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Archives for May 2014

A story filled with wonder

A short story on page C3 in today’s Arizona Daily Star said an unnamed Border Patrol agent yesterday killed an unknown fleeing “person” near the Torres Blancas golf club in Green Valley.

I was struck by the quote from the BP statement as reported in the story:

“Agents pursued the driver and during the encounter, an agent discharged his service issued weapon, resulting in the death of the driver.”

There’s a lesson there in how to back your ass into a story so it sounds like much less than a human being killed by a border cop in the desert.

Wonder why the BP had to kill. Wonder if the driver was armed. How come the BP gave chase? Did the agent fear for his life? Wonder if the agent fired a warning shot? Wonder if the agent fired more than one shot? Or did he shoot him dead with one shot, like Dead Eye Dick? Or did he empty his “weapon”? Wonder if the dead person (man or woman?) was an illegal immigrant. Wonder if this will turn out to be yet another case of government-sanctioned murder with impunity. When it comes to the BP, Justice is blind, deaf, hog-tied and passed out dead drunk.

Notice that the story was tucked in a back page of a back section. That’s because the when the BP kills people, it’s hardly news. Very routine.

It’s just the border.

Nobody gives a shit.

Poetry at Campbell and Skyline



Thurday last, I bought some poems at the intersection of Campbell and Skyline. For a buck.

A man who said to call him the Homeless Guy wore a sandwich board and stood at the traffic island at the Campbell left turn bay. It said “Poems $1 for a few.”

At the time, I was heading west on Skyline, passed Campbell where the Poet was hawking. I passed him by unable to read all the stuff on his sandwich board. I had to drive a fer piece before I could make a U-turn, head east back to Campbell where I waited for the light to turn green and drove yet another fer piece where I could make a U-turn and gain the left turn lane in order to support a local poetry hawker. I thought perhaps they were his poems.

I waved by dollar bill and he came to my window. He was not a poet. He handed me three pieces of paper. They had been typed, copied and cut into strips. One was: “Biological Reflection by Ogden Nash.” It said:


A girl whose cheeks are covered with paint

Has the advantage with me over one whose ain’t.


I could have gone happily to my grave without reading that.

There was another poem by “Robery” Louis Stevenson. Not worth wasting your time. The other was by Robert Service.

No one is allowed on traffic islands in the city. The council banned people from traffic islands after a newspaper hawker for the Tucson Citizen was run over. It’s one of the many things that killed the newspaper.

It is unfortunate that I could but interview him but briefly until the traffic light changed. But he didn’t want to talk or give his name. He had the good sense to wear a hat and protect his nose.

His sandwich board said he had “no downers,” just stuff to brighten your day.” At the bottom of the sandwich board, he wrote, “Do not read while driving.”

Or not at all — as the case may be. But I give him credit for promoting cultural enrichment in heavy traffic.





An alleged state park in Oracle

A couple weeks ago Zoe and I decided we should take a hike. We settled on a trail we had read about that begins in Oracle State Park. We went. The park was closed.

It is closed every weekday. It’s an ARIZONA state park so it’s closed 5 days a week.

We called the number on the sign because we had a question. The recording said to leave a message, and a ranger would call us back. We left a message. It has been a couple weeks, and no one has called. I suspect there are no rangers to return calls.

We left the alleged state park and found a short hike down the road off the Mount Lemmon road. We got pictures of prickly pear blossoms and other desert flora. So we made something of a botched plan.

The wise and august members of the Legislature, who have cast the image of Arizona as an amalgamation of xenophobic racist morons, do not, on the whole, believe in parks. Hence, they unpay to keep them closed for all to unenjoy. These sagacious solons do not believe in public or state-financed higher education. Hence they also unpay to destroy our unfuture as well.

(The slideshow music is Paul Desmond playing Embarcadero.)



George A. Steiner was born during the Taft administration. He was 102 years of age on May 1 this year. He sent a card to mark his birthday. SCAN0062His son — John F. Steiner — and I attended graduate school at the University of Arizona during the Johnson and Nixon administrations. Father and Son — both have had rich and productive academic careers — have been writing the definitive college textbook on ethics and business, Business, Government and Society: A Managerial Perspective. I say “have been” because the 13th edition was  published two years ago.DSCF1137

It is the most interesting textbook I have ever read. Unlike most, it is replete with fascinating stories well told. The writing is first-rate — also a rare thing among the genre. One of my favorite gems is a chapter on Henry David Thoreau. The Steiners say of Thoreau that besides being indolent, he “became a beacon for the few in each succeeding generation who rejected materialism. But its light has a limited radius. Tourists now drawn to his Walden Pond homesite support three shopping malls within a mile as the crow flies.”

John says his father has “certain feelings” about being 102. All things considered, I think that’s understandable. His father dictated the content on the front of the card, which asks the question, “Do You Know Me?”

If you want to know more about George Steiner, search Google, and it will yield many books.

The search will not tell you about his paintings, one of which is in the background of the portrait, which was taken by John.

Many happy returns.SCAN0063


Ode to a mysterious cup

I am amazed by of my new coffee cup. It has a glaze to daze and dazzle.

Joel and Pam Nilsson

Joel and Pam Nilsson

I acquired this cup for what some would say was a pretty penny. I say cheap at twice the price. Since then, I find a cup of coffee most unsatisfying if I do not use this cup. We have a very nice collection of cups, mugs, thermos cups for the car, cups from Mexico, China (what isn’t from China?) and even this country. But they are unworthy vessels. Not even the cup from the JFK library compares.

My superior cup was made by Phoenix potter, Joel Nilsson. In another life, he was a reporter for The Arizona Daily Star. We met there more than 40 years ago. He moved on to the Arizona Republic and wound up his career there as an editorial writer.

As potters go, Joel isn’t particularly ambitious. He has no shop. He has no Internet presence. He has an active Facebook page, which is how to connect with him. He say he does not want to become an industry. He is truly an artist.

Joel and his wife Pam last month showed up at the Oracle Arts festival. I met them there and bought two bowls. As an afterthought, I bought the cup. What a buy.

It sat around for a day or two and I tried it. This was a different experience. The cup’s surface was room-temperature ice, smooth, slightly textured. Very, very different. It was very odd, but oddly outstanding. I tried other cups to test my sanity. They had no textured smoothness to surface. I asked Edie to try it. She said, “Huh, unhuh.” She already wonders about me.

And well she should. I am a bit fussy. I have been roasting coffee for better than six years. I have roasted green coffee beans from Hawaii to Yemen. As I write, I am sipping a coffee from Burundi called Muyinga Murago. I have a burr (as opposed to blade) grinder. I have drip coffee maker that heats water to better than 190 degrees, the minimum needed for a proper cup of joe.cropped-DSC_0018.jpg

But I’d never given much thought to the cup. I asked Joel how he made this glaze. He said he did not know. He said he could not explain why the glaze was exceptional. It may have had something to do with oxidation, and how the gases interact in  the kiln. Or maybe it had something to do with the handle. In the end, he said, it was all a crap shoot.

Thus the Mystery of the Glaze, a conundrum that is perhaps best left unsolved. Lends mystique to a cup of coffee. I should be grateful. Thanks, Joel. By the way, the bowls are elegant.