Best Of Tucson®

Behind the Voting: Best Place in Town to Spend a Day Outdoors

The Vote: "My back yard"

There's really no better way to show off your backyard than by throwing a party.

That's exactly what Kurt Nielsen did when the Weekly contacted him about touring his nomination--his own backyard--for Best Place in Town to Spend a Day Outdoors.

Festivities at the Nielsen family home, just southeast of the University of Arizona, were fueled by two varieties of chimichanga--part of a great spread on the dining-room table--and an international assortment of beers, including a delicious Nicaraguan brew called Toña.

The Nielsens only "sporadically entertain," said guest Courtney Bishop, but when they do, they always have beer. Now that's generosity!

Kurt gave us the grand tour while his wife, Paula, and two children--10-year-old Craig and 13-year-old Lauren--chatted with guests. The backyard was simple enough: a "national-park strength" turquoise picnic table with steel legs, a fledgling lawn, birds of paradise in cages, a "trusty" barbecue given to Kurt by Paula, and a wading pool that is sometimes filled with water to keep the family dog cool and content.

Something told us it wasn't the backyard itself that made the Nielsen's outdoor experience so reportedly stupendous, but rather the people with whom the Nielsens spend time in their backyard.

Maybe it was the wildly entertaining conversation thread that clued us in. The Nielsens' friend Erica Koerber, whom they met at a dog park, punctuated the evening with hilarious observations.

"How many Fourth of Julys have involved (igniting) pool shock and brake fluid?" she asked everyone about this, um, classic holiday entertainment. Koerber also recalled a Las Vegas resort known for its fountains when she dubbed the Mentos and Diet Coke phenomenon (if you're unaware, combining the two causes quite a big explosion) as "Bellagios with Mentos." Sounds appropriate.

Other items of discussion ranged from the physics of microwaving bisected grapes ("A blue flame goes between the two halves of the grape," Kurt said. "We can try it--we have some!"), to the perils of inter-city driving ("People have been known to brandish weapons on the freeway," Paula said--a warning which proved ominously timely, Koerber chimed in, when a section of a Phoenix freeway was closed off for just that reason hours after Paula had told her to be wary); and from putting cooking oil in kitty litter (?), to the perennial summertime treat that combines the best of childhood with the best of adulthood: lemon eegee's with Patrón tequila.

In the end, the party only lasted outside for about 15 minutes; the monsoon humidity drove everyone indoors, where there was air conditioning.

"I'm getting stuck to myself," Koerber announced.

But things certainly didn't slow down. In fact, they only picked up, as more neighbors stopped in.

Of course, there were chimis and beer for everyone.