80 – At the Congress, Still in the Desert

Staying at the Congress in Tucson tonight. Built in 1913 it still retains the charm of that era while being ever so slightly updated for this current century (wifi, a/c, and modernized, though small, bathrooms). Tonight it’s a lively place, and all dressed up for Halloween, people walking around with booze in their hands, a band playing in the concert room somewhere, and, judging by the menu, good food. At the reception counter a small, glass case displays candy and cigarettes. It’s only lacking chewing tobacco and a selection of handguns and knives to round the showcase out.

I’m sipping a Negroni, sitting in the reception at a tall counter away from the bar, while observing a woman who has recently staggered into the room and sprawled herself across a nearby sofa. Has been there ten minutes or so. Can’t for the life of me figure out for what or why. I consider striking up a conversation, but I have this here book that I’m reading (a very enjoyable one, I should add), and the light is really quite dim, and from twenty feet away I’m finding it hard to determine if she’s attractive or not, or how old she might be, or if she’s even coherent to carry a conversation. And now, while writing this, she’s roused herself and meandered back outside to the patio. For another drink, perhaps? (They are cheap enough.) Frankly, I don’t think she’s in need of an additional drink unless it’s water or coffee. I’m reading a Henry Miller which, as I stated, I’m quite enjoying, and so it seems a good thing indeed that I did not approach this woman. I think she’s having a fine enough night on her own, and I am have a fine enough night on my own.

The light in here is dim and warm and multi-colored, and my drink is cherry-red and the bit of neon that’s reflecting off the dark, polished wood surfaces of the bar is also glowing in my drink like there’s a festival taking place somewhere within, and the bitterness of the Campari coupled with the sharpness of gin and sweetness of vermouth is like a tonic as it trickles down my throat. I can’t think that there could be a better place for me, or anyone else for that matter, to be than right here, right now.

Soon after this woman leaves, a family walks into the lobby. Two ebullient little girls climbing all over the furniture, and a punk kid in his teens—studded denim vest and a Dwarves patch across the back. Trucker hat. Father in a plaid flannel and a cowboy hat. No boots unfortunately, and certainly no spurs. Mother’s drinking a glass of red wine. Why wine? I don’t know. I suppose she likes red wine. Strange, though. I can’t see anyone drinking wine in a place like this. Cocktails are about all that makes any sense here, and at $6 for some very high quality stuff should be the only thing that anyone is drinking (the bartender knows what he’s doing).

Before officially coming to Tucson, and by “officially” I mean not driving through, I drove down to Nogales today. It’s a border town most well known for the cross-border murder of an innocent teen, Jose Antonia Elena Rodriguez. What’s most interesting about the incident is that the border patrol guard was actually indicted on charges for the killing. it was the first time in the history of the country that had happened. I wanted to photograph the wall for my project, and I wanted to go to the spot where the murder occurred. I dictated some thoughts into my phone while walking away. I may post that up separately, later.

The drive down was somewhat shit though, because I was pretty much ready to just be in Tucson, and didn’t feel like essentially taking a four hour detour, however, the southeastern Arizona landscape is a magnificent place. Quite different from southwest/southcentral Arizona, which seems a desiccated, crippled beast to me, though no less able to lash out and kill if it so wishes. No, the southeast is almost lush in comparison. The hills and mountains inviting and majestic, not terrifyingly ruinous like some strange and frightening monster preserved in the rock, alive and biding its time, waiting for its moment to rise again with gnashing teeth and slashing claws. These mountains are friendly. They look like they harbor life, and are not preserves of death. They invite one in, and give what they can. Yet… still, I cross over dry river beds; the Santa Cruz, for example, is no longer a river but just an arroyo. Presumably it’s been bled dry to irrigate crops grown in a desert because that’s a thing happening, but I can not say that I know.

Mexico, looking across the border, peering through the gaps in the fortifications (to keep those dastardly Mexicans out!) looks to be a marvelous landscape. Almost makes me want to drop everything I’m doing and drive on in.

And a single woman out of a group of six begins laughing: unstoppable, clear as a bell, like a song in a musical. Quite lovely the way it jets upward like a geyser, and when she gets going how it bounds along like a big, happy dog, tongue hanging from its mouth and swept back. Mexico: the land of enchantment! Oh, wait, that’s NEW Mexico’s slogan. Nonetheless!


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