Tell me Mrs. Rita what’s it say in my tarot
Read my palm and tell me why do lovers come and go
— the prophets valenzuela and swafford
I read the news today. Oh boy.
A developer just put Mrs. Rita’s house up for sale for $3.5 million.
It’s a modest little abode on the edge of downtown Tempe. A small home with a big sign: “mrs.rita/spiritual awakening center/psychic-tarot.”
She’s been there about 30 years, the same time I arrived here. The sign was always a part of my weekly Tour de Screechy Female Singers, on the way from Tower to Zia’s and Buffalo. It was an odd bit of quirkiness in a college neighborhood that needed more eclectic touches.
And then in 1992, one of the Gin Blossoms wrote a song about her, and she became a part of pop history.
Those were my best years of running. I was bulletproof. Huge mileage, insane races, back in time to go to the Sun Club or Long Wong’s to see the boys play and down enough elixir to soothe the quads. I didn’t need a fortune teller to know this would last forever.
But then it didn’t.
Their fame skyrocketed, then fell, landing to the right of I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson. You can still see it there if you’re driving to Picacho Peak. My running fortunes dwindled as well. You can now find me running mostly at state fairs and afternoon Six Flags shows.
Though fame, and speed, are fleeting, Mrs. Rita was forever, a little shrine to a happy time.
And now, forever is ending. They shut down Long Wong’s, the greatest music bar in the history of the planet, in 2004. Leveled it for a new development. Thirteen years later, it’s still a gravel lot on Mill in Tempe. The Sun Club, where the Blossoms got their big break, is an empty lot as well. I’m not a big fan of developers.
Nor, I guess, is Mrs. Rita. When the paper contacted her for a reaction, she had no idea her home was being sold. Developer hadn’t bothered to tell her. Which I suppose says something about her fortune-telling abilities, but hey. We all lose a step down the line.
I miss those days. Snowy runs at 6,000 feet followed by a Rolling Rock at a dive bar listening to a band who you suspect should be famous. And then they were. Plotting runs across Texas while listening to a bootleg of songs that would become soundtracks to a generation’s life. And a weekly drive past the sign of a fortune teller who became a little part of rock history.
It’s true. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.
Pave paradise and put up a parking lot …