Tucson like much of the west got plenty of rain this winter. Monsoons of last summer were well above normal too. You can tell by how swollen the saguaros look. The tops of the cactus are covered in buds, some having bloomed while I was in town with many more to come.
Creeks that never run are showing signs of life. It’s just starting to warm up. Like much of the West Coast Tucson has seen a spring with lower than average temperatures.
I was south to Patagonia to visit the Cobb’s; he and I go back a long way. His wife I met later, and is a terrific kid raised by a woman poet who has only just passed. For years he clowned on Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus, this was a tent show most thought would never end then it does, and you wonder why you never saw it coming. Patagonia is the perfect spot for a misfit, and I mean this in the best way, living beneath a canvas show tent changes everything you thought you knew about impermanence. Veteran show people that have spent decades touring know a thing or three about where to go when the shows are finally over. Picking a high desert town along the Mexican frontier famous as one of the United States top birding spots starts an old clown off in the right direction.
In the morning we enjoyed coffee then I rolled east to Sierra Vista for a look at the United States Army Intelligence Training Center. It’s there somewhere behind a gate with a guard standing at a barricade that military undercover agents are trained. To get a sense of life in the spy in training program I eyed the local strip mall, RV Park, and Elks Lodge parking lot. Sierra Vista unlike Patagonia is a rather beleaguered affair. There is exceptional desertscape in any direction but somehow a funky low slung sprawling town captures a certain dire energy then amplifies it with like this Marshall amplifier of sorrow for melancholy. Trust me it would take some getting used to living in Patagonia, but all of us have what it takes to do that much. Pulling off a full-time stint in Sierra Vista I’d rate as putting almost any halfway well-adjusted citizens mental health at risk. Depression, car repossession, eviction, and low job performance ratings would very likely soon follow your arrival to this place. All I can say is that all those good souls that make Sierra Vista their home deserve our respect. They have proven themselves resilient and for more flexible than anyone reading this blog. Our military spy graduates must literally weep for joy upon graduation. Risking getting shot at, poisoned or thrown in prison looks pretty good after suffering a few years hard time here in Sierra Vista.
Back in Tucson I stayed with a rascal of a friend living for the moment in a casita in the back of a larger Sonoran desert estate. I was introduced to his landlord. You’ll get what I mean when I explain that she was raised in Beverly Hills, her father a producer and mother an artist, then married a talented handsome man, he was quite the success in the option trading business, and like that they moved to Malibu raised a family then bought this winter retreat in Tucson. At first it was all a lark, once that sense of larking was lost the Malibu couple realized how much happiness warm winter days added to their life.
My friend’s landlord is a fine spirit, she’s lost her husband to dementia five years ago. Bouncing back has required some work, but the nerves eventually do cool, and the inevitable trackless track of time lays out its familiar stripe on the day-to-day life we all must use, she hates to cook, loves to collect Mexican folk art, and knows good things happen when you pour a snazzy rare mescal for guests. I’m taking notes on all of this.
Some trips to Tucson hit me, if you take Speedway starting as far west as you can then go as far east as you can you’ll end up almost out to Saguaro National Park, the drive is 20 miles from the freeway to the park. Every kind of expectation will be met on your drive out Speedway. You’ll see every kind of offering. Mexican food purveyors dominate, but there is more of everything on this boulevard including congestion. My first visit to Tucson back in 1974 was to see a place of 100,000 people, today there are more than a million. Don’t try to make sense of all this growth, there is none to be had. Mankind is busy doing its man meets woman makes more men and women business. From the looks of things if more is better, we’ve done swell at jamming this planet with Jimmy Durante’s friends, enemies and relatives.
All in all two weeks of wandering the Southwest landed me a telling detail to finish up my screenplays first best effort. I’m tinkering with the script until forever but that’s another story. The thing is I have a copper miner parked along the side of a highway for his help, he gave me a key clue to where I was at that moment and what was so good about this place, it was to do with all the wild cats that lived in this region, supposedly the biggest wild cat population in the whole state. Most of us wouldn’t mind seeing a wild cat. In general most of us really only want to look, you might imagine some of the regular guys from the copper mine might be inclined to want to do a bit more than look. But, hell that’s a crap ending so I’m settling on being a regular kind of non-lethal cat encounter guy, you know live and live. That’s the story and I’m sticking to it.