People Will Talk

Which is tougher? The anticipation of arrival in Tucson? Or the melancholy brought on when leaving that Southern Arizona city?

Before relocating to Las Vegas from New York, I could only expect visiting Tucson once every two years. Now, proximity gets me there twice a year. Just this past Thanksgiving Weekend I again enjoyed the Desert Margaritaville.

After New York, I gladly would’ve reestablished a new home in Arizona. However, financial incentives made Las Vegas the undisputed choice.

Coming when I did in 2013, this part of the Mojave still bowing beneath the Recession, meant real estate sat at rock-bottom prices. I didn’t know then what I’d do to support myself. Nonetheless I understood given Sin City’s nature I’d find a position quick. The region’s transient population and employers in a hurry for bodies to fill vacancies stood in contrast to Arizona’s deliberation towards jobseekers.

Besides, relative to Arizona, living was cheaper in Nevada. To live comfortably I didn’t have to be too picky.

Cold hard facts of adult reckoning aside, I much would’ve preferred living in Southern Arizona. During university there, a bloc of my most intense years and informative experiences were spent among an eclectic group of contacts. A good many of whom I’ve retained close associations.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about those friends I spent my New York boyhood and teen years in Quarropas. That cohort created throughout the first 18 or so years of life, give or take a year or two, long ago disbanded. Dispersal into the outside world gave us new vision. Refined our tastes. Intimate until 18, then estrangement afterwards turned us into different yet vaguely familiar people at class reunions.

Or so I surmise. I have yet to attend one.

Over the last four decades, a decent number of us who met and merged at Arizona have maintained in touch. Some have lived vicariously through those who’ve bonded with that special someone – uh, in certain cases at least for a while and found another and maybe another after that – and established families. Others haven’t yet … much to the envy of any feeling burdened or hemmed in by fidelity and responsibility.

Although I belong to the latter group, the grass on the other side of the fence sure looks inviting. What man my age wouldn’t enjoy being Ward Cleaver?

However, every so often I hear how fortunate we who haven’t jumped the broom or smashed the glass are. Deep in the throes of being spouses and parents they must imagine our unfettered freedom; that it’s party every night – or maybe it should be, dammit!; no need to provide solutions and accountable to no one but ourselves.

Only knowing one side of the puzzle, I have no answer.

Anyway, our respective designs for living have functioned so far. Perhaps being intrigued by our friends’ lives keeps us in their orbits and them in ours. We benefit from gravitational attractions rather than face the thrust of objects with the same polarity.

If answers await, surely they may divulge themselves after a lifetime.

Together, we replay favorite past incidences. Everybody knows the stories, knowingly awaits what comes next. Yet we laugh just as loud at the codas. These phenomena are akin to watching I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners episodes.

For Millennials the above are classic black and white television comedy shows. For us cool kids in the know, “Vitameatavegamin” and “Bang-zoom, Alice! To the moon!”

Strange thing, our repeats elide into living now. And life today doesn’t always end merrily. After negotiating the unavoidable now, we gradually retreat into vestiges of our less encumbered beings. Are ours coping mechanisms? Once we’ve fulfilled the necessary sober discourse today requires may we then retreat again into the relief of our simpler selves?

Such weighty contemplation as the above came on the return drive to the Big Mayberry.

While I could’ve easily flown round-trip to Tucson, really, is so short a trip worthy of today’s airport nonsense? Speed aside, the gate’s security theater nuisance negates any benefits. Moreover, rolling along asphalt lends appreciative travelers views of how the Mojave Desert transitions into the Sonora.

Northwest to southeast aridity gives way to vegetation that could sustain a greater variety of hardy life. Unrelenting landscape grudgingly yields to green. Descending from high desert the slopes’ Joshua trees lose their crooked backs and straighten into saguaro cactus.

The highway between Las Vegas and Phoenix is lightly traveled. Habitation is sparse. Those few towns traversed or reached via cross roads emerge as surprises. Or riddles. Who’d voluntarily live in this solitude? What have these residents found here?

Terrestrial radio provides hints of the communities. The commercials and PSAs.

Christian stations must either be prevalent or share the same strong transmitters as the Mexican broadcasters. There are few Mexicans residing on these plateaus to support Spanish language programing and can there be that many Christers nestled among the crags?

At least the ceaseless streams of country and western offerings complement the surroundings.

Satellite radio can spoil motorists. Signals beam uninterrupted. Programs can be dedicated. If done wrong listening to satellite radio may be the white noise accompanying white-line fever.

An afternoon into evening ride from Las Vegas to Tucson, well, the Nevada to Phoenix leg goes faster when the tuner seeks then settles upon stations featuring music heard during the driver’s own youthquake days and nights. Nonetheless it’s jarring hearing the soundtrack to the bossest part of one’s life presented as “oldies.”

Dusk strengthens radio reception. The party-heartiest Sin City broadcasters clearly intrude upon Kingman and Flagstaff bandwidths before all fade in the Joshua Tree Parkway trough.

Until distance and obstructions banish them, the music played revives a carefree and irresponsible Tucson compared against now. We didn’t live indifferently then. We just learned through escapades that awarded us experiences, our touchstones for today.

Will it ever fail astounding how particular pop tunes can restore those who’ve now become unrecognizably mature into their earlier incarnations? Nothing renews vitality, invulnerability, daring better than time-exact, incident-specific lyrics and instrument solos. And right now my Boomer segment comprises advertisers desired target audience.

So more New Wave/Alternative/New Romantic beats at the Summer of Love’s and disco’s expenses.

By the time the mauve hours have blackened into night, Phoenix stations jam the dial. Searching becomes selecting. Clear channels and music blocs hasten the journey.

Las Vegas is incapable of developing the same connective depths shaped in Tucson as well to a lesser extent my hometown of Quarropas. As I’ve written elsewhere in other posts, Sin City’s transience impoverishes close associations. No sooner than one fashions an acquaintance that new “friend” has split.

A further hurdle to substantial friendships in Las Vegas is residents habitually being indiscreet. No need for torture or threat thereof. Blabbermouths, they’ll spill everything without prompting. Since they thoughtlessly spout their own embarrassments, what’s to think they’ll practice any reserve with what others have told them?

Las Vegans are gumball machines, the kind that vend their treats minus any coin being inserted into the slot or knob twisted. Basic prudence alone keep my lips tight around them.

Whether good or bad, we Arizona acquaintances are self-compartmentalized by a protective silence. It assures harmony. Figures comprising our band likely know awkward or potentially hurtful items about individuals within it. Certainly we’re at ages where we’ve all led lives worthy of examination.

Yet if my own observations are correct, if they may serve for the whole, knowledge of these matters are partitioned. Rather, while a few are confidants of this and that topic the issue remains knotted among those privileged. And among them this stays until the focus chooses extending the confidence to the complete circle.

Whether the chatter occurs in a bar, a living room, or clustered before a chiminea on a Thanksgiving night, we award ourselves the liberty of speaking freely. Or not.

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