Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dust of the Earth, Chapter 3 (by Jim Parks)

"Two blocks north of the underpass, a new punk venue had recently opened, Tumbleweeds..."
    Jorge eventually showed me where Ana Socorro resided. The Castellano home was in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Tucson, where the wealthiest families had lived for over a century. Tucson had once been a society of equals, with Mexicans and Anglos freely intermarrying and producing the business and civic leadership of the community. Later, with the railroad bringing commerce from back East, Anglos would usurp most of the power in Tucson, leaving only the wealthiest Mexican families with any social status. Downtown became divided, with the Mexican neighborhoods mostly west and south of the city center, and the Anglos north and west. Yet still, everyone remembered the original elite families of Tucson, and the mansions in Ana Socorro's neighborhood were quaint reminders of a bygone era.

Summer comes early in Tucson -- by May at least. But the peak of heat isn't reached until late June or early July, when two holidays mark the occasion. The first is John the Baptist's Day, El Dia De Juan Bautista, and the second is the Fourth of July. To be honest, I never heard of the first holiday until many years later, when Tucson's Mexican culture became romanticized by artsy types who were newcomers to the Southwest, just as I had never heard of The Day Of The Dead, El Dia De Los Muertos, which has now become a yearly parade -- or procession, as those who take it seriously call it. These holidays have great meaning for Catholic Hispanics in Tucson, but as celebrated by bored Anglos in search of ethnic festivities, The Day of The Dead has become something like a circus or a costume party. I shouldn't be so cynical, I suppose. It's not their fault they started looking for cultural authenticity long after I had -- and long after I had given up on the endeavor.
One relentlessly hot Thursday evening between those two summer holidays I went to 4th Avenue by myself, hoping to run into some people I knew.  Two blocks north of the underpass, a new punk venue had recently opened, Tumbleweeds, yet another dive that booked shows on the weekends, sometimes big acts from Los Angeles, but mostly local bands. On Thursdays, though, only the newest or the least popular bands played. I paid the cover and walked into the bar, feeling the rush of relatively cool air pumped out by the swamp box cooling. The place was just about empty. On one side of the establishment were the bar proper and some tables and booths. On the other side, separated from the first by a partial wall, was the stage and a big empty space intended for the crowd. The owner didn't bother keeping tables and chairs there. He knew the kids liked to dance, or whatever it was they called it, and sometimes fixtures ended up being utilized in unusual ways. Mopping up blood was an occupational hazard for any bar owner, but Jim had his limits. During the day, Tumbleweeds was a hangout for drug dealers, prostitutes, and street people, but on weekend nights, Jim made decent money off "all this punk business". He smiled when he saw the bands come in for sound checks, and he sent them away with free cases of beer after closing time.

to be continued...

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