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El Indio, 3355 S. 6th Ave.

 

I order one of two dishes on El Indio’s menu. Usually, it’s a red chile burro enchilada style. Extra sauce please, Josefina. Just to mix it up, I’ll order the cocido.

The red chile is consistently excellent. The beef is tender. The red chile gravy is superb, a celebration of the red with a small bite and flavor. How they do it is one of the vexing mysteries of the ages, conundrum that eludes me still in old age.

The red enchilada sauce — of which there can never be too much — soothes the soul.

There are other dishes that include the red chile. Fried eggs on the side, a sort of red chile salad dish and the red chile plate with beans and rice are all rewarding choices.

The cocido is as it should be, a flavorful cabbage-broth reduction that requires a great deal of time to cook down. Hence the name of this vegetable-beef soup: cooked. The great length of time required to make this soup as a rule destroys the corn-on-the-cob pieces. But it also forces the other vegetables, zucchini, potatoes, green beans and such, also to meld the flavors.

The beef needs only be chunks of chuck roast. It also is cooked until it is forced in submission and becomes tender. A word about fat in this soup: If you are Jack Sprat, order something else or go elsewhere. There should be some fat in this soup because it is necessary to round out the flavor. It does not mean that it should be excessively laden with fat. There is a balance, and El Indio’s kitchen strikes it well.

I have heard that the chile relleno and carne asada are very good at El Indio. I am inclined to believe these reports. Moreover, there are daily lunch specials that include three courses. But I have never tried them. I know I should vary the routine, but I can’t resist the red.

 

 

 

 

 

William R. Mathews, the Star’s curmudgeon editor and gifted editorial writer

Mathews plaque

The Arizona Daily Star today (Nov. 22) ran an editorial (read it here) that first was published on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 23) 1961. The newspaper did not say who the writer was, but I think I recognize the direct clarity of style and thought as being that of William R. Mathews.

Mathews was a professional curmudgeon, otherwise engaged as editor and publisher of The Arizona Daily Star from 1930 until his death in 1969. It was said one could not get elected dog catcher without Mathews’ approval.

It might have been true. He played politics full time, locally, statewide and on a national basis. He seemed to have a direct pipeline to the State Department. He predicted the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor two weeks before it happened. He was aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo harbor when the Japanese surrendered.

He was a gifted writer as the editorial shows. It surprises me that he was so good. He also was incredibly productive; his editorials appeared everyday even when he traveled so extensively. I imagine he never dreamed he would write editorials for a living.

Mathews fought in the Great War, and was a hero, capturing Germans and winning the Croix de Guerre. He was the business manager of a Santa Barbara newspaper when fate beckoned, and he accepted a position at the Star for 2 percent ownership. In return for the small interest in the paper, Mathews was to watch over the paper’s business affairs, a sort of ballast to Ralph Ellinwood who was editor by virtue of the fact his father bought the paper for him. His father, E. E. Ellinwood, was an attorney for Phelps Dodge.

Medical School entrance

Ralph Ellinwood was by all accounts a good editor. He was a graduate of Columbia’s School of Journalism and had worked for the Sacramento Union. He, too, had fought in World War I and spent time in a German prison camp. Ellinwood died young in 1930 after only a few years in charge of the Star. Ownership fell to Ellinwood’s widow, Clare, and Mathews. He ran the editorial operations. Mrs. Ellinwood played a part in management.

There’s very little to commemorate Mathews’ contribution to the city. There’s a small plaque with his bust in relief outside the entrance to the UA School of Medicine. He was the driving force behind the UA medical school, having campaigned personally and in print to bring it here.

Mathews carried out Ralph Ellinwood’s desire to establish the liberal tone to the Star’s editorials. Thus he is among the first to blame for the Star’s alleged reputation as The Red Star.

Ed Abbey’s ‘The Monkey Wrench Gang’

The Arizona Republic reports that the Department of the Interior this week started releasing millions of gallons of water from Glen Canyon Dam. The purpose is to restore ecological balance to the Grand Canyon. It is the fourth such flooding.

My first thought after reading the article was: Hayduke lives!

George Hayduke is the protagonist of Ed Abbey’s little romp into wishful thinking and delicious anarchy, The Monkey Wrench Gang.

The plot consists of Hayduke’s effort to blow Glen Canyon Dam to smithereens. Because it, ahem, altered the ecology of the Grand Canyon. Actually, it changed the ecology of the river. I seem to remember at the time, it took a month before the water began to back up behind the dam to create the reservoir.

“Hayduke Lives!” became a rallying cry for rabid environmentalists. I recall drawings that showed the great fissure in the dam and the water spewing in a great gush. I think Abbey was quietly amused by all the fuss.

I got to meet him and know him just a little. We discussed the state’s growth for an article he was writing for The New York Times Magazine (“The Blob comes to Arizona”). He told me he could not make it as a journalist because he got basketball scores wrong. He did not laugh when he said it, only smiled. I did not believe it.

I asked him once which of his books he liked best. “The next one,” he said pointing to his temple. I still like that answer. It certainly stayed with me. My favorite is Desert Solitaire. It’s lyrical, well-worth reading.

 

Flake and McCain, the anti-porkers

Jeff Flake

 

John McCain

Arizona should be bursting with pride.

The state has elected a second U.S. senator who believes he should seek NO MONEY for the state. Jeff Flake, Republican senator-elect, campaigned long and loud against earmarks, those little do-hickeys at the end of bills that provide federal money for pet projects championed by state delegations in the House and Senate. To the enlightened right-wing conservative, earmarks and pork are the root of most all evil.

John McCain has made a successful senatorial career by refusing to bring home any manner of bacon[*] to Arizona. He is the longest living anti-porker. The right honorable Sen. McCain will tell you: The notion that federal pork provides roads and other infrastructure, jobs and lights a fire under a state economy is just hogwash, a lame excuse to hide the fact that it’s just money down a rat hole.

Let all that gravy and cash go elsewhere. Arizona’s senators stand four-square against federal money no matter how many jobs it creates, no matter how much infrastructure it builds,no matter how much prosperity it might generate. It’s rathole money as far as Flake and McCain are concerned.

Now we have two anti-porking senators. McCain is proud. Arizona is proud. And really, really poor.



[*] Was it bacon or pork that paid for the Central Arizona Project, that engineering feat that created a canal from the Colorado River all the way to Tucson?

Words that laugh and cry

Many years ago I came across an editorial that was a celebration of language and contained one of the briefest and best lessons on writing I have ever read. This is from the March 16, 1890 edition of The Sun, a New York City newspaper made great by one of the greatest editors of American journalism, Charles Dana.

Words that laugh and cry

 Did it ever strike you that there was anything queer about the capacity of written words to absorb and convey feelings? Taken separately they are mere symbols with no more feeling to them than so many bricks, but string them along in a row under certain mysterious conditions and you find yourself laughing or [Read more…]

Abe Chanin, sports writer, author and teacher

Abe Chanin spent a lifetime recording heroic deeds. Although he and his wife Mildred today no longer live in Tucson, they left a lifetime legacy of service and achievement.

Abe was The Arizona Daily Star’s sports editor for 25 years. He helped create the Star Sportsman’s Fund, which has raised $2 million over the years to send kids to camp. As sports editor, Abe traveled widely, covering mostly University of Arizona sporting events. In his spare time, he and Mildred published two newspapers. In 1971, he was chosen to edit the Star’s editorial pages, and did so by establishing a voice and tone in the Pulitzer tradition. He left the Star about five years later to teach journalism at the University of Arizona. A man of great energy and ideas, Abe also found time to write four books [Read more…]

Mayor James N. Corbett: He knew how to count

Sometime in 1979 a friend and I decided as we often did in those days to have lunch at El Dorado, a restaurant at 36th Street and South Fourth Avenue. It was known in those days for its outstanding red chile and a tapestry of John and Bobby Kennedy that hung on its east wall. We were about to sit down when we spied Jim Corbett — the former nationally known drunken, thigh-biting mayor of Tucson and [Read more…]

Water Wars

Tucson’s recall election of January 1977 had all the sense and feel of a mob lynching rather than an exercise in representative democracy.

Three members of the city council were trounced and booted from office. They were guilty only of [Read more…]

David Fitzsimmons, cartoonist for the Arizona Daily Star

David with his granddaughter Emma and Edie Auslander.

David Fitzsimmons, the Arizona Daily Star’s cartoonist,  has raised millions for Tucson’s charities for a quarter century by being the provocative, funny and entertaining master of ceremonies at thousands of charity events. He is Mr. Chicken Dinner with a black marker pen and a thick paper pad three by four feet perched on an easel. (Click here for a selection of FitzFotos.)

Unless he is booked, he will not say no. Fitz will stand and amuse. Have pad, will travel. He jokes, you guffaw.

For free. Any time as long as the cause is noble, the audience tomato-free and there are a few big names in attendance that he can besmirch, belittle, beguile and charm.

He has been the cartoonist at the Arizona Daily Star since 1986, one of my better hires.

He was born in Merced, Calif. A few months later his parents came to Tucson. He went to Rincon High School and then to the University of Arizona, where he majored in several subjects, but mostly he was cartoonist for the Wildcat. He graduated and found a job as a newspaper artist for the Oklahoman of Oklahoma City.

He moved to the Virginian-Pilot of Virginia Beach and Norfolk.

After his stint with that paper, Fitz landed his first full-time cartoonist job with the Daily Press of Newport News, Va. His boss at that paper was the late Tony Snow who went on to become press spokesman for George W. Bush. He died of colon cancer in 2008 at the age of 53.

I interviewed Fitz and his daughter sometime in 1985 in the coffee shop of the Sheraton Hotel in Reston, Virginia. Sarah, who was not yet 2 years old, was up and down steps and all over the carpet. He said he was anxious to get back to Tucson, but as an editorial cartoonist. Since then, Fitz has been a part of what critics still call the “Red Star,” his cartoons poking fun at, praising, satirizing and annoying. That is the chief reason, I believe, he has never been selected as Tucson’s man of the year. When I was at the Star, we waged a serious campaign to make it so. Alas, we were not successful.

But Fitz nonetheless charges onward, pen in hand, masterfully conducting the ceremony and raising the money — battling breast cancer (he is a cancer survivor), promoting books or paying tribute to long-time heroes such as Big Jim Griffith. He has given enormously to the community and has never been properly recognized for it.

The problem with newspapers

Actress Ava Gardner, a metaphor for USA Today

By Steve  Auslander

I retired early after 34 years at the same newspaper. I was an editorial writer at the end, but I’d had other jobs. For nearly 14 years, I ran the news operation. It makes me sad to see how over the past few years newspapers have been caught in such dire straits. I suppose I am fortunate that I no longer work in the business I once loved. It has changed. I have been out for seven years now, having left just before the business plunged into the financial abyss. There has been so much talk about the cuts and the future, that dark future of newspapers.

The talk today focuses on the Internet and how the newspapers gave away their franchise. Still, nothing much has changed in the business. Newspapers are still obsessed with style and seemingly indifferent about content. They are stodgy. Once was there was [Read more…]