By Jack M. Hoff
I don’t get a chance to get out of the house as much. I did just recently, though, and discovered that the Tucson I knew a few years ago doesn’t exist any longer! The most obvious change is the sky. That deep blue desert sky now chokes with brown haze in the mornings. No wonder I stayed indoors. While driving the now crowded roads, I noticed the street sides looked more like Tempe than Tucson. New office complexes and housing duplexes had arisen from the jumping cholla and creosote lots that once dotted the city. The streets look newer, too. Alvernon is now a wider water tunnel for the monsoons– so are Campbell Avenue, Craycroft and the other n/s routes. Heading to the airport is a breeze, as long as I could follow signs with the big arrow pointing to the airplane.
I decided to get something to eat– fast food, but not too fast. I went to check out some favorite spots. They had disappeared– The Submarine on 6th Street just south of the UA was gone, so was Enchiladas on Speedway (they now just cash your checks without giving you your tacos). Sucks. Whataburger on Speedway is now home to a wok-and-go. Col. Sander’s moved away from Grant and First and left an empty shell. I settled with a delicious Sanchez burrito that I bought at the former Shakey’s Pizza Parlor building on Craycroft, just south of Speedway.
Then, I headed off to buy some clothes. Kaiserman’s was gone; so is that favorite shirt shop in the mall (and a lot of other places I used to see in the malls, as well). Maybe some of the discount houses have an inexpensive shirt or pants. I passed by the empty hulls and reconstructed lots of Gemco, Fed Mart. I drove over to Woolco. It used to bustle with business on the southeast corner of Broadway and Kolb. I went to K Mart across the street instead.
I thought 1 could find a good album or cassette at the Record Bar but I couldn’t find the store anywhere. Neither could I find Hollywood Records which I remember used to scream at you in the commercials to come into their stores. Well, where are they now that I need them? I’m the one now screaming. Only Oldies is only empty. I gave up because Zip’s Video didn’t have a record to sell.
Before I head home, I need to get some groceries. I couldn’t find a nearby Bayless or Food Giant supermarket, so I ended up at a gigantic, nondescript, mausoleum known as Smith’s. After dropping off the groceries, the thought of eating out sounded tempting. Tucson has always offered a good array of fine, established restaurants.
Heading for In Cahoots was a disappointment. Someone gave them the boot. Jerry’s Ming House now sports a new non-alcoholic nightclub (great place after our favorite bars close). O Sole Mio was a great spot. It was just as good as the closed as the Coronado Theatre next to it. The old El Jabala now swings with Broadway hits as Rick Porter’s House. The Tender Trap is just a tender memory. Faye Anne now runs Memory Lane there and offers a wild time.
After dinner, we decided to hit the town. Some of that must still be there! At first, a movie sounded good, but the price was enough to reconsider renting a video again. Besides, the theatre next to us still looks like a foxhole during WWI.
My date and I decided to call ahead to the nightclubs. That’s the smart thing to do in today’s quick changing world. Nino’s on North 1st Avenue left without a trace. Cowboy’s also hit the trail. Legends is now a legend. Chances wasn’t so lucky– it burned to the ground. Night Train ran out of steam. Cheers just wasn’t the party animal they made it appear it be. Sundance East and West headed into the sunset. The Stray Cat is homeless. All gone. The crowds that used to pack those places seems to be partying somewhere else.
Instead, we went to Terry & Zeke’s Again (?!! Where did Zeke go??), which is still here. Rockefeller, or the Outlaw, or whatever else it’s been called, now rocks as the Tucson Garden. At least some staples still survive. We couldn’t get to see that concert at the TCC (not called the Tucson Community Center anymore), because we couldn’t find a place to park. We couldn’t even find the parking lot– or the street to the lot– for that matter! We drove in circles around Downtown.
When the bars closed, Tucson still does as well. Besides the ol’ Jack-in-the-Box and a CoCo’s or so, everyone else is home. A few more supermarkets (AB what?) burn the midnight oil. For the most part, the sidewalks still get rolled up. I understand that Volgey has that Mayor’s job now. Didn’t he once grade a Poli-Sci paper of mine? It was disappointing that old favorites are gone. It just ain’t the same anymore. Yet, cruising Speedway at night still offers solace that Tucson is alive somewhere out there.
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