Right now, somewhere in China, neighbors of ours from Tucson are playing classical music for people who crave it. Or, if they're not playing, people who are part of the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra entourage are traveling to a new city, and a new venue.

It's cool to think about SASO in the midst of a Chinese tour, at the invitation of that country's government. Under the animated, enthusiastic direction of Linus Lerner, the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra is the first American volunteer symphony invited to play, largely at China's expense, in the world's most-populous country.

Last Wednesday, before a packed house at SaddleBrooke's DesertView Performing Arts Center, Lerner donned a Chinese jacket to lead the orchestra through part of its China program. Know this — musically, and otherwise, greater Tucson is being very well-represented.

Debbie Bouchard, the violist who is currently president of SASO, started to become emotional when she talked about all the effort that's gone into making the trip possible. It has included expanded rehearsal by the orchestra, and plenty of logistical attention from the likes of Tim Secomb, the violist who's serving as a sort of chaperone and arranger.

"I don't know if any family members out there are getting any Christmas presents," Bouchard told the audience, "because we're going to China!"

Last weekend, a young woman driving her family stopped on the dirt portion of Moore Road to ask directions.

"Do you know where the Ritz-Carlton is?" she asked.

The Northwest's new world-class resort hotel isn't in plain view to those unfamiliar with the distant edge of this valley … which is part of its world-class charm. It's very much tucked away into the mouth of Wild Burro Canyon, at the edge of the Tortolita Mountains, up beyond Heritage Highlands and The Gallery.

The Ritz is beautiful. It's exquisite but not gaudy. It's worth checking out; a great opportunity might be the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce's Dancing with the Stars fund-raiser, to be held Jan. 9 in one of the ballrooms.

There's been a little skepticism about the Ritz's power as an economic engine. Time will tell on that front. In truth, the community's resort business, bruised by recession, has always had a more subtle effect on commerce. But it's important and vital nonetheless, and when a clean, green luxury business opens its multi-million dollar doors and puts 300 or so "ladies and gentlemen" to work … well, in modern-day America, 2009, that's certainly a positive.

We bid farewell to 2009, and the decade of the "Aughts," or the "Zeros," or whatever we choose to call them. Pundits short of subject matter in these annual holiday dog days of news and commentary are writing about the year, and the decade, and essentially dismissing the former (Dave Barry's review of 2009 is a hilarious must-read), and dissing the decade as a difficult loss.

We would prefer not to play that game. Time past is gone, time not yet arrived is ahead, time right now is what truly matters.

But, for some perspective, in the last four issues of 2009, The Explorer reported on final approval for the development of Continental Ranch, Oro Valley's desire to have everyone counted in the 2000 Census, El Tour de Tucson, the environmental contention over a new high school in Amphitheater School District, water chlorination, Oro Valley's desire to annex state trust land north of Rancho Vistoso, the retirement of OV Police Chief Werner Wolff, school budget cuts, and disagreements over water between Marana and Tucson, among other items.

The more things change …

Thanks for reading. Mea culpa to those we've upset. Happy 2010.


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