Sunday, July 31, 2011

My Arizona Anniversary

July 31st is my Arizona anniversary, that's the day in 1993 when I moved to Phoenix from Burlingame, in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have been living in Phoenix for 18 years now.

I still remember a lot about that time 18 years ago. My life in the Bay Area was kind of disintegrating; I lost my job at IBM which I had for 13 years, my roommate had passed away unexpectedly and I was starting to become very unhappy. I had visited Phoenix about a year or so previously and I loved it, and decided that there is where I would move. I didn't know a single soul in Phoenix or had a job lined up, but that didn't matter. I was going and I knew I was going to be all right.

So on Friday July 30, 1993, I packed up my two cats, Eunice and J.R., and my clothes and some personal belongings (my furniture and the bulk of everything else had been picked up by the moving van a couple of days prior) and I got in my car and headed out. The cats were in separate carriers right next to each other and knew something big was going on. They started this "meow-meow" back and forth to each other for the next 5 hours, and I honestly thought I was going to lose my mind. As I headed eastward across the San Mateo Bridge to reach Interstate 5, I took one last look at my home of over 4 years in my rear-view mirror. The fog over the coast range was a luminous white band over dark green, brooding hills. I still have that image frozen in my mind. It was one of those moments when you just knew something huge was happening to you and you would remember it for the rest of your life. There are many aspects of living in the Bay Area which I really miss, but I knew my life was elsewhere.

Cruising south on I-5 through the Central Valley was uneventful, even a touch boring. I went down what's called the Grapevine into the Los Angeles area, and that's when traffic started getting really thick. Seven arduous hours later (and the cats didn't shut up for more than 15 minutes) I decided I had had enough and found a motel in Palm Springs to spend the night. I didn't bother to mention my two cats when I checked in, since I was only staying the night. I went out for a quick dinner and a short walk around, and when I returned to the motel I saw my big black cat J.R. sitting on the window sill in front of the curtains, happily looking at everyone who passed by.

I got up early on a pleasant Saturday morning of the 31st, packed everything up again and headed east on Interstate 10 toward Phoenix. On the way I was mesmerized by the vast, empty desert around me and marveled at such names as the Chuckwalla Mountains and the Chiriaco Summit. I started to feel the heat as I passed through dusty, surreal desert outposts like Blythe, CA and Quartzsite, AZ. I got to Phoenix around noon and settled in to my new apartment. I let the cats explore their new house, and unpacked a little. My furniture would not be delivered for 5 more days, so I spent a lot of time sitting on an air mattress on the bedroom floor, looking out the window listening to the doves in the trees outside.

The next day it was 117 degrees. I went outside for a walk after lunch and thought to myself, are they kidding me? It was really HOT! The heat formed a thick blanket that muffled any sounds, and the cicadas in the trees lulled everyone into a hypnotic trance. I learned quickly that the Mexican custom of siesta, or taking a nap during the very hottest part of the day, was a really good idea.

But I settled into my new home quickly and found I really like it here. I got a job a couple of months later and that allowed me to have a very comfortable life and purchase a great house in 1995. I have been here ever since and feel that I made exactly the right move in coming to Phoenix. I have found very good friends and chosen family here, and I think things have worked out amazingly well.

There are some things I don't like about Arizona, most of all the politics here. It is an extremely conservative, Republican-oriented state, something that I really loathe since I am the exact, diametrical-opposite of that. I really detest the influence of religion in politics, both on the local and the state level. As far as I'm concerned religion is a private matter and has no business in the governance of the state. I don't begrudge anyone their religious beliefs, but when they push to codify their religious beliefs into the laws of the land and thus shove them down everyone else's throats, well I have a big BIG problem with that. I firmly believe that 99.9% of politicians in this state are corrupt morons and amoral dirtbags who really deserve to be in prison. The gun "laws" are a joke around here, and that results in incredibly stupid people and burned-out crack addicts running around here fully armed, because they think the Constitution says they can.

But most of all I hate the way animals are treated in this state, as property and "things," instead of as living, breathing, sensitive creatures meant to share the earth with us. This gives rise to the most horrific and terrible cruelties I have ever witnessed, and I believe it is impossible to overestimate the arrogance and stupidity of human beings. The human race will never be able to consider itself enlightened and civilized as long as such horrible, awful things are done to animals.

I never watch local television here because it is made by idiots, for idiots. Even more disgraceful is the local newspaper, the Arizona Republic(an), which is a laughingly provincial, unsophisticated excuse for a newspaper for the sixth largest metropolitan area in the United States. It would be more suited to a small-to-medium city in the upper Midwest rather than one of the larger cities of the Southwest. The income disparity around here is also pretty jarring, when you go from the gated communities and palatial estates of Scottsdale and Paradise Valley to the grungy, dilapidated wastelands of south Phoenix.

All these distractions aside, we do have a lot of things to appreciate, such as wonderful weather most of the year (not right now), beautiful scenic vistas, cool places to visit like Sedona and Flagstaff and Prescott and Tucson, and driving through fragrant pine forests to the visual feast that is the Grand Canyon. We also have opportunities to be dazzled by really, really dark night skies, when you think you can see a billion stars with a clarity that will literally take your breath away. As I start my nineteenth year in Sand Land, I find I really have much more for which to be grateful, rather than critical.

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