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Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
Metamorphoses of the Mountain
I never get tired of looking at what we call "our mountain," the western terminus of the Catalinas that looms over the back end of our subdivision. I've seen many beautiful mountain ranges, but none surpass the Catalinas for diversity of appearance. Because of how they are situated, the kind of skies we get in the Sonoran Desert and their intricately jagged lines, they can undergo astounding metamorphoses in a matter of minutes.

Today was one of those special days, most common during the Monsoon and the middle of winter, when the glories of the view from our street were at their apex. Indeed, the lighting was so dramatic that foreground details that sometimes vex me, like the drainage channel and fence that are almost impossible to exclude from a non-Expressionist composition, actually added visual interest. And the church-like pediatric dentist's office a little farther up the slope, which has always appealed to my architectural sensibilities, proved a tremendous boon.

First, in the late afternoon, we got the wonderfully focused illumination that comes when the sun sneaks under the clouds to light up our neighborhood while the mountain remains in shadow:

Western terminus of the Catalinas in temporary shadow as sun blazes on lower levels

Then, as the Monsoon clouds swirled around us, we were blessed with a double rainbow, nicely complemented by a celestial glow suffusing the structures in the foreground:

Western terminus of the Catalinas in Tucson with rainbows

Finally, as the storms returned with more force, the mountain became the focal point for a remarkable watercolor sky, periodically stabbed with lightning. My attempts to capture the latter in a good shot were undone by the rapidly diminishing light -- they came out too blurry -- but this picture from a couple minutes before does a nice job of showing how impressive the heavens were on their own:

Western terminus of the Catalinas at stormy dusk

When I think about all the reasons why I might like to move away from Tucson, I inevitably ponder the things I'd miss the most. In the end, I think it's our mountain and the skies it so beautifully underscores that would be hardest to part from. I'm not exaggerating when I say that seeing that beauty on a daily basis keeps me sane.

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27 comments or Leave a comment
From: e4q Date: August 29th, 2010 07:53 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
it does really look lovely.

oddly, the roofscape is something i like in my view. it's nothing to write home about, but i am glad i am on the top floor and see mostly sky.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 30th, 2010 03:42 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I think you would appreciate the view, if not the often overwhelming heat of this time of year.

One thing I've realized, in years of trying to take photos of the mountain or sky without including the surrounding buildings, is that the photos are often more interesting when there's foreground, even if the foreground is mundane.
From: e4q Date: August 30th, 2010 03:43 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
yes. sky on it's own seldom cuts it, no matter how dramatic. i suppose it's the sense of scale.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 30th, 2010 03:58 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Right. I think Kant said that. Or meant to. The sublime can only be such in relation to what isn't.
From: e4q Date: August 30th, 2010 03:59 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

i am better than kant!
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 30th, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
You're certainly a lot more fun. He sounds like a tiresome fellow.
From: e4q Date: August 30th, 2010 04:03 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
a lot of them do. that and all the funny names.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 30th, 2010 04:05 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I know that my favorite German-language thinker, Walter Benjamin, would have been pretty entertaining to spend time with. But most of them, well, I'm glad they wrote books. . .
From: e4q Date: August 30th, 2010 04:09 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
yes, i think he would have been a laugh. i think adorno would have been po faced, i think maus (is it maus, do you know who i mean?) would have been FAB. and i think durkheim would have been interesting. a lot of them would have been a total headdesk.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 30th, 2010 04:12 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
The French would probably have been more fun than the Germans or, heaven forfend, the English. Foucault was apparently arrogant as all get-out, but entertaining if he let you inside his defenses.
From: e4q Date: August 30th, 2010 04:13 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
well, didn't he take acid in the desert? that's pretty defenceless! though i think his panoptican mind might get a little wearing after a while.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 30th, 2010 04:17 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
He loosened up a lot in California, apparently. I had a friend who would visit him at his favorite café, a somewhat bedraggled place that humanities graduate students subsequently christened "Café Foucault" in his honor. That's where I held my office hours, just like he did.
From: e4q Date: August 30th, 2010 04:19 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
that's nice.

i always fancied becoming a therapist like lacan and counting the money in front of the client and chucking them out after 10 minutes, but it's not really me. i am more of a melanie klein type, were i to do therapy, which i won't now.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 30th, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
That was Lacan's greatest gambit, eliminating the fifty-minute hour!

I bet you would have been a good therapist.
From: e4q Date: August 30th, 2010 04:29 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
i did think about training. but it's too late now, too ill and stupid! (not in the current meaning of the word, just the inability to learn the hard stuff and sit in classrooms without weeping or sleeping)

i am not bad at the back door approach, though, with the meditation and whatnot.
flw From: flw Date: August 29th, 2010 08:04 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I bet alsoname was taking pictures of the same clouds from 90 degrees away at the same time today.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 30th, 2010 03:42 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I'm sure. I love that we're looking at the (secular) heavens in the same way!
elizabeg From: elizabeg Date: August 29th, 2010 03:58 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Lovely shots, as always. Of course now I wish even more that I'd been able to work things out to come for a couple of days in September. I miss the skies the most by far--and then next probably the forests of cacti, which I took for granted all my life. I never realized how many people have never even seen one in person, let alone thousands. When I think about how old saguaros are, and how long they've thrived in such harsh conditions, it blows my mind--and gives me a profound sense of hope.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 30th, 2010 03:43 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I know what you mean about the cactus. I've lived here long enough to take them for granted, which has both a happy and sad dimension. But the thrill that those not familiar with these parts have in seeing them periodically reminds me of how special this place really is, despite its obvious problems.
chefxh From: chefxh Date: August 29th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
How lovely. Montana only thinks it's Big Sky Country. Kevin has been looking at Tucson real estate listings this week (winter's coming).
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 30th, 2010 03:45 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Tucson is lovely in winter. And I adore the Monsoon, even if the combination of heat and humidity can be overwhelming.

It would be great to see you in person, if you could find a way to make it down here.

duccio From: duccio Date: August 29th, 2010 05:00 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Nice series CB. If you were to leave Tucson, would the Bay Area be your destination, or do you have other places in mind?
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 30th, 2010 03:48 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Yes, the Bay Area would be tops.

Truthfully, I could imagine living in the L.A. area, though where, exactly, would be the deciding point. Silver Lake, yes. Fontana, no!

And there's the area north of San Diego where we often visit. I do like the coastal vibe.

To be a realist, though, the most likely places I'd go would once have been D.C., where my parents are, and Idaho, where my sister is. Now that my parents might be moving up there, I suppose it's possible that I will end up there at some point.

To dream a little bigger, I'd really like to live in Germany. I have a friend in Berlin right now and it kills me that I can't find the time or money to go see him.

In the end, though, I will probably stay in Arizona as long as Skylar is doing well in school here.
duccio From: duccio Date: August 30th, 2010 05:03 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I've always dreamed of living in Italy. Rome is outstanding, because I like cities, but I would also like living in some more remote place too. I was in Siena and wandered the whole town and stumbled upon a cabinetmaker who was working out in the narrow street. He opened up a big door in front of his house and brought his long handmade woodworker's bench out front. Most of the "streets" there are occasionally broken up by stairways since Siena is a large hill town, so cars are a rarity within the city. We had a sort of stilted conversation (my Italiano being what it was) and I drew pictures for him of the furniture that I was making in SF. He was a small shop just like me and we very much identified with each other. He told me that the word for a plane (the woodworking smoothing tool) in Italian is "pialla". I have forgotten much of my Italian, but I always remember that word.

Siena is where I first saw work by Duccio in the cathedral museum - his magnum opus: "Maesta", and I had one of those always hoped for emotional responses to the art. I don't know why, since then as now I am a confirmed non believer with even an aggressive stance against the mouthy faithful; I think it was that I saw what an amazing colorist and story teller Duccio was, qualities that don't translate into photographs. Later, when I got home, somebody asked what I would do if I knew I would die from radiation poisoning in one month, and I unhesitatingly said I would lock all the doors and commence work on a double sided copy of Duccio's "Maesta" in order to discover and master all of his secrets. (I had a big enough shop in SF to do it too.) That's how impressed I was.

Later, walking around in Siena, I saw a tall narrow window like a doorway and inside was a butcher with a big round butcher block table on three legs - it was more like a section of tree stump on peg legs. (I made some stools like it when I got home. I used a chunk of Muni Metro construction wood that I found out on Market St and brought home on my hand cart.) I indicated to the man working inside the glass that I was going to take a picture and he stood up with his cleaver and looked good. Around the corner came three big Italian women and started pointing at me and laughing. Of course I sort of "Aw shucks" and started laughing too. I waved thanks to the butcher and went on my way laughing with the three women at the straniero pazzo.

Another time I was wandering around Florence at night, and I saw these lights coming from under a building near the big San Lorenzo church. I investigated and found a clothing store; sort of like a surplus store. I had seen the workers in the cathedrals and museums all had on these long denim "lab coats" and thought that I would look good in one of them too (like in Metropolis when Freder takes over the job of the exhausted worker and dons his work clothes. Well, the people in the store just couldn't get over the idea that I wanted a worker coat, started discussing it. They could see I was an American, so how come I wanted a worker's smock? I had to sputter out that I had to work too, and that we didn't have coats like that in America. They warmed up to me and I spent about a half hour trying on denim coats before picking one out that fit large so I could shrink it and stuff. I bought a work apron too.

Anyway, maybe someday we'll live in Europe. I'd thrive there I am sure. Being a foreigner would be great. You must seem refreshing to everyone because you don't follow or even know the conventional ways and so you can be like fresh air to everyone you befriend. And, we'd have accents.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 30th, 2010 05:17 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
What a great travelogue! My sole experience of Italy was a very short trip there en route to a conference in Austria. Because it was not long after September 11th, 2001, though, and I flew into and out of Venice, I had a very rich -- and unsettling -- time there. I have been meaning to write about the whole trip. If I ever find the opportunity, I will.

Part of the longer story, including the Austria portion of the trip, is an amusing incident in which an Austrian leather craftsman, who was selling hand-tooled mobile phone cases and the like, got very mad at me for taking a photograph of his handiwork. I apologized and walked away. But then I started to get retroactively annoyed at his rudeness, so I headed back to confront him.

"You know," I said in German, "I was only taking a photo to show my wife and daughter how beautiful your work is. And I was thinking of buying them each a little something. It's not like I know you or live around here. I'm only in Europe for a few days and was hoping to look around a bit when I wasn't at my conference. I wish I'd spent my valuable minutes somewhere else."

The man was obviously startled.

"You are a tourist? Where from?" His Austrian accent was thick.

I couldn't figure out why he would be surprised to have a tourist looking over his work, but figured business must have been slow since 9/11.

"The United States," I answered.

"You are not German?"

I was secretly delighted that he had taken me for a native speaker, albeit one with a very different accent than his own.

"No, no. I'm from Arizona."

At this point, the man began to apologize for his initial lack of hospitality and went on to explain that he had assumed I was a German "spy" working for his competitor in the next town over, photographing his latest designs so that they could be copied.

I laughed and wished him well. Only when it was too late to turn back did I realize that I should have bought something to commemorate the odd exchange.
duccio From: duccio Date: August 30th, 2010 05:34 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I came across those unfriendly bores too, of course. Fortunately, experiences with that type are usually short and soon expunged from my memory. I must say though, that I see lots of people in this country who treat foreign visitors with rudeness and even contempt, and that's the white ones. The brown foreigners probably think we are the most rude people on earth. Maybe we are: ground zero mosque and all that.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 30th, 2010 05:52 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
It's not a good time in American history. In my experience, though, the biggest problem vis-a-vis our treatment of foreigners is the ignorance of other cultures that so many of us demonstrate, rather than outright rudeness.
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