Why I Love Tucson

Tucson, for the first time and the first place in a long while, feels like home now. 

I like that Tucson has a “funk factor”.  I like that it lacks pretension.  I like that there’s no dress code; I can wear jeans or hiking pants most anywhere and it’s perfectly fine.  Even swankier places like Kingfisher don’t merit dressing up.  I like 4th Avenue.  I like watching the progress of Bawker Bawker as the owner renovates it.  I like that there’s an wonderful artsy community here, with absurdity and irreverence and general delight.  I love going to GLOW at Triangle L with Sarah. I like watching waitstaff at Ermanos tease my friends who are regulars there. I like going to BICAS fundraisers with the Back Up Band playing in their gold lamé.  I like places like Xerocraft and Spadefoot.  I like biking up to the farmers market on my own or with friends and getting food truck pupusas.  I love listening to KXCI and hearing stories from David Grinspoon about fundraisers he played when they helped start the station. I like stumbling into random no-cover shows at the Boxyard.  I like seeing movies at the Loft alone or with friends.  I like festivals like Return of the Mermaids.  I love Cyclovia, seeing new neighborhoods, dancing Zumba in the street, enjoying the art bikes, and getting freebie rescued cacti from the Wheat Design Group.  I like watching the Tuesday Night Bike Ride cruise through town, a cloud of pot smoke and beer odor trailing behind them amidst music blaring from speakers and flashing LEDs.  I love taking the streetcar, even if it means bystander interventions with cranky old men.  I love driving out for the Tohono O’odham Rodeo, and learning about the history of Nation.  

I like running into people I know at La Cocina and taking out-of-town friends there and to my other favorite haunts. I like seeing Gabby Giffords or Mark Kelly at Bentley’s, and fist-bumping Eli Schneider. I like walking or biking to get places, seeing the little details of neighborhoods and alleys to catch glimpses of others’ ways of living. I like that everyone seems to know one another: acupuncturists, dance and yoga instructors, creatives, etc.  I like the people I’ve met doing fascinating work in a variety of arenas, and their belief in a better future and ability to bring about change.  I like having non-scientist, non-tech friends.  I love that I’ve been brought into the family by my friends’ mom on the east side.  I love that I can walk to homes of a dozen friends.  I like that the Joes loan me tools and paint, and help troubleshoot problems at the house or fix them with angle grinders. I like that a cat I extracted out of a bush off Stone Ave as a kitten now lives with a friend.  I love that people call me to catsit.  I like my walking commute to campus through the leafy parts of the med center, or through Sam Hughes for variety on the way home.  I like watching construction projects go up at the med center, and knowing people who helped make the building not only more sustainable but more pleasant to work in.  I like that I’ve assembled a decent medical team here, and that I don’t have to fly anywhere to get good care. I love that the head pharmacist at Campus Health knows my name and asks about my life, and lets me ‘break in’ her pharmacy student interns.

I am so, so incredibly grateful for the community I’ve amassed here and how people are taking care of me during the pandemic and are otherwise invested in my safety and longevity, including some relatively ‘weak links’, people I’d interacted with a handful of times before everything went to plaid.

I like that all astronomical roads lead to Tucson.  I’m grateful that when I decided to go back to grad school, I wound up in the best program in the country if not the world.  I love our alums and their love for this place.  I love how they come into town and take us out for dinner and drinks.  I love laughing until my ribs hurt at the story of smuggling a rock out of the Nevada Test Site, tales of hauling vehicles out of the mud, and shenanigans in the Pinacates.  I like taking people to the massive meteorite collection in Drake.  I love being adopted by the Catalina Sky Survey, and attending a baby shower run by childless middle-aged men for the first CSS baby in a generation.  I love the PSI retreats in August, seeing all my scientist friends, getting laughed at for crashing every event with food, and gossiping in the pool at Hacienda del Sol.  I like the gem show, how the whole town is given over to the buying and selling of rocks and fossils, and the people I know who attend it.  I am immensely grateful for the graduate students who I overlap with, and have overlapped with: we take responsibility for one another’s professional development through peer mentoring.  My time at MIT in EAPS was isolating and lonely, and I resolved never to let that happen again to me or the people around me.  I’ve enjoyed teaching Maria about upward management so she could better her relationship with her advisor.  I’m honored to be surrounded by people here who are firmly committed to improving our field, and take care to reduce the nonsense the next generations have to deal with, whether gender-based, racial, disability-related, or otherwise.  

I love that people take responsibility and ownership for making this place a better place to live and work and create. I like our homegrown heroes, including Gabriella Cázares-Kelly and “green shirt guy”. I like living in a little blue island in a sea of red and knowing that politically, my vote and my actions matter more here than they ever did in 94956 or 02139. I love it when the Tucson Sentinel writes sardonic pieces skewering local politics (and I like that my name shows up next to Noam Chomsky’s on their donor list).  I like listening to candidates on Zona Politics who have fantastic ideas for improving the town and its institutions.  I am proud of the people I know who run for office in Tucson and their commitment to the town and county and state.

I love the saguaros. I can’t adequately describe the affinity I feel for them; they’re weird and lovely and watching their progression from desiccated to swollen during monsoons to blooming in the spring is somehow… settling. I love the texture of their green skin, their clusters of spines, the way the fruit splits open and turns a shade of magenta.  I love the desert willows and the ironwoods as they push out smoky purple blossoms this time of year.  I adore the wildflowers, and how some years are more striking than others.  I love the different globemallow colors, from that gorgeous coral to white to bluish-purple.  I love the cowboy fried eggs and sunflowers on the side of I-10 driving east.  I love trying to spot the first saguaro when driving back to Tucson from any direction.  I love the monsoons and was sad about last year’s “nonsoon”. I like spending the months of June and July watching the dewpoint tracker, rooting for monsoons to form, and am always sad when I’m out of town and miss any deluge.  I love how excited I get about rain in the desert, and even more thrilled about snow in town.  How I spent two hours in the snow last spring and came into lab with sopping wet pants and a huge grin on my face.  I like how excited we all get about treated effluent being released into the Santa Cruz.  I love the roadrunners and listening to lesser nighthawks trilling at sunset.  I adore the coveys of quail and watching the mourning doves perform courtship rituals on the power lines.  I love how special life is in the Sonoran Desert.

I love the sunsets.  I love watching meteor showers from midtown.  I love being within 20-30 minutes of some superb hiking trails.  I like biking the hill in Saguaro East with Cara, even when my SI joint disagrees.  I love the proximity to Lemmon and that in a few hours I can be hiking the Chiricahuas, or somewhere else stark and desolate and astoundingly beautiful.  I love the geology, and how you can see welded tuff and volcanic rocks here, metamorphic core complexes there, and gorgeous sedimentary rocks over yonder.  I love the grasslands and sky islands and learning about the natural history of the region.  I love the view from the east side of the Catalinas of the three little ridges near Pusch Peak. I love the green oak tree leaves at General Hitchcock off the Catalina Highway.  I love that there are more places I want to see here.

I like that I was able to survive last summer and sort of enjoy it, and finally find ways to not only be not miserable, but morph into a sun-baked weirdo who embraces the “burning orb of hate”, as Sarah calls it.

I like that when I’m away I feel bad about not being here, and disappointed that I’m missing events happening in Tucson.  I like that this is the first place in a while I have really been able to choose to be happy.  I like that rather wanting to leave, I choose to remain.

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