In Arizona the Imagination Fails to Take Root

This is about the passage of time.
Here in Arizona, we live in a dream world created by our own imagination.
We are, of necessity, citizens of a different country. The television networks have decreed that the real world consists of New York City and Washington, D.C. Unless they subscribe to cable television, readers in the East don't get the Arizona State football scores from Saturday night until Monday morning.

And so we cling here, waiting anxiously for things to change. For us, the next great show trial will solve all our problems and it is always just moments away.

I came to Arizona ten years ago when it wasn't easily discernible that Bob Corbin was talking out of the side of his mouth when he promised to seek out the killers of Don Bolles.

The fact that I remember the Bolles case makes me an Arizona native. Corbin is still attorney general, but he has become a strangely compliant one. Now when you write Bolles' name, you are required to add this ominous and somehow distracting footnote: Bolles was an Arizona Republic investigative reporter who was murdered by a group of men paid to kill him with a car bomb in broad daylight.

That plainly indicates that Bolles is in our minds about as much as any deceased Beirut politician. He's a shadowy figure who used to play tennis with Burton Barr. He drove a secondhand Datsun in which he met his death.

Do you, by any chance, remember when Datsun ran television commercials promising to plant a tree for every car purchased in America? This is not meant to be a relevant remark.

Here in Arizona, everything changes. And yet nothing really changes. Land fraud and killings make far more stimulating reading than promises of prosperity through acquisition of the 1993 Super Bowl. This is a state that deserves M. Scott Peck and even plump Senator Tony West.

The slick Ned Warren, who died in prison, preceded Charles Keating, the great and close friend of Mother Teresa. Wyatt Earp and Winnie Ruth Judd were as well-known and respected in their day as John Harvey Adamson.

Now the estimable Keating is at center stage. Senator Dennis DeConcini and his aides, Ron Ober and Earl Katz, are closely linked with him.

But don't expect to live long enough to see this matter resolved.
Above all, if you did business with Keating, don't expect your money back really soon. You might recover more quickly by sinking huge portions of your weekly pay into the Arizona lottery.

I'm reminded of one of the judges who ruled on Maya Ying Lan's Vietnam War Memorial. She was a Yale graduate who had earned a B grade for the design in her architectural class. The professor who graded her work was one of 14,241 entrants to the memorial contest but he didn't make the finals.

"Washington is full of white memorials rising," the judge wrote condescendingly. "This is a dark memorial receding." That is just the kind of intellectual talk that infuriates people who, instead of going to Harvard and Yale, went to Saigon or Khe Sanh and got badly shot up for their trouble.

I went to Washington to see the memorial a few weeks before its dedication.

I stood for an hour staring at the names on the long wall of polished black granite that is anchored below the earth to a depth of ten feet. A man standing next to me said something that has ever since seemed strangely applicable to Arizona.

"Vietnam was bad for us because we never knew what we wanted to do there. So how can we know what we want to do here now?" Do we know even now in Arizona what we really want to do?

Why must we build the Thomas Road overpass on the Squaw Peak Parkway as an afterthought? Will our suspicions about the dangers of Palo Verde ever dissipate? Is Terry Goddard gay? Does it make a difference? Has there ever been a candidate for mayor who resembled Ebenezer Scrooge more than Burt Kruglick does?

I often make the mistake of thinking the biggest story of the day is the most readable one. By the time I get to it, it's almost always old news.

So I went to Tucson for John Harvey Adamson's second trial in the Bolles murder. The jury, of course, gave him the death penalty. But there was an incredible debate that delayed the verdict.

Before he died, Bolles had uttered Adamson's name to witnesses. One juror was actually convinced by this that Bolles had been trying to "frame" Adamson.

Years later, I visited Adamson in the prison at Florence where he still sits on death row.

Prison had worked a miracle on his appearance. Porcine and strangely ominous at the trial, Adamson had become the picture of health. With his chronic alcoholism arrested by incarceration, Adamson looked like an advertisement for NutraSweet(R). He lost sixty pounds. He worked in the prison library and become a voracious reader. The quality of his life had actually improved.

"Do you think about the death penalty?" I asked.

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