My neighbor claimed he saw a pile of autumn leaves around the base of a saguaro in another neighbor's yard. Shedded red, brown and yellow leaves were piled high around the base of the old spiny giant as if it were a New England maple tree.

He said, "It's beyond me how the saguaro did that, but it looked spectacular. Must be some kind of new hybrid from the Desert Museum."

Nothing says autumn like gorging on "Tucson Meet Yourself" fry bread, gargling horchata, listening to bagpipers screeching and mariachis wailing, and checking the sky every once in a while for signs the migration has begun. The first one to spot a Blue Tufted Snowbird heading south into our valley wins a pumpkin and an extra wait at the stoplight for the next six months.

Note to newbies: The almanacs are all wrong about when summer ends and autumn begins. Here summer is officially over on Halloween, also known as "la noche when you will first need a sweater."

If this cold snap persists I may have to put on socks and begin braiding my leg hairs. It's something we Irish do to prepare for winter. Yes. We are descended from Hobbits.

• The number of Christians who can no longer be categorized as Protestant keeps growing like loaves and fishes at a soul picnic.

The number of people claiming to practice no faith surprised me. Every single American adult I know practices a religion. We all worship an imminent God that is present throughout our world. We worship flat-screen TVs.

And our spiritual depth is about as thick as the plasma screens etching white noise on our brains at least five hours a day. We are Box Stimuli disciples - adherents addicted to vast amounts of nothing, whether it's games or cable chatter, streaming nonstop in divinely digital color and sacred surround sound through our obedient heads.

The all-powerful remote is our sacred scepter. Like a Tibetan monk thumbing a prayer wheel to make it spin, we channel surf endlessly to nowhere in adoration of the temporal and trivial. Where is thy remote? It was lost and now its found. Hallelujah and amen.

• Stories about faith call to mind the city of Tucson, which testifies that downtown shall be reborn as often as mullahs chant the call to prayer.

In its inaugural year, Tucson's streetcar system is expected to generate more than $300,000 in rider fares while needing a $4,000,000 local subsidy. Comparing the zeroes, a keen mind will detect a math problem. If you see the problem, you are not qualified to be a city employee.

When I was 12, I had a lemonade stand. I spent a fortune on lumber, nails and paint and a smaller fortune amassing an inventory of fresh lemons. Building the stand and squeezing the lemons to make fresh juice took hours of labor. I sold three glasses of lemonade in one entire summer for a total revenue stream of seventy-five cents. Compared to the city of Tucson's transportation department I am a genius.

Here is my suggestion: Raise the fares to $457.58 per ride. Critics point out that streetcars have fallen out of favor, citing Disneyland's decision to close Toontown's Jolly Trolley in 2009 because Roger Rabbit made it impossible for a streetcar to maneuver safely. Undaunted by such whining, City Manager Richard Miranda said the light-rail system will attract people downtown - people hoping to overturn the streetcars like angry Greeks.

• If carping and griping and finger-pointing could build a city, Tucson would be Manhattan with saguaros.

I eat and shop downtown often in support of the many capitalists who have risked it all by planting their stake in all that's left of the old heart of the Old Pueblo. You can still feel the frontier, Dillinger and the barrio ghosts, and in the old bricks you can feel the potential.

I'll take downtown over the plague of characterless strip malls and suburbia splendida that dull our valley. Where the faint-hearted see bureaucrats and boondoggles, farsighted risk-takers are reviving it parcel by parcel like forty-niners who see a gold mine.

• Lunching at The Hub I came upon this tabloid nugget:


Tea Party Baby,

Listen, doll face, I think it's time we saw other people. In fact, don't come near me for the next couple of weeks. I already started to lie about us to strangers: I never saw you before in my life.

I'd like to hang out with other people. People like centrists and moderates, you know, crazy cats who aren't Neanderthals. And, frankly, you are embarrassing.

Now, don't cry. Remember that time when I made a birther joke to cheer you up? I even learned to speak your racial code language at rallies. All I had to say was "food stamps are for losers" and you'd squeal like a tomcat.

It's been humiliating when I think about what I had to do, and say, to get you to like me.

I'll call after the election.

Good times,


Email Star cartoonist David Fitzsimmons: