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Archives for October 2013

Camino Blanco

Camino Blanco is one of the most interesting streets in Tucson. The residential architecture is unlike anything I have seen in this town. Further down from these houses is the beautiful Unity Church.

The street is just off of River Road. It runs from a lofty foothill down to the Rillito. A very wide wash, a canyon with steep cliffs on either side, is on the eastside of the road. The most interesting houses perch on the cliff, overlooking the wash. The earth-tone house sort of straddles it.

The photos are of four homes. There is a red-tile Spanish classic, a massive earth tone house, an English Tudor (?) near-mansion (Stratford on Blanco) and an unusual Miami-style home.

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The George Mehl Story

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Along about the mid 1980s, a local developer decided to build a world-class resort in the foothills. That resort became La Paloma, but the developers George Mehl and his brother David, ran into some stout opposition. For one thing, the Mehls proposed to build a Jack Nichlaus 27-hole golf course with lots of grass and ponds, pretty as you please and needing a ton of water.

In those days, Tucson was a serious tree-hugging community. The outrage swelled not only over the amount of water to be spilled for this play land of the rich, but for all the beautiful flora that would be destroyed as well. But then some very smart people suggested Mehl could irrigate his golf course with reclaimed water. He need only build a pipeline from the city’s resources to the La Paloma site. Mehl quickly agreed and paid for it. There wasn’t much argument.

The Mehls also agreed to hire an outfit to map and preserve all the flora on the development site (not in the golf course area). After the development was in place, the flora was put back.

The La Paloma course was the first private course to use reclaimed water. Today about half the courses in the county use reclaimed water.

George Mehl did the right thing for his community. And the community reciprocated, sort of. The county changed the name of the Foothills Park off River Road just east of the Tucson Jewish Community Center to the George Mehl Family park. It was to honor Mehl and the four other members of his family. All five died in 1991 when the private plane he was piloting crashed near Cortez, Colorado. Mehl was 41. I don’t have an age for his wife, Deborah. His daughters were Natalie, 12, Laura, 8 and Jenna,3.

While the park is named for the George Mehl family, there’s no plaque or other explanation saying who he was,what he did or how he died. Sooner or later, I’m sure, that will change. He did far more than build a beautiful resort.

Beware the Preposition

I have a thing about prepositions. I like them OK. But I think it’s a good thing to keep them at arms length. I try not to get really chummy with them because they have a way of turning on you and biting you in the arse. You have to watch them like a hawk. They do not play well with others. Do not employ them often because if you do, you will suffer and learn the hard way about the law of diminishing returns.

I will admit these are glittering generalities, that a few writers are so skilled as to  force them to do hard labor, to exceed all expectation. There are, for example, more prepositional phrases in this sentence than you could shake a soft-lead pencil at:

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

I count 15 prepositional phrases, none of which should be excised and all of which do exemplary work. They were wielded, fitted precisely and expertly by their creator. But this is rare phenomenon. Such sentences appear less frequently than Haley’s Comet.

The abuse of prepositions is far more common. And it’s not pretty. I have in my time seen prepositions gather five, six, seven, eight and (God forbid) nine times in a sentence to create an unmanageable riot of phrases, dangling participles, splitting bloody infinitives and battering passive voices. Of this you can be certain (of). And do not make the mistake of thinking this is just a prose problem, that high and mighty poems tower far above this plug-ugly prepositional street crime.  For example, I just discovered this first line of a recently published poem:

“Where is your father whose eye you were the apple of?”

I will not summon the now-centuries-old schoolmarm rant about placing prepositions at the end of sentences. But one ought to recognize the wisdom of the ages in the rule. One of the best lessons one can learn about casting sentences is to understand  parts of the sentence —  beginning, middle and end — and the import of them. The most powerful part is the end, then the beginning and middle in which you find mostly flab sometimes laced with drivel. You must reserve your primo stuff for the end.

It is another generally agreed glittering generality that prepositions are best deployed as links. To leave a preposition at the end of a sentence is to put your toes over the edge of a steep cliff, bend your knees and lean forward. You could stumble, fall and get hurt. In any event, I leave it to you to judge whether placement of the preposition at the far edge energizes the cliché:

Where is the stitch that saves time in?

Where is the leap you look before?

Where is the love and war that all’s fair in?

Where’s the look whose bright side to look on?

Where’s the tree whose acorn from the tree does not fall far from?

Where’s the time you have hands on?

Where is he who from hell like a bat took off?

‘Season Tickets’ by Dan Gilmore

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If you ever had season basketball tickets, this poem will feel familiar. If you haven’t, it will become so. “Season Tickets,” is the title. It is also the title of the book, by Dan Gilmore. He is a man of many talents, a jazz bassist, biz consultant, novelist, short story writer, raconteur and holds a doctorate in Great Expectations. He just recently has a bunch of poems accepted by a bunch of quarterly poetry publications. I don’t know when because he is afraid to ask said bunch. His novel, “A Howl for Mayflower,” is filled with characters you would like to know because you like them. It is set in Tucson’s Coronado Hotel. The “Mayflower” in the title is a lovely woman, one of the most attractive characters I have met. And I happen to know the narrator personally. You can get it through Amazon, and there is a Kindle edition. “Season Tickets” is out of print, but easy enough to find via Amazon used or Abe.Books.com.

Season Tickets

Fifteen years we had them,

the two seats at the end of Row 29,

Section 20. We were real fanatics

back then, screaming, high-fiving,

thinking this would last forever.

We hardly noticed when,

seven seats down, a woman

in her sixties, a city-league

tennis player, stopped coming.

Turned out she’d had a stroke

and died. Next season the woman’s

husband had a heart attack. During March

Madness the person five seats down —

an irrepressible man with a white

beard and a Greek fisherman’s cap

who called himself Uncle Charlie —

died of throat cancer. Treatable

was the last word we heard him say.

Next season, Uncle Charlie’s nephew,

a despondent accountant who

quoted Rush Limbaugh, disappeared

one day. Died from cancer, we heard

from his wife who sold their tickets

to a woman who was killed jaywalking.

Her seat was empty the entire season

but filled with waiting. JoAn is next

in line, then me. The team is younger

this season, less experienced, losing more

than winning. JoAn and I watch

with greater discernment, nod and clap

instead of scream, take deep breaths

between baskets, and look forward

to time outs. An obese adolescent

sits in the seat next to JoAn now.

He eats hot dogs and yells Go Cats

at odd times. We both wish him well and hope

he lives a full and happy life, but it’s apparent

he knows nothing about the game.

 

Boomers

I don’t mean to complain, really I don’t. But I today received this e-mail:

Dear NYTimes.com Reader: We are pleased to announce the launch of Booming, our free weekly e-newsletter for baby boomers.Led by baby boomer, Michael Winerip, the Booming e-newsletter is sent every Tuesday and covers news, information, debates and essays about the topics that interest you most.

Sign up today to receive all this and more delivered right to your in-box.

 

All right, I lied. It is annoying to know that from the moment you were born Madison Avenue and the rest of the world has stalked you like a rich relation, trying to sell you deodorant, Ozzie and Harriet, real estate, insurance, The Price is Right and nostalgia in movies, books and bottles. Boomers provide work for Meryl Streep and Robert DeNiro, preserve the memories of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix and will not permit the world to forget “IN A GADDA DA VIDA.”

I cannot but wonder, albeit idly, what the Times and Mr. Winerip will select as the alleged topics that interest me most. At the moment, I am most interested in how it is that some morons manage to get elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Somehow, I don’t see the newsletter tackling that subject.

FOOTNOTE: Yesterday, Oct. 2, was the 45th anniversary of the Massacre of Tlatelolco at the Plaza de Tres Culturas, in which mostly students in Mexico City were slaughtered by the troops and police of President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz. Reports were that 300 were killed, then thousands. But the documented dead are only 44. Did I really say only.?