People in the Wild, Downtown Tempe edition: Five types I see on my walk to work.

As I’d recently mentioned, I’m in the habit of walking to work these days. It’s just over a mile and a half, and it’s straight down the street, so my thoughts wander while I walk. I observe, and my mind does that thing human minds do and it classifies people.

Today, I thought I’d present my scientifically precise classification of the types of people I observe on my walk to work every day (and home from work 3x/week). The following is brought to you by my notes:

Group one: Exercisers.

There’s always an assortment of people doing healthy-human things, such as cycling, running, or power-walking (with and without hand-weights). I see them alone, often in pairs, and sometimes in small groups. The sight of them makes me happy.

Then, at the opposite end of the health spectrum, we have:

Group two: Altered-state people/zombies – (???)

In this group, I run into “regulars” and random people, alike. Some of them are homeless, some are not, but they all display the under-the-influence characteristics of the shuffling walk and the glazed-over eyes.

This compels me to share an anecdote:

Walking to work mid-last-week, I passed four random people as I was heading east and they were heading west. They seemed to be inebriated to varying degrees, but it was all pretty normal until the last guy shuffled my way and did something totally random and unexpected: he literally (emphasized because I never use the word “literally” unless it absolutely is) lifted his arms straight out in front of him, turned his sightless gaze to my face, adjusted the position of his feet so as to steer the vehicle of his body in my direction, and moaned a long, gutteral “Uunnnhhhuunnngg” as he approached.

Okay, I never make things up, but just so you know, I am SO not making this up. Neither was he playing around. There was nothing behind this person’s eyes, no hint of cognition whatsoever.

A chill skittered down the back of my neck like an insect with icy feet as I quickly side-stepped him to rush past, because in that instant, the word ZOMBIE flashed through my brain while my neurons fired in all directions with the realization that should a zombie apocalypse occur, I AM NOT PREPARED. NOT IN THE SLIGHTEST.

 

THIS WAS HIM.

THIS WAS HIM.

 

I mean, what could I have done? I didn’t recognize the guy’s zombieness until he was directly in front of me, and that, my friends, won’t cut it. My brain generated questions I couldn’t answer, and I mentally floundered for the next five or ten minutes as I pondered. How do you handle zombies masquerading as normal drunk people? Even if you recognize a zombie from further away, how could you know whether he’s a fast-moving zombie, or a slow-moving one? WHAT IS MY LIFE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY I AM SO NOT READY FOR THIS MAYBE I SHOULD START WATCHING THE WALKING DEAD SO I CAN GET SOME PRO TIPS.

These were my thoughts until I came across the first of two specimens I’d see that morning from the next group:

Group three: Leaf-blowers.

They’re so polite, the leaf-blowers. They cease their activity as soon as they note your approach, and they smile and nod at you as you walk by. Leaf-blowers are our friends!

Next, that same day, I spotted some people representing the fourth group:

Group four: Circle K regulars.

As with Group two, some folks in this category are homeless and some aren’t, but the characteristic that bonds them – the one, critical thing they all have in common – is that they know a good cup of coffee when they have one in their hands. That’s why they’re Circle K regulars. They hang out in the shade at the front of the building, or off to the side, usually in pairs or in small groups.

Basically, anyone with any kind of java savvy at all knows that the best-kept coffee secret in Arizona is that humble little pot o’joe at the Circle K.

Anecdote two: When I worked as a barista briefly while I was in college, I used to open the shop on the weekends, so I’d get there very early in the morning to grind the beans and prepare for opening. I started giving free cups of fresh coffee to the homeless couple who lived in their car on the periphery of the premises. We became friendly fast. We learned each other’s stories, and sometimes, in addition to coffee, I’d give them “old” pastries or muffins that were being replaced by fresh ones. After a few months, one of them landed a job, and they were able to rent a place to live. I missed them after they left… they were the nicest people, and the smiles on their faces when I’d give them coffee made my day.

Group five: Skateboarders.

Skateboarders are plentiful around town, and they embody an awesome sort of freedom in movement and spirit. They’re also the most diverse of the groups listed here. I see younger and older people on skateboards, and people of varying gender. There are skateboarders of all shapes, sizes and colors. There are girls in hijab on skateboards, and people dressed as students, professionals, professional students and professional couch-surfers. I see them getting from Point A to Point B on their skateboards, and I see them just hanging out, practicing their kickflips and heelflips and what have you.

This leads me to anecdote three: Walking around to the entrance of my building at work recently, I ran into two young guys on skateboards. They were practicing tricks flying off a ramp. The guy poised with his board at the top of the ramp looked over at me and said to the guy on the ground, “Okay, this one’s for her.” And he shot off down the ramp… and missed his landing. His friend cracked up, but the guy nonchalantly got up and called to me, “Well, I tried!” With a big grin on his face. And I couldn’t help but smile back as I walked away.

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Merry Christmas from Arizona!

Christmas in Arizona is…

Soaking up the rays in a t-shirt on the second day of winter.

Soaking up the rays in a t-shirt on the second day of winter.

And on the day before the first day of winter.

And on the day before the first day of winter.

Because even if it’s chilly outside (it was between 58-60 degrees in these two pics), the sun-rays are warming.

I took the picture of Callaghan yesterday when I went home for lunch. We inherited this old lawn chair when we bought the house, and yesterday, we discovered that it’s broken. I didn’t post the pictures that happened while I was laughing.

As for me, I avoid actually laying out in the sun, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as too much sun. I love being outside. Sunscreen is my friend, and I do mean tons of it.

Christmas in Arizona is…

Hummingbirds, like this little guy...

Hummingbirds, like this little guy…

...drinking his nectar.

…drinking his nectar.

Callaghan took these pictures yesterday, as well.

We have four hummingbird feeders – two in the front of the house, and two on the back patio. They draw lots of customers, and this is enchanting for someone coming from a country without hummingbirds. (That should be the name of a novel: “A Country without Hummingbirds.”) Callaghan’s enjoying all kinds of special moments mixing the hummingbird nectar and feeding these little guys! He’s a good hummingbird Daddy.

Christmas in Arizona is…

Wide-eyed wonder kitty of the Ronnie James persuasion.

Wide-eyed wonder kitty of the Ronnie James persuasion.

Festive Wrah-Wrah! This wreath was leaning here waiting to be hung up when I caught this photo opp.

And:

Pretending to be a tree kitty of the Nounours persuasion.

Pretending to be a tree kitty of the Nounours persuasion.

Festive Nounours! Seriously, isn’t he even shaped like the tree?!

Christmas in Arizona is…

Mill Avenue lit up in holiday lights.

Mill Avenue lit up in holiday lights.

Downtown Tempe at night. It never gets old. I took this picture coming home from the gym last night.

Christmas in Arizona is…

Bringing the outdoors in.

Bringing the outdoors in.

First we hung our wreath on the front door, all traditional-like, but on second thought, we brought it inside and decorated it instead of a tree. Works for us.

And finally, it wouldn’t be an Arizona Christmas without…

Tamales!

Tamales!

We’re picking ours up today!

It’s traditional here to eat tamales on Christmas Eve. There was one year I went to my friend Mary’s house to make Christmas tamales with her… we had so much fun, and the fresh, homemade tamales were amazing. I’ve never attempted them on my own, so now I do like thousands of other ‘Zonans and order my tamales from one of the many Mexican places that make them special for the holidays.This year, I ordered tomatillo chicken, chipotle pork, red chili beef and (meatless) green corn. There’ll be something for everyone. =)

Merry Christmas, All!

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!

…and there shall be great fanfare, with trumpets (and fireworks)

Toward the end of our busy weekend, it occurred to us that one interpretation of happiness is when the light at the end of the tunnel starts to look more like the bottom of a cardboard box. An empty box is a glorious thing, indeed! Make that many cardboard boxes. Things are starting to look pretty well unpacked around here, and soon, there won’t be a box in sight… a state of affairs we haven’t experienced in almost a year. We’ve literally been surrounded by boxes since January, and that’s a long time. We found that our unpacking-fu is more formidable than we’d thought, or, more likely, it’s just been coiled up in expectation for so long that when we were finally ready to unleash it, it sprang. Produce the magic box-cutter and things practically leap out of the boxes themselves! We’ve been here for one week, and we’re down to one box. One. Soon there will be photographic evidence of how civilized we are, haha!

One of the many pluses of living in a downtown Tempe neighborhood is, well, living in downtown Tempe, and practically having Mill Avenue in our backyard. It’s less than a ten-minute stroll from our front door. Late on Friday night, we spontaneously decided to wander down there. We were browsing around the upstairs of Urban Outfitters when a girl who looked to be about 19 came up to me and asked a question about the stock. When I told her that I didn’t work there, her expression flashed to disbelief and dismay, like there’d been an unexpected shift in her worldview, and it was more than she could bear. She looked at me and said, “You don’t?” And I suddenly felt terrible about not being able to answer her question. Should I be amused by this? I mean, do I really have that person-who-works-at-Urban Outfitters look/vibe? Yes, I think “amused” is the appropriate word.

We’re also enjoying being close to Sun Devil Stadium, because when ASU plays at home, we know when they score due to the convenient, informative fireworks. On Saturday night, for instance, the celebratory explosives told us a) when it was half-time, and b) that we (ASU) were handily kicking ass. A quick look online confirmed it: the half-time score was something like ASU-20, OSU-3. (Final score was 30-17.) Kitties were alarmed at first, but they’re already getting accustomed to all the unusual sounds… the fireworks, the howling crowds, the karaoke and Shouting Preacher Man across the street (last night) and the planes overhead (the airport’s a stone’s throw away, too).

Somehow, at the same time, our neighborhood is quite peaceful.

 

View from our balcony, looking to the left...

View from our balcony, looking to the left…

 

...and to the right

…and to the right

 

 

Now, off to tackle that last box!