Chairman Bao is a Shih Tzu. We travel a lot. I drive. He watches. We've logged at least 10,000 miles and he's never once said, Sweetheart, don't you think you should stop and ask someone?

Friday, September 28, 2007

A beautiful, Mexican sunset.

Rather an exciting drive, however. Military check-points all along the road. Blockades, armed soldiers, the whole enchilada. I was able to ask, Que pasa? (What's going on) But my Spanish wasn't good enough to enable me to understand the answer. And then, when we got to the road that leads into Sandy Beach -- and my condo -- the road was closed. Traffic was being directed down the unpaved roads to the right and left.

Yikes. We're not used to unpaved roads, me and Chairman Bao. We bumped along through the sand and dust. I didn't have a foggy clue where we were going, but I know that Puerto Penasco is laid out in a grid, and that sooner or later, the odds were we'd come to a paved crossroad. It turned out to be later, rather than sooner. And then the paving ended again, and we were back in the sand and dust. But I could see the condos in the distance. We were definitely getting closer. We came to a crossroad and suddenly, I knew where I was. Whew!

Turns out, there's a Governors' Border Conference here this weekend. Governors from California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas are meeting with the President of Mexico to discuss border issues. Security precautions include an armed destroyer cruising offshore. I didn't even know Mexico had a navy. The Conference is being held at a resort further down the beach, but who knows? Maybe we'll run into Arnold Shwartznager during our morning walk. Stranger things have happened.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It's cooled off enough for me and Bao to be able to sit outdoors after our morning walk, enjoying the garden.

The whole desert in coming alive. Wrens and finches fight it out with the ubiquitous doves at the bird feeder, while whole quail families peck busily at the ground below and humming birds swoop at the plant with the big, yellow flowers that I thought I'd lost during last winter's frost. When the sun gets higher, there'll be butterflies, too.

Baby rattlesnakes are being born, but I haven't seen any and don't want to. Ditto, mountain lions.

Beyond my concrete wall in the early-morning hours, coyote Mamas and Papas are teaching their pups to hunt. This morning, the yips and screams of their hapless prey woke us up. Javelina, probably. Although one of my neighbors told me that rabbits scream, too.

Coyotes do come inside the property, but not during the daylight hours. Very occasionally, Bao and I will come across a piece of rabbit lying beside the sidewalk. Bao seems to know where they've been and sniffs curiously, looking back at me for reassurance. Needless to say, we never venture down into the wash!

This is truly a beautiful time of year, in Arizona.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bao stepped on the remote last night, and I suddenly found myself watching a National Geographic documentary about dogs. (An accident? You'd have to ask Bao)

It wasn't what I'd planned to watch, but the sight of a gang of Dogos Argentinos all suited up in Kevlar vests and hunting wild boar in Texas totally captured my attention. Dogos Argentinos hunt in packs, like wolves. They've been specially bred -- they started with a mix of Bull terrier, Mastif and Bull dog, then added Pointers (for superior noses) Great Danes (for size) Irish Wolfhounds (for ability to follow a scent) and Boxers (for gentleness) Which I suppose is great for hunting wild boar, but I'm not sure I'd want to meet one in a dark alley. Or even in a well-lit alley.

Amazing, isn't it? Especially when you think that 130 years ago, 80% of the breeds of dog we know today didn't even exist.

Every wondered about that dear little wet nose? The reason it's wet is because the moisture on a dogs nose captures odor molecules. And of course, dogs have 220 million ofalactory receptors. (We only have 10 million of the things)

Egyptians bred the first hunting dogs -- the ancestors of today's Saluki, which can reach speeds of 40 mph and turn on a dime. The Saluki is the Formula One of dogs.

Apparently, canid DNA is capable of more physical and behavioral variation than the DNA of any other animal on the planet. This gives dogs a real evolutionary edge. We may not survive global warming, but they probably will.

It was all quite fascinating. Much better than The Ghost Whisperer. Bao thought so, anyway.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The snowbirds are coming back to Southern Arizona. I was chatting with a neighbor I haven't seen since May, telling her about our trip.

"You're so brave!" she said. "All that driving, all alone!"

I hate it when people say that. First of all, I am not brave. And second, I wasn't alone. I was with Bao. And bad things happen, whether you're safe at home or travelling the world.

I mean, what could be safer than walking your dog along a suburban street in Tucson at 8 AM? If there's one time you don't feel as if you're in mortal danger, it's during that daily, morning walk with your dog.

That's what Julia Sunderlin was doing, yesterday morning. Walking her dog Gertie, along Sabino Canyon Road, about a mile from here. Along came two drunks in a minivan. They'd been drinking all night and were headed for a convenience store to buy more beer. They were arguing. One of them grabbed the steering-wheel, the van went off the road and now Julia Sunderlin and Gertie are dead. Just like that. (Apparently, nothing happened to the drunks. Nothing ever does)

I didn't know Julia Sunderlin. I read about it in the paper this morning.

All I could think was, It doesn't make sense. It didn't make sense when my husband died, either. It still doesn't. But there it is. Bad things happen. I don't know why. That's life, I guess. And all we can do about it is try to enjoy everything we can, as much as we can and as long as we can. I like doing car trips, so I do car trips. Julia liked walking Gertie.

At least they're together, Julia and Gertie.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Where are we? Go on guess!

Is it Santorini? Is it Mykonos? Is it Naples?
Believe it or not, it's Puerto Penasco, also known as Rocky Point. See those condos all the way across the water? My place is in the pink one.
Bao and I are doing lunch at Casa Capitain, which my friends Jeannie and Bob told me boasted the most gorgeous view in town. Good food, too. I have to say, I'd never have found the place without them. When Bob turned off the main drag onto what looked like a goat-track going up a desolate mountain, I thought they were playing a joke. Talk about a road to nowhere! Up, up and up we climbed.
"It's one of the oldest restaurants in Rocky Point," Jeannie assured me.
In that case, you'd think they'd have gotten around building a road to it. But, hey! It's Mexico. And at the top of the hill, there were acutally two restuarants, plus a handful of newly-constructed villas with to-die-for views and price tags to match.
What a great lunch! What nice red wine! What a view! Bao wasn't crazy about their salsa, but he ate all the meat out of my taco so a good time was had by all.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Here's the photo that appeared in the local newspaper. The caption read, Bao, a Shih Tzu owned by Gail Graham, finds a quiet spot away from the bigger dogs after winning the Tacky Tourist Award as the best-dressed at The Last Wag of Summer.
They got it all wrong. I don't own Bao -- Bao owns me.
The table in the foreground is really fabulous. It's handpainted, with doggy faces. You can order them, and the artist will paint anything you like. I'd love to have one that was all Shih Tzu.
We got back from Rocky Point on Monday. Leaving Puerto Penasco was pure Lawrence of Arabia -- the wind was blowing a gale, sending great streams of sand across the roads and making driving really difficult. Driving into a mini sand dune is as bad as driving into a snowbank. The car goes all funny,
It's amazing, how this fabulous resort community is just rising up out of a vast expanse of sand and nothingness. When I first visited two years ago, the handful of condominiums sort of loomed up in the distance like an up-market Brigadoon in the middle of the desert. Now there are twice as many condos, and more coming. Like mushrooms after a spring rain, as the Chinese would say.
Anyhow, we're back home and back at work. Well, I'm back at work. Bao is sleeping at my feet. It's a dog's life.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Don't know if you've ever seen these -- they're called Mexican Bird of Paradise. I'd never encountered them until I came here, to Tucson. They're indigenous. They just come up everywhere. And if you cut them back during the winter, they grow even bigger and more beautiful. You don't have to feed them. You don't even have to water them.

The garden has been a comfort, these past few days. The garden, and Bao. Things I can rely on, life forms I can trust. Not like people.

No good deed goes unpunished -- an Australian friend of mine likes to say that.

Someone I trusted -- a young woman for whom I've done quite a lot -- used my credit card number without my permission while I was away this summer. That was bad enough. But when I found out, she abused me. I expected an apology (or at least, an explanation) and what I got was an outburst of rage and hatred that left me wobbly. It isn't the money. I got most of it back. It's her attitude that blew me away.

Of course, friends have been quick to gather round and tell me they could see it coming, that it's my own fault for being a gullible old woman and I'm lucky it wasn't worse. I dunno. I thought I was helping someone get her life together. Instead, she was helping herself.

Next time I'm feeling generous, I'll give money to a charity. An animal charity. Or maybe, a botanical garden.

Friday, September 07, 2007

We returned from Mexico to learn that Bao had won the Tacky Tourist Award as the best-dressed dog at The Last Wag of Summer.

Bao, tacky?

Shorn, perhaps. But not tacky. Never, ever tacky.

Besides, we didn't even know it was a competition. It was a hot, Tucson Saturday morning. Details Art & Design, a local art gallery, was launching a Humane Society cookbook and dogs (accompanied by their humans) were invited. Dress up, said the invitation. So we dressed up. Well, Bao dressed up.

Turned out, Bao was the only dog who dressed. So we won, by default. (Except we didn't know it was a contest) All the other dogs were great, big dogs. So Bao went and hid under a table. And that's where a photographer from the Arizona Star found him, and took his picture, which was published while we were away. Bao, cowering. I'll share it when I figure out how to scan it. Actually, maybe I won't.

Meanwhile, this is what he was wearing. Tacky? I don't think so. Do you?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Bao is looking for trouble.

I mean, Trouble. You know, the late Lorna Helmsley's Maltese who just inherited a $12 million trust fund.

Trouble is twelve years old, a bit older than Bao. But he doesn't care. He likes older women. And Trouble looks as if she's taken good care of herself. She dresses well. And she has a nice body, for her age. And of course, a $12 million trust fund.

I've tried to explain to Bao that he'll find it difficult to get his hot little paws on the actual money, but he insists it's not about money. It's about love. As soon as he saw her photo in the newspaper, he knew Trouble was the bitch for him. And he knows she'd go for him, too. There's nothing a girl likes better than a boy with all his bits.

I'm still not convinced. She bites, I told Bao.

Never mind. Bao says he likes a girl with a bit of spirit. (And a $12 million trust fund) And besides, she only bites people.

I've brought him down here to the beach in Mexico to try to take his mind off things, but all he does is lie on the couch and sulk. Trouble on his mind. $12 million dollars on his mind. Poor Bao!