Back in Michigan, but full of good memories of the southwest. I ended up doing two hikes with Mark, one in the South Mountains and one at the Lost Dutchman state park west of Apache Junction. Thanks to an unusually rainy winter, the dessert looked greener than ever. Strenuous but beautiful walks. Did I mention that Mark and A.J. have a humongous lemon tree in their backyard that gives more fruit than they know what to do with? We filled a suitcase with lemons when we left last night! We spent time in Tucson with our Arizona hosts, of course, enjoying two great Mexican meals: lunch at Tortilleria Jalisco (the best tortillas in town) and dinner, as predicted, at El Torero (best tacos in town).
Spent part of our Tucson time at "the Mission," aka San Xavier, the seventeenth-century Jesuit mission south of town, located between the Tohono O'odham and Pascua Yaqui reservations. You can pick up "milagros" (little pins shaped like body parts) and pin them to the robes that clothe the San Xavier statue--who is laid out as if entombed--a way to pray for a body part that ails you. The other tradition is to wait in line at the end of Mass and lift the saint's head. Many believe that if you are unable to lift the heavy head, your soul may be in jeopardy. I used to attend Mass sometimes at the Mission during my first year in Tucson and once got food poisoning from a fry bread sandwich I bought outside the church. Much better memory: teaching at a charter school on the Yaqui reservation during first year with the RCTE program.
We drove to southern California for a few days to stay with Hung and Ann. I've known Hung since 1988 and we were best men at one another's weddings. We drove up and down the coast and did some whale watching. We saw no whales but did watch a fisherman struggle for twenty minutes reeling in a seventy-pound stingray. Our most excellent hosts treated us to dinner at a delicious Peruvian restaurant in Torrance, but mostly we stayed in and caught up after not seeing H&A since 2005.
A much-needed week away from the snow and ice of the motor city. Though we were
constantly teased about only visiting to re-connect with Mexican food, our motivation really was to stay close to people we're lucky to call friends. Thanks much, guys!