I’m home now. It was extremely difficult to leave my Mom in Houston, but as always, it feels good to return to Tucson. It quenches me and I feel my well-being immediately improved in this strange, dusty town.
I’m from Minneapolis originally, and we Minneapolitans are a snobby bunch. I’m not entirely sure why; it seems to go against Scandinavian values of humility, and lord knows most of us are pale, square-faced and have names ending in “_son.” Of course, if you can forgive the weather which is nearly always terrible, Minneapolis is a vibrant, engaging city. We are quick to point out our really cool light rail, downtown with real skyscrapers, the fact that there are more theaters per capita than in New York City, etc. etc. etc. We love that we actually had our very own grunge rocker in the 1990’s (Dave Pirner). We think Minneapolis Hip-Hop is sooooo underrated (“Slug is a genius!”). We subscribe fully to the idea that we are the true metropolitan gem, the only place in the country that is urban and refined and still has gentile, polite population. Honestly, we probably have little-man syndrome, being in the Corn Belt, not too far away from Chicago (undisputedly a “real city”) and having a name that sounds too much like Indianapolis. Not to mention, weather so terrible it discourages tourism beyond obligatory family or business functions.
I’m sure we sicken the rest of the state, and that people from Alexandria to Tower are tired of how in love with ourselves us Minneapolitans can be. I once offered up the services of a couch in the living room of my parents’ condo to be a crash-pad for a few Dave Matthew’s fans from the Iron Range, who migrated down to “the Cities” for a concert. Generous of me, I know. After my mom served them coffee (thanks, Mom!), they proceeded to read the local paper and rip on Minneapolis—how it was dangerous, congested, and they hated it. More than taken aback by rudeness, which was indisputable, I was in utter disbelief. Were they actually talking about this wonderful city? MY wonderful, fabulous, exciting city?
Anyway, being from Minneapolis, I thought I was a member of an important club. I liked patronizing downtown and uptown bars, as if sitting there next to really fashionable, interesting people made me fashionable and interesting too. I wanted to be an enlightened urban person, taking mass transit to work, planting my own attractive flower garden in the front yard to match my neighboors’, volunteering for important causes while wearing bio-degradable shoes. In fact, I couldn’t imagine being otherwise. I liked debating the ethics and health benefits of drinking coffee, while tossing back my chemically-processed hair. I liked pretending to be bored while sitting on the bus. This was my life, until I moved to Tucson.
If the vibe of Minneapolis is “we are great!” the vibe of Tucson is “we don’t give a f*$!.” If Minneapolis represents superficial beauty, Tucson is all about looking worse than we really are. Dirty, dusty, kind of run down, but when you sit down with us for awhile we grow on you. We enchant you with our lack of personal hygine, our absence of artificiality. We give you the space to be entirely yourself– even if who you are is kind of strange. See, its more cool, actually, to be humble, to not be enchanted with how you look in the mirror, but to be committed to the guts, the raw core of who you are. That’s Tucson. We don’t have the most beautiful urban parks– they are mostly inhabited by homeless people. But the mountains, the huge Saguaro, the yellow warmth of the orb in the sky will take your breath away. You will fall in love with not who we want to be, but who we really are.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m from Minneapolis, and I still feel my heart drop when I see the skyline and the thick trees from a homebound airplane. I relish in a particular and irreplacable joy from walking around Lake Harriet, eating Sebastian Joe’s ice cream, hearing the rustling of cottonwood trees. But I also feel home in Tucson, where the sun melts away everything except what’s really important, and I bloom.