I’ve only really glossed over talking about our hosts in Tucson so far, and there’s a purpose to that. I wanted to dedicate a full post to them. On day five I got that opportunity. Today was all about Mickey & Noomie, possibly the nicest, most interesting and down to earth people I’ve ever met in my life.
I’ve already mentioned that they are huge music fans, with Mickey in particular being present around the 60s scene in San Francisco and all the stigma that came with that. He actually moved to San Francisco from Chicago to be closer to The Grateful Dead so he could see them conveniently in their hometown rather than constantly travel. I think he’s seen them over 300 times he said. Wow! That’s a dedicated fan right there! I’m not going to share some of the stories he told me. I feel it’s not my place to relay to the readers and would hate to betray any kind of confidence. But just know this! The man is a complete legend who is the very epitome of what rock n roll was like in the 60s and beyond. If you want to know, and trust me it’s worth hearing, then the only way you can find out is directly from him in Tucson.
But it’s not only Mickey who has the enigmatic past, Noomie is quite a character too. She is Vietnamese and moved to The States aged 19 having been involved in the Vietnam War in a nursing capacity. For her to move over to the US at that age, at that time, is one of the bravest things I’ve ever heard. But when you get to know Noomie, it’s The States that needed to be frightened and should be grateful to have her here. The woman is an absolute diamond and has an unbelievable work ethic that has seen her own past be just as colourful as Mickey’s, but in a different way. Again, it’s not my place to divulge anything she told us, but some of the connections she has, and some of her good friends will completely blow your mind.
That combination of fascinating pasts, coupled with the best hospitality possible is what made the stay in Tuscon. I already mentioned they came to the Mohawk Radio gig and they loved it! They must have really took to them because they invited the seven of us for a special lunch the next day.
Mickey and Noomie’s home is wonderful, and so are their two dogs, Biscuit and Barney, who took centre stage. We were shown to the garden on arrival to see the table had already been laid out with all the place settings, and the food was already on the table. Three huge platters full of goodies already had the seal covering them just waiting to be ripped off and dug into. The garden itself was so tranquil and peaceful. There was even a small pond and water feature that dripped into it. I’d not even seen water in Tucson it’s that dry so this feature was a revelation. A cooler had been set up nearby for us to put our beers in. Mickey doesn’t drink anymore and said to me and Greggsy that he’s “spilled more beer than we’ve drank.” I can imagine!
After we’re seated, Noomie tells us that she has prepared a traditional Vietnamese dish. Mickey backs up the taste by saying she is a professional at this, and judging from the presentation alone I can tell. Noomie then gives us a lesson in the art of Vietnamese food, explaining that we have to wash our hands in the bowl provided and then pick with our fingers. BUT! She has to show us how to roll traditional rice paper rolls and add the food on top in the correct order first. So, it’s soak the rice paper first, then throw in lettuce, cucumber, carrot, mint leaves, sweet onion, then some herb I forget the name of (Noomie will be disappointed in me). You then add prawn and/or chicken with noodles on top, and then comes the hardest part……roll the thing! We are all amateurs apart from Greggsy, who has definitely had previous experience in this, or just has good rolling skills! Noomie’s special sweet chilli sauce is on the side ready for dipping into to add to the flavour. We slowly get better at the rolling, but it doesn’t matter, the food is absolutely delicious and all the lads make five or six each….but I think Greggsy won at eight rolls!
If we weren’t stuffed enough from the main course, Noomie then brings out a huge fruit salad bowl and rice biscuits, which is shortly followed by cherry chocolate ice cream! Belt buckles go down one notch afterwards!
We spend the afternoon chatting, speaking of the differences in each other’s culture, but mainly it’s about firing questions at Mickey and Noomie about their respective pasts. We’re all locked in like children being told a story before nap time. Mickey’s Glenn Frey story is particularly amusing and the pick of the bunch (for me)!
We are completely indebted to Noomie and Mickey. This was a real travel experience that exposed us to a different culture altogether. It’s this sort of hospitability that makes a trip. I knew beforehand that the idea of staying with people would be a chance to really embrace the culture, but I didn’t think it would extend this far. What a treat! We certainly got more than what we bargained for on our first airbnb stay. Surely they aren’t all this good!
Their hospitability extended to letting Sue use the washing machine and tumble dryer to freshen up our laundry pile. Even though the band had left, Noomie offered them the same service if they wanted to bring theirs up. (see what I mean, diamond!)
Mickey calls me into the living room whilst Sue is in her element doing the washing. He opens a cabinet filled with hundreds of CDs and tells me to grab five or six to take with me. I couldn’t possibly do such a thing, I tell him. I know how important music is and I couldn’t take away something so valuable. He is adamant he wants me to have them and tells me to send them back afterwards and he’ll send me more. What I actually pick are blank CDs with bootleg recordings of gigs. The Grateful Dead feature heavily, but I manage to pick up a Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin live in Stockholm CD. That’s some find! I’m completely humbled and overwhelmed by both of them. They are the true definition of salt of the earth and I’ll treasure everything they did for us forever!
I think the connection we and the band have with our hosts extends further than simply being guests in their guest house. I must admit, saying bye to them both was difficult and even Sue cried when we left. BUT, we will be back again in some capacity.
As we left Noomie said, “You have a home in Tucson now, and a family too!” That pretty much sums up everything about our time in Tuscon!