Let's see, it's the 47th Thursday of 2011, which means it's my 12th column of the year, which means it must be ...Thanksgiving Day. Now that I've been writing these things on a regular schedule for the past few years, I've been stuck with this day every time around. I keep waiting for a Leap Week or something to throw it off, but here it is again.
Not that I mind. Like a lot of people, the concept of gratitude was drummed into me by my parents, who played the usual "please" and "thank you" charade: What do you say? What do you say? Whatever you want me to say, of course—now gimme the damn Popsicle before it melts!
Far more effective was the dynamic that occurred whenever I escaped some life-threatening (or enrollment-threatening) craziness more or less intact. "You'd better thank your lucky stars!" my mother would intone with an almost-religious fervor. She never told me which stars were lucky, so you could hardly blame me for thanking those that shined over Middle Earth, but the concept was no less clear. When her proclamations were followed by, "We're not going to tell your father about this," my gratitude swelled to a divine, sacrifice-a-virgin-in-a-volcano intensity.
With that in mind, please accept this sincere, albeit somewhat less-than-holy exercise in thanks.
• I want to thank state Sen. Russell Pearce—excuse me, former state senator—for being such a complete asshole that not even Mesa voters could stomach him. I'd like to think that his recall was a repudiation of bigotry per se, but I know it had a lot more to do with him spending his time as Senate president bullying other legislators into implementing his monomaniacal obsession rather than taking care of important state business, only to be slapped down by the Chamber of Commerce like an out-of-control 12-year-old rebuked by an exasperated father.
Sadly, American political culture allows plenty of space for racially motivated, cynically manipulated fear and loathing, but precious little tolerance of emasculating public embarrassment. Don't cry for Russell, though—he'll be back in one way or another. His type doesn't know when to quit.
• A big super-gracias to Tucson City Councilwoman Regina Romero and the City Manager's Office for working out a sensible route for this year's All Souls Procession and sparing my feet extra miles in less-than-optimal costume shoes. When I first saw the proposed new route, I said, "No way!"
Apparently, lots of other people had similar reactions and made them clear to the powers that be, and rather than sending folks halfway to Marana to get around a logistical roadblock on Congress Street, our civic leaders found a way to channel Tucson's annual eruption of human creativity and sentimental self-expression right through the heart of the city, where it belongs, like the lifeblood that it is.
Unfortunately, I'm told that such pedestrian liberty will no longer be possible on Congress, as some new clusterfuck is forming between angry merchants, city planners and the star-crossed modern streetcar. Say it ain't so. In other Western cities, light rail is a gold mine, promoting pedestrian traffic and successful business. Surely we can find a way to do that here. Please? Popsicle?
• Lastly, a grudging, mumbled thanks to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for taking a few baby steps toward restoring the Arroyo Bleako detention-basin wasteland they've created in my neighborhood. For months, I've listened to the daily scraping, beeping and moaning of heavy equipment as it pushes dirt this way and that, to little effect.
I was pleasantly shocked the other day when a few brave, lonely trees suddenly appeared in the middle of the Corps' smokin' hole in the ground. Now, how about planting a thousand more, and some other native plants that would actually support the rich diversity of urban wildlife?
I won't hold my breath. While the Corps is expert at creating smokin' holes in the ground, it's definitely not the best caretaker of horned lizards, spadefoot toads, rattlesnakes, coyotes, native birds and so on. But, really, priority No. 1 should be to restore what was destroyed, notwithstanding various calls for picnic and playground facilities. This world—and our city—needs life, in all of its miraculous diversity, a lot more than it needs plastic, paved amenities for humans.
I hope that next year, I can offer a more-robust, less-qualified thanks to the Corps and to everyone else who helps bring Arroyo Chico back to life. Luckily, they've kept the nighttime lighting to a minimum, so in the meantime, I can still find some stars to thank.