Things I Didn’t Know About the Southwest Before Moving Here
There's more to know then what's in the travel brochures.
Three years ago I decided to drop everything and more or less move to Tucson, Arizona on a whim. After living in the Midwest and Southeast, I decided on checking out the desert for a little while, because why not, right? As someone who works at home, there were a few side projects I really wanted to finish, but distractions in varying forms continually knocked at my door, asking if I could come out and play.
So I did the only thing a sensible person would do: move 2,500 miles away from all known distractions. And here I am. But there are a number of things I didn’t know about the desert (or maybe just Tucson in general) prior to moving I’ve discovered over the years.
Would I have changed course in my mental compass had I known these ahead of time? Hard to tell. The magnet in my brain’s always screwing with that compass anyway. But maybe these bits of insights will change yours.
I know, I know, you’re thinking, “No shit, Sherlock. You live an hour from the border. They’re going to have Mexican food.” But that’s not exactly what I mean. Everywhere else I’ve lived, if you wanted Mexican food, you’d go to joint nearby, or the one with the patio, or the margarita special. Here, not so much. Here, you pick the Mexican joint based on the kind of Mexican food you want. Want tacos? You go here. Want seafood tacos? Go there. How about burritos? Across town. Tamales? There’s a spot for that. Soup? Head to the South Side.
In other words, it’s way more complex. It’s like leaving fifth-grade math thinking you know it all and then the sixth-grade algebra textbook drops on the desk. So when people visit, it’s not about “getting Mexican.” It’s “what kind of Mexican do you want,” to which, most people visiting just kind of look at me, confusion tugging at their eyes, as they proclaim they just wanted Special Platter #6. Okay, that’s on the East Side.
Speaking of food…
The Nearest Slice of Decent Pizza is 2,000 Miles Away
This is one thing I’ll just never understand. The pizza is bad here. Like god awful, you should have your pizza card revoked and never allowed to make another slice of whatever this is you’re calling pizza, pizza. I’ve tried every place recommended to me. And every time, it just reinforces the fact that not only is the pizza terrible, but the people around here think they’re eating good pizza.
I went to this joint. Highly recommended. Highly rated. It specialized in Chicago style pizza (and for the record, Detroit style is so much better, but for whatever reason, it doesn’t receive the publicity. It’s kind of like the middle-child of pizza. New York is the eldest and gets all the attention. Chicago is the youngest and is allowed to do whatever it wants. But the middle child just has a great product with nobody paying attention to it). Anyway, I went to this spot and ordered a pizza. Plan was to just have it as dinner all weekend. They gave me a cracker crust pizza. Cracker crust. On a Chicago pizza. That’s like ordering ice cream and given a scoop of cottage cheese. What the hell is this?
But that’s pizza around here. People are so bad at making actual crust they make cracker crust. And they’re so bad at making sauce many don’t even put sauce on it. That’s called bruschetta and you eat it as an appetizer in Italian restaurants.
Had a person here tell me the secret to good pizza is the oven temperature. No, the secret to good pizza is having a good crust and good sauce.
This is the kind of pizza they’d serve a New Yorker in hell. Like if you die and wake up eating pizza without sauce, you know you did something terribly terribly wrong in your life.
Bad pizza isn’t just an Arizona thing though. It’s more or less an entire West Coast thing. If you were to ask a New Yorker living in LA what they missed most about the East Coast, they’d say two things, in this order: pizza, fall foliage.
It’s Red, But Not as Red as You Think
When moving out here, I just kind of assumed it would be a very red state. After all, people walk around with revolvers attached to their hips. I can practically hear their spurs clank on the boardwalk.
While it’s red, it’s not all that Republican. Tucson and Phoenix have very large liberal sections (especially Tucson), which I guess I wasn’t expecting.
I think most of my friends in Michigan assume everyone around here is riding around on a horse, waving Confederate flags. Not so much.
I moved here in I believe September. And it was raining every day. I must have missed that in the travel brochure. One thing I didn’t realize is they have something called “monsoon season.” Spring and summer come a bit earlier here, then it rains. Now, technically, it’s not a real monsoon as the wind patterns are not that of an actual monsoon, but I’ll go along with the flow. As in the flow of water rushing down the road thanks to heavy flooding.
Which is why the state created the “Stupid Motorist Law.”
Worst Drivers, Ever
The law really is called the “Stupid Motorist Law.” Basically, a road floods. Signs are put up saying not to cross. If you still cross and need rescuing, you fall under the “Stupid Motorist Law” and are fined for basically wasting the cop’s time.
The thing about “stupid motorists” is the definition should probably be widened a bit. Because I’ll stand by the fact drivers are worse here than anywhere else in the country.
And yes, I know, everyone says that. But here’s the thing. Every city in every state has the dumb-dumbs who drive slow on the left lane of the highway. Or, as George Carlin put it, those who drive slower than you are idiots and those driving faster than you are insane.
People around here are used to driving in near perfect road conditions 95% of the time. If at any time the road condition isn’t completely perfect, all hell breaks loose. It’s why I’ll always take a city of pissed off Northeastern drivers over anywhere else. Sure, it’s road rage times 1,000, but at least people more or less know how to handle precipitation.
The kinds of accidents I’ve seen here don’t make any sense. There are times where the car must have been going backward on its side for the accident to happen. So prepare yourself. If it’s every rainy, or there’s a bump in the road, or there’s cloud cover or the chance of cloud cover, people are going to not know what they are doing.
Common Sense Isn’t So Common
This is my biggest gripe, and probably the biggest reason why I’ll move away. There’s a serious lack of common sense to the point where you want to call in the EPA and conduct research surveys on the water supply. Perhaps common sense is like alcohol and the heat bakes it out of them. Or maybe I’ve just interacted with the wrong people. But the lack of common sense is as vast as the Grand Canyon.
I’ve been to five sporting events here. All five times people couldn’t figure out their tickets and thought I was sitting in their seats. I had to point them in the right direction like you would a grandparent trying to turn on their computer. Talk slow, hand motions and plenty of positive reinforcements. Yes, it is dumb they would do that. No, I don’t know why section 134 and 135 are next to each other.
There’s assigned seating in the movie theaters here. A fight between two people broke out because one person sat in the wrong seat and refused to get out. It’s like listen, lady, if you just look at your ticket it actually says: “you’re an idiot and you’re in the wrong seat” right on the stub.
People will say they will do things or be somewhere, then just not do it and avoid your text or calls because, you know, living in a society is tough. Or you’ll inform your apartment building of sexual harassment you witnessed and they won’t respond. Seriously, it’s an epidemic and the entire region should probably be quarantined and studied to determine how that part of the brain went missing.
Best Sunsets Ever
I’ve driven through much of the country. I’ve seen sunsets over oceans and islands and lakes and snowcapped mountains. The sunsets here are unlike anything else. If there’s one thing I’ll miss the most when moving away it’s probably this.
Everything is Trying to Kill You
Every animal here wants to kill you. Everything. Except the tarantulas. I’ve run into coyotes, snakes, javelinas, endangered poisonous lizards and a mountain lion while walking the dogs. Thankfully we spotted the mountain lion before we ventured up the hill (it certainly saw us) and the dogs didn’t make a scene.
Even my three-legged dog was bit in the face by a rattlesnake. Although it happened in a guy’s yard who, unbenounced to me at the time, was cheating on his wife. So a snake in the yard makes sense. Just wish it wasn’t my pup paying for bad omens (she’s fine now).
You’re Always 30 Minutes Away
To put it into perspective, Tucson has about the population of Milwaukee. It’s larger than Sacramento, Atlanta, Miami, and Cleveland. However, the city of Milwaukee is 96 square miles. The city of Tucson is 230 square miles. So no matter where you live, wherever you want to go is always a 30-minute drive. If you’re planning on coming out, make sure to invest in a good car radio and air conditioning.
Cowabunga Says it All
So yes, those are just some of the things I’ve come across since living in the desert I didn’t know would be a thing. Some I probably should have known about, other’s came by surprise. Oh, and if I’ve offended you in any shape or form with this, it’s probably because you are one of the bad drivers or like the bad pizza or are missing the common sense portion of the brain (hmmm…maybe all of that is connected? Bad pizza is causing part of the brain to melt out which leads to bad driving…Great Scott!).