I grew up in a bedroom community of Washington, D.C. My childhood field trips comprised visits to the current ruling government's spawning grounds, the sites and landmarks of some of its finest moments (for a bunch of well-intentioned Anglo guys): the White House; the Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson memorials; the Smithsonian Institution; the Frozen Dairy Bar on Route 50, etc. All of it was cheap, easily accessible and thus completely unappreciated. I didn't realize my childhood field trips were exceptional 'til I moved to another state and found out other kids took field trips to, like, a tannery.
I'm not knocking the tannery; there are many important things one should learn about the cattle industry. What I'm saying is, be attentive to being in the right place at the right time. If you're stuck here this summer, find out what this city offers almost every day, albeit quietly amid the din.
Especially for those of you who find it difficult to sweep aside dins, know that the university's regular sessions have ended--students, a great source of din, have mostly dispersed. Parking isn't as hellish as usual on (capital T) The University of Arizona campus. It's a wise time to visit the museums and galleries, and walk around looking at all those marvelous trees and plants everyone alludes to there being on campus (Major Carter's challenge: find the cork tree). And remember, it's stinkin' hot out there.
The place I've been interested in lately is the Arizona State Museum, a great source of cool, quiet spaces to meander through. Many of you, no doubt, remember that their second-floor ladies room was voted into the Best of Tucson a few years ago. What you may not know is that ASM is the oldest and largest anthropology museum in the region. It's also a Smithsonian Institution affiliate; imagine you're on a field trip to D.C. if you will. The Paths of Life exhibit alone is worth a couple hours of your time.
And if you have any love at all of books and/or our region, the library--located on the second floor with the award-winning ladies room--is a must. Focusing on archaeology and ethnology of the Southwest, the library contains, as one friend put it, "a lot of wonderful old books," some she calls "'curiosities': wildly politically incorrect anthropological musings from the last century and early part of this century. You know, the significance of skull circumference and that sort of thing. Make your hair stand on end." The room, with its old wood stacks and filtered light gathering in the high ceilings, evokes all the classic sensory experiences of ye olde academic library.
The place you won't believe you've been able to live without, however, is the Center for Creative Photography Museum Store, aka the gift shop. I must now disclose that I work in the CCP building two days a week, but how else would I have known about the new shipment of tiny Japanese notepads? There's one with a grapefruit-head-being crying because s/he misses her/his orange-head friend. It brings me to my knees.
I've admired the CCP gift shop for years because it has the most exceptional pens and jewelry and Muybridge flip books. But after frequent visits, I've come to appreciate the subtler (though, I'm told, more normal) offerings: great postcards and a collection of fine photographic books that'll take the edge off winter holiday shopping especially if you start now. And don't miss the CCP mugs on top of the bookshelves.
And hell, while you're there you may as well pop in on the Ansel Adams centennial exhibit, which actually consists of two shows: Classic Images and A Portrait of Ansel Adams. This is a perfect example of one of those once-in-a-lifetime things you could easily ignore because it's right on your doorstep. Unlike the Classic Images exhibit, A Portrait of Ansel Adams ain't goin' on the road; it can only be seen in Tucson until July 7. It's the man's stuff, his camera and proof sheets and all, giving incredible insight into the man behind the mythic images. People all over the country wish they could be here to see it, and they'll think you're silly if you don't.