The House We Live In: Noche en Blanco by Amy Knight
A Series on Building the Sustainable Home in Tucson, Arizona
I spent most of this weekend in Prescott, Arizona. I was there as part of a conference for criminal defense lawyers—but I also got to spend some time walking around the downtown. I had a nice enough time, but had pretty much exhausted the things I felt like doing there in a couple of hours. There were a lot of kitschy souvenirs. There wasn’t much in the way of edge.
I was having a conversation with a friend this week who is struggling in New York. Everything is so expensive. You spend so much of your money on the tiniest, dingiest place to live. I tried to encourage him to move to a small city but, you know, he’s just one of those people who wants to be in New York.
Then, yesterday evening, I had the most wonderful Tucson experience. There is a pop-up dinner that happens in various cities around the world, called some variation on Night in White (Noche en Blanco here), where everyone converges on a designated spot in the city and brings their own tables, chairs, dishes, food, wine—and dresses all in white. There’s no one there telling you where to go or what to do or enforcing the rules. Everyone just cooperates. At last night’s event, there was so much joy, and I didn’t see a single person behaving selfishly or making life difficult for other participants. It also reinforced how much I love the size of this city. As I walked around, I saw plenty of people I knew—and also plenty of people I didn’t. I met some new and amazing people and ran into friends I didn’t know would be there (but of course they were). It was just right.
I moved to Tucson in 2006 to get my MFA in creative writing. I picked it because the offered me the best financial package. I had spent my entire life (excluding my babyhood, which I cannot remember) on the East Coast—never more than about an hour’s drive from the ocean. I eventually left to go to law school in California (although I can’t say I wasn’t tempted by the offer from the law school right here in Tucson), and life and relationships took me north, but I had family here and I came back to visit periodically during those years.
This is the only city I’ve ever lived in that I never got tired of. I’m sure part of that is that it has continued to grow and change, faster than anywhere else I’ve lived. Even now, our downtown (which is an easy bike ride from where my house will be!) is transforming. New hotels and restaurants and retails and condos. Walkable streets. There is certainly kitsch to be found but there is also so much genuine art, live music, murals, theater, poetry scrolling across the LED signs at the streetcar stops. There’s nowhere else I’d rather call home.
Amy Knight is the fiction editor for Terrain.org. In this weekly series, she chronicles the process of designing and building an eco-friendly house in Tucson, Arizona. The series will explore both how it’s done and what it means, from the perspective of someone who wants to do the right thing but knows almost nothing about sustainable building. Look for new posts every Monday. You can email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment here. Visit her website, or follow her on twitter @amypknight.