Tucson is nestled near Mexico, infused with the Spanish language and in the middle of the fabled Wild West. Some may wonder why we should give a hoot about Bastille Day.
Bastille Day, which is France’s July 14, 1789, version of our July 4, 1776, marks the day folks stormed the Bastille prison and kicked off the French Revolution.
Those who think prisons are useless, too costly or overcrowded may one day want to emulate such an event, already a reason to care about Bastille Day.
In addition to giving us a blueprint for setting a bunch of prisoners free, France’s momentous occasion should be honored because the country gave us a lot of cool things.
Wine and cheese: Gallery openings would not be possible without this French-inspired combination. Nor would we be able to enjoy soufflés, omelets, chicken cordon bleu or pate de foie gras. (Please excuse the lack of accent marks I couldn’t get that character map thing to work.)
Art and literature: Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, Paul Gaugin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec rule the art end while Charles Baudelaire and Guy de Maupassant pick up the poetry and stories. One of the best stories I’ve ever read was Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace.”
Words and phrases: We are constantly using terms borrowed from the French, both in crossword puzzles and in everyday life. Soup du jour. Bon appetit. Menage a trios. L’aissez-moi tranquille vous etes un couchon.
Besides, some of us may still rue the fateful day we chose to study French over Spanish for 602 years, and Bastille Day gives us one excuse to actually use our language skills for things other than eavesdropping on the occasional tourist from Montreal.
Do you care about Bastille Day?
Do you still find it useless, even after reading this compelling argument?
What is your favorite thing borrowed from France or your favorite French author, artist or cuisine?
Creating an artistic masterpiece can be as easy as playing with a hunk of junk. Since I get so much joy out of my own recycled creations, I am passing my secrets along to you.
How to Make Art out of Junk
Obtain junk. Visit your local salvage yard, such as Gerson’s Used Building Materials, or scout for random debris in washes, alleys, riverbeds and on the side of Ajo Way.
Scrape and hose. Get a paint scraper, sand paper, metal files, scouring pads or whatever else you want to use to scrape off rust, dust and caked-on mystery substances. Hose down for good measure.
Allow to percolate. Throw the debris in random areas around your yard, making the place a virtual minefield for your pets, guests and your own bare feet. This allows the junk to dry in the blazing sun and, if it’s metal, soak up enough heat to leave searing burns if you dare touch it at high noon.
Leave the junk there for days, weeks or months until you are so sick of tripping over and looking at it that you either transform it into something or throw it in the ever-growing slush pile. Caution: pack rats love the slush pile.
Coddle and paint. Coddling is a highly technical artist term that refers to kicking, denting, snipping, wiring, welding and otherwise getting the item into some type of shape that works to the piece you envisioned during the percolation stage. You know what painting is.
Mark at some ridiculous price. The final step in your piece’s transformation is to mark it way up. Folks are not going to pay $5 for a lump of twisted metal. If you mark that same lump to $500, however, they will realize it is art and willingly shell out the cash to own such a masterpiece.
While I generally keep my prices reasonable, I will mark up items for this example. Busted PVC pipe: $379.50; Snazzy Totem Pole: $999.99; Dark Theater Shrine: $8,056. I’ll also let the slush pile go for $1.2 million.
A simple trek to the mailbox is often not so simple. Some days it seems you need a wheelbarrow to keep up with all the junk mail.
One of my frivolous fantasies is to collect all my junk mail for a month, shove it in a big package filled with dog doo and then mail it back to the folks who sent it to me in the first place.
I’ve yet to follow through.
Instead I do what I normally do, and sort out the 8 percent valid mail from the 92 percent junk. I then heap the junk mail into the makeshift recycling pile on the side of my fridge until it falls over and scares my dogs.
You’d think with all the hoopla about saving the environment some type of regulation, law or ban on junk mail would have already been passed.
Four of the biggest offenders are:
• Tucson Shopper. This little newspaper-like item gets merrily stuffed in my mailbox about once a week or so. It contains ads for businesses I’ll never need and coupons for items I’ll never want.
At least it’s printed on newsprint, an ideal medium to wash the mirrors and windows.
• Those coupons that come stuffed in an envelope. Unless you were chomping at the bit for personalized Mickey Mouse checks, a five-room steam carpet cleaning or a set of cheesy dishcloths, the coupons are rarely worth saving.
• Catalogs. Catalogs. And more catalogs. These especially stink because they are printed on slick paper that doesn’t even work to wash the mirrors and windows. I will also receive doubles, triples or even quadruples of identical catalogs, just in case I missed the first one.
Some catalogs are from stores from which I’ve ordered online, while others are for old matronly clothes and orthopedic shoes. Maybe they think I live with my grandmother.
And I still don’t know how I got on Frederick’s of Hollywood’s mailing list.
• Bradford Exchange. This joint specializes in limited edition commemorative plates, girly-girl, dressed-up dolls and, as I ordered, items like a “hand-carved” tomahawk made out of plastic even though it looked like wood in the photo.
“Actual size of item larger than pictured” is one of the company’s key phrases. But the folks don’t tell you the item is much more hideous, as well.
Once you order even a single ugly item and they have your address, you will receive junk mail from them every other day encouraging you to order more ugly items. I don’t even open it any more.
The only junk mail with some redeeming qualities comes from animal organizations.
Not only is it a beneficial cause, but it usually comes with polar bear or toucan return address stickers, which you can keep even if you don’t send them money.
Half the time the stickers say “Mr. Ryn Gargulinski,” but we can always blot out the “Mr.” part with a Sharpie marker.
While I pride myself in often finding uses for even the most seemingly useless stuff, I’ve yet to find a use for junk mail.
It’s not durable enough for yard art, not fetching enough for wallpaper and not absorbent enough to line the rat cage.
The only option is to keep piling it up into that ever-growing recycling pile. Or perhaps finally following through on my fantasy and marking it “Return to Sender.”
Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and TucsonCitizen.com Ryngmaster who wishes she had a nickel for every piece of junk mail she has ever received so she could retire and move to France. Listen to a preview of her column at 8:10 a.m. Thursdays on KLPX 96.1 FM. Listen to her webcast at 4 p.m. Fridays at www.Party934.com. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Forget Paris or Milan, you can take a summer trek that is much cheaper, closer and perhaps even more thrilling for the whole family if you drive about 60 miles southwest of Tucson down to Arivaca.
Loyal TC.com reader RadMax recently embarked upon such a trip, bringing back photos he had to stealthily snap from his cell phone. It seems Arivaca has secrets some folks don’t want you to know.
With some research and rumors, I may not have unearthed these secrets, but I did come up with a host of entertaining activities you and your clan can enjoy.
The site City-Data.com says Arivaca is stocked with about 57,000 residents. Too many people told me that is incredibly incorrect, so I found another source, Zip-Codes.com, which puts the people count at about 900.
Arivaca also has a pocket of really talented artists and other fun stuff. “It has a general store, gas station, a great coffee house that has the best coffee in Arizona, an art gallery the size of a large outhouse, two bars and that is it,” one source reported.
You can also find some other treasures if you dig around long enough.
Arivaca fun activities:
• Anger the old man. RadMax reported there is a grouchy old man in the town’s feed store who likes to get even grouchier when approached by those pesky outsiders (i.e. most of us). Since pissing him off may not be such a challenge, you can instead keep count of how many times he uses the Lord’s name in vain. If you cannot find this particular grouchy old man, you may run across several others on which you can try the same games.
• Search for the MoonDance Saloon.* This saloon, which was featured in a Snappy or Crappy, is rumored to be in or near Arivaca but no one can seem to find it. RadMax even asked the grouchy old man, who vehemently denied its existence while using the Lord’s name in vain at least twice. This quest could turn into a summer-long funfest.
• Visit the fire pit of bones.* Arivaca couple Kenneth Alliman, 49, and Rebecca Lou Loften, 52, were reported missing in early June. Soon after, human remains were found in a fire pit on their property in the 3700 block of North Trico Road. They had opened their home to a Texas man who has since been arrested for allegedly killing his sister in 2003.
• Pay homage to the dead dad and his daughter.In another recent crime, 29-year-old Raul Flores and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia Flores, were both shot to death during a home invasion in the 36000 block of Mesquite Road. Three folks, associated with the group Minutemen American Defense, were arrested for the slaying.
• Leave water for the illegals. The group No More Deaths constantly scatters a bunch of water jugs in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge along paths illegals are known to take. Five of the members have already been arrested for littering, but a recent press release from the group promised they’d be at it again the morning of July 9 (that’s today!).
If you’re unable to make the July 9 littering event, you can always look for the paths on your own to refill the jugs. Better yet, hang around to get autographs from the immigrants who engage in the daring and death-defying feat of attempting to cross the barren desert in 107-degree heat.
I’ve not been to Arivaca, but with all these activities beckoning, I’ll put in on my list. Right after Paris and Milan.
What other fun stuff can you do in Arivaca?
What secrets do you know about the place?
Word just in! PLEASE NOTE: Just like people mix up Michigan and Minnesota, much to my annoyance, it seems I did the same with Arivaca and Avra Valley. The pit of bones is northwest of town, not southwest. This also explains the mysterious MoonDance Saloon. It’s by the bone pit, not the grouchy old man.