Place matters. Intellectually, there’s no news there. Emotionally? Well, this piece is titled Place Matters, and if there was no news, you’d be reading about the man we simply can’t turn away from, again.
I have called Tucson home for 54 of my 58 years, if you don’t count college and a bit of law school time. (Because Tucson is full of people who haven’t been here for so long, I’m often asked what brought me here. “My parents … when I was four” always gets a laugh.)
My K-12 education happened in Tucson. K-12 is a stretch, though, for by the end of my sophomore year at Tucson High School—having missed school during the month of March on account of pneumonia—I knew it was time to move on, ASAP. (Call it K-11.) Algebra in 8th grade, typing in summer school, and a very undemanding set of graduation requirements allowed me to be done in three years and, at that, I was done with school before noon in my “senior” year.
My mom and I made a deal after 10th grade ended. Out in a year, but I had to go to the University of Arizona for at least a year, for she wasn’t ready for my departure. (I don’t recall my dad weighing in on the issue.) “Sure mom,” I winked, while I was busy meeting every out-of-state liberal arts college counselor who showed up at THS.
With some talking—lawyering skills developed early—I was gone to Beloit College in Wisconsin before I turned 17. Four years later, with two four-month stints in Chicago, I graduated. Lots of law school applications and a decent number of acceptances later, I opted for the University of Arizona College of Law. Dirt cheap then, I’d had my “away” experience, and no school appreciably better than the U of A wanted me. Alas, that decision determined place for me more than any other, ever.
When you do not get into a national law school—I was wait-listed at Northwestern, a top-tier school then and now—you will almost surely end up in the state, if not the city, where you go to law school. The big Phoenix firms did not want me—grades—so Tucson is where I found myself in 1981, and from then until now (and for the foreseeable future.)
The place issue hit me hard a few days ago. For the 17 years during which I occupied a high-rise, corner office, I could see my high school from my office window. For the past several years, my junior high school—now it’s a middle school—is across the street from my gym. And I have driven by the law school I attended an uncountable number of times. So what hit me hard? I was driving east on 2nd Street—my street—when I realized my pre-school—the Old Pueblo School—was located four or five blocks away from my new home. That’s really close! (The ladies who ran the place hit you with a fly-swatter if you lifted your head during nap. No wonder the school is no longer in business!)
So … what? Two things. First, no one knows how their life will turn out. I always thought Tucson would be a place from my past, and a place I’d visit until my people had passed. Alas, I ended up making a life here, and what comes to mind most profoundly are relationships which go back a really long time. (One friend/MRW subscriber and I go back 50 years. Yikes, and note the fact that I did not call her an old friend. That drives her effing nuts!) Yes, there’s a big world out there, and there’s much to be said for really engaging with it, deeply, but there’s also lots to be said for staying close to home, even if that was not the plan.
And the other thing? I lived in a large home, far from a walkable street, for almost 24 years. Now, Max and I are a house, a block, and a wide street—Campbell Avenue—away from the University of Arizona, aka, per my girlfriend, the World’s Best Dog Park. Max and I are much, much happier here. The ‘burbs are wonderful, if you’re a ‘burbs person, but if “city” is in your DNA, make sure you’re living in the right place!