Saguaro

Trip Start Mar 13, 2010
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Trip End Dec 31, 2010


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Flag of United States  , Arizona
Tuesday, March 30, 2010

From San Antonio it was all day on the train to Tucson, lots of time to eavesdrop.  When I say eavesdrop, you don' need no sensitive recordin' equipmun' or nothin', you gotta use ear plugs if you don' wanna know all about it.  It's like high school, except a wider age range and even greater frequency of cell phone use.  It's mostly about what somebody said to somebody, and what I said when I heard about it:

"Ah said thank God mah son got ridda her crazy ass."

"Killin' is not the same as murder ... 1st Corinthians ..."

"I'm gonna go to the dressing room and change my underthings before I get to Tucson."

"You want me to give you a slap?  Sit down and show you've had some house-trainin'."

Announcement:  "Someone is smoking on this train.  Keep it up!  When we find you we will put you off.  This is a non-smoking train."

"I'm 27 and my oldest is 12 ... I've been going to NA ... I haven't done meth for a while ... I was all right until my boyfriend got out of jail ... The first time his friend and his friend's girlfriend held me down and injected me ..."

"Maybe two ovem had the same daddy, but they was three diffint daddies in it all."

"It's the influence of confesssional TV.  They're rehearsing until they get on."  That was Frances.  Many of the train rides were like this, and especially the bus next day from Tucson to Flagstaff, where three (heretofore) mutual strangers sitting near us competed with stories of personal misfortune and degradation.

Wrenching our attention to the scene outside, the desert provides a soothing antidote, and the Pecos River is impressive from its high bridge.  Near El Paso the railway is just metres from the border, and immigration officials check everyone's documents.  At one small station a group of Parks volunteers, retirees, boarded the train with some artifacts and history pertaining to the region.  The following emerged haltingly, prefaced with an apology that the speaker had forgotten his reading glasses:  "The native people of the Chihuahuan Desert were semi-nomadic, and their diet consisted of about 75% vegetable matter including roots, nuts and flowers, plus animals such as snakes, rabbits and chihuahuas, and a variety of dessert [sic] animals.  Several hundred years ago they moved to Denmark in quest of larger dogs."  Okay, I made up the part about the dogs, but the rest is verbatim.

Heading north from Tucson the next day, Frances spots her first saguaro cactus, and immediately does a very creditable impression of one.  Shortly after that a tumbleweed rolls by, but fortunately I am able to grab her in time.  Approaching Flagstaff I am surprised to see snow under the trees.  We rent a car and finally do our laundry.

During the next week we visited three popular spots:  the Canyon de Chelly ("Shay") Navajo site in the northeast corner of Arizona, Monument Valley on the Utah/Arizona boundary, and the Grand Canyon (south rim; the north rim would still be closed for several weeks).  Along with New York, this was the best part of our US trip.  We liked the Canyon de Chelly best, with the Anasazi cliff dwellings, and the canyon on a more human scale than the Grand Canyon.  I had seen pictures of the ancient houses, but hadn't realized there were so many of them.  We took an all-day tour here (not always possible this early in the season; it started snowing right after lunch!), and again at Monument Valley.  At the Thunderbird Lodge (Canyon de Chellly) and also at Gouldings (Monument Valley) there was a tour/accommodation package, but you had to ask for it.  In both cases they were about to charge us separately until we, I mean one of us, asked.  Knowing Frances has given me a better understanding of myself:  I now realize that I've been paying too much all my life.



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