SO I LIVE IN THIS APARTMENT complex. It's a nice place, not too many white trash folks or squalling cats or weird smells. It has trees, the apartments are well-maintained and the Tucson Police Department hasn't opened a satellite station there due to an abundance of calls or anything.
But it has--and this is just an approximation--56,423 speed bumps in the parking areas surrounding the complex. And these speed bumps suck.
Now, before you get all in a huff and start wielding your Bics in order to write me letters calling me a cretin dweeb poodle molester for not realizing that speed bumps are there for a reason, let me say: I KNOW THEY ARE THERE FOR A REASON. People have a tendency to zoom through parking lots at speeds usually reserved for Chuck Yeager in need of a bathroom, and as a result, this endangers children, pets, small furry woodland creatures and whatnot. Yeah, I get it. Whatever.
But I still hate these speed bumps. Oooh, I hate them.
They are not the gradual, wide speed bumps that are car-friendly and manageable. No, these are the little, narrow, high ones that force your spleen into your throat, no matter how slowly you go over them. In the six weeks I have been living there, my poor Saturn has already developed a weird creaking noise as a result. (God only knows what sounds my spleen is making.)
And don't even THINK that this creaking is as a result of me speeding merrily through the parking lot. That is not the case. I have great respect for furry woodland creatures. THE SPEED BUMPS ARE SO BLEEPING CLOSE TOGETHER THAT IT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE FOR MY CAR TO GET UP TO A SPEEDING SPEED IN BETWEEN THEM.
The creaking noise is a result of these speed bumps being the spawn of Satan, and if you want to disagree with me, I'll punch you in the spleen that, let me remind you, will be IN YOUR THROAT after going over one of these speed bumps at 1.4 miles per hour.
I am baffled to the point of hypertension as to why ANYBODY would make these speed bumps so narrow and high. The only theory I have that makes any sense is that the folks who constructed the parking lot used them as an opportunity to bury the bodies of high, narrow enemies there.
(Note from the Tucson Weekly legal department: In no way, shape or form is this newspaper insinuating that people are buried in the parking areas of Jimmy Boegle's apartment complex. This is a "rant" and the parking lot body anecdote was clearly meant to be whimsical and amusing. Ha ha! Please don't sue us!)
Now, I know what you're thinking: If you hate these speed bumps so much, then MOVE. Well, I can't. That would require a moving truck going over these many speed bumps with my stuff in them. This would surely cause damage to my meager belongings, which would really make me cranky.
Plus, I signed a lease. And I fear that if I tried to break it, I would end up missing, and my apartment complex would suddenly feature another speed bump.
Well, if you'll excuse me, I have to go now. The lawyers just walked in. I wonder what they want.
I RIDE LOW AND SLOW. It's me, not the car. It's powerful. Old School powerful, the way they came out back in the day from rough-and-tough Flint, Mich.
It will fly. But I wouldn't know. I am slow. So please, quit filling my mirror.
Get off my bumper.
Get off my ass.
That goes for all of you. The great-grandmother in the Fleetwood who flipped me off when I signaled for a block to pull in for gas at Grant Road and Stone Avenue. It goes for the rich couple in their late 60s screaming through the River Center parking lot in the Lexus 430. From you, I got the finger plus a stream of cussing. It goes for the seemingly nice guy carting snowbirds in the Buick LeSabre who rear-ended me--yet cussed and sped off when I got out to check the damage. It goes for anyone in any minivan, the fastest production vehicle in America. Faster than a Viper.
And it goes for all of you in the Navigators, Expeditions, Escalades, Mercedes M Class cars and other worthless, boutique SUVs. It goes for all of you in the Hummers and the H2s--all the drivers who wouldn't know limited-slip from twin grip. Those who wouldn't know a two-speed transfer case from the Texas two step.
In fact, y'all drive--and look--like you're from Houston.
We called them 4X4s in my day. Things like CJs and Scouts. The early Bronco could turn on a dime. Too bad it flipped like a quarter. Before they were SUVs, these 4X4s were practical and, more important, not invincible. Funny how it is that today's SUVs that slide off the roads wherever there is ice. Worried about your car on slick roads? Try correcting two axles on ice.
That doesn't matter here.
Tucsonans can't be undone. We rush to the Hummer H2, a baby at just 3.25 tons. We should feel good because the truly shameless have driven on dry pavement to, say, Finger Rock Villas, in the Hummer grosso, an $118,000 waste.
It's the H2 that has the beautiful people rushing to the Royal Automotive Group to further enrich a former high school basketball coach-turned-Buick-dealer-turned-Lexus-dealer-turned-JAG-u-ar dealer. It was painful listening to Mr. Weitman ($1.2 million Skyline Country Club home) impress the Jaguar, er Ford, boys at a Vivace table a few years ago.
Ford and Jaguar. No wonder the S-Type, with its retro mouth, looks like a Sable. No wonder the X-Type looks like a Contour. Ford with Brit auto workers. Comforting?
Sorry. Back to the H2. At $48,455, they are half the price of daddy Hummer, which must give its patriotic drivers the feeling they are wheeling through Babylon on the hunt for Saddam Hussein.
Try getting one in the color Sunset Orange, which is what we used to call bittersweet or burnt orange.
Be sure to load it up with the chrome appearance package ($450), leather seats ($1,400), a third-row seat ($500), off-road brush guards ($450), removable Usteps ($450), tubular tail lamp protector ($250) and--like the independent woman whose lawyer/broker/speculator husband bought her a Sunset Orange H2--be sure to get the Adventure Series Air Suspension ($2,440) so you can raise the ground clearance to 10.7 inches.
God love her; she needed that to get her nails done at Gadabout on River Road.
You are only a step--the Mercedes Gelaendewagen--away from total depravity. I don't care that Eric Clapton drives one. Whenever I see one, after the fright subsides, I ask: Where does Hitler ride?
The Art of Being Quiet
ONE MIGHT SAY I'VE BEEN blessed with a three-headed social inconvenience. No disease or disorder, mind you; I'm talking about being shy, quiet and soft-spoken.
Why is this classified an inconvenience? Because society just doesn't understand the shy and quiet.
I can't quote you statistics and reports that prove this fact. Instead, I have a lifetime of experience to back up my theory. Starting in grade school, the cafeteria line was an experience in frustration. Sliding my tray forward to get the food du jour, the overweight, smiling cafeteria ladies would ladle out the entrée while asking me, "Why are you so quiet?"
Was I supposed to chatter incessantly to get my food? I never had an appropriate answer to their question.
Years later in high school, I was awarded "most shy" in the senior-year picks and pans. Horrified at my label, I had the yearbook staff honor the runner-up with the unflattering title. Honestly, do you think a shy person wants to go around with a big red S on their chest? And we're not talking about the S for Superman here.
The workplace has been yet another arena where people just don't get it. Employers don't want to hire you because they wrongly equate quietness with incompetence. (Once during a job interview I was told I was "too laid back.") Sorry, but I must have missed the report that says quiet people don't perform well at work.
Another instance: On a performance evaluation, I was called on the carpet for being soft-spoken. This was not a job where I sang or delivered announcements over the PA system. This was the human resources department of a bank. Since when is someone's voice subject to a performance evaluation? Believe me, I have no plans to try out for American Idol. But just let me do my job in peace.
Peace is hard to come by when faced with annoying and pointless comments from others. If I had a dollar every time someone looked blankly into my eyes and said, "You're so quiet," I'd be rich. What do you want me to say to that comment? "I have a court order that says I cannot say more than 50 words at a time?" Or, "I'm quiet because I am thinking about ways to torture you?"
Please, stop looking at me like I have some disease because I am quiet. And stop stating the obvious!
What's interesting to me is that people don't state the obvious in other situations. Do you hear people say, "You're so talkative" to an outgoing person? (Well, maybe to shut them up.) Do you hear people say, "You're so fat," to an overweight person? No, of course not. That just wouldn't be polite. So why does politeness fail around quiet people? We're just minding our own business. Please follow suit.
I suppose I can understand the reason behind the obvious questions and comments. People are uncomfortable around the quiet. They wonder what we're thinking and why we're not talking. Relax. It's not rocket science. Maybe we just don't have anything to say at the moment. Or maybe we speak when there is something important to say.
So please try to understand us. Being quiet isn't easy in a society that questions it. You don't need to state the obvious or ask why we are this way. Just accept us; don't try to make us something we're not. And we'll leave you with some peace and quiet.
People in My Way
JESUS, PEDESTRIANS DRIVE me nuts. I'll be driving down Park Avenue next to the UA a couple of minutes before class starts, trying to find a parking spot--which are all taken by suits and gowns who are paying too much money to see some stupid French circus at Centennial Hall--when all of sudden, these chowderheaded kids are wandering across the street, cell phones on their ears, blah blah frickin' blah, look at me, I can walk anywhere I want because all the cars have to stop for me, la-di-goddamn-da.
And downtown's even worse, with all those lawyers and bums and dumbass hipster doofuses dawdling through the crosswalks, keeping those of us who need to get somewhere from making so much as a right turn. Stupid.
And let's not forget the morons who can't figure out how to drive on downtown's one-way streets. How stupid are you people? Could you slow down just a little more, just so those of us who are already 10 minutes late can completely miss our appointments?
But that's nothing compared to the cranium-challenged people who make totally fucked-up left turns. The last time I tried to get out of Tucson Mall, I was behind some stupid piece of shinola in an oversized pickup who was trying to make a left across three lanes of traffic on Oracle. Here's a tip: Make a right turn and then make a U-turn down the road, for Chrissakes. Don't hold up the rest of humanity because you're not in any rush.
How about the minibrains who slow down as they approach green lights? What in the name of God is wrong with you people? Green does mean go, y'know.
And stay out of the fast lane if you're not going to drive fast. The other day, I was hustling down Speedway Boulevard, and some jack-off in a battered caddy with Oregon plates was rolling along at 5 mph, hoping he could squeeze over into a bumper-to-bumper left-turn bay before he got to the light. I leaned on the horn and he finally stepped on the gas. And here's the kicker: He flipped me off!
Fuck me? Fuck me? No, my friend: Fuck you.
Another thing: I don't much care for Mr. I'm-Driving-My-Big-Ass-SUV and I-don't-have-to-signal-when-I-change-lanes-because-I'm-a-total-@$$HOLE!!! I love the folks who claim they need to be driving an SUV because it's safer than a little Japanese car. The only reason little Japanese cars are unsafe is because they're being rammed by these damn tanks.
It's bad enough when you're facing one of those monstrosities in a car. You ever have to get away from one of 'em when you're walking? Good luck.
I'm telling you, trying to get around this town on foot is hell. At the UA, people actually speed up when you're crossing the street. It's like every single driver is thinking only about himself and has no freakin' consideration for anybody else who might need to get somewhere. It's like they think you don't even have a right to walk around. I'm got a message for you, pal: slow down. The crosswalk is there for a reason.
What the hell is wrong with people, anyway?
I CAN TOLERATE THE TAGGERS, the transients who pee in the underpasses and, when I'm distracted by something else, the developers who slap up those dreary look-alike stucco hutches to house people from out of town who don't care that they reside in a pile that could have been shoveled in from a nondescript suburb anywhere else in the country.
All that, I can handle.
What I can't stand--the thing that galls me every time I step outside and glance in its direction--is the enormous, whitewashed "A" that defaces Sentinel Peak, just west of downtown.
"A" as in atrocious. "A" as in asinine.
That pile of petrified pus was first smeared across the hillside in the 1915-16 school year by students in an outburst of school spirit: "A" as in Arizona, meaning University of.
It's been a common practice in Western cowtowns for more than a century, slamming a big white letter into a hillside to mark the local school's territory. This peculiar form of eco-rape never caught on east of the Mississippi, because too many trees and bushes get in the way. But out here, it's as if every high school and college student were a budding Karl Eller, viewing each expanse as a potential billboard.
Not only is the "A" brutally hideous, but it deforms the landscape feature that has overlooked this area's inhabitants for more than 2,000 years and gave the city its identity. Sentinel Peak is the mound of volcanic rock evoked in the town's original Native American name: Chuk Shon, "at the foot of the black mountain." It was an excellent lookout spot, commanding a view of the entire valley. You can still get a good view from it, but who wants to look at it?
Don't call it "A" Mountain. That isn't its real name, and using it implies that the vandalism is A-OK.
Every year, UA students who can't figure out some valuable community service to perform spend a Saturday morning slopping whitewash onto the rock-and-concrete "A." Sometimes, around Cinco de Mayo, people paint it the red, white and green of the Mexican flag, making the "A" look like a huge, bloody booger flicked across the landscape. Then the green may be replaced by blue just in time for the Fourth of July, when the city government sanctions a night of brushfires sparked by the pathetic fireworks display over the peak. The indignities never cease.
"A" as in albino chancre, a revolting ulceration on the city's most prominent natural feature.
Hester Prynne was forced to wear a scarlet "A" as a mark of dishonor; the white "A" adulterating Sentinel Peak similarly is a badge of civic shame. The "A" announces that we believe school spirit and student high jinks should matter more than the historical and ecological integrity of our city's birthplace. The "A" approves everything that's wrong with Tucson development: houses metastasizing across hillsides and alien eyesores disrupting the landscape's natural rhythms.
During the ill-conceived Gulf War--funny how ill-conceived wars run in the Bush family--the Tucson City Council politely turned down a local patriot's call to smear a huge concrete American flag across what remains of Sentinel Peak's face. Let's hope the current council will decline any proposals to worsen the blight during an imminent burst of patriotism.
While we're at it, let's hope that Mayor Bob Walkup and his fellow pols perform the greatest civic good of their careers, and bulldoze the "A" once and for all. Walkup could even shovel some rocks himself; the workout would tie in nicely with his weight-loss program.
Pop the pimple on Sentinel Peak!
SO WHAT MAKES RICH people think that impoverished artists should bear the brunt of fund raising in town?
The deal works like this: You're a gal or guy volunteering with some Worthy Organization that needs cash. Like every other Worthy Organization volunteer, you pounce on what you think is the singularly original idea of staging a "silent auction" to raise money. Your next step: You hit up every artist in Tucson for a free-of-charge donation.
In the last decade, this phenomenon has grown as fast as all those pink stucco Tucson "houses" reproducing themselves in the dirt formerly known as a desert. And it works out splendidly for everybody--except the artists. The auctions that offer original paintings and sculptures and photographs are a significant step up the glamour ladder from auctions burdened down by garage castoffs or cheap manicure jobs from Nails 'R' Us. Rich people attending the auctions pick up fine art at fire-sale prices, the better to decorate their McMansions, all the while puffing themselves up with pride at their largesse in helping whichever urchins the charity benefits. The Worthy Organization pockets the cash and, presumably, funds their programs.
And the artist? She or he is left running on empty. The studio is empty and so are the pockets in the artist's paint-stained pants.
What's wrong with this painted picture? One artist carefully explained it to me. After years of being held up by every charity in town, this anonymous artist routinely tosses the requests in the trash, making exceptions only for truly worthy causes. The reason is that the auction donation devalues the artist's work, assigning zero-dollar value to, say, a painting that's taken weeks to produce. And it has a real-marketplace effect: Art aficionados who know that they can get art on the cheap at an auction are unlikely to spend full dollar on the same painting in a gallery.
One rich matron even told our artist so. "I'm not buying at your usual prices," she said gleefully. "I'm waiting for the auction." Cumulatively, the auctions depress the artist's ability to make a living.
OK, some auctions, we can understand. The Community Food Bank. Primavera. Transplant Units. Groups that help the truly down-and-out.
But how about this one: A few years back, a PR person for a private school kept badgering me for a preview story about an art auction fund raiser. The school shall remain nameless, but let's just say its tuition exceeds $10,000 a year. The flack pursued me for weeks, sending letters, leaving phone messages, urging me to write about this lovely event. Seems Rich Kids School was staging the art auction to fund scholarships for penniless young artistes who would benefit from Rich Kids School's undeniable amenities. The art would be wrenched out of local artists who had no connection to the school. The plan was for the Rich Parents to descend on the auction and scoop up said art on the cheap. The rich buyers could be pleased that an arty little city urchin would go to the school courtesy of their beneficence.
I had no interest in doing the story. Why? The PR person thought it was a wonderful example of Rich Kids School's generosity toward the community. I thought it was another example of the rich preying upon the poor. Why should the city's put-upon artists pony up to fill up the scholarship coffers? Why not get rid of the art middlepersons and have Mr. and Ms. Stockbroker and Mrs. and Mr. Old Money just lay out the cash themselves? It may be a shocking idea, but I propose a return to charity for charity's sake.
Let the moneyed gentry dip into their fat bank accounts to help poor kids without expecting--and getting--a financial bargain in return. And let them pay for their own art.
WHAT'S IT CALLED WHEN you noose a baby animal, body slam it to the ground, tie its legs so it can't move and drag it by the neck in front of thousands of adoring fans?
It's called sport. Calf roping. Smiles all around. Polaroids. Rugged square jaws. Real cowboys. Tucson's Rodeo Days.
If this were done to a puppy or a kitten or--gasp--to an infant, the offender would be charged with a crime. In the case of such animal torture, the perp might do a little time. If they did it to a kid, they'd receive serious prison time, when more than the legal punishment from fellow inmates would be meted out.
But with cattle--baby cows and full-grown bulls--it's all perfectly legal. And it's trotted out every year at Tucson's annual abusefest.
I've never been to our illustrious cattle-prod roundup. That doesn't mean I can't rant about it. If I went, I'd probably weep and gasp and scream simultaneously like I do when I watch those videos put out by PETA or Farm Sanctuary that show hens squished into miniscule cages, expecting to lay happy, well-adjusted eggs for your breakfast.
Whether it's food for you carnivores or a week of rodeo "entertainment" for the cowboys (and girls) in training, it's all part of the general acceptance of animal torture. Here in the Southwest, it takes on its own flavor--torture at the rodeo grounds, a parade to show the kids it's something to celebrate.
"But the parade's a tradition--78-years-strong," you might whine. On the surface, it doesn't seem to harm any animals (unless you count the horses, forced to drag heavy floats or carry beer-bellied cowboys).
I don't care about the procession of idiots dressed up like Sally Star or the Marlboro Man. They can go right ahead and look stupid in their over-sized hats and hip-bearing holsters, clacking their cowboy boots down Sixth Avenue.
What raises my hackles is that, in the name of fun and sport and education (don't forget, the kids get a school holiday for Rodeo Days), innocent animals are abused, maimed, even killed. The thrill of over-powering a bucking bronco is in the air: The noose tightens on traditional mores; the barbecue joints have waiting lines for their dead-cow-on-a-bun specials; guys in big trucks seem to drive cockier.
But it's really the animals that suffer. Take just one of the rodeo's popular events: calf roping. How would you feel if you were held in a chute, had your tail twisted over the steel bars and were shocked with electric prods until the gate opened? You'd be pissed, ready to buck or charge or just run around looking for any flesh to impale. You probably wouldn't notice the thousands of fans cheering on your fleshy target. In fact, you probably wouldn't notice the rope as it whizzed past you, about to crush your cervical spine. You'd be your own source of pain as your neck was suddenly, violently snapped back by the lasso. Your bones would crack. Maybe you'd suffer from internal bleeding or worse, paralysis or a severed trachea.
I'll leave you with a pretty picture. Family dinner, warm and cozy, just another holiday where dead animals are served as trophies: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter (a ham on every plate). Rodeo Days follow suit. It's just another moment to teach the kids about the triumph of team sports, healthy competition and how to love all creatures, great and small.
I CLICK ONTO MY ONLINE account and see the hour's headline: "Need news on Norah?"
Yes, oh God, yes. If there's one thing I need, in this time of duct tape and the misguided mention of it, it's more fucking information about Norah Jones.
For example, I'd like to know who does her nails, which are exquisite. They're not so long that she can't play mediocre piano, but just long enough to say, "I'm hot. And my dad was friends with the Beatles, but I don't really want to talk about it. What's 'nepotism' mean again?"
Mainstream music is boring, which is only endemic of the culture from which it springs. If every town has a Nordstrom, an Ikea and a Crate & Barrel (yeah, I know Tucson doesn't have 'em yet, but give it six months), shouldn't every town have a KISS-FM, a KOOL oldies station, and a "home of your new rock" (formerly the "alternative" station)?
It doesn't matter where you live anymore; we all shop at the same stores and listen to the same radio stations. We all eat at the same restaurants. I can eat at TGI Friday's or P.F. Chang's in any city I visit, and as an American, I probably will. Texas barbecue? Not when there's a Wendy's across the street. Jambalaya in New Orleans? There's a Whopper joint in the hotel, dawg.
There's no need to seek out actual flavor when there's a more convenient facsimile of it being spoon-fed to us.
During his Grammy acceptance speech for winning the award the in Best Male Pop Vocal Performance category, mush-mouthed John Mayer--the poor man's Dave Matthews--in an otherwise humble and disarming acceptance speech, actually uttered the words, "I try to be really palatable to the folks at home ..." This says an awful lot about the state of the mainstream music industry these days, as well as the culture at large.
A few years back, teen pop puppets were actually winning these awards, but following the "sobering" events of recent times, things in the industry have gotten more "real."
Singer/songwriters are the new boy bands, 'cause they're more, y'know, sincere. Of course, that a lot of these singer/songwriters don't actually write their own songs either doesn't seem to matter at all. The illusion of realness is much more important than reality.
Norah Jones, who wrote a small fraction of the songs on her album--one of which was not "Don't Know Why," for which they seemingly invented new awards to give her--which is as bland and "palatable" as it gets. It's easy to like, and tough to dislike: perfectly targeted to those with discriminating tastes who haven't yet learned the ins and outs of free downloads.
But Jones records for the Blue Note label, which has a righteous jazz pedigree, and if this is modern jazz, Coltrane, Bird, and all the rest of them are weeping somewhere right now. It's like saying Faith Hill, because your "local" "country" station plays her, is a modern country artist.
As I heard local singer/songwriter Cathy Rivers--who, incidentally does write her own songs--say, in an interview recently, about the state of modern commercial radio (though it could apply to just about anything these days): "If you feed them shit long enough, they'll learn to like it."
And god help us, apparently we do. Clear Channel is the new messiah.