Tucson, Part 2; In which we join the circus!

The tour bus of the Theatre Company, a 1977 vintage bus.


While I’d love to report that we actually joined the circus, we’ve had a week that was almost that cool.  We are driveway surfing at the headquarters of Flam Chen, visiting the home of our amazing performer friend Jen.  Thanks to a chance meeting at a midwest music festival a decade ago, we’ve had the good fortune to be part of her fascinating life, and experience a unique, artistic world through her eyes.

Jen is one of the most interesting people I know: vivacious, passionate, and intensely engaged in creating the kinds of experiences that make life fun. Originally an east coast girl, she transported to sunny Tucson by way of…practically the whole world.  (I can’t believe how many times she’s mentioned something like “when I was in Nepal”, or “that time in Singapore”.)  She is a true Renaissance woman of movement, dedicated to learning everything from African dance, to stiltwalking, to circus arts.  And she’s an inspiration to the power of tenacity, only starting to learn things like aerial silks after age 30. Combine that with the biggest, sweetest heart you will ever know, and you can see why we were so keen to hang out with her again!

She rehearses at a studio that’s equipped with all kinds of contraptions hanging from the ceiling.  We had a look at the space early in the week, and played around on the silks and the lyra (that hula-hoop looking thing).  When she offered to give us an aerial class, we jumped at the chance!

She taught us some basics first, like how to climb up the silks.  It looks like it would take tremendous upper body strength, but it’s mostly a technique of wrapping the fabric around one foot, securing it with your other foot, and then just standing up to advance.  Once we (kinda) had a few basics down, she taught us a few tricks that look really fancy, but weren’t too hard.  We flipped upside down and wrapped the fabric around our waists, maneuvered upright again, and voila!  You’re in a swing!  At least, in theory.

Jen demonstrates her fluid technique.

After watching her easy movement, I give it a go.

So far, so good…

I hit a bit of a sticking point. I’m supposed to be sliding my butt down into the sitting position on top of the swing. Instead, I am laughing my head off while Jen tries to get my recalcitrant rear to move!

JJ, my little monkey, was really good at this one!

At the end, Jen went up super high, and showed us some of those breath-taking spinning tricks that make you gasp.

The set up

And the plummeting spin down to the ground!

Tucson is the kind of city that could keep you busy for weeks, so we’re finding tons of fun activities to do.  Jen’s house backs up to Sentinel Peak, and we’ve enjoyed walking out the back gate right into a cool urban hike that overlooks the city.

Jen’s dog, Paloma, showed us around her stomping grounds!

Great views in all directions

Of course, we’ve been sampling the culinary delights of a city steeped in a melange of cultures.

On the list of “Tucson’s 100 Essential Dishes”, this is a crepe (available gluten free!) filled with Manchego cheese, fig jam, toasted almonds, and smoked duck. Yum!

Raspados, Mexican snow cones, are huge here. This a variation with vanilla ice cream layered with all kinds of fresh fruit.

Yaqui style Sonoran hot dog and tacos.

And our favorite Tucson gelato place, Frost.

We’ve also been to a couple farmer’s markets (one with 80 vendors!), a huge outdoor art festival, and walked our feet off exploring the historic downtown. We’re having so much fun that we don’t want to leave, so we won’t!  We especially want to attend Mocktoberfest, a huge carnival and community arts fundraiser where Jen (and tons of other amazing folks) will be performing next weekend.

However, we’re starting to be a bit out of sync with the weather.  The goal was to stay in warm, pleasant climates all winter, but things are heating up!  This week was in the low 80s every day, but next week is going to be much hotter.  We will relocate to a campground in Tucson Mountain Park so that we can have electric to run the AC, but still be near the city. The location will also ensure that we have a few more chances to hang out with Jen, and enjoy her joie de vivre and her captivating world.


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