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C.E. "Buzz" Poverman is a novelist and non-fiction writer, who's been a professor of English at the UA since 1977. He also spent a brief stint in San Francisco, working for a private investigator. The experience formed the backdrop for his most recent novel, On the Edge (published in 1997). He lives midtown, with his wife and two children, and is at work on his fifth novel.
TW: WHO'S THE GUY WHO SAYS, "PLAY IT AGAIN, BUZZ"?
I've always wanted to play the piano. My wife had eight years of classical piano, and my daughter started playing the piano (a couple of years ago). We'd been renting a piano, and then we decided to buy one, a Baldwin--for my wife and daughter. Once the piano came into the house, I just had to play it. So I asked the owner of the store, and he recommended Mickey Greco.
You know the expression, "Child is father to the man"? That's Mickey Greco. I go over there, and he looks me up and down, and he says, "Have you ever played the piano?"
I tell him, "No, nothing...." (There was a pause) and then I looked at him and asked, "Is this possible?"
He says, "Sure...it's possible, sit down," so that was it, that was the beginning. I've been taking lessons probably eight months. But I've learned a ton of music, and he seems to think I'm eminently teachable. It's marvelous. I mean, he's teaching me jazz piano.
TW: HAVE YOU BEEN OUT TO SEE HIM PLAY AROUND TOWN?
Currently he plays Sunday nights, with his trio, at the Cottonwood Café. He's played everywhere--he used to own his own bar and play there. I don't know if you're a musician or anything, but to sit three inches away from this guy when he starts to play...I don't have words for it, really. It's just phenomenal. And he's a composer and an arranger, too.
TW: HAVE YOU HAD HELP FROM ANY "UNDERCOVER AGENTS" LOCALLY?
Christine Burke (one of the co-owners of Clues Unlimited bookstore, in the Broadway Village Center) was a mentor to me in the selling of On the Edge. She taught me everything about how to sell this book, and where to go; connected me to people. That's, again, personal, as opposed to something she did for the public. But in a way she extends the same consideration to lots of writers. They (she and her two partners) read the books they buy; they know what they're selling; they talk to people; they know their customers. It's like going to see your librarian every week--she knows you, who you are and what you like. She follows what you're doing and will say, "Here's a great book."
TW: YOU'VE MADE A GREAT DISCOVERY THIS YEAR, IN THE REALM OF AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS...
The Tucson Diving Club meets at the Hildebrand Aquatic Center. You've probably driven along Campbell Avenue and seen the 10-, 7- and 5-meter platforms from the street. The Diving Club is coached year-round by Michelle Mitchell, her husband José Rocha, and John Proctor, who dove at Auburn with José.
Michelle has a silver and a bronze medal from the '84 and '88 Olympics; she's also the UA diving coach. José was an NCAA diving champion at Auburn, and he's originally from Mexico City. He's also, interestingly enough, a cop with the Tucson Police. They're all great coaches.
My daughter started about a year ago. She went up to the Arizona Grand Canyon Games in June, and won three gold medals--in the 1-meter, 3-meter and 5-meter platform diving in her age group. It's really astonishing for me to watch my daughter--who's under 5 feet tall and only 10-and-a-half years old--go off this platform pretty fearlessly.
She has so much confidence, and I think part of her confidence is in herself, and part of it is in her three coaches. They bring her along at the right speed. So they coach city kids like that--like my daughter--and then they coach the University team as well.
I just think it's unique. I had a friend come to visit from back East last October. The leaves were changing there, and here at about 4:30 p.m., we're over at the pool. He said, "Imagine growing up with this--it's like another world."
TW: HOW DOES THE DESERT MEASURE UP WITH YOUR CONNECTICUT UPBRINGING?
It's grown on me. It was actually an incredible shock to be away from water. But the long vistas here are phenomenal. When I leave this area, that's one thing I miss--my eyes almost have a hunger to see so far. The first time I felt that, I was probably in Avra Valley, looking south or southwest on the bajada there.
...And there's also the winter light here. There's a day here when you'll go out for a walk, and suddenly you'll realize the summer light has passed. There's a different light--a whiter, clearer light. Things seem to be lit more from the inside. And that kind of light, you see it outlining things: trees, houses, walls, small things.
TW: DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE NEIGHBORHOOD WALK?
I like to walk in alleys: There are these kind of funky alleys, with their dust and their gravel and their dogs sticking their noses under the back gates and barking at you...You just take a walk off the street, get away from all the bikes and traffic and stuff. I'm in the middle of town now, but I've lived different places. I used to live downtown near the tracks. When I first came, I lived on 12th Street downtown. It was the same thing. You could walk down those alleys.
TW: WHAT'S THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR?
The amazing thing about being a private investigator is that it's the thing below the surface that nobody knows anything about or sees. It takes you into the most incredible places, and brings you into contact with people who you can't even imagine. It gives you cause and reason to find people and go into places that are just astonishing. It's another way of seeing how the world really goes together.
TW: WHAT'S ANOTHER ASTONISHING HUMAN ENDEAVOR YOU'VE WITNESSED?
My wife teaches in the Utterback Middle School, which is an arts magnet school. Without plugging her personally, I think that's another "Best of Tucson." It's something I wouldn't have known about unless she did it. But she's a photographer, so she teaches art, and art photography.
She has one class that's got 16 kids in it, and together they run the G.A.S.P Gallery at the school. They've all got different jobs; they're being trained in every aspect of running a gallery.
If you go into this school and you see this art that these kids make--I'm always knocked out. There's this vibrant, glowing art down there that these kids are pouring out. The faculty, I don't know how they do it. My wife's with it, but I don't know how she's doing it, even though I know exactly what she's doing. What she pulls out of these kids, when you walk in there, it's just beautiful.