I've ditched the dumpling research in search of a warmer climate and was treated to a plane ticket to come out to Tucson and visit my sister-by-another-mother, Ilene and her fantastic husband, Greg. I arrived late last night, about 2am on my East Coast body clock and was greeted by Ilene, Greg and Arrow, the smiling stray dog they found last year. He dutifully poked his head out the window as we drove into town and kept stepping on the window control and opening the window wider to get his whole body out there and bark at whatever was hiding in the cactus.
This morning I woke up to the cooing and calling of desert birds, morning doves and hooting owls and dogs greeting each other for the day and was dropped off on 4th Avenue, the main drag just outside of "downtown" Tucson. There's a thriving coffee house scene here at Epic Cafe, I'm surrounded by folks taking their time, reading the paper, talking politics, spirituality and economics, web surfing and just being neighborly. People here are actually talking to each other! It's refreshing. Especially watching the regulars greet each other and jump in conversation. Living in New York, I haven't found an atmosphere like this and I'm not sure it exists outside of small towns. If you're reading this and you've found one, let me know!
As far as the food goes, I've been pretty minimal since I'm kind of hanging out there absorbing time and not really here to eat. The dessert case at the front of the store looks pretty enticing though and has lots of friendly looking cakes and pies, vegan scones and raw food bars. I tasted the Hungarian Mushroom Soup (which oddly enough I made on set this week) and it was a little more watery and had more paprika than my version but it was very tasty just the same. The small salad I had was also very satisfying with a little feta, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and home-made looking flatbread and a balsamic vinagrette.
I'm on my way out of here after four hours and as many cups of mint tea and explore the rest of 4th Avenue.
I found some amazing vintage Mexican tops, dresses and fantastic cowboy boots in thrift stores down the street and a store that sells seeds and items made from plants that are native to the desert ecosystem. There's an art gallery that sells work made by local homeless artists and artists (hopefully with homes) in the area and around the corner on the way to downtown, there's a few larger art galleries on the way to the warehouse district with incredible work from modern artists. I meandered my way to the heart of the business district and sat in the beautiful park outside of the Moorish dome of the Pima County Court House and enjoyed the sun.
At then end of the day, Greg and Ilene and I had drinks outside on the patio of the Hotel Congress, known for great rock shows these days and it's gangster harboring history.