“It costs so much to be a full human being that there are very few who have the enlightenment, or the courage, to pay the price…One has to abandon altogether the search for security, and reach out to the risk of living with both arms. One has to embrace the world like a lover. One has to accept pain as a condition of existence. One has to count doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing. One needs a will stubborn in conflict, but apt always to total acceptance of every consequence of living and dying.”
–Morris L. West, “The Shoes of the Fisherman”
My exploration of my new home continues. Tucson is no Portland or Asheville or even Boise.
A Chinese restaurant named Peking House with a 70s sign out front.
An indie cinema screening two films total, both of which I watched virtually through Laemmle months ago.
So far I see one uber-cool, ridiculously overpriced clothing and housewares store (I like to have a few of these around, just to browse).
One great market for groceries and takeout. (Well, one and a half, the other being Flora’s Market Run in my own ‘hood). 5 Points I guess is good, too, but has been closed except for takeout due to COVID.
Yesterday I made a field trip to the CVS, a good-sized branch at the intersection of two major thoroughfars. I needed a bunch of stuff including TP. So I walked in, glanced around, and the cashier asked, “Can I help you find something?” (That a clerk at CVS would even have the time, much less the desire, to help a customer find something was alone something of a revelation).
“Yeah, thanks, I’m just looking for the carts. Or do you have a basket?”
“No,” she replied kindly.
“We don’t have baskets. We have one cart but someone’s using it. If you have more than you can hold, you can put your stuff on the counter.”
Is it me, or is that totally weird? A CVS! No carts, no baskets. I mean, what, do people just come in for a single bottle of Robo?
I tripped on the whole phenomenon as I meandered through the aisles, looking for shampoo, hydrogen peroxide, face cream. The more I thought about it, the more I kind of liked it. To have a store filled with smallish items of which most people I’d assume buy a few struck me as almost comically hostile. “Go to hell,” I imaged the owner of the franchise or however CVS works, thinking: “Hold the stuff, or put it on the counter, or make a few trips back and forth to your car: I don’t care. “
In short, really what skin is it off my back? Plus there’s almost a David Lynch-Twin Peaks aspect to the place I can totally groove to. They do bill themselves as the country’s biggest small town and in many ways, it is a small town.
Here’s the important thing though: the public library is pretty damn good. There’s a bunch of stuff I could probably or possibly get back home, but they also have a ton of books I would never have expected them to: Eat the Buddha, by Barbara Demick, The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen. Moreover, the Himmel Branch is a mere few blocks away, which means I can reserve my books and walk there to pick them up.
Most to the point, my house is so insanely incredibly beautiful, comfortable, conducive to work, prayer, reading, bird-watching, movie-viewing, napping, thinking, cooking, eating, talking on phone, and WRITING that I could give two hoots about what lies beyond my door.
And what does lie beyond my door is equally fall-to-your-knees splendid. In every direction, there are blocks and blocks and blocks of fantastic residential streets to walk in more or less silence and solitude.
The air is seriously, forgive the cliche, like a caress.
Barrio Bread: huge thumbs up.
The Lost Barrio for folk art and furniture: ditto.
And I know a hundred other discoveries, treasures, nooks, shops, cultural events that I haven’t begun to plumb await.
But even if not, here’s the thing: I don’t really care. I think what I’m seeing is that I’m undergoing a kind of death to part of my identity: as a person who lives, or has to live, in a “happening” urban environment. If COVID showed me anything, it was how very very satisfied I am with a world with about a mile radius, i.e. one I can comfortably walk.
My front yard alone would keep a naturalist busy 24/7.
The Newman Center at the U of A, a 20-minute walk, is about to segue back into daily Mass, and by fall they hope, to again open their doors to the public for Morning and Evening Prayer.
This morning I went to the MVD and applied for my new license and car registration.
Later, on my walk, I will watch the early evening sun illuminate the bougainvillea.
And all is well.