Monday, December 11, 2006

Copper Queens, Synchronized Viejitas, and a Geriatric Bacchanal

Yes, it’s true...we’ll take advantage of any special occasion and use it as an excuse for a little out of town getaway. We recently celebrated my daughter’s birthday in Bisbee, Arizona, a cute little bohemian hamlet about an hour southeast of Tucson. Bisbee is quirky in much the same way as Jerome, AZ - a town which I've written about previously. Like Jerome, Bisbee was once a booming mine town (The Copper Queen) that nearly became extinct and is currently enjoying a major comeback, though some longtime residents would say it’s being gentrified.

Downtown Bisbee.

It’s a good thing that hippies went around taking over these old run down ghost towns and transforming them into artist colonies. Although I did my share of hippie bashing when I was a punk, I’ve got to confess that there are many values that punks and hippies share. Building a Peace Wall in Minuteman country is simultaneously punk in its defiance and hippie in its lovey-doveyness.

Peace Wall, Bisbee, photo credit SliceO'

Bisbee Hippie, photo credit Fano Quiriego.

Bisbee is an off-kilter, slightly seedy, edgy, funky place. We made the mistake of staying near the historic Brewery Gulch, which lived up to its name and got very loud about midnight. If you want a good night’s sleep in Bisbee, stay a bit off the main drag, there are lots of really cute and cool inns. On the way out of town, we drove through Lowell and took these pictures. They should give you an idea of how the entire Bisbee area is really frozen in time.

Lowell, Arizona.

Just southwest of Tucson is the Tohono O'odham Indian reservation of San Xavier del Bac, where my husband insisted we stop to check out the Mission and its legendary fry bread. If you’re thinking of that sugary, sticky stuff you get at Knott’s Berry Farm, think again. This Indian fry bread is closer to a chimichanga. It’s a fried flour tortilla, but light and crispy like puff pastry. Slathered with homemade refried beans, gooey cheese and topped with salsa, they were INCREDIBLE. I am drooling on the keyboard just thinking of them. We stood together in the desert courtyard of the Mission with the chilly wind blowing the scent of pine wood smoke around us and we devoured them. It was an Arizona moment to remember.

Mission San Xavier del Bac, photo credit: Jim Frazier.

On the way out of the Mission, we took this photo of the local cemetary:

Mission San Xavier del Bac cemetary.

Closer to home, my family’s exploration of our new home state of Arizona continues. This past weekend, we took in two very different Christmas celebrations in the Phoenix area. The first was a free Christmas lights event hosted by the city of Glendale, which is a suburb to the west of Phoenix and nothing like the Glendale in Southern California. Downtown Glendale, AZ has a quaint little historic district with lots of renovated houses from the turn of the last century, many of which have been turned into specialty shops. They were all decked out for the holidays. Unlike many Olde Tyme places, Glendale works its heritage without limiting itself to peddling antiques. There is a little something for everyone. Horse drawn carriages pulled visitors up and down the streets and the park in the center of town was filled with families enjoying the sights, sounds and - yum - flavors. We gave in to the green corn tamales and chocolate dipped cheesecake and enjoyed the synchronized square/line dancing of a group of seasoned ladies, endearingly named the Hot Boots because they all wore white cowboy boots. Their press release states that “they perform at various nursing homes in the area.” Maybe Punkoustica can open for them on their next gig. We watched them from above the outdoor amphitheater and could really appreciate the kaleidoscopic effect of their routine. It made me remember that I want to take up square dancing when I get old. I'd better start soon!

And speaking of old age...on Sunday, we went to the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden to check out the Noches de las Luminarias festival, an annual event with paid admission. My husband had read that it was a wonderful event with the gardens decked out in Christmas lights, “Exquisite Dining” and entertainment. Bah, humbug. It was a geriatric bacchanal, with all the wild fun that implies. Not to be ageist, I consider myself an old person, but let’s just say that the event was mostly attended by people who enjoy strolling (many with walkers) while sipping fancy wine from plastic cups and listening to mellow music. Really... mellow... music. The musicians were so-so, at least the ones I endured. They made as many mistakes as rock musicians, but with none of the showmanship or sense of humor. It made me long for the square dancing ladies from the previous night. Those viejitas were on! They did not make any mistakes and yet did not take themselves very seriously. If I were Busby Berkeley, I’d be all over that. Most importantly, they looked like they were having a blast.

I guess I’m just more of a down home type at heart. I’ll take Indian fry bread and high stepping old ladies over gourmet grazing and mellow minstrels any day.


jennylens said...

Alice, I love reading your blog. You transport me to a totally different lifestyle, but so colorful and real. You are so blessed to be part of such a wonderful family. My very best to you and your husband, the one and only Greg, and your daughters.

Life is incredible right now. I'm juggling so many tasks and having the time of my life. Work work work. Not enough money yet to feel at all comfy, but not worried. So many great people, from our past and present. So many dreams within reach, after a lot more hard, steady, focused work work work.

Happy Holidays. How wonderful we've made it this far. I loved square dancing when I was a kid. We learned in school. But I was so shy I always danced with another girl. Me afraid of men. Can you imagine? Thank goodness we change. And sometimes not at all.

Ah sweet mystery of life.

My very best to you and yours. May your holiday season in your new home/state/city be as glorious as those in our birth city, the one and only LA.

From one LA woman to another,
Feliz Navidad!!
Happy Hanukah too! [starting Friday]

much love from jenny in Santa Monica

L.A. Geo said...


Thanks so much for sharing the bird's eye view of your life. It seems pretty interesting...I especially loved the picture of the mission...They've been doing a tv special on the CA missions and I've really enjoyed learning about their similarities and differences...

If you ever get a chance, venture on to Yuma, AZ. which is quite a distance from you but very interesting...They have this old prison from the 1800's, very western, along with a museum. It's interesting to see how people were treated in those days, no air conditioning in the AZ heat, for God's sake!

Anyway, have a blessed Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Bisbee is a very cool little town and kind of a hidden gem. It's nice that you take the time to explore the state you live in, so many of us take for granted the things that are in our own backyard.

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

dave cooper said...


watching DECLINE and thinking of those great days in California. Then I read your blog and saw that you too discovered Bisbee. What a groovy lil' ol' place.

am now living in Amsterdam and try and make tamales here! i don't think so.

got a friend from san francisco, so we're hopping the train for a day trip to antwerp tomorrow.

met vriendelijke groeten...