Get away from the city lights and see what the desert night sky offers.
Dark of the Moon star parties take place at the end of the month through February. A one-mile hike on gravel roads through cactus forests that were once private ranch lands provides a spectacular view of the south side of the Rincons. While trying to walk and crane your neck skyward, you'll explore both the scientific and mythological accounts of astronomy with park rangers. They know their stuff.
Bring water and a flashlight (and adequate night vision, of course). The walk is suited to all age levels, but adults need to hold on to those kids.
Reservations are required for these cactus-studded night treks. If you miss this month's, two more follow on Jan. 24 and Feb. 21. Friday-night walks begin Feb. 6 and continue monthly through April.
As I sit here writing, the ancient Roman holiday, Saturnalia, is revving up. My Calendar of Jubilee Saints claims it's a period of unrestrained and intemperate jollity. During this seven-day funfest, there's a relaxation of social roles; no business is transacted; wars are suspended; feuds are forgotten; and slaves take the place of masters. The Lord of Misrule is selected during all this frivolity. (Seems we should be electing a new president, or something.)
Plenty of merriment can be had without going back to the Roman Empire. Saturday's the day to celebrate the African-American holiday Kwanzaa. Aside from lighting candles on the kinara, the high-flying urban dance theater group, The Human Project, returns to the museum with performances, storytelling and children's activities, explaining this somewhat modern holiday.
On Sunday, the Japan-America Society of Tucson brings dancers from the Azuma School of Japanese Classical Dance to show off a few moves. There are plenty of Taiko drumming and Japanese calligraphy demonstrations filling the afternoon.
Here's another weekend of fun and hands-on kid stuff marking festivals of light. Two more celebrations round out the series: Día de los Reyes Magos on Jan. 4 and Chinese New Year on Jan. 24.
They're all free with museum admission--$5.50 for adults, $4.50 for seniors and $3.50 for children 2-16.
John Shryock and Mari Lynn are taking a breather from their Las Vegas show at Caesars Magical Empire to come to our little neck of the woods to perform what's described as "high-energy magic and illusion."
They travel the world--Europe, Canada, Hollywood (that's a separate country, right?)--pulling tricks out from up their sleeves. They recently made their television debut on Masters of Illusion, a series reserved for the best magical performers of the world.
You won't believe your eyes. There won't be any cameras to play tricks on you. It's the real deal.
Tickets cost $10 and are available at Williams Magic and Novelties, located at 6528 E. 22nd St. Call for yours.
Aside from the usual mummery that takes place on this auspicious day--prowling demons and spirits of darkness are the casualties of all the clanging bells and chain dragging--apparently, there's a twist on the tradition in Japan. According to my Calendar of Jubilee Saints (once again), men go around dressed as the devils themselves, knocking door-to-door screaming, "Any good-for-nothings here about?" I guess that confuses everything.
More confusion abounds. While you're trying to wrap your increasingly intoxicated brain around how to translate "auld lang syne," head on down (with your designated driver, of course) to the Winter Wonderland Ski and Snow New Year's--in Tucson.
You read that right.
Here's the plan for commencing the leap year of 2004: Eschewing the usual indoor New Year's Eve party, the folks at the hotel have mapped a new geography. They've rented snow machines and those mushroom-style heat lamps (for us wimps who shiver when the sun goes down). They're trucking in a skating rink and bunny hills. (Well, I'm told that last part is apocryphal.)
Outside, there will be plenty of brandy, mulled wine, hot toddies and hot chocolate martinis as well as roasted chestnuts to warm your cockles (of your heart). The soul-warming antics of everybody's favorite "Eastern European" cover band, the Zsa Zsas, should melt even the most snow-miserly among you. Joining them are The Croutons--described as mild, inoffensive and easy enough on the ears. Enter the snow-sculpture contest (but leave those phallic entries at home, unless you intend to honor the Titan missiles that used to ring our humble burg).
If you get cold, just dip into the lobby, where Mexican balladeer Salvador Duran will speed-thaw you with his deep voice. Believe it or not, Club Congress will be converted into a ski lodge for the entire evening, complete with roaring fire and lounging options. Dancing is encouraged all night.
Ski attire is also encouraged, and prizes will be lavished upon the most-decked-out ski dude and, yes, ski bunny (that was lifted directly from the press release).
Tickets to this shindig are limited--they cost 20 bucks a pop. So call or visit www.hotelcongress.com for yours. As for when all this frivolity starts, that's anyone's guess. The guy at the front desk told me you could just show up, and there'll be plenty of fun whenever you do.