Yes, in the desert of Arizona, near the Mexican border at Nogales.
Green Valley is twenty miles south of Tucson and 40 miles north of Nogales, Mexico. Green Valley is an unincorporated retirement community composed of 59 Homeowner Associations. (Source)
Why was I there?
No, it isn’t because Green Valley is home to the Titan Missile Museum, America’s largest nuclear weapons museum. (Source).
It is because a friend, whom I hadn’t seen in 30 years, lives there. Here is about her, in my ‘Being Old’ blog: “From Nanci Thomas.” She wrote this memoir for my blog five years before she moved to Green Valley. She has a brother here.
(Note— the first journal entry, “About”, contains this item: “I will reminisce as I travel routes to and through familiar places, and will record many of these memories to the journal.” Today’s entry contains some soulful, sometimes sad, reminiscences.)
Mary, my former wife, and I met Nanci and her husband Dave Thomas in Anchorage, Alaska where I then lived and worked. We were social and did things together. Dave had been a military officer in the Vietnam War. It had affected him deeply.
Both families left Alaska around the same time, met up again, briefly in California, then lost track of each other. Later, I was working as the chief executive of a general hospital in Ventura County, California. Dave walked into my office seeking help for a medical condition, and I gave him an appropriate referral. I learned that Dave and Nanci were living in Santa Barbara, less than an hour’s drive from Ventura. Shortly after Dave’s visit, Nanci informed me by telephone that Dave had died, and there would be a memorial service at the beach in Santa Barbara. Here is what I offered.
You will remain with me as a singular man: highly charged, a carrier of great secrets, imbued with ancient codes of honor, duty, loyalty and, perhaps, some with no name.
Your presence was stimulating, sometimes compelling and always interesting.
Your spirit is now released, and I rejoice in your having found peace.
Nanci and I have stayed in touch since then.
(Note: David Thomas is not the only man I have known who was damaged by his being active in the Vietnam War. I was lucky to be too young for the action in Korea, although I served during the official period of it, and too old and otherwise ineligible for the conflict in Vietnam.)
Nanci is an artist. She has shared many of her paintings with me via the Internet. Being in Phoenix, only 140 miles north of Green Valley, accessible by well maintained freeways, I had the opportunity to see her, and I did.
I had traveled through this country 62 years ago when on a trip with my first wife, Patricia, on a sort of a honeymoon. (My father had given me a 1952 Ford sedan upon my leaving the Navy in 1958. I returned to live with the family while I attended a local college.) Patricia and I had eloped to Reno to marry in February, 1959 during the academic year of our respective colleges in San Francisco. We immediately returned to continue our classes; we were then both living with my parents. We each had people we wanted to visit after the Spring semester ended, to present ourselves as a married couple. She wanted to visit her father in Ephraim, Utah; she hadn’t been with him since he left her and her mother when she was age 6. We necessarily had to pass through Salt Lake City, so Patricia decided to visit her father’s relatives there. We were not given a warm welcome.
We drove south to Ephraim, around 120 miles, and found her father living near the railroad tracks with his third wife, the only Catholic in a small Mormon town.
It was a not a pleasant visit. There was nothing to talk about, and Patricia’s father had no affection for his daughter. Her father’s wife was essential a blank for us. We escaped the next morning to travel to El Paso, Texas to visit one of my Navy buddies, living there with his pregnant wife and one child.
Across the Rio Grande from El Paso is the Mexican city of Juarez which, at the time, was as accessible as any neighboring USA city. Patrick took us on a tour of Juarez, a dim memory now except that we brought back to El Paso a bottle of Añejo Rum. Patrick and I drank it. We went back for more. Back again at his home, Patrick got violent, and we had to leave the next morning under a cloud of disappointment and unhappiness.
Our next objective was to visit my relatives, two aunts and an uncle, in Newport Beach, California. We traveled US Highway 10, which, in Arizona, connects Tucson and Phoenix. We entered Tucson at 2PM in June. It was so hot we couldn’t continue in a car that had no air cooling, so we went to an air-conditioned movie house. Upon leaving the movie, I remember the word ‘blast furnace’ entering my brain and leaving my lips. Nothing has changed since then, regarding temperatures in June. (PS: we had a good visit with my relatives, before traveling back to San Francisco. If you want to read a memoir about Patricia’s life, go here).
Yesterday, I left Phoenix around 8:30 AM when the temperature was in the 80s (the rental car politely tells me the outside temperature at all times). By the time I had gone 100 miles it was in the 90s, and when I arrived at Naci’s it was near 100 and climbing.
The landscape is strange. The desert is flat, with such close-by features as defined fields with and without fences, ditches, small settlements, and cactus and other desert flora. In the near distance, on any side, are strangely shaped, irregular mountains, extending over brief ranges.
There were also hills, shaped general like the image, above, closer by the highway. I imagined two things about these: They were former mountains and ranges which either: 1) were overcome by the rising elevation of the desert as it accumulated the eroded soil of all other mountains, over many millions of years; or, simply, had just eroded away from the high winds and occasional downpour, which sometimes is a monsoon. It seemed odd to have what appeared to be the top of a mountain, only a few hundred feet high, sticking out of the flat desert floor nearby.
In the far distance, always somewhere on the horizon, are large mountain ranges, with peaks and ridges similarly shaped as the above.
The speed limit is most often 75 miles per hour, or 120 Km/hr. I left US Highway 10 shortly after leaving Tucson to take US Highway 19 which ends at Nogales, Mexico.
Nanci’s house was easy to find. We hugged a greeting, stayed a short while in her house where I viewed some of her paintings and those of her brother in England, and their father’s, as well.
We set out in her car to travel further south to the town of Tubac, an artistic community.
It was too hot to see all there was to see, but we did enjoy a gallery of art by the Navajo artist R.C. Gorman, now dead. His father, Carl N. Norman. had been one of the “code talkers” in the Second World War. Here is a sculpture by R.C. Norman to honor his father.
We visited several stores that featured Native American art. I bought ceramic bowl, with lid, that has a beautiful western scene with horses etched lightly on its exterior. I also bought a cover for a couch pillow for our deep emerald green couch which needs some brightening (Eva agrees, but I don’t yet know whether this will meet her artistic standards.)
The heat finally stopped us from further exploration. So, we headed back to her place. It was soon time anyway for me to leave in order to avoid the rush hour in Greater Phoenix. It was good visit. She asked me to send her greetings to Mary when I (plan to) visit her next month in Berkeley; and also to Eva, fellow artist and wife of her friend, me.
In closing I offer an image of a great metal sculpture standing outside the gallery where I bought the ceramic bowl:
Go Here: for the next journal entry.