So I turn on the TV news, and there he is, in all his splendor. My brother-in-law, Jesse Gutierrez, who is the project manager of the modern streetcar project, is being interviewed, and he looks almost lifelike in his long-sleeved shirt and tie.
Having disclosed that information, I can now say that I am in favor of the project. Heck, I'd be in favor of the project no matter who was in charge of the construction. I think—fingers crossed!—that the city might have actually gotten something right this time. For far too long, city officials proposed one crackpot scheme after another in hopes of "revitalizing" downtown. They were all in the vein of, "If we build it, they will come."
This time, they've turned things around. With the streetcar, it is now a matter of, "If they (students living downtown) come, business people will build it." Of course, with the city of Tucson, "if" is always a mighty big word.
But at least this thing has a chance, unlike the aquarium, the science center, the rainbow bridge and the rest of the nonsense. Compared to the aforementioned, the modern streetcar is "Vitruvian Man" as opposed to a stick figure drawn by a pothead in the throes of an "Oh wow!" moment.
I was going to interview Jesse and the businesswoman who has emerged as the most vocal opponent of the project, but then I would have had to do all that disclosure stuff. I kinda feel sorry for that woman, but at the same time, I think the city has done a pretty decent job of minimizing the hassle of getting around the downtown area while Congress Street is torn up. The two westbound lanes on Toole Avenue are nice, and making Sixth Avenue two-way all the way through downtown is something they should consider making permanent.
I'll just tell you about Jesse so that when you see him on TV over these next few months, you can put a backstory to the image. I'll leave out the embarrassing stuff, like the frozen-flatulence-in-a-bottle science project in the sixth-grade.
When I first met Jesse, he was in elementary school, and everybody just knew that he was different. One night, after playing a basketball game at Cochise College (we won) and catching a postgame meal at Pizza Hut, I went to the house of my girlfriend (now wife), Ana. We were sitting on the couch watching some crappy late-night movie on what passed for cable TV back then; Jesse had fallen asleep on the adjacent love seat. Suddenly, he sat up, looked straight ahead, said, "Green potato balls," then went right back to sleep.
That's only about No. 83 on the Weird Jesse Stories list.
By the time he was in middle school, he would wake up at the butt-crack of dawn, walk into downtown Douglas, and climb onto the back of a truck with a bunch of much-older guys. They'd make the 30-mile trip out to the fields of Elfrida, where they'd pick produce all day. He'd come home exhausted, take a quick shower and then go ride his bicycle with his buddies until late in the evening. The hard work made him want to go to college, like all five of his older sisters would do.
He graduated to a motorcycle, which he bought with his own migrant-worker money. He tried to teach me how to ride it once, but all I remember from that experience is a really high-pitched voice in my head asking, "Where's the brake?!"
He was a stud athlete in high school, captain of the football team and a star wrestler. Even though he only weighed 185 pounds, he wrestled as a heavyweight (which is usually for guys in the mid-200s). He reached the state championship, but was pitted against a kid from Globe who went 350 or so. The Globe kid couldn't pin Jesse, but neither could Jesse turn him, so Jesse lost on points.
Jesse has always been a good guy, but a bit on the mischievous side. We used to go down to the international border on the east side of Douglas. He'd climb over the fence into Mexico, and then we'd throw a football back and forth across the border to see if we could trigger a sensor. Or he'd drive around town in a pickup truck until he spotted a Border Patrol vehicle. He'd then turn off his lights and start driving down alleys. When they were just about ready to close in on him, he'd turn the lights back on and pull into a Circle K for a soda. Another time, late one night, he took me fishing ... in the water hazards of the Douglas Golf Course.
When he was in college at the UA, he got his pilot's license and would fly down to a small municipal airstrip in Douglas, from which he could walk a few hundred yards to his parents' house. A 21-year-old Hispanic male flying to and from the border on a regular basis ... you know the feds had a task force assigned just to him.
And now, there he is on TV, all grown up and, you know, out. Good for him, and, I believe, good for Tucson.