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Friday, March 15, 2013

Californication II: On Honoring Thy Father, Changes, and Loving Tubac To Death

My daddy once told me that running away never solves problems... it only postpones solutions. So I wasn't too surprised when Missouri miseries caught up with me in Colorado. When you can't be happy living and playing in the Garden of Eden, something deeper is going on. Adam blamed Eve. I blamed Dad, or his death, at least. Heredity put a six gun to my stationary life; the sudden loss of Dad pulled the trigger. I came this close to putting beloved Colorado in the rearview mirror, to take up a wandering life far before I could appreciate it and for all the wrong reasons. Please indulge today's ramblings; it's Dad's birthday, and I am bound to honor him by remembering. He'd be 99 years old.

Being a late blooming lad in my early twenties when he passed, I didn't really have the opportunity to get to know Dad "man to man." I was still into "me stuff," fast cars, racing motorcycles... partying. I like to bring Regret out and play with it once in a while... it's the old "rag doll" I should've outgrown years ago. Eventually, wisdom, or Jesus, or, who knows, perhaps Dad's spirit, helped me to understand that harboring Regret was enabling the past to steal the future. Life doesn't come with "do-overs." We make mistakes, stumble through as best we can. By the time wisdom comes along we're three quarters dead. It should serve as a reminder to not let the sun set on cross words or ill will. 

Down Colorado's Highway a few miles, the flip side of loss caught up with me. Now Regret had a sibling... Anger. That's how young males deal with things deemed "unfair." We're taught to be tough, to not let our emotions show, but they have to go somewhere so anger gets turned inward. And anger internalized makes one ill. Running ten or twelve miles a day was my sleeping pill; sure was hard on the knees. I suppose talking about it would have helped, but I didn't have the money to spend on some high dollar shrink... catching him up on the bazillion experiences that made me tick just so he could yawn and write a prescription for Valium. 

Everett Milo Johnson (Dad) in his younger years
Below, with two brothers, Milton and Harold... A big man at 6' 3", big enough to wear white shoes and get away with it...

Mid to late 40's Dad

Dad at my brother Dan's house, a year or so before his death.

Brother Dan with Mom and Dad

Nephew Darin (the wild one, you can see it in his eyes) with his Grandma and Grandpa.

Push came to Shove. I started looking at he horizon... dreaming of starting over someplace new. After all, moving on seemed to run in the family. What would Dad do?

Dad was a master mechanic... adept at taking things apart, finding what's wrong and fixing them. So I went down to the bookstore and bought a stack of self-help books. Men are "fixers," who says it has to be cars or plumbing? One of the book Gurus, a Dr Dwayne Dyer, suggested starting a journal. Ok, I wanted to be a writer anyway. I began scratching out poems and songs... dark lousy shit, really. Over time I lost the urge to runaway... a pile of "shit" filled a couple of shoeboxes way back in the corner of a dark closet.

Some fifteen years later, while we were moving to a new house, I came across the shoeboxes. Age might do wonders for wine, but it didn't do a thing for my writing. Hemingway must have moaned as I reread thoughts penned in the late 70's. If someone found this ill thought malaise after I died it could ruin my after-image. I carried the shoeboxes outside to a bonfire of trash and unceremoniously tossed them in.... years and years of "therapy" that sounded more like gut wrenching vomit. Fahrenheit 451 can be a  symbolic and cleansing temperature. I watched the flames charr and consume my handwritten angst. I was forty something... finally old enough to let loss and anger go and move on. Like I said, a "late bloomer."

Later, I realized that those raw scribbles had served their purpose just like Dr Dyer said. I also realized that my Dad, if not all parents, served his purpose... in spite of an untimely death. He had given me everything I needed to know about life and living without having to "tell" me. How? By example. Dad once said that if you tell someone how to do something they'll forget and won't get it right. But if you Show them, they never forget. 

Dad knew I was was too immature to "hear." But he knew I was watching. There aren't enough words and time to teach children everything they need to know anyway... in fact nowadays, most kids aren't "receptive" until they leave the nest and have kids of their own. Then one day, we see them doing things the way we showed them. It is our long term example that gets imprinted; it's our example that kids remember. It speaks more than words. 

With age comes wisdom... anger gradually morphs into cynicism... caustic? yes, but socially acceptable to all but those cursed with thin skin. I just need a little rant once in a while... to vent some steam... usually about changes I believe proves we peaked a few years back, and Evolution is now working in reverse. Amazing how turning a phrase and spinning a yarns can satisfactorily take the place of punching someone out. Being my own worst critic, I'm surprised that some of my new "shit" pleases the derisive, but softening, old grump that lives within.

Happy Birthday, Dad... wherever you are. Thanks for your example... I miss you.

The Problem With Tubac's... A Mini Rant On "Change"          

I can't seem to spend a Snowbird winter in the Tucson area without taking in the once quaint and funky, but now crassly commercialized artist's colony of Tubac. Those changes disgust and discourage me, but at least the "Old Town" portion still clings to the ghostly remnants of its former Funky self. 

"Funk" has a way of fading once it gets "discovered." The madding crowd rushes in, a bunch of groupie lifestyle posers, and tramples the natural history right out of the past. These jerks would spray paint Rome's Colosseum in order to rid it from "the unsightly patina," centuries in the making. Towns and art are like people... it's ok to get old. Not everyone wants "plastic surgery." 

But there they go with their flashy redevelopment, dreadful imitative eyesore town homes, blazing in the sun, nine brilliant shades of southwest color. It's enough to make my eyes bleed. The intention was a retirement community that resembled olden Pueblo villages (not). Now they envelope Old Tubac... faux stick-ladders as faked as the suntanned Funk Seekers who gobble them up as second and third homes. The polished stainless steel, granite and paved streets looks out of place in Anasazi-ville, as do the convertible Beamers with Blue Hair Boomers grinning ear to ear. The tragic irony is that the very "lifestyle" they imposed on Old Tubac is predatory and toxic to "native species." The result is "Sun City" cancer, and it feeds on the mob that feeds upon spirit and soul of funk... the hippies, the Indians, the Mexicans. 

I blame us, The Baby Boomers. While we were doing the "wild thing," dropping spoiled, over-consuming little Ehrlich "population bombs" and over-cloning ourselves into eternal indebtedness... impregnating to-the-point-of procreating the living daylights out of Mother Earth's rapidly dwindling resources... selfishly guaranteeing our linage with total disregard for birth rates, sustainability and toxicity... on a planet that is halfway through its two hundred year "bubble gift" of fuel, billions of years in the making... children and grandchildren out the wa-zoo... our so called leaders "fiddled" like Nero. Now we descend en masse, and proceed to love places like Old Town Tubac to death.

When developers catch the scent of money, they are as tireless as bloodhounds. In Tubac they employed a military-like real estate maneuver known as, Surround, Divide, and Conquer to defeat enemy hippie/native combatants. Top Gun investors bought up surrounding land and built a virtual moat of extortionate-to-the point-of-gaudy second home town homes... plus shops to occupy them... paved over the outer skirt of Old Tubac's rusted, dusted, busted core, stealing its fate right out from under starving artist hippie-mex-indians. 

Of course New Tubac drove up prices, which raised taxes, which raised costs of living, which finally broke the financial "backs" of penurious long haired hippie-mex-indian artisans (sigh). When Escalade, Volvo and Lexus SUV's replace the VW Bugs, Vanagons, and School Bus homes behind Funky-Town shops, "soul" goes to hell in a handwoven hand-basket. Rust gets painted over; dilapidation gets remodeled; dirt streets get paved, and soon there's an artificial hollow ring hanging in the well-perfumed and pretentious air. Out-of-state Cowboy wannabes suck it up... a ticket to paradise lost with an 18 hole golf course, as green as if the water problems in southern Arid-zona are mere conjecture or myth. Fred and Ethyl open a little "Hobby Shop" cause it gives them something to do and makes them feel like part of the community and it adds purpose to their otherwise boring retirement life. Of course they fire up the Lexus and leave when it gets a little too hot. 

If I sound cynical it's because I am, that and I've seen it before. I watched our Rocky Mountain equivalent towns of Aspen, Telluride and Breckenridge suffer similar fates... going the "discovered" route of Sedona, Tombstone, and Tubac. What next, et tu Jerome... Bisbee? Infiltrators changing what ain't broke has been the death of many once-charming places. The essence of what made Tubac cool was its commune of grubby, starving-artisan hippie-mex-indians. Upgrading it into an unaffordable air conditioned community with manicured and massaged Snowbirds and green lawns... affluence dripping from their sequined faux wannabe cowpoke attire... only adds Funky-Town and Flower-Child entrepreneurs to the endangered species list. Tombstone becomes Hollywood, and a once in a lifetime part of old-west Americana... a rebellious movement of art, freedom, peace signs and free love, bites the dust.

I hardly recognize Tubac nowadays; its swallowed up in neon dreams... stucco "peacock" condos and strip-mall shops that remind me of the reasons I left Springfield, Missouri. A small portion of Old Town still clings life... to it's dirt, dust and rust... but the infiltrators keep chipping away. Next thing you know they'll pave the god damned streets just to keep the once-a-winter mud off their snake-skin boots.       

 Here's a little hint of what's down the road for the Wanderers (if we can ever get the hell out of Bisbee).
Can you guess the place? 


  1. Well Mark, there is nothing like telling it like it is....and you did it...Bravo! and Hey, those are good looking family photos. Enjoyed the other photo's, as well....nothing stays the same anymore....they are even calling Austin...little Los Angeles!!! Get a rope!....Laverne

  2. is why I prefer staying out in the pastureland of far country... where man hasn't imposed his "improvements" yet...

    uh, on second thought... those wannabe's have their affects there too... they "wanna" protect the land...

    The land, "Protected" from grazing by the evil ranchers, crusts over, unbroken by the cloven feet of heavy animals (as the boss intended it should be) Rain and oxygen can't penetrate and the grass recedes and clumps up, un-invigorated by the pruning of grazing. (the way the Boss intended) Noxious, choking ground cover trash moves in...

    ... and what was dies... killed by its witless "protectors" who stormed in from the last place they ruined... refusing to listen to those who Have Been Living in and Nurturing that Place for Generations

    Can you hum along?
    "When will they ever learn..."

  3. I get your feelings about Tubac. I felt the same about Taos when we went there a few years ago....way too much commercialization, to the point that none of it felt authentic anymore. That said, I still feel there are places left and new ones being created. Bisbee has retained alot of it's character despite gentrification...and Dixon, NM was a "new" artist town that we discovered in our travels. Perhaps it's not a question of loss of a place rather than movement. The spirit goes somewhere else.

    A lovely tribute to your dad, and enjoy your time in the Chiricahuas!

    We're in Bisbee one more night then headed Patagonia way.


  4. Laverne,
    I got the rope, I'll meet you in Austin.
    Thanks :)

    CowBoy Brian,
    Your full-time RV lifestyle allows you to keep on "leaving." One day I fear we'll run out of places to run.

    So Nina...
    I checked your blog and see that we overlapped in Bisbee at the same time!... in the same RV park!? Oh well, maybe down the road.
    We are over in Chiricahau hiking amongst unbelievable boulders. The campground is generally tight, but two spaces are sizable FYI. Might want to do a drive through with the Toad first tho if you ever decide to come this way. Otherwise there is boon docking on forest service roads outside the park and you could commute in and out with toad. Again FYI.
    Your Bisbee post was terrific! We always love to go there. Don't miss the street on the other side of the pit... a step back in time.

  5. I agree with Brian about the "pastureland". Instead of Mark ranting about the ruination of the beautiful places, it would serve a more constructive purpose if he changed his notion of Beauty, so that he stays away from those places that have already been ruined, or soon will be.

    He could switch his notion of Beauty if he really wanted to.

  6. I couldn't find the village in the village of Tubac. I saw lots of shops, but couldn't latch onto the "soul" of the place. Now Bisbee, that's a place with soul.


  7. Thanks, Mark. I love a good rant!

    Yet another form of the "tragedy of the commons". It must be much worse for the long-time residents of places that get spoiled, at least we visitors have the option of going somewhere else.
    All the same, it is really saddening to see such stupidity and greed.

    As an optimist, I was going to say that there will always be more great places to go than time in which to do so. But that may only technically be true, as long as you don't mind spending a fortune to get there, or stay there, or put up with increasing numbers of other people there. I don't mind sharing beautiful places with some people, but then there are others who ruin it for me. You know, the types who talk loudly and constantly in quiet places, and flaunt their wealth and good fortune. I'd walk many a mile to get clear of that type, and increasingly I have to!

  8. Your writing style really paints a colorful picture about your family and the once loved town of Tubac. Things never stay the same but at least we can remember the way it once was and take comfort in that.


  9. Tubac...I seem to remember a cologne by that name many years ago. Always good for the innards to get feelings out. Best way for some of us to do that is through writing..... Good stuff.

  10. Boonie,
    "Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder." It is defined for my by the amalgamation of my footsteps... from birth to now... with all five senses fully engaged. And you want me to just get out an eraser and wipe it away like it was just chalk on a blackboard.

    No, I don't think so. I think i know beauty when is see, hear, feel, taste, and smell it. Your comment was not "beautiful."
    PS: BTW, I take pleasure in mundane landscapes... more than you give me credit for. If beauty is an artificial and relative concept, so be it. I am the "beholder." I won't tell you what to like, but I will keep showing you examples and let you live in the world of your choosing.

    Good Luck Duck,
    The "line" is getting blurred, for sure.
    As for Bisbee, we just left there and it was all I could do to keep from looking for a shack to call my own.
    Heart, and Soul.
    Thanks for commenting.

    Always like hearing your opinion...
    It's the people who wear those ear mounted cell phones I don't get... like they can't miss one call and they need their hands free to multitask. I keep responding to them thinking they are talking to me... "No, I'm not getting a divorce, why would you ask such a thing?"

    Anon Virginia,
    Thanks for commenting...
    I "paint" with a four inch brush sometimes... :))
    but thanks...
    I have photos of the way things were, so I can revisit the good old days. :)

    Bayfield Al,
    Thanks... If i couldn't write it out I'm afraid I'd have to punch it out. It feels better after a good rant about things you can't control. I don't mean to offend... but once you hit the "Publish Button," it's out there.

  11. It seems that what's happening in Tubac is happening everywhere. It's the invasion of T-shirt shops and worthless crap from China in what used to be places where people lived and worked. In the end, it'll cover the earth. I am happy to have been places before they were assimilated. Nice work on the photos.

  12. Allison,
    Having lived through the "Golden Era," route 66 (remember "Stuckeys"), mom and pop diners, Drive-in Movies, roller skates with "keys," Burma Shave road signs, and standing on the corner in Winslow Arizina... I agree (sigh), Too much nostalgia puts old grumps in bad moods, tho :). There are a few places left... and Lovely Ouray is one of them :)). It can't "sprawl" because there is no room left to do it. Yeah.
    Thanks for commenting,


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