I hadn't been a Weekly columnist for very long. Back then, I used to write about sports almost exclusively, which is rather odd for an alternative paper. But a long-ago managing editor, Howard Allen, liked my stuff, and the paper's owner, Doug Biggers, just sort of shrugged and went along. Eventually, Howard decided to get back into theater, and the parade of editors began.
They had just hired a new one, a woman with impeccable journalistic credentials. She had won awards writing for the alternative paper in Phoenix, and she took the reins at the Weekly ready to kick names and take ass. She asked me to lunch at a Mexican restaurant on Fourth Avenue. As I sat down across from her, they brought a big bowl of tortilla chips with salsa.
Putting this as delicately as I can ... she was a rather large, buxom woman. I remember she was wearing a cable-knit wool sweater that day. She dove into those chips like Greg Louganis from the 10-meter platform, spinning and contorting and attacking symmetrically from both sides. But being a Caucasian, she was only about an 87 percent consumer. The other 13 percent of each chip, splintered, fell earthward and tended to lodge in her sweater. I was far too frightened by the spectacle to actually attempt to grab a chip for myself, so she proceeded to consume the entire bowl.
By the time she was done, there were enough chip fragments adorning the front of her sweater to feed a Rwandan village. I wanted to reach out and brush the imbedded chips onto the table, but being a devotee of Emily Post, I thought better of it.
When she finally got down to business, she said, that she didn't like my writing; she hated sports, and she wanted to instill a strict journalistic ethic into the paper, which she considered a bit too alternative for her taste. She told me that if my next column included anything about sports, a first-person reference and/or humor, it would be my last.
So, being the semi-pro that I was (and am), my next column was "Tom Goes to the Golf Tournament and Goofs on People." I figured what the hell? Fortunately for me, then-Weekly über-columnist Jeff Smith had a similar dining experience with the new editor a couple of days later and quickly issued an ultimatum to Biggers. The poor woman still holds the record for shortest tenure as editor ever! I tend to think of it as one of the clearer examples of the "This ain't Phoenix!" principle in action.
Still, the nightmares lingered, and I stayed away from Fourth Avenue. I once stopped for a soda at the Dairy Queen, and while I was there, three people came up and asked me for change. One guy looked like he had died, but nobody had bothered to tell him.
But when James Reel invited me to lunch, I figured I had to go. Among many other things, James does the morning drive-time gig on KUAT radio, playing classical music and talking in a voice that sounds erudite and pimpish at the same time. Also there at Delectables that day were Renée Downing, the Weekly's best columnist; Chris Limberis, far and away Tucson's best journalist; and Emil Franzi, Tucson's most famous person named Franzi.
Things were going along quite nicely when, all of a sudden, Reel and Franzi whipped out some CDs and began passing them back and forth. I stopped and looked at one of them. It said (and I wrote it down): König Lear Felix Weingartner Sinfonieorchester Symphonic Works, Volume I. This sent a shudder through my system because, apparently, there's a Volume II of that stuff.
They started talking and became increasingly animated. Emil took a bite of his sandwich and said, "Ilya Mourometz Schechen." I'm still not sure whether that was the name of a composer or if he was just choking on his food.
As their discussion continued unabated for 30 minutes or so, I looked at both of them. I had always been under the impression that each of these guys had enjoyed sex in their lifetimes, and had done so with another person in the room at the time. Now it's up in the air.
Finally, James looked at me and said reassuringly, "It would be like if you and a friend (read: peasants) were arguing over whose version of 'Stormy Monday' was better, the Allman Brothers Band or B.B. King."
Don't you mean B.B. König?
The food was great, and it was cool seeing Chris and Renée. But that other classical stuff creeped me out. That's 2-for-2 two now on the Avenue.
A friend called the other day and asked if I wanted to go eat at Caruso's. I told him sure; just pencil me in for 2015.