Charles Bowden moved to Tucson in August 1957 and attended Mansfield Middle School and Tucson High School; he later took a job at the Tucson Citizen. He eventually embarked on a writing life that's produced numerous acclaimed books, including the recently published Some of the Dead Are Still Breathing. He is also a regular contributor to Mother Jones, GQ, Harper's and a number of other publications. An eight-hour conversation at his secret outpost south of Sonoita was a winding trip through his perspectives on history, working-class values, the failure of the "War on Drugs," the joys of Cajun cooking and his unyielding appreciation of the natural world.
Best place to experience nature in the raw?
Tohono Chul Park, and I'll tell you why: In the past 50 years, it's the only place where people have tried to save ground and teach people about ground in my city.
Best environmental cause currently going on in Tucson?
The Center for Biological Diversity has saved more ground than Jesus. I often don't agree with them, but their record is better than mine. When I'm dead, and when everybody reading this is dead, the only thing that matters is ground.
Best place for Tucsonans to witness the failure of the "War on Drugs"?
In the past 20 years, more money has been spent building prisons out on Wilmot Road than on building institutions of higher education. In Tucson, the war on drugs is a war against your neighbors.
Best thing about Tucson?
You've got the desert and the mountains constantly telling you that you have failed this place—but there's still time to save yourself.
Best place to watch the local wildlife?
Your own neighborhood at 5 a.m., and if you can't see any wildlife in your neighborhood, you should have a neighborhood meeting and fix that.
Best place to have a beer in Tucson?
I don't know. I don't go to bars (in Tucson). I'm on the road a lot, and I spend a lot of time on the road in bars. The rest of the time, I drink in my backyard.
Best place to see the sunset?
It used to be Gates Pass, but now there's too much stuff west of that. But that's the wrong question to ask. You should ask where the best place to see the sunrise is.
All right. Best place to see the sunrise?
Wherever you are—anywhere. You can stand in Tucson and look up and see the sun rising, see prairie falcons and peregrine falcons, but no one looks up.
Best place to unwind in Tucson?
Go to the upper part of Madera Canyon, and just keep climbing. The reason you go there is you can't hear Tucson. You follow me? You can climb all the way to the top of Finger Rock and still hear people grinding gears.
Best place to take someone out for a date?
I can't answer that. I don't eat at many restaurants. I cook a lot. I love vegetables. That gumbo you just ate had two pounds of green peppers and a pound of okra in it.
Best Tucson landmark?
Landmarks are an error. The real landmark is the ground beneath your feet. If you don't take care of it, it will kill you.