It pays to live on the west side of town

It pays to live on the west side of town

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Tucson is not Phoenix.  Ask any long-time Tucsonans about it and they will take a certain amount of pride in that statement.  Okay, maybe a lot of pride.  Phoenix – they say – has become Los Angeles.  If Phoenix and Scottsdale are the city slickers of the state, Tucson is the proud aging hippie.  It is a haven for the “anti” anything sort – big business, big box stores, housing developments and most noticeably, freeways.  The city planners have consistently voted down any suggestion of bringing expressways or thoroughfares to cope with increased sprawl.  Early on (in the 50’s) they were concerned that improved roadways would only encourage more people to live on the outskirts of town.  So what happened?  People came anyway for the beautiful scenery and warm climate, moving farther and farther from the town center.  Now a drive that would take 10 minutes on an expressway takes 30-40 with seemingly hundreds of red lights.  The road maps look like they were assembled by Lady Gaga’s costume designer.   So with perhaps one of the most frustrating cities in which to drive in the United States, what is the attraction?

Dash the Wonder Dog and his hilarious father

Dash the Wonder Dog and his hilarious father

Well, for me, in addition to the beautiful scenery, it is home to some of my favorite relatives.  My niece and nephew are there and they and their families are worth every second of waiting at stop lights to see them.  As a bonus, this past weekend our daughter Wendy and family met us down there for a relaxing family weekend.  I say relaxing because we stayed at the fabulous Westin La Paloma resort.  In true Tucson style, the grounds and amenities are some of the best representations of desert landscaping and southwestern architecture in the state.  When you enter the lobby you feel as if you have “arrived” somewhere.  Huge picture windows provide a view of the magnificent Catalina Mountain range.  I can’t be certain of this but I’m guessing that the blood pressure of visiting guests goes down significantly as they enter the hotel.  But here is the best part about La Paloma – they welcome dogs!  More on that in a bit.

After checking in, our entire family decided it was time for a nap.  To say that we like to relax would be an understatement – give any one of us a comfortable bed and a good book and we’re happy.  Westin, of course, is famous for their “Heavenly Beds” and they do not over-promise.  If I’m ever bed-ridden I’ve decided that I’m going to check in to a Westin for the duration.  Once we all had our beauty sleep we drove over to niece Shelley’s house for a delicious dinner.  Her two daughters are 17 and 15 and our grandsons are 15 and 12 and although they haven’t seen each other in years, we soon heard them laughing and having a great time.  All four of them are honor students, polite and have great senses of humor so when I am discouraged after seeing pants-dragging, tattooed teenagers and despair for our future, all I have to do is remember that these four are also our future and my faith is restored.

IMG953944 IMG953939Sunday night brought family rivalry night to the fore.  As it happened, University of Arizona (our daughter’s alma mater) was playing USC, whence our son-in-law graduated, in a rivalry basketball game.  Since they have lived in Southern California for many years they have attended lots of USC events, but Wendy was anxious for the boys to see where she went to school.  Fortunately they were able to secure tickets to the game but there was still the matter of sides to be taken.  You can see from the pictures they were a family divided for the night.  Jake, wisely understanding who packs his lunch, chose to wear the garb of his mom while Matt stuck with his favorite team.  For the record, UofA beat USC so half of the family was happy!

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Overlooking the lovely generator

But back to La Paloma.  The grounds are magnificent in part because it is built on a cliff so there are no roadways near the rooms.  In order to reach your room you climb on a golf cart that then winds it way around the trails of the property.  It’s surprising how relaxing that is – not to hear car doors slamming or horns honking in the middle of the night.  On the other hand, if you leave your iPad in the car it’s not necessarily a simple matter to go retrieve it.  So, fair warning – if you stay there make sure you have everything out of your car before heading to your room.  As mentioned, we especially enjoyed our stay because they allow dogs.  Not only do they allow them, they provide a water dish and dog bed.  Of course, Dash heard all the chatter about the “Heavenly Bed” so requested his own pillow up with us.  As he snuggled into it each night he let out a huge sigh and was out for the night.  In the mornings we sat in the lobby with Dash and were approached by people, young and old alike, who asked to pet him.  Even members of the hotel staff came out to see him and offered dog treats.  I thought about charging them an amusement fee – after all, they were charging me  the “resort fee” for Wi-Fi and use of the pool towel.  As I walked Dash around the property I was struck by a sign I encountered (right) suggesting that guests stop, take a photo, and then post it to social media.  But as you can see, the “scenic view” was of the side of the conference center and its diesel generator.  Call me crazy but if I were running La Paloma I think I’d move that sign to where the real view is.  But, hey, for all I know people are really excited by large utility boxes.


Now THIS is a photo spot!

Now THIS is a photo spot!


All in all, we had a great time and would highly recommend a stay in Tucson and at La Paloma.  One word of warning – do not let your dog sleep on the Heavenly Bed.  There’s been no living with Dash since he’s experienced the pillows at La Paloma.



Wonders in the Desert – Family

by Bob Sparrow

I was amazed again by the wonders of the desert on my journey last week, but this time in a totally different way.  Those who have followed us here know my fascination with places like Death Valley and Joshua Tree; last week’s journey took me to another desert, the Sonoran in southern Arizona, and the wonders I saw there were our brother, Jack’s kids and grand kids – no hiking and camping on this trip.

SuzAlDashBut the first stop along the way was to my sister, Suzanne and her husband, Al’s beautiful home in the private golf community of Desert Highlands in Scottsdale, about as far from camping as I could have gotten.  Linda and I made the stop in Scottsdale on our way to Tucson not only to see Suzanne and Al, but to see if it was true what they were saying about their new dog, Dash

It didn’t take long to see that it was true, Dash was now in full control of Suzanne, Al and all that goes on around the house . . . no, make that their lives.  It was easy to see why this dog commanded such attention – he is adorable.  When I found us all talking baby talk to the dog, I knew it was time to hit the road.  We headed south, confident that the newest member of our family had his owners firmly in control.


Abby, Colin, Katie, Shelley

Look up the word ‘family’ and you’ll find everything from ‘a taxonomic group containing one or more genera’ to ‘a loose affiliation of gangsters in charge of organized criminal activity’.  What you should see is a picture of the Watson family – Colin, Shelley, Katie, Abby and Murphy, the dog.  They are a fun-loving family full of caring, intelligent, thoughtful, humorous, loving people.  Add in nephew, Matt and kids Jackson and Madelyn, and you’ve got quite an assembly of people I just love being around.  Matt is a single dad who has his own physical therapy business; he is an intelligent, spiritual man who has a serious side, but is also one of the funniest people I know.  My cheeks hurt from laughing when I with him.  And I’m related to them all – which some say adds credence to the ‘me being adopted’ theory.



Katie (15) and Abby (12) both play tennis, very well, I might add.  They’ll be stars of their high school team, probably earn scholarships to a highly regarded academic college (they’re both straight A students) and enjoy the game of tennis the rest of their lives.  Unlike most kids and parent involved in youth athletics these days, they have neither the illusion nor the desire to become

Matt's family

Jackson, Matt, Madelyn

professional athletes – rather refreshing. If ever my faith needed to be restored in our youth, our future, it was – in straight sets.

After spending a very enjoyable ‘family’ weekend, we stopped in Phoenix on our way home to have breakfast with Linda’s sister and her husband, Starlet and Donnie, who, you guessed it, are great people!

I have come to enjoy the wonders of the desert; the mild days this time of year, the gentle nights; always amazed at how things not only live in this environment, but flourish.  And so it is with family there; I enjoy the smell of Matt’s chicken on the barbeque, the noise of kids at play in the pool, Colin’s British accent, Shelley’s make-you-feel-comfortable style, but mostly I enjoy the wonder of family and feel so very fortunate that Linda and I are so blessed with great family.

Donnie & Starlet

If you’re reading this on Monday morning, most of you know that I will be a bit preoccupied with my immediate family – daughter Dana is undergoing heart surgery this morning.  I’m looking forward to next writing about her successful recovery.