Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Getting Down To What We're Here For

Food, of course. Daglio's.... Original Cheesteaks & Hoagies or something like that. Just Daglio's. Ahem. Located in Tucson, in the bustling Campbell Avenue corridor, just south of Glenn (and just north of the venerable India Oven), Daglio's has everything you need to make your heart sing. Here's a hint: your heart don't need much to git real happy. Angus beef chopped fine by hand, slapped on a hot grill, nestled in a heavenly soft Amoroso roll under a healthy pile of day-long-grilled onions and provolone... ah, sweet Jesus! They have a bunch of other stuff on the menu that I'm sure is just dandy, but all you really need is the steak with extra onions and provolone. The fries are good too, as are the Wise potato chips (flown in from Philly with the rolls). Co-owner Frankie Santos, from south Philly, is the tall slender guy with black hair behind the counter. He's a love and happy to talk to you about Philly, about steaks, about how your kid is doing in school, whatever. It's a happy, friendly place that will leave you in a wonderful, warm, slightly dazed stupor for a couple of hours after you eat. Yeah!

Oh, for God's sake. The dumbass presented his "plan for victory" speech this morning. Shouldn't that have been in place, oh, maybe three years ago? What did we get this morning? More of the same. A re-wording of "Iraq is the central front in the war on terror." A re-wording of "When the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." Another promise to stay the course and keep serving our young guys up to the roadside bombs to somehow honor all the other guys who have already been blown up. All delivered safely nestled in the bosom of Annapolis. He's as clueless as he spineless.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Things We Hope For Today

1. cookies in the kitchen at work. Sometimes the receptionist brings cookies. Now that I think about it, she hasn't done that in a long while. That must mean we're just about due, before the annual onslaught of Christmas party leftovers--it's experimentation season. At least two of the guys here are industrious bakers at holiday time. Homer makes wonderful lemondrop cookies. Mike is a more of a chocolate chip man... who also hasn't coughed any up lately. What is wrong with these people?

2. brilliant insight on the current project. I'm having a very hard time teasing meaning out of the latest set of artifacts and associated maps and data. It's still chilly in here, despite a couple of layers and an extra sweatshirt draped over my knees, and it's hard to focus on anything but a cup of coffee and the nonexistant cookies.

3. some action, baby, and quality action at that. 'Nuff said.

Dubya was here yesterday for about an hour and a half. He talked about immigration reform, guest worker plans, ending "catch-and-release" programs... as if entrants are trout. They get screwed by the coyotes, they trash the environment, they're so desperate for work they'll take the lousy odds against making it across hundred of miles of hot stinking desert, they include drug dealers and murderers, they're young families with toddlers, they'll work shit jobs for shit pay, their willingness to work shit jobs for shit pay allows employers to maintain a wage structure that's far too low to attract American workers in the first place, they are an indispensable cog in the US economy, they suck up resources at a greater rate than they pay back in through payroll taxes, they terrorize citizens living in the border zone, they die horrible deaths as their organs slowly cook from the inside.

It's a problem far too complex and economically entrenched for simple sloganeering on either side.

I tend to fall on the side arguing for guest-worker visas and amnesty, provided that such a program doesn't legitimize de facto indentured servitude. How such a result is to be avoided is a mystery to me. Employers can pay illegals far below the market rate as long as the spectre of La Migra is held over the workers' heads. Once those workers are registered and "officially" integrated into the economy, can unlivable wages continue to be justified? Will they continue to be accepted by workers who, to this point, have been content to cram a dozen guys into an apartment intended for two because they had no other choice? Will US workers accept a system that officially sanctions employment for non-citizens at half the minimum pay mandated for citizens? How many of the people who are currently screaming for all illegals to be deported will howl when their consumer prices skyrocket to compensate for dramatically increased labor costs?

Wow. Reading this over, it sounds like I'm advocating institutionalized slavery. I like paying 89 cents for a head of lettuce. I wonder why it's taken me so long to wonder why I can get it for that.

Monday, November 28, 2005

In the Interest of Positivism!

I've been accused of... okay, maybe "correctly perceived as" is the phrase I'm looking for here... being a wee tad of a cynic. Just a bit. A wee scosh. Maybe I've been a bit down on Tucson in the past. It's taken a while, but the place is beginning to grow on me. Hell, anyone can have a bad decade. So here are things that are pretty cool about Tucson... in fact, things that make it a downright okay place to live. There, I said it. Hey, I'm from Chicago. So sue me.

1. You can play soccer year-round, even if it has to be after sunset in the summertime. Feel free to subsistute your outdoor activity of choice for "soccer," such as "walk the dog" or "go hiking" or "ride your bike."

2. Mountains all around. I grew up in the Midwest. Not too many mountains there, so it still seems a bit exotic to be able to go outside and see mountains ringing the city in all directions. They also provide a nice respite from the summer heat.

3. Vibrant local music scene. How trite a statement is that? How about... Tucson has a bunch of clubs and bars with live music, much of it good, seven nights a week. We don't get too many stadium-rock shows--we get quality music. The Decemberists, Amy Ray, Okkerville River, Calexico, and Iron & Wine have all been through here recently. The Rialto Theatre downtown is newly renovated, Club Congress is tiny but swell, Plush rocks, and hell, even Green Fire Art & Music Collective is pulling in nationally known folk acts. Sweeeeeeeet.

4. Sporting events-a-plenty. If you're a jock or just a spectator-sport aficionado, it's hard to be bored here. The University of Arizona teams play nine months out of the year, and only men's basketball is basically impossible to get tickets for. The football team sucks but can be entertaining, women's basketball promises to get more interesting in the next couple of years, women's soccer is skyrocketing (and the games are still free), and the softball team is a perennial national championship contender. The Icecats (UA club hockey) are up and down, but the games are always a good time, with a great hockey crowd--and, since it's a non-varsity sport playing in an off-campus venue, there's beer! Overpriced beer, but beer nonetheless!. When school's not in session, you can watch minor league baseball and pro softball.

5. Fourth Avenue. The tiny, funky shopping and dining and drinking district just west of the U. Twice-a-year street fairs provide about a hundred craft booths and the best people-watching anywhere.

6. Antigone Books. On the aforementioned Fourth Avenue. One of the last independent bookstores in Tucson (maybe the last by the time you read this), with a feminist/gay-friendly bent on top of a fine selection of literature, philosophy, politics, history, mystery, and religion. Great kids' section, excellent bumper stickers and fridge magnets, killer greeting cards and calendars and candles and... fun salt 'n' pepper sets.

7. All Souls' Procession. Go to the website; my words can't do it justice. A phenomenal sensory experience early every November, to remember the dead and celebrate the living.

8. Food. Food, food, food. Neighborhood joints, upscale dining, hot dog stands. The full spectrum of eating possibilities. There are too many excellent places to be covered in a mere paragraph, so here's a list and a hope for future in-depth explorations: Rocco's Little Chicago. Beyond Bread. Daglio's Cheesesteaks. India Oven. Guadalajara Mexican Grill. Vivace. Grill. Buddy's. Bangkok Cafe. The French Quarter. Yummy, yummy.

9. Laid-back diversity. It's a university town in a stinking hot climate, so you run into a little bit of everything here, and for the most part that everything is wearing shorts and flip-flops. It's hard to be pretentious when it's 105 in the shade. A stroll through...

10. Himmel Park... on a Saturday will net you families with toddlers playing on the swings, a couple of multi-national pickup soccer games, Orthodox kids in yarmulkes shooting hoops, a Turkish family having a barbecue, a handful of gay guys playing volleyball, nuns from the nearby convent taking a walk, kids flying kites, and people cavorting with their dogs. And that was just last weekend.

Year-End Restart

Well, well, well. Here we go again.

I've tried blogging a few times, and, as with most of my enterprises, I've run out of steam fairly early in the process. The blogs have lingered without updates--hell, without readership--and then I delete them.

There's no hook here, no theme. I leave the masterful political commentary to AngryBlackBitch. I leave the gentle documentary of gay male life in Tucson to Homer. And Dispatches from the Culture Wars? Well, I leave that to far greater minds than my own. So what good am I?

Today dawned pretty damn nippy for Tucson, upper 30s, I would guess. It was the first genuinely cold morning we've had so far this fall. You know, the kind of morning that you barely notice when you live in Chicago, but after 11 years out here, it caught my attention when I left the house. It finally feels like fall. My favorite season, or at least it was back home. Jeans-and-sweatshirt kind of weather, when I finally have a reason to wear the henleys and fleece vests I've defiantly bought despite being able to use them maybe a few weeks out of the year.

Thanksgiving was... it was just sort of there. It was spent with the Tucson family, which is a family of choice rather than DNA. They are splendid people who provided good food and a very pleasant afternoon. The little kid in me still desperately misses being with my grandparents, uncles, and cousins on this day. Being an adult now and privy to the full picture, the story behind the story, the stuff behind the scenes that belies the happy faces people are compelled to put on for the holidays, I understand that the Thanksgivings I remember from childhood could not have been as perfect as my memory paints them. Various adults were, more than likely, just on the verge of strangling each other, held back from doing so by the traditional niceties of the holiday table. But not in my memories, man. The house was always warm, always smelled nice, the air outside was always crisp, a fire always crackled in the hearth, and we were always happy. All of us.