Last night I had a dream—or maybe a nightmare—one good enough to share. Like most dreams, it was a conglomeration of disjointed segments. I don’t remember how it started, who I was with or any of the details that would make up a coherent story, but somewhere along the journey, we wound up on a porch overlooking a Jaguar for sale in the parking lot. I didn’t recognize the model, but it was a newer swoopy kind. I decided to look closer.
When I walked up to it, I could see that the brown paint was cracking like an antique oil painting and after opening the bonnet—it was British after all—there was a fresh oil puddle under the engine. As I walked around it, I pushed on the trunk lid causing new cracks. Just then the owner walked up and asked if I’d like to buy it. I declined and pointed out the flawed paint and the oil, which was now beginning to creep toward the drain. “Yeah, that’s why the price is so cheap. We can talk about it over a scotch.” He was a pleasant enough chap in his late thirties with blondish hair, and since he was a man of good taste, I agreed to meet him at the bar.
Since I knew the way, I agreed to lead the procession and my companion and I headed to my car, which was a BMW, Mercedes or some other Teutonic brand, but when I walked up to it, the design was a mid-engine Italian pointy thing—the kind of car where you only want a view over the hood. It was afternoon rush hour and getting out of the Biltmore Fashion Park garage was going to be tough. Since I couldn’t see to back up, I pulled forward out of the spot and a line of cars followed. I made my way into a dead-end corner of the garage and now I had to back out, but first, everyone behind me had to move.
That’s how the rest of my dream went—with me inching the car backward through a crowded parking garage. I never got that sexy beauty out on the road and up to speed. It was an interesting twist on a common theme of my dreams—trying to get somewhere with insurmountable objects in the way. Studies haven’t been conclusive about the functionality of dreams. One camp believes they may be a harbinger of the future while others feel they’re a way of cataloging our daily experiences—sort of like a librarian putting books back on the shelf. I don’t know if dreams have any meaning or purpose, but at least in this one, I still had my pants on.
We’re back this evening from an overnight Yuma trip where I was reminded what is important in local news. While we were getting ready to leave the motel, we had the TV on. Like most local stations throughout the country, Yuma’s local broadcast talent was on doling out the news, weather, and traffic. I know, it’s good to know how long it will take to get to work. But in this case, instead of helping the viewers avoid the freeway bottlenecks, Channel 11 reported how long the lines were at the Customs and Immigration inspection stations. And you thought your daily commute was silly.
Tonight we have some more good news. I have another print accepted for a show. This one is the Surprise Invitational show which will run from October 19th thru December 20th. The exhibition will be in the Arts HQ, at 16126 N. Civic Center Plaza. There will be a free reception on Thursday the 19th from 5 to 9 pm, with music and food trucks—some of those are good, but I still remember when we called them Roach Coaches.
Getting into this show was a last-minute effort. I found out about it the day before the deadline. Fortunately, they had an online application that I could send my photos from my computer last Monday. I sent in three shots I took over the summer and they picked the one called Piedmont Crossing. It wouldn’t have been my first choice, but what do I know.
I hope that you can join us at the opening on the 19th, but I understand if you’re busy with Halloween decorations. Surprise civic center is west of Grand Avenue south of Bell. If you’re in the area, I hope you take time to take in the show. Who knows, one of the art pieces may catch your eye and make it into Santa’s big red bag.
We have rabbits at North Ranch. They’ve always been a fixture at the park, but with the abundant rain and good growing season, they’ve multiplied like … well, rabbits. On our morning walks, Queen Anne and I have spotted a jackrabbit or two, but they only venture onto the property when there’s no rain and they need to drink. They have black tails, cartoon ears, and they’re large enough that, when they rear-up on hind legs, they could slap a coyote silly. They’re also very skittish. Once they know that you’re looking at them, jackrabbits run off and don’t stop until they’re well out of sight in the desert.
More common are the desert cottontails. They are house-cat size with brown coats that blend well with the ground. Sometimes we’ll see two or three of them in a yard or they’ll leisurely hop across the street (presumably to get to the other side where the cactus is greener). Humans don’t frighten them and you nearly have to kick them out of your way. If startled, they’ll run about ten feet before they drop from exhaustion. They’re really out of shape.
When we first moved here, I’d hear Her Highness say, “Ooh look, a bunny. He’s sooo cute.” That was before she started planting flowers. Neighbors warned her about the rabbits eating everything, so she bought containers. She forgot that rabbits hop. Our house soon became the local Bunny-KFC and only plant stubs were left in her pots. Now she pots things they won’t eat and keeps the flowers on the porch.
I tease her that they could be a cheap source of protein when we become old and destitute. She responded with her normal, “Eww.” People say that rabbit tastes like chicken. I say, “Just eat chicken.” I tried it once in an upscale Scottsdale restaurant and it tasted like … marinara sauce. I like to fish, but I don’t bring them home because she won’t eat them and I don’t care much for cleaning them. I can’t imagine myself skinning and cleaning a rabbit. I’d wind up marinating it with the old Technicolor-yawn before I made it half-way through.
In Denali last year we learned about snowshoe hares and how they were the food chain’s staple. Their population rises and falls cyclically. Prey animals that depended on the hare to survive also fluctuate in numbers a season or two behind the snowshoes. I expect that’s true about our cottontails too. I wouldn’t be surprised for them to attract more owls, hawks, bobcats or even a cougar. It’s the coyotes that keep them in balance though. Our local sportsmen have taken to hunting down the packs around North Ranch to protect their favored hound—the mighty Chihuahua.
I’m leery of actions that upset nature’s balance. We should have learned about thoughtless intervention and how often it backfires on us. I’m concerned about killing off too many predators leaving us overrun with desperate diseased and crazy rabbits. Anyone who has seen The Holy Grail knows how horrifying an attack bunny is. I say, this year everybody gets bunny slippers for Christmas.
We don’t have pets. We settled that quickly in our first year of marriage. Both of us had dogs before, but Queen Anne prefers yappy purse-dogs and I’m partial to working breeds. Neither was willing to compromise. What ended the debate, however, was that we weren’t willing to clean up after a dog, so we settled on houseplants. It’s worked for us so far.
When we had a fenced back yard, we had no worries about stepping on a surprise package, and we like being outside when the weather’s nice. The Congress house doesn’t have fences and in the past month, we’ve found good size turds in the yard. Our association has a strict dog policy mandating that they don’t run free and the owner must pick-up after them, so I deduced that it was the work of a loose cat I see from time to time. I call him Lucky, because we also have coyotes that move through the neighborhood, yet he’s still alive. Even more of a puzzle is that on our morning walks, we noticed that everyone has presents in their yard. Even the streets have droppings. That’s one hell of a busy cat.
When I got home after a meeting last Monday, I saw a large toad hopping from our driveway into the neighbor’s yard. I forgot about the Sonoran Desert Toads because I hadn’t seen one since I lived in Scottsdale thirty-five years ago. They hibernate most of the year and only come out at night during the monsoon season. Their backs carry poison glands that can kill a dog if it bites into it. You shouldn’t try to pick one up because they’re also toxic to humans. After they mate and lay eggs in standing water, they crawl back into a hole and sleep for another year.
It was our neighbor—Jane— that told us about the toad scat. “It couldn’t be, it’s too big for a toad! It’s gotta’ be a dog,” I thought. She was right because the poop easily breaks down in a light rain leaving only the undigested insect exoskeletons which look like a handful of dry oatmeal. Damn! You learn something every day, I hate picking it up, but I can’t blame the neighbors anymore.
When we drove home from the Herberger opening reception last Friday, I put on the high beams and slowly turned into the driveway. I hoped to show Anne one of the toads. We lucked out because she spotted something by the porch stairs. Except it didn’t hop, it crawled. “Is there a flashlight in here,” Anne asked.
“Sure,” I answered and dug around in the console to fish it out. I turned it on and got out of the truck and went for a better look. When I was close, I turned and shouted, “You got to come and look.” She walked over from the truck and saw what I had in the light; she ran up the porch stairs without her feet ever touching them. It was a tarantula, about the size of my hand … If I had LeBron James’ hands. We followed it for a while—me from the yard and her from the porch—until I got bored and handed her the light so I could put the truck in the garage.
After I put Fritz away, I walked through the house and joined her on the front porch. Mr. Spider had made it around the porch as she silently watched. The giant spider acted like it was out for an evening stroll and seemed a bit annoyed in the spotlight. It stayed next to the house as it moved south. When I saw enough, I handed the light to Anne and went inside.
Soon the screen door slammed and Anne bellowed, “There’s a tarantula in my front yard. We’re moving.” Then she went to the desk and put new batteries in the flashlight before going back outside. I don’t know when she came in, because I went to bed. When I asked the next morning, she told me that she watched it until it disappeared into the neighbor’s yard. Then she explained how we were going to seal up the house so they couldn’t get in. Now, she’s an old tarantula hand, they don’t faze her, but she won’t venture off the porch when it’s dark.
In the months before we married, my ex-wife bought a 59 cent Schefflera from Berridge Nursery as an apartment decoration. It came in a green-plastic pint container and was less than six inches tall with the same amount of shoots having the characteristic radial leaf pattern. She put it on the counter under the kitchen window so it could get enough light. Her cat, Frodo—being a contemptuous animal that cats are—ate half of the tiny plant’s leaves during the night. It would have made sense for her to toss the plant and run down the street to buy another, but she scolded the cat and moved the half eaten plant to a safer place.
Ten years passed, and my ex and I went our separate ways. When we divided the house, I got custody of the Schefflera. By now it was a waist-high shrubbery living in a large pot. When I moved into my condo, I put it at the end of my couch by French doors. It looked good there. Even when Queen Anne moved in, she agreed and promptly named it Harvey, which was how she marked her territory. Between the high ceilings and southern exposure, Harvey continued to grow. Like kids and shoes, we constantly re-potted him. He grew to eight feet. When we sat at that end of the couch, his overhead leaves would shade us.
After another decade, we wanted a house, and as we looked for a place, one of our considerations was where to put Harvey. He needed space. With the help of a realtor, we found a place only five miles away, and after navigating all the paperwork we hired movers to schlep our crap to the new house. Harvey was one of the last things to go, so he wound up in the back of someone’s pick-up truck. We didn’t trust him with the movers, but as I followed behind, I watched in horror as the forty-five mile an hour wind began to shred his leaves. By the time we put him in the new house, he looked like a tornado victim. He went into shock and the taller branches were wind-burnt, so we pruned and nursed him. He managed to survive, but he was forever stunted.
The next time Queen Anne had her seven-year itch, we were wiser. On this move, we made sure to wrap Harvey in a sheet and put him inside the moving truck. He didn’t go into shock and he made it without damage. He was a bit stubbier but had new growth each year. We found a spot for him in the family room at the end of the couch where he watched TV and listened to music with us for another seven years.
Our latest move was two years ago—to Congress and retirement. By now we were old hands a moving our pygmy tree. Even though we stayed in temporary housing for a month, when we settled in, Harvey took his place at the couch’s end and stood proudly. As we neared our Alaska Trip, he looked scraggly and we worried he wouldn’t make it, so Anne found a plant-sitter to look after Harvey and his siblings. Before we left, we moved everyone to the dining room where the light is better and it’s not as warm. The plant-sitters did a good job and all the plants survived the summer without us.
Even though we’ve stayed home this year, we haven’t been as lucky. With the porch and large Palo Verde tree out front, the light in the living room is marginal. To manage the summer heat, we’ve also been closing the blinds, which means less light. Harvey started losing leaves. To get more light, we moved him to the dining room and then in front of the guest bedroom’s north facing window. Anne has rooted in the soil trying to aerate it. His last leaf fell off on Tuesday. I think he’s root bound and has slowly drowned. He looks like the summer mesquite—just leafless branches. I’m afraid that our forty-five-year-old living room centerpiece has gone to the great salad bar in the sky. I suggested to Anne that we throw in the towel and replace him.
She turned, scowled and barked, “He’s not dead … he’s merely resting his eyes.”
We we’re traveling to a new town, one of the tools we rely on is the Web Site, Trip Advisor. You can search for things to do, hotels and restaurants. It’s like Yelp. The restaurant reviews are pretty helpful, but you have to watch out for people who have an axe to grind. I’ve even written a few reviews. Before our trip to Springerville, one of my chores was to check the restaurant reviews. When I did, I found two of the top-ten restaurants served Mexican food (the 11th ranked restaurant was McDonald’s). One of them is at the top of the list while the other is tenth.
My all time favorite joint for south of the border food is family owned and they have a couple of places in the Phoenix, and another in Springerville. I love their food because it’s New Mexican style. You may have already guessed that I’m talking about Los Dos Molinos. Their main location is on Central Avenue south of Baseline; in the old Tom Mix house (the link is for those who have no idea who Tom Mix was). The food is spicy hot and the Margaritas will knock you back on your spurs. A shock to me was that it is the underdog on Trip Advisor’s list.
The highest ranked place in town is Booga Red’s, and they also serve American and Southwestern (?) style meals. Cars are always parked in front and they’re open for breakfast. The style of their food is Nortino. It’s milder; like you’d expect at Macayo’s.
For the shootout, The Queen and I ate dinner at both restaurants and tried to order the same menu items — which was impossible. The judges are Queen Anne and me, we get one vote each. The common items that we judged are the chips and salsa, the margaritas, a taco and a tamales. I’ll be talking about the other stuff we ordered. Are you ready … bring out the chips and salsa.
Chips and Salsa
This is the first impression that you get at any place that serves Mexican food. The worst that I ever had was in Salina, Kansas, where they didn’t have a clue, and served cinnamon bun bites instead. There is a big difference between tonight’s candidates.
At Los Dos, they serve red and green salsa. Of course, you don’t really eat it. You only hold the chip over your favorite color and let it absorb the fumes. If you accidentally dip your chip into the salsa, carefully shake it off, and immediately order a glass of milk. Their chips are thicker and darker, but they need to be. If they were thinner, they would instantaneously burst into flames. We didn’t finish the chips and salsa.
Booga Red’s chips are light and thin and taste good, but the salsa is a clone of Pace, the salsa that you buy in Safeway. There aren’t any chunks, not enough jalapeños and no cilantro. We ate all the salsa.
(Los Dos – 1, Booga Red’s – 1)
When you order a margarita at Los Dos, they ask you if you want a single, double or three shots of tequila. The mix is distinctly house made. Anne didn’t like it because it was sweet instead of tart, but that didn’t stop her from ordering a second.
I thought the Booga Red’s margarita was indistinguishable from the pre-mixed Costco bottles. The tequila was probably in there but it wasn’t up-front. I still ordered a second.
(Los Dos – 1, Booga Red’s – 1)
This is where it gets complicated. The nightly special at Los Dos Molinos was Posole which I am very fond of and rarely find on a menu, while Anne ordered a quesadillas at Booga Red’s, so there’s nothing to judge here. I must say that my soup lacked flavor. It needed more seasoning (not just chilies), it needed to simmer longer and it needed more of the ingredients that make up a great Posole, however the pork was fork-tender (as only Los Dos Molinos can do). My other complaint was that Mama’s Carnitas were not on the menu, and that is my favorite and why I go there. As for quesadillas, you can do those in the microwave in fifteen seconds.
Tacos and Tamales
OK, we’re down to the basics. At Los Dos, the tamales was everything you would expect. Course ground masa with a spicy pork filling and, in this case, topped with a red enchilada sauce. If the masa was made with blue corn, I would have died right on the spot. I tried to order a shredded beef taco, but Angelina insisted that I try the Carne Adovada — marinated pork — and I was glad. I can count on one hand the number of tacos that I’ve had better.
Booga Red’s shredded beef taco was very good, and I’d order it again. It was light on flavor but the shell was cooked properly and held up as you ate it. The tamales on the other hand was something I’ve never seen. The masa was light and airy, almost flour like, and it had whole kernels of corn mixed in?!? I ordered mine enchilada style with green chili on top. This close to New Mexico, I expected tears in my eyes, but instead it was a tasty chili gravy. It was good but bland, just like I like my Cream of Wheat.
(Los Dos – 1, Booga Red’s – 1)
Desert (this is actually cheating)
At Los Dos Molinos, Angelina makes her own Sangria, that’s a wine and fruit juice mix. It’s awful and most of us stopped drinking it in the sixties. However, after she makes the wine, she uses the smashed fruit to make an upside-down cake. It’s baked in a skillet like a normal pineapple one, only the fruit marinades the cake half-way through. I’ll be really honest here, pineapple upside-down cake is my favorite and I bake one each year for my birthday. This was better than anything I have ever made, and mine are damn good.
Booga Red’s — < the sound of crickets>.
(Los Dos 2, Booga Red’s – 0, but this doesn’t count)
If you’re keeping score, you’ve noticed that we have a tie. You can tell which of us enjoys a little adventure. Now, I regret to tell everyone that Anne thinks that the best tacos come from … Taco Bell. Because she obviously has no taste, she is disqualified from the judging panel. So, the winner is … whoever you like the most. If you like safe and tasty food, Booga Red’s is the place for you. We both enjoyed our meal there. If you’re one of Satin’s children, I recommend Los Dos Molinos, because it’s beyond the normal.
And now we return you to regularly scheduled programming.