Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"Arizona, Here We Come"

A whirlwind trip – less than forty-eight hours – to Phoenix and environs, visiting an old friend and his wonderful family, and take in a Spring Training ballgame, Angels versus Cubs, the Cubs prevailing to my Chicago wife’s contrarian delight – the game being played at the Angels’ Spring Training facility – eight to one.

The hotel we stayed at, built by Frank Lloyd Wright – not by himself, but he told them where to put the bricks – boasts a lobby so magnificent, if they gave out an award for “Best Lobby” – and I am unaware that they don’t – the Winner’s Trophy would unquestionably be retired, and on permanent display in that lobby. Other lobbies come there, just to look at it. And go,

“Yeah, it’s better.”

It is that spectacular.

On the other hand…

On our first morning, we take a short hike, adjacent to the hotel. We travel along a dirt path, on the right of which is a man-made golf course and on our left, is a man-made canal. It occurs to me that the only thing “authentically Phoenix” about the terrain is the dirt path.

Further in the distance are indigenous cacti and other desert vegetation. Ringing the area beyond that is a clearly visible line of foothills the locals call mountains, but Everest would snort milk out its nose at the comparison. They are strikingly beautiful, but let’s leave “mountains” for places you cannot climb without oxygen.

(I include the words “clearly visible”, because L.A. too is ringed by foothill/slash/”Yeah, right” mountains, but due to the atmospheric conditions, by which I mean smog, you can only see them a couple of times a year. If you drove there on a “smog day”, you could smash right into them, going, “I forgot they were there”, as your vehicles explodes into flame.)

I make the following distinction, though others may not. For me, natural beauty is ice cream for the eyes; trucked-in beauty falls into silicone-enhancement territory. The Phoenix area has both. I emphatically prefer the former.

A fine dinner at a local Mexican restaurant yields two memorable moments. Surrendering to the “When in Rome…” spirit, Dr. M and I share one Margarita. Shortly thereafter, when the waitress delivers my food, adding the obligatory, “Don’t touch the plate; it’s very hot”, I immediately touch the plate. I attribute this unwise maneuver to “Half-A-Margarita” inebriation. (Also I do not like to be told what to do.)

Game Day

The cloudless sky is a piercing blue, temperature in the low seventies, with a light, zephyrous breeze.

It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame.

My special treat this day is the company of a thirteen year-old “pro in waiting” who combines baseball knowledgability with a beyond-his-years patience for my constantly peppering questions.

“How does it help your timing if, in batting practice, they pitch more slowly than they do in the game?

“In batting practice, you don’t work on your timing. You work on your ‘mechanics’.”

“Baseball is the most individual ‘team sport.’ You pitch alone, you hit alone, you field alone…”

“Yeah, but you score as a team.”

“How can you tell if a player has ‘Major League potential’?”

“‘Smooth at the plate, and in the field.”

(He later points to a second baseman-trying-to-make-the-team’s imperceptibly imperfect fielding of a ground ball, observing, “That was not smooth.” I could not see it, till he insightfully pointed it out.)

It was the most educational ballgame I ever attended. I felt like a freshman at “Baseball U.” Tutored by a youthful but savvy “Professor of the Game.”

(He also pointed out a late-inning pitcher who was so low on the “food chain”, he was issued a Velcro, rather than a fitted, baseball cap. The man’s cap is telling him he’s going to the minors.)

Dinner was at a hamburger place. I ordered a mushroom burger, cooked medium. To which the waitress replied, what sounded like,


Though she repeated it three times, no one at the table had a clue what “Sum-pin-kokay” meant. Finally, we discerned it had to do with the meat coloration in the burger.

Although I like Phoenix, as with the geographical placement of Las Vegas, I have no idea what it’s doing there. New York, abutting a waterway, is a port, and became a financial center. Los Angeles is also a port, and became the home of the movie (and later the television) industry.

What exactly is Phoenix, and what is it doing where it is?

I could “Google” the answer, but as of now, just looking at it, a place in the desert that could very easily be a place somewhere else in the desert, I am befuddled by its existence. It’s like, “We’re big, and we’re here. Why? We have no idea.”

We were supposed to get up at four-thirty in the morning for a six-thirty departure. We subsequently change our plans to a more civilized nine-thirty departure. Nevertheless, and inexplicably since we had not set it to do so, our room’s clock radio clicked on at four A.M.

I don’t know how that happened, but I have a suspicion it was Phoenix, getting me back.


Zaraya said...

Dear Mr. Pomerantz; it sounds that Phoenix would be a good place to visit if you have a reason to. That is to say it is not a destination in its own right like London or Paris.

Why is it where it is? I suspect that canal you walked by holds the key, there are rivers nearby.


Doug said...


Your blog is a delight. I read every weekday.

I was especially pleased that you wrote well of my hometown, Phoenix.

I know the hotel where you stayed, and it is magnificent.

You asked why Phoenix is where it is. An interesting question since early in your post, you mentioned that the canal that meanders past the hotel is artificial. Indeed, it is. But this canal follows the route of ancient canals constructed some 400 years ago by the Hohokam people. The Hohokam were an agricultural community that for unexplained reasons disappeared even before Europeans laid eyes on our desert here in li'l 'ol Arizona.

So, unbeknownst to you, our humble correspondent, you inadvertantly answered your own question as to why Phoenix exists. The water in that canal became - after treatment of course - what you and Dr. M used to ice down that margarita.

Aren't connections like that wonderful?

Say yes.

Best wishes to you from a conservative, GOP, Gentile from Phoenix who thinks you're great.

Garth Stensttall said...

Phoenix has an interesting history, well worth a peek at Wikipedia. Of course it is a destination in itself. That's exactly what it was for you and yours, wasn't it? It is now the 14th largest city in the US (by pop.)...but you can read all that stuff on your own, and much faster than I can type! Phoenix is a great destination for baseball fans in the spring, as well as for others with varying interests, throughout the year. Don't pigeonhole this meca with a trite declaration of a singular puprose. No, I do not live in the Phoenix area, nor anywhere near it. But it's a great destination!