So long, folks: Catherine's packing up and leaving Tucson

I'm dragging the garbage bin out to the curb. At about 200 pounds, it's way too heavy, and I'm thinking I'll probably put my back out. I'm not as young as I used to be. Worse yet, the side of the thing is splitting where I repaired it with duct tape four years ago.

It occurs to me I should order a new one. Is there a choice of colors? Probably not. Waste management is waste management, and if I got one in chartreuse, for example, the homeowners' association would complain.

It's the job of the next person who will live here, anyway.

As I go back to shouldering my burden, figuring the odds of making it to the curb before the thing busts open, a tarantula the size of a teenager's hand walks across the gravel between my feet.

"Hello, handsome," I say. And he stops. Either he likes being called "handsome," or he's amused at this woman muscling an about-to-burst garbage bin. A scientist would say it has something to do with my putting the bin aright and leaning over to look at him, thereby changing the shadows. Maybe he's wondering what kind of trouble he's in.

None. Not from me. I'm fighting the urge to lean over and pet him. He's furry and agile, about five different colors across his back and rear. As he begins his walk again, it's with unparalleled grace and delicacy, as if traversing water instead of gravel. I never realized it before, but you can see God in the grace of a tarantula's walk.

Living in Tucson, I saw a lot of things. I saw skies like the ones my father used to paint when I was a kid: five shades of black, 10 of gray and 15 orbiting but never quite touching the color red. He'd been here years ago and removed to Southern California, but never stopped seeing those colors. I saw snow capping a saguaro, then falling so insistently that I had to pull over while driving south on Oracle Road, back when it was trivial, barely even a boulevard.

I saw a very bad play by Sam Shepard, with a screaming meemie of an actress clutching a threadbare dead crow. It was during that same snowy winter, I think: 23 degrees outside in the middle of the afternoon. But as I stood there on the sidewalk just off Congress Street, I was damned if I was going to go back in there and watch that shitty play.

I saw lightning strikes and flash floods, a concrete picnic table broken in half. I heard thunder that rattled the windows and sent every living thing in the house scurrying for cover. I saw my children born, watched them take their first steps, weather their first heartbreaks. I felt them push me away when they reached adolescence, then circle back around upon realizing I wasn't so bad.

To everything, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. That guy knew what he was talking about. I can't remember ... was it Roger McGuinn or the Old Testament? One of those.

I miss those days when Tucson was a sleepy town full of bad plays, where you couldn't get a meal after 8 at night. I miss the days when Wilmot Road was the edge of town, when Mount Lemmon and even Sabino Canyon were day trips.

I watched the junk stores on Grant Road turn into antique shops, then back into junk stores again. And what about those suicide lanes—remember those? I always wondered what kind of homicidal maniac disguised as a traffic engineer dreamed those up.

Whenever someone leaves a place, there's a tendency to insist it's turned to shit. It's a nasty thing to do, like pissing in the bathtub before your younger siblings have gotten out.

I'm disinclined to do any such pissing. I'm just going to leave quietly.

So take heart. Local theater is getting so much better, and so is the music; in fact, word has it, since Austin's not Austin anymore, that Tucson is the new Austin. As for food, not only can you get a meal at all hours nowadays; it might be any cuisine from Ethiopian to Vietnamese.

Take care of the wildlife, will you? I worry so much about the wildlife.

And for Christ's sake, get rid of that goddamned dog track.

I love you all, and thanks.

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