Adios Chuk Shon, Part 2

I guess using the word Milghan in the title of last week’s blog was too much of an in-crowd joke. People who have read my Walker Family books know that Milghan is the Tohono O’odham word for Anglos, and Chuk Shon is the old Indian word for Tucson. Any questions?

Tomorrow the packers come and the following day the moving truck arrives. So right now, in the relative peace of a Sunday morning, I’m working on my blog several days early.

What are the things I’m going to miss most about Tucson? The answer: What I’m doing right now, sitting in the sun-dappled shade of the patio, laptop on my lap, writing the blog and listening to the mourning dove calling back and forth to one another. Noisy traffic may be hurtling by on Fifth, just outside our block wall, but the dove remain totally above the fray. And what shade it is! The two magnolia trees, right next to the patio are about to blossom. The palo verdes in the back yard are ablaze with yellow blooms. The accidental palm trees, ones grown from dates that happily landed next to an irrigation pipe, are springing up here and there in the yard. Since these are offspring of our grove of native Arizona palms, we welcome each and every one. The oleanders we planted just inside the exterior wall are alive with blooms—white, pink and red. Just outside the back gate that leads to our “back forty,” our family of pack rats is busy doing what pack rats do, and I guess they win. We’re packing to leave. They’re not.

We have several patches of desert spoon scattered around the interior back yard. One of them was in very bad shape last year, and I had our gardener give it a crew cut. This year it’s back and blooming, and the humming birds love it. In fact, here’s one of those right now. And speaking of our gardener—Ephrain Cervantes. I’ll miss him, too. He’s been our gardener since we bought the place, but he was also the gardener for the owners before us. He’s actually looked after the property for more than thirty years. I hope the new owners keep him on. He’s the one who knows where all the irrigation lines are buried.

So being on the back patio early in the morning is very high on my list of things I’ll miss about being in Tucson. Orange blossoms come in as a close second. I grew up in Bisbee. It may be Arizona, but it’s also at a 5000 foot elevation, so no orange trees there. When I came to the University of Arizona and smelled my first orange blossoms in the spring of 1963, I was utterly enchanted, and that sense of wonder hasn’t gone away.

Next up would be eating Texas Ruby grapefruit, still sun warm, from the tree we planted just outside our bathroom window. We start picking the first ones in late February and have them fresh off the tree all through March and April.

This is a long, flat house. I’ll miss the interior 200 step laps when I’m getting my steps because it’s too hot to walk outside. And for cooler walking, I’ll miss the manicured circular pathways in the back yard that can turn into 1000 step laps. In Seattle I walk inside when it’s too cold or wet to be outdoors.

The past eleven days, in addition to the sorting and packing, we’ve been conducting a farewell tour of all our favorite places. Naturally, that means food with a capital F. Unfortunately Lerua’s is gone, so we couldn’t have their green corn tamales, but you can’t beat the red chili and paper thin freshly made flour tortillas from the Anita Street Market in Barrio Anita. We’ve had taquitos and margaritas at the Guadalajara Grill; we’ve savored escargot at Le Rendezvous; we’ve divided gigantic sweet rolls four ways at Gus Balone’s; we’ve feasted on well done corned beef hash at the Hungry Fox; we’ve devoured the Girl Scout cookie based dessert at Feast.

As far as Tucson dining establishments are concerned, there was only one fail. Omar’s at the Triple T—a place where my folks always stopped for deep dish apple pie—was a huge disappointment. It was fine a month ago when I stopped there on the book tour, but by yesterday, it wasn’t the same place. For one thing it was nearly empty. Nonetheless the service was impossibly slow, and when our food came, it was dead cold. If butter doesn’t melt on your french toast or your pancakes, something isn’t right. When the people at the table next to us finally got their food, only half of it came. They got up and walked.

But what were we doing at the Triple T yesterday? We were on our way to Bisbee for the day. Our friend and decorator, Jim Hunt, has been with us on this packing adventure, advising us on what we should leave behind and what we should take, and deciding in advance, if a piece of furniture is going north with us, where the hell is it going to go. But by yesterday we were pretty much done with all that, so on our day off we went to Bisbee.

Jim has read all my books, but he’s never been to the scene of the crime, as it were, and this was a golden opportunity. We booked a 2:00 PM Lavender Jeep Tour. We met up with Gary Dillard, the tour operator, at 2 PM in the lobby of the Copper Queen Hotel. When he came in, two people came tagging along behind. They were long time fans of mine from Phoenix who were doing a 35th anniversary trip to see Joanna Brady’s Bisbee. When the wife figured out they were going on a tour with me, she told her husband that he was good for their anniversary, Mother’s Day, and her birthday as well.

The tour was a two and a half hour adventure. On the open Jeep trip out to High Lonesome Road my new glasses blew right off my head. Fortunately Jim Hunt caught them before they blew right out of the Jeep. That ride also turned my hair into a fright wig. With the help of conditioning shampoo, I finally got rid of the last of the dirt and tangles this morning. But Gary is terrific. He drove us up and down the narrow streets of town, all the while delivering an easy going narration that’s full of historical interest with plenty of fun tidbits included for loyal J.A. Jance readers tossed in on the side.

We finished the evening with dinner at Café Roka. After having such a spectacular failure with the Triple T that morning, I was worried that Café Roka might also have fallen from grace. It has not! The food there was absolutely glorious.

So tonight is our last night here at the house. When the evening is over, the TV will go off for good. The cable boxes will go back to Cox. The Wi-Fi will be shut down. And tomorrow we’ll move to the Arizona Inn where we’ll enjoy reveling in their gorgeous flower filled beds—poppies or snapdragons anyone? We’ll spend the next three nights there while coming back to the house during the day to oversee packing and loading.

As a storyteller on the reservation I learned the a story must end where it begins, and so it’s entirely appropriate that we’ll be ending our Arizona sojourn at the Arizona Inn, the place where we couldn’t stay on that long ago June day when we first arrived.

As for all my favorite people—my Tucson-based fans? Don’t worry. It’s not as though we’re leaving forever. I’m sure we’ll be back for the Tucson Festival of Books and on book tours. Just think of me as Arnold in the Terminator.

I’ll be back!

31 thoughts on “Adios Chuk Shon, Part 2

  1. Oh you’ll be missed. I’m new to Tucson (not quite 4years) but I always just relaxed a bit when I knew you were back in town. I know it must not have been an easy decision to make. Have a wonderful life in Seattle and see you when you “visit” in the future although your “visiting”will not be the same.

  2. You will miss Tucson more than you realize. I can see you going back. And what a difference in weather you will have!

  3. That’s the wonder of writing. It let’s people learn about places they’ve never been. That comment alone made my day.

  4. Reading this helped me remember all the things I miss about southern Arizona and to some extent Phoenix. We moved to Phoenix in 1964 from Texas. It didn’t seem so different from West Texas but then again it was light years away. The mountains for one thing, palm trees, oleander bushes, citrus trees, and Orange Blossoms. Oh the orange blossoms! I had never smelled anything so wonderful in my life. By the time I moved from Phoenix to Kentucky nearly 2 years ago I didn’t like Phoenix so much anymore. It has gotten way too big and was a whole lot hotter than when I first moved there. So I want to thank you for reminding me what it was about Arizona that I loved so much in the beginning.

    • I too arrived in Glendale in 1962. All the things you mentioned hold true. At the time, the only freeway in the Phx metro area went from Dunlap to 16th st. Now with 3 loops around the city it is in the hundred miles+. I loved eating outside at Aunt Chilada’s while the orange blossoms spread their fragrance, and I found out that if a stray blossom fell on your food on the way to your mouth, it was very sweet.

    • Isn’t it amazing what you find when you get ready to move. My kids couldn’t understand why it took me so long to go through stuff. I had boxes of stuff from my parents that had to be gone through too. I tracked down classmates of my brother and gave them back their graduation photos. Most of them were thrilled as they didn’t have one to show their children. I tracked down cousins and mailed off pictures of their deceased parents. That project and the time involved was worth it. It is very draining physically and emotionally to sort through all the memories in your home. My mom had some 70 year old school memory stuff that I donated to their museum. They were thrilled as they had very little from that now extinct mining town. My boys didn’t really understand the emotional part, they haven’t lived long enough to have the emotional connection to grandma’s furniture or favorite dishes. The memories attached to items makes all the difference. Oh well, life goes on. I kept the major stuff and offered up the rest to any family members that wanted it and hope they appreciate it. So, I hope you insert your Arizona furniture into your Washington home and smile every time you see those pieces and remember the good, the bad, and the ugly. Time marches on.

  5. Time to move on. Our paths dissect as you bid farewell in Tucson and full time residency in Seattleland, I just two weeks ago left Seattleland 20 years after relocating from Chicago (on Lake Meridian shore in Kent with Mount Rainier as a backdrop). The change in the Emerald City from fresh aromas of water and evergreen to the now common putrid smell of urine in our metropolitan city had me conclude my health needed a change so here I am searching for a home in The Villages, FL – a big cacoon where no one sleeps on sidewalks or the beautifully manicured green parkways and I can ride my bike on a flat surface and listen to the birds instead of traffic.
    I wish the best for both of us 70+.

  6. I’m so sorry you’re leaving Tucson, but hope it will be the right decision for you. Joanna Brady introduced us to the wonders of Cochise County, and we continue to be frequent visitors there on our Fridays off adventures which we began more than 20 years ago in a quest to see whether some of the places in your books really existed! Every Friday, rain or shine, we go “exploring.” Thanks for the kick that got us started! Much happiness in this next phase of your life! Sharon Stites

  7. I don’t know you, except through your books. I don’t live in Tucson, though I do love it. Still, I feel as though I am losing a wonderful neighbor. Best wishes in Seattle l

  8. I grew up in Ballard and lived there until I got married and moved to San Diego where my husband was stationed in the Navy. My great-aunt was a huge fan of yours from the beginning (she stalked you at every book signing in Seattle until 1999). When I got homesick, she sent me your books. I could picture almost every place you wrote about.

    When my husband left the Navy, we moved to Everett, then Mount Vernon, where we lived for 24 years. Last year we went on a road trip down I-5 to San Diego and then decided to go to Phoenix and Tucson. We fell in love with the area and actually looked at a couple of houses while there. 2 weeks ago, we became Arizona residents when our new house closed. First thing unpacked? All of my Beaumont books.

    I am sure that we will miss the green of WA, but I am looking forward to exploring AZ. We found our first scorpion in the garage last night!

  9. I was four and living in Bisbee when I had my first and only scorpion sting. My mother was in the hospital having my younger brother, and I was outside barefoot–naturally. My sisters, who were babysitting, had no idea what to do, but our next door neighbor, Mrs. Whiteaker, brought over her bottle of Mrs. Stewarts Bluing and put that on the site of the sting. It worked like a charm. You might want to keep some on hand. Good luck in your new digs.

  10. My friend, we will always welcome you back with arms open wide whenever you return. You never really “leave” Tucson … you simply go away for a while. We will leave a light on to help guide you safely when you journey back our way. Vaya con Dios.

  11. One time not too long ago, I heard you say”You can take the girl out of the desert, but you can’t take the desert out of the girl.” So wherever you go, you will take that information along for the ride.

  12. Each move has brought new adventures for you. South Dakota to Bisbee to the Uni. AZ to WA, etc., etc. I have no doubt it will be true again.

    I wish you luck. Warning, once you start down sizing, it often continues!

    Wishing you and Bill good health and new WA adventures!

  13. **Sob, sniff** I enjoyed reading your farewell memory tribute. However, I don’t look forward to the day I must downsize from my gorgeous home with an unobstructed view of the southern Sierra Nevada that includes the nearby locations of Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks. Your experience inspires me that I can pack up and leave when that time comes…

  14. Thanks for your wonderful memories of Tucson and we do share some of your favorite plants and places around Tucson too.
    Looking forward to seeing you and Bill sometime in the summer months. We are unpacking now in our cottage at Birch Bay and enjoying a beautiful sunny day here!
    Warm greetings from Kerry and Harley

  15. We had an accidental palm tree in Scottsdale. It was at the rear of our 2 1/2 acres, next to the irrigation outlet. It was 15 feet tall before we noticed it !

  16. Oh I want to move in right now! I’m in the midst of reading The A List, and your blog was one of the few things that could tear me away! This blog is full of love and appreciation, and what a treat to see Bisbee, the scene of the crime, with you! Lucky man.

  17. Fun read, since we know so many of these places. Gary is a must for anyone who goes to Bisbee, he is very knowledgeable and a great tour guide. Although we didn’t get to see you often, it was always nice knowing you were “back home,” and we will miss you from that respect. Take care and, as the truckers say, “we’ll see you on the flip-flop.”

  18. Safe travels! And thanks for sharing your loves of Tucson.

    When we left our ranch in New Mexico a year and a half ago, having lived in the southwest for only six years…I knew what I would miss most. Shade.

    “Shade” you say? In the southwest? Yes, absolutely. Because I had never given it much thought in Washington state. It was the stuff you planted your hostas in. It was where special grass seed needed to grow. But nothing was precious about it.

    In New Mexico, at 6600 feet, high in the the Gallinas Mountains, I loved to find a “piece” of shade on a hot, dry, single-digit humidity day. My shade! Maybe only large enough for one person to stand in, but precious all the same.

    Welcome back to Washington!

  19. Tears and hearts- – – sooo sad today ! Now each time I’ll stop for TTT I’ll try ordering with you!! I will let you know if they cook it better. My husband just told me some of his friends told him the same thing—— that several people won’t stop there anymore.
    Good luck, best moving, and best health to both of you.!!

  20. I have no plans to go to Tucson any time soon, but when and if I do I want to stay at the Arizona Inn. A friend of mine worked there some years ago and he gave me a brief tour. I love the place.

    Hope your move goes well and you will be happily settled soon.

  21. Sorry you are leaving Tucson! We will miss bragging that J A Jance lives here! Will look forward to your new books and book signings! My best wishes to you and Bill and hope he continues to do well! We will miss you and will continue to claim you as our local writer! Safe travels!

  22. Oh, Judy, I don’t know how to say how sad I am that you & Bill are leaving Tucson. I truly do wish you total happiness in this new chapter of your life. Changes of any kind are almost always hard for me. One change that was easy was when my last husband and I vacationed in Tucson in May of 1994, immediately fell in love with it and so immediately went back to Alabama, sold home and everything, quit our jobs, and moved here permanently. Many changes then happened that I had no control over, but all in all, I have had a wonderful life in Arizona and you are certainly part of that. Reading your books, exploring Bisbee, Tombstone & all of southern Arizona has been such fun. I know this does not mean the end of our friendship or the end of my Tucson lifestyle, but I sure will miss just knowing you are only on the other side of town. I will be faithfully reading your blogs to see when you will be in town again for any reason. You can’t see tear stains on a blog page, but they are here. Gigantic hugs to you & Bill from me & Frank.

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