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Mittens and Mallards

Pontoon Boat Wildlife-viewing Tours
Various times and dates
Sonoita Creek State Natural Area
Inside Patagonia State Park
(520) 287-2791, www.azstateparks.com

While you don't have to leave Tucson to see wildlife, part of living in the Southwest is periodically reminding yourself that you live in a uniquely beautiful environment that offers more than the occasional lizard in your shoe.

Sonoita Creek State Natural Area and Patagonia Lake State Park's 25-foot-long pontoon boat makes several trips onto Patagonia Lake each week to show visitors the diversity of local wildlife. Their most popular trip is the monthly "twilight tour."

"We do those on Mondays," says interpreter Monica Webb, speaking slowly and deliberately, as a good guide does, "because the lake is quietest then.

"First, we cruise to the west end of the lake, looking for birds or wildlife as it's becoming dusk. Then we go ... to the east end of the lake, where ... thousands of red-winged blackbirds are coming in to roost for the night in the cattails. The sound is almost deafening; they're chattering to one another.

"Then, as we're coming around the east end in our counter-clockwise direction, we get into the area where the black crown night heron is roosting, who particularly hunts at night ... and they bark like a dog!

"If it's clear, we see the stars," Webb concludes, "and if it's cloudy, we get a fabulous little sunset. It's different every time."

The next twilight boat tour is Monday, Nov. 22, followed by Dec. 13 and Jan. 10. The tours fill up quickly (you must call for reservations), but daylight tours take place every Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday. There is a park entry fee of $7; the tour is $3. Do not--Webb warns--forget your hat and mittens.


Cranky, Funny, Vile Little Men

The Art Of Comedy
7 and 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 20; 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 21
Wilde Playhouse
135 E. Congress St.
770-1000, www.wildeplayhouse.com

I say that any professor who leaves the profession before becoming one of those loveable, dangerous old academics who spend hours telling you how depressing it is to be in school for 50 years--when they're supposed to be advising you on what courses to take next semester--deserves a round of applause. Tom Potter is one such ex-professor, which is perhaps reason enough to show up for Wilde's The Art of Comedy this weekend, during which Potter will be performing with political cartoonist and humorist Dave Fitzsimmons.

Fitzsimmons--who I just realized is the author of the cartoon my mother forwarded to me right after the election, which begins "Our candidate, which art in the White House, Dubya be thy name. Armageddon come, Karl Rove's will be done, on Earth, as it is in Texas"--is a political cartoonist for the Arizona Daily Star, and, like every political cartoonist worth his or her salt, he generates letters. "Is he an 'obscene mudslinging cheap-shot artist'?" asks the Wilde press release. " ... Or is he a 'mean-spirited vile little man'? He's both, and more!" Billed as "the Old Pueblo's very own culture warrior," Fitzsimmons will examine the news--and the audience--with an unforgiving eye.

More than just an ex-professor, Potter is an actor, comedy magician and musician who has been seen previously on stage, screen and television in roles that range from a cantankerous prospector to a cantankerous dog-food-eating auto mechanic to a cantankerous mental sanatorium orderly.

Tickets are $14 and can be reserved through Wilde's Web site or by calling the number above.


Vroom!

Velocity Tour
Nov. 19-21
Pima County Fairgrounds
11300 S. Houghton Road
(818) 665-4480, www.velocitytour.com

The Velocity Tour--"a celebration of speed and sound"--breaks a record by packing more exclamation points into their press release (13) than any other I've yet seen. Overly excited PR companies are generally not a good indicator of a genuinely exciting event, but Velocity Tour is three days' worth of cars, motocross, BMX shows and concerts likely to get a few other people excited as well.

The backbone of each of the three days is the "Xtreme Behavior Zone," featuring "nationally known 'X Games' stars." Both motocrossers and BMX riders will take to the dirt racetrack, while skateboarders join the BMX riders on a half pipe. Fire dancers "featuring 'Galaxy Girl'" will perform live; the "Ultimate Car Show Arena" and midway will be open throughout; and Invitational Top Fuel drag racing--which begins Friday, Nov. 19 with rounds one and two, then progresses to semi-finals and finals through the next two days--includes Top Fuel dragsters, Funny cars, Pro Modified cars and Pro Modified/Pro Stock motorcycles.

"A huge concert and rave-style light show featuring Pyro" is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 19; "Run What You Brung" street racing will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 20; and KLPX's 25th XFest starts at 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21 with a concert by The Scorpions, Tesla and Keith Emerson. Other live music events are scheduled to take place throughout the three days; check Soundbites (page 59) for more information.

For times and ticket prices--all of which vary from day to day--call or log on using the contact information above, or purchase tickets at any Ticketmaster location or by visiting www.ticketmaster.com.


Monday Never Sounded So Good

Celebrating The Blues
7:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 22
Centennial Hall
1020 E. University Blvd.
621-3341, www.uapresents.org

Blues enthusiasts have three big reasons to look forward to Monday evening.

Dr. John began his career as Mac Rebennack, working as a session player for Phil Spector and as a band member of Sonny & Cher. After he developed his Dr. John character--which involved a feathered head dress, long robes and was based on a 19th century Bambarra prince--his career took off. He was soon playing with Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Rickie Lee Jones and others. His most recent CD release was last summer's N'Awlinz: Dis, Dat or D'udda (Blue Note).

Charlie Musselwhite's harmonica took him from rural Mississippi to the blues clubs of Memphis and Chicago, where he played with everyone from Little Walter and Howlin' Wolf to Sonny Boy Williamson. He is a 12-time W.C. Handy award winner, has received six Grammy nominations and has recorded more than 20 albums of his own. He's also appeared on a number of other big-name records, including Bonnie Raitt's Longing in Their Hearts and Tom Waits' Mule Variations. (He even laid down the driving harmonica solo on INXS' "Suicide Blonde" track.)

Yes, Shemekia Copeland is the daughter of Blues-guitar legend Johnny Clyde Copeland, but she's long since proven she has a right to a spotlight of her own. Her debut CD--Turn the Heat Up, which was recorded when she was only 18 years old--was a critical success. Already the winner of four W.C. Handy Awards, five Living Blues Awards and the recipient of a Grammy nomination, she has since released Wicked (2000) and Talking to Strangers (2002).

Tickets are $10-$52; the evening's program will be announced from the stage.

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