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Get in touch with nature

Get in touch with nature


Tucson is one of many cities within the Sonoran Desert, a desert shared with Mexico. The Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, 2021 N. Kinney Road, displays the ecosystem within 21 acres with 230 animal species and 1,200 plant species.

The museum’s goal, according to its website, “is to inspire people to live in harmony with the natural world by fostering love, appreciation and understanding of the Sonoran Desert.”

ASDM is open March through September from 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily. In June and August, it closes a half-hour early Sunday-Friday and stays open on Saturdays until 10 p.m. to let patrons view creatures of the night.

The museum primarily offers outdoor exhibits with walking trails that sometimes include dirt paths. It takes about two hours to view the entire facility.

Temperatures rise quickly, so arrive early in the morning. Bring sunblock and water.

General admission is $20.50, with discounts available to seniors, military and residents of Arizona and Sonora. For an additional $3, you can touch and feed stingrays under a cool ramada.

For more information, call 883-2702 or visit

Docent Helen Vogel demonstrates how a stingray eats before visitors get the chance to pet and feed them in the stingray exhibit. Not native to Arizona, stingrays are found in the Gulf of California near Rocky Point.

Photo: Melina Casillas

Instructor walks her way to empathy

Instructor walks her way to empathy


Laura Milkins, a Pima Community College art instructor, has completed two “walking projects” and hosts a radio show.

The walking projects started with her realizing that she didn’t walk anywhere in Tucson because she lived in what was considered a bad neighborhood.

She had the idea to walk everywhere she went in town, but added, “What if everybody I came across, I’d ask them to walk with me and share a story?”

After she had walked in Tucson for a while, a friend and mentor suggested she try it in Mexico City. Milkins applied for and received a grant to fund the project.



Beginning on April 21, 2009, Milkins walked Avenida de los Insurgentes, an avenue that runs north and south in the center of Mexico City. She compared it to walking Broadway in New York City.

Milkins would only walk if somebody walked with her and told a story, and each night she blogged about the stories.

Soon after she began the project, the swine flu broke out in Mexico City. “I watched the whole city shut down,” Milkins said.

Nevertheless, Milkins managed to walk with 60 people. She was interviewed on national radio, and a newspaper from her hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, wrote a front-page article on herself and her project.

The article discussed the United States’ relationship with Mexico and whether Americans could become good neighbors.

“I want to go trust Mexico,” Milkins said.

The project made her think about the United States, and how “we have this idea that we live in a dangerous country.”

She disagrees. “The only thing that makes it dangerous is fear,” she said.

Milkins set out to prove that if you get to know and meet people, you will actually live in a safe place. “I think it’s a mindset,” she said.

With that, she decided to walk from Tucson to Grand Rapids.



Beginning May 1, 2011, Milkins recorded the 2,007-mile walk from Tucson on a live webcam 24 hours a day.

Milkins Skyped weekly with videographers to make short episodes recounting her week. The episodes can be found on YouTube.

She stayed the nights with people she met through community organizations. Milkins did so because she couldn’t tell who a person is on the Internet, and because everyone knows everyone in community organizations.

Milkins’s mother would look up information and call ahead to the next town she would stay in, often as small as 250 people. Her mother would even call the post office to find out who the nice people were.

Milkins often had chains of people who would call a friend in the next town that she could stay with. She cooked for and chatted with her welcoming hosts.

Eventually the chain ran out, so Milkins tried another tack.

“I would walk into City Hall and be like ‘Hi, I’m doing a project,’” Milkins said. “And I’d end up staying with the mayor that night.”

She would have the people she stayed with pick her up and drop her off at the same point. “I walked the whole thing,” Milkins said.

“People would stop on the side of the road,” she said. “They’d, like, have a care package and a hundred dollars and they’d just give it to me.”

Some asked Milkins if she was afraid. Her reply? “We do not live in a scary country, we live in a country full of the nicest people.”

Five months later, she made it to Grand Rapids. Her stepfather had died the day she told him she was starting her journey, and her father died two months after she arrived.



Milkins returned to Tucson looking for a job, and thought about PCC.

A friend called soon after her arrival, and said she had just given her notice. Milkins then applied and was teaching the same year.

A year later, she was thinking about how she wasn’t the type of person who would give money or a care package to a stranger. “I need to think about who I am,” she said.

This inspired Milkins’s next project. “I did a whole year where I thought about the ways in which I am and am not kind in my life,” she said.

She also thought about how water consumption and other actions affect others. It caused her to become more of a conservationist.

Milkins made her own face cream from scratch, ate organic food, patronized area businesses and bought into a local farm share. She volunteered to teach classes at a penitentiary.

She described this project as more personal, receiving little press for it, but still “definitely life altering.”

Milkins currently teaches art classes at the Downtown Campus. She receives positive responses on the ratemyprofessor website. Typical postings include:

“Such an incredible individual. She’s so understanding and really takes the time to make sure her students are completely understanding the projects she assigns.”

“Laura is hands-down one of my favorite professors at Pima. She’s an incredible teacher and she genuinely cares about her students. I would absolutely take another class with her!”

“This teacher has a great energy and keeps things interesting. It is a lot of work, but you get a lot of class time and if you listen and apply yourself, you should have no problems.”

 Milkins also hosts a Tucson radio show and podcast called “The Depression Session” on FM 99.1 on Sundays at 9:30 a.m.

Her personal struggles with depression inspired her to encourage others to come on the show and speak about their depression.

Milkins plans on living in Tucson for the rest of her life. She said all of her travels made her realize there is nothing special about being somewhere different.

“Go live life,” Milkins said. “Don’t be more amazed by going halfway across the world than you are amazed by the birds in your backyard. Have your adventure be rooted where you are.”


Downtown Campus art instructor Laura Milkins tackles both public and personal “life altering” projects. (Photo courtesy of Laura Milkins)

Maintain personal connections

Maintain personal connections

We have created new forms of communication since the beginning of human existence. In today’s social media-driven society, we could make logical connections in the progression from cave drawings to Instagram photos.

But unlike our ancestors, modern communication does not hold the same need to relay important information.

Social media has changed what we hold dear and how we interact. Receiving “likes” on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter seems to take priority over actual human interaction and the social-political issues facing the world.

There is no doubt that social media can do good, and even we journalists use it to reach a larger population of readers. Many groups and organizations maintain websites to inform, organize and create a community. It is evident that social media has played a part in change.

But is the interaction real, or is Facebook breeding apathy and skewed social skills?

Social media works upon both our biological and emotional instincts. With the push of a button, we are able to gain acceptance and become members of a pack. But relationships outside of the Internet take far more work than a “like.”

Younger generations are losing out on valuable learning experiences. The development of trust, body language cues and intimacy cannot be gained by looking at a screen.

Dominance and aggression are also bred online. Cyberbullying and threats have been prevalent reasons for recent suicides in adolescents. Repercussions that would exist in realty are seemingly exempt in the digital world.

I see the positive aspects of social media aiding progressive thinking, but worry that it skews the process of effectively creating lasting change.

The Internet makes it easy to share information about issues that matter, but we still need people to reach out to their legislators, policy makers and community.

Social media is an inevitable aspect of our future and has indeed developed interaction. It is simply not face to face.

My concern is that the lines between the digital world and human world will blur for young people.

If people apply social skills learned from Facebook to their physical peers, we could see more superficially based connections, real life “trolling” and a lax approach to activism.


Verwys tries to utilize social media for good and is confident it has benefits. However, human interaction is needed more now than ever. 

FIRST BITE: Truck offers Italian flair

FIRST BITE: Truck offers Italian flair

Editor’s note: Pima Community College has replaced cafeteria meals with food trucks. Aztec Press is investigating the new options with fork in hand.


Jozarelli’s Italian Street Food is one of the sharpest looking food trucks parked out front of Pima Community College campuses.

While the concept is nothing new, Jozarelli’s separates itself from other food trucks by offering Italian cuisine ranging from pizza and calzones to pasta bowls and sandwich wraps.

When you order one of the many $6 to $9 dishes, you’ll be greeted with a smile and questions to ensure your selection arrives just how you want it.

Your food is made fresh when you order, which is great, but it may pose a problem if you are in a rush to grab a bite before class. Each dish takes around 10 minutes to make.

If you aren’t in a hurry, the truck has an outside television you can watch while your food is being prepared. Thankfully, if you have the time, the food is well worth it.

The dish I ordered, a spicy Italian sausage calzone for $7, was large enough to warrant the price.

The calzone was stuffed to the brim with cheese, basil, red peppers and, of course, sausage. The ingredients were fresh and still full of flavor, not old or bland, which was a worry for me going in.

The combination of friendly staff, a large menu, entertainment and quality of dishes really make Jozarelli’s a standout food truck at Pima.

Just don’t expect them to rush your order.

Pg03-Food truck

The artistically decorated Jozarelli’s Italian Street Food truck awaits customers during a West Campus visit. (Alex Fruechtenicht/Aztec Press)


Pro rodeo’s ‘dirty little secret’

Pro rodeo’s ‘dirty little secret’


The last bucking bull burst from the chute…the final cowboy scrambled through arena dirt to dodge the Brahma’s crushing hooves…and another pro rodeo has come to a close.

The sweaty, bruised, rough-stock riders spit the grit from between their teeth, grab their gear bags and head for the parking lot, where another sport has just begun: open season on Bunnies.

Buckle Bunnies, that is.

The women, nicknamed for their fervent attraction to championship bling – namely, the big, shiny trophy belt buckles worn by top competitors – haunt sporting arenas and rodeo grounds around the nation, and perhaps in Tucson.

They are the dirty little secret of pro rodeo.

Quick to open their homes, wallets (and sometimes, much more), Bunnies are ever ready to provide a few hours’ distraction from a rodeo competitor’s life of punishing travel, chronic injury and uncertain financial rewards.

Their services range from the domestic – like fixing home-cooked meals or making transport runs to the airport – to the erotic, replete with birthday blowjobs and hotel room romps.

Bunnies seem driven by a need to feel part of the rodeo world, even though they may have absolutely no connection with the lifestyle, said USA Today sports reporter Josh Peter, who traveled the national pro bull-riding circuit in 2004.

“For the tried-and-true cowgirl, there is something romantic about that lifestyle,” he said. “And then there are those drawn to novelty, the attraction of danger: If you can’t ride a bull, you might as well try riding a bull rider.”


The Colorado-based Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association officially sanctions more than 600 rodeos in the United States and Canada – including Tucson’s La Fiesta de los Vaqueros, a winter rodeo ranked among the nation’s Top 25 in terms of prize money.

The nine-day event is held outdoors, making it especially popular with fans because the open-air grounds provide better up-close-and-personal access to competitors than high-security indoor sports arenas.

Most Bunnies hang out on the “back side” of rodeo facilities. At the Tucson Rodeo Grounds, the prime cowboy-chasing real estate for fans is located behind the rank livestock pens.

Despite the muck and stink, the girls wait and primp patiently … because that is where the baddest of rodeo’s bad boys – bull and bronc riders – gather.

The young women, most in their 20s, wear taut tie-up tops, barely-there denim shorts and high-heeled fashion boots that try hard to look “country” but don’t.

Waiting for the cowboys to appear, they toss their blonde-haystack hair, swig bottles of domestic beer and flash long, airbrushed fingernails that almost certainly have never guided the reins of a horse.

They already know which cowboys have the highest status.

As befits a virile sport like rodeo, judging a cowboy’s prowess involves scrutinizing his crotch: A few inches above it sits his belt buckle.

Trophy buckles, glittering like metallic codpieces, are helpfully engraved with a competitor’s name and event, as well as the rodeo where he won it.

Champion cowboys stand out, especially if they wear a handcrafted buckle won at the big-money National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

The elaborately engraved, Pop-Tart-sized works of art are made of 14-carat gold backed with sterling silver and inset with two brilliant-cut diamonds.

Cowboys call ’em “bitch getters.”


Of course, athletes have taken advantage of starry-eyed groupies for generations. Ball players shag Baseball Annies. Ice hockey players pass around Puck Bunnies.

But rodeo – starring fearless athletes with rugged names like Pistol Robinson, Twister Cain and Jesse James Kirby – drips testosterone like no other sport.

The men crisscross the country from rodeo to rodeo, and the most dedicated Bunnies follow them doggedly.

“There are those who stick close to home, traveling the rodeo circuits in a particular area,” said Craig J. Forsyth, a professor of sociology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

“And then there are those who chase a particular cowboy as he competes in rodeos across the country.”

Forsyth knows Bunnies better than most. He studied the subculture at rodeos in Texas, Louisiana and Florida.

The research eventually became “Buckle Bunnies: Groupies of the Rodeo Circuit,” a study published in 2000 in the respected academic journal Deviant Behavior.

Forsyth also encountered a different breed of Bunnies, who were known – through the complex, word-of-mouth cowboy grapevine – for providing almost motherly support.

They mend torn shirts, offer free meals, lend extra cash for rodeo entry fees or medical expenses, or simply open their home as a quiet place to rest and recover from a literally bruising day of competition.

“They just love cowboys and being around cowboys,” Forsyth said.

The life of a circuit rodeo cowboy, after all, isn’t an easy one.

There are no guaranteed salaries and no “disabled list.” If a competitor gets injured and can’t ride, he doesn’t earn anything.

Moreover, he must spend hundreds of dollars in entry fees at each rodeo – and can lose it all with one bad ride.

At the same time, bills for lodging, transportation, horse feed and veterinary bills keep coming due.

In contrast with groupies who chase cowboys brazenly and offer little more than no-strings-attached lovin’, a kind-hearted female fan can literally enable a cowboy to continue down the arduous rodeo road.

Even if it leads straight into the arms of another Bunny.


Cowboys surround a Buckle Bunny at a rodeo after-party. (Contributed photo)

Cowboys surround a Buckle Bunny at a rodeo after-party. (Contributed photo)










Some Bunnies become celebrities themselves. Cowboys can tick off the nicknames: There was Whorey Lori, Nasty Wendy, Mustang Sally and Big Tits.

Speedbump Sue was a party girl who got so drunk one night that she passed out under a pickup truck.

Mo’ Betta liked an audience and would take on several cowboys at once. There was also a lusty lass dubbed Penicillin Patty. Men still wince when they hear her name.

But while cowboys talk freely about these scandalous Sweethearts of the Rodeo, you’ll be hard pressed to find a woman who accepts the label herself.

“‘Buckle Bunny’ is a dirty word among women,” emphasized Peter, the sports writer. “But it’s like good art: When you see it, you know it.”

While rock ‘n’ roll groupies like Cynthia Plaster Caster trumpet their sexual adventures to the masses, rodeo-cowboy junkies rarely kiss ’n tell.

Fortunately for Peter, the bull riders provided their share of lurid stories, some of which made it into his book, “Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies & Bull Riders: A Year Inside the Professional Bull Riders’ Tour.”

One particular groupie, known simply as Becky, would routinely show up on cowboys’ birthdays, offering oral sexual services.

Another story involved a rowdy post-rodeo visit to a nightclub in Jacksonville, Fla. It included married cowboys, various scantily clad (and occasionally topless) Bunnies, group groupie gropes and several men missing in action at the end of the night.

“Seven cowboys went into the limo and four came back,” Peter said. “The others had ‘extracurriculars’ planned.”


“Calamity” Cate Crismani, California-based editor-publisher of trueCOWBOY magazine, has never dated a rodeo cowboy. But as an accomplished horsewoman and wild-horse activist, she wouldn’t mind, if the right opportunity presented itself.

“I’ve interviewed cowboys, and most of them are very charming, respectful and well-mannered,” she said. “They say ‘Yes, ma’am’ and ‘No, ma’am.’ They’re buff and handsome, and love their horses and their mothers.”

She takes a gentler view of Buckle Bunnies than most.

“They’re just using their feminine wiles in a unique setting – the rodeo – to attract the type of man they want to be married to,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with that as far as I can tell.

“And it’s a symbiotic relationship: When a beautiful woman puts her sights on a man, his ego, prowess – and ability to perform better in all aspects of life – rises.”


A tattooed visitor takes in rodeo action from the bleachers at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds. (Bryn Bailer/Aztec Press)


New ‘Ghostbusters’ reboot sparks gender controversy

New ‘Ghostbusters’ reboot sparks gender controversy


Nerds everywhere are protesting the upcoming “Ghostbusters” reboot, starring—gasp—women!

Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”) will direct the “Ghostbusters” remake, which is scheduled for release on July 22, 2016. The film will star comedians Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.

The news has spawned an onslaught of opinions, from advocates of female power to die-hard fans.

Feig told Rolling Stone that he loves the original “Ghostbusters” and has no desire to ruin that memory.

“Let’s just restart it because then we can have new dynamics,” he said. “I want the technology to be even cooler.”

There are some who don’t take this “let’s just restart it” business so lightly. Like the barrage of men posting YouTube videos, alone in their basements, grieving over their soon-to-be-ruined childhoods.

Each video starts basically the same way: I’m not sexist but—.

This is usually followed by a rant, pointing out that women have just never fought ghosts. They also make demands, such as—give the fans what they want, and just let the “Ghostbusters” die.

Rolling Stone asked Feig what he thought about a Deadline article titled “Do We Want An Estrogen-Powered ‘Ghostbusters?’”

“I really cannot believe we’re still having this conversation,” Feig said. “When people accuse it of being a gimmick I go, ‘Why is a movie starring women considered a gimmick and a movie starring men is just a normal movie?’”

The Deadline article, written by self-proclaimed film chauvinist Mike Fleming Jr., says there is an economic upside to the double-X chromosome reboot:

“We are seeing a recognition that women will come to the movies if there is something in it for them, as evidenced by the ‘Twilight’ saga, ‘The Hunger Games,’ ‘Divergent,’ ‘The Other Woman’ and last weekend’s winner, ‘Lucy,’ with ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey.’”

Fleming follows his explanation of the women-going-to-movies phenomenon with a question: “Does that give them the right to take ‘Ghostbusters’ from knuckle-dragging Neanderthals like me who have little else going for us but our all-time top 10 or 20 favorite guy movies?”

Well, Fleming Jr., let me put your mind at ease. Feig will not be scouring your movie collection for your old “Ghostbusters”—not your illegal downloads, not your Blu-rays, not your DVDs and certainly not that old VHS copy under your pillow.

Fleming goes on to say he wanted to see the remake star a combination of Hollywood’s leading male comedians such as Jonah Hill, Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn. He even points out that those were the stars of a 2012 movie, “The Watch.”

In “The Watch,” a band of men defend the world against other-worldly beings. There is slime, matching uniforms and weapons that blast neon light. Sound familiar? And yet, according to Fleming, it was a flop.

So, Junior, for your second piece of advice, may I suggest you take a class, at your local community college perhaps, on rhetorical argument.

In Summer 2014, it was announced on “The View” that the new Thor series would star a goddess of thunder.

In an article for the Huffington Post, Sara Roncero-Menendez wrote: “Not a Thor sidekick. Not simply a gender-swapped Thor-ess or Lady Thor. Just ‘Thor,’ a woman worthy of wielding the hammer in her own right.”

Roncero-Menendez touted the importance of diversity.

“It’s important for audiences of all ages to see people like them saving the world, including people who don’t happen to be white heterosexual males,” she said.

On, Brett Schenker pointed out that of the 24 million self-identified comic fans on Facebook in the United States, 46.7 percent are female.

The fact of the matter is, women have notoriously been underrepresented in Hollywood.

The top 100 grossing films of 2013 overwhelmingly starred males, according to a report by San Diego State University film professor Martha Lauzen.

“I would say that the film business is in a state of gender inertia,” Lauzen told the Los Angeles Times. “If you take a look at the numbers, you see basically we are in the same place we were about a decade ago.”

Kinda makes you wonder—what the hell, Hollywood? Strong women are in. As a culture, we are hungry for strong females. Women want to be strong, men want to be around them.

Chris Hardwick, the host of @midnight, falls on the side of the debate with people not afraid of the 21st century.

“Embrace this brave new world where women wear jumpsuits and fire neutrino wands,” he says.

Touché Chris, and cheers to a world where women everywhere go to theaters, star in movies and—fight ghosts.


This cover shows “Ghostbusters” (also known “The New Ghostbusters”) Volume 5, which was released in Summer 2013. (© IDW Publishing Comics)


One is never too old to learn

One is never too old to learn


Tenny Tenka, 63, sits upright, knees together, back arched and not quite touching the chair, seemingly positioned in the very manner of a proper Chinese lady.

The Pima Community College student made her way to the United States from Indonesia in 2010 after the death of her husband, leaving behind her entire surviving family and relocating to a place she had never been before.

The first thing she did upon arrival was find a school to learn English.

“It was my passion,” she said,  beaming. “I took classes four days a week. I like to learn.”

Tenka would like to eventually master Spanish and French as well. Ultimately, she dreams of becoming a writer.

Her storied journey begins more than 100 years ago with her grandfather and parents on the southeast coast of China in Hokkien, known as Fujian Province. Her parents immigrated to Indonesia before she was born.

Many ethnic Chinese around the world, especially in Southeast Asia, trace their ancestry to Fujian.

Tenka lived through tumultuous times in Indonesia, including a series of uprisings in 1965-66 involving the 30 September Movement that killed more than 500,000 people. The secondary school she attended as a 15-year-old was seized.

Her husband died at age 61 after contracting what Americans refer to as black lung. He acquired the condition as a result of painting fenders on cars without protection or proper ventilation, and from working in an atmosphere filled with second-hand smoke.

After his death, Tenka emigrated to the U.S. through the applied efforts of her younger sister. Her sister arrived 30 years ago, and now lives in Sahuarita.

Tenka left behind three sons. Martin, 36, and Ricky, 33, moved to Australia a half-decade ago. Her youngest son, Renaldo, remains in Indonesia.

She has applied to bring Renaldo to the U.S., but it takes five-to-10 years for approvals from U.S. Customs and Immigration. Her own immigration in 2010 followed an approved application submitted by her sister in 1998.

Tenka grew up speaking Mandarin Chinese, a dialect different from the language spoken by her parents. She learned a little English as a child, but quickly forgot it.

She now attends English as a Second Language class at Pima’s West and Northwest campuses, and works in the deli department at a Fry’s grocery in Sahuarita.

Some co-workers and customers were initially impatient with her lack of communication skills, Tenka admits. That was both challenging and disheartening at times.

Her Fry’s supervisor, manager Bechir Sfaxi, says Tenka’s communication skills have greatly improved. “She knows her job and gets along well with her co-workers and customers.”

Tenka drives to her job at Fry’s but takes the bus to her Pima classes.

“I am a slow driver, so I only drive in Sahuarita,” she said with a renewed school-girl grin.

There are many things that Tenka misses about Indonesia, including the spices and the smell of the earth.

“It not same smell,” she says with a lingering accent not easily detected in earlier responses. “The beauty of the clothes, the fabrics, all different, not like here.”

She goes on, trying to paint word pictures to describe the type of woven fabric she is envisioning, how it’s made and how it shimmers. “Not like silk, better.”

Tenka remembers the beautiful foliage of Indonesia, and laments that her former engulfing color of green is wiped from her new landscape.

And lastly, the air. The air she breathes in Tucson doesn’t feel quite the same.

She also misses celebrating an esteemed annual tradition to honor family ancestors, held on April 5 at the cemetery and in July at the temple.

Tenka’s marriage was not arranged, as was the tradition in many areas of China, but her parents enjoyed a successful arranged marriage for 55 years.

Her parents never expressed outward emotions such as holding hands or kissing in public, but it was quite clear to Tenka that her parents were in love. “My parents were very happy,” she says.

Public displays of affection are prohibited in Chinese tradition and are against the law in Indonesia.

“Americans hold hands in public and always say, ‘I love you,’” Tenka says. “We don’t do that.” Does she miss her husband? “Yes,” she replies. “I miss him very much.”

Would she ever re-marry? Tenka remains silent for a moment, long enough to suggest that she either did not hear the question or considers it too personal.

She raises her head. “If I meet the right person, I would consider to get remarried. But have to be the right person,” she says.

“I’m rabbit in Chinese zodiac, which means I like safety and to be comfortable in my own space.  Future husband have to understand that.”

Pg07-Tenny Tenka

Tenny Tenka, 63, an ESL student, stands proud to be a part of Pima Community College to further her education. (Emery Nicoletti/Aztec Press)


Broke for Valentine’s Day? Try our five low-cost ideas

Broke for Valentine’s Day? Try our five low-cost ideas


Valentine’s Day can be a challenge, especially if money is an issue. Thankfully, Tucson offers numerous options that will please your date and your wallet. Check out these budget-friendly places that don’t include a drive-thru.

From Ethiopian cuisine to Mexican food to everything in between, we hope this guide will help to make your day special.

1. La Indita

La Indita is a family-run restaurant that really delivers on service and taste. Dishes vary from chicken mole to Indian fry bread tacos.

Another perk: free chips and salsa. Dishes at La Indita vary from $8 to $12, which means a meal for two at this cozy place can cost as little as $20 with tip.

2. Café Desta

If you’re sick of Mexican and want to be a bit more adventurous, try Café Desta. It’s an Ethiopian restaurant where Injeera bread is served, along with multiple side dishes to share. This place would be a great fit for vegans.

For $25, you can get a combo for two that includes any five items. Options include vegan and meat dishes served with selata and Injeera or rice.

To save even more money, stop by before 2:30 p.m. for a lunch special that includes three items with rice or Injeera for $9.

3. BK’s hot dog stand 

Downtown Tucson also has a BK’s hot dog stand right in front of Puebla Vida Brewery. If you’re looking for awesome beer, brewed locally, this is the place to be.

Grab some Sonoran hot dogs, drink some beer and go on a walk.

4. Caruso’s 

If you’re looking for something classier, check out Caruso’s. It’s another family-run Italian restaurant that serves up delicious food and gives you free garlic bread to start.

Dishes rarely exceed $13. If you cut out wine and desert, you can get a white tablecloth dinner for under $35 including tip.

5. Lindy’s on 4th

If ethnic cuisine isn’t your cup of tea, have no fear. There’s always Lindy’s.

Yes, this place is small and often crowded, but for good reason.

Stop by and try one of their many specialty burgers with tots or fries. A single burger is $6.50 and you can share a basket of tots for $5. A meal here will be well under $25 including tip.

There will also be live music and merchant discounts on Fourth Avenue on Valentine’s Day. Check it out even if you don’t eat — there will be plenty to do and see.


La Indita

622 N. Fourth Ave.


Café Desta

758 S. Stone Ave.


Puebla Vida Brewing Co.

and BK’s hot dog stand 

115 E. Broadway Blvd.

(The hotdog stand is in front of Puebla Vida)

Carusos Itanlian Restaurant

434 N. Fourth Ave.



431 N. Fourth Ave.


Pg08-La Indita

La Indita on North Fourth Avenue definitely shows a lot of variety and character. (Aztec photos by Rudrani Chatterjee)

Pg08-Cafe Desta

Cafe Desta, an Ethiopian restaurant, offers a variety of dishes for adventurous diners.

Pg08-BK Hot Dog

BK’s hot dog stand on East Broadway can be paired with locally brewed beer.


Caruso’s, a family-owned Italian restaurant, is ideal for wine and pasta lovers.


Lindy’s is always a crowd pleaser and leaves customers feeling satisfied.


TOP 10 How to V-Day the singles’ way


With Valentine’s Day approaching many Pima Community College students and faculty are busy making reservations for romantic dinners, buying gifts for their main squeeze and conditioning themselves to go the full 12 rounds.
With all the buzz our society gives these romantic excursions it is not difficult to see why some people who are not so amorously blessed might feel left out with nothing to do.
If the only thing you have written in your calendar this weekend is to stare at the drywall ,coveting that which will always escape you, maybe you might benefit from re-imagining your Valentine’s Day.

10. Throw a potluck with your single friends

Misery loves company, and this miserable lot has nothing better to do than sit around, spit some jive and watch each other gain weight. Start meeting biweekly with these turkeys while serving coffee and doughnuts on a side table and you are well on your way to starting a 12-step program. Luckily for you, your winning personality comes before desperate principles.

9. Seek therapy

There’s obviously something wrong with you. Everybody knows it. Oh, you didn’t? Well denial is the first step on the road to recovery. Good job, you’re making progress.

8. Living room Karaoke

Dare I say naked?  Oh yeah, that’s refreshing. Please try to remember to shut the blinds if you live in a school zone, unless you think that the sex offender registry line is a great place to try out your new pick up lines on high school teachers. Nice. You are a weird one aren’t you?

7. Do volunteer work

If you’re seeking a scholarship or still owe the judge 40 hours, now’s as good a time as any to smash those dreaded community service hours out and look like a half-decent citizen. Who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky enough to work those hours off reading “50 Shades of Grey” to a blind girl with broken arms.  Remember, charity is its own reward. Live to give.

6. Sleep

It’s Saturday. Why is this alarm even set?  Do yourself a favor and just rip the whole clock off of the wall. Worry about resetting it Sunday night.

5. Take a long walk

Go hiking through Sabino Canyon, take a stroll downtown or just walk anywhere. The simple task will give you time to reflect and figure out why you are alone yet again this February.

4. Troll the bars for strange

Whether you’re a down-rigger or an out-rigger kind of vessel, you aren’t gonna snag the catch of the day unless you check your pole, pack your lures and head on down to the local watering hole. If you can’t get a nibble after happy hour, change location. The key is to blend in with the natural surroundings and not stand out as a predator. If your query is sitting at a bar on Valentine’s Day then they are either single or they are in a relationship they obviously don’t respect. Be sure to get close enough to bag that wide mouth. If patience and subtlety aren’t your defining personality traits maybe trawling the bar is more your style.

3. Read a damn book!

Maybe part of the problem is you haven’t shown the opposite sex that you were built for more than pulling plows and grazing.  If you’re unsure of what to read, it’s always safe to stick to anything that is at least at a high school reading level. Try to read in public and display your sophistication. Anybody who asks you about what you are reading is already interested. Remember that the only good answer in this situation is, “It’s OK, but not as good as I expected.” It gives the impression you read more often. Hence making you seem smarter and more attractive.

2. Take your mother out to the movies

Just because you didn’t have anything planned this Valentine’s Day does not mean she didn’t. Luckily for you she’d rather spend her time with you.  An unsuccessful marriage and awkward step-dad bonding moments will now be averted.

1. Don’t panic

No expensive dinners for two. No roses. No chocolate covered, gold-plated, self-aware, dancing teddy bears that sing Maroon 5’s “Animals” when you squeeze his paw. Do you have any idea how much that would actually run? And that’s just for the girlfriend. Don’t ask what the wife wants. If you don’t know the answer to that riddle my friend, I don’t have any advice that can help you.

A buddy for study

A buddy for study


Move over Vyvanse, there’s a new supplement on the block: prescription-less Study Buddy.

Most college students have heard of “smart drugs” like Adderall, Vyvanse and Focalin used as study aids. A prescription by a medical professional is required, since the controlled substances are commonly used for ADHD patients.

College students have found loopholes by illicitly purchasing from friends who have a prescription. Come finals week, these drugs become worth their weight in gold to students, and their black market value increases.

This is hardly new, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, which conducted a 2008 survey that found 1 in 4 students used prescription stimulants at least once.

As these medications are a somewhat recent development, their extensive side effects remain to be fully determined.

The brief benefits of deep focus and alertness can be outweighed by the costs of acquiring a dependence or damaging alterations of the brain. Maybe they are diminishing natural focus rather than acutely honing it?

Even though you may be learning semester’s worth of psychology in a single night, it can come at an exhaustive price.

Many people use stimulants on a daily basis. If you wake up to a venti cup of Starbucks or an energy drink in the morning, caffeine, guanine, taurine and other enhancers are the true culprits. If you’ve ever imagined a pill “pick me up,” Study Buddy is just that.

The key behind Study Buddy is gaining focus without side effects because it’s derived from herbal-based ingredients. It also contains caffeine as well, something to remember when combining with coffee or energy drinks.

Study Buddy is available at Pima Community College bookstores, the U-Mart in the University of Arizona student union, and many local convenience stores.

A pack of two pills runs $3, a bargain in comparison to prices for illicit prescription drugs. For daily users, or finals week, Study Buddy packs are also sold in bulk online.

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Study Buddy offers a non-prescription alternative. (Jay Becker-Norman/Aztec Press)

Romantic love: A neuronic narcotic

Romantic love: A neuronic narcotic


Of all the highs, synthetic and otherwise, love is our favorite drug.

Metaphysically speaking, “romantic love” is an obsessive connection, consuming people with optimism to form a romanticized view of reality.

Characterized primarily by extreme craving, intense motivation and compulsive thinking, the intoxicating effects of infatuation mimic that of an obsessive-compulsive mind on cocaine.

While sex may satisfy our basic biological needs for reproducing, romantic love strives to refine our selection process in mating, providing optimal odds for ideal conception.


Chemistry of courting


From the sweaty palms, pounding heart and racing thoughts, love’s addictive effects are easily observed through the physical angst of initial attraction.

Communication studies performed by UCLA Professor Emeritus of Psychology Albert Mehrabian demonstrate that mate-screening within the mind emphasizes the subliminal side of our interactions.

Verbal exchange allots for just seven percent of attractive-factoring during an initial encounter. By contrast, 55 percent of match-determining comes from body language and 38 percent is based on vocal tones and pitch patterns.

With infatuation taking a mere 90 seconds to four minutes to initiate, attraction is a subconscious process of selection.

Thus, contrary to cynics, romantic chemistry prompts love at first sight.

Once sight has played its seductive role, touch takes control through the chemical courting of caressing and kissing.

Saliva stores immense amounts of testosterone, the hormone of sexual desire.

During a kiss our cheek cells, conveniently designed to absorb the hormonal exchange, send testosterone directly to the brain.

Male bodies utilize this saliva-swapping system as means of injecting testosterone to trigger sex drive in their partner.

Hence men’s preference for “sloppier kisses,” according to studies by biological anthropologist Helen Fisher.


Why I’m a dope for you


Love is an addiction that begins in the brain.

Being in love releases four core chemicals: dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin and oxytocin.

Each assists in creating the insatiable drive and pleasurable pursuit of attaining life’s grandest prize: a perfect mate.

Dopamine and norepinephrine make up the most addictive agents of love’s chemical construct.

Individuals in love receive a constant surge of dopamine throughout their brain.

Dopamine acts as a natural stimulant within the brain, encouraging the desire to “win” through pleasurable sensations such as elation and arousal.

As levels of dopamine increase, pain and aversion centers within the brain begin to decrease activation.

Norepinephrine, an adrenal hormone, acts as the physiological respondent to love. It provides elevated energy levels for achieving one’s desires.

This surge serves to lower thresholds at which reward regions fire.

The resulting chemical imbalance distorts lovers’ perceptions of life for the better and rose-tints the bitter.


Parting’s sweet sorrow


Alas, as with any great rush, the higher we fly, the farther we fall.

In order to maintain a high, we need a consistent dose of our chosen stimuli to keep the rush alive.

Its absence leaves the brain’s chemical craving unsatisfied.

The body then begins to withdraw from its former euphoric state.

After a devastating breakup, overactive levels of dopamine reach catastrophic proportions.

Identified as the “protest stage” of rejection, the brain becomes hyperactive with motivational energy to win back what was lost. That stimulates erratic behavior in a heartbroken brain.

Examples include obsessing over the lost love, calling and incessant emailing, or refusing to believe it’s over.

Like all chemical dependencies, the brain never develops complete immunity towards craving love. It simply adapts, evens out and learns to live without.

Consequently, a brain never falls “out of love.”

In fact, heartbreak only intensifies romanticized longings of a lost love.

Thus, our brain’s lust for love brings out the dope in all of us.

Cricket bars jumping off local shelves


A new protein bar is hopping onto shelves across the country, and health enthusiasts and environmentalists alike are starting to take notice.

Chapul Cricket Bars are made with crickets that have been baked and milled into flour. This practice is an adapted form of one long used by Native American cultures.

This nutritional revolution has already made a splash in Europe and Australia, and is now taking aim at the United States.

The founder of this intriguing idea, Pat Crowley, formed the idea after hearing a TED Talk about nature and the healthy choice of eating insects.

Normally, protein bars use a lot of fresh water in their agricultural production. By substituting insects, the process takes fresh water used for water-intense whey and soy out of the equation and reduces its environmental impact.

“Eating insects makes sense on so many levels and the major barrier is a cultural perception, so that’s where we’re focusing a lot of our efforts,” Crowley says on Chapul’s website

The biggest surprise about these protein bars is just how big of a punch they pack. After the baking and milling of the crickets into flour, the protein-rich mixture is added in small amounts.

The reasoning behind this is, even in small amounts, the calcium and protein content of the cricket flour is so high only a little bit is needed to put Chapul on par with other nutrient bars.

Spokesman John Beers said in an email interview that Chapul’s position as a young, small company has allowed it to harness the power of the niche they’ve acquired in the food industry.

Visit to see a video review of Chapul’s Aztec and Chaco bars. They taste much like protein or power bar would, with no added crunch of cricket legs.

PCC student leads ghost tours

PCC student leads ghost tours


It’s a dark, brisk night on Congress Street. Tucson’s night owls and partygoers are out and about, drinking and socializing.

Over by the Rialto, a small crowd gathers around Robert Owens.

Owens, a 22-year-old Pima Community College student, works as a tour guide for Spirit Expeditions.

The Oregon-based business hosts ghost tours nationwide. Tucson enjoys the company’s top ratings on Groupon, thanks to guests who give positive feedback.

Owens grew up in Florida as a Southern Baptist and said he believes in ghosts.

The political science major wouldn’t call himself a history junkie, but is very interested in the historical aspect of the tours.

“First and foremost, this is a ghost tour,” Owens said. “What I see when I do these tours is you can’t really talk about the ghosts of a place if you don’t talk about the history of the place also. The two often tie together.”

Owens is a one-man operation. He designed the tour route, chose the destinations and did extensive historical and urban folklore research on the locations.

He takes guests to the most talked-about spots, such as Hotel Congress and The Rialto, and to places without much buzz, like the Scottish Rite Cathedral and the Pioneer Building.

Owens owes his job to a friend who is chronically unemployed and always looks up postings on craigslist. His friend approached him, saying, “I found the perfect job for you.”

After calling, wrangling a Web interview on the fly and getting hired on the spot, Owens has been guiding believers and skeptics since December 2013.

Owens doesn’t plan on leading ghost tours as a career but for now he enjoys his part-time job for the income.

He also juggles two other jobs, all while attending PCC full time.

Owens interns at U.S. Rep. Ron Barber’s office, working with the case management employees. He also serves as secretary on the board of directors for a Tucson horse rescue operation, Heart of Tucson.

The ghost tours attract a variety of guests.

Recent participant Linda Himmel is a winter visitor from Wisconsin who found the tour on Groupon. Himmel said she came more for the history but had fun with Owens’ spooky stories.

“I think our tour guide, Robert, is very well versed on the history and what he’s doing,” Himmel said. “He’s been a Tucsonan for 16 years, so he knows the town and he’s obviously interested in sharing the information.”

Himmel said she and her husband had been to the Rialto and Hotel Congress, but had never visited the Fox Theatre or Scottish Rite Cathedral.

“I would highly recommend that people do this tour,” she said. “If they think they’re going to hang around Tucson, it’s interesting to find out the history of downtown.”

Her husband does not believe in ghosts and she is a skeptic, Himmel said.

Owens respects his guests’ varied opinions.

“With these tours, I try to keep an open mind with everybody’s beliefs,” he said. “For me, it’s as much about the history as it is the ghosts.”

His primary goal supersedes both aspects.

“Above all, it’s about people leaving with a smile and having a good time,” he said. “That’s what I’m most interested in.”

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Robert Owens ends his ghost tour across from Hotel Congress. Owens, 22, is a
full-time Pima Community College student who works three jobs.

Body Love challenges beauty ideals

Body Love challenges beauty ideals


Unjust ideals of beauty have been projected onto women all throughout history. Every day we are exposed to the idea that we must look a certain way to be beautiful or just accepted.

Until we all move forward and put the emphasis on positive body image, this dangerous projection of what beauty is will continue to imprison us in self-doubt.

The Body Love Conference is challenging social norms and encouraging women to love themselves, no matter their shape or size.

The event is the first of its kind, offering a full day of workshops, classes and activities to foster acceptance of all body types.

The event was founded by Tucson blogger and plus-size model Jes Baker. On her blog, “The Militant Baker,” she writes on positive body image and strives to help women break through society’s misguided standards of perfection.

Baker welcomed guests into the Grand Ballroom at the University of Arizona on April 5. Each attendee was handed a blank name tag with a line to fill in what they loved about themselves.

“That’s a hard topic,” said Amy Kuchard, who travelled from San Diego for the event. “Obviously we are talking about it today. I think I’m beautiful because I’m independent and self-sufficient. About my body, tough, I love my tattoos.”

Within the ballroom, participants mingled with one another in an environment cultivating safety.

Local organizations advocating equal rights, body love and sexual abuse treatment set up information tables. Planned Parenthood and The Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault were among the groups, and gave away free condoms.

Throughout the day, 35 speakers from all over the nation held a variety of presentations and classes.

The activities ranged from light-hearted to serious topics, mirroring the ups and downs along the path to empowerment.

Local dancer Ida Tapper of Don’t Blink Burlesque taught some sexy tips of the trade in a beginner’s burlesque class. She challenged her students to accentuate both their favorite and least favorite features with confidence.

Keynote speaker Tess Munster received a standing ovation after sharing her personal story of perseverance. Munster is a plus-size model, makeup artist, body image activist and blogger from L.A.

As a teen, she was subjected to bullying and continued to face hardships as she began to pursue her dream of modeling.

“I had been told my entire life I was too big, even at a much smaller size then you see in front of you today,” Munster said. “The tentative attempts I had made perusing modeling had all been met with the same response; ‘Too big and too short.’”

Munster has since been featured in many international publications and was named one of the Top Plus Models by Huffington Post and Vogue Italia.

“It’s your body, don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t worthy of being loved by you and by others, and don’t let anyone tell you how much of it you can show,” she said.

Plans are already in motion to continue the Body Love Conference in the future.

“I think it turned out really well. I wasn’t expecting around 500 people to go,” volunteer Emily Carlisle said.

“It’s really exciting to see that amount of people since it’s our first time,” she said. “Hopefully next year we will have more international people coming.”

Body Love is an event that has planted seeds of change, and if we learn to love ourselves for who we are we can lead a happier life. Let’s focus on keeping our bodies healthy, rather than obsessing over pounds and clothes sizes.

For additional information, visit

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Jamie Verwys/Aztec Press
A burlesque performer, The World Famous Bob, (in black top and red skirt, with microphone) leads a discussion on self-confidence at the Body Love Conference. One participant teamed with Bob in an exercise about personal heros.

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Jes Baker addresses the audience while hosting the first Body Love conference April 5 at the University of Arizona. Baker is a blogger, model, and advocate for positive body imagine and mental health awareness.


Herding cats: You CAN toilet train a kitty

Herding cats: You CAN toilet train a kitty


As any cat owner can tell you, nothing is worse than the mess or smell that comes from a litter box.

Add the constant cleanings and it becomes a serious inconvenience.

Fortunately, there is an alternative that eliminates the need for a litter box all together. You can toilet train your cat.

While it might seem that teaching your cat to use a toilet would be time consuming and complicated, it is actually quite simple.

Amazon sells kits ranging from $30 to $50 that are designed to make the transition from litter box to toilet easier on your pet.

These kits use a system of removable trays that fit into a training seat, one for each stage of training.

Depending on which kit you use, there will be three to five stages.

The first stage is a ring that covers the training seat and is filled with flushable litter.

The following stages use the same concept with the litter but have a small hole in the middle. The hole gets larger until the training is no longer needed.

The process can be completed in as little as a month but the time frame and whether it will be successful depends entirely on the cat.

To avoid failure during toilet training attempts, make sure not to rush the cat and follow directions.

Some tips:

•Start by moving the litter box into the bathroom that will be used for training.

•Switch to flushable litter before using the training system to ensure the cat will know where to go.

•Start elevating the existing litter box a bit each day by stacking phone books or something similar underneath.

•When the litter box is at a height level with the toilet, set the box on top of the toilet.

•If the cat cannot successfully jump to this height, add a small box to make the climb easier.

•Switch to the training system when the cat is comfortable, and change the training rings based on how well your cat adjusts to the new system.

•Once the cat can go without using the training rings, the cat will be fully trained the humans will regain use of their toilet.

Firsthand experience taught a few lessons:

•There is a chance your cat will have accidents during this process.

•Teaching the cat to flush the toilet will result in a new playtime activity and a possible water bill increase.

•If a second bathroom is not available for humans, the training seat is easy to remove.

•Regularly wash the training system to keep things clean for both you and your pet.

•If your cat does not want to use the toilet and refuses to do so, don’t force it.

•Be patient! Not all cats can make the transition overnight.

These systems make no promises. However, if done properly and with the cooperation of your cat, you will soon be living in a litter-free home.


Rescue kitten fully trained in a month

My roommate and I adopted a rescue kitten, Chesty Purrer, seven months ago.

After a few weeks of dealing with the mess that comes with a litter box, we decided to toilet train him.

We looked online and in different pet stores, then decided on the three-step Litter Kwitter system.

Rather than follow the directions, we decided that our kitten was smart enough to understand his new bathroom setup.

Luckily for us, he did figure it out quickly.

Other than the piles of litter he kicked onto the floor, it wasn’t too messy.

Within a month, he had gone through all three stages and was using the toilet without the Litter Kwitter.

Now Chesty is able to use any bathroom without issue and is totally litter-free.