Mike Powell’s column is about living in Arizona.
My friend Raul is thirty-six and until recently played in a band called the Electric Blankets. Raul works at a bar that I drink at all the time. I generally don’t talk to bartenders because I don’t want to get in their way, a trait I’ve always considered to be European but have been informed is just unfriendly. One night, Raul saw me at a party and he patted me on the back and that was that.
Raul lives here in Tucson on an expired green card. He was born in Tijuana and moved to Southern California when he was eleven. His family started a Mexican restaurant outside San Diego; it turned into two. As a teenager, Raul started going up to Los Angeles with a crew of kids to dance to hard house, a genre of music I was unfamiliar with until Raul told me about it. “DJ Irene,” he says. “DJ Trajic.” I listened to them later. It sounds like a pinball machine crossed with construction noise.
Raul married a friend when he was twenty-three and moved to Tucson shortly thereafter. The plan was to stay for eight months; that was eleven years ago. Raul watched the 2016 presidential election at his bar in a state of mounting anxiety. Tucson is a blue pocket in a mostly red state. The plan was to celebrate. “We had TVs, we had bands, we had guest speakers,” he says. By the end of the night, he was crying on his barstool, “not out of sadness or anger, but out of fear. It felt like the fucking twilight zone.” Read More