originally called “Hayden’s Ferry”). The mill is one of my favorite local landmarks, and I’ve been trying to get good pictures of it since we’ve been back. Needless to say, lots of pictures were taken this morning. Here are just a few:

 

A shot of us with the mill in the background.

A shot of us with the mill in the background.

 

We approached the mill on our descent from "A" Mountain, and I was able to admire it from many angles...

We approached the mill on our descent from “A” Mountain, and I was able to admire it from many angles…

 

The mill with Tempe Town Lake in the background.

The mill with Tempe Town Lake in the background.

 

The mill up close. LOOK AT THAT SKY.

The mill up close. LOOK AT THAT SKY.

 

Now, we’re off on an exciting last-minute Mission Which Shall Not Be Named At This Time. (Sorry to get all Harry Potter meets the C.I.A. on you guys. There’s a reason for it.)

If you celebrated Thanksgiving today, I hope it was fabulous! Happy weekend, and GO DEVILS!! Our annual Territorial Cup game will take place here on Saturday, and it’s going to be epic, as always.