Gabrielle Giffords recently returned home to Tucson with her husband, Mark Kelly. He said, "It's time to get back to a normal life in Tucson." Indeed.
What is normal in the Old Pueblo? Slathering on sunscreen with a paint roller? Sweeping tarantulas the size of carnival tilt-a-whirls off your porch? Taking in a clear night sky filled with more galactic marvels and shooting stars than a Woodstock acid trip?
Owning 20 different tweezers, one for each kind of cactus spine, is normal, right? So is yawning at yet another neon-hued sunset produced by God's Industrial Light and Magic Division. Not vermillion and gold again. Been there, done that and seen it.
Doesn't everyone outside of Tucson fall to their knees in gratitude and shout "hallelujah" when it rains? What could be more normal?
Witnessing so much lightning you'd swear cosmic paparazzi were popping a thousand flashbulbs across the sky is so ho-hum.
It's normal here for the meanest and nastiest cacti to produce the softest and loveliest blossoms west of God's Eden. If saguaros are normal, then Mother Nature experienced an immaculate conception with Dr.Seuss and there's nothing odd about an 8-foot-high spiny pickle with octopus arms.
Tell any Vern from Mississippi that the Santa Cruz is a river and see if they look at you like your dial is set to "normal." If that sand pit is a river then a swamp-in-a-box on your roof is normal.
When I hear the word "Phoenix" I hiss like a bobcat. Is that normal? And if you ask me if anything good ever came out of Phoenix, I'll always give you the same tired answer, "I-10." Is it normal to enjoy such petty sniping? You just did.
We live where bears come into town for fast food, hot dogs come with jalapeños and triple-digit temperatures come to be mocked. Try telling your aunt in Sheboygan that's normal. As normal as mariachis and bagpipers at the same bandshell.
Tell her for fun we like to beat papier-mâché donkeys like we're Joe Pesci playing whack-a-mole with Vegas mobsters. Then we cheer when the poor piñata upchucks its treats. Good behavior to teach the kids, you paper burro beaters.
Snorting hog beasts that look like giant porcupines are normal. Mother Nature had to be chewing jimson weed when she came up with javelinas.
Snakes that slither sideways. Toads that crawl out of the muck when the rains come. Cicadas that hammer their siren whirrrr like a stuck Philip Glass record.
All perfectly normal according to Noah, the ancient mariner, who retired here to Sun City because he was "sick of the rain."
He claims he has no idea how they got on the ark. "Besides," he said, "any town that has a parade dedicated to the dead, a bridge with a tail that rattles and a statue of Pancho Villa has no right to call anything weird. That's just the kind of weird you'd expect from a dry gulch that produces Olympic swimmers and goes nuts over an annual festival devoted to rocks."
Say "howdy" to a Tucsonan and odds are good you'll get a smiling "howdy" right back at you. That kind of sunny cheer is greeted with skepticism in most of the world. Not so here. Not in a town that tears up the same road 20 times, cries over elephants and puts Santa hats on the ears of Padre Kino's horse.
Not in a town where the university mascot is a cat in a cowboy hat with a David Hasselhoff tan and people line up to see a night-blooming cactus like it was the Hope Diamond. Not in a town where the average temperature is twice Betty White's age and there are "Caution: Ice on bridge" signs waiting for the blizzard.
That's no weirder than the little rubber saguaro with the mouse-sized cowboy hat and Barbie sunglasses impaled on the antenna of your neighbor's pickup. Or the rusty ore cart in the yard down the street pulled by eight tiny pink flamingos.
Or the fact that one second it's Bangladesh in flood season and in the next instant it's a dry-as-a-bone Sahara with saguaros. That's the norm for the city that's three heatstrokes this side of warm.
What is it about this "moment of Zen" zone south of the Tortolitas? Is it the elevation, the longitude, the latitude? You have to admit we give "weird" plenty of latitude here. If Portland's motto is "Keep Portland weird" then Portland should try harder.
It's Saturday and I will argue that flip-flops and a T-shirt qualify as on-the-go formalwear ideal for any occasion, including watching anvil clouds float across the sky like migrating blue whales.
I may wash my car in hopes of triggering an oceanic storm or I might just head for my hammock and commit myself to a full-on siesta. Tough choice.
What can be sweeter than a beautifully dull nothing-much-going-on normal day in Tucson? Just ask your former congresswoman.