New glasses + weekend shenanigans. (Wedding! Anime Comic Con! Dinosaurs! etc.)

It seems like a long time has passed since my last posting date on Thursday, but that’s just because I’ve spent most of the intervening days out of town. We went to the Bay Area for a friend’s wedding. It was a French wedding attended by lots of (mostly) French people speaking (mostly) French. It took place on Bastille Day and the day before France won the World Cup, so it was a very French affair.

We made our hotel reservation months in advance. Unbeknownst to us, the Anime Comic Con would be going on in the hotel at the same time. Surprise!

Spoils from Anime Comic Con 2018:

 

Marvel Black Panther bag and Sen. John McCain action figure

 

[Sidenote 1: I got to chatting with the cool guy who sold me the Marvel Black Panther bag. Turns out he’s a musician. He’s a member of Dirty Rotten Imbeciles (aka D.R.I.). He said they’re coming to my town at the end of October to play a gig. We’re going, Callaghan and me.]

[Sidenote 2: I thought it was hilarious that they were selling Sen. John McCain action figures at Anime Comic Con in California. I couldn’t resist. McCain’s been my senator since I moved to Arizona in 1991. I don’t have to agree with all of his political positions (and I certainly do not) to say in all honesty that he’s one of my heroes.]

Next:

New glasses, part I-don’t-even-know-what.

 

[Sidenote: These pics were taken late last week during a time of hot dusty winds, when the AZ monsoon skies were a haze of golden brown. Even the indoor pic on the left looks dusty.]

You may be wondering how many new pairs of glasses a person needs in a year. I am, too. Hopefully the saga ends here. It should, provided that a). my prescription doesn’t change again, b). I don’t step on my new glasses, and c). in the event that I do, my replacement frames don’t come from overseas on a slow boat that either hits an iceberg or gets lost in the Bermuda Triangle. Those are the three things that have happened in the last 12 months. Luckily, the debacle cost only $25.00 to fix – it was $25.00 to replace the broken frames, and when they never showed up, the glasses lady let me pick new frames for a complete re-make (fresh lenses included) and trade the new glasses for the replacement ones.

I’m enjoying my new granny specs. I’ve worn dark, plastic/acrylic frames for as long as I can remember; these super thin gold-toned ones are a change I’m loving. They seem treacherously light and delicate, but the glasses lady assured me that they’re very strong (titanium) and difficult to break.

Returning to the weekend! We got back yesterday in a dramatic climatic shift. On a summer morning in San Francisco, middle of July, I wore jeans and a t-shirt, as usual, but also a sweatshirt over the t-shirt, and a pleather motorcycle jacket over the sweatshirt… and I was still cold. San Francisco in the summer is antithetical. I boarded the plane dressed for a Phoenix winter, landed in Phoenix 1.5 hours later, and stripped myself back down to summer while still on the plane. I walked into Sky Harbor airport in just the jeans and t-shirt again.

And that, my friends, is one reason why I’ll never move back.

The day before, though, we spent a balmy and beautiful afternoon strolling through Todos Santos Plaza in Concord. We had a great time, but I was glad to come home, as usual. There’ll just never be anything like the steady hum of creative energy in our quiet house in our quiet neighborhood in our quiet desert – it always seems quiet, even when it’s not – with the wide-open space all around, the huge sky overhead, and the sound of our Arcosanti bells speaking for the monsoon breeze out front.

OH! We went to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom while in Concord. I thought it was good enough for entertainment, but not good enough for a “monthly favorites” list.

The movie-makers told a familiar story this time, didn’t they? An ark with all the different species, a clashing of good and greed-driven evil, and the not-subtle suggestion that Owen and Claire are Adam and Eve in their neo-Jurassic world. Even the movie’s title (Fallen Kingdom) sounds biblical.

I found myself emotionally wrought at the beginning when the brachiosaurus got left behind on the island, watching everyone sailing away to safety. I cried. Callaghan assured me, “No brachiosaurus was harmed in the making of the movie,” but it didn’t help. I spent most of the movie thinking the poor dinosaurs. Gah. I’m always upset to tears when I see horrible things happening to animals, and I guess CGI dinosaurs are no exception.

 

And now we’re raining. (June Favorites!)

Just like that, we’re monsooning here in the Land of AZ. I don’t know what happened, but this time of year arrived quickly. I’m into it. I shouldn’t blink. Summer storms in the desert are magical, and our monsoon seasons seem to be getting shorter and less… just less. It’s been years since I’ve seen dumpsters rolling across the street, I’ll put it that way.

Just as quick, here’s my “favorite little things” list for June. Yes, that June. That weird and wonderful black hole of a month.

 

1). Hereditary (horror film)

 

 

2). Thor: Ragnarok AND Avengers: Infinity War (superhero films)

 

 

 

3). Goliath (Amazon Prime drama series)

 

 

Three words about this excellent original Amazon Prime dramatic series: Billy Bob Thornton. Also, William Hurt as Billy Bob’s nemesis. If you love a good legal/suspense drama and you’ve been looking for an excuse to sign up for a Prime free trial, this is it.

 

4). La Casa de Papel, aka Money Heist (Netflix crime thriller series)

 

 

5). Fresh Off the Boat (comedy series)

 

 

Blackish being on hiatus had us antsy for a good comedy. We love Ali Wong and knew of her creative involvement with Fresh Off the Boat, so we thought we’d check it out. It’s now our second-favorite comedy series. We watch it on Hulu.

 

6). Karl the Fog (twitter account)

 

 

San Francisco isn’t one of my favorite cities, but I’ve always loved the fog in the Bay Area. It turns out that the fog is witty and he has a name and a Twitter account.

 

7). Trader Joe’s Vegan Kale, Cashew and Basil pesto.

 

Trader Joe’s

 

8). Trader Joe’s Green Goddess Salad Dressing.

 

Trader Joe’s

 

9). Peaches, nectarines, plums.

 

Summer fruit

 

10). e.l.f. Velvet Touch Eyeshadow Palette (Island Breeze) – CRUELTY FREE AND VEGAN.

 

e.l.f.

 

I’m enjoying this e.l.f. eyeshadow. You swipe it on with your finger… no brush necessary! It’s more like a cream than a powder, and I love the colors in the Island Breeze version.

 

That takes care of it for June… sorry to be a little late this time!

Mood lightning. (I got pics of monsoon lightning.)

We had our first real monsoon of 2016 last Friday night. We didn’t know it was happening until we left the movie theater, because that’s how it works. It’s a monsoon season late afternoon. You go into a building and it’s all calm and benign outside, if not boggy under a sky constantly on the verge of raining. Then night falls and you leave the building to find hell boiling over from the top down.

It is fantastic.

Storms in the desert always hold me in thrall. Some years, monsoon season barely trembles. Other years, the theatrics of a night storm could expunge the banality from a decade’s worth of lackluster monsoon seasons.

I’ve never tried to take pictures of lightning during these monsoons, but that night, I thought I’d film the sky as Callaghan drove. I’ve discovered that taking screenshots from video footage on my phone is a useful way to take “impossible” pictures. I recorded the sky for nine minutes on the way home, and Lo, I indeed managed to capture some lightning!

(Despite the fact that lightning flashed erratically from different directions, so I kept moving my phone between my window and the windshield. And the fact that heavy rain animated the windows in a continuous blur. And that between the dark outside and the glare of interior lights on the dashboard, I couldn’t see what I was recording.)

My screenshots aren’t going to end up as centerfolds in any nature’s majesty themed magazines, or on postcards, or in calendars, or on anything… but I’m thrilled with how they captured the mood of the storm. I’d characterize the storm’s mood as something like Samuel L. Jackson’s character’s mood in the last third of Snakes on a Plane.

Here’s a bolt gashing down to light up the dark around it:

 

Bolt lighting up the sky.

Bolt lighting up the sky.

 

And another supercharged bolt suspended in a flash, looking like an electric vein:

 

Positively charged!

Positively charged!

 

Doesn’t this look to be two kinds of lightning happening at the same time? Is it possible to get a flash of sheet lightning at the same time that a lightning bolt appears?

This next pic shows lightning bolts approaching the earth in a more decorous composition of filigreed branches, but then the branch on the left says “F*ck it” and flumes down like fire the rest of the way:

 

The finger of wrath blow-torching its victim on the ground.

The finger of wrath blow-torching its victim on the ground.

 

And here’s one that shows lightning not messing around at all, ripping through the sky in a war-like blast that would incinerate everything in its path:

 

Lightning on a mission.

Lightning on a mission.

 

That looks like another instance of hybrid flash/bolt action, to me. I’m not sure what that is, but it was definitely angry. Like Samuel L. Jackson in the last third of Snakes on a Plane.

These image results may have come from a matter of timing as one display of lightning overlapped with another – recording the show as video allowed me to capture those split seconds. I’m not counting out the possibility, though, that factors such as glare or curvature of the windows could have created the visual effects of the last two pics.

Regardless, there’s an idea of our first monsoon of 2016 in Phoenix. Raw and unfiltered.

Little Ranch House in the Desert

In my “July Favorites” post (that seems all too recent), I mentioned an on-going adventure that consumed the month. It actually started on the last weekend of June, and the situation changed so frequently from the very start that we just decided not to mention it until the end. That brings us to today. We’re moving!

No need for alarm. We’re only moving down the street this time. Heheh.

We loved our apartment, truly. It was peaceful, and we appreciated the unfettered feeling of renting rather than owning our living space. Having lived in many apartments and owned properties in the past, I’ve always felt more comfortable as a renter than as a homeowner. But over the last few months, several compelling reasons to reconsider welled up.

One, we needed more space. Callaghan used the larger of the apartment’s two bedrooms for his studio, but still, the room overflowed with the accoutrements of his multifaceted craft… plus, we also had to use that space for storage, making it even more cramped.

Two, we weren’t properly set up to host guests, and when your guests mostly come from Europe for longer stays, that’s a big deal. Two of our visitors from France slept on an air mattress we put in the middle of said cramped studio room at night, which wasn’t very comfortable for anyone, and the third – a couple and their daughter – stayed in a hotel (yet somehow, they were the ones who accidentally saw me naked).

Three, I didn’t have an office, and I had been sorely feeling that lack of a dedicated writing space. Obviously, I can survive without one, but I just reached some kind of limit after several years of officelessness. I needed that room of one’s own, to echo Virginia Woolf. Since 2010, I’ve been carving out little office spaces for myself here and there by placing a small desk in the corner of a crowded room, usually the bedroom. I longed for an office again.

Four, nearing the end of our apartment lease, we discovered that our rent would be raised upon re-signing. We had to make a decision.

All of this led to the final thing (and the catalyst for everything) that happened: I was half-joking around one night at the end of June when I filled out a form online. Next thing we knew, we were swept into the eye of the house-hunting storm that defined the months of July and August.

It’s a good time to buy, and looking for a house was fun. The twists and turns of our search initially took us out of our preferred area, but eventually, a house right down the street from our apartment appeared on the market. It happened at precisely the right time, and it happened that we both loved it at first sight, and it happened that our inspector found it to be in excellent condition (unlike the previous house we’d almost committed to buying).

Built in 1958, the house is your standard four-bedroom/two-bathroom ranch-style abode so common here out west. It has everything we need, and nothing we don’t. It was critical to us that we didn’t get more house than we absolutely needed. Most importantly, its location is ideal. The appraiser recorded the house as being situated “1.5 miles from the center of the ASU campus, in a highly sought after area of old town Tempe,” and that’s exactly where we wanted to be.

 

Little Ranch House in the Desert

Little Ranch House in the Desert

 

The house-buying process was almost complete when the universe, in a flamboyant move to confirm our decision – just in case we were having doubts! – hurtled a spectacular monsoon into our apartment neighborhood, knocking out our power, taking down trees and permanently altering the botanical composition in front of our balcony. It’s still lush and green out there, but suddenly, the tree house effect that had so captivated us in the apartment was gone! We were sad for the destruction of the trees on our street, but it was a magnificent storm.

 

Our apartment is the in the upper left....

Our apartment is the in the upper left….

 

The storm made quite an impact on our street!

The storm made quite an impact on our street!

 

I don't think anyone was hurt, though.

I don’t think anyone was hurt, though.

 

It was the one good storm of the season.

It was the one good storm of the season.

 

We got the keys last night, and this weekend will be all about the move. It is, in fact, happening, and I’ll be so glad when it’s over and we’re unpacked and organized! I’ve been fantasizing about an organized life with a place for everything for years, it seems. It’s amazing. I’ll have an office, and Callaghan will have a studio that’s just a studio, and visitors will have a guest bedroom and bathroom, and Ronnie James and Nounours will have lots of running-around space, and there will be no shortage of storage space, either.

So, that’s the story behind this latest move into this latest dwelling, which we see as being a Very Long-Term Situation. It’s sweet. It’s a sweet little house, and we’re grateful to have gotten it. We got lucky, is what we got.

Happy Friday!

Welcome to the Hotel NOT CALifornia!

First of all, Happy 4th of July, fellow Americans! I’m coming at you from a coffee shop this morning because our internet at home is down. And hey, how about that dust storm last night?! The luscious scent of creosote enveloped us the second we stepped outside this morning… it’s going to rain. Monsoon season begins!

Whoa, I’m feeling scattered here. Let me focus on sharing with you my latest favorite discovery.

The first time we spotted a vehicle with a “Not Cal” decal, we did a double-take. The second look was necessary because we’re used to seeing California pride decals that say “So Cal” for Southern California, or “Nor Cal” for Northern California.

We thought we were looking at a “Nor Cal” decal, but the “r” wasn’t right… it looked more like a “t.” It seemed to spell “Not Cal.” Squinting and looking closer, I realized, Hey! It DOES say “Not Cal!” Then I saw that the lettering was centered over a beautiful bronze graphic of the state of Arizona, which was resplendently merged with the Arizona flag. Not California. Arizona. I was stoked.

 

The AZ flag with its copper star and sunset rays. (AZ is famous for its copper mining industry and sunsets.)

The AZ flag with its copper star and sunset rays. (AZ is famous for its copper mining industry and sunsets.)

 

[Side-note trivia: In the 2001 poll taken by the North American Vexillological Association, the Arizona flag ranked #6 on the list of 10 Best Flags in North America – the sixth best flag out of 72 flags! New Mexico’s flag took first place, Texas came in second, and Quebec’s flag ranked third with its elegant fleur de lys design. Interesting, right? See the poll results here.]

Broken down geographically, the residential picture of my life looks like this:

First, I lived in “Nor Cal” for 18 years (born in San Francisco, raised in San Jose), spending most childhood summers with extended family out of state (Hawaii). I moved away after I graduated from high school. I’ve spent the last 27 years in “Not Cal.”

Over those 27 years, I lived overseas for five years (three years and three months in West Germany/Germany, six months in Saudi Arabia/Iraq/Kuwait, one year and six months in France), and five months in Texas… and I’ve lived in Arizona for 20 years and eight months (interrupted only by the time spent in France and Texas).

The point being that I was born and raised in California, but I’ve lived more of my life outside of California than in it, and over 75% of that time, I’ve lived in Arizona. I couldn’t be happier in a place, and I especially couldn’t be happier to NOT be in a place. For all its beauty and the fact that people I love live there, California and I are not a good fit. I’m a California native who feels like an Arizona native, and I’m not alone… we ‘Zonans like to joke that anyone who’s lived in the Land of AZ for 10 years or longer qualifies as a native, since most people who live in Arizona moved here from somewhere else.

(Apparently, a significant percentage of transplants in Arizona come from California. My friend and real estate agent Nick once remarked that every time there’s a natural disaster in California, Californians stampede to Arizona.)

So when I saw the “Not Cal” decal the first time, I was amused.

The second time I saw it, on a different vehicle, I was even more amused, because then I realized that “Not Cal” was a thing, which meant that it could be had. I found it online, ordered it, and Zach-the-Not-Cal guy got it to our mailbox within two days.

 

Bugsy all glammed-up!

Bugsy all glammed-up!

 

So, Zach and everyone at Not Cal Clothing and Big Cartel (funny coincidence… I’m at Cartel right now), thank you! Thanks for helping us ex-Californian ‘Zonans represent. =)

NEWS – You Can Take the Girl out of Arizona, but You Can’t KEEP the Girl out of Arizona.

Yeah, good luck with that!

So. Our move has evolved, rather surprisingly, like this:

Phase One: (planned) Back to the States (June 2013)

Phase Two: (spontaneous) Back to the Desert (November 2013)

Surprise! Surprised?!

That’s right… we’re moving in November, as in, about a month from now. According to the Taoist calendar, I’m in a CHANGE year, which I guess I might have figured out by now, anyway, even if I didn’t know it. We just decided on this move in the last, like, week and a half.

One thing’s for sure – Texas is a fun and interesting place! We agree with our friend who remarked, “Austin is a town to fall in love with.” We’ve been here for four months now. Great times have been had and awesome people have been met and there’s so much to do here, it’s just been crazy-wonderful. Our plan was to stay for a year and then decide what to do after that. We’ve had a few other places in mind, in the case that we did decide to re-locate again. The short list included Lincoln, NE and Denver, CO.

But the longer I’m back in the States, the more I find my thoughts returning to the desert, to the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area, aka the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix is situated in a vast desert valley, surrounded, as per definition, by mountains). Callaghan loves Phoenix, too. We talked about it, and then we looked around at The Shipping mostly still in boxes, and we thought, why wait?

We’re going back to the Land of AZ!

It’s not that I think that one place is better than another, because I don’t. This is simply about feeling right somewhere, which is a very personal thing… feeling spiritually connected to our environment can only be a deeply personal thing. Just as some people believe in soul-mates, I believe in soul-places.

I was born in San Francisco and raised in San Jose, and the whole 18 years I spent in the Bay Area, I never felt comfortable there… not because of the people, but because I didn’t feel that I belonged. It wasn’t my place. In high school, I plotted my escape planned my departure for the earliest opportunity (hello, U.S. Army!) and never looked back. Now, I’ll go to California to see my family and just to visit, but live there again? Not going to happen. I’m hardly alone in this. It’s a pretty common phenomenon, people growing up and leaving their hometowns. It’s like we have to wander away from the place of our upbringings in order to discover where we really belong. Often, we find our special places by accident. You arrive for one reason – school, a job, a significant other – and before you know it, it’s been decades and you’re still there and you’re feeling that content, rooted belonging feeling, and you can’t imagine being anywhere else.

That’s how it happened with me and Arizona, back in 1991. After the Army, I accepted my then-boyfriend’s (also an ex-soldier) invitation to move to Phoenix. It was August, right when Arizona’s at its feistiest. It was scorching hot, dry, and alarmingly sunny year-round with brilliant blue skies and these ridiculous sunsets you just wouldn’t believe, and alien red rock formations with holes in them and gigantic cactuses everywhere. The sky was enormous. There were haboob (dust storms), and the July-August monsoon season brought the heavy aroma of creosote with the rain and the lightning over the desert. It was magical. With the surface streets laid out nice and neat on an idiot-proof grid system, you can get all over the enormous Valley from one end to the other without ever setting tire on a freeway, but an elaborate and efficient freeway system does exist should you desire to use it.

Next thing I knew, I’d been there for 20 years, longer than I’d lived in California. I never wanted to leave. I loved it. Being there just felt right. It was my place.

Then I met Callaghan. We got married. The plan was for him to live with me in Arizona for a year, but it turned out that he had to be in Europe for his business, so after just a few months, we ditched the plan and moved to France.

By January this year, Callaghan’s business circumstances had changed, so we were free to move back to the States (he has dual citizenship, as you may recall). We both wanted to move, and our adventurous spirits tingled with the possibilities. The question “Where should we go?” carved out an enticing open door in our lives, and there were so many places that could answer it! It was easy to sweep my beloved Arizona under the “been there, done that” rug while scanning the horizon for something new. The United States was like a gigantic candy store, and we were standing in the middle of it with ONE decision to make, to start.

We decided on Austin for all the reasons in this post.

And Austin is truly fantastic! What I didn’t anticipate, though, was seeing Phoenix everywhere I looked! The similarities are real, but I’ve come to realize that the reason I see Arizona all over the place is that I want to see it. I miss it. The saying goes, “East or West, home is best.” Arizona is my home. For me, it is best.

There’s great diversity in the Valley, and I’ve lived all over it… Phoenix’s many suburbs include (but are not limited to) the municipalities of Avondale, Glendale, Paradise Valley, Tempe, Scottsdale, Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa. We’re going to settle in Tempe, because it’s my favorite, and I’m planning to find a job there.

We’ll rent an apartment at first, but we’ll eventually buy a house so when the BIG ONE hits and California falls off into the ocean, we’ll have beach-front property.

I can’t believe it! We’re moving in November!

Here’s a smattering of pictures I’ve taken in Arizona over the years:

 

Desert blooms in the springtime make me so happy! This was one of the plants in my front yard.

Desert blooms in the springtime make me so happy! This was one of the plants in my front yard.

 

A shot of the sky at dusk

A shot of the sky at dusk

 

I miss the giant Saguaro cactuses, too

I miss the giant Saguaro cactuses, too

 

I love these alien red rock formations near the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Gardens...

I love these alien red rock formations near the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Gardens…

 

I can smell the creosote in the air just looking at this monsoon season sunset!

I can smell the creosote in the air just looking at this monsoon season sunset!

 

Stormy monsoon sky!

Stormy monsoon sky!

 

Phoenix's Camelback Mountain

Phoenix’s Camelback Mountain

 

This was my favorite sunset, and I remember it well... I came home from work to my Tempe apartment and went straight out to the balcony to take this picture. Pink Floyd's "High Hopes" was playing.

This was my favorite sunset, and I remember it well… I came home from work to my Tempe apartment and went straight out to the balcony to take this picture.

 

Sedona. Enough said.

Sedona. Enough said.

 

 

 

 

 

Note: None of these pictures were photo-shopped, touched-up, color-corrected or otherwise manipulated in any way. Arizona’s a natural beauty.