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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The ultimate meaning of life is to embrace that which compels you to act in spite of fear.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Under the Tuscon Sun

I haven't posted in darn near two months, so I figured I'd best be posting again.

The flavour of that last sentence was inspired by the sweet, earthy taste of the Arizona air still fresh in my mind. When you're there, it gets into everything.

After the recent passing of my father-in-law (from post-surgical complications), my wife, stepson and I went to a resort in the desert just south of Tucson, Arizona. She attended some of a conference for work, and the rest of the time we all made a family getaway of it. Now, Arizona is truly a getaway.

I'd been to the state before (so had my wife), as my grandfather spends his winters in Yuma, AZ, but that was in January. Winter in Arizona is what I imagine the anteroom to God's office would be like: almost perfection. It's blue, dry, and 75. However, daytime highs in late May and early June in the land of the Saguaro cactus are over 100 F. But the humidity levels top out around 15%. So when the night temps plummet about 40 degrees, you can turn off the air conditioner.


Though my ancestors came from the wet lands of Ireland, England, and Newfoundland, I have always been fascinated by deserts - particularly red ones. Their starkness and inescapable hostility make my imagination soar into the blue skies that drop rain only on occasion. (This was partly the reason why I loved A Canticle For Leibowitz and Dune.) Granted, we got to soar in an air-conditioned mini bus from the airport, so survival was not really a big issue. But, it's about imagination, so work with me here.

Speaking of which, one of the highlights of the otherwise low-key vacation was an outing to the Old Tucson Studios. During its heyday, several westerns were filmed in this town-studio first constructed to resemble the Tucson of 1860 for the film Arizona, starring William Holden. You can read the detailed history if you're interested. For me it was a portal into a way of life that has intrigued me ever since I was a kid in Northern Ontario.

To say I loved movies growing up would be an understatement. So when the guide on the bus said the image of the mountain at the beginning of Columbia Pictures movies comes from one of the rugged hills right next to the Old Tuscon Studio, I felt as though I were coming home. Throw an outdoor BBQ and a former John Wayne double into the deal, I'm there. Yeee-haw! We had to shout this on our way out of the bus to the studio. I know, it sounds silly.

Yes, the family fun park experience is a little cheesy. But after two months of watching my father-in-law's slow, heartbreaking decline, we were all ready for some child-like fun, overcooked meat, and questionable peach cobbler.

Because life can be short, even if you don't have to combat the heat of the desert. And it's sweet, whatever the taste.


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