Bright Lights, Big Cacti

Arizona through the Eyes of a Native

Month: May, 2013

I’m Not Afraid of Flying

In the last year, I have taken four flights — one alone, two with Fuzzy, and one with Dan. These four flights essentially disprove my husband’s theory that I need to fly first class to feel safe. The real axiom is this: I’m not afraid of flying, I’m afraid of flying with Dan.

Dan doesn’t help matters with his “comforting” statements like: “If we die, at least we die together.” He maybe comfortable with a shorter lifespan, but I’m not even halfway to my goal of 100! That is not okay.

On Friday, Dan and I arrived at the airport a little after 1 pm. Since our flight was leaving at 3:20, we immediately headed for a bar, where I ordered a whiskey sour to calm my nerves before the flight. I was appropriately soused when our boarding time came…and went. A medical emergency on the previous flight (apparently a death, since we never saw the “patient” emerge) meant that we were bumped to another plane and delayed an hour and a half.

By the time we boarded the new plane, my pleasant buzz was a memory. Then the flight attendant announced that we would be experiencing “some turbulence.” Here’s a hint: if they tell you about the bumpy ride BEFORE takeoff, they aren’t really talking about a “little” turbulence. Nearly the whole three-hour flight was bumpy.

About half an hour before our expected descent into O’Hare, the turbulence disappeared. I was finally able to relax, since I have never been afraid of landings — only takeoffs. As the plane slipped lower in the skies, I mentally prepared for a relaxing few days in Chicago.

About twenty feet off the runway (seriously — cars looked full-sized again), the engines suddenly roared and the nose of the plane angled steeply upward. The blessed ground receded! I nearly had a panic attack as the attendant whispered to another passenger that a private plane had crossed into O’Hare airspace. The tower had instructed the pilot to abort the landing. We circled another twenty minutes before finally landing two hours late.

As soon as we stepped off the plane, I turned to Dan and said, “Have I mentioned how glad I am that we are driving home?”



On Vacation

As Dan says, I’m not afraid of flying — I’m afraid of flying coach.

I promise I’ll be back with a longer post on Wednesday. In the meantime, enjoy your Memorial Day weekend, and be sure to remember those who came before you and made your life possible.


Saturday Morning

Saturday morning and it’s growing light.
I look out my window and remember the night.
The story is starting and this story ends
And I feel like I need you again.

The verse above is from the song “Saturday Morning.” This is the song that’s playing on a loop in my head today. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s just been that kind of a month — a month when I am missing people who are no long accessible to me. (And yes, I am a huge Harry Chapin fan, despite the fact that he died a few years before I even discovered his music.)

One of those people I am missing is a youth minister named Jerry. He and I once lived together — along with half a dozen other people, including my first husband. No, it wasn’t like whatever you may be thinking, unless you are imagining a really crowded house filled with some of the funniest and best people I know. Scott and I had our own bedroom, but I don’t actually remember where Jerry was sleeping. The living room sofa? The bedroom that was eventually used for Ella’s baby? I just don’t know. Anyway, at some point Jerry realized that I couldn’t walk past the chess board that sat atop on old piano in the dining room without straightening the pieces. After that, he made it his sacred duty to give me something to straighten, just so that he could laugh up his sleeve at my OC tendencies. One evening I came home late to find everyone in the dining room eating dinner (or playing a board game — I can’t remember for sure). One of the pieces on the chess board was on its side; naturally, I stopped to correct the problem. Everyone burst out laughing, since Jerry had guaranteed them that I would stop and straighten the chess pieces. I’m sure I must have blushed when I realized that he was right — I couldn’t leave a chess board messy. After that, I averted my eyes from the board whenever anyone was around.

Jerry has been gone for years now. He left a big hole in the lives of those who knew him. I’m starting to recognize that every death leaves a hole. I’m worried that I’ll feel like Swiss cheese in a few decades.

May Sucks.

My mom fell and broke her arm on Monday, thereby pushing May into the clear winner as my least favorite month. So, in honor of that fact, here are the Top 10 Reasons I Hate May:

10. In Arizona, April showers never bring May flowers.

9. Leonardo da Vinci died in May 1519. He was really old though — I suppose it was his time. Still, the world lost a genius…in May.

8. My maternal grandmother died in May 1988.

7. In May 1970, four anti-war protesters were killed at Kent State by Ohio National Guardsmen.

6. My father-in-law died this May.

5. It was a bad month for Anne Boleyn, too. She was beheaded in May 1536.

4. The Hindenburg crashed in May 1937.

3. As previously mentioned, my mom broke her arm, which really sucks because she and Dad were preparing for a driving vacation to Alaska…which may or may not be on hold now.

2. I married my first husband in May 1997.

And the #1 reason I dislike May so intensely is…

1. Temperatures reach 100 degrees in Phoenix by May; there will be no substantial break in the weather until October.

I may be wrong, but I think Anne would agree with me.

I may be wrong, but I think Anne would agree with me.


Angels Do Exist

The last week has been a hard one for our family, but hospice made it bearable. Few things are more heart wrenching than watching a loved one die, especially when he or she is unable to tell you if they are in pain. The nurses and doctors who come to a terminal patient’s bedside are angels of mercy to them and to their families.

When my paternal grandfather passed away a few years ago as a result of cancer, Hospice of the Valley took excellent care of him. The facility in which he spent his last few days was clean, and his room — all the rooms, in fact — more closely resembled a bedroom than a hospital room. When another member of our family approached the end of his life recently, the family opted to care for him at home for as long as possible. My husband chose to contact Hospice of the Valley again; they immediately sent out nurses to evaluate the patient’s condition and provide drugs to ease his pain.

My advice to anyone caring for a terminally ill loved one would be: don’t wait to call hospice. If you happen to be in Arizona, call Hospice of the Valley.

Let’s Talk about Food

Dan hates it when I write about the family. So I won’t…at least, not today. Suffice it to say that all prayers and positive thoughts in support of the Bennetts are welcome.

In the meantime, let me tell you about a wonderful place Dan and I have recently discovered: Nineveh Restaurant. It’s located at the corner of 99th Avenue and Peoria, and, if it had been there a year ago, I would have written it into my Brass Monkey series as Milo and Claire’s favorite restaurant. Their gyro plate is the best I’ve ever eaten. the meat is moist and flavorful without being greasy. The bed of yellow rice is perfectly spiced — I wish someone would tell me the secret to making it. Mine never comes out like this.

If you go, don’t miss the appetizers. Their dolmas — a rice mixture wrapped in grape leaves — are amazing. Dan tells me that the key is the grape leaves: if they are prepared right, the dish is always good. I’ll have to take his word for it. But their hummus is perfect — not to be missed.

Our server, Martina, has been extremely friendly and helpful on all of our visits to the restaurant. She and the rest of the staff strive to deliver a wonderful experience for every guest. If you have never eaten Middle-Eastern cuisine, let this be your first experience. If you try gyro here, your standards will be set far above the average.

I think I’ll try the shwarma next time.


Against Medical Advice

I’m angry and sad today — and I’m trying not to show it.

Someone important to my husband’s family — a man I respect and love — is choosing to end his life by refusing medical treatment. I know this is his choice; it’s a choice I have seen others make before. Under other circumstances — if he had cancer, for instance — I would support his choice. But he doesn’t. He has pneumonia, which has led to sepsis and renal failure. He is probably going to die from something that is highly treatable in the 21st century.

I have said before that my goal is to reach the ripe age of 100. That wasn’t always true. When I was a teenager, I went through a bout of depression and found myself contemplating suicide. When I ultimately overcame those dark thoughts and emerged into a better, happier life, I decided that I would never let depression fool me into believing that life wasn’t worth living again. Even on my worst day, I know that I still have more good days ahead of me — and I want to see them.

But what if I didn’t see any better days coming? What if I spent every minute of every day living with pain, and the doctors told me there was no way to predict if that pain would ever disappear? How bad would that pain have to be before I decided that life wasn’t worth the trouble anymore? Before I chose to allow a curable illness to advance to where it could kill me?

I hope I never find out.

In the New Mexican Wilderness

Fuzzy and I have spent the last few days in and around Mountainair, New Mexico, where we are visiting her last surviving aunt, Ruby. Ruby is a spry 91, and, even though she can’t remember my name from introduction to introduction, she still teases me as if she likes me pretty well. In fact, we share a love of butterflies, the color purple, and eggnog — proof that we are indeed related!

Today, we drove to Encino, where my grandmother remembers spending part of her youth. We visited the graves of my great-great-grandparents there, on a desolate, windswept plain that seemed to have been, for the most part, forgotten. Nevertheless, I noted that someone in the family had put some fake red flowers on her grave relatively recently — no doubt a testament to “Mamma Nick’s” enduring reputation as an amazing mother and grandmother. Unfortunately, she was gone about a decade before I was born. No matter — I have my own amazing grandmother!

We also stopped at what used to be Negra, where my great-uncle was born in a strip motel in the 1930s. The building is still standing! A short ride down the road, we found the house Fuzzy lived in when she was a child. The back wall is all but gone, but the front, sides, and roof still stand. Fuzzy peeked in and said, “They remodeled it.” I thought she was referring to its lack of a fourth wall, but she continued, “It was one room when we lived here.” Sure enough, to one side of the building, I could see the remnants of what must have been an interior wall!

Notably, none of the small towns we went through today have a store or a gas station. Forget about getting something cold to drink! Mountainair is the most robust place we have encountered since leaving Albuquerque, and I’d be hard-pressed to call it thriving. Still, it’s a nice little town with friendly folks who all seem to look after one another.

And all I have to say is that I’m visiting Aunt Ruby — it’s an instant icebreaker around these parts!