Sonoran Desert Snyder Family Letter | 2022

Dear Family and Friends:

Rose’s text read, “Triple venti nonfat latte one Splenda.”

So when I drove up to the speaker ordering box window at Starbucks, I read the text, then swung around the corner to the window to pay. Moments later, I was handed a very large cup.

I say, “What’s this?” I was incredulous.

“That’s your order. Triple venti latte.”

“No, no, no. My wife ordered a grande. That’s what she always gets.”

And then I said this … to another human person.

“I’ve never said the word, ‘venti,’ in my life.”

Even though I had just said it, less than 30 seconds earlier.

Wow, what an asshole.

They remade the drink, of course.

As I was driving home, it hit me. I pulled out my phone and checked the text. Yes, I checked my text while driving.

She had asked for a venti. I felt horrible. I was just a couple blocks away and thought about turning around to apologize, but decided not to. Got to get Rose her coffee.

And then I thought this little story would be a good way to start the holiday letter.

Snake House

We have/had snakes in our yard. A black King snake was found by the guy cleaning out our yard. We have pine needles, little palo verde leaves, a mysterious yellow powder-like substance that falls from the sky, and Rocky’s ‘leavings’ as Marge Simpson would say. The job that took him two hours would have taken me two weeks. Anyways, King snakes are supposed to be ‘good’ snakes because they eat critters. After the cleanup, our front sidewalk cracked upwards due to a massive tree root, causing a one-inch gap from side-to-side. We discovered a large snake skin over that gap, so I filled in the gap with rocks and dirt. Then we saw snake holes on either side of the sidewalk.

That’s when another snakeskin — five-feet long — showed up. The skin started in the yard and ended going right into one of those holes. The Snake House is just a couple feet from our gate; other entrances and skins popped up outside of the gate. It was a whole thing.

Then one day workers arrived unannounced to tear out the broken sidewalk. They removed the root and poured concrete. They claimed to not see any snakes in the Snake House, but I find that unlikely.

Oh, speaking of snakes, I saw a rattlesnake on The Loop recently. He was slithering, as snakes do, off the trail. I got a good look at him as he was heading for the wash. But I got greedy and moved in closer. Too close it turns out. He turned his head and rattled his tail at me. That was startling, nearly dropped my phone, as I hopped on my bike to hightail it out of there. We can laugh about it now because nobody got bit by a rattlesnake.

Sam is helping me out with a puzzle. We both were making funny comments, doing our spot-on Snape impressions. I wish I had a recording of that, Potter.

Puzzles

This year I began obsessively putting jigsaw puzzles together. There is something in my brain, an itch that gets scratched, when I start sorting through 1,000 pieces, looking for those edge pieces. It is an exercise of patience and persistence; an activity that you would typically see done by someone either much younger or much older. My puzzles have depicted Batman, Spider-Man, Iron Man, desert flora, feathers, birds, abstract colors, Mexican sugar skulls, and many paintings by Van Gogh, Mark Rothko, and others.

Puzzles can be kind of expensive if you get a high quality one, so Rose and I have ventured to our bookstore where they have shelves after shelves of used puzzles. I have a hard time shopping for puzzles. I’m picky. Most puzzles show some folksy, bumpkin-ass, country scene and those nauseate me. So, Rose and I came up with a selection system. I stand there, gazing incoherently, while Rose gets busy. She pulls a few samples off the wall and shows them to me one at a time.

“What about this one?”

“No.”

“How about this one?”

“No, that’s stupid.”

“This one’s kind of cute.”

No response.

“What about this one?”

“I don’t know … maybe.”

We do this for about three-to-four hours, until Rose shows me every puzzle in the place. Then we pick a couple to buy. It’s a good system and bonding experience.

That first used puzzle we bought, well, it wasn’t a great experience. I opened the box thinking it would just be like opening any puzzle box, but I wasn’t prepared. In and amongst the pieces, I found … hair. Human hair? Cat hair? Did a dog own this puzzle? Honestly, I’m not sure how or why I proceeded, but I did. I wanted to do the puzzle; it was a circle.

I’ve got about 20 puzzles now — not sure what to do with all of them — but the circle puzzle with the pubes got thrown in the trash.

My dad working on a puzzle in the basement at our family home in Robbinsdale, Minnesota.

Dog Dad Grandpa

My dad liked to work on puzzles. I think I’m becoming more and more like him. I look like him. But I’m also becoming more and more like our dog, Rocky. Let’s compare and contrast.

I like doing puzzles.
Dad … YES … Dad liked doing puzzles.
Rocky … NO … Rocky has never done a puzzle.

I had a tooth disintegrate while eating this year. In fact, right now, I have an empty spot in my mouth.
Dad … YES … In his later years, my dad lost a tooth and did not get it replaced.
Rocky … YES … He has about four teeth.

I had spinal fusion surgery.
Dad … YES … He had surgery on his lower lumbar.
Rocky … YES … The vet says Rocky has arthritis in his back, which hampers his jumping game.

I occasionally have to deal with pain in my right heel.
Dad … NO … I think his heels were fine, especially when he was wearing his paint-splattered painting shoes.
Rocky … YES … He has a painful toenail issue on his right back paw.

I endured a painful wasp bite riding my bike. Felt like a cigarette being put out on my knee.
Dad … YES … This is a guess, but my dad did paint houses for a living for years and I’m sure he encountered wasps at some point. In a related note, I do remember him using his cigarette to coax a tick out of somebody’s arm once at Lake Osakis. And I also remember him accompanying me to the outhouse at the lake to smoke while I went potty because there were bees in the pot. Apparently, bees hate second-hand smoke as much as I do.
Rocky … NO … Rocky is at one with nature.

Rocky having a meetup with his fellow neighborhood Schnauzers, Max and Bridget. Max treats Rocky like his wise old uncle.

I use CBD products to manage my pain and mood.
Dad … NO … But he did pre-game on bowling nights, drinking 7 and 7’s.
Rocky … YES … He also uses CBD products to manage his mood and mobility.

I had a weird thing on my elbow that first got lanced and then scalpel-ed off.
Dad … NO … I never saw a weird thing on either of his elbows.
Rocky … YES … He has a weird thing on his eyelid that he is constantly trying to scrape off.

I’m a hard worker.
Dad … YES … Dad had a strong work ethic.
Rocky … NO … Rocky sleeps on average 22.5 hours a day.

I don’t have any hair.
Dad … YES … He and I have exactly the same hair sitch.
Rocky … NO … He actually has too much hair. The groomer lady won’t take him any more because he gets ornery.

MeYES … nothing but ornery.
Dad … YES … I heard from others that he could be ornery on occasion.

There are a lot of beautiful places. Sedona is a beautiful place that, unfortunately, is popular with, ugh, people. But you can find peace here — and probably anywhere — if you look for it.

Sedona

Rose and I went to Sedona in June. The views were epic from every angle. We visited Sedona a couple years ago with Dave and Teri, so we focused on hiking some of the lesser known trails, like the Schuerman Mountain Trail. We found inner peace at the Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park — loved that place and its quiet solitude. Finally, we enjoyed exploring the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, which is a very picturesque outdoor, um, mall. I really liked the unique setting. Across the street, we found Cream and Cake Couture. That place … five stars. Cakes, sure, but also ice cream/gelato.

A funny moment happened at yet another ice cream place. (And yes, I still have diabetes.) They had all of their offerings written down on a chalkboard and somebody had smudged the letters of Cherries Jubilee, so naturally I had to say:

“Look at that honey, they have Herpes Jubilee. That’s an odd ice cream flavor. You wouldn’t think that would be very popular.”

Rose seriously thought I misread the board and she just lost her shit.

Just look at the sign yourself.

Prescott

Rose planned this trip. We went to Sedona, then Prescott. We stayed in a historic and old hotel right in the middle of Whiskey Row. It was super cool and we loved the town. Our first stop was the Palace Saloon. I was in hog heaven. I learned that Virgil Earp was the sheriff in Prescott. In fact, Wyatt Earp played poker at the Palace in the late 1870s. The brothers left Prescott for Tombstone and became immortalized for the gunfight at the O.K. Corral in 1881.

The Palace first opened in 1877. A fire in 1883 destroyed most of “The Row,” including the Palace. They rebuilt in 1900, but unfortunately once again much of Prescott burned to the ground. This time saloon patrons carried the ornate 20-foot long bar and back-bar, along with the liquor, across the street to the grassy Courthouse Plaza. Drinks were served as they watched the town’s main street (aka ‘the town’) burn to the ground. The bar that we visited opened in 1901, an exact replica of the earlier bars. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

What a cool little town. A highlight, certainly, was the Sharlot Hall Museum, which featured so many items from the period of the Whiskey Row heydays of the 1870s. The crown jewel is the Governor’s Mansion, built in 1864, a ponderosa pine-log mansion in the wilderness. I learned that the U.S. Army continued the assault on the Native population out west during the Civil War, in part, to protect gold and silver mining, which was needed to bankroll the war effort against the Rebels. I always wondered about that.

We met with a friend of Rose’s for coffee and she suggested a hike for us to take at the Thumb Butte Recreation Area. We did this hike on our way out of town and I’m so glad we went. Surrounded by ponderosa pine, I was inspired. The smells, the dirt, the climb. All of the things that I love. It reminded me of Colorado and the Pike National Forest.

Bisbee

We continued the Arizona staycation vibes with a pretty awesome Airbnb in Bisbee, a little art town southeast of Tucson. The whole family, including Jon and Carli, was there. Everyone got their own room with a big screen TV. There was a pool table and a giant, family-sized, butcher-board dining table. We cooked a lot of food. Had some drinks and played some games. It was wonderful.

The kids didn’t know that I could play pool; they’re easily impressed. (“Carli, did you know Dad could play pool?” “No, did you know that he could juggle?”)

We went into town and walked around. It’s old and arty. It rained a lot.

Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp at the Tucson rail yards, where Wyatt killed Stillwell, the man who shot Morgan Earp in the back.

Tombstone

On the way home from Bisbee, we stopped in Tombstone. I love the movie, “Tombstone,” of course. So many great lines. I also read a historical fiction novel, “Epitaph,” by Mary Doira Russell in 2020, so I’m kind of deep into the lore. I love being in the actual place where things happened. Authentic history. You know that scene in the movie at the train station where Wyatt kills Stillwell, the man who murdered Wyatt’s brother Morgan?

That train station is in Tucson. I stood right there.

“You called down the thunder, well, now you got it … the Cowboys are finished, you understand me? I see a red sash, I kill the man wearing it … tell all the other curs the law is coming. You tell them I’m coming and hell’s coming with me you hear. HELL’S COMING WITH ME!!!

Okay, that scene is pretty awesome.

We went to Tombstone and the first thing we see is a “Blue Lives Matter” flag in front of a shop, which makes us all uncomfortable. Jon was with us. We decided to make the trip quick. We bypassed the live actor reenactment and go straight to the O.K. Corral site.

I was happy to be exactly where it happened. The town has positioned eight animatronic gunmen exactly where the men stood and fought that day, making international news.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was disappointing. The animatronics were glitchy. The kids saw a MAGA store. That didn’t seem historically accurate. But we did have a great conversation in the car about tough decisions historic places have to make to remain viable and true to their historic designation.

Sam was so surprised and happy to see his name and birthday wish on the marquee at The Loft, Tucson’s super cool movie home.

Sam’s Name in Lights

Sam has a membership to The Loft Cinema, our eclectic art house film emporium, so for his birthday, Gina and Carli collaborated on getting birthday wishes on their giant, retro marquee.

That was a special and big day for Sam, along with Oct. 16. On that autumnal day, Sam texted the family about this momentous occasion: “Me and mom have mastered the mouth fart noise.”

New in 2022, Sam has begun teaching acting to young school children all across Tucson for a program called, “Drama Kids.”

These two really deepened their bond in 2022. They’ve got all of these insider punchlines, all of which are pretty corny, but they enjoy themselves and that the main thing. Right?

Also this year, Sam and I tackled watching all episodes of “Adventure Time” with Jake the Dog and Finn the Human. Have you seen the show? It’s set in the not-too-distant future “after the war.” Each show is about 11 minutes long, matching my attention span.

Sam watches a lot of three-hour movies. In fact, usually when he suggests a movie for us to watch he leads with the run time.

Speaking of TV viewing, the family watched “How I Met Your Mother” from beginning to end this year. As we were completing this Herculean task, we learned about a HIMYM trivia contest at Crooked Tooth Brewery. We were a little cocky to say the least. We actually felt sorry for the other contestants because of our unfair advantage. We smugly got the first answer correct and, if I’m remembering correctly, that was our last right answer. The idiot quiz master asked all these obscure, some would say, trivial questions. It was ridiculous. I think we came in third overall somehow. We had fun.

Sam’s Top 10 Films from 2022

  1. Aftersun
  2. Memoria
  3. Everything Everywhere All at Once
  4. RRR
  5. Triangle of Sadness
  6. Tár
  7. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
  8. Funny Pages
  9. After Yang
  10. Marcel the Shell with Shores On

Sunday Gin with Gina

Gina made a quixotic quest to retrieve her belongings from multiple locations in Tacoma, Washington, driving 24 hours, 1,500 miles solo. And back. And it was totally worth it because most of her clothes are clothes I used to own. Good to have them back. That, plus her bed frame. She sold some of her pottery plate creations to help fund the trip.

The kids at the Royal Room.

Gina and I began playing gin on Sunday nights, usually at the Hop Shop, our local brew spot. They offer the best of Arizona beer and beers from around the country. I’m always excited to see selections from my favorite Colorado breweries up on the big board. The Hop Shop expanded their space both inside and outside and added a much-needed parking lot. Another recent addition, the Ciao Down Pizza Studio across the way. That’s what I call an immersive experience.

We are regulars there, but we’ve played elsewhere. I’ve won a couple of hands, but it’s more about hanging out and talking to each other, than who gets to 500 first.

Jon and Carli, engaged to be wed. (Fun fact … the ring Carli wears here is the wedding ring I gave to Rose.) They are meant for each other. Both are thirsty for knowledge, passionate about teaching and are amazing chefs, bakers, etc., of food from around the world.

Carli and Jon get Engaged

Carli had a big year. She and Jon got engaged. He asked for her hand in marriage at the Montclair Art Museum, site of their first date. Everyone is very happy.

Carli received several grants to assist with her dissertation research, including from Harvard, Northwestern and the USC Shoah Foundation. In fact, she is in Los Angeles right now, for a month of research, which will end with a Carli presentation.

Carli and Jon attending a friend’s wedding.

I joined Carli in Denver for one of her conferences. I got to see her present; Carli has a wonderful style of storytelling that is very engaging.

It was so good to be back in Denver with Carli. We were excited to see the new visitors center and renovations, a four-year, $150 million project, at the Denver Art Museum. They added 30,000-square-feet of exhibition space to the north building, renovating every gallery and at the top of the seventh floor adding rooftop terraces where you can look down at the city and out at the mountains featured in the paintings inside.

The Denver Botanical Gardens also expanded; it was so good to be there. I love the Denver Botanical Gardens, when I retire I want to work there part-time or volunteer or just be a member and be there near the Monet pool sipping a coffee.

We happily happened upon the Dairy Block, another art-oriented section of town and sadly discovered that the legendary Tattered Cover Bookstore had moved from its historic downtown location to a new development near Coors Field. We also returned to RiNO Arts District with Melissa and Nathan, my good friends from the Fine Arts Center.

Carli got the opportunity to review the materials in Joan Ringleheim’s personal office. Joan is the groundbreaking feminist historian Carli knew and is studying. She died this past year. In a side table — next to a big comfy chair in Joan’s office — Carli found two of her own student papers.

Rosemary basking in the sun in the historic neighborhood near the Tucson Museum of Art. This is the best photo I’ve ever taken of my photogenic bride. Captures her loveliness inside and out.

Happy 30th, honey.

Rose and I celebrated our 30th anniversary by driving up to Mount Lemmon, a spectacular drive, and then we explored several trails on the way down.

For many reasons, I’m a lucky man.

Rose is busy. It’s hard to keep track of it all. I mean, maybe it’d be easier to keep track, if I worked at being a better listener, but here are a few highlights:

  • Presented on board governance for USA Ultimate; compassionate communications for Institute of Real Estate Management; facilitating employee engagement for BroadPath’s onboarding process
  • Guested on the “Life Changes” podcast on the Indigo Life Network; “The Nonprofit Show” podcast discussing engaging boards in strategic conversations.
  • Organized the “Your Leadership Journey,” an eight-week program to empower women; “The Big Collaborative” with 10 local women’s organizations (80 attendees); the Fall Summit for the International Coach Federation / Arizona Chapter; and BoardConnect that brought dozens of nonprofits together for the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, where she works part-time.

In 2022, we decided to mix it up and get Mexican food with margs in the afternoon on the weekends. Why? Well, you can get a post-meal/marg nap in and still have most of the evening to do other things.

Jon Batiste on stage at Centennial Hall in Tucson, Arizona. His concert moved me. He was my most listened to artist on Spotify in 2022.

Jon Batiste

One of the many great benefits of working for Arizona Arts at the University of Arizona is experiencing so many talented artists, performances and exhibitions. Jon Batiste was at the top of my list. Rose and I attended the pre-game, I mean, pre-show, reception and took our seats for the sold-out show. It was just Jon and his piano. Words are going to fail me here, because I left the venue with a spiritual feeling.

We go to football games and tailgate. Bear Down Arizona!

Arizona Arts Live commissioned “32 Sounds,” an immersive film experience with Oscar nominated director Sam Green on stage narrating with a live DJ and musicians. The whole family loved it. Audience members were given nice headphones to learn about Sam’s investigation into sounds, which included old cassette tapes that captured conversations with his late father, sounds from the past. Ultimately, it was a little melancholy, but meaningful.

Another Arizona Arts Live performance I’ll never forget … Dance Theatre of Harlem. Amazing! I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.

“Come From Away,” “Wicked,” “Six” and “The Lion King” from Broadway in Tucson. All so good and emotional for me for many reasons. Rose and I went to art exhibitions. Rose got to see Harry Connick, Jr. and his Christmas show. Sam and I enjoyed the HOCO Music Festival with its three stages in and around the 100-year-old Hotel Congress in downtown Tucson. Carli, Sam and I heard the student Wind Ensemble playing the music from Studio Ghibli and we learned about Asian culture. Every year we love the student film festivals. Gina had to hold back the urge to sing every word of “Legally Blonde” by our talented students; she also joined me to see a performance at the School of Dance. And more.

Jokie

I’ll keep this brief. I am so glad to be alive on planet Earth to witness the greatness that is Nikola Jokic. We watch nearly every game. I’ve been a super fan for over 20 years and I told Sam years ago, the only way the Nuggets will get better is if we can develop the players we’ve drafted. And along comes this Serbian, who epitomizes everything you’d hope for in a sports hero.

Bike Rider

I biked a personal best, 2,500 miles, this year, finishing strong in December with 371 miles. I just wanted to have a sustainable year of riding, not preparing for anything in particular, just going on The Loop to pedal, trying my best to stay fit. Riding in the super hot weather is dangerous, something I know and knew, but on more than one occasion this year I’d say, “It’s not that hot out,” and then hop on my 30-year old mountain bike. On those occasions, I’d suffer, stumble into the house and pass out on the floor. Sadly, literally.

On one ride I got to my turnaround spot, 20+ miles from the house, and learned that it was 96 degrees. I alerted the Hill Farm Homies. Red alert. “I might need a ride home.” I biked slowly, stopping in the rare shady places every seven miles. Checked the rising temperature. 97, 98, 99. I felt okay. I kept going. I still wanted to get a good amount of miles in. Once I did, I looked the weather app … 100 degrees.

“Rose, come and get me please.”

Nothing good can happen from riding in that heat.

Then in the fall after the monsoon season, it started to cool off. The cooler the weather, the stronger I felt on my bike.

Right now I feel good. I have a plan for 2023. I hope it comes true.

(I mean, I have a plan and I will execute it. #CrushKillDestroy.)

I want to follow the lead of Gina and Rose. They’ve both developed bountiful networks of friends and collaborators in town. I want that too. I always ride alone. In 2023, I want to find some riding partners. It’s important to have that human connection.

I’m committed to that goal, which will enrich and fill my heart with joy.

And if I play my cards right, it will also provide me with someone who will take videos of me riding my bike.

#Me. I mean #We.

Here’s to you! Photo by Gina-bo-bina. The shirt, a gift from the photographer, is from a TV series about exploring the world. Take the long way round.

I wish everyone health and happiness in 2023.

Happy New Year!
Charlie | Rose | Carli | Gina | Sam | #BLM | Rocky
© Snyder Family Holiday Letter 2023

Another powerful performance from this year, the heart-wrenching, beautiful, sad, inspiring song, “My Hero,” by the Foo Fighters with Shane Hawkins on drums. I’ve watched this a million times. Always gets me.

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