Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Hospitable Desert Climes

Welcomed to Tempe, Arizona by the many-limbed Saguaro cacti and the screamingly bright yellow blooms of the green-trunked Palo Verde trees (Arizona’s state tree), we found the Sonoran Desert more hospitable than hostile, though it is known as the hottest North American desert.

Tempe’s sunny disposition was further enhanced by the 70 people who attended our event on Tuesday, 2 May at the Efes Turkish Cuisine restaurant! A huge thank you to organizers Arzuhan Kavak and Zeynep Kılıç working under the auspices of the Turkish American Association of Arizona (TAA-AZ) and The Bosphorus Art Project. Zeynep and husband Ali were also kind enough to host us in their lovely home. For this evening event the owners of Efes graciously provided a sumptuous and complimentary buffet of of Turkish meze like lahmacun and patlıcan salatası. And ohhhh, what baklava!

It was wonderful to have EH contributor Catherine Salter Bayar and Kim Smith join us again for this event, and we thank her friend Everett for allowing us to recruit him as our official photographer for the evening.

We were pleased to meet attendees like Jeni Grossman and her husband Dr. Gary Grossman, founders of the Tiny Peaces project, a goodwill and charity organization aimed at providing grassroots assistance to economically challenged Turkish communities. Arizona State University professor and former Fulbright Scholar at Middle East Technical University, Dr. Grossman has traveled to Turkey 34 times in the last fifteen years. During their year and a half living in Turkey, Jeni worked for the GAP organization in Ankara and received an international journalism award for her series of news articles in the Turkish Daily News about the Zeugma Excavation in Turkey’s Southeast. In mid-May, the Grossmans will be leading a group of Americans to Turkey for one of their projects and many from the group were in attendance that night.

Anastasia noted that it took family-loving Turks to reunite her with some extended family in the Phoenix area, including relatives she hadn’t seen in decades...like cousin Roberta Romano and family, and great aunt Marie Ippolito and family!

Also joining us was Jacie Carter, director of the Carter Foundation for fostering literacy and combatting domestic violence and LinDee Rochelle, founder of Women Writers of the Desert, as well as members of her writing group. There were so many people at the event that it was difficult to keep track of how many new friends we were making. About half the crowd were from Tempe’s Turkish population, and the other half were friends, relatives, and Turkophiles.

En route to LA today, we are now in our 19th state and our 4,215th mile! Hollywood is today’s destination for our evening appearance at the celebrity-frequented Book Soup.

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