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Tuscon

Its hard to write about Tucson because so much of what I love about the town escapes the speed and categorizing that is the meat of my daily life. Trying to write about Tucson while sitting in my DC apartment after a day of 100 plus emails is like trying to breathe air while lying at the bottom of the sea. It’s a completely different environment with completely different impulses, completely different languages, and completely different rules.

Tucson is slow, for example. Everyone who makes a plan there shows up 5 minutes late�yet somehow this works. If everyone is late then everyone is �on time.�

I’m already doing it an injustice. But how could I describe it any clearer�I’m still unsure about this geographical love affair. Its a new one and yet to be fully formed. Right now it’s simply the repository of all possible good. It was only a few short months ago that I first realized how remarkable the city was�just 3 days into the 10-day recording trip that Amy, Franklin, Kevin and Jean and I took Last July to record an album of Franklin’s songs with Calexico. And though I’m at a loss for words as to the why I love Tucson� I remember perfectly the moment I knew I had fallen. I was staying at the historic Congress motel a perfect marriage of the derelict and the renovating with its mix of new-age crystal traders, hippie backpackers and two-pack a day monthly boarders still hanging in against the rates that increase with every new coat of paint. Amy and I were in one of the odd old-timey rooms where creaking twin antique metal bed frames are draped with weighted cotton bedspreads and subwoofer traffic creeps in the windows under the hum of the ceiling fans. I woke before Amy and took the short walk along the meticulously painted geometric pattered walls of the narrow second floor hallway. It was a dim and windowless passage that led to the wide stairwell, which opened, as it had every other morning, onto the expansive front lobby. I paused on the stairs and took in the scene�The old-time wood front counter manned by one of the friendly and handsome men that seem to be everywhere in Tucson. The glass cases of postcards and cigarettes poised for travelers�The white sunshine pouring through the windows of the right side entrance and spilling along tile floors � the woman and paperback on the bench outside the yet-to-be-opened salon and just across the passageway a cafe where beautiful waitresses would soon deliver bottomless ceramic mugs of coffee and pint-glass sized lime-aids.

Somehow in that moment I realized that time was not uniform. In the same way that the dry Tucson air felt different in my chest, the very shape of a Tucson minute set differently in the ticking of my clock. It set better.

You and I both know� This may have been a mere nervous breakdown. A moment where my body said��enough with the workaholic shit, would you take a fucking second and look how goddamn sunny it is out there!�

My melting into Tucson might have as little to do with Tucson as the dashboard warped videotape rental has to do with the corner of 13th and O where I parked my car for too long in the sunshine. But that is immaterial. Melt I did and I melted in Tucson. In fact, on the morning that I left to fly back to DC I actually had somewhat of an out of body experience where, from above I watched myself calmly unclipping the buckle and retracing my steps back down the airplane aisle to the door that would lead me into lazy joyful contemplation, sunshine and heat.

But we all know that’s crazy talk. I didn’t get off the plane. I stayed on it and ultimately went on tour � which ultimately led me back here � dosing in a similar iron-framed bed in the Congress Motel under the softly clicking fan blades. To my right the gently rustling Venetian blinds are slumped downward away from the one side still threaded with cord�its gap reveals an endless stream of busses and shrieking hydraulic breaks. (Word to the wise�there are better and worse rooms to reserve in The Congress).

I lay there wondering if it would be the same? My last visit was 10 days�this was barely two. Last time there was the afterglow of recording and this time I wouldn’t be recording a thing. Furthermore, the friendly men of Calexico were somewhere off in Europe with Giant Sand. How would we enjoy ourselves without our gallant tour guides?

I left the room, crossed the corridor, descended the staircase, entered the coffee shop, ordered a huge hunk of coconut pie and knew that heaven is both found and made.

The rest of the day was thrift shopping and reading in the sun�until we regrouped for load in at Solar Culture where folks were super nice. We ate a common meal, placed pennies on the train tracks behind the gallery, played a
quiet set and retired with old friends to red neon and French dance music of the Congress Motel Bar to toast our luck.

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