If there was a silver lining to my father’s recent death, it was this: I got to spend two days with my daughter, Simone.
Though she and her wife live just a few miles away from us, I don’t see her as often as you might think. When they aren’t working, she and Kyndall are hosting dinner parties, attending political events and rising early for dragon boat practice on the river. Simone also belongs to a book club, sings in a women’s choir, and volunteers for a couple of nonprofit organizations.
So, I was glad to enjoy her company from Wednesday morning until early Friday evening as we traveled to southwest New Mexico for my dad’s memorial service.
Simone flew into Phoenix late Tuesday night after work. I arrived early the next morning, fetched a rental car and picked her up at her motel. And so began a round trip of nearly 600 miles to and from Silver City – which meant about 14 hours on the road (including a time zone change and rest stops), much of it clocked at 75 mph on interstate highways.
It that isn’t a test of compatibility in close quarters, I don’t know what is. Happy to say we passed, with flying colors.
Simone is a great conversationalist. She’s well read, adept at social media and naturally inquisitive. Had she not become an auditor, she easily could have become a journalist, given her writing skills and her incessant questions of “Why?” and “What do you think?”
Not only that, she is a very attentive listener, a skill that’s also essential to journalism and a trait that I value in anyone. (Few things bother me as much as when people talk over me, so impatient are they to say their piece without extending the courtesy of letting someone else finish their thought.)
The only “rough” spot? Simone had to endure her father’s endless collection of CDs. What sounded so cool to me when I put together various mixes a few years ago still sounds good to me. But it’s that “few years ago” quality that desperately needs updating, she says. Simone came prepared, however, with a plan to introduce me to a couple of podcast stations on the internet. And so, wherever we could pick up a signal, we also listened to The Moth, a site featuring professional and amateur storytellers in New York.
We shared a room at a budget motel in Silver City and that went well, too. Fresh-baked cookies and cold milk at check-in made for a nice welcome, and we indulged in some fun people-watching at the breakfast buffet in the lobby each morning.
In the evenings, Simone more than compensated for my domination of the CD player by binge-watching her favorite Food Channel shows. At times it seemed like a continuous loop of “Cooks vs. Cons” with all the faux drama of today’s reality shows.
It’s good to see her relax, knowing she has such great responsibilities at work and precious few hours of genuine leisure time to simply relax. And for me, I suppose it doesn’t hurt to see what kinds of dishes these chefs can whip up using leftover Chinese takeout as main ingredients.
On the way in to Silver City, we took the slower, more scenic route traveling east on U.S. 70, a two-lane road. We passed through the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and several small towns in southeastern Arizona, stopping for lunch in Safford (population 9,500).
We ate at a café on Main Street and afterward walked through the two-block business district, where we shared an ice cream cone dished up at a retro ice cream parlor.
On the way back, we stopped in Tucson, where I knew an outdoor table and a fabulous menu awaited us at the Hotel Congress’ Cup Café. I’ve eaten there a few times before, starting when I used to travel alone as a newsroom recruiter for The Oregonian. To my delight, Simone thought it was every bit as good as Lori did, when I took my wife there (twice!) on our most recent trip to Silver City.
Perhaps the most fun, though, was introducing Simone to Silver City’s historic downtown district. In a sleepy little town of 10,000, where Walmart, CVS Phamacy and any number of fast-food chains predominate, it may come as a surprise to know that this former mining town also has a very alternative aspect.
On Bullard and surrounding streets, there are old-timey saloons, a food coop, modern restaurants, art galleries galore, jewelry shops and gift shops, a movie theater, a karate studio and two refurbished hotels catering to upscale tourists.
We stopped in to The Jumping Cactus coffeeshop Thursday evening and again Friday morning before we hit the road, charmed by the ambience and impressed by the array of drinks and pastries.
If we didn’t know better, we’d have thought we wandered onto the set of “Portlandia.”
Even before we went inside, a woman passed by on the sidewalk carrying a rolled-up yoga mat and a container of coconut milk.
At the counter, there was a transgender person, who struck up a conversation with us as if they were an employee or a city ambassador. Two middle-aged ladies sat at a table chatting over a copy of a thick book on astrology. A weathered old guy with bedhead and a backpack came in and ordered a double espresso. A young man, evidently just passing through town, got up from his corner table, earnestly hoping to join two older men in a philosophical conversation about faith and atheism.
On the porch, there were all sorts of fliers for local businesses pinned to a community board, including one advertising the discreet construction of underground shelters and man caves.
All this and Joni Mitchell on the in-house stereo system? You couldn’t have scripted this any better.
With a family as far-flung as ours, the funeral service provided an opportunity to see my sisters again (one from San Diego, one from Alaska) and other relatives, including several cousins, in-laws and a niece and nephew. For many, it was their first time meeting Simone. She socializes easily and I’m always proud to introduce my middle child.
I was especially gratified that Simone volunteered to be a pallbearer – the only woman among the six.
Circumstances didn’t permit Lori or either of our sons to make the trip. But I know my dad would have been very happy knowing his Oregon granddaughter had made the trip to pay her respects.
Though it would have been nice to make this trip while Dad was still alive, I will carry fond memories of time spent with my fellow road warrior. Though the bond between father and son was pretty special, so too is it between father and daughter.
If you’ve read this far, here’s a bonus video offering a taste of this former mining town: