Birthday boy Jose Bernal was enjoying his dinner at a popular Tucson steakhouse when the waiter came up and told him there was a problem.
The problem was not a fly in Bernal’s ranch beans, but rather a banned accessory around Bernal’s neck.
The birthday boy was wearing a necktie.
After asking the room full of diners if Bernal should be hung by his tie for wearing one – and many said “Yes,” the waiter instead pulled out a large pair of scissors and neatly snipped the tie just beneath its knot.
The waiter then hung Bernal’s severed necktie with the rest of the snipped-tie gallery that lines the rafters, walls and ceiling parts at Pinnacle Peak.
Yes, Bernal was laughing with the rest of the crowd, even when they voted to hang him. And yes, he knew if he wore a tie to the steakhouse it would get hacked off and hung on the wall.
Such traditions, however small, are part of what makes Tucson unique.
Another fun tradition used to crop up every April Fool’s Day for Tucson Police Department rookies. The newbies were told to respond to a report of a giant man with an ax running loose at a midtown intersection.
Pumped with adrenaline and zeal, rookies zoomed to the scene, on the corner of North Stone Avenue and West Glenn Street – only to find the Paul Bunyan statue wielding his weapon in all of his 18-foot glory.
This tradition has not been working too well of late, since Bunyan has been lacking his axe since November, thanks to another Tucson tradition we could do without.
Stealing Bunyan’s axe has been going on for decades. Likely performed by a group of mischievous or drunken college kids, the axe mysteriously disappears and then just as mysteriously returns.
The most recent ax theft was in November and, although reports said the hefty weapon was recovered, we have yet to see it back in the statue’s hands.
Bunyan has instead been gripping a now-grimy American flag for the past couple of months.
Another traditional theft that hits Tucson, and all of southern Arizona, is cactus robbery. Since we all know cactus are so difficult to grow in the desert, it makes perfect sense that folks are always so eager to snatch them up.
Saguaro National Park is a major target, and surely well worth it, since the punishment if caught often includes federal prison time. Tucsonan Joseph Tillman, 50, was sentenced in October to eight months in the federal pen for his part in a 2007 attempted saguaro theft.
Regular old neighborhoods and yards are also targeted, with a newly planted batch of more than a dozen barrel cactus snatched from a midtown neighborhood’s entrance in July.
So much for Homeowners Association dues going to good use.
While cactus and ax thefts may leave us prickly and wounded, we have one more local tradition that leaves us all wet.
Don’t forget the motorists who decide to drive through 8-foot-plus depths of water, often beneath the Stone or Sixth avenues underpasses. They even have a regulation named for them: the stupid motorist law.
This tradition usually features a teary-eyed driver on the evening news, complete with her flooded car in the background, whimpering something like she didn’t realize her car wouldn’t make it through a 12-foot pool of water.
Never mind the big yellow warning signs. Never mind the measuring stick on the side of the underpass that reflects the exact water level.
But alas, this tradition is drying up with lack of any substantial rain during monsoon. We haven’t seen a good enactment of the flooded underpass tradition in at least two years.
It’s heartbreaking when traditions are lost. But at least scissors stay perpetually sharpened and snipping off neckties at Pinnacle Peak.
Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and TucsonCitizen.com Ryngmaster who always orders the filet mignon at Pinnacle Peak. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at RynRules.com and Rynski.Etsy.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do you think?
What other Tucson traditions to you absolutely adore – or abhor?
Have you ever witnessed or engaged in any of the above-mention traditions?