J.P.

On the border.

We stopped at Burger King on the American side of the border at Nogales. Many of the locally owned restaurants were closed and we had no plans to cross the border (COVID-19 and all that), so we opted for the Burger King right at the border where they have ample parking ($5.00 please) for folks walking over to the Mexican side.

Because of Omicron we’re back to maintaining plenty of distance and eating where there’s plenty of ventilation. We opted for the drive-thru and then park somewhere to eat in the car route.

After we settled into a parking spot I heard the sweetest sounding meow I’ve heard in a long while; the long haired grey tabby knew how to be sweet to get my attention. I saw no signs of neglect or angst; she appeared to be quite healthy. Against the wishes of my husband, I jumped out and gave her a couple of pieces of my chicken sandwich. She was skiddish and maintained her distance, but was appreciative and thanked me before we left Nogales to head back to Tucson.

She knows how to work her audience.

km.

The majority of road signs featuring distances along Interstate 19 are in metric units. Interstate 19 runs from the U.S.-Mexican border at Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora to just southeast of Tucson at Interstate 10.

Contrary to folklore, the signs are not metric because the road goes to Mexico. Actually, Interstate 19 was built when the United States was to convert to metric during the Carter Administration. That plan was abandoned when Reaganomics swooped in, but the metric signs, including interchange numbers related to their kilometer-post, stayed in place. The signs were last replaced in 1999, again with metric units. In 2010 ADOT started replacing the signs at the northern end of the freeway with customary units, but local opposition to the conversion stalled that project. Businesses in particular didn’t want to see the interchanges renumbered because that would mean changing directions to their business. So, the metric signs still stand and the exit numbers are based on the number of kilometers from the southern end of the freeway.

Because of their age, some signs have been replaced in the last year or two and they use the same exit number and “km” instead of “miles” for distance. When you jump onto I-19 from I-10 in Tucson you’ll see “Interstate 19 uses metric signs”. Speed limits are still in English units (55/65/75).

I love the metric signs on Interstate 19 and I love the old button-copy legend (the letters with the reflectors in them). Arizona and Ohio were the last two states to use this type of lettering on their signs and I’ve always found them to be more professional and sturdier looking.

I remember the optimism surrounding the plans to switch to metric when I was in elementary school. In fact, when we learned units of measure as part of our elementary school education, it was all metric based. New York State was progressive and all that. To this day I have no idea how many quarts are in a pound or how many pints are in a hectare. Don’t even get me started on chains and rods, when I went to college for Civil Engineering, roads were still being designed to metric units. NYSDOT switched back to English units right after I was in college in the late 2000s.

It’s a shame the United States can’t embrace the metric system because of Yankee Doodle Yacky and God Bless America and all that. The metric system makes much more logical sense.

But logical sense has never been a strong point of American society.

Christmas.

It is no longer Christmas on the East Coast but here in Mountain Standard Time we have an hour and a half left of the official holiday.

We had a lovely Christmas dinner of ham and macaroni and cheese and a green bean dish of some sort. Dinner rolls rounded out the menu and it was very good. I’ve been drinking wine on and off all day and if it was any other day I’d probably delve into some other memories of Christmases past and share many anecdotes of how great my life experiences has been. Honestly, I miss seeing the relatives a little bit during this holiday season, but with COVID-19 and the dangers of contracting the disease from others in the world, now is not the time to fly back east to see the relatives. Luckily technology keeps us virtually connected.

We played board games tonight and we laughed and had good meals and just spent time together, the five of us, on this joyous of holidays. My mind is completely disconnected from the timeline; I have little realization as to what day of the week it is. (I know, it’s Saturday). There is no snow to be found here in this southern Arizona desert, but the weatherman promises snow on the mountains soon. I can’t wait to see that.

I’ve been watching clips of my favorite show, “Bewitched”, and leaving comments on YouTube about things I’ve learned about the production of the show over the years. It’s amazing to me the number of youngsters that think computers and CGI were involved with the special effects of the enduring series from the 1960s. No, they didn’t have anything called “CGI” back in 1964 when Bewitched first came out. That’s all a very clever use of wires, trick photography, and film editing used to make Endora and Samantha do magical things. A sign of me getting older, but these youngsters that think computers have been around forever are slightly amusing and slightly annoying. I’m thankful to be part of the last generation to know American life before the invasion of computerization.

We purposely kept gift giving at a minimum here in our desert home. A few shirts here, some jeans there, and some other trinkets filled the space under our main Christmas tree. It was quiet but it was beautiful.

Perhaps our most precious moments are not filled with what we received but what we remember. I am blessed with an uncanny ability to remember many things.

The key is to focus on the happy memories. Merry Christmas.

Christmas In Progress.

Our Christmas experience is in progress. It’s a very relaxed day. Presents were opened and enjoyed. Breakfast was delicious. Supper is in the process of being made.

I’m counting blessings and coming up with too many to count.

Caturday.

Truman usually sleeps in his bed or on his perch, or at the very least up against a wall. But for the Christmas holiday he doesn’t want to miss a thing and has chosen an intersection in the middle of the main traffic area of the house.

Memories.

When I was a kid, Grandpa and Grandma City would come up to our home Christmas morning to watch us open Christmas presents and have a small breakfast with the family. I always like those moments on Christmas morning; it felt like they were making a long journey to be with us and I was appreciative of it. After Grandpa City passed on in 1980 the tradition changed, and we generally spent Christmas Eve night in the city with that side of the family.

Since we lived next door or across the street (depending on the year) from Grandpa and Grandma Country, we would spent Christmas afternoon and evening at their house with a good chunk of my cousins and aunts and uncles on that side of the family. We’d always pick a favorite toy or present to show off and share with the cousins. I remember the year my cousin Nathan got a truck with a numeric keypad built in, he could program the direction and length of travel. We tried it out on the floor in the hallway that led to the bedrooms of the mid-century modern home. It was great fun. After dark the cousins would rush out to the barns with my dad and me to see us do the chores, feeding the cattle, and in the early years, the horses Shinto and Sue. Doing the chores was something we did everyday, living across the street or next door, but my cousins didn’t get to partake in the merriment very often and they’d be excited to pet the cows and bulls. Little did they know they’d probably be having them for dinner at a future date. Don’t name the cows and bulls.

These Christmas celebrations revive very fond memories of my childhood and at age 53 I realize how blessed I am to have been such a happy child. As I’ve been known to say, John and Sandi did a really good job raising my sister and me. We were lucky to have close relations with both sides of the family; too many people I’ve known in my adulthood didn’t experience the same type of joy that I’ve described all these years.

Our first Christmas in the desert is different than anything I’ve ever known. It’s not cold, there’s no snow, and the scent of creosote permeates the air after today’s rain. I see icicle lights hanging from the eves of the house across the dry wash that separates our land and I wonder if they’ve ever had real icicles in the place of these lights.

I count my blessings daily. I have a wonderful husband of nearly a quarter of a century and three other men that I call family and love very much. Our home is unconventional and there’s no cattle to feed after sunset, but new memories are being formed every day and they make me smile as much as Grandpa and Grandma City’s visit when I was a child.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Have Fun.

I went flying with Flight Instructor Prabesh yesterday evening as part of our weekly flight together. I’m working on what’s called my Instrument Rating, meaning when all is said and done after this checkride I’ll be able to fly in the clouds and safely fly an airplane in instances where I can’t see the ground or the horizon. It’s a special skill and when achieved I’ll be the first pilot in the family to have achieved this milestone.

We’ve been working on my instrument rating in a selection of Cessna 172 airplanes, which I’ve flown many times before, but not recently. I have to show the new flight school that I’m perfectly capable of handling a C172 in less than ideal conditions, so Prabesh and I went up and did a lot of basic maneuvers to make sure I could handle the airplane in an emergency. This involves pulling the engine and making emergency descents, doing steep turns (showing I can control the aircraft in such a situation), and stalls, showing I can get the airplane flying again after it’s lost lift under the wings and stopped flying.

We had a lot of fun flying last night. We’ve been flying after dark working on my Instrument Rating, since I don’t need to see anything when I’m theoretically flying in the clouds, so it was a nice change of pace to see things and admire the surroundings in the daylight.

I love flying airplanes. It’s a love I did something about rather late in life but it makes me very happy. And as of Tuesday, I’ve been an official private pilot for seven years.

Seven grand years.

Discipline.

From January, 2018, the last time I grew a beard

Why don’t you have a beard anymore? You used to always have a beard.

This is something I hear once in a while. My dad and I had a conversation about pilots and beards back shortly after my 16th birthday when we were in Oshkosh, Wis. at the great aviation event with my grandfather. “A clean shaven man shows the world the man is disciplined. And it takes discipline to be a pilot.” I know plenty of private pilots with beards and they’re perfectly fine pilots. They’re on their way of becoming old pilots and it’s always good to become an old pilot. I don’t know many female pilots with beards.

My dad was very structured and disciplined with his approach to life. He didn’t talk about these traits very often, but when he did I listened.

But let’s face it, my beard grows in weird patterns, is very gray these days, and quite frankly, it’s much easier just to shave my face everyday. I don’t know if my shaving routine makes me a disciplined pilot, but it makes me feel better about myself and that’s important. Confidence is a key factor in becoming a very old pilot.

Happy Solstice.

A happy Winter Solstice to all. May you find the light in the shortest day of the year. May the sun warm your body and spirit.