Things Can Only Get Better (Part 2 of 2)

Yesterday I started talking about my epic trip to Tucson to see Men Without Hats and Howard Jones. You may think I was teasing you all by talking so little about the concert and more about the hotel and my exciting week. The delay had more to do with my hangover and the desire to treat this topic with more care than my queasy stomach (and incredibly loud children) would allow, but if it had the added benefit of keeping you all at the edge of your seats then so be it.

Men Without Hats had two songs I knew in the 80s. Safety Dance and Pop Goes the World. I loved them both, but did not spend any time examining the music they made that wasn’t played on KZZP. Now that I have seen Ivan Doroschuk in action I am sad about this.

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As I mentioned yesterday, this was an outdoor concert in Tucson in August. Not the ideal venue. Tickets were $20. The crowd was not giant (I will say the concert was not well promoted – I only knew it was happening because of TucsonScene James posting it on Facebook.) Ivan performed as if in front of thousands of fans, and he appeared to enjoy it. Unlike some stars, he didn’t even seem to mind the fact that many people came just to hear Safety Dance. He did mention he wrote it in the year his keyboardist was born, and you can see she is quite young.

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Clearly not a veteran member of the band.

What I also love is that his new music is quite great. This seems to be a challenge for rock stars, right? To keep producing music that makes sense 20 years after their peak. I came home and bought his new album right away, and I would encourage you to check out Love in the Age of War.

I did not want them to stop playing. I hope they keep touring and I hope I get to see them again.

They wasn’t an encore. I wouldn’t do one either under these conditions. There was a brief break while the crew uncovered Howard’s instruments (it was raining earlier, so everything was covered in tarps.)

While I was standing there feeling the euphoria of a live concert, a little bit of vodka, nostalgia, and camaraderie with my fellow man (I became best friends with the girl standing next to me), I took this photo. Pretty sure Elissa, Julie and I all owned a similar bag at some point in our lives. I can’t believe this girl still had hers!)

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Howard arrived. I love him today just as much as I did when I was 14. Probably more. It’s funny how the music you listen to at that time in your life really shapes your life’s philosophy. I hear these lyrics and think “YES! You get it Howard. You get me. You really get me.”

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(I do realize that Howard Jones does not actually “get” me. I’m not that delusional. But it reminds me of an Anna Nalick song where she addresses her listeners and says “Should ever we meet on your side of the stereo/I will pretend to know not of your thoughts/and even the way that they mirror my own.” Love me some Anna Nalick. She’s impossible to see live though.)

I was pleased to see he still plays the Keytar. I remember this from my first concert. He may be a bit older but he can still rock it.

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Howard Jones is now 58. I hope when I am 58 I am still doing what I love with as much energy. That means he was 31 when I saw him last. Age is such a funny thing. I really thought he was closer to my age, which I guess doesn’t make any sense.

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The drummer, he might be my age. I haven’t seen these drums in years. Way more practical than a real drum set.

You might be able to tell from the photo that Howard is decked out in full silver lamé. Even his pants. That stuff does not breathe and he must have been dying with the humidity. You wouldn’t know it though, he performed as one would expect. Full of energy, smiling, and projecting love and excitement and joy.

I could have flown to LA instead and seen this same show but with Andy Bell. I could have paid a lot more money and likely seen a much longer concert. And not been so sweaty at the end. I’m happy with my decision though. I prefer to see concerts in small venues and everyone there was a die hard fan. Or they wandered by and were drawn in by the music. It was a great vibe, an all around amazing experience, and I am grateful to these musicians for what they do.

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Treating today as though it was the last, the final show
Get to sixty and feel no regret
It may take a little time, a lonely path, an uphill climb
Success or failure will not alter it.
And do you feel scared?

I do.

But I won’t stop and falter.
And if we threw it all away,

Things can only get better.


1 2 3 and 4 is 5, Everyone here is a friend of mine (Part One of Two)

I forgot about Men Without Hats. And Safety Dance used to be my ringtone.

When I bought my tickets for last night’s show I was most excited to see Howard Jones. I have to say now that I was equally impressed by both acts, and am grateful for the experience. Perhaps these performers didn’t love playing outside in Tucson in August, and perhaps they found our audience to be small, but I hope in the end the amount of joy they spread to our evening was worth it.

My day was full and stressful. The kids did not want me to leave, and Nick even said “You care more about your music than you do about your kids!” I had a meeting where I was told my personal brand is suffering and I need to step it up. Perception is 9/10ths of the law, and no matter how hard I work or how much I care about what I do, if people don’t see that it doesn’t happen. I left the office feeling sick.

Personally it has also been a trying week. In case you didn’t realize, reuniting with your ex-husband is not always sunshine and unicorns.

So we left town and drove to Tucson. I love Tucson. I went to college there for three years. It’s smaller, more intimate, and better than Phoenix in so many ways. I would move there in a hot second, and our drive across the desert with the visible rain storms, the crazy ostrich farm, and the familiar mountains… it gave me peace.

We stayed here:

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I recommend you do this at least once in your life. Go to Tucson. See a show. Stay at the haunted, throw-back Hotel Congress. (Just don’t try to take a shower, because the water will never stabilize.)

What I love about Congress is that the people there just flat out care about music. I’ve been for the Wooden Ball – an acoustic festival in January. I saw Marianne Dissard a few years ago and was completely enamored. The Jons usually show up (they don’t have a link, but they are great). And Andrew Colberg. Good god that kid can sing.

Also, The Cup Cafe is a strangely delightful restaurant. Just look at the chandelier:

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And the drink menu:

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The night was full of love and happiness and memories and cocktails. I will write a second post about the music, because it deserves thought and creativity that I cannot quite muster after staying up too late, partying a bit too hard, and speeding home this morning to make my 10 a.m. conference call.

Until then.

Pop goes the world.


The Fastest Tacos are not always The Best Tacos

Last Friday I logged into my computer and realized I had meetings booked from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. I hate that kind of day. Stuck at my desk on conference calls during lunch is never good for my mental health. It always seems worse on the last day of the week.

A lucky break – one meeting cancelled and I had  30 minutes to eat. I escaped to Cafe Rio because I knew I could get there and back in time. They also make their own tortillas and you can really order your meal any way you want. I like to order things the way I like them, as opposed to the way the menu dictates.

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The food is good enough. But it’s not great. I ordered the enchiladas with medium sauce. Instead of medium it should be called “sugar sauce” it was so sweet. I remember this about the tacos I got last time – the meat tasted like it had been marinated in syrup. I think this is the problem with chain restaurants overall – in order to make the recipes scalable they cut back on quality. And while I really do appreciate the fast service, it is clear that the employees feel beaten down by the stringent policies of the company. Apparently they are required to get people through the line in a specific amount of time or suffer the consequences.

Having recently worked under conditions where my statistics were monitored by the minute and my manager would be at my desk if I took too much time in between clients, I feel uncomfortable supporting this corporate strategy. I think I just talked myself out of going there again….

So today was miserably hot. As I said yesterday, August is a cruel cruel month. But then it started to rain in the middle of all the sunshine.

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If you look closely that’s our neighbor frolicking in the storm. I highly recommend clicking on the photo to see it in full resolution because you can see the rain reflecting the sun in the most beautiful way.

A metaphor, right? For us, the rain is joy – a welcome and necessary sign that things will one day be bearable. The sun is a searing misery. They exist together. It is difficult to appreciate one without the other, and if you live somewhere rainy, this storm would tell you the opposite story.

In the third grade my son has homework every night that is focused on kindness and gratitude. Today he was supposed to come home and do three nice things for his parents. It caused him so much stress that he ended up doing the opposite – he was unruly, mean, and whiney. He stepped on his brother’s arm, and pulled a pillow out from under him and cracked his head on the floor. I asked him what the deal was, since he was clearly doing the opposite of what the homework suggested. He said he was so worried he couldn’t complete the task that he just blew up.

The fact that his teachers are focusing on this skill is wonderful, and I am doing my best to not get frustrated with how impossible it is for him to consider others. He’s 8. If he learns this now it will pay off for him in the future, and part of the learning is the failing.

I guess I have kids so I can relearn all the stuff I missed the first time around.


In August, I think of winter. Or Hawaii

My Grandpa Avery is 100 years old. He’s slowing giving up his life, and I am really sad about it. On normal days I’m okay, and can be rational about the fact that he had an amazing life.

Today I find myself thinking about him and wishing him peace in his last days.

I wish myself some peace too.

My grandfather looked at life like a photographer. He took brilliant photos on all of his world travels. I remember one trip he took to Asia – I must have been a teenager because my Grandma Agnes was still alive. When they got back we all gathered in the “Projection Room” where he had a screen and a his slide projector with tray after tray of photos. He would narrate the trip in a grand way, showing us temples and people and cars and trees and my grandmother with an orange scarf. And food! He took pictures of the food.

After the family showing he would go back through one by one and talk about what he was thinking at the time, why he balanced the photo a particular way, what he could have done better. I liked the dark room, the hum of the fan, the details he pointed out that I missed the first time. A feather out of focus or a shadow from a tree that made the picture better.

I didn’t realize I was learning at the time – about composition, lighting, balance, and the importance of capturing the details of an event that you might forget.

So on a day like this when I am feeling overwhelmed and sad, I go through my own pictures. I think about what I was doing then, how I like the particular image, what I would do better next time.

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This photo is a perfect example. I took this on January 1, 2011 – probably the coldest winter I have ever experienced in Arizona. (You will laugh if you don’t live here – the temperature that night got down below freezing! I made the boys wear gloves and drink hot chocolate to stay warm.) I won’t bore you with everything I would fix, but I look at this photo and think of that night and remember feeling like I could handle anything.

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This picture reminds me that I am a strong, powerful, amazing woman. We aren’t supposed to say that as women, but I look at this and that is what I think. I was in Kauai last year because I won an award at work and they sent me there for a week to hob nob among the elite. After the work festivities were over I hired a guide and rented a lens and set off to see things in Kauai that I missed while hanging out at the ultra-manicured Grand Hyatt (it’s not just a Hyatt, it’s a GRAND Hyatt).

Again, I won’t go into the geeky details, but I remember looking through this wide-angle lens and seeing things differently. Not just in the metaphorical way…

T.S. Eliot was wrong, although he clearly didn’t live anywhere near Arizona. August is the cruelest month.

Or maybe I am just sad, and August is fine.



The perfect date night

Last night we ditched the kids and headed over to Angel’s Trumpet Ale House.

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Here are the things to love about this place.

  1. The vibe is way cooler than North Central. Love North Central. Love my Sunday Night cul-de-sac wine parties. Love hanging with people who are excited to hear Vanilla Ice. (Maybe that is just me.) But downtown people have a higher coolness factor. It’s palpable.
  2. Beer and wine on tap. Anything on tap is good. Wine on tap is rare and makes me happy. If I drank beer I would feel like I was visiting Willie Wonka. (See photo below)
  3. The food is delicious. I had the Cranberry Salad with Chicken. Pecans. Smoked Mozzarella. All kinds of yumminess. It’s a tough place to go if you’re gluten-free because everything sounds so delicious but is completely off limits. Joe had fish tacos – breaded, fried and on flour tortillas. Not healthy but super good.
  4. The patio makes me excited for winter. It will be such a delightful place to hang out.
  5. It is obvious that the owners care. The light fixtures are made of wine bottles and wooden kegs. The seating is open and convivial. The dishes are fun. The service is perfect – get us what we want and when we want it. No fuss.

This is the door. Don’t you want to go inside?

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And the bar, with all the taps lined up and numbered:

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We would have hung out all night but there was a movie starting at FilmBar across the street.

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I’ve wanted to go here for a while. What is better than a theater showing independent movies? (Our only choice for non-blockbusters prior to FilmBar was to visit Harkins Camelview – no link because I despise this grimy theater and think Dan Harkins cares as much about the movie-going experience as Bill Bidwell cares about having a winning team.)

So here’s the deal with FilmBar. The front area is a bar with what I can only guess are booths made out of old car seats. There are people milling about who have no interest in seeing the movie, much like the crowd outside of Crescent Ballroom. The bar is simple. Two reds and two whites by the glass. Some beer on tap. Sodas and popcorn and candy. I got a glass of cabernet in a stemless glass that fit perfectly in the cup holder of my seat and settled in for the show.

We saw Drug War – a Chinese film about meth manufacturers. It was interesting and intense, with lots of crashing and shooting and confusion about who was on what side of the table. Apparently the penalty in China for drug trafficking is the death penalty. That certainly changes the game.

It was such a great night. There is something spectacular about those moments when you realize you are a fun person – outside of kids and work and laundry and groceries. You can have a night out and still be home before 9:30 to pay the babysitter and get to bed early enough so you’re not miserable when your son shows up at the side of your bed Sunday morning at 7 a.m. wanting to talk about the book he is reading.



The last day of summer breakfast at Scramble

For our family, our summer officially ends right now. Tomorrow starts the hectic life of packing lunches, gathering homework, finding socks, checking for underwear (yes, this is a morning activity), enforcing screen time rules, and trying like the dickens to get our kids to bed before nine. We all could use a little structure after so much laziness, but I will miss the decided break from frenzy that summer has provided.

Other than the first month, the boys have pretty much spent the their time lounging around with Alma  – they treat her more like an older sister than a nanny and they have all had a fabulous time doing a whole lot of nothing. Sadly, she started school before they did, and we found ourselves in a bit of a quandary this morning. Joe and I couldn’t take the day off after being gone all last week, my mom is in Hawaii for a wedding, our backup nanny just had a baby, our sitters have all started school… get the idea.

The only solution is that I worked from home half the day. I am grateful to have this option, as it has not always been the case with my job. But it is not ideal to try and focus with two young boys in the house. I had one conference call at ten, and planned ahead for some quiet. First, I took them out to breakfast, to fend off any possible claims that they might die of hunger during the hour. We went to Scramble, one of our regular breakfast spots.

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I love this place for a few reasons.

  1. It’s not too far a drive but it feels like we’re getting out of the neighborhood.
  2.  They have at least 7 varieties of Cholula. Today I selected chipotle.
  3. They have wiki sticks for the kids – that is what has Nick’s attention in the above photo.
  4. Their iced tea is delicious.
  5. You order at the counter. This is always a bonus with kids because when you’re done you’re done. Waiting for the check/paying the check is my least favorite part of dining out with my monsters.
  6. The food is so yummy. I had the veggie lovers scramble, without sundried tomatoes. Jack had bacon and potatoes. Nick ordered the pancakes but…

as we sat down Nick announced he wasn’t hungry. This would have been more useful information when we ordered, so I now have that delicious plate of pancakes in my fridge. I don’t force my kids to eat meals, even if they insisted on getting the adult serving that costs twice as much. This is likely an overreaction to my childhood where there was plenty of forced eating.

(The most memorable story is from when I was about Nick’s age actually. I wasn’t feeling well, the family dined out at the Old Spaghetti Factory on Mill Avenue – one of the places that evaporated when new developers decided to revamp Mill into an Applebee’s ghetto – and my dad insisted I finish my dinner. I remember whining that I wasn’t hungry. I remember him being angry. I ate. I got in his prize new pickup with buckskin color seats and carpeting on the floor. I remember puking marinara all over that upholstery. Sometimes it’s good to listen to a kid.)

After breakfast they agreed to get settled and put on The Smurfs. I was skeptical, but I knew my conference call only required me to actually speak about 10% of the time. I just hoped that my 10% aligned with the time my children were quiet and need-free.

I’m happy to report it worked! Mostly. Jack did interrupt once when he walked in the room holding a container of ice cream. He mimed eating with a spoon, and it was really hard not to laugh. I just nodded and waved him away – smart kid.

The next challenge came when I got an instant message from a colleague saying “Hey, you should join this call I’m on, we are talking about one of your projects and have a solution to something.” Right at that moment Nick was running around and screeching that he couldn’t find his loose fit jeans. I found the jeans, told the kids to be quiet again and joined the call.

I finally got to go to work at noon. Alma got here and the kids let the dog out. I waved at them while they chased her down the street.

And so summer comes to a close. Overall the weather has not been bad, considering. Today as I was driving home:

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For those of you in other parts of the world, 99 degrees at 5 p.m. is almost chilly for us. (I also thought it was cool that my car has 7777 miles on it. Weird things amuse me.)

(Two photos in the post…just for you Bruno)

Danny proves he’s no “Family”

I do not like Danny’s Family Car Wash, even though I go there quite often. If my car needs to be clean, I don’t have a lot of options that are close to my limited radius of everyday travel. Which is no surprise because when you really think about it, who wants to wash cars in Arizona? Here is a small list of reasons I wish I didn’t have to go there (and yes, I realize I don’t HAVE to go there. I could drive farther, or wash my car myself. I get that.)

  1. The guys at the check-in are obnoxious about trying to sell me stuff. And they outright lie to get me to buy things. One offered to clean the leather in my car (which it needed, given the fact that Nick violated my car rules and left a juice box on my front seat) and I asked how much longer it would take. “Oh the same amount of time as a car wash.” One hour later I had to ask someone to just give me my car even if it wasn’t done because I would be late, and they acted like I was being difficult.
  2. The windshield repair people stalk you. They are horrible in every way – hard sales, they take FOREVER to do anything, and their work sucks.
  3. The system for retrieving your car is treacherous. I’ve almost been hit a few times trying to cross the lanes of traffic.

It’s never been bad enough for me to stay away, although I never buy my gas there. And I feel bad about giving my money to a Danny Hendon who is known by his peers and clients as being a jerk. So when the news hit this week that he was under raid – not by Sheriff Joe as one might suspect (until you look at the contributions Danny makes to Joe’s slush fund) – but by US Immigration and Customs, I wasn’t overly surprised. I expect people who are jerks to one day get their just desserts.


If you read through the news reports, and watch the footage of people being hauled off to jail (where they spent a good 48 hours before arraignment), you won’t see Danny anywhere. Not even in solidarity of his workers, who were acting on his behalf. Who knows where Danny is? According to New Times Feathered Bastard he is not answering his phone.

There is much controversy about immigration in our state, we can all agree about that. There are hordes of undocumented workers in our midst, and not a single person has a good solution for fixing this complex problem.

What I have recently learned that I found most interesting is that if I happened to be a Mexican citizen as opposed to Canadian or Greek or Turkish or Uzbek, there is not a way for me to request to come to the US and work. Say, for example, that I am an excellent car washer, and I want to come here and make a way for my family that is better in Mexico. I cannot legally do this. There is not a line for me to stand in, not a form to fill out, not a plea to be made.

I know there are people watching the news and shouting “Yeah!” at their television as these people are cuffed and hauled off. They agree with the holier-than-though thugs who did the arresting, who are only doing their job after all. Enforcing the law that says a man who works his ass off to provide for his family should be subject to incarceration while Danny Hendon sits by the pool sipping wine.

Joe made a good point about this whole controversy. How much would it cost to get your car washed if Danny’s didn’t employ undocumented workers? (He’s also concerned about the value of his remaining Groupon.)

My father is a business owner and has been my entire life. I can’t imagine a situation his employees were put in jail for things they had done under his direction, and if they were I know he would stand by them in court. Danny is a coward. Whatever you believe is right or wrong with regards to immigration law, the fact that he hung his people about to dry is unforgivable.

Maybe I can teach my kids how to wash my car?