Tucson, the Town of My First Experiences in Life

by on June 18, 2019 · 7 comments

in From the Soul

by Ernie McCray

I read a woman’s critique of her hometown online the other day.

She couldn’t stand the place of her birth, saying that the town was backwards and too “white bread” to her liking. And she didn’t feel like she ever belonged.

I kind of understood, at some level, where she was coming from as Tucson, where I grew up, was not what anyone would consider “hip” and it was heavy with white folks who could sometimes be a “trip,” going way out of their way to make me feel as though I didn’t belong.

But with all that being said, unlike the woman whose sentiments I read, I actually loved and still do love my place of birth. With all I’m worth.

It’s the town where everything began for me, the place where I had so many first experiences that fleshed out and colored who and how I would be.

Tucson was the first place my feet ever touched the ground, a place where I saw my first sunrise and sundown.

It’s where I first uttered “Damn, it’s hot,” something we Tucsonans lamented a lot, and it’s where I first heard “We don’t serve your kind,” a sentence that always blew my mind and fueled my life long mission of turning such human conditions around.

It’s where I first hit a homerun or scored a basket or caught a pass for a first down or a touchdown; where I first enjoyed a picnic on the Fourth of July; where I told my first little white lie; where I first laid in a sleeping bag looking up at a beautiful mysterious black star spangled midnight Sonoran Desert sky; where I first spun a top or zoomed down the street on skates or played with a yo-yo or flew a kite or ran a mile or took a hike; where I first rode a car or a bus or a train or a horse or a bike or played shark island at Estevan pool on a blazing hot summer day; where I first got mesmerized by a movie or a concert or a play or got lost in a book for the better part of a day.

This town surrounded by mountains that have stood in the background of so many of my dreams, was where I scored my first kiss, a sloppy French one at that, a prelude to my first love, that of a pup, but it hurt like crazy when we nine year olds broke up.

Tucson was where I learned to drive, feeling so grownup and free inside; where I first felt the thrill of a carnival ride; where I first heaved a sigh of sadness for someone I had known who had died; where I first sang and danced and emceed or acted on stage; where I first felt outrage because of a police officer shooting an unarmed black boy, a friend’s brother who was pretty much only acting his age in a reckless way, choosing to do so, to say the least, on the wrong day.

A place of so many firsts. It’s where I penned the first love note I ever wrote. Where I lit the first cigarette I ever smoked or the first reefer I ever toked. Where I first registered to vote. It’s where I first went to school; where I first tasted booze and thought I was cool; where I first felt the lowdown dirty blues, not too many years, it seemed, after learning to tie my own shoes; where I first tasted treats like cookies and candy and ice cream and where I first made the team and where I first enjoyed the “thrill of victory” and suffered the “agony of defeat.”

Tucson was where my first child, a daughter, was born and where my first son was born along with their sister – all in the four years between my senior year of high school and when I earned the University of Arizona’s bachelor of science degree in P.E., paid for by my skills in scoring and rebounding which I did with a sense of glee.

And it’s also with merriment that I look back at all these experiences from my past, these necessary steps for building one’s identity.

I wish everyone, like the woman who hates her hometown, could see their town as I see mine because no matter its faults it gave me everything I needed to pursue and enjoy a good life.

I couldn’t ask a town for any more than that.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

bobo June 18, 2019 at 11:54 am

Tuscon is a wonderful little city: a bastion of practical liberalism in a sea of red that is AZ. Having gone to University there, I discovered the unique beauty of the landscape and people as a refreshing place that is much more progressive in it’s approach to all things in life. Tuscon is to Phoenix what San Diego is to LA.
I also found it fascinating that the folks who were born and raised there lament it much like those do in OB. The grass isn’t always greener and sometimes can only truly appreciate a place when you leave it!


Thomas Gayton June 18, 2019 at 7:55 pm

What a Life. Viva!


Shirley Sprinkles June 18, 2019 at 8:22 pm

Ah, yes, my dear Homie! So vividly descriptive that I can taste the dust on my lips! No matter how far we roam, there’s no place quite like HOME! Thanks for these memories.


gloria June 18, 2019 at 11:28 pm

I have inherited your home town and now it is mine. I even wrote a song about it: Come on Down to Tucson or a Love Letter from Tucson. It’s mine now and I’m keeping it. You are right about it being like San Diego is to the other big town. San Diego has charm that the larger one does not have and Tucson has the charm that Phoenix can never achieve. Have a good summer.


CARL ZANOLLI June 19, 2019 at 2:49 pm

Odell was born there


Virginia L. Franco June 21, 2019 at 12:19 pm

How I love the way you print your endearing thoughts of life; however sad, and sometimes painful. What would we do without pain?; likely, non-endearing thoughts, deserving of such as yours, Ernie. More and more, I hunger for your wisdom.


Barbara Lewis June 22, 2019 at 11:01 am

I can only say simply “beautiful.”


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