It’s my final column.
I knew this day would come, though I actually figured I’d just drop dead in the middle of writing something and that would be that.
When I started at the Citizen back in August of 1987, one of my friends said, “Why are you going to work there? They’ll be out of business in a few months.” Turns out he was off by about 21 1/2 years.
So what now? Honestly I’m not quite sure. My phone hasn’t been ringing off the hook with offers. But with Gannett saying we were up for sale, I’m sure many were convinced someone would step up and buy the Citizen. Nobody really wanted to believe this day would come.
On our annual evaluation forms there was a place for employees to list the job you feel qualified for that you’d like to be considered for next. For the last few years I’ve always written “Spaceman” in that slot.
The fact is I really liked what I did here. I met interesting folks. I watched history unfold in front of my eyes, and got to write about it or videotape it to share with our readers. I met politicians, scientists, artists and musicians of every sort. One of my first feature stories was on a dog psychologist. Arf! I reported on marches, watched the Phoenix Mars Lander touch down, watched Tohono O’odham pick saguaro fruit, and spent a wonderful time with an Apache violin maker. I fell in love with the music of the mariachis and the colorful pageantry of folklórico dance.
I watched the summer solstice sunrise over San Xavier Mission through the viewfinder of my video camera, and nearly got trampled to death at the odd football game. I spent literally thousands of nights in concert halls, walked the campus with a near-nude performance artist, and watched the Aaron Copland of Australia, Peter Sculthorpe, drop Coke cans I’d scooped off the floor of my car’s back seat to listen to them plink and plunk.
I saw kids grow up and blossom, and short lives come to a close. And when the presses roll for the last time, I will be there to record it. In all likelihood I will be the last man out after editing those last bits into our farewell video.
But I will write for these pages no more, and it’s highly improbable I will again be a journalist.
Back in 1987 when I signed on as a music critic and features writer I had a reason for doing so. People were excited about downtown becoming an arts district. I was president of the Central Arts Collective gallery downtown and had been supporting myself with a mix of work as a composer, photographer’s assistant, performance artist, freelance writer and recording engineer prior to the Citizen hiring me.
It was a huge trade-off. On the plus side, I was in a position where I thought I might help get artists’ dream of a city of the arts off the ground. On the minus side, my work as a composer was deemed a conflict of interest, and had to be put aside. At that point I figured the Citizen would be a temporary gig and I’d get back to writing music in a year or two.
Instead I discovered the endless stream of amazing talent this city has produced as well as the array of talent we’ve been introduced to by organizations such as UApresents, Borderlands Theater, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Arizona Theatre Company, Arizona Friends of Chamber Music, Arizona Opera and so many more.
How many composers on hiatus get to be inspired night after night by the greatest musicians of our time while they slowly and privately evolve their own voice? Mind you, I still stink, but it’s not for lack of good examples.
Over my 21 years at the Citizen I was tempted many times to leave. But year after year I was convinced that there were many more important stories to be told of folks from this special place like no other in the world.
It has been a privilege to serve this community and in some small way reflect a tiny corner of the beauty and life Tucson has shared with me. I thank our readers for their indulgence, their generosity and patience. I wish the town all the best, and I will miss our readers more than I miss being 17.
So what do I do now? I don’t know. It looks like my dream of putting on my second opera may become just another victim of budgetary axes. That’s life.
One thing is certain. Unless NASA decides it needs grizzled, semi-chunky prospector types to mine the moon and opts to honor my spaceman post request, I’m not going anywhere. Tucson is my home. You can take the job away but it’s going to take a lot more than that to make me leave.
The hardest part of this is saying goodbye to all the wonderful folks I work with here at the paper. They are dedicated, hard-working, highly intelligent and more fun than one can legally have with clothes on. They have a dedication to and perspective on Tucson like no other team in the business.
In the end there is one great consolation. Our slogan has always been “The Citizen is Tucson.” We meant it, and we earned the right to say it every day. As we leave, we know that Tucson is a better place for our service, and it will become an even better place as we all find other ways to serve.
If you want to stay in touch I’ve set up a crude Web site with a blog (http://web.me.com/dbtucson/Daniel_Buckley_onda_web/Welcome.html), or you can reach me via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adios, amigos. See you around.