The Tucson Brawl
After lunch with Vince Desi, I was left in downtown Tucson with plenty of time to spare. My Greyhound out of the city and into El Paso would be leaving later that evening and I had plenty of writing to catch up on. My intent was to find a quiet little bar – preferably with a power outlet and free wifi – so I could hammer out a few of my articles and relax a little after so much insanity trying to get out of California. With a few recommendations from random folk around town, I headed to 4th street where I found quite a few little places that could serve my needs.
The first to catch my eye was a little dive called Bison Witches, which had everything I needed and friendly staff that didn’t mind I was taking up an extra seat at the bar with my massive backpack. Generous with the pours and willing to let me stay for a while, I unfurled my laptop and got to typing.
Carrying a pack around with you earns you a different sort of attention than you’re used to. The well-to-do folks of the world tend to cross the road when you approach for fear of being asked for change, while other more down-to-earth individuals are curious about your story and want to help in any way they can. One of the bartenders, Jacob, took an interest in me and excitedly offered to show me about the town when he got off his shift. With not much else to do and no hope of getting any work done – the bar was pretty talkative – I agreed and we set out shortly after he wrapped up.
Within minutes of leaving the bar he called a gang of his friends, real cool folk, who escorted me about town and taught me their secret high-five formation. Bartenders tend to know other bartenders’ bars, and so we wound up at a place a friend of his managed. There I was plied with some delightfully pungent jalapeno-infused vodka while Jacob snickered at my souring face. It usually takes quite a bit to get me toasted, but the combination of the pure alcohol and gutrotting jalapenos had me feeling a little woozy.
We walked about a little more, the gang pointing out Tucson hot spots, popped into a small bar with people dancing to Spanish guitars, and headed back down the street to the Bison Witches for a closer so I could catch my bus. Everything was going smooth and steady until the night ticked down to the closing hours and a commotion was heard outside around the corner.
Jacob (who was now dressed in short-shorts and a jersey after trying to cheer his friend up with a gag) and I headed out to see what was going on and found a gang of 6 or 7 guys kicking the shit out of a fat, balding, beady-eyed fellow with a torn shirt and no shoes. They were calling him a snitch or something and going to town on him, the creepy looking dude didn’t have much of a chance.
As much as watching the scene fascinated me, I really didn’t want to write about someone being brutalized, or worse killed, the next day. Jacob gave a knowing nod and before long we were in the fray trying to pull off at least a few of the aggressors. Considering my position as a foreigner and my predisposition to not dying, this was probably a boneheaded move, but it was too late to consider anything else now as we were already in the midst of it.
We managed to buy the dude enough time to get away, though he felt the need to taunt the gang as he fled (some people, right?!). I got clocked in the face a few times for my efforts, but once the dude was gone the fight broke up and the brawlers decided not to bother with Jacob or I.
After the tussle, we went to a nearby alley to regroup, calm down and gather ourselves for a moment. That’s when I looked at my watch and realized the whole event had made me miss my bus; no good deed unpunished, I guess. Realizing I wouldn’t make it to the station anywhere near my ideal departure time we sat around for a few more drinks before I grabbed my pack out of the back, said my goodbyes and headed out to find my way to the station hoping to catch a super-late night bus out of Arizona.
It took me a few hours to walk to the station without a map, but I found it and exhausted myself in the process. With no water, the strain of the fight, the alcohol dehydrating me, and my pack not helping any, I reached the station completely fatigued and wanted to go back in time and stab my earlier self for letting me get in this state.
The doors were locked and there were no busses in sight. Not a soul was around and too beat too find a motel or somewhere safe to sleep, I plopped down on the ramp leading up to the station, pulled out my pocket knife and slept until dawn.
It wasn’t my first time sleeping on concrete, but that didn’t make it any more pleasant. Morning came and I was chilled to the bone with a sickening cold that left me shaking, even when I managed to get a coffee and some warm food as the station opened. A bus to El Paso arrived a few hours later and I boarded, happy to make it out of Tucson alive.