Here's why we love and live in the Old Pueblo

2013-10-31T00:00:00Z 2014-07-03T12:34:24Z Here's why we love and live in the Old PuebloBarbara Russek Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Back in the dinosaur days when the school year started after Labor Day and ended around Memorial Day, a joke circulated among faculty members as the year drew to a close: What are a teacher’s three favorite months? June, July and August!

For most of us Tucsonans it’s just the opposite: those are our least favorite months. And in my opinion, September can be added to the mix.

Turning the page on the calendar to October meant more than just marking time. It symbolized a victory: we hardy Tucsonans had survived another scorching summer and could now start to remember why we live here. The scrumptious fall weather that brings us back to life tops the list. Snowbirds soon flock to join us locals. After trial by fire and frost, we’re enjoying an extended stay in paradise.

Yet there is so much more to be thankful for in Tucson, depending on who is doing the thanking.

Take me, for instance. Yes, I know it’s not a walker’s haven and we could definitely use more public transportation and fewer cars. Yet, all I have to do is spend some time stalled on a 16-lane freeway of some big city to come running back to Tucson with gratitude. I can also drive to most places within a half-hour . Both are huge pluses in my book.

Other folks are grateful for other things. My friend Miriam Furst, who’s been in Tucson about 40 years, told me recently, “Over the summer I went halfway around the world and saw amazing sights. Now that I’m home, I’m reminded that here too I’m surrounded by beauty … the mountains in particular. Our mountains can morph in a day from the mundane and two-dimensional to the deeply shadowed, mysterious and mystical. They’re an ever-surprising kaleidoscope of unpredictable views.”

I asked a few more folks how long they’ve been in Tucson and why they think it’s a great place to live.

• Rabbi Philip (“Billy”) Lewkowicz, director of Judaic studies, Tucson Hebrew Academy (20 years): “The people are what make Tucson great. Wherever you go around town, you will always find someone who will give you a warm ‘Hi, how are you?’ Even when catching a plane to Tucson, I’ve noticed that fellow passengers just seem friendlier, almost like family. It’s wonderful in Tucson. I just love this.”

• Michael Varney, president and CEO, Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce (2 1/2 years): “When thinking about living in Tucson, one immediately imagines the beauty and magnificence of our mountains and Sonoran Desert. Couple the landscape with a climate that is mild most of the year and we have it all. Where we live, neighbors take care of neighbors. Smiles and simple courtesies are plentiful. We have a pace of life that gets things done and still leaves time for enjoying what we have.”

• The Rev. Larry A. Swartz, co-minister with wife Mary Ellen of Unity of Tucson (47 years): “Tucson has a wonderful mix of people, each group contributing to the flavor of our city with traditions, food and language. My professional bias tells me that Tucson is made up of people who generally have a spiritual focus in their lives, as evidenced by the many different houses of religious thought and worship here. This gives diversity and yet cohesiveness to those who call Tucson home.”

• Jason Blackburn, general manager, Tavolino Ristorante Italiano (Tucson native): “Tucson is one of the best places to live in the U.S. for many reasons: cost of living, ease of access to travel almost anywhere, terrific dining from all regions and of course my alma mater, the University of Arizona. We continuously set the bar in Southern Arizona and in Tucson in terms of charitable giving, and strive to make Tucson a better place not only for kids, where it all starts, but for us all.”

• Oshrat Barel, director, Weintraub Israel Center and Community Emissary (3 months): “Since my family and I will only be here for three years, we want to take in as much of Tucson’s culture and everything it has to offer as possible. When we arrived, my kids were amazed by the mountains, the landscape and the heat! We have seen some of the most beautiful sunsets ever and experienced much kindness and generosity in your community. Toda Raba! (Thank you!)”

Barbara Russek, a freelance writer and former French teacher, would love to hear why you think Tucson is a great place to live. Email her at

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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