Hey, Southern Arizonans: Love thy neighbor, even if that neighbor lives in (gasp!) Oro Valley

I grew up in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and rarely received any comments about my strange-sounding birthplace.

Today, I live in Oro Valley--and it seems like all I get is flak from my fellow Southern Arizonans. Apparently, living far from the heart of Tucson can be perceived as living on the other side of the world.

The first Northwest Negator was a new male acquaintance. We were talking on the phone one evening, getting to know each other. When I said I lived in Oro Valley, he replied: "Oh. You're one of them."

He sputtered something in reference to Oro Valley's country club-like reputation and began a mini-rant. I responded calmly; I put down my martini, got out of the pool, turned off my 50-inch plasma TV and held the phone away from my ear.

Seriously, though, I couldn't really hear much of his mini-rant, because planes were flying over his house. He lived under the flight path of Davis-Monthan's jets. Our conversation was interrupted no less than three times.

The next time we talked, I had just gotten home from the country club, where I had been golfing and schmoozing with Biff and Hilary. Gosh, I was just too tired to be much of a conversationalist.

Our friendship didn't last.

The next Northwest Naysayer was a co-worker. One of our conversations went like this:

Co-worker: Where do you live?

Me: Oro Valley.

Co-worker: Oh, you mean you live in Phoenix?

Me: No, I don't. It's not that far.

Co-worker: I don't drive north of River Road. It's too far from everything.

Me: I drive 20 miles to work each day.

Upon hearing that, my co-worker looked dazed and slowly walked away from me.

The "too far from everything" comment puzzles me. From what, exactly, am I too far? Park Place? Reid Park? Oh, wait, maybe it's being stuck at Alvernon Way and 22nd Street and waiting three light rotations to get through the intersection.

Aside from the traffic--which afflicts our entire region--I am in no way bashing Tucson, Park Place or Reid Park. I just don't get why I have to live smack-dab in the middle of it to enjoy it. It ain't that far from the northwest.

Next up was a female No-Way Northwester. When we met, she asked where I lived. When I responded, she asked, "Why do you live there?" I explained that I have family in the area. "Oh," she replied with a great deal of relief. So if I didn't have a family member who lives there, would there be something wrong with my choice?

Yet another Northwest Nixer is a male co-worker. Over the years, he has questioned my sanity for living so far from our office, which is 2 miles from the airport. While I admit I am jealous of his 12-minute commute, it hasn't persuaded me to move from the northwest.

Sitting in my car for about 70 minutes each workday, I have a lot of time to think. I ponder the sun and the moon, the birds and the bees, and all of the wonderful people of the Old Pueblo.

Why do people look at me strangely when I say I live on the northwest side? Is this just a northwest phenomenon, or do people who live on the other sides of town get similar reactions? Long before the price of gas went sky-high, heads tilted to the side, eyes opened wide and mouths uttered, "You live faaar awaaay."

Yep, I have to set the GPS in my Oro Valley-issued Cadillac to get myself home. I'd be wondering around the streets of central Tucson otherwise.

Do I have a problem with central Tucson or people who live there? Nope. Want to live in Vail? Victory for you. How about Sahuarita? Splendid choice. Marana? Marvelous decision. And let's not forget Oro Valley. Outstanding option.

We should all be able to show some love to all the parts of our geographic region and its people. Each person finds the comforts of home where it suits them--whether it's downtown, in central Tucson or on the outskirts.

So the next time you meet a northwesterner, or someone from a "far-off" region of the Tucson metro area, remember how Mister Rogers treated his neighbors.

And be happy that all the towns around here are a lot easier to spell than Poughkeepsie.