This week has featured non-stop socializing. For one week, my dear friends, Bob and Linda, are visiting here from Ohio. Linda was Lee’s best friend. My friendship with Bob goes back to our days in high school.
Bob’s doctors have given him a clean bill for the moment, opening a travel window for him and Linda before his next round of medical tests and appointments. Barring a miraculous remission, Bob has a form of cancer that his doctors predict will take my old friend’s life in an uncertain but not-too-distant future.
We don’t take our friendship for granted. These days, every visit feels special and precious to me.
In addition to me, our mutual close friends Ross and Joanne, and Tom and Sherry, now permanently reside in Tucson. Also, Linda’s cousin has lived here for more than thirty years. Reasons enough for Bob and Linda’s current visit. Throw in the generally good weather, pleasant scenery, and a wide variety of activities, both outdoors and indoors, and you have all the ingredients for a splendid week among friends.
Tuesday evening, most of us were at Ross and Joanne’s home for dinner. Lola came along, too. She enjoyed playing with her new canine amigo, Ross’ mixed breed, Rez, almost as much as the extended opportunity that the evening afforded to scrounge and scavenge tasty scraps food off the kitchen floor and from underneath the dining room table while we humans shared a meal. Yesterday, Lola seemed content as usual, though lazy and sleepy, as if worn out by the prior evening’s festivities.
Ross and Joanne live generally in the direction of Mt. Lemon. I say generally because Tucson seems to spread out in all directions, like butter that has been left out too long in the desert. Their house in this gated community looks onto the Catalina range. Like most of the newer construction here, the house is pastel, with thick concrete walls and a red tile roof. A carefully managed stretch of desert scenery that features a short, groomed walking path located immediately behind the property gradually blends into a broad wilderness arroyo separating the gated community from the mountains. This vista is quite dramatic, especially the way in which the shadows and light can change over the course of a single day, dependent upon sun, wind, and clouds. From my vantage point, sitting in a comfortable chair in their yard, drink in hand, it’s hard for me even to fairly estimate the distance from Ross and Joanne’s home to the mountains. The giant Saguaros dotting the face of the nearest mountain look like tiny, chin whiskers.
I’m hoping to see some of the local wildlife: a roving pack of Javelinas or coyotes, or both; a horned owl; if I’m lucky, a fleeting glimpse of a bobcat. I know they are about because just a few days ago, Sherry and Tom’s security camera caught the image of a solitary, stocky feline exploring the rear of their property in the chilly, pre-dawn hours before the sun warms up the waking landscape.
After sunset I can hear the cries of coyotes but don’t see any.
Following a delicious dinner of salmon and a creamy polenta, accompanied with wine, hearty laughter and lively conversation, Bob and I adjourn to play guitars. Bob seldom leaves home without the notebook containing songs, including lyrics and chords, that he has been compiling over the years, especially if he knows we’ll be getting together. Joanne peruses the notebook and picks out some of her favorite tunes. Over our guitar accompaniment, she sings these with great energy and conviction, and is perfectly off key. Her unabashed singing prompts even more good natured laughter and smiles from Bob and me. In the background, there is a warm fire going in the hearth. Its heat feels soothing to me on a chilly evening. The fire occasionally makes loud crackles and pops, leaving trails of bright red and yellow sparks.
Meanwhile, I notice that Ross and Linda are deep in quiet conversation, sipping wine by the kitchen counter. I am only able to catch bits and pieces of their conversation. However, I gather that with Linda’s careful prodding, Ross is regaling her with some highlights of his adult life story, beginning with his decision at eighteen to leave home and head west, his first serious paying job as Zuni Bureau Chief for a small New Mexico newspaper, the circumstances surrounding his meeting and courtship of Joanne, their marriage, their subsequent travels, travails, and adventures. Ross’ story, which covers the better part of the past fifty years, takes some time to tell. By the time he is finished, he and Linda appear well on the way to knocking off a second bottle of wine.
Yesterday, we five, plus Linda’s cousin, met up for dinner at a popular joint that serves passable “authentic” Mexican food. Joanne brags that UNESCO has declared Tucson to be a “City of Gastronomy.” It’s unclear to me what this appellation is meant to convey, but frankly, to date I haven’t exactly been bowled over by the food I’ve sampled here. The sole exception to date has been the Baja Café, a simple and unassuming breakfast spot that is located in a small strip mall, which lived up to its rave reviews when Robyn and I ate there during her brief holiday from work. I plan to take Bob and Linda there (and whomever else might wish to join us) on Friday before we attend an artisan’s fair to be held near the Tucson Museum of Art.
First, however, tonight it’s pizza and more guitars and music at Sherry and Tom’s place. They both play guitar, but Tom is quite good. I understand his two sisters, are in town and will be joining us. I visited one of the sisters recently in Las Cruces, New Mexico on my way to Tucson. They are here to attend the annual book fair at the University of Arizona, scheduled for the weekend.
I love being with my old friends. Yet, our reunion has a slightly bittersweet taste. Lurking in the background is the unspoken certainty that our days together are fleeting and probably numbered. Unlike the days of our youth, no one takes tomorrow for granted any longer.
It has been a splendid few days. Even so, by the time Sunday evening rolls around, Lola and I will be glad to have a few quiet days to ourselves.