if you like descriptions longer than one sentence, try this.
I'm Aengus Anderson. Among other things, I'm an independent radio producer. My projects have taken me across the United States and Canada, interviewing hundreds of people about their personal philosophies and how they think about the past, present, and future. Along the way, I've had a lot of conversations about the places people live, both because I'm visiting and because place is a backdrop to stories.
Radio work has gotten me interested in the idea of place, mostly because I think we—Americans—are embarrassingly ignorant about where we live. In interview after interview, I have been struck by how we are seemingly incapable of distinguishing between the dramas of our personal lives and the features of places. Went through a divorce in Los Angeles? Chances are you'll tell me it's a city of backstabbers and sycophants. Fell in love in Los Angeles? It's likely you'll swear it's a city of talent and opportunity. Conversations about place have revealed complex emotional lives but virtually nothing about the essence of places.
Americans are a transient bunch and transience comes with its share of drawbacks, including an ignorance of place. You could spend a lifetime trying to know something about your home, but a few years hardly gives you a chance to start. Do you even think of a place as home if you're not likely to be there for more than a few years? A sense of residential impermanence bleeds your interest in learning about a place and, more importantly, engaging with it.
Placeless people are mediocre citizens. You're not likely to govern or vote intelligently if you're just passing through.
Arizona, my home, has one of the most transient populations of any state in the union. It's also emblematic of the problems of placelessness: a massively apathetic electorate, shockingly incompetent state government, and series of policies that are totally disconnected from the realities of where I live. Try having a conversation about water in Phoenix. New arrivals—and there are so many new arrivals—probably never heard of Carl Hayden or the Central Arizona Project and wouldn't shed tears if the tap dried up and they had to move somewhere else. If you don't look closely, Phoenix is little more than a short term real estate venture disguised as a city. Underneath there is something unique and cool, a real place, but it's hard to find. The situation isn't significantly better down the road in Tucson, where I live. It isn't different anywhere else in the United States. Place is something you have to work for.
I am a mediocre citizen, too. I've lived in a lot of cities and spent years working on the road but, to be honest, I never lived in any of those other places because I never had time to care about them deeply. That bothers me. Tucsonense is my attempt to actually live somewhere, to spend years searching for the essence of the place I call home and to share what I find.
Naturally, I'll be doing this with audio—formal interviews, casual conversations, produced stories from around the city, an occasional monologue. I also shoot a lot of photos and know some very talented photographers and videographers, so I may drift into other media from time to time.
Every project I work on seems to need a subjectivity disclaimer. It's worth acknowledging that any attempt to capture a place's essence is doomed to be an imperfect and subjective thing—I mean, what is an "essence," anyway? If you want to wade into that swamp, I've written more about the essence of place here. Suffice it to say that this project is idiosyncratic. Inevitably, I'm going to leave out things and people you would include, just as I will include things you would judge extraneous. Sometimes that will be a judgment call, sometimes it will be because I'm ignorant. If you think there's someone I'm leaving out for either reason please reach out to me through social media.
A note on the name
Tucsonense (TOOK-SEWN-EN-SAY): Spanish. A resident of Tucson. El Tucsonense was Tucson's most prominent Spanish language newspaper from 1915 to 1962. Los Tucsonenses is Tom Sheridan's history of Tucson's Mexican community from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. In different ways, both chronicled the stories of people who were quintessentially Tucson. If I do my job well, Tucsonense will do the same.