If plagues are any indication, then Tucson is surely God's country

I knew an old cowboy from East Texas. He was always pining for home: the trees, the sky, the swamps, the water moccasins. Oh, he loved East Texas. Called it "God's country."

As far as I could tell, it was anything but. Klan country, yes. Cracker country? That too. It was definitely let's get drunk and bust up a honky-tonk on Saturday night country. But from his myriad and vivid descriptions, I simply couldn't make out God anywhere.

No, it's Tucson that's God's country. I can tell by the plagues; as everyone who's ever picked up a Bible will tell you, God's positively nuts for the things. In Egypt, which, interestingly enough, has a climate similar to Tucson's, there were 10 of them. But due to laziness and space considerations, I'm only going to write about my five Tucson favorites.

The first is the Santa Cruz River. Instead of being full of fish-killing blood, it is full of sand, old car parts, disused bongs, fragments of lawn chairs, empty spray-paint cans and some husband's possessions that got thrown out a car window. This, as far as I can tell, is worse than blood. Blood in a river might kill all the fish, but the aforementioned items preclude the possibility of there ever having been fish in the first place. If the local population had to live on what they could catch from the Santa Cruz River, we'd all be eating sand, which tastes awful. Unless, of course, you've been huffing whatever was in the spray cans. Then it's delicious.

Second, frogs. Almost every morning, I awaken to find frogs in my pool. Some days, there are a few; some days, more than that. My friend says these are not frogs, but spadefoot toads, and that the little bastards live in the dirt all year and then dig their way out after the rain. They then proceed to find whatever water they can, jump in and wait for a member of the opposite sex to show up in order to give them a good shtupping. They later go back to sleep, but before they do, they spend the entire night making noises like crucified cats. No amount of pillows over the head can drown this racket out. Surely this is God's wrath.

Three, lice or gnats. Biblical scholars differ on the translation; the Torah was originally written in Martian, but I'm going to go with gnats here. During these high-humidity days, just try going for a walk in the evening. Go ahead. Try. Only you'd better keep moving, because the very second you stop, you will be positively mobbed by gnats. They love sweat, which, unless it's 4 a.m., any normal person will be covered with after about three minutes. Go ahead. Take Spike for a walk. God will smite you, I guarantee.

Four, flies. Once again, biblical scholars disagree on the translation, but the strongest argument suggests that the original documentarians actually meant columns of flying termites. After a good monsoon soaking, said columns can be seen rising out of the ground like Satan himself. There have been apocryphal reports, mostly by paint-huffers, but whadaya gonna do, that these black columns frequently create the form of a tail-swinging El Diablo himself. Yours truly has seen up to five of these devil columns arise from the bowels of hell on one saturated city block! Surely, fear and rotten wood shall follow us all of our days.

And last but certainly not least are palo verde beetles. The ravages of these beasties have been documented elsewhere; if you type the phrases "shit-fit," "bloodcurdling screams" and "heart attack" into the search window of the Tucson Weekly archives, I'm sure you will get at least one hit, but the encounter described in that account had such a profound effect on the victim that it's well worth revisiting. Not only do these foot-long beasties crash into decent peoples' heads for no apparent reason; they often crawl up the legs of innocents at 2 in the morning and scare the piss out of them. This results not only in dozens of broken tchotchkes-turned-missiles, but weeks of insomnia and chain smoking.

Ah Tucson. God's country. May God have mercy on our souls.

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