Being able to walk on cool sunny Tucson mornings without slipping on ice is a miracle for this New Englander. Back east there’s snow and more snow, a friend was sandwiched between two storms unable to fly west from Massachusetts.
Some folks come to Tucson for the winter (aka snowbirds). Some Orthodox Jews also fly west from eastern U.S. cities. We were on our early morning stroll a few days ago, returning home from a coffee-walk to our neighborhood Starbuck’s.
There they were trying to cross the busy street at Country Club and 8th. A wobbling, frum (religious) older woman in serviceable shoes, all in black from head to toe except for her short red wig. Her husband, also in black, was decked out in a flat-topped satin-covered hat, old-fashioned wool topcoat and sported a scraggly white beard.
They’re here, I said to Dan. The foreign east-coast couple had stopped a bicyclist but he soon rode away. Clearly anxious by the time we got to them, the woman asked, “How do you get across this street?”
“Well you have to wait for a lull in the traffic,” Dan said. They didn’t know where they were going so Dan took out his handy-dandy iPhone and found the address of the synagogue they were looking for. The man stood back from our worldly conversation, too steeped in Talmudic learning to deal with the practical, I imagined. Or maybe he didn’t want to get too close to a woman — one with purple streaks in her hair.
His wife was all over it. Since I was familiar with Congregation Young Israel from work, she asked, “Are you Jewish?”
“Yes,” I said, and gave her my usual rap, how I’m not religious but am the associate editor of the local Jewish newspaper. And I’m going to Israel in three weeks on a press trip. “Is this your first time?” she wanted to know.
“Do you live in Tucson?” She was curious, and she didn’t mind that I wasn’t religious. At least I was Jewish. “Yes, we live right there,” I pointed to our house across the street.
“This is our first time here,” she said, leaning in and confiding, “We’re from New Yohk.”
“Really?” I wanted to say but maintained my politeness, maybe realizing that soon I’ll be a stranger in a strange land.