On Her Birthday, Reporter Learns About Persistence

I turned 22 on Sunday. My fun wasn’t the usual food-and-drinks type; it was the life-of-a-reporter type. At the Institute, days off don’t exist.

After some dead ends, I returned to the newsroom disappointed. The day editor threw this wacky but exciting idea at me: Ask local Tucsonans what they think about the city’s rock-and-roll history. After all, Paul McCartney mentions Tucson in the 1970s hit “Get Back” and diehard fans of Bob Dylan have said he found Jesus in a Tucson hotel.

This was the first I ever heard of such tales. I dig The Beatles and all, but I’m not too familiar with their songs and definitely not the stories behind them. I remembered “Get Back” after a search on Spotify, but the Bob Dylan thing? Never heard of it. Ever.

I still liked the story idea. “It’s on,” I thought.

My editors directed me to the Tap Room, a bar on Congress Street. Here, I would find many rock-and-roll fans.

First I needed an amber ale — to blend in, you know? (Besides, it was still my birthday.) The crowd appeared young: late 20s to early 30s. Uh-oh.

I talked to about 10 people, all who live or grew up in Tucson. Some had heard of “Get Back,” but none knew its back story. Some say that “Jojo,” who is mentioned in the song, was Mr. McCartney’s wife’s ex-husband. But he claims it was a fictional half-man, half-woman character.

Who really knows the truth? Definitely not Tucsonans.

None of them had even heard the Bob Dylan myth. I thought I was failing again…

I tried another bar, Che’s Lounge, on Fourth Avenue. The crowd was definitely older but not more helpful.

I got this one guy, Jim Cox, talking about old-school Tucson, when Linda McCartney would drive around in her Rolls-Royce. He didn’t know much else.

It was nearly 11 p.m. at this point. My birthday was almost done. And this story? It just felt like another dead end. Defeated, I left.

Students indulged in a chocolate cake topped with fudge and an ice cream cake to celebrate two birthdays in the newsroom.
Students indulged in a chocolate cake topped with fudge and an ice cream cake to celebrate two birthdays in the newsroom. Lyanne Alfaro/NYT Institute

In the morning, though, I awoke refreshed. The day before hadn’t been a failure. A story came out from my earlier “dead ends.” And I even scored a phone number at the Tap Room.

More importantly, I learned the importance of perseverance. I kept trying and trying. Sure, my story didn’t work out as planned, but it didn’t fail either. Failure is falling and refusing to stand back up.

At the Institute, failure is not an option — especially not on your birthday.