Heading Toward A Cliff

This is an observation about Tucsonans and climate-induced culture, and a comparison with the same for Portlanders, and some related personal stuff too.

It's been a long time since I've lived somewhere with such a transitory population. It's really really weird. All winter I'd been watching all the crusty punks and traveller kids as well as the grey-haired snowbirds, all drifting into town to take refuge from the bitter claws of winter. And in fact, wasn't I here for that reason? Yes, except for the fact that I moved here "for good." I had no plan to wrap up my bindle and hop a freight back out come springtime. I wanted to make Tucson my home.

It's only mid-april and it's getting into the 80s. As summer creeps nearer like a heat mirage far off down a highway, more and more people are talking about their plans for the summer. Their desparate or not-so-desparate schemes to escape the heat are percolating through the social circles, as well as plans of others who will be left behind to carry on in what sounds, to my novice mind, like an empty shell of a city. Art and culture organizations, even activist organizations like the Tucson Peace Center, simply shut down, stop publishing, stop scheduling events. It feels.... fickle, to me... but what do I know, being so new to town?

Of course for other activists it's the busiest time, when the border crossing deaths start spiking.

It all seems like a cliff or a wall, a giant ominous deadline made of weather. Since I don't know fully what to expect, I don't feel it as strongly as some, but it feels very similar to how Portland feels in the fall to me. Instead of the start of the 9-month, chilly, rainy season, it's the start of a 5-month blast of heat. The difference is that in Portland, no one except a few malcontents like myself really seem to mind. People just appear to be resigned to it. Here, I feel like there is an underlying zeitgeist akin to rats leaving a sinking ship. Get out, before the heat comes! It's SO STRANGE.

This ominous cliff is perhaps taller and darker to me for personal reasons too: the woman I've been starting something with is going to be gone the whole month of July. And who knows what will happen then. She made it clear that she wants to be free to meet someone else, some hypothetical other romance that might happen during her planned July adventure. Which is fine with me. But it puts another odd sort of deadline in my life. No, deadline isn't the right word; perhaps: expiration date. perhaps. And that's weird. I've never had a relationship like that.

But anyway, I figured out why it's this way, these 2 cultures. People don't come to Portland for the climate. They come in spite of it. The kind of people who come to Portland and stay are the people who can handle it. Some may grumble a bit, but for the most part the climate has selected people who don't care. They drink a lot of coffee and beer, hunker down in their nests and breed, or make art, or work, and they get by. I will never understand those people (even those in Portland who are really good friends), just like I don't understand people who live in Alaska. But they exist, and I guess it's lucky they do.

On the other hand, the kind of people that come to Tucson are just the opposite. They come because of climate. And the kind of people who will come for climate, will go for climate. Of course. Tucson is the perfect migrant community, in more ways than one. Tucson is one of the few places in this country where it's wonderful in the winter while almost everywhere else sucks. And, it's one of the few places where in the summer, according to some, it sucks and almost everywhere else is wonderful.

I've never lived anywhere like that, except maybe Austin - for one summer. Some friends who came to visit said it was intolerably hot there in August, but I didn't think it was too much worse than summer where I grew up, in Iowa. And I've always said that I much prefer extreme heat to extreme cold. So, part of me just wants to live through it, at least once, and see what it's like. And really enjoy the deserted desert quiet of the emptied-out city.

However, I also have the travelling itch, and I sort of miss Portland and have been wanting to go back there for at least a couple weeks when it's nice there, and also maybe do a brief west-coast tour with my film.

So I may compromise. No big exodus away for any huge length of time. Just a few weeks in July. Then come back in time to experience the famous monsoons, and see what else happens.

I just wondered to myself, about that cliff: the question is, am I rushing toward it from the bottom, to slam into the wall, or coming toward the edge from the top, to soar off and fall? mixed metaphors of limited utility. But thinking this way makes me realize I shouldn't be thinking this way; So fatalistic, so filled with dread. That's bad. One should live each day in that day, acknowledging the fragile temporality of life but not letting the future chew into the present. Enjoy the moment. Maybe this is what Burroughs meant when he wrote, "If you cut into the present, the future will leak out."

re: Heading Toward A Cliff

I'm in Austin right now, and I've got to say it's already fscking hot. It hit 99F yesterday. Like you said, 100-degree weather isn't so bad - I grew up with plenty of it in Oklahoma - but summer in Austin seems to last for six months. Of course, we don't usually get the really hot stuff until June. It was 85F here on New Year's, so maybe we're looking at year-round summer going forward.

re: Heading Toward A Cliff

Steev, if it makes you feel any better, it was miserably rainy all weekend in Portland...and now it's sunny, cloudless, 65 degrees. Oops.

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