According to a ridiculous USA TODAY poll, the best place to view a sunset is not Tucson. We came in seventh behind Clearwater Beach, Fla.; Leland, Mich.; Albuquerque; Key West, Fla.; the Outer Banks and Puerto Vallarta.
Clearwater Beach! Florida! That’s right, Florida, America’s alligator petting zoo and hurricane magnet.
Apparently, the leather hides who plant their Speedos on boring beaches think watching the sun sink behind a flat empty ocean is “spectacular.” I can’t relate to those who spend a fortune flying, or days driving, just so they can sit like a beached Buddha and stare at a vast puddle “in wonder.” The tide goes out. The tide goes in. Yawn. Oh wait, it’s going out again. Wow, that was cosmic. The sun, bored to death, shrugs its solar shoulders and falls in like a despairing tangerine plopping into a bucket of mop water.
Voted on by “the public,” the list was compiled by “experts.” Experts? What in the name of Roy Rogers are “sunset experts” — nearsighted beach bums in lab coats, with clipboards and color wheels? Something is clearly awry.
No place on this planet can match Tucson’s splendid sunsets.
I’m used to my state coming in dead last for education, a close second to Texas for “most idiotic politicians” and behind Guam when it comes to quality of life — but this? This is too much.
Our sunsets are unparalleled stellar performances thanks to our unique landscape, our limitless sky, and the supporting cast of amazing clouds that occasionally show up to escort the big guy home for night.
Our sky is so big it makes Montana’s sky cry. Wyoming just runs away. Our sky is so big it’s above you and behind you at the same time. It won’t return Hollywood’s phone calls. Our sky is so big no matter where you are, there it is.
And clouds? Some days it’s as if God googled the word “cloud,” clicked on “images,” printed up the entire range and selection, and pinned them all above our heads. And there’s still room left over for vast patches of blue empty sky possessing such a mystical hue the geniuses at Crayola can’t name it.
And the setting? Try to compete with the saw-toothed Tucson Mountains, dotted with battalions of saguaros standing at respectful attention like a thousand forks held upright, in anticipation of the visual feast to come.
Our sunsets are so amazing it’s a shame the sun does only one show a night. And every night it’s a different show. Some evenings we have the “Hey look, God is in town sunset!” ( a stunning re-creation of the grand opening of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood in 1927.) Some evenings we get the “T-t-t-that’s all, folks! Sunset” or the blinding “Neon Cyclops Sunset.”
But my favorite sunset, numero uno, is the “John-Wayne-Totally-Technicolor-I-think-I-hear-the-theme-to-‘The Magnificent Seven’-Sunset.”
Some evenings, when the Earth rolls east, the sun sinks in the west like a buttery campfire biscuit behind the Tucson Mountains. On those nights I can hear Gene Autry strumming on his guitar in front of crackling mesquite and singing a syrupy Western ballad. By the time the sky has finished turning from crimson to magenta to gold, a mournful choir of canines commences to yip “adios.” Take that, ocean sunsets. As if a squawking seagull or a bleating foghorn could compete with a coyote’s twilight serenade. Surrender now, Clearwater. Give up, Leland, Mich.
Tucson’s sunsets are free, the IMAX screen is huge, and there are no 3-D glasses. Our sunsets are so super-produced-in-Panavision-cinematic that the sun should charge money for its autograph. Each night I expect to see “The End” written across the sky in letters 100,000 feet high, followed by scrolling credits:
Produced and directed by: Good God Almighty Himself
Starring: The Sun
Special effects by: Scarlet Cloud Studios
Violet Cumulus Productions
In association with: Industrial Light and Mother Nature’s Golden Magic
I like the sunset from Gates Pass the best. It’s so compelling the county should post a notice at the site:
“Warning: Watching a sunset from here may result in shortness of breath, frequent eye-rubbing, and cosmic epiphanies about the nature of existence.”
Here the sun collides with your consciousness at the intersection of desert and sky. It’s easy to watch the yellow cue ball drop into God’s corner pocket day after day and take the game for granted. But then it happens: A still and silent dusk and a departing star, 92 million miles away, arrests us. With its profound magnificence, the ball of fire commends, “Stop what you’re doing. Look at me. Consider the gift of life.”
Cathedrals in Paris dream of stained glass windows that are half as beautiful as our sunsets. Like a comma punctuating the accumulating rhythm of existence they inspire this blessing: May the last sunset you see be a Tucson sunset.