Friday, August 19, 2011

Happy Birthday, Tucson

In our family, we celebrate birthday weeks or months.  One day is just insufficient to share the love.  When I turned 50 I had a year-long birthday celebration tour; the occasion seemed to demand it.

So what to do for my adopted home town, which celebrates the 236th anniversary of the founding of the Presidio de Tucson on Saturday?  Nerthus organized us into a Blog Carnival so that we can each celebrate in our own special way.  I'm just having a hard time figuring out what my way should be.

1775 is an arbitrary starting place, since there have been inhabitants here for over 4000 years.  But the Spaniards brought documentation and a written history began to take shape and suddenly there was a town in the desert.  Saturday is its birthday.

One wonders what possessed those first settlers to choose this dusty part of the country as their home. Willa Cather's My Antonia has the best description of this, which I could find if I looked for it but which I will paraphrase thusly - Antonia is in the field, staring at the vast expanse of low grass and big boulders, as she tries to figure out why her West Coast bound ancestors chose to stop their journey in the middle of the plains.  No water, frigid winters, howling winds... what was the attraction?

I could look at Tucson with her eyes, too.  The ground underneath is uncompromisingly stingy; it's coarse and packed and doesn't support anything that's broad and leafy.  Hot is an understatement.  Chaotic weather systems are defined by our monsoon; there are still 6 light poles out on the main road through our part of town after Tuesday's 20 minute deluge.  There's an ocean 400 miles to the west and a bay 200 miles to the south but otherwise there really isn't a refreshing, just-hitting-the-land-after-traveling-the-seas breeze to be found.

There are scorpions and tarantulas and rattlesnakes.  There are javelina and coyotes which prey on our pets.  Our prettiest trees and cacti have long sharp pointy spikes that make getting up close and personal with nature a relatively perilous pursuit.

We have a non-functional local government; the Republicans couldn't find a candidate to run for Mayor. The FBI is investigating our downtown redevelopment agency for spending millions of bond dollars with barely a result.  Our school kids have to pay for full day kindergarten and teachers are begging for tissues and pencils.  One could think that we have little reason to celebrate.

But one would be wrong.  I've decided that my birthday tribute will be a list of the things that I couldn't do anyplace else I've ever lived.  It will be a list of the things I love about my adopted home town.  You may not be able to fly here directly from very many places, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to make the trip.

Why?  Well, how about

  • Being nourished by the love of total strangers
  • Wearing shorts and flip-flops in January
  • Parking for free around the corner from the Rialto, then sharing the Tuvan Throat Singers and Bela Fleck with my son from the front row of the balcony
  • Counting on a dry late Fall day for an out-door wedding 
  • Practicing yoga and pilates at my gym, with Miraval teachers on their days off
  • Raking instead of mowing the front yard
  • Living in a small town of 1,000,000 people, where everybody knows my name
  • Watching a bobcat sun himself by my pool
  • Smelling the musty, musky, not-really-sweet-but-not-quite-burnt-either creosote bush just after a storm
  • Seeing the clouds bump into one another right before the lightning and the thunder
  • Meeting the HVAC repair-man who grew up next door to Judge Roll and who played with his children; there's never been more than 2 degrees of separation since we moved here
  • Sharing an international community, 65 miles from the border, a place where parking lots often sport more Sonoran than Arizonan license plates
There's more, much more, that's wonderful but not unique to Tucson.  I know, because I've spent decades in some pretty special places.  But for me, for right now, I can't imagine living anyplace else.

Happy Birthday, Tucson, with love from one who loves you.


  1. And Tucson is lucky to have you!

    Bela Fleck and the Tuvan Throat Singers! Fleck has done some amazing searches for unique musical experiences around the world. I'd missed this one, but YouTube will come to my rescue. I've got major Flecktone envy, though.

  2. Oh, a/b, you are such an amazing writer; if I didn't already love Tucson and live here, I would definitely make the trip and plan on falling in love.

    Others can check out the Blog Carnival, blog-o-rama, cyber-neighborhood celebration and participate Find out more here or by clicking on the badge in your sidebar ;-) for a how-totoday through August 31st.

    And thank you for starting off the celebration with a such beautifully written and truthful piece! ¡Feliz CumpleaƱos!

  3. I've been to Tucson a couple of time and I think it's a marvelous city. I like it much better than Phoenix. I hope to visit regularly when we move to Silver City, NM (soon I hope.) I hear that Tucson has the closest Costco, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. I'll be a regular!!

  4. I was hoping you might mention a favorite restaurant since Dave and I are in Tucson for the Baby Fair! Ventana Canyon is gorgeous, it's my first time here since I moved to AZ. Dinner with old friends (the Simons) tonight at Gavi's...

    We almost took the Ina rd exit, glad we didn't! Power poles in the streets?

  5. I've never been there, but wanted to. A woman with whom I was very good friends moved there in the late 70's or early 80's and I lost track of her.


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