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TMA’s summer exhibition features a quartet of solo shows by artists in distinct cultural communities By Margaret Regan

CURRENTS: COVID’s Comeback in the Classroom

TUCSON WEEDLY: Fat Stacks of Weed Tax



AUGUST 5, 2021

AUGUST 5, 2021

AUGUST 5, 2021 | VOL. 36, NO. 31



The Tucson Weekly is available free of charge in Pima County, limited to one copy per reader. Additional copies of the current issue of the Tucson Weekly may be purchased for $1, payable at the Tucson Weekly office in advance. To find out where you can pick up a free copy of the Tucson Weekly, please visit





Officials work to mitigate COVID risk in classrooms as cases climb across the state



TMA’s summer exhibition features a quartet of solo shows by artists in distinct cultural communities



Rock opera Annette is more of an adventurous curio than a truly memorable musical effort



ADMINISTRATION Steve T. Strickbine, Publisher Michael Hiatt, Vice President


Jaime Hood, General Manager,

Four on the Floor

IN THIS WEEK’S COVER STORY, longtime arts writer Margaret Regan brings us a look at the Tucson Museum of Art’s new show 4x4: Willie J. Bonner, Nazafarin Lotfi, Alejandro Macias and Anh-Thuy Nguyen. The exhibition is actually four solo shows featuring artists who each represent a different cultural community. Margaret was dazzled by the show and I’m eager to get back to TMA to check it out. We’re delighted to be highlighting shows like 4x4 and all the fun stuff in this week’s calendar section—but we are concerned that COVID is making another comeback just as school is about to begin. It’s really bad news and staff reporter Christina Duran looks at both the rising cases and how local school districts are trying to mitigate the risk in the classroom. Be careful out there and consider masking up when you’re in crowded indoor spaces. The Delta variant is infecting vaccinated people with breakthrough cases; while those who have had a shot are less likely to have serious cases that require hospitalization or an ICU stay, there are a lot of kids under 12 who can’t get vaccinated. Bottom line: Be careful out there. The pandemic ain’t over yet. Elsewhere in the book: Columnist Tom Danehy looks at some unusual percentages; The Skinny wonders what’s wrong with Gov. Doug Ducey when it comes to encouraging

Tyler Vondrak, Associate Publisher,

people to wear masks; movie critic Bob Grimm lends an ear to an unusual musical; contributor Christina Fuoco-Karasinski introduces us to the Bayou Bandits, who are playing at The Rock this weekend; Tucson Weedly columnist David Abbott looks at how much tax revenue cannabis is bringing to the state, as well as efforts to legalize and tax cannabis on the federal level; and we’ve got plenty more, including a look at the effort to launch Amtrak service between Tucson and Phoenix, Dan Savage’s sex advice column, Tucson’s finest horoscopes, puzzles, cartoons and other diversions for you to enjoy. Voting is still underway for Best of Tucson®: Legends of the West. Cast your ballot at through Sept. 1. Finally, a correction. Last week’s cover story on the candidates in the Ward 6 primary race misspelled a candidate’s name. The proper spelling is Andres Portela. The Weekly regrets the error. Visit for election results—we’re going to press too early to report ’em in the paper Jim Nintzel Executive Editor Hear Nintz talk about all the cool stuff happening in Tucson at 9:30 a.m. Wednesdays during the World-Famous Frank Show on KLPX, 96.1 FM.

RANDOM SHOTS By Rand Carlson

Joshua Strickland: From Bourbon Street to the battlefield to The Bayou Bandits

Claudine Sowards, Accounting, Sheryl Kocher, Receptionist, EDITORIAL Jim Nintzel, Executive Editor, Jeff Gardner, Managing Editor, Mike Truelsen, Web Editor, Christina Duran, Staff Reporter, Ireland Stevenson, Staff Reporter, Contributors: David Abbott, Rob Brezsny, Max Cannon, Rand Carlson, Tom Danehy, Emily Dieckman, Bob Grimm, Andy Mosier, Linda Ray, Margaret Regan, Will Shortz, Jen Sorensen, Clay Jones, Dan Savage PRODUCTION Courtney Oldham, Production Manager, Ryan Dyson, Graphic Designer, Emily Filener, Graphic Designer, CIRCULATION Alex Carrasco, Circulation, ADVERTISING Kristin Chester, Account Executive, Candace Murray, Account Executive, Lisa Hopper, Account Executive, NATIONAL ADVERTISING Zac Reynolds Director of National Advertising Tucson Weekly® is published every Thursday by Times Media Group at 7225 N. Mona Lisa Rd., Ste. 125, Tucson, Arizona. Address all editorial, business and production correspondence to: Tucson Weekly, 7225 N. Mona Lisa Rd., Ste. 125, Tucson, Arizona 85741. Phone: (520) 797-4384, FAX (520) 575-8891. Member of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN). The Tucson Weekly® and Best of Tucson® are registered trademarks of Times Media Group. Publisher has the right to refuse any advertisement at his or her discretion.



Feds continue to fiddle as pot revenues roll like a river (of cash)

Cover image: Alejandro Macias, “Hidden in Plain Sight,” 2020, oil and acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of the artist.

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AUGUST 5, 2021



Officials work to mitigate COVID risk in classrooms

YOUR NOMINEES FOR By Christina Duran


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TUCSON UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT will not differentiate between vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals when asking students to quarantine after a brush with someone infected with COVID, announced Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo at a recent governing board meeting. In July, Kaitlin Harrier, education policy advisor for Governor Doug Ducey sent a letter to two school districts, Catalina Foothills and Peoria, stating their isolation and quarantine policies violated Arizona statute, since they indicated fully vaccinated individuals would not have to quarantine, following guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Arizona Department of Health Services. In a press briefing on July 20, Trujillo said their decision to implement a uniform quarantine requirement was not informed by the actions of the Governor’s office nor from any political implications, but more out of their inability to ask for a student’s vaccination status. “In order to even trigger a quarantine approach that would treat or assign different amounts of quarantine time to a vaccinated student or an unvaccinated student at some point you would have to actually ask that family or that student if they’ve been vaccinated,” said Trujillo. “That’s not a route that we’re willing to go right now for legal implications. Obviously other districts have

chosen differently.” While Trujillo acknowledged that Catalina Foothills and Peoria’s legal representatives found both districts had acted in good faith and not violated the statute, TUSD still opted for a more conservative approach. Other school districts, including Marana Unified School District, reference CDC and ADHS guidance on isolation and quarantine. According to Alli Benjamin, Director of Public Relations for the district, Marana Unified School District Health Services would complete full case investigations and contact tracing for all positive cases and the Pima County Health Department would provide guidance on quarantine and isolation to individuals exposed to COVID-19. The school district would not be asking for vaccination status. She said the district would continue to document COVID-19 cases on their COVID-19 Dashboard, and staff and families at impacted sites will receive notifications. Tucson Unified School District will also continue to monitor COVID-19 cases across their schools, but contact tracing and isolation and quarantine recommendations would come from the Pima County Health Department. The TUSD governing board also supported the creation of signage across their schools that would encourage masking for students and staff. CONTINUED ON PAGE 6

AUGUST 5, 2021



COVID cases on the rise as students return to school By Christina Duran

THE STATE OF ARIZONA REPORTED more than 10,000 new cases of COVID over the five days between Friday, July 30, and Tuesday, Aug. 3, leading to concern that the Delta variant is driving another wave of coronavirus cases in the state. Dr. Joe Gerald, an epidemiologist with the UA Zuckerman School of Public Health who has been tracking the disease since it first appeared in Arizona in March 2020, sounded a somber warning with his weekly summary of trends. “Unlike the summer of 2020 when we were headed into school re-opening with generally declining rates, the match has been lit and the kindling is aflame this time,” Gerald wrote in an email. “For good measure, we are going to throw on some wet wood (children) in the coming weeks to ensure a robust bonfire for the Labor Day Marshmallow Roast.” While Pima County is averaging fewer cases per 100,000 people than the state as a whole, officials here are seeing an increase in school outbreaks as students return to the classroom, with health officials warning the spread of COVID in schools could have a significant impact on the community at large. Pima County Health Department Director Dr. Theresa Cullen told the press last week that there had been eight outbreaks in schools and 56 school cases reported in the seven days following July 19, while there had been no outbreaks in the summer. She said they have closed one school classroom in the last five days and expected more cases to be reported on the horizon. The cases are primarily from Vail School District, which resumed classes on July 19, and some of the outbreaks are in schools and others are from school related activities, like football, cheerleading or freshman orientations, Cullen said. “We are now seeing this increase as students go back to school,” said Cullen. “We anticipate that approximately 5% to

10% of the cases we are seeing right now will be due to school as opposed to a maximum of 4% last year.” Although several studies conducted early during the COVID-19 pandemic suggested children have lower incidence rates than adults, this may be partly due to children having fewer opportunities for exposure and a lower probability of being tested, CDC officials warned in an updated July 9 brief. They noted that studies that systematically tested children and adolescents, irrespective of symptoms, for COVID-19 infection or prior infection found “their rates of infection can be comparable, and in some settings higher, than in adults.” Cullen said pediatricians, primarily working in hospitals, “are seeing increased admissions and increased severity of illness, including ICU admission.” Currently, younger children are not eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine (only those 12 to 17 can receive the Pfizer vaccine), which are highly effective against hospitalization and death for all COVID-19 variants. In a late July briefing, ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ (who recently announced she was leaving her job) reported that nearly 32% of 12 to 17 year olds have been vaccinated with at least one dose of vaccine. The expected rise in school-related cases comes as the U.S. faces another wave of COVID-19 and the increased prevalence of the Delta variant. As of July 30, Arizona has a high rate of transmission of 141 cases per 100,000 individuals per week, increasing by 32 cases per 100,000 residents per week In Arizona, according to Gerald’s July 30 report. He said the Delta variant accounts for more than 75% of all cases. Emerging data suggests lower effectiveness of the vaccine against confirmed infection and symptomatic disease caused by the Delta variant, according to the CDC’s brief on vaccinations updated last Tuesday. The CDC reports the Delta variant is “more than two times as transmissible as the original strains circulating at the start

of the pandemic and is causing large, rapid increases in infections.” Pima County remains at a substantial rate of transmission of 69 cases per 100,000 individuals per week for the week of July 18, almost half the state’s transmission rate. Cullen notes that until July 19, when the county received increased reports of school COVID-19 cases and outbreaks, the county was in moderate transmission. “If we continue to see the increases that we have seen in the last week in our caseload, it is very possible that we will get to high transmission,” said Cullen. “The reason why we don’t separate out kids cases from adult cases, from elderly cases, and it’s all one, is because the belief is that that reflects what’s going on in the community at large. So, there is potential for a very significant impact on the community at large because of the school base cases.” Cullen said the health department is increasing their school team, because they believe “there will be an increasing number of outbreaks unless we have further mitigation.” However, new state law prohibits schools from mandating masks and requiring students and teachers get vaccinated. Schools in Arizona also faced backlash from Governor Doug Ducey’s office for using language from the CDC, which states vaccinated individuals do not have to quarantine. The Pima County Health Department is responsible for assessing vaccination status and determining the recommendation for isolation and quarantine, while school districts report positive cases, said Cullen. “From the school district perspective, our goal is to say this is a Pima County Health Department prerogative, responsibility to keep the county safe and it falls within the purview of our authority to follow up on this,” said Cullen. “We are cognizant of what the Governor has stated. We believe that our approach to this takes the onus off the school, and basically says the follow up is due to us.” Cullen emphasized that the county is “doing everything [they] can to keep kids in school.” The Pima County Health Department updated its Public Health Advisory to match the new CDC guidelines released last week. The CDC updated their guidance, recommending fully vaccinated



individuals in areas with high or substantial rates of transmission should also wear a mask in public indoor settings because of the new evidence on the Delta variant. Matching CDC language, they will be “strongly recommending all teachers, staff and students, visitors to K-12 schools wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.” Cullen hopes school superintendents will elect to push out the same recommendation and language. Catalina Foothills School District and Tucson Unified School have opted to post signage around schools to encourage masking and the Catalina Foothills School District has updated their mitigation plan to match the new CDC guidelines. According to a statement from TUSD, “The Tucson Unified School District Administration strongly recommends universal mask wearing for all students and staff. Per House Bill 2898, we are unable to mandate mask wearing. TUSD supports Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman’s recommendation to have all students and staff wear masks when on school campuses.” In an email sent to families and staff on Thursday, the Marana Unified School District indicated the administration “recommends face coverings while indoors regardless of vaccination status in accordance with CDC guidelines,” but would also “remain optional in accordance with the Governor’s Executive Order and House Bill 2898.” Amphitheater school district will also follow Pima County and CDC guidelines. In the updated July 9 brief on transmission in schools, the CDC notes that when a combination of effective mitigation strategies, like masking and social distancing, are implemented and “strictly adhered to in the K-12 in-person learning environment, the risk of transmission in the school setting appears to be lower than or equivalent to the transmission risk in other community settings.” “Schools have done an amazing job, they have all worked with us for the past months, over the last year to ensure that they have layered mitigation,” said Cullen. “However, they have limited ability to do certain things and that’s why we believe it is our responsibility to do the recommendation, the strong recommendation about masking.” ■



AUGUST 5, 2021



“We are not authorized as a school district, nor is any other school district in the state of Arizona, authorized to mandate masks for students, or our employees,” said Trujillo at the press briefing. “It is however the official position of this superintendent, and this administration and our governing board as voiced in public last night that we strongly encourage our students and staff to wear masks, in the spirit of public health and in the spirit of the recommendations that we have seen from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control.” At the briefing, Trujillo highlighted the unexpected increase in enrollment for the Tucson Unified Virtual Academy, their new all remote learning school. Heading into their July 13 governing board meeting, about 700 students had enrolled in TUVA and as of July 20 Trujillo said that number had grown to 1,200 students. Trujillo initially projected around 1,000 students enrolled at TUVA, but believes they could probably have between 1,500 and 1,700 students enrolled by the time district opens on August 6.

He believes Gov. Doug Ducey’s decision to sign a budget bill passed by Arizona GOP lawmakers that prohibited schools from mandating masks is a “big reason” for the rise in enrollment to TUVA. “I have to believe that it’s created a significant level of uneasiness, of anxiety, of fear, for a lot of our parents that do not feel comfortable sending their unvaccinated students into maskless environments, and with a school district powerless to enforce what I think was our most powerful strategy for mitigation,” said Trujillo. “We’re no longer able to do that so I don’t blame parents for hesitating in sending their students back to school. For those parents TUVA is a viable option.” Trujillo said some parents also have concerns about the overall safety of returning to schools with a potential third wave as cases of the Delta variant continue to rise when there is no COVID-19 vaccine for those younger than 12. “Two of my three children are too young to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and that’s why they returned to public school today wearing masks,” wrote Arizona Health Department Director Cara Christ in a blog before she announced her retirement. “ADHS recommends the same for

all unvaccinated individuals when they are around people they don’t live with. It wasn’t the most popular decision to my two kiddos, but it’s one that will protect their health and the health of those around them.”

AT A JULY VACCINE CLINIC hosted by Marana Unified School District in partnership with the Pima County Health Department on Tuesday, Jennifer Hess waited with her two children to get their vaccinations before the coming school year. Students at Mountain View High School, Dustin, 15 and Audrey, 13, both got their COVID-19 vaccine. At the event, students could not only receive all the required vaccines for the coming school year for chicken pox, polio and the like, but also had the option to receive the Pfizer vaccine for those 12 and older. Hess said she waited mostly out of convenience, since her primary care provider is usually packed and school is starting soon. She also felt more comfortable and had no concerns about masking being optional, since her children are vaccinated. “It’s a small risk any time you have a vaccine,” said Hess. “For us the benefit outweighs the risks.”

The event had a larger turn out than expected, according to MUSD Director of Health Services Nicole Pargas. Pima County Health Department reported the clinic had 107 total visits, with around half the children getting vaccinated with their required vaccines, 17 children receiving only the COVID-19 vaccine, and 13 children receiving both. They also vaccinated five adults with the COVID-19 shot, as the event did not limit participation, even those outside of the district could receive their vaccines. Mehdi Ali, 68 travelled from New Mexico to visit grandkids Sama, 11 and Noor, 14 while their parents are overseas. He brought Noor, a student at Sonoran Science Academy, to the vaccine clinic to get the COVID-19 vaccine. As a faculty member at University of New Mexico, Ali got his vaccine in January, despite having diabetes and recent open heart surgery. “I hope people wise up and take the vaccine for themselves, for other people, for the community,” said Ali. “Better to be vaccinated at this age with the rise of the Delta variant.” Once Sama becomes eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, Ali believes she will be vaccinated, since their whole family

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AUGUST 5, 2021

is vaccinated. However, some students eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine are unable to get vaccinated due to the need for parental consent. Marana High School student James Wesley, 16, said he wants to get vaccinated, but his mother Theresa said they “don’t believe in it.” They attended the vaccine clinic to get his regular immunizations. Wesley said once he turns 18 he would get a COVID-19 vaccine, but until then said he would be wearing his mask at school. COVID-19 cases have risen substantially over the past month in Arizona, with a high rate of transmission of 141 cases per 100,000 individuals per week as of July 30, increasing by 32 cases per 100K residents per week compared to the previous week, reported Dr. Joe Gerald, an epidemiologist and professor at UA Zuckerman School of Public Health, in his July 30 COVID-19 update. As of Monday, Aug. 2, about 47% of Arizonans are fully vaccinated. While the vaccination effort remains slow, Gerald said about 70,000 vaccine doses were administered last week, about 10,000 more than the prior week. “As slow and frustrating as our vaccination efforts may seem, it is important we continue the hard work of vaccine outreach,” said Gerald. With the acceleration in transmission, Gerald emphasized vaccination as the most important public health priority to reduce viral transmission and severe illness and that mandating masks in indoor spaces and limiting large gatherings is “warranted to reduce transmission in public settings.” “Resumption of in-person instruction (K-12 and universities) in the face of high community transmission, low vaccination rates, prohibition of universal masking, lack of surveillance testing, and minimal physical distancing will undoubtedly lead to frequent school-related outbreaks and accelerating community transmission,” warned Gerald. Although the rates of transmission were similar to this time last year, he noted that conditions were improving not worsening. Despite the concerns of the rise in the Delta variant and masking being optional at school, both parents and children at the clinic expressed excitement to go back to in-person schooling. For Noor, remote schooling was “pretty hard” and she works “better on paper and pencil instead of Googling things.” ■



ed from one-time capital investments. Mayor Ed Honea of Marana, who signed the letter of support, said his constituents would be able to visit their families or travel for work, like his own family has using Amtrak’s existing line to travel from San Diego to Los Angeles. He also noted the area around the Marana stop has multiple hotel and motel complexes for people to stay in for business. Beyond the leisure traveler, Visit Phoenix CEO Ron Price added that by connecting these cities it would increase interest in the region. “How much more attractive are we going to become to be landing the next corporate headquarters, the regional offices?” asked Price. Amtrak would use and build on existing lines, and use their new diesel multiple-unit train, which Gardner said is a “very effective train set.” While the train is not electric, he PHOTO COURTESY BIGSTOCK said Amtrak is looking at different alternatives to provide the “lowest carbon service that we can.” When asked why Amtrak considered Local mayors support Amtrak’s proposal for a passenger rail connecting a passenger rail versus a high speed rail, Tucson and Phoenix, as well as towns in between Flynn noted the time and investment a high speed rail would take, but would be considered in the future once there’s an existing Corridor Vision Plan to expand low carbon line. By Christina Duran “High speed rail from start to finish, intercity passenger rail service to 160 usually is a 15-plus-year project, and it is munities across the nation over the next 15 something that I think that we look at once ON JULY 13, 11 MAYORS, INCLUDING years. there’s an existing corridor, and there’s ex“We have a global climate crisis. In part mayors from Sahuarita, Oro Valley and isting volumes,” said Flynn. “The approach congestions on the road and really in the air Marana, led by Tucson City Mayor Regina here is to build out the service, build out the feed some of that. We have a history of some Romero and Phoenix Mayor Kate Galleridership and then explore what other future structural inequality in society but particugo, sent a letter to Arizona congressional opportunities are for services.” leaders, supporting Amtrak’s proposal for a larly in transportation as well,” said Amtrak At the moment Amtrak hopes to secure CEO Bill Flynn. “We believe that one way passenger rail that would not only connect the federal funding necessary to begin the to rise and address these challenges that Tucson and Phoenix, but other towns like investments to start operations, includour country confronts is through expanding Marana, Coolidge and Goodyear. ing the agreements with host railroads, intercity passenger rail service, putting in “It’s about a regional approach to ecolike Union Pacific to develop the rights to nomic development because what’s good for place a system that offers frequent reliable, operate. Gardner said they proposed a “bold Tucson is good for the region,” said Romero sustainable and equitable alternatives to plan for federal investment” to Congress to in a media roundtable with Amtrak and city driving and flying.” help cover up to all of the initial capital costs Flynn said the rail could address longleaders on Tuesday. “It really is about offerand a portion of the early operational costs. term congestion issues in the corridor, ing an opportunity to all of our residents, They also advocated that Congress provide including those that live south of Tucson in as Tucson commuters are estimated to additional funds to increase operation of the Nogales and Rio Rico, to connect even tour- spend about 90% more time in traffic than trains, including the two they currently have, ists that are coming in from Sonora, Mexico, elsewhere and large city commuters may in their long distance network from tri-weekwhich is our number one trading partner in be experiencing as much as 62 hours of ly to daily. congestion delay, estimated to cost about Arizona, to Tucson.” Part of the proposal also includes transi$1,000 a year. The passenger rail would be an alternationing the operating funding requirement The passenger rail would require an tive to driving, with a five-minute shorter to the state after a period of time, according travel time than the peak two-hours-and-30- investment of about $925 million and take to Flynn. about three years of construction to put the minute commute from Tucson to Phoenix, “The state of Arizona has an incredible service in place, said Gardner. said Amtrak President Stephen Gardner. opportunity to lead on this particular type Amtrak estimates the service would The rail would offer three daily round of investment that other states, by the way, generate roughly 200,000 riders annually, trips from Tucson, Phoenix and Buckeye, already do,” said Romero. ■ producing $77.7 million a year and generate and one daily trip from Tucson to Los Angeles. The proposed line is part of Amtrak’s about $2.3 billion in economic activity creat-





AUGUST 5, 2021


Why is Gov. Doug Ducey acting so dumb about face coverings?

Jim Nintzel GOV. DOUG DUCEY LAST WEEK expressed outrage that the Biden administration would advise Arizonans to wear seat belts. “The CDC today is recommending that we wear seatbelts in cars, regardless of whether we have airbags,” Ducey said. “This is just another example of the Biden-Harris administration’s inability to effectively confront highway safety.” Just kidding! Ducey actually said something last week just as dumb regarding masks and vaccines: “The CDC today is recommending that we wear masks in school and indoors, regardless of our vaccination status. This is just another example of the Biden-Harris administration’s inability to effectively confront the COVID-19 pandemic.” Governor, please: You’re the one who allowed Arizona to become a global hotspot—twice!—before Joe Biden was in the White House. You’re the one who blocked Pima County’s efforts to work with the CDC to open vaccination clinics in low-income and minority neighborhoods. You’re the one who signed legislation preventing local authorities—including school districts—from enacting mask mandates. And you’re the one who will be to blame if this third wave that’s rising in Arizona ends up spreading the Delta variant across school campuses— which has already started in the Vail

School District, our local canary in the COVID mine. Your leadership on this issue has been simply appalling. Ducey complained last week that CDC guidance encouraging people to wear masks was “mixed messaging” that hurt the effort to get the spread of the virus under control. Ducey said the real solution is getting more people vaccinated. While it’s true that getting more shots in arms will reduce the spread of the disease and result in fewer hospitalizations, state and local officials are struggling to persuade the vaccine-hesitant to get a shot. Just over half of all Arizonans have gotten at least one shot and we are back to high spread across most of the state. (Pima County is just at substantial spread as The Skinny goes to press, but if current trends hold, we’ll likely join the rest of the state before long in the high-transmission category.) Ducey himself has done plenty of mixed messaging when it comes to the virus—remember when he assured us we were “clearly on the other side of this pandemic” in May 2020, right before Arizona became a global hot spot for first time last summer? But his many missteps aside, Ducey’s push to discourage people from wearing masks is truly puzzling. Very few people like wearing the damn things, but it sure beats ending up with COVID or spreading disease to others, especially when kids can’t yet get the shot. Even Dr. Cara Christ, who heads up the Arizona Department of Health, says she wants her kids masking up in the classroom.

“Two of my three children are too young to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and that’s why they returned to public school today wearing masks,” Christ wrote on the ADHS website. “ADHS recommends the same for all unvaccinated individuals when they are around people they don’t live with. It wasn’t the most popular decision to my two kiddos, but it’s one that will protect their health and the health of those around them.” That sounds like some mixed messaging coming from Christ. Is it a coincidence that she’s is now leaving her gig atop the state’s health agency to take a leadership job at Blue Cross Blue Shield? We’re not likely to know the answer to that question, but former ADHS director Will Humble, who is now the executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, noted that Christ’s recent disagreement with Ducey over whether school districts


could require unvaccinated students who have been exposed to COVID to quarantine was “the very first time I’ve ever seen her disagree with anything the governor has said or done.” Humble also forecasted legal action between the state and school districts over the state’s new law forbidding school districts from requiring masks, especially after Phoenix Union School District said they would defy the law and require masks in schools. So why is Ducey so opposed to masks? His “mixed messaging” argument doesn’t really make sense. It’s fair to wonder if he’s just trying to pander to the GOP base that has such a problem with masking up. And if it’s politics that is driving his opposition, he’s putting children’s health at risk in order to kiss up to the anti-science wing of his party. If that’s the case, he may have a political future—but he doesn’t deserve one. ■

AUGUST 5, 2021


TOM RUNS THE NUMBERS By Tom Danehy, MY FRIEND JONATHAN HOFFMAN, knowing that I’m a math geek, sent me a link to an article in The Atlantic about some guy who claims that he can predict the future of humankind using a complex algorithm. When I finished reading the piece, my math-based reaction was that I had wasted 548.2 seconds of my life reading the nonsense. I mean, seriously, math can’t accurately predict who’s going to win a football game. How is it supposed to predict the rise and fall of civilizations? Still, there are some significant numbers floating around in my head recently.

die and they can take the pandemic with them.” I’m embarrassed to say that that thought has flashed through my head. But, being as good a Catholic as possible, I have worked hard to refine it. It’s like when comedian Martin Lawrence told a story about a frazzled mom whose kid would run wild in the mall. She finally hired a sniper to shoot the kid in the leg, explaining, “I don’t want him to die. I just want him to fall hard.” I sincerely hope that they all get sick as a dog. That’s the best I can muster after all we’ve been through.

Among them:

67% A recent survey shows that 67% of Arizona Democrats want Kyrsten Sinema to face a primary challenge in 2024. Really?! Only 67%? She’s hideous. And she’d better not try to take any credit for the Infrastructure deal. The need for infrastructure spending is so great and the political benefits so great for an incumbent of either party, even Donald Trump could have gotten something passed if he had had any kind of attention span and had followed through just once on one of his pathetic “Infrastructure Week” proclamations.

97.4% That’s the latest number I heard as to the percentage of people who are contracting the COVID-19 virus who are unvaccinated. But there is a number that’s even higher. I’m guessing that when people who have done the right thing for themselves and their fellow citizens—people who have worn masks, practiced social distancing, and gotten vaccinated—hear the aforementioned percentage, at least 98.9% of them have the thought creep into their head, “Well, let ’em


What Sinema needs to be doing is realize that this is 2021. Somebody needs to tell her that Mr. Smith Goes To Washington is just a movie. It’s a great movie, but it came out in 1939. (Do you realize that when it was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, it was up against Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz? Yeah, good luck with that.) We all love the scene where Jimmy Stewart grabs the floor of the Senate and starts talking with Jean Arthur guiding him from the gallery. But it’s a movie; it’s not real. Heck, I could almost see Sinema’s point if that were the filibuster that she claims to be protecting. But it’s not. The racist progeny of Strom Thurmond (apparently, he fathered a whole bunch of kids on both sides of the color bar) don’t have to stand up and speak for 24 hours in feeble defense of limiting the voting rights of minorities. They just have to say that they’re willing to do that and the debate ends before it begins. How is that “the greatest deliberative body in the history of the world?” It’s more like 100 selfish little babies, each holding a live grenade. That is not something to be cherished; it is to be reviled and done away with. Infrastructure is fine, even in a pareddown version. What Sinema and the equally gutless Joe Manchin should be concerned about is the right-out-in-the-open use of baseless lies and outright chicanery to manufacture a corrupt system that is designed to keep a party with barely 40% of



the populace in power for a generation.

ALL KINDS OF NUMBERS. Insurance companies rake in billions based on actuarials. They use highly precise risk assessment algorithms to determine how much to charge people for coverage. A fat person who chooses to smoke and drink is going to pay more than an in-shape person who takes care of him/herself. The insurance company doesn’t tell anybody what to do with or to one’s own body. They just tell you how much extra you’re going to pay for certain habits, vices, and personal choices. Well, the time has come for the insurance companies to do the right thing, not necessarily for the good of the country or even the good of their customers. Do it for the bottom line. Starting today, if you’re not vaccinated, you’re not covered for COVID. If you want to spout all this “personal liberty” stuff, back it up. Show us how tough you are. You don’t think the virus exists or maybe it does but it’s not all that serious, why do you need insurance coverage for it? You’d be paying extra for something that can’t possibly hurt you. If your religion doesn’t believe in vaccinations, it probably doesn’t believe in hospitals, either. What do you think? If insurance companies insisted on customers being vaccinated in exchange for COVID coverage, would there be an uptick in vaccination numbers or would a whole lot of science deniers have to suddenly shift their focus to how to cover six-figure hospital bills? ■



AUGUST 5, 2021



Willie J. Bonner


TMA’s summer exhibition features a quartet of solo shows by artists in distinct cultural communities By Margaret Regan WHEN I WALKED INTO THE PAINTINGS of Willie J. Bonner at the Tucson Museum of Art last week, I couldn’t help myself. I had to share my delight. “They’re so pretty,” I blurted out to the security guard,

someone I had never met. He smiled. “Yeah,” he said. “The colors are really nice.” Make that gorgeous. Thanks to Bonner and 36 of his paintings, one of the museum’s biggest galleries is a brilliant blaze of color. The large-scale 2020 painting “The Invisible Man,”

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just for instance, is a jazzy confection of lemon yellow, sky blue, royal blue, pink, lavender, ochre, brown, dark green and black. “Hours After,” from 2021, boasts orange, gold, white, twilight blue and burnt sienna. Bonner’s paintings, both big and small, are semi-abstract, filled with lively geometric shapes and diagonals and lines zipping across the canvases. The artist lives in Tucson, but he grew up in Cleveland, listening to jazz, an art form inspired in part by African rhythms. In turn those rhythms have shaped his energetic paintings. But his works also reflect “what it means to be Black” in America, as a museum note puts it. If you take a closer and longer look at these joyful works, you’ll find some bitter-sweet narratives among the pretty colors. The 2012 painting “Taking a Chance on Chance” (colors: black, blue, green, gold and white) has a lovely blue sky and puffy white clouds above the sea. But a palm tree below is disconcertingly black. And it you look closely at the water, you’ll see a big catfish—and what looks like a slave ship carrying a crowd of Black people destined for bondage. Over the bout Bonner has painted the word “Americ,” an incomplete word that suggests America is not yet complete. “The Invisible Man,” painted in the year of the murder of George Floyd, is filled with sweet pastel colors, but the more you look at it, the more unnerving it gets. Is that a man hiding—or hanging—on the pink doorway? Is the brown orb below the head of a man? Sometimes, Bonner goes right to the chase. In “The Night of the Purple Moon,” a swirl of yellow, pink, blue and black, he paints words that conjure up a history of injustices against African Americans. He covers wrongs both old and new. He references Clotilda, the “last American slaver,” and today’s Black Lives Matter movement; and the African Kingdom of Dahomey, which sold Africans as slaves and the “birther” lie that Obama was not born in the U.S., and so on. Bonner, now in his late 60s, has the unusual ability both to paint beautifully and to denounce the wrongs of the world. Wrenching as some of his pieces are, Bonner is at heart an optimist. He loves to paint human hands of all colors, reaching out one to another, finding justice. Bonner’s wonderful show is part of a clever summer exhibition at the museum. 4X4 created four separate solo shows for four very different local artists, each of them hailing from a distinct cultural community. Aside from Bonner, the artists are young, all in their 30s. Anh-Thuy Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American, now the head of the photography program at Pima Community College, was born in 1983 in Vietnam. Her poetic photographs embody the longing for home and the difficulties immigrants have “living between two cultures,” as the museum notes say. Her luminous installation “The Boat Journey” series, hangs at the entrance of the whole show. It’s the first

AUGUST 5, 2021

4X4 Four contemporary solo shows at Tucson Museum of Art 140 N. Main Ave. Through Sept. 26 Thursday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Reserve a time slot online at $12 adults, $10 seniors 65 and up, $7 college students and children 13 to 17, free for members, kids 12 and under, veterans and active military. 520-624-2333


“Double Jeopardy,” 2017, by Willie Bonner, is part of 4X4, continuing through Sept. 26 at the Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N. Main Ave.

thing visitors see. (and should be) The work has four enigmatic photos arranged in a square. The colors of these large images are delicate and muted—black, blue, white—and they’re printed onto aluminum. Each one shows the same dreamlike woman in traditional Vietnamese dress. She’s in different positions in every picture; she sits high on hill looking to the valley below, walks across a stone street, holds a tiny boat close, seeks refuge in an Asian tree. We never see her face but her yearnings for her lost home are palpable. Nearby, a small flotilla of small boats

that Nguyen crafted out of leather sits on shelf, a poignant memory of the journey. The woman, notes say, is a semi-autobiographical character named Thuy that Nguyen invented years ago almost as a stand-in for herself. So Nguyen is both the photographer and subject. Another series, “Thuy and Sand,” shows the woman struggling across a white sea of sand, dragging an old-time carpet bag. The three lovely photos, glistening in the whiteness, take her farther and farther away until she nearly disappears. Not all of Nguyen’s works are poignant.

Some are about discrimination. In the wake of the violence against Asians in America, a video has Thuy screaming with rage. Like Nguyen, artist Alejandro Macias navigates two different cultures. The difference is that he’s an American citizen, born and raised in Brownsville, Texas. He’s enmeshed in both the Mexicano culture of the Rio Grande Valley and American popular culture, but he identifies as Mexican American. His bright paintings of Latinx people aim in part to counteract the push toward assimilation. “Where It Takes Root,” an oil and acrylic on canvas, pictures a young Mexican-American dressed in bright colors. But we don’t see the top of his head. It’s covered by a tangle of roots, slithering their way down into the boy’s brain, delivering the traditions and wisdom of the forebears. “Hidden in Plain Sight” shows the opposite. A young man seen from the back looks up at southwest mountain range and a deep blue sky. But the man can’t see anything. Bands of color are wound around him, covering his eyes,


silencing his voice. Macias has drawn an elegant black and white self-portrait that highlights his own divide. The landscape serves as a metaphor for his dual life. In one of the two portraits, he stands in front of his beloved Rio Grand River. In the other, he’s below some mountains, perhaps in Arizona. In trading a river for a mountain, he adds one more divide. And in each of the two pictures, there are two Macias, one there in the flesh, and one in ghostly memory. Interestingly, Nazafarin Lotfi, born in Iran, is showing art that she made in Tucson during the pandemic. (Some of the pieces were created earlier at Artpace in San Antonio.) There’s a lonely feel to this ecological work, with the solitary artist photographing outdoors in a world where people were hiding indoors. In two brightly colored photo works called “All Things that Grow,” a figure—Lofti herself?—is nearly invisible. The artist has made artificial rocks out of papier-maché and placed them in a grassy countryside. In one image you can see the figure’s hair and one leg. In the other, the rock is next to a dead tree trunk, and only one arm of the figure is visible. In any case, the human is dwarfed by nature. Even more interesting, three of the human-made rocks are right inside the gallery. Called “Traces,” these sculptures take many forms. One, to me, looks like a mountain, but another, as the museum notes suggest, conjures up a shrouded figure and death. But the final work in this installation, brings us back to the light: it’s a large color photo on cotton sateen, swaying in the breezes, and picturing sun, sky and water—and another big rock. ■

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Driver gets to plumb his comedic talents as Henry performs his popular show in a bathrobe before crowded, rowdy audiences. RIDING A CAREER RETROSPECTIVE Driver gets his first real opportunity high after the recent release of director to flex that (albeit dark) comedy muscle Edgar Wright’s The Sparks Brothers on screen in a headlining role. Anybody documentary, musical siblings Ron and who has seen his hosting stints on Russell Mael team with director Leos Saturday Night Live knows that Driver Carax (Holy Motors) for the rock opera can bring the funny. The comedy here Annette, perhaps the weirdest rock is a little more twisted and understated opera put to film since Ken Russell’s than an SNL sketch, but the solid Driver adaptation of The Who’s Tommy. timing is very much on display. The Sparks Brothers provide the muBoth Driver and Cotillard do their sic and story involving Henry (Adam own singing, and while Driver merely Driver), a controversial standup comegets by fine with his adequate warbling, dian, and his singer-actress wife, Ann Cotillard possesses some major league (Marion Cotillard). The two are very pipes. much in love but, in the case of Henry, The film is actually at its best when perhaps a little too passionate and driv- Cotillard is singing, whether on stage or en for both of their sakes. in life situations including stormy boats After a rousing start where Driver and and racy bedrooms. She gets a nice Cotillard break the fourth wall with the chance to shine and show off a talent Sparks Brothers in tow, they settle in for that has been a bit under the surface. the rollercoaster (and quite long) story She won an Oscar for portraying singer of the couple’s wrestle with fame and Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose, but she eventual birth of their child, Annette. lip-synched her way through that one. By Bob Grimm



Rock opera Annette is more of an adventurous curio than a truly memorable musical effort


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As for the actual music, you won’t be tapping your feet to the tunes, and you will have a hard time remembering any of them shortly after seeing the film. Besides the impressive Cotillard singing heights, much of the film is that brand of talk-singing that occupies most musical theater, rather bland on the melody side. It’s fun to see performers like Driver work their way through sing-song dialogue, but this one is no Oklahoma. Heck, it’s not even Grease. It is impressive in that the singing is done live on set, much like it was for Les Misérables. So Driver and Cotillard have to keep crooning, even when their characters are having sex or near drowning. A tragic event takes the story into tabloid controversy territory, with little dramatic impact. The true strength of Annette is its visuals, especially with Carax’s choice to use an animatronic doll in place of a live baby for most of daughter Annette’s screen time. It’s an interesting choice, and the film literally soars when the doll is on screen.


The movie clocks in at 140 minutes, and changes in tone quite a few times before the end credits hit. It feels mostly like a dark satire, but it does take

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on some headier stuff involving toxic masculinity, physical abuse, and all-out murder. This isn’t a happy movie by any means.


Carax took the Best Director prize at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, with the Sparks Brothers getting a composing award as well. No doubt, Annette probably stood out in the competition as a most novel cinematic experience. In many ways, it is, but it’s not in the same league as the recent Hamilton or La La Land when it comes to movie musicals. It’s more of an adventurous curio than a truly memorable musical effort. Nothing wrong with that. Annette provides a unique viewing experience, it gives its stars some meaty material, and it impresses visually. It’ll certainly stand out as one of 2021’s more “different” film experiences, and its vibe is not one that will be easily replicated in the years to come. As for this summer, if you are looking to expand your cinematic horizons after watching standard releases like The Jungle Cruise and that Boss Baby sequel, this one will definitely clear your movie palette. ■



AUGUST 5, 2021

Editor’s Note: While we are delighted to see Tucsonans once again gathering for fun events, we are also aware that the new Delta variant is circulating and case counts in Arizona are on the rise. Please consider getting vaccinated against COVID if you haven’t yet and following CDC guidance, which includes wearing masks at crowded indoor events. Keep yourself and others safe—the pandemic isn’t over yet. Kingfisher Bar & Grill Road Trip. One of the most whimsical parts of summer here in Tucson, if you ask us, is taking part in the Kingfisher’s “road trip” menu. They offer a different specialty menu at different times throughout the summer so you can feel like you’re eating specialty cuisine from different areas of the U.S. The Back East menu, offered through Aug. 7, includes lobster tails, crab salad, baked scrod and apple-dried cranberry slab pie. Then they’ll switch to their California/ Hawaii menu from Aug. 10 through Aug. 21 and the Down South menu from Aug. 24 to Sept. 4. The Road Trip menu is offered along with the regular menu for both lunch and dinner, so you can bring a friend or partner even if they aren’t as adventurous about food as you are. Kingfisher hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for lunch and 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner. Reservations are required for dinner. Located at 2465 E. Grant Road. St. Philip’s Plaza Market. Even on the hottest days of summer, some things are worth going outside for. The St. Philip’s Plaza Market is one of them. Strolling beneath the trees, past fountains and beautiful works of art, is nothing less than idyllic. Are you looking for handwoven socks? Incredible Greek or Turkish cuisine? Some new plants to spruce up your home or garden? A beautiful pair of handmade earrings? They’ve got you covered. It’s a lovely experience even if you don’t buy anything, but if you do, you get to carry around that warm “I supported local business” feeling for the rest of the day. 8 a.m. to noon on Fridays and Saturdays at St. Philip’s Plaza, 4280 N. Campbell. Urban Kiz Class and Social. Urban Kiz is a form of dance derived from Kizomba, a couple’s dance that originated in Angola (and which translates to “party,” so hell

Music in the Mountains Concert Series. Honestly, what’s more psychedel-

ic than a saguaro? They’re so wacky—all stretched out and groovy looking, holding their arms out ready to hug everyone. In honor of this vibe, the local band Lazaret is performing a psychedelic setlist among the saguaros at Catalina State Park. Lazaret likes to blend classic psychedelic rock with blues music and a bit of experimentation and improvisation. Pack a picnic and settle in for an evening at the foot of the beautiful Santa Catalinas. Nothing like an evening spent soaking up the music and scenery that make Tucson so great. 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7. Catalina State Park, 11570 N. Oracle Road.

Congress House Show. Okay, not to make too big a deal of it, but this is the OFFICIAL REOPENING OF CLUB CONGRESS!!! Can you wait? We can’t wait. Can you tell we’re excited? The night features performances by Dirt Friends, Middle Lanes, Tongues, Augusta and Ashley Tappan. Plus, the total rock-star staff at Club Congress. Get ready to party and to celebrate that one of downtown’s most beloved venues is back. 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 12. Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. $5.

by Emily Dieckman Summer Safari Nights. There are only a couple of Saturday night Safaris at the Reid Park Zoo left for the summer, so you’d better get over there. This week’s theme is an important one: endangered animals. Learn about some of the threatened species at the zoo, and about what you can do to help them. In the “fit for the future” spirit, guests are encouraged to wear clothes that are thrifted or from sustainable brands, to celebrate protecting wildlife and wild places. There will be plenty of games, activities and refreshments, as well as live classic rock performed by Clutch Dragons & the Lugnuts. 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7. Reid Park Zoo, 3400 Zoo Court. $10.50 adults, $8.50 seniors, $6.50 kids ages 2 to 14.

yeah). It’s a high-energy couple’s dance that’s a great way to get moving. Interested in learning more? This is your chance to get started. José Luis and Erika will be your teachers in this one-hour class starting at 8:50 p.m. The class is followed by three hours of social dancing for anyone who is interested, featuring the newest in Urban Kiz, Kizomba, Bachata and Salsa. No partner required and beginners are welcome! 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 7. Floor Polish Dance + Fitness, 930 N. Stone Ave. $10 cover (cash or Venmo). The Ninth House Book Coven. If you’re looking for a new book to read, consider joining this book club with a witchy twist! They meet at the Ninth House the second Wednesday of every month to talk about that month’s book. This month, it’s White Magic, a group of essays by Elissa Washuta, a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe. There’s nothing like reading a fantastic book and then hanging out with a bunch of people who are just as eager to discuss it as you are. Email kimmstoll@ to be added to the book coven email list for updates and reminders. 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 11. The Ninth House, 2569 E. Fort Lowell Road. FC Tucson vs. North Texas SC. Our local professional soccer club has several home games left this season, so don’t miss an opportunity to go cheer them on. This week, they face off against North Texas SC. It’s also Teacher Appreciation Night, and International School of Tucson, Marana Unified School District and Faith Christian Academy are all participating. Tickets are cheap, and soccer is exciting to watch! Bring the family down for some Saturday evening fun. 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7. Kino North Soccer Stadium, 2817 E. Ajo Way. $10 to $20. Flora + Fauna Photography Exhibition. Decode Gallery’s August show is a celebration of the world’s natural beauty! Both local and international photographers and photographic artists are exhibiting, and at this Saturday evening show, there will be beverages, snacks and good conversation to go along with all the lovely art. Nature and art are both good for the soul, so treat yourself and your soul to an all-around pleasant evening out. 5 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7 Decode Gallery, 320 S. Convent Ave. Free.

AUGUST 5, 2021


The Bayou Bandits with Last Train to Juarez 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 6 The Rock, 136 N. Park Avenue $10 in advance; 21 and older



Joshua Strickland: From Bourbon Street to the battlefield to The Bayou Bandits By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

NEW ORLEANS IS WHERE TRUTH, FATE AND voodoo all intersect. A native of Parish Livingston in southern Louisiana, Joshua Strickland is familiar with all three. By 14, he was living through the nightmare of Hurricane Katrina; eight years later, he began the first of 187 Army combat missions in southern Afghanistan in Kandahar City and the lower Arghandab River Valley. “My daddy was in Vietnam,” says Strickland, about his father, Col. Joey Strickland, the former director of the Arizona Department of Veterans Services. “My brothers, one of them was in Desert Storm and the other was in Iraq. My brother-in-law was in Iraq. Then I was in Afghanistan. It was a family tradition.” Particularly, though, the military took care of Strickland once he was honorably discharged as a sergeant after nine years in the Army. He took his benefits, studied at Chamberlain University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Strickland loves his career as a registered nurse, which calls him to the clinic three days a week. He spends the other four days with his true calling: music. The affectionately named The Bayou Bandits are set to release their new album in May or June. “I wanted to play music because that’s my passion,” Strickland says. “I always tell everyone, ‘I’m not a nurse. I’m a singer, who just so happens to be a nurse.’” MUSICAL AMBITIONS STRICKLAND GOT HIS MUSICAL START PLAYING on Bourbon Street as a “bucket boy” when he was 13. “I used to stand on the corner of Bourbon Street and

Iberville, right in front of this place called the Old Absinthe House, right there in the French Quarter, or sit on the steps of Jackson Square,” Strickland says. “I would set out a guitar case and sit on a little bucket. I only knew, like, three or four songs. I would just sit there and play all day trying to make money. That’s where I got my start.” His repertoire included “Suzie Q” by Creedence Clearwater Revival because he believed they were from New Orleans. “Mama Tried,” by Merle Haggard, was another gem, and the third one was a gospel tune called “Peace in the Valley,” which was made popular by Elvis Presley. “I didn’t know what the heck I was doing,” Strickland says. “I would just play and try to make a little bit of money.” His father played a bit of guitar, but Strickland honed his singing skills in Southern Baptist churches. “That’s where music started,” he says. “I mean, you’ve got Chicago. You’ve got New York. You’ve got Memphis. You’ve got Nashville. But if you can make it in New Orleans, you can make it anywhere. In my opinion, that’s where the greatest music came from. Then, they sent it on up the river to Chicago where they electrified it. That’s where you got Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf and B.B. King. That all started down in New Orleans and the Mississippi River Delta.” Arizona fell on his lap when then-Gov. Janet Napolitano appointed Col. Strickland the director of the Arizona Department of Veterans Services in July 2008. He served until April 2013. Wanting to be close to him, Strickland made Phoenix his permanent home. It was only natural when he formed a band to share his Louisiana roots. “I’m real proud to be from south Louisiana,” he says. “It’s the place that made me. I wanted to share that with everybody. I also pride myself on being an Army guy. I’ve never had a handout. Everything I have I’ve worked for. There are a lot of great bands that are in the same boat, who had to make their way, but that’s us too. We started from nothing and now we play all the major stages around the Valley.” The band is working on a new EP, which will lead to a tour. “We plan on releasing one of our singles within the next month and a half,” Strickland says. “It’s going to be an ode to Arizona. Obviously, being from Louisiana, there is a lot of southern stuff. I love Arizona and all the fans really took to me out here.” Strickland quickly nixes any stereotypes about people from Louisiana. “People think we talk slow,” he says. “People think we’re dumb rednecks, which, you know, a lot of Louisiana folks are backward—don’t get me wrong. But we’re all hard-working people down there.” ■




AUGUST 5, 2021

AUGUST 5, 2021


Feds Continue To Fiddle as Pot Revenues Roll Like a River (of Cash) By David Abbott DESPITE POT LEGALIZATION

of some form in a majority of states—36 have legal medical programs and adultuse recreational has reached 18, plus the District of Columbia—the federal government continues to hedge, with bills intended to legalize the cannabis economy lolling in the upper chambers of the U.S. government. While marijuana remains a Schedule I narcotic on level with heroin and cocaine, states where the drug is legal are seeing huge increases in economic activity and tax revenue generation, despite legitimate marijuana businesses not having full access to banking services, funding sources or access to markets in other states. Obscure Reagan-era tax laws have also put the cannabis industry at a disadvantage, as your local dispensary cannot deduct many business expenses other industries take for granted. The Arizona Department of Revenue collected $74,386,952 in total marijuana tax revenue between when adult-use recreational sales began at the end of January and the end of June, according to the Arizona Department of Revenue. That includes nearly $25 million from medical card holders and roughly $49.5 million from recreational sales. The state is poised to collect more than $150 million in taxes from an industry that is on track to sell more than $1 billion worth of cannabis in 2021, with the new adult-use market doubling sales around the state. That adds up to an average of $120 million in monthly sales of cannabis, both medicinal and recreational. The pot of green is only projected to increase, as the market will likely top $2 billion annually after the recreational program reaches maturity in about three years. Once Arizona’s cannabis market gets

to that point, the state is expected to rake in approximately $183,169,705 annually from sales taxes on legal pot sales, according to the Tax Foundation, a nonprofit organization that does fiscal analysis. The green rush is not limited to the state of Arizona though, as legal cannabis sales across the nation increase with legalizations in what is now a majority of states. According to a recent report by Leafly, in the first half of 2021 Americans “are on pace to spend twice as much on cannabis as they do on milk,” hitting the $12 billion mark in the first six months of the year. “That’s nearly as much as Americans spent on milk in all of 2020,” the report states. “According to the Dairy Farmers of America, consumers spent roughly $12.6 billion on milk last year.”

In 2020, Americans spent $18 billion on legal weed and the industry is on pace to reach $25 billion to $26 billion in sales by the end of this year, an increase of roughly 35%. Cannabis is the nation’s fastest-growing industry, given that in 2020 sales revenue increased roughly 60% over 2019, largely driven by the coronavirus pandemic and the expansion of legalization across the country.

WITH ALL THAT MONEY floating around, one would think the government would be right on board to ensure the taps opened up completely. Once voters put Democrat Joe Biden in the White House, there was renewed hope that the end of federal prohibition was finally nigh. The struggle on the federal level continues, though, as lawmakers try to find a way to legalize cannabis and remove it from its Schedule I status that puts it on the level with much harder and more addictive drugs with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” There are a handful of politicians who have continued to beat the drum for descheduling and expunging low-level pot convictions, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D) and Sen. Cory Booker (D), who recently released a draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act. The CAOA seeks to deschedule the plant, “normalizing income tax treatment, opening access to capital, and permitting interstate commerce in cannabis.” The bill includes an excise tax of 10% the first year that would grow to 25% by the fifth year on top of state taxes. On the House side, there is the reemergence of a bill from Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (or MORE Act) that would also deschedule and tax on a federal level. While CAOA and MORE would make strides to legalize and destigmatize cannabis, it would also add taxes that could make commercial costs prohibitive and drive cannabis users to unregulated, black markets, as the tax rate could reach 50% or more combined on the federal and state level for commercially available weed. On another hand, existing cannabis businesses would benefit by no longer being subject to tax code Section 280E, enacted in 1982 to deny the deduction of business expenses to those selling drugs on Schedules I and II of the Controlled Substances Act. The Reagan Administration enacted the rule with the intent to stop illicit drug dealers from deducting expenses like guns and yachts used in smuggling operations. But the IRS has applied the rule to state-authorized marijuana retailers, thus hurting business owners trying


to comply with the law. The unintended consequences of that have created a competitive advantage for the black market operators Section 280E was enacted to penalize. That has led to some legal pot businesses experiencing effective tax rates well above 70% by some reports. But the will is there, even if there are several roadblocks along the way, the biggest being Republicans in the Senate. In late July Sen. Booker tweeted: “Decriminalizing marijuana is not enough. We must also repair the damage done to those communities most harmed by a failed Drug War and expunge records. We should be demanding restorative justice.” He also tweeted: “Veterans should have access to all treatment options—including medical marijuana—which is why for years I’ve been pushing legislation to allow this. It’s long past time we legalize marijuana for our veterans & those who continue to suffer the consequences of our failed drug war.” Likewise, Sen. Schumer tweeted: “It’s long past time to end the federal prohibition and undo the harms of the War on Drugs. That’s why @SenBooker, @ RonWyden, and I are working to pass our Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act.” He added: “The War on Drugs has been a war on people. @SenBooker, @RonWyden, and I released our Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act to end the federal prohibition, enact criminal justice reforms, and invest in communities hurt by the War on Drugs.” On a final note, the restrictions on research may be falling by the wayside as an amendment to the proposed infrastructure bill seeks to allow researchers access to commercial quality weed rather than the “lawnmower clippings” from the University of Mississippi. According to Marijuana Moment, the measure “makes it so the transportation secretary would need to work with the attorney general and secretary of health and human services to develop a public report within two years of the bill’s enactment that includes recommendations on allowing scientists to access retail-level marijuana to study impaired driving.” It would also establish a “national clearinghouse” to “collect and distribute samples and strains of marijuana for scientific research that includes marijuana and products containing marijuana lawfully available to patients or consumers in a state on a retail basis.” ■



AUGUST 5, 2021





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CURRENTS: State Rep. Mark Finchem’s Awesome Insurrection Adventure

ARTS: TMA Celebrates Black History Month

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itude. They will help you tune in to the nuances of what it means to be radically authentic. They will boost your confidence in the rightness of the path you’ve chosen for yourself. I’m hoping they may even show you which of your fears are irrelevant. Be hungry for these extraordinary teachings.

People who feel and live and love deeply are more emotionally intelligent than folks who live on the surface—and are therefore less fragile. The deep ones are likely to be psychologically adept; they have skills at liberating themselves from the smothering crush of their problems. The deep ones also have access to rich spiritual resources that ensure their suffering is a source of transformative teaching—and rarely a cause of defeat. Have you guessed that I’m describing you as you will be in the coming weeks?

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): The next two months will be a propitious time for you and your intimate allies to grow closer by harnessing the power of your imaginations. I urge you to be inventive in dreaming up ways to educate and entertain each other. Seek frisky adventures together that will delight you. Here’s a poem by Vyacheslav Ivanov that I hope will stimulate you: “We are two flames in a midnight forest. We are two meteors that fly at night, a two-pointed arrow of one fate. We are two steeds whose bridle is held by one hand. We are two eyes of a single gaze, two quivering wings of one dream, two-voiced lips of single mysteries. We are two arms of a single cross.”

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Professor of psychology Ethan Kross tells us there can be healthy, creative forms of envy. “Just as hunger tells us we need to eat,” he writes, “the feeling of envy could show us what is missing from our lives that really matters to us.” The trick is to not interpret envy as a negative emotion, but to see it as useful information that shows us what we want. In my astrological opinion, that’s a valuable practice for you to deploy in the coming days. So pay close attention to the twinges of envy that pop into your awareness. Harness that volatile stuff to motivate yourself as you make plans to get the very experience or reward you envy.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Virgo spiritual author Don Miguel Ruiz urges us not to take anything personally. He says that if someone treats us disrespectfully, it’s almost certainly because they are suffering from psychological wounds that make them act in vulgar, insensitive ways. Their attacks have little to do with what’s true about us. I agree with him, and will add this important caveat. Even if you refrain from taking such abuses personally, it doesn’t mean you should tolerate them. It doesn’t mean you should keep that person in your life or allow them to bully you in the future. I suspect these are important themes for you to contemplate right now.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Poet Walt Whitman bragged that he was “large.” He said, “I contain multitudes.” One critic compared him to “a whole continent with its waters, with its trees, with its animals.” Responding to Whitman, Sagittarian poet Gertrud Kolmar uttered an equally grandiose boast. “I too am a continent,” she wrote. “I contain mountains never-reached, scrubland unpenetrated, pond bay, river-delta, salt-licking coast-tongue.” That’s how I’m imagining you these days, dear Sagittarius: as unexplored territory: as frontier land teeming with undiscovered mysteries. I love how expansive you are as you open your mind and heart to new self-definitions. I love how you’re willing to risk being unknowable for a while as you wander out in the direction of the future.

By Rob Brezsny. Go to to check out Rob Brezsny’s EXPANDED WEEKLY HOROSCOPE 1-877-873-4888 or 1-900-950-7700 $1.99 per minute. 18 and over. Touchtone phone required.

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Filmmaker Federico Fellini had an unexpected definition of happiness. He said it was “being able to speak the truth without hurting anyone.” I suspect you will have abundant access to that kind of happiness in the coming weeks, Aries. I’ll go even further: You will have extra power to speak the truth in ways that heal and uplift people. My advice to you, therefore, is to celebrate and indulge your ability. Be bold in expressing the fullness of what’s interesting to you. TAURUS (April 20-May 20): “Look for a long time at what pleases you, and longer still at what pains you,” wrote the novelist Colette. What?! Was she making a perverse joke? That’s wicked advice, and I hope you adopt it only on rare occasions. In fact, the exact opposite is the healthy way to live— especially for you in the coming weeks. Look at what pains you, yes. Don’t lose sight of what your problems and wounds are. But please, for the sake of your dreams, for the benefit of your spiritual and psychological health, look longer at what pleases you, energizes you, and inspires you. GEMINI (May 21-June 20): If you deepen your affection for butterflies and hummingbirds, I will love it. If you decide you want the dragonfly or bumblebee or lark to be your spirit creature, I will approve. You almost always benefit from cultivating relationships with swift, nimble, and lively influences—and that’s especially true these days. So give yourself full permission to experiment with the superpower of playful curiosity. You’re most likely to thrive when you’re zipping around in quest of zesty ripples and sprightly rhythms. CANCER (June 21-July 22): Life is showing you truths about what you are not, what you don’t need, and what you shouldn’t strive for. That’s auspicious, although it may initially feel unsettling. I urge you to welcome these revelations with grat-

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): “People who feel deeply, live deeply and love deeply are destined to suffer deeply,” writes poet Juansen Dizon. To that romanticized, juvenile nonsense, I say: NO! WRONG!


By Dan Savage,

I’m a 24-year-old gay man with a 31-year-old bi boyfriend. I’ve known since we got together that he’s a lot more sexually experienced than I am, but it’s never been a big deal before now. This weekend, he met my parents for what we thought would be the first time. But it turns out that 10 years ago, during his “big bi slut phase” (his words), they had a threesome. I recognize that no one did anything wrong— they were three consenting adults—and it’s not like anyone could’ve known that he and I would get together in the future. But also, my boyfriend fucked my parents! I’m mortified, he’s morti-

fied, they’re mortified and I may never be able to look at my parents again. Please help us find a way to move past this! —I Knew He Was Into Blonds I’ve been writing Savage Love for almost 30 years—it’ll be 30 years this September—and I rarely get letters that surprise me anymore. But after reading your letter today… and then laying in a dark room with a cool washcloth over my eyes for six hours… I came to a few of realizations. First, I can still be surprised. Thank you for that. Second, if couples in their

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Poet Ezra Pound wrote a letter to novelist James Joyce that included the following passage: “You are fucking with

forties with teenage children at home are gonna have threesomes with guys in their twenties—and some are— there will always be a hard-to-quantify-but-nevertheless-ineliminable risk that their children, once grown, could wind up meeting and fucking and even falling in love one of the guys their parents had a threesome with back in the day. Third, since I helped create a world where forty-something couples with kids sometimes have MMF threesomes with twenty-something bisexual dudes, IKHWIB, this is all my fault oh my God what have I done can you ever forgive me. With that said, IKHWIB, do you know who I think should weigh in on this? The former mayor of Minneapolis. “If they’ve been able to laugh about

my head, and so far I’ve been enjoying it. Where is the crime?” I bring this up, Capricorn, because I believe the coming weeks will be prime time for you to engage with interesting souls who fuck with your head in enjoyable ways. You need a friendly jolt or two: a series of galvanizing prods; dialogs that catalyze you to try new ways of thinking and seeing; lively exchanges that inspire you to experiment. AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Blogger Mandukhai Munkhbaatar offers advice on the arts of intimate communion. “Do not fall in love only with a body or with a face,” she tells us. “Do not fall in love with the idea of being in love.” She also wants you to know that it’s best for your long-term health and happiness if you don’t seek cozy involvement with a person who is afraid of your madness, or with someone who, after you fight, disappears and refuses to talk. I approve of all these suggestions. Any others you would add? It’s a favorable phase to get clearer about the qualities of people you want and don’t want as your allies. PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): I gave my readers homework, asking them to answer the question, “What is your favorite rule to break?” In response, Laura Grolla sent these thoughts: “My favorite rule to break is an unwritten one: that we must all stress and strive for excellence. I have come up with a stress-busting mantra, ‘It is OK to be OK.’ In my OKness, I have discovered the subtle frontier of contentment, which is vast and largely unexplored. OKness allows me not to compete for attention, but rather to pay attention to others. I love OKness for the humor and deep, renewing sleep it has generated. Best of all, OKness allows me to be happily aging rather than anxiously hot.” I bring this to your attention, Pisces, because I think the coming weeks will be a favorable time for you to investigate and embody the relaxing mysteries of OKness. Homework. Tell me what subtle or not-so-subtle victories you plan to accomplish by January 1, 2022.

this, that’s a good sign,” said Betsy Hodges, who was the mayor of Minneapolis from 2014 to 2018. “It might be a while before he can look at his boyfriend and not think about his parents having sex. That’s a tough thing to navigate, but laughter helps.” It may seem kind of random that the former mayor of Minneapolis is giving you sex advice, IKHWIB, but Hodges reached to me after I posted your letter to Twitter, where I told my followers—the former mayor of Minneapolis among them—that I was going to run your letter in my column even though I didn’t have the faintest idea what to tell you. Betsy Hodges, on the other hand, knew exactly what to say. “He has to ask himself if the boyfriend is worth it,” said Hodges. “Everything really depends on the

AUGUST 5, 2021

strength of their connection—which will have to be weighed against whatever tension now exists between IKHWIB, his boyfriend, and his parents. Can they navigate that tension? If any of them feel bad (as opposed to mortified) about what happened and they aren’t motivated to work through this and don’t have the tools for doing so, this will go sideways.” The Honorable Betsy Hodges suggests that the four of you have a conversation about what happened and how you want to handle things going forward. “Having that conversation—which I know sounds dreadful—could actually help them think about this less,” said Hodges, “especially if they get to a point where they can laugh about the insanity and awkwardness of the situation they’ve all found themselves in.” You can laugh about this until you pass out, IKHWIB, but if you can’t suck your boyfriend’s cock without thinking about your dad sucking your boyfriend’s cock, you may not be able to get past this. If you can’t look at your mom without thinking about her sitting on your boyfriend’s face, you might not be able to get past this. If you can’t take your boyfriend’s load without thinking about the load he dropped in dad or your mom or both (21-year-olds have great stamina and such short refractory periods), you might not be able to get past this. You might be able to, like Hodges said, think about this less. While I’m doubtful there’s a memory hole out there big enough to stuff this in and tight enough to prevent it from falling right back out, IKHWIB, perhaps your parents have already shown you how it’s done. I know when I came out to my mom, IKHWIB, she had a really hard time being around any guy I was dating due to the unwelcome mental images that plagued her when she saw me with a boyfriend. She could look at my sister and her boyfriend without picturing her little girl sucking that boy’s cock,

but she somehow couldn’t look at my boyfriend without picturing that brute sodomizing her little boy. It took some very awkward conversations, some raised voices, and, yes, some laughter before my mom successfully willed herself to stop conjuring up mental images of me getting my ass fucked. Maybe with some time, some awkward conversations, and a little laughter you’ll be able to purge all those unwelcome mental images of your boyfriend railing your parents from your mind too. I guess my point is, if parents of gay and straight kids can pretend not to know what they damn well do know, i.e., that their grown children are sexually active adults now, and if they can learn not to torture themselves with unwelcome mental images of our partners fucking the shit out of us, IKHWIB, seems to me that we should be able to do the same for them: recognize that our parents are sexual beings and at the same time expunge all unwelcome mental images from our minds. Yours is a much heavier lift than most, I realize, but if your boyfriend is worth it, IKHWIB, you at least gotta try. P.S. Perhaps this verse by poet Philip Larkin will help put things in perspective… They fuck you up, your mum and dad.    They may not mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had And add some extra, just for you. You’re not the first person whose parents… well, let’s not say your parents fucked you up. Instead let’s say you’re not the first person whose parents were a little extra. Good luck. Follow Betsy Hodges on Twitter @ BetsyHodges. I’m a woman in her twenties in a relationship. I have a great connection with my partner, we communicate well, and the sex is the best in my life. There’s only one thing getting in the way: My partner and I started going


out six months ago, immediately after the end of a relatively short but very intense relationship. I was with my previous partner for about a year. We were deeply in love but eventually broke up because he moved to another country. While I love my current partner and want him in my life, I am finding it hard to commit. I think what’s holding me back is not having the time to process the end of my previous relationship. I feel as my ex still takes up space in my heart and this prevents me from fully letting my new partner in. I want to let go of the thought of my ex (we haven’t even spoken in half a year) and open fully up to my new partner, but it’s been difficult because the story with my ex feels unfinished. What do I do? —Worried Hasty And Confused Klutz

you did.) But did your last relationship really end for reasons neither you nor your ex could control? If he had no choice but to move to another country and/or if there was no way for you to go with him, OK, then the end was outside your control and his. But if he could’ve stayed and chose not to, WHACK, or if you could’ve gone with him and chose not to, well, then it didn’t end due to circumstance outside your control. Focusing on that—reminding yourself that an active choice was made to finish that relationship off—might help you get past the somewhat paralyzing degree of regret you currently feel. And if that doesn’t work, WHACK, perhaps a little more the best sex you’ve ever had will do the trick.

You may always feel regret about your previous partner since it ended for reasons outside either of your control and his—and just for the record, there’s no guarantee you won’t feel some regret about your current partner, if your new relationship ends, which it might. (I mean, it’s only been six months. A little soon to be tossing “partner” around, if you ask me, which

My new book, “Savage Love From A to Z,” is available now for pre-order!

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Edited by Will Shortz ACROSS

52 Like some headphones

Has nowhere to go but down 6 Scepter topper 9 It’s just the wurst! 13 Northernmost land in the Inner Hebrides 16 Prefix with nautical 17 Cut-and-paste tool for language learners 19 Piece of sensitive info, for short 20 Average 21 Name that sounds like two of its letters 22 Garden figure 25 Stoke 26 What a fitness coach likely leads 32 One-named rapper with the 2019 video “Can’t Explain It” 33 Puts on the line, say 34 Word after dead or data 35 Browser button 36 Bedouins, e.g. 37 Post-punk sort 38 Squeeze (out) 39 Classic Disney character who never speaks 40 It can come as a relief 41 In-N-Out Burger’s “Animal Style” burgers and fries, e.g. 44 [Gulp!] 45 Plus 46 Part of a church chorus 47 Theravada or Mahayana vis-à-vis Buddhism 49 Japanese assent

56 People of northeastern




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Canada 57 Eagerly starting, as one’s work 58 Streaks on the side of a wineglass 59 Word that becomes its own synonym if you change its first letter to WI







6 14

DOWN Gluttons 2 Those: Sp. 3 Well overdue 4 Powder holder 5 G, in a C major scale 6 West African food staple 7 “Star Trek” actress Jeri 8 Big ___ 9 In which you might see an échappé sauté 10 Out of the ordinary 11 Pretentious, in a way 12 The point of 9-Down? 14 Queer designation 15 Instrument played by a pannist 18 Dr. for kids 23 Daughter of Styx 24 Things sometimes frozen 25 Requirements with some applications 26 Can’t move a muscle, say 27 Crack under pressure 1









20 22






























28 Boiling

49 54


48 “Our ___ always

lasts longer than the happiness of those we ___”: Heraclitus

29 Eponym for a

mathematical pattern identified centuries earlier in India 30 “Eh, they can do that” 31 Spirit of a people 36 Range for a viola 37 Box-office revenue 39 Mostaccioli relative 40 Lead-in to male or female 42 Kind of monkey 43 Hwy. through Fargo and St. Paul 46 Tops 47 Fly (through)


50 Request a hand, say 51

Composer Stravinsky

52 Love of the game? 53 Their sales were

surpassed again by phonograph records in 2020

54 Inits. near New York’s

Flushing Bay

55 Jeremy ___, first

Asian-American N.B.A. champion










60 Bring to a boil





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