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Brian is the author of the hard-boiled mystery novels Bowman's Line and To Bury the Dead and a freelance editor for UA Press. He is co-editor of the forthcoming issue of Many Mountains Moving, a Colorado-based literary journal; and he recently finished production of a four-volume audio collection of works by Lawrence Clark Powell. He is in his second year of law school at the UA.
TW: WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT TUCSON?
The past: It just gives me pause. Walking along, or looking out a window, I'll find myself thinking, "Right over there, maybe Mangas Coloradas and his group went past." I don't know. Maybe right where the Pancho Villa statue is downtown--he could have stood outside the wall of the Presidio, shaking his spear or bow at them. I love that stuff. Mangas Coloradas: that means "bloody sleeves," I think.
I also just love the desert. I grew up here--in the desert foothills, which (then) was the greatest place to grow up. First Avenue between River and Sunrise: The canyons, the little gullies, and the washes were great places to play as a child.
I would say about the desert though--the older and crankier I get--the more I think we should just leave it the hell alone. And if you do go into the desert, just stay on the road and don't kill anything and take your trash with you. It's going to be gone soon enough, anyway.
TW: HOW HAS THE DESERT CHANGED SINCE YOU WERE A KID?
I definitely remember seeing more critters--like Gila monsters--when I was a kid. Now you don't really see them much. They have to import them, right?...I read that in the paper. I think they're endangered. Anyway, they caught somebody smuggling in 15 Gila monsters in socks, in their luggage....
Anyway, the desert is the very best thing. It's excruciatingly beautiful and it's right there--not two hours away, or five hours away, but 20 minutes. That's amazing. And it's all still out there. You just gotta look for it...and try not to back into anything.
TW: ANYTHING ELSE?
My wife loves this flower store on Campbell Avenue: Big A's Flowers. They really are terrific. I like them, too. They're really artistic about what they do. I went to visit someone in the hospital about two months ago, and there were about five bouquets. I pointed at one of them and asked, "Did that come from Big A's?" And it had. You could just tell, because it was so carefully put together. I usually don't notice stuff like that, to tell you the truth. I mean, you live in a cave for so long, and you just don't notice the flowers anymore. (Before I met Wendi, that is.)
TW: WHAT'S THE BEST WAY TO STAY ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE LAW?
I'm currently in law school at the UA, and I've grown to really appreciate the contributions that the college makes to the community. Like the public law forums, which give people a chance to have access to people and information they might not otherwise see.
They also sponsor these law clinics--they actually do hands on work. They have one for the juvenile courts, for public interest law organizations, for Indian law: Law students get the opportunity to actually help people who need help dealing with the legal system, but don't have the kind of money it often takes. Those are good contributions, all around.
TW: YOU'RE A HISTORY BUFF. WHAT'S THE BEST WAY TO APPRECIATE TUCSON'S HISTORY?
Well, you're just going to have to crack open a few books, and look inside. A really great book that fictionalizes--not necessarily Tucson's history, but the history of the Southwest--is Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy. It's my favorite. It's maybe the greatest novel of the American West--dark and bloody.
For something more specific to Tucson, there's Sonnichsen's Tucson. It's a good popular history. The Desert Smells Like Rain (by Gary Paul Nabhan), and also Of Earth and Little Rain (by Bernard Fontana), are two good ones dealing with the indigenous people's history in this area, and also their contemporary lives. And there's a book by a guy named (Edwin R.) Sweeney called Cochise: Chiracahua Apache Chief, which I think is the only history of Cochise, who's among the three greatest Apache generals.
TW: WHAT'S THE BEST PLACE TO SCOUT FOR INTERESTING BOOKS?
The Bookstop is definitely my favorite book store. I've been going there since I was dragged in as a little kid. There's a Baskin-Robbins next door, and it was a family tradition to cajole Dad into letting us go there first. There was always a severe limit on what you could get at the ice-cream store, but never any limit on the number of books. I've always valued that.
The Bookstop is the quintessential used-book store. It's not slick. There are books piled to the ceiling in some places; and its got all sorts of crags and corners and turns. You can always find a new little nook with books you haven't read.
They best stuff seems to go to the Bookstop. I don't collect books. You know, I'm the antithesis of a collector: I don't really even need a cover as long as all the pages are there. But whenever I've been specifically trying to do what they call "researching," and get, you know, information on the history of Tucson or the border region or the conquistadors...I've always found helpful, good books there.
TW: ARE THERE SOME LOCAL PEOPLE--STILL AMONG US--WHO'VE CAPTURED YOUR IMAGINATION?
My favorite sidewalk vendor is Bruce, on the corner of Speedway and Campbell Avenue. His corner is what I'd call the best place to buy the Tucson Citizen...and this is probably the only place in the Tucson Weekly where you're going to find somebody encouraging you to pick up the afternoon paper. But Bruce is always friendly: He always gives you the smile and a wave, even if you're not buying the paper. Just day in, day out...standing on that corner. I just really like the guy. It's got to be a hard job, standing out there all summer. I've seen Bruce there for...it might be 10 years.
TW: SO, YOU'RE A BIG PIZZA EATER....
I am the world's foremost expert on pizza. I have eaten thousands of pizzas in my day--I really love pizza. And the place that always gets overlooked is called the Upper Crust. It's on Grant just east of Campbell Avenue, next to the tattoo shop and the Thai food place. They just have great pizza there. It's all fresh, made on the premises.
TW: WHAT DO YOU ORDER?
TW: WHAT FLAVOR?
What flavor? Well, my wife, Wendi, is a vegetarian. So we usually get half that's like artichoke hearts and garlic and I don't know what else. Maybe she'll get something else. And I'll usually get some kind of "meaty supreme": sausage, pepperoni and ham. But I'm not limited to that. I often get just the plain cheese. Or I'll have a slice of artichoke.
They chop everything up right there: the basil, the parsley, the garlic, the fruits and vegetables. They use only fresh, whole cheese...chunks of tomato in the sauce. It's just damn good. They've got great crust that they make from scratch. It's so good, that it actually changes with the humidity. Like on humid days, maybe it's just a little less good....
TW: YOU ORDER PIZZA ACCORDING TO THE WEATHER?
No, I'm just saying it's that good. It's like the Mark McGwire of pizza--the difference between a 430-foot homerun, and a 480-foot home run...You know. Whatever.