After Oljato, I met up with one of my oldest friends for a whirlwind trip.
On the way south, I drove from red sandy earth through mountains with evergreen forests. The drive from Utah to Tucson is beautiful and fun. As I reached flagstaff I had to listen to the Route 66 cover from Depesche Mode – https://youtu.be/AwPV3qJegEE
I was singing and laughing as I drove past “Flagstaff Arizona…” It smelled good there… then just a few hours south and you’re back in a desert! I stopped to get gas just south of Phoenix in what appeared to be a cactus forest. It was so alien to me, and beautiful.
Mary Jo took me in her tiny apartment in Berkeley when I was couch surfing for two months, staying two weeks at a time with people. Worried about me, she let me have her spare bed. I think it was for 4 months until I could find a home. I was 23 and she was 49. She taught me about Lou Reed and Jewish breakfasts. She had lived in LA in the 70‘s being a free spirit… which never left her. Age is only on the outside with this woman. Being with Maryjo is being with family. Its so easy, I don’t have to think.
Parked on the road next to the station was a truck selling ammunition! I remembered where I was. Open gun laws. It’s odd to think that anyone you talk to in Arizona has a gun on their person. Still the place of cowboys who won’t let the old west die. Fortunately I was heading to Tucson, where trump is the enemy and borders are theoretically looser.
Mary Jo took me to a storytelling night just after I had arrived. She stood on the stage telling everyone how happy she was her friend was visiting and made me stand up! So uncomfortable, but so sweet.
She showed me in the middle of this very conservative Arizona, Tucson is a liberal heaven with a huge LGBTQ community. At the last mayoral elections, there was no republican in the race! It’s full of cacti and character. This was a place I felt I could live.
She drove me to Tombstone to see the hokey tourist trap and the following day to her favorite cactus.
It was a great catch up and reconnecting. I missed her over the years and had wondered if we would have ever met again.
As I packed the rental to head back up to Albuquerque, she looked worried. “I’m being the mom now!” she worried about me, a woman alone driving through deserts for 7 hours. I hugged her and told her I love her. “I’ll be fine.” Than got in the car and honked as I passed. I left feeling loved, promising myself to return soon.