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.

St. Patrick’s Day – The Story of O’Callaghan and O’Dude

Two years ago, we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day at Gallagher’s pub in Chandler, Arizona. Last year, we didn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at all, since we were occupied in Nice. This year, we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by drinking Killian’s here at home, listening to Alan Stivell – not Irish, but it’s Celtic music, so close enough – and savoring Callaghan’s cooking.

“Callaghan” is an Irish name.

With this in mind, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d interview Callaghan about how he got his nickname.


Me: You’re French. How did you end up with an Irish nickname?

Callaghan: Because my friend’s a cowboy.

Me: Uh….

Callaghan: He used to wear a fringed leather jacket that made him look like an Indian.

Me: I’m not getting it. I need further explanation.

Callaghan: Back in 1988, Dude (Jean-Michel, aka Jean-Mi) got a beautiful fringed leather jacket that went very well with his long, dark hair.

Me: WAIT. Jean-Mi had long hair?

Jean-Mi is one of my favorite people in the world.

Callaghan: Yeah. He looked like an Indian, so we gave him a cowboy name, haha!

Me: Why – oh, because the French are enamored with the whole American “cowboys and Indians” thing.

Callaghan: Oh yeah!

Me: Okay. But why “Callaghan” for a cowboy name?

Callaghan: GriGri (that would be Christophe… no one I’ve met here goes by their actual name) started calling him that. Because of Clint Eastwood. Dirty Harry. You know, Dirty Harry Callaghan?

Me: No. I do not. I guess I’m a terrible American.

Callaghan:  You suck. Especially for a San Franciscan!



Callaghan: Yay so we finally have a journalist interested in this! Well just so you know, there’s really a cult of Dirty Harry here in France. People in France really love Dirty Harry. Now I’m VERY surprised that you don’t know about him.

Me: I know about him, I’ve heard about him, but I’ve never seen it. So how did the name “Callaghan” go from Dude to you?

Callaghan:  Well, Dude decided that the name “Callaghan” was so intense that he should call GriGri “Callaghan,” too. And because I was hanging out with them all the time, I became “Callaghan” as well. And then I started to… well, it became a nom de plume… I started signing my drawings “Callaghan.” So the years have passed, and um I stayed “Callaghan” because I was signing my drawings, and… so people called me “Callaghan.” Because of my drawings. And I was still calling Dude “Callaghan” for a long time. I still do today, from time to time.

Me: Dude? I never heard you call him “Callaghan,” except when you introduced him to me as “the other Callaghan.”

Callaghan: Yeah I just call him “Dude,” really. When I came back from the States, people were calling him “Dude” because his brother Lio – that’s short for Lionel – oh, and Lio’s wife’s name is Valerie, but we call her “Valoche,” which is argo for “suitcase” –

Me: Why do you call her “suitcase”?

Callaghan: Nah, it’s an actual nickname for Valerie. “Valoche” is a nickname for Valerie, and it also means suitcase (valise). And even another word for “valise” is “valdingue.”

This is how I learn French.

Me: Okay! So anyway… Dude…

Callaghan: So Dude. Um… so um yeah so when I came back from the States, Lio was calling Dude “Dude,” so I started calling him “Dude,” too, instead of “Callaghan.” Anyway, “Callaghan” stuck for me. And I’m still signing my drawings “Callaghan.” Parce que j’ai un gros flingue. (“Because I have a big gun.”)

I won’t even go into that. It’s yet another slang phrase derived from French pop culture.

So that, my friends, is how Callaghan (Philippe) got to be called “Callaghan,” and Dude (Jean-Mi) got to be called “Dude.”

Erin go Bragh.