Monday, June 29, 2009

My feelings about Phoenix

Updates. It has been a while since I have been on a flight, so there has been a bit of a delay in updating But I am currently on a flight back to San Francisco from Phoenix, where I spent about seven hours today. It’s a 90+ minute flight in each direction, so the whole trip isn’t so unbearable. My dad is actually flying from Atlanta to San Francisco tomorrow for a two hour meeting and then returning home, which sounds much more unpleasant, if you ask me.

But even a short trip to Phoenix is not without its unpleasantries. One of those not-so-nice things is Phoenix itself. At a mild 106 degrees, I made the mistake of parking a couple of blocks away from where I was headed for my meeting and I walked. I thought I would pass out. I was so sweaty and so hot, it was a terrible embarrassment to walk into the meeting, but I made a quick stop in the gentleman’s room and refreshed enough to bury my smell beneath some liquid soap.

So much of Phoenix is about suburban development patterns imposed on a dry, dusty desert, where nothing really should have ever been built. I was trying to think that if the fine designers of the American footprint in Arizona had agreed to build everything in small villages and disallow wide flat straight roads, the state would be an amazing wonderland, but instead looks a bit more like a crumbling suburban parking lot. Wal-Mart has carried out its ever-destructive policy of building and abandoning stores all over the Phoenix region, keeping the notion of a deserted wasteland of dying suburbs.

Don’t get me wrong, not everything about Phoenix is bad: I once went to a wedding on a beautiful golf course in Scottsdale in the middle of July. The grass was remarkably green, even under the baking sun. The guests cheerily waited for delays in getting the wedding started because the anorexic bride’s family didn’t seem to care that the guests were all burning to a crisp on folding chairs on the golf course in the sun in the middle of the day in July. I don’t know that anyone passed out, but everyone looked really sweaty and awful on the golf course in the sun in the middle of the day in July. At least the reception was inside: my sister and I were seated with all of the bride’s friends from her eating disorders support group who collectively ate a radish.

One thing Phoenix has going for it are towns in the metro area with cool names like Surprise and Peoria and Tempe. And then there’s Scottsdale, but I always accidentally call it Scottdale, which was the name of the low-income suburb in DeKalb County, Georgia, where the poor kids at Druid Hills High School lived. There was one classmate of mine who was very, very poor and lived in a broken down house on the side of Scott Boulevard. He had a very heavy southern accent – extremely country, like the father Hillbilly Bear. I wonder what happened to him. I hope he’s living a happy life. But I always think of his shack and his torn clothes and his acne when I think of Scottsdale.

I had about 30 minutes to swing by a Mexican mall on my way to the airport and explore a nightmarish store called La Curacao which sold crappy Mexican things and a bunch of TVs with their volumes turned up so loud that they could hear the Univision broadcast next door in New Mexico. There was one of those dismal 99.99¢ Stores, too, that I walked into. I bought a book that makes fun of George Bush for 99.99¢ and some dental floss for 99.99¢. One day I would like to buy 100 items and see if the last one is actually only 99¢. Anyway, there was a slightly fermenting man standing behind me in line, a black man, which was unusual since everyone else in the place was Latino and he told me he really liked my purse. I thanked him. And then he continued:

“It’s a really nice purse.”

“Yes, it’s a good bag,” I said, with one of my charitable smiles.

“If I had one of those I could fill it up. You got it filled up with money? You need a big bag filled with money.”

I chuckled and said that I wish it were filled with money. “Ha ha ha.” The cashier also joined in with an awkward laugh. I still had not told him my purse was actually a $75 Timbuktu computer bag with a $2500 computer inside, and that I was carrying it around in this 99.99¢ store because I did not want it to melt in my Dollar rent-a-car in the 106-degree climate.

“I wish I had me a bag like that.” He continued as I handed the cashier $4.25, my purchase plus tax, which, I suppose technically should have been $4.249625. “My wife, they took her away and put her in the nursing home.”

“Oh no,” I said with sincere empathy.

He continued. “I’m 90 and my wife is 91 and they took her and put her in a nursing home.”

“I’m so sorry. That can’t be easy.” I collected my change from the cashier and she flashed me a smile showing her appreciation that I was being nice to the man whose purchases she would have to ring up next. “ I wish you the very best,” I said, like that insincere Christian woman who appears in the movie The Lost Boys of Sudan.

I dashed off to Sky Harbor airport, to catch my flight. I spent a bit of time in the dreary United Airlines Red Carpet Room and ate a few too many plastic-wrapped brownies before setting my butt in my seat on the plane. And here I am in seat 2C, next to someone who was irate that there wasn’t an outlet to plug in his computer, and who ordered a ginger ale and burped one of those belches that smells like bologna. Yuck. And then he burped again. And again. Bologna breath. Loud burps. Horrid. I hope he never finds an outlet.

And the woman in front of me talks incessantly – nonstop to the polite woman next to her – about living in Monterey and opening a congregant living facility for older single women because she has a language arts masters degree and another masters degree in gerontology and this is her passion and she’s been engaged three times and was married once but then had an affair and left her husband and her son is 31 and blah blah, talking much louder than the volume of the safety presentation video that was announced by the most excellent flight attendant I’ve encountered in a really long time (John), who keeps bringing me wine and cheese and fruit. It’s a little different than my crappy US Airways flight to Phoenix this morning, where they actually forgot to show a flight safety presentation (neither video nor live action), which may have been the first flight I’ve ever been on without a safety presentation. Given US Airways’ recent track record, they’d better be doing safety demonstrations.

I have relatives in Phoenix. I did not call them because there wasn’t time. If we win this project (I was there for a pre-bid conference) I will give them a call. And the project would be scheduled to take place during the fall, winter and spring months, so I’m hoping the temperature would all be a bit more bearable.

In the meantime, I’m off to Houston next week and then San Diego at the end of the week and then to Michigan the following week, and back to San Diego, so I’m hoping to stay out of the extreme heat for a little while and will be landing in my cool San Francisco in about 15 minutes.

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