Like my character Josie Tucker, my story begins in Tucson, Arizona. My family moved there when I was almost three and I lived there off and on (mostly on) until I got my master’s degree from the U of AZ. Plus that one year afterward I messed around in architecture school. (I realize most people just sit on the couch, smoke weed, and play xBox games when they don’t know what to do with their lives…but I’m weird.)
My family doesn’t live in Arizona any more, so I haven’t been back in 20 years—until this weekend when I went to the Tucson FOB.
Here are a few things I discovered, traveling back after all this time.
1. Always, always eat in New Mexico
I’m not kidding. You don’t need to like spicy food. They ask you what your level of spice is (from Baby to Scary, and probably Posh between). I lost my heart at Maria’s in the town of Truth or Consequences to a machaca egg burrito.
2. On the open road, audiobooks save lives
Trapped in a car for thousands of miles? An audiobook…or several of them…can make the miles fly by and keep the bickering to a minimum. Life savers, I tell you.
3. Tucson—go for the books…actually, forget that—go for the weather
Seventy-five degrees, dry and breezy. I’d forgotten what a Tucson winter could be like. The festival was the perfect excuse—I mean, venue. Celebrities all over the place. Diana Gabaldon. JA Jance. Over 130,000 people strolling by my booth over two days.
I sold out of every mystery I hauled down there in our rented Chevy. Which was terrific because I wasn’t looking forward to burying the remainders out into the desert.
4. Pro-tip for any tradeshow
Who says “pro-tip” anyway? (Though it’s better than “life hack.”)
Just don’t take melty things. Especially in Tucson.
5. You really can’t go home again
A lot of high school friends stopped by the booth to say hi, which was amazing and humbling. And later, hanging out with our old roommate, we didn’t get into trouble or arrested, though it helps that he carries a badge now.
My husband and I saw the place where we got married 20 years ago (to the day) and ate dim sum where my family had brunch before our wedding.
But the thing is, 24-plus years of living in Tucson stacked up a lot of memories. I saw my nursery school, for the love of Mike. The hotel were I had a paid internship for a week before my mother declared I should not waste my time making beds. The sushi place where I used to eat with my parents, but now Tom-san, the owner, deflated and gray, sits at the end of the bar drinking soda. His wife, however, is as elegant and gorgeous as ever.
I also barely recognized places and streets. The reversible “suicide lanes” are gone now, thank goodness. The U of AZ looks amazing and built up, much like the wife of a successful plastic surgeon. Shiny and taut, with its own Clinique counter at its heart.
And everywhere on the campus, I thought of my father power-walking to the survey classes he used to teach and the changes I wanted to show him. Or at least call him to describe them. Or maybe even text him a picture, because he’d have his own iPhone by now, probably.
Which is just a little bit heart-breaking.
So in the end, it was good to come back to my present home. Because when you’re on a journey, it’s best to keep moving forward.
I posted some of these photos on my Facebook page while I was on the road. Feel free to visit me over there.