At last, we are in Tucson. Now what?
Well, I do not have a specific agenda for the next two months, other than my fondest wish not to shovel so much as one speck of fallen snow. So far, so good.
However, it’s been unseasonably cold, or so I’m told, far below the typical seasonal temperature norms for this time of year in the Tucson desert, roughly 40 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. That the so-called “freeze” is big local news leaves me feeling smug. I chuckle to myself when I hear the weather forecasters here issue dire warnings that the temperature might sink below 32 degrees. I have the same reaction when I see news footage of helpless Southerners struggling to negotiate slippery roads under weather conditions that would barely register a shrug from a hardy Midwesterner like me.
I know a few people who live in the area. My close friends, Sherry and Tom, bought a house here last year. Meanwhile, they continue to maintain their home in the exclusive and upscale suburb where they raised their two boys. However, as both boys are now grown men, married, and living in L.A., a full day’s journey from here by car, I suspect it’s a merely matter of time before Tucson evolves to become Sherry and Toms’ primary, if not sole, residence, especially now that one of the boys has two young children of his own. For my friends, Arizona made good sense financially, too, certainly as compared to California, where property remains prohibitively expensive. Indeed, Robyn’s own brother lives in nearby Phoenix for precisely this reason, yet regularly drives to California with his wife to visit their children and grandchildren.
If pressed, Sherry might agree that she and Tom probably will end up selling their place back home. I’ve heard her speculate that they might replace the current large 2-story with a small condo or rental apartment. Downsizing would provide a sensible means for them to remain connected to old friends and colleagues. Plus, they would have a temperate getaway during the Spring and Summer months when, I am informed, Tucson is stinking hot. (A Tucsonite I met recently told me, over a collegial game of pickleball, that my friends and similarly situated transplants, are referred to here as “fire birds.” It is an apt description, although not one I was familiar with before he mentioned it.)
Me? I’m perfectly content to be a “snowbird” with no wish to relocate permanently.
While a big part of the reason Sherry and Tom came here was to escape the cold, I find it ironic that the inevitably cold Winters we experience back home have this season resulted in a burst water pipe, causing extensive damage to their house. Upon hearing this cautionary tale, I naturally felt badly for my friends, but simultaneously lucky that Mont , a friend, and upstairs neighbor, is keeping a careful eye on the home front during my hiatus.
Another close friend, Ross, also lives in Tucson with his wife. Like Sherry and Tom, Ross has an adult son, who lives in L.A., However, unlike the new transplants, Ross has lived in the Southwest most of his adult life.
I first met him about half-way through our senior year of high school after my folks relocated and I was forced by their move to change high schools. Very early on following my enrollment at the new school, Ross and I cut out together for a day of fun and mischief. We immediately bonded and have been good friends ever since.
Over the years I would only see Ross occasionally, mainly around family holidays such as Thanksgiving, when he briefly would return home. I had met his wife, Janet, on a few of these prior occasions but would not have described her as a friend. Since arriving in Tucson, we three have gotten together a couple times already, so I’ve had a chance to discover for myself that she is smart and interesting with a sly sense of humor that is appealing to me. In short, I like her. I think we might become good friends by the time I depart.
Not a day passes when I do not think of Lee. I miss her and wish that she were still here with me, healthy and alive.
Her terrible illness and early death were matters over which I had not the slightest bit of control. Regardless, the simple, inescapable fact of my current existence is that I am an aging, childless widower. And despite the deep sadness I will always feel over losing her, I either adjust and persevere, or else surrender. I have chosen to live. My loving relationship with Robyn constitutes proof of life.
I’m glad to have my friends here in Tucson, but I must accept that I am on my own.
Fortunately, with Lola in my life I am not lonely. Tucson might be experiencing unseasonably cold temperatures, but they are quite satisfactory so long as Lola and I can get outside for a daily romp. One day it might be the dusty dog park where my gregarious pup already has made several new canine chums; another day, we’ll head to a small people park near Casa Cozy to play fetch.
I use an ingenious device called “The Chucker” to heave a rubber ball much farther than would be possible with my unaided arm. Lola is never happier than when running full tilt in pursuit of the sphere, nor prouder as she prances back to me with the prize in paw. I can’t help but smile whenever Lola gently places the ball into the lowest section of a water fountain designed for critters, then turns to me, expecting to get a fresh drink of cool water. I always oblige.
Lola is a natural social icebreaker. Through her, I have met both fellow dog owners and ordinary citizens, who are simply drawn to my adorable and friendly pup.
When I’m not running around with Lola or scouring the area for new and interesting sights, sounds and adventures, I stay contentedly occupied playing music, writing, brushing up on my Spanish, and performing short term assignments from my law firm (for fun and profit, naturally). Although this is a getaway for me, I must nonetheless still conduct the hum drum, everyday business of life I’d have to conduct if I were still back home.
Perhaps because I’m here temporarily, I engage in activities I probably would not otherwise undertake. For example, on a lark, a few days ago I attended the finals of a classical guitar competition held at the University of Arizona’s school of music. As a long-time guitar player, I appreciated, and very much enjoyed, these performances by four fresh-faced, yet very talented, finalists. While in the big scheme of things, this event amounted to little more than a pleasant afternoon diversion for me, I could sense that for each competitor it marked a significant moment in a young life.
Today at 9:00 a.m. I will be attending the kick-off parade for La Fiesta de los Vaqueros, Tucson’s annual rodeo. Back home, I wouldn’t be caught dead attending a rodeo or a parade.
I am still considering whether to stick around for the late morning junior rodeo competition. My interest in these activities is not meant to mimic Hemingway’s fascination with bullfighting, as extolled by him in Death in the Afternoon. I must admit that I am sorely tempted to stay just to witness four-year-old cowboys and cowgirls displaying temerity, grit and great courage riding the bare backs of thundering sheep. Not nearly as bloody as bullfighting, I hope, but far more entertaining!