Monday, June 13, 2011

Commercial Interruption

A break from the travel narratives to post a link to the tracks I have uploaded to Soundcloud.

Four of the duets from Duology 1 and 2 and both sets of last summer's Miles project.

Friday, June 10, 2011

February High Desert Benefits

In February of 2010, I made a brief trip back to Santa Fe and Albuquerque to participate in a fundraiser for my good friend, colleague and composer/bassist/mbira player Zimbabwe Nkenya, who had suffered a stroke.

It's cold here in Tempe in February. You know, like in the 50s during the day and 40s overnight. This trip up across the vast tundra of Northern Arizona and over to New Mexico was like a visit to the Arctic. I think it was actually below freezing the entire time. Such is my love for Zim and my undying sense of adventure.

An entire petrified tree stretched out in huge broken pieces, with Interstate 40 in the background.

Cylindropuntia whipplei looking like ice in the Navajoan Desert outside Holbrook.

Opuntia polyacantha with shards of petrified wood.

Otherworldly volcanic colors.

Echinocereus triglochidiatus hunkered down in winter condition.

Winter in Santa Fe. The fog was freezing. It was about 5 degrees below zero overnight. Cylindropuntia imbricata with yellow fruit and Opuntia phaeacantha.

A few scenes of the set up for Zimbabwe's benefit.

This shed was in the alley behind The Outpost Performance Space where the benefit was:

On the way back, I stopped briefly in Socorro NM and found Grusonia clavata and some nice Opuntia macrocentra and phaeacantha. Also stopped just after the Salt River Canyon outside Globe AZ and looked at some beautiful Agave parryi and Echinocereus bonkerae.

I have definitely gotten soft, and have basically not experienced a winter in 4 years. I like these weekend visits as reminders. When I arrived back in Tempe, it was sunny and in the upper 50s. And I saw a woman wearing a hat and scarf.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Sonoran Christmas

The view across the Sea of Cortez from Bahia Kino, looking toward Tiburon, and somewhere out there, Bahia de Los Angeles.

I've been struggling for the past few weeks with whether or not to include two trips with The Poetess, this one to Bahía Kino and back up through Moctezuma and our spring break trip a few months later to southern Arizona. The reality seems clear: these two trips are also an essential part of my own personal tale. I haven't been reluctant to include them out of any desire to expunge the partnership or the Poetess from the record, a la post-revolution cleansing. On the contrary. Posting about these shared experiences has just seemed in bad taste, or an example of bloody and bad boundaries, or some sort of other bad thing. Bad, bad, bad.

The decision here is to just write about some of the aspects of the trips, as well as the cactus angles, and some of my own experience. Keep it simple. I mentioned in a previous post how well she and I traveled together, even when the partnership was under incredibly severe strain. This was true for both of these sometimes-bizarre adventures.

It's powerful, how shared experience lodges in the memory like a knife in the heart. In particular, whenever I go to Mexico now, the Poetess will be there, everywhere. I had thought I just wouldn't go back, but that isn't an option. That leaves slowly accepting the experience on its own terms. Equal parts gratitude and grief. Sometimes, one breath at a time.

In general, I love the experience of Mexico, so much that I would brave anything to be able to go there. One of the remarkable moments is as soon as one crosses the international border. There is really very little if any transition zone in some places, in particular the Lukeville/Sonoyta crossing and the Tecate crossing into Baja. As soon as one travels a car length beyond the US customs areas, one is instantly inundated with the completely different culture, style, economy, energy and color of Mexico. It is a moment for me like passing into a dream. Even the dogs are different. I always exhale a huge sigh of relief. Finally, out of the United States for a while. I have also felt huge relief being back in the United States, and I think these two moments are a great reason for international travel in general: the sheer release of leaving one's own country, the welcome comfort of returning to it. More often, however, especially the past few times, I have just been sad to be re-entering the US. It's not that I am sad to be back, it's just that I am not done with Mexico. As infuriating, wacky, raw, inscrutable, sometimes edgy and strange as Mexico can be, the past several trips have not at all made me long for the US.

This trip to Sonora was initially triggered by a former student of mine, studying in Bahía Kino with Prescott College. She posted photos on Facebook and I was smitten. For the previous three years, the Poetess and I had traveled to Baja, and that in itself could be an entire book, but this year it seemed like we should do something different, for a lot of unspoken reasons I won't go into here.

The first stop was the small but lively border town of Sonoyta, just south of Lukeville, Arizona, in turn about 90 miles south of Gila Bend, through Ajo, past Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

The Black Range, north of Ajo:

Grupo Doctor Bob, Sonoyta's AA club. Went to a great meeting there last Thanksgiving; more on that later.

The main cactus quarry for Sonoyta, Echinomastus erectocentrus var. acunensis. The type locality for this form is in Organ Pipe, but the area is closed due to human and drug smuggling activities. Ironic that the plants in Mexico are accessible.

Crazy leaf gathering ants:

Stenocereus alamosensis on the road south of Caborca:

Hotel VB, not really highly recommended. But it did in a pinch. It was a bit challenging the first night in Kino, as many places were closed and we didn't know the layout of the town very well.

One way to cover an electrical outlet. Perhaps fitting, for Noche Buena.

One of many amazing sunsets in Bahia Kino:

Comparatively swanky accommodations with full kitchen and hot water at Caluma Bungalows:

Feliz Navidad at Bungalows Caluma:

Crystal clear and calm waters and tide pools, north of Kino Nuevo:

Various impressions of the Bahia Kino area, including "Playa del Burro Muerto," so-called because we camped there and did not notice until after we set up that there was the carcass of a burro on the beach. It was, thankfully, downwind.

I spent many hours searching around the Kino area for a particular cactus, Grusonia marenae, originally named as Marenopuntia marenae. I had no luck finding any of the plants anywhere around Kino. I asked an American ex-pat staying at Caluma Bungalows if he knew anything about it, and he directed me to another ex-pat who makes it a point to catalog all of the cacti in the Kino area. He hadn't found any either (at that time, I have since heard from him about a small patch of marenae near Kino), but he directed me to a rare plant called Grusonia reflexispina, which is perhaps just a form of marenae anyway, near Tastiota. Beautiful and strange "dog cholla."

Ferocactus near Tastiota:

Sunset the last night in Kino.

Some of the AA clubs seen in Kino and up through Sonora on the way home:

Beautiful finds outside Moctezuma, New Year's Day. Coryphantha recurvata, Agave parviflora, a couple Mammillaria mainiae and C. recurvata again.

Mexico loves arches. This one makes Moctezuma seem grand indeed.

Some Moctezuma scenes, and the road back to the States, north of Nacozari.

Looking back, I notice I was especially "non-human" focused on this and many other trips. As the trip photos go forward, there's more documentary photos of the towns; it's not all wildness and cacti.