Monday, November 12, 2012

Waiting for life in Tucson, Arizona. The preamble.

Enter Doris the cockroach queen of Armory Park.

Here in Portland, Oregon I occasionally see cars driving around in the summer with Arizona license plates. I only see these plates in the summer. This leads me to believe two things: first, these are people who are too scared to remain in Arizona in the summer. And second, they are too soft to remain here in the winter. I like the winter in Portland. I like the winter here because I feel as if I own the place. In the winter, in the rain, in the short gray days and long dark nights, there are very few people on the streets. I am not obligated to give anyone a dollar, a signature or a care. Truth be known, many people come to Portland in the spring and stay through the summer. They fall in love with the place. But those people who come from sunnier climes have a difficult time here in the winter. It's persistent. It's dark. It's wet. And for many people, it's hard. And for whatever reason, I like it. It suits my disposition. After all, I have not been known for my sunny disposition, not now, not ever. I would like to wrap it up with a Generation X anthem, but I'll call it what it is: flawed or not, it's my fabric. To further this rainy season bit, I do not blame someone who lives here all summer only to move to Arizona all winter.

I once lived in Tucson, Arizona. I lived there all summer. I showed up in May and I left at the end of December. I do not advertise this part of my life. I do not like to mention too much of it. The time is quickly approaching a decade ago now. Oddly enough, I value the experience now only in distant retrospect. At the time however, I hated every day of it. The time was summed up with a quickly souring marriage, un(der)employment; excessive heat and excessive spending. It would take years for me to be cured of the ills of Tucson.

And now? And now I see the richness of the experience. After all, outside of my time as a Calvary soldier in the first Gulf War, when would I ever get off to a desert? After all, when else in my life would I get to live with ghosts and cockroaches and deal with onset of adulthood? After all, when else in my life would I get a reprieve from living to such an extent as to play the trumpet and watch French movies all day? No, Tucson for me was not all that bad.

It comes to me now because I just recently purchased Cosmo Doogood's Urban Almanac. This was a peculiar little volume that was all the rage in late 2005. As far as I know, it was one edition: calender year 2006. I first became acquainted with this in the holiday season of 2005 when I was employed at the Starbucks in the Barnes and Noble way out in east Tucson. I read a few passages of this almanac during breaks or when I should have been working. I would have purchased the book then, but truth be told, I was so broke that I could not afford the cover price. I can afford anything now. Not only to I have a few bucks now, I have recovered from the financial disaster that was Tucson and the following years. Incidentally, Cosmo Doogood's Urban Almanac for 2006 has really come down in price. I purchased my copy for 4 bucks. I read it cover to cover. Again, I am reminded of the terrible year 2005 and my life in Tucson, Arizona.

In our apartment on 13th Street, I would hear the cockroaches scurry across all the surfaces in the kitchen. They would remove the paper labels from spice bottles. They slurped up any standing water. They ate anything remotely organic. They were noisy. They came up through cracks and crevices in the old building. The building was old. I was told once that Barbara Kingslover had lived there at some point in her young life. I always wondered if she lived with the roaches like we did?

The apartment was interesting in that it was laid out in a near shotgun style. We had a living room and then what seemed like a second living room and then a bedroom. The kitchen and the bathroom stood opposite the second living room. In the bedroom, we had a gas fireplace and a back door. The back door entered into the alley. There was always some sort of commotion perpetrated by ne'erdowells. It was an awful bedroom. Late at night after fights and gin, I would try to sleep there. My sleep was tormented with the normal stuff: the anger, the regret and the booze, but there was always something else too. I would awaken and occasionally I would see a woman standing over me. This was not my wife, nor was this a woman I knew. As soon as I startled into alertness, the woman would vanish. It was only in that room. I am not a spiritual person. I don't particularly care for spiritual people. I am not a believer in the supernatural. I do not subscribe to higher beings, aliens, Santa, Satan or ghosts, but try as I might, I could not shake this woman looking over me in the back room of the apartment I shared with a soon to be ex-wife in the in between neighborhood of Armory Park, Tucson, Arizona in the summer of 2005. Eventually, I learned the ghost to be Doris. Eventually, we moved our bedroom into the second living room and made the bedroom a living room where I watched movies and made my trumpet smell like gin. The sleep improved despite the fights and the gin and the worsening situation.

For some reason, several years later now, I am comforted by Doris. I am comforted by Cosmo Doogood's advice and predictions for 2006. More than anything I am grateful for the lack of cockroaches in Portland. I brag, if the situation or conversation elects it, that I once lived a summer in Tucson.

1 comment:

  1. I love listening to your stories of life, you make them so interesting always!