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February 05, 2018


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I was in Tucson a couple of weeks ago and reacted with a mixture of disgust and curiosity to its could-be-anywhere suburban character. Central Tucson still has some decent charm, however, and there is a significant housing boom in downtown. Even its failed La Placita Village (a kind of Mercado project from the early '70s) being razed for a big apartment complex. But the main action is the craptacular sprawl on the far northern and southern edges of town. I loved Tucson intensely 40-some years ago but left knowing its magic had a sell-by date. The only thing I got wrong was just how awful it would be.

As with so many mid-tier cities, Tucson's identity has suffered as its key local assets have either been absorbed by national entities or faded into irrelevance. Like El Paso, Tucson has had significant population growth while also seeming less consequential as a city. Some of this relates to the declining importance of old extraction industries in the economy. Some of it is an immigration surge from Mexico where construction or landscaping labor dominates. They might actually make decent money but if it's off the books, it won't necessarily be visible.

The university/downtown area may serve as a life preserver for the city given the wretched sprawl on the periphery. Traffic is horrendous with no solution in sight. The socioeconomic segregation almost feels like the kind one used to see in Latin America where a huge underclass coexists with a smaller middle class. The political paralysis prevents any kind of systemic effort to mainstream distressed populations. Tucson still seems sleepy in some respects but the magic, such as it was, has disappeared. One of the sadder things here is that the desert is gradually losing its majestic forest of saguaros, due at least in part to climate change. If Ed Abbey's ghost is hovering over this ruined paradise, he must be weeping.

"Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”
― Edward Abbey, The Journey Home: Some Words in Defense of the American West

"Humans build their societies around consumption of fossil water long buried in the earth, and these societies, being based on temporary resources, face the problem of being temporary themselves".
Charles Bowden

"I'm thirsty, let's go to Colorado."

Anonymous Hohokam
1000 A.D.

Could Tucson's poor showing be due to the fact that most of the metro area's well-off live north of River Road, outside Tucson city limits?

Ya'll spend a whole bunch of yer time with yer heads in the clouds. Dang, if'n ya went back 30,000 years you'd find homosapiens living in fine looking caves an Neanderthals living off near them mammoth dung piles. Just what it is. Life ain't fare. Hell, I spect ya'll think tracks was made for trains. Nope. Tracks was made for some folks to live on the good side and nother folks to live on the other side. Just how it is. Some fellar said it's in our DNA. Whatever, the hell that means. You dogooders, you keep on trying though. It keeps you out of the saloons where us regular folk is just trying to relax and have a good time. See you on down the trail. Distressed Zip codes. Dang if that don't beat all

Dang, if'n ya went back 30,000 years you'd find homosapiens living in fine looking caves an Neanderthals living off near them mammoth dung piles.

No wonder Donald Trump is president. Cracker-barrel philosophers deem all human progress to be a fraud because the wrong people get ideas and such. Fortunately, there's the internet to propagate their own "ideas". Say, burn it all down! We were much happier when we were stupid and certain.

Was Rowdy that drunk on Gunsmoke?

Rowdy is a fake redneck.

Rowdy is a sock puppet trolling this blog for some unfathomable reason.

Rowdy ain't no fake redneck. She's my neighbor in the single-wide park down by the fertilizer plant.

That sounds about right.

Perhaps it is just AZreb or Helen Highwater screwing with you all.

Hey John. Was that you peeking in my winder the other night? Hope you enjoyed the show. Much abliged fer sticking up fer me.

It's been over a year since I have visited Phoenix. I am amazed by the changes and the amount of construction going on downtown! Downtown is still no match for my new hometown of Boston but the changes are encouraging. What I will say about east coast cities is that each is unique and amazing. Even Providence, RI, a city of 190,000 has a downtown that easily competes with Phoenix, for now. It helps that Providence is home to several universities including Brown, an Ivy League school. Providence also has a density that surpasses Seattle with nearly 10,000 per square mile. I can take a train from Boston to several unique cities in New England like Providence. I do have to say, living in New England is more challenging than Phoenix. It's extremely expensive, very cold, hard to get around even on foot due to weather, the street grid and the compactness of the varying cityscapes. With that being said, I want to be in Boston permanently and visit Phoenix as much as possible.

I took an East Coast trip via Acela from Boston to Washington over a decade ago. The train was ridiculously slow but it was a great way to see some wonderful cities, including Providence. Congratulations to phxSUNSfan for his new Boston home. The weather is a challenge but it is spectacular in ways newer cities can't possibly match. Paradoxically, it's a very young city on its sidewalks from all the students living there. The architecture, history, museums, and universities put Boston on a level no other American city can match. I doubt Phoenix will ever compete in its league - how could it? - but if it evolves a denser core, good things will result.

Acela travel times really haven't imported over the last decade. It takes 3 hrs and 30 min to travel between Boston and NYC. It is nearly faster to drive during no peak hours. I would love true high speed rail between Boston and NYC.

If Trump doesn't totally screw the pooch, Amtrak schedules will improve. Plus, on the train you can read, work, rest, converse. It's the sane way to travel. I always take the Amtrak Cascades when I go to Portland. Would never take the madness of I-5.

Japanese Bullet Trains are fabulous. The interconnected subway, train and bus system makes for a great country to live in. Heads above anything in the USA.

I love your comment about the south Chandler sniff. Those losers are so common now in that part of Chandler. I think half of them aren't even native Arizonians, probably losers who couldn't even cut it out in California then come crawling here complaining that they couldn't stand the liberal politics of their old state that's causing it to decline into Mexico or some other racially biased comment. As if we're buying that excuse.

Those kinds of people look down at "North Chandler" as if it's some kind of slum or a slum of the future, which to be honest isn't too far off. I think they're sitting on a high horse because they think they're living in an area immune from that (I hope that it's not - for my own amusement) and that somehow that makes them better. Typically elitist snobbery you'd find in a place like North Scottsdale, except the people there are usually wealthy. The types in "South" Chandler are people who wish they could afford to live like someone in North Scottsdale.

I'm glad to find out that I'm not the only one who has experienced the "South" Chandler stupidity. I thought it was all in my head.

Would love to hear more from you about what you think about people like that, John. And also Chandler as a whole. I wouldn't mind more Chandler articles.

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