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Dinesen’s Africa = my Tucson

Living on the East Coast has taught me one thing for certain: I am a West Coast girl.

For me, Tucson in particular is like walking through life with only a Lensbaby to capture the story. With no annoying details to distract from the purpose, a Lensbaby makes big-picture interesting by merging the surreal and romantic stuff of memories into the reality of right now.

In hindsight, I’m glad I landed after dark. It wasn’t raining, per se, not the sort of rain as Oregon knows rain, just a light dusting of moisture over the desert, making the streets glisten and a mess of windshields. Driving in the dark, distracted by the beauty and brightness of the stars and the permanence of the Santa Catalina Mol_320_312_6AA25ACB-B50E-489D-A026-621FBD174615.jpeguntains to orient me, I was totally unprepared for what happened next: as I crossed over Broadway and Kino became Campbell, I started to cry. Happy to be home, I thought. But then I saw a building I’d seen so many times before, stucco with prickly pears along the entrance, and then I passed the Mall, and then an old haunt — all brought more tears. Driving through town evoked an overwhelming response that I did not expect. I’ve been so excited to return, it never even occurred to me that my beloved Tucson could make my cry.

I didn’t dare turn left on Speedway toward Euclid as habit wanted me to. I slept instead in the foothills, a big soft feathery bed anticipating a spectacular view (something I’d always wanted to do but sort of silly back in the days when I had an apartment across town and barely enough cash to buy dinner.) As I write this, the sun is brushing strips of light blue over Mt. Lemmon and the mountains are pushing back with gold. I’m thinking later this morning, after the sun has been around for awhile and I venture toward campus, I might be able to drive past my old studio apartment in the historic building. It’s awfully easy to be hard-boiled about things during the daytime; but at night it’s a different thing.

I didn’t bring my Lensbaby — I didn’t even bring my camera. Just me, my keyboard and ShakeIt. It’s going to be a delicious three days.



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  • christine - Synchronicitous. Gorgeous. Epic. (Apposite; although, I did get an email after you wrote that accusing my blog of becoming highbrow.) Ray and Suzanne, it would haunt me terribly to think how I most certainly ran right past you both, on the Mall, down 4th Ave., [insert list of haunts here], all of us there and none of us knowing. so I just don’t think about it.

    Erin, you and I most certainly tripped past them on our way home! that was sum fun, you and me and Arizona. (and Colorado. and Wyoming. we should give a few more states a whirl!)

    Katie, that’s GREAT! there are still highlights in Philly that I haven’t seen yet, so it’ll be perfect. from CornValley to downtown Tokyo to Penn State to Philly … I have a couple of good adventures in mind for you when you arrive, you’ll need your camera and a passport. call me as soon as you get settled! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Katie Artz - I have never been to Tucson but your comment about always being a West Coast girl really hits home! Especially now, as we are moving to the East Coast! Philadelphia – Eric got a new job working for Urban Outfitters. He starts on Monday and the girls and I will join him in June when school gets out. I can’t believe we are moving again but I am always up for another adventure. Let’s get these two West Coasters, who’ve travelled the world, together on the East Coast!!! Have a great time in Tucson.ReplyCancel

  • Ray - P.S. Your Hemingway reference was brilliantly apposite.ReplyCancel

  • Ray - Your post launched me back. It’s been bitter cold in Colorado the past couple of days, and I was just thinking of Tucson, and how much I miss it. Your post was synchronicitous, your writing gorgeous.

    Right around the spot where you started cry is right around where I used to live.

    I hope you have the best time ever. Drink a cup of coffee for me at the Epic Cafe.ReplyCancel

  • Erin - I think just reading about it is going to make me cry! Wish we’d had more time there together. Miss those days…ReplyCancel

  • suzanne - I can see it all – the drive, the catalinas as my compass, passing the mall at U of A (how many miles did I run there?!), the drive up Campbell to the foothills, my old house on 6th street. You just opened up the huge book of Tucson memories for me! Tucson will be be on my mind all day!ReplyCancel