That’s not my dad, that’s Morrissey.

26 March 2013

The Hippo/Falcon and I returned home yesterday from our trip to Phoenix. I spent a little time exploring Phoenix. Once the board meeting was complete, we drove to Vegas for a night before heading back to Salt Lake City.

Let’s start with Phoenix.

Walking Phoenix – I sit around the hotel room and watch something called “March Madness” in which a group of sports teams play basketball in order to win some sort of championship. Most, if not all, fans of this event complete what are called “brackets,” which do not refer to punctuation, but instead refer to a game of prognostication to predict the winner of the madness. I clap at one point when a human male makes a “sweet three-pointer.” I decide to leave the hotel.

I know where to find a Starbucks coffee shop, but I want to find something local where all the college kids hang out (Arizona State University is right down the street for fuck’s sake). I walk to the front desk at the hotel and ask if there are good coffee shops around.

“Not really,” says the front desk clerk as she shakes her head to indicate the negative.

“Are there any good bars around,” I inquire. She consults her comrades and notes The Canyons is a good bar. I had been to The Canyons the night before and didn’t want to limit the scope of my travels to the same place right away. I thank her for the information and leave the lobby.

I walk into the warm and breezy Phoenix day. This is Saturday. I expect the sidewalks to be crowded with students and regular humans enjoying a warm day. What I see is space and emptiness. I feel the openness and lack of cluster that is Phoenix in the area surrounding Van Buren and 5th Street. The city is open and warm and I can probably walk with my eyes closed and not bump into another person. I meander by the public transportation rail line. The cars look like old, silver railroad cars. I want to ride, but decide to keep walking. I walk to the park. A gigantic creation that is a series of nets in the shape of a descending tornado is secured by giant cables. I assume this is the centerpiece of the park. (It is.) I walk on past, well, nothing really. I see a courthouse and several areas where one can catch sporting events or a play. I see hotels. Most of what I see is colored yellow and brown and white and made to look like adobe buildings. On occasion, I believe I am in Florida as the colors jump into aquamarines and sea foam greens and purples.

I find an establishment called Chloe’s Corner. Like the rest of the area I see, the place is open. I see a salad bar, a bar resembling a diner (complete with barstools and food service), a separate wine bar, a patio and a huge dining room. A quick scan of the menu board assures me I can order coffee in this place. I walk to the counter and order a 16 oz cappuccino.

“Is that your dad,” asks the man taking my order. I am puzzled for a moment before looking down and seeing the button I am wearing. The Hippo/Falcon’s brother, Adamantium, made a button for me. This button simply has Morrissey’s face, looking casually glum.

“No. That’s Morrissey, former lead singer of The Smiths.” I always have to include the defining information, much to my chagrin. How can everyone in the world not love Morrissey in the same way I do? (To be fair, I did not discover the music of Morrissey until I was in graduate school. I started with You Are The Quarry and have never looked back.) The person behind the counter laughs and apologizes. He gives me a card with a number on it and I find a place to sit. Someone different brings my cappuccino to me. I assume she finds me because the number I have (20) must correspond with my order. Fascinating and efficient.

I sip the warm beverage and take in the beauty and calm of the day. I begin proofreading the novel I wrote last November as part of National Novel Writing Month. I make notations. I look outside at the people walking around. They wear shorts. They hold hands. They smoke cigarettes. I finish my cappuccino, go to use the restroom and leave, back out into the warm day. I walk around and feel the pleasure of sweating in the heat, happy to be out of the depressing winter chill of Salt Lake City.

Deciding I have walked enough to earn lunch and a beer, I choose comfort and walk to the outdoor shopping mall for lunch at The Canyons (the place we went for dinner the previous night). I order a local beer (Epicenter) and a Caesar salad done Southwestern style (the dressing is slightly spicy and tortilla chip pieces are piled on top of the lettuce). I sit and read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and enjoy the pleasure of sitting outside. I am anonymous and at ease.

Later, I plan to meet The Hippo/Falcon and her colleagues at a bar/restaurant in a downtown hotel. I arrive early and go to the bar. I order a dark draft beer. I pay the bartender and begin sipping the beer. The March Madness is on television. I go for another sip of beer. The glass catches on the napkin. In my panic, I slosh a cup full of beer onto the bar, my khaki pants and my chair. The bartender gives me napkins. I wipe up. The stains slowly disappear into my pants. Magic. I look up and the bartender has refilled the beer to the top. “Hey, from one guy who spills stuff to another.” I give him another dollar as a tip.

The group arrives and we all eat dinner. We drink and laugh and tell stories.

We walk back to the hotel in the coolness of the desert evening. We fall asleep.

The next day, I watch the March Madness on television before packing up the car, driving to a parking garage and going to Starbucks for coffee while I wait for the board meeting to conclude. I eat lunch at a sushi restaurant/noodle house. I order shrimp ramen and a salmon roll. I continue reading.

The Hippo/Falcon finishes her duties. We walk to the car and decide to drive to Las Vegas for the night.

But that’s a story for next time.

Phoenix is happening

22 March 2013

I’m not sure if Phoenix is happening in the way that groovy cats would like it to be. That will be determined by tonight and tomorrow’s exploration.

I do know that I am in Phoenix with The Hippo. (She may be advocating for a sobriquet change to Falcon, so prepare yourself gentle souls.)

The Hippo/Falcon is out attending to her board* duties while I sit in the hotel room clicking away at the computer keys to chronicle our travel carryings on. The sounds of Fiona Apple play through the tinny speakers of my computer. I purchased her latest offering, but opted not to bring it on this road trip. Perhaps soon.

Travel – We have bits of a continental breakfast in our hotel. I pour a mix of caf and decaf into a styrofoam (we’re still really using styrofoam?) cup, anticipating we will patronize a coffee shop soon. We leave Flagstaff around 10:00 am. The electronic female-sounding robot who lives in The Hippo/Falcon’s mobile device guides us onto the interstate. I quickly realize the lack of adequate caffeine will not bode well for the drive through the windy, cactus-filled desert roads. We stop at a coffee shop that exists nearly everywhere in these United States. I order a large coffee. We hit the road again.

We listen to Ke$ha’s album Warrior. I bought it on a whim.

“We’re gonna die young!” That hasn’t happened, but I understand the sentiment.

The Hippo/Falcon, with the help of the robot lady stuck in the phone, guides us to a barbecue joint she (The Hippo/Falcon) visited a long time ago. We learn it was on Bar Rescue, which is similar to Restaurant Rescue and Restaurant Makeover and Kitchen Makeover and those other shows except it is on Spike TV and deals specifically with ice cream stands. I’m only kidding. It deals with bars. You know, like the ones you can’t get on your phone in this remote part of the USA.

We immediately identify ourselves as tourists when we walk in to the place and are instantly befuddled at how to react when NO ONE GREETS US AT THE DOOR. We see no sign giving us the usual binary (Please Seat Yourself:Please Wait To Be Seated). What do we do? Should we mosey on up to the bar, utilize the spittoon and order a cold sarsaparilla? I lead us to a table and we sit. A man finally speaks across the room. “Hey. How y’all doing?” The Hippo/Falcon and I both yell back that we are doing fine and inquire as to the same regarding this fine bastion of manners.

The man is talking to someone on his cell phone.

We hide our shame by looking at the menus, admiring the “cow hide” seat covers and muttering about something I don’t remember.

A server, perhaps THE server, comes up to our table. Besides an ability to pick up and drop off items at our table while never slowing below four miles per hour (16 kg) she has the special skill of looking like Kate Middleton if Kate Middleton lived in the Arizona desert and waited tables at Kid Chilleen’s Bad Ass Barbecue & Steakhouse (or whatever they renamed it following the Bar Rescue). The Hippo/Falcon does try to order sarsaparilla in a bottle, but apparently this is one item Bar Rescue deemed no longer acceptable. So we order barbecue chicken and Southwestern brisket.

Our barbecue is exactly what it should be. The slaw and baked beans kick my ass (in a good way).

Full of slow-cooked meat and fast memories, The Hippo/Falcon and I drive onward to Phoenix.

I don’t know how she tolerates me some days. I cannot stop marveling aloud at the sheer awesomeness of the desert. The yellows and sun-burnt oranges. The miles of cactus. The sheer feeling of dry beauty and immediate danger. The place takes your breath and moisture away at the same time.

I remark the I-17 into Phoenix is one of the most beautiful interstates I have seen. It is true. It is wide and spacious and marked by palm trees and images of salamanders shaped into the rocks on the side of the road.

Phoenix is happening to me. Let’s see if I can happen to it.

*I mistakenly referred to a conference as our trip impetus in a previous post. We are really here for a board meeting.