My wife was out of town, and there wasn't much to do at home. So I said to myself, "Fuck it, self." My self was scandalized, but intrigued. "Self," I said, "I'm giving you a gift. We're going birding."
Full of passion but lacking direction, I appealed to the great birding sage Seagull Steve for advice. He said many edifying things, and this one stuck: "I would highly recommend southeast Arizona. It's so close to California, and the birding is fucking brilliant."
Of course. It was so obvious, so elegant in its simplicity. I was a little concerned that it might be miserably hot, but, well... YOLO, self.
Two days later I touched down at the Tucson airport.
Hence the magic of Southeast Arizona, where birding is almost normal. So many birders descend on the place, and so many non-birders don't because why the fuck would you, that you almost expect everyone you meet to be a member of the tribe.
For dinner I decided to treat myself to a small feast at the Mexican restaurant nextdoor. I was sitting at the bar, ruminating on my existence and a gristly fajita platter, when an utterly surreal thing happened: someone said my name.
Well, you coulda knocked me off my barstool with a feather. I turned and saw a familiar face, though it took me a moment to place it. It was one of the birders from Colorado. It was a long day later and a 90-minute drive away, but we'd both wound up in the same Mexican joint and he'd come up to say hi. Not only that, but they were planning to bird some cool spots the next day and invited me to join.
Sounds good, says I. The tribe doth provide.
The middle of the day was hot and contemplative. I birded an Army base, ate a Blizzard, and headed to Patagonia, the tiny mountain town where I would spend the night. There I visited the legendary Paton house, where strangers are invited to sit in the backyard at any time and watch the dizzying action at the hummingbird feeders.
Also, acceptance. That was also nice.