Pimalteño Gathering

Saturday was Big Jim Griffith’s annual party, dubbed the Pimalteño gathering. The food included some impressively sized prickly pear fruit. These things were the size of oranges. Good sized oranges.

Of course, the big reason why people go is music. There were three gatherings of musicians on various parts of the property, plus Tom Walbank by himself with his harmonica. I managed to get some video from two of the gatherings.

Outside, there was a cluster of folks playing a mix of cowboy flavored fiddle music and rancheras. I made the mistake of sitting near the grills. They had been cooking food on them all afternoon, but they were done by the time evening came around and I was there. Still, people thought I was some sort of grill attendant and wanted to know when they would be cooking again, or if I had any extra carne asada.

I don’t know the name of this song. The young fiddle player is the daughter of the older one.

Long time local character Bobby Benton with a take on the children’s song “Yo Tenia 10 Perritos” that he claims was “The way the sang it in Barrio Anita.” Note the final verse.

Other musicians in that circle include John Jensen and John Ronstadt.

John Ronstadt and Bobby Benton cooperated on “Cancíon Mixteca.”

I don’t know the name of this song.

Tom Walbank entertained the kids on Big Jim’s back porch.

Inside, Big Jim played banjo with several musicians. I didn’t stay long in there. Even with his sizable living room, the place was crowded.

Back to School

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Published on: August 27, 2014

I registered at Pima College to finally finish up a couple of credits I’m missing. Yesterday was the first day of a class on the history of Mexican-Americans. It’s the instructor’s first time teaching, so we’ll see how creaky things are.

Given my involvement with the community, I’m already familiar with the topics. Yes, the class won’t be “easy,” but if I don’t get an A, it will be a personal failure of epic proportions.

When I got back to work, Mary wanted to check out the text book, Mexicanos by a fellow named Manuel G. Gonzales. She looked through the photos and checked the index for names she’s met through LULAC. A quick perusal of the index and I found that the author seems to know that the chicano movement happened in places other than Southern California and Texas.

One class session will be a viewing of the movie Selena. What, no Zoot Suit?

Hasta la proxima. Do zobaczenia.

Will Seberger

Categories: Old Pueblo
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Published on: August 18, 2014

will_sebergerI just heard the news that Will Seberger passed away last night. I hadn’t heard of any health problems.

Dylan Smith, his long time friend, wrote a short piece on him in the Tucson Sentinel. I spoke to Dylan and he was pretty shaken up. Dylan can be a bit cynical and jaded, so it was a bit of a shock to see him this way.

Like I said, I hadn’t heard about health problems. Last news I got from him, he was talking about going black and white.

Will was only 33. That sucks.

Dylan emphasized in his piece that Will wasn’t a photographer, he was a photo-journalist. According to Dylan, he was a heck of an interviewer.

Never interviewed by him, of course, but being in conversation with him I could see it. I’ll miss those talks.

Some of his work could be found at his website. It’s worth checking out.

Hasta la proxima. Do zobaczenia.

St. Gregory Decannonized

A little fact that even long time friends are surprised at when they find out is that I attended St. Gregory High School. I always try to throw in the fact that I was on scholarship there, which helps me maintain my lefty cred. I try to make that case, but the place was more elite at the time than it is now.

The school has made a big point of saying that they have no religious affiliation in their publicity as of late. Given this, the powers that be decided it’s a little weird to be named for a saint. They are removing the word “Saint” as well as the words “College Preparatory School” (which weren’t there when I went, I don’t think.) If you think it doesn’t leave much, you are right. The new name will be “The Gregory School.”

Of course, that still leaves the name “Gregory,” who wasn’t just a Doctor of the Church, but one of the four big time Doctors of the Church. Unless they can make the case that they are named for some other Gregory (Gregory Peck? Dick Gregory?), the school still has a religious name.

As Tom Beal pointed out in the Star, the school has never had a formal religious affiliation. Despite what Sigrid Just, our infamous local Bavarian protector of all things Catholic, tried to argue with me one day at the Newman Center, the school was not “High Anglican” or any other sort of Anglican. Whatever affiliation with the Episcopal Church it had was quite casual, almost coincidental. It was founded by an Episcopal Priest, Rev. Russell Ingersoll, and named by, of all people, a Jesuit Priest (not only a Papist, but one that happened to be my Mom’s boss), Fr. Charles Polzer.

There was a religious aspect to the school, but it wasn’t exactly heavy duty. There was a daily chapel that was pretty ecumenical when it veered into religion at all. Rev. Ingersoll or the school’s chaplain would preside at some. Rev. Ingersoll left the year I graduated, and from what I understand, whatever sectarian trappings of the place started to fade away pretty quickly. I heard from some younger friends that attended that even the three-foot stone St. Gregory statue (that may have actually been St. Brendan) disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

Well, I guess the next time they call hitting me up for money, I have a ready made excuse. Gregory School? I didn’t go to any school by that name.

Beal’s article, I believe, has an error. The first chaplain of the school, Rev. Kevin Murphy, was an Episcopal priest. He left after my sophomore year and was planning to convert to Lutheranism. If that is in error, chalk it up to the the misunderstandings of my fifteen year old brain.

The late Pat Grace, who some may remember as a stalwart volunteer in the early days of the Tucson Aids Project, applied at the school before it opened. Rev. Ingersoll noted that his resume detailed experiences at many schools, but there was something missing.

“I see you have a lot of experience with Catholic schools. Have you ever worked at an Episcopal school?”

“You’re right; most of my work has been at Catholic schools. But, what’s an Episcopalian but a rich Catholic?”

He didn’t get a call back.

Pat had a pretty deep understanding of his faith and was willing to share it, and yes, make jokes about it. I understand that he went to a Jesuit seminary when he was younger, but it didn’t work out. It’s too bad because he would have been a fantastic priest. He passed away over two decades ago, but I still miss the guy sometimes.

Hasta la proxima. Do zobaczenia.

Robin Williams

Categories: Rumination
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Published on: August 12, 2014

I’ve been reading a lot of reactions like this one from my friend Paul Goebel, a comedian in Los Angeles:

I am not shocked that a comedian was wracked with depression. I think had it been someone a bit more acerbic, whose observations dripped with sarcasm, I don’t think people would have been surprised. But Williams seemed to like the objects of his jokes. So why this guy?

Yep, successful and well loved…but still depressed enough to end it. What caused that? No one thing did. We need to get away from the premise that an “event” is necessary to cause depression. Also, we need to get away from blaming depressed people for their state. I’ll not pile on Shep Smith for the butt-stupid thing he said. I’ll chalk it up to the guy for being a bit angry that Williams chose to leave us. Still, what he said is a good demonstration of our culture refusing to recognize what depression actually does to a person. We’d rather the troubled would paint smiles on their faces because it makes everyone else feel better.

I was going to write a long rant about comedians I’ve known that are dealing with some major problems, but the folks at Cracked did a much better job than I could. I’ll just leave you with how they ended their article:

Rest in peace, Robin. You’ve given us a chance to talk about this, and to prove that this has nothing to do with life circumstances — you were rich and accomplished and respected and beloved by friends and family, and in the end it meant jack fucking shit.

Hasta la proxima. Do zobaczenia.

Music this weekend

Categories: Local Music
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Published on: August 10, 2014

I caught Amy Muñoz Mendoza and Damon Barnaby in a low key set at Flycatcher on Saturday night. The first set was just the two of them, with Amy’s husband Ernie sitting behind the drum kit for the second set.

There was a crew from a whiskey company trying to give out shots while I was there. I think you can hear them on the video.

My friend and I wandered to La Cocina (after a stop off at D & D Pinball) and arrived just in time to catch a few songs from The Moonstruck Coyotes. Unfortunately, the picture I got of them was of very low quality, but suffice it to say the group was acoustic guitar, electric guitar and bass, with all three musicians in white cowboy hats, black shirts and jeans. The look tells you a wee bit: they did some traditional western songs with those harmonies you listen to that sort of music for, and then they veered into several 60′s standards, including “Stand By Me.” Talented and fun.

Hasta la proxima. Do zobaczenia.

Howard Salmon

Categories: Old Pueblo
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Published on: August 8, 2014

Howard SalmonAs reported by Mari Herreras yesterday, Howard Salmon passed away after a years long battle with brain cancer.

I became familiar with Howie first as the drummer of the Phantom Limbs. He made a return to the U of A in 1989 to get an accounting degree (a career which, thankfully, he didn’t pursue for long) and we struck up a friendship. I conscripted him to be an occasional partner on some of my student radio broadcasts. Between songs, I would try to get him to tell me a bit about his fanzines and Hardy Har Comix, his strip in the Wildcat. Instead, he turned it around and tried to get me to talk about my writing, student radio and the comic artists jam I was involved in.

That’s what he was all about: he wanted to encourage other people’s creativity. He played in a number of bands in the 80′s and 90′s, but his best remembered contributions to the local scene were SLIT magazine and Rock n Roll Comics, his fanzines.

I wish I could find my old copy of Rock and Roll Comix, which chronicled local musicians in a sort of American Splendor meets Bazooka Joe style. One bit entitled “The Phantom Limbs Go on a Picnic” (done before he joined the band) ends in a monologue from Howie about how great he thinks the music scene is and that he wants to tell everyone about it.

That about sums it up.

Howie grew into a well respected artist and illustrator. Still, he was about encouraging other people. His YouTube channel was mostly video lessons.

Some work of his was posted at a personal blog. He blogged about other local artists on Blogspot.

As the cancer overtook him, he started an online diary of his illness. His last entry was last summer, and unfortunately many of the illustrations are no longer on the site.

His had a series of other blogs, including a revival of SLIT magazine, Reviewing Old Comic Books and the most intriguing, Comics, Art & Judaism.

Thanks for the kindness, Howie.


Categories: Random Miscelany
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Published on: August 6, 2014

I broke down and signed up for Instagram. I’m not a habitual picture taker. Yesterday, I was on the Streetcar and saw a notice about a hashtag #StreetcarSelfies. I was momentarily tempted, but didn’t partake.

I uploaded several shots that were on my phone, iPad and iPod over the last couple of days. I’ve exhausted those and will need to either take some more pictures, or just leave it as one of many moribund social media accounts there are in the world.

The only gripe I have is that if a picture’s location wasn’t tagged by whatever device you took it with, you can’t retroactively assign it a location. There’s always the captions, but then you it doesn’t end up on that fun map.

Oh, here is my Instagram. Have fun.

Do zobaczenia. Hasta la proxima.

Why I’d rather not join your Facebook group

Categories: Snarky Complaints
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Published on: August 5, 2014

I got two invites in a row to a Democratic Facebook group the other day. They were from the same guy. Apparently, my initial refusal had to be some sort of mistake.

No, it was quite intentional.

Despite my previous vocation as a political blogger, I don’t feel the need to join a dozen political Facebook groups to express my activism. One or two will do, thank you.

Here is the problem: there is a raft of Facebook groups for activists and others interested in Arizona Democratic politics. They all seem to be dominated by the same group of four or five posters.

I went through a purge of my Facebook memberships about a year ago. I did it because I noticed that my newsfeed was getting “roadblocked” by a couple of people.

By the way, I don’t know if “roadblock” is actually a term of art or not. I use it to mean one user who posts several times in a row, so that your reading your feed on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever means a slog through posts from one “friend.”

This roadblocking was all the more irritating because it would be one person posting the same article to several groups they were a part of. Yes: Bob Boran posted an article to Lively Democratic Arizonans…Bob Boran posted an article to New Arizona Democracy…Bob Boran posted an article to Angry Arizona Activists…the same article from Huffington Post about why Paul Ryan is a bozo or, perhaps, that Upworthy video with Bernie Sanders.

I’ve knocked myself down to two Democratic groups, a labor oriented group and, despite my aging out nearly a decade ago, Young Democrats. The labor group seems the more “pure:” posts are actually about labor issues once in a while. The Young Democrats group seems little used by actual members of the Arizona Young Democrats; the two most frequent appearances on the current feed are two men in their late forties. No big surprise: their posts have little to do with YDA activity or youth issues and are the same things they posted elsewhere.

The problem comes down to activists who want so much to get the word out about whatever is outraging them that day. For instance: “I’m posting this latest Koch brothers outrage to the group Democratic Arizonans! But wait, the people on Green Eyed Arizona Democrats need to know too! And then…” You see what can happen, right? Soon you’ve posted to sixteen groups, all of which have the same members. By the way, the reason all of them have the same membership comes from the related impulse of not wanting to miss out.

There is a place for Facebook as an organizing tool. There have been events and activities that I’ve become a part of because of a notice or invitation on Facebook. I wonder how many I’ve missed, however, because it gets buried under endless posts about something stupid that Michelle Bachmann said.

And don’t get me started on people who insist on adding me to groups without asking.

Hasta la proxima. Do zobaczenia.

Fort Buchanan

Categories: Greater Arizona
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Published on: August 4, 2014

Fort BuchananA while back I took an impromptu drive down South to Fort Buchanan. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s because it hasn’t been active for well over a century and a half. It was founded in the 1850′s as the United States cemented their claim to the Mesilla Strip, the chunk of land South of the Gila River acquired in the Gadsden Purchase.

The post was one of many in the area that was abandoned when the Civil War broke out in 1861 and Federal troops were called back East. It was re-occupied in 1865 by nine members of the California Cavalry under the command of a corporal named Michael Buckley.

On February 17, a party of surveyors were attacked by a party of Apache warriors. The surveyors tried to ride to the fort, which despite it not having walls would put a bit of adobe and wood between them and the bow and rifle fire that was raining in their direction.

They didn’t make it and all three surveyors were killed. The party of Apaches, which numbered about 75, turned their attention to the lightly defended post. The troops there were not ready, three had been sent on errands. In the ensuing battle, Corporal Buckley was wounded and one of his men was killed. Two Apaches were reportedly killed, and the fort was looted and burned. The troops retreated into the Santa Rita Mountains, and were relocated to Tubac and eventually Fort Crittenden a bit to the East.

The site of the fort is on private land, which I found out when I drove out there.

Fort Buchanan 2

I realized how close it was to the main highway, so I went about a quarter mile down and snapped this picture. The descriptions I had read of the fort said that is was in a clearing and, unfortunately for those who were trying to defend the place, under a hill that it could easily be attacked from.

Fort Buchanan 3

What can’t be seen in the photo is the rocky hill to the east. It is easy to imagine a small group, either Apaches or Confederates, able to fire down on the place.

I ran across this photo of the site from 1914, taken from an angle that I couldn’t get to.


By the way, that party of surveyors was two Anglos and a Hispanic. The Anglos were named William Wrightston and Gilbert Hopkins. They both were honored by having the highest peaks in the Santa Ritas named for them. The name of their Hispanic companion is lost to history.

Do zobaczenia. Hasta la proxima.

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