Saturday, February 27, 2010

10 Phun and Phractious Phacts About Phoenix

Phoenix is my third adopted hometown after Alexandria, VA and Denver, CO. I have lived here, along with Martha, for thirteen years next month. I thought you might be interested to learn a little about the place, but if you aren’t just move on to another less-interesting blog.

1. Phoenix lies at the northern-most point of the Sonoran desert. The Aztecs called it the “Land of the Bone People.” Smart people, the Aztecs, except for Sunday morning church services. The desert does not have sand dunes ala Lawrence of Arabia; rather, it looks like this most of the time:

The exception is spring if there is adequate rain: it blooms with millions of wildflowers.

2. For the entirety of 2009, total rainfall for Phoenix was less than 4 inches. The population of the metropolitan area for the year 2008 was 4.3 million [Wikipedia], not counting illegal aliens [my guess]. Nevertheless, there are no water restrictions, except for golf courses. With thousands of swimming pools, year-round grass (bermuda in the summer, rye in the winter), and a metro-wide anal obsession for washing cars, the reservoirs and Lake Powell are at all-time lows. But nobody seems to give a shit.

3. I love the name of the airport: Sky Harbor. Unfortunately, the planes land and take-off just as they do anywhere else. It would be nice if it were a true Sky Harbor, just hovering over the tarmac and dropping rope ladders to load the peanut entrees, the tiny bottles of airplane helper, and passengers.

4. Palm trees are not indigenous to the desert and require care in the form of trimming. If one does not trim one’s palms, this is what happens:

Notice all the dead fronds above the firefighter. Cockroaches love to nest there. When tall palms are struck by lightening they have a tendency to explode, which in turn sets nearby houses on fire from the flaming fronds. But palm trees can be your friend if you are good to them in return.

5. Phoenix and its suburbs have a lot of pests. Not only do we have Jehovah’s Witnesses attempting to save us, but we also have a mess o’ Mormons.

6. Phoenix and its suburbs also have a lot of insects. Sometimes Martha isn’t too observant, as was the case when she happened to look at a cardboard box of files at work. Noticing that most of the files were little more than sawdust, she was told they’d been eaten by termites. “Good!” she said. “Now I won’t have to haul that heavy sucker upstairs to storage.” Insects can be your friend if you are good to them in return.

7. During the summer, which lasts about six months, the temperature gets a might toasty. But it’s a dry toast with little or no humidity—a boon for people with lung diseases. It's the pollution that kills.

8. Phoenix, like Texas and Florida, is a retirement haven for the elderly. In addition, we have a monied influx of snowbirds (or sunbirds, depending on your perspective), retirees from western Canada and the middle states of the U.S. Imagine, if you will, Ma & Pa Hayseed from Nowhere, Kansas piloting their Queen Mary on Wheels through a maze like this:

It isn't necessarily the fact of being elderly that causes daily chaos. The freeways are designed by sociopathic engineers with the strangest on- and off-ramps I've ever encountered. And this is the confluence of just two highways—you oughta stop by sometime and take a gander at the three stackers!

9. Residents of Phoenix are referred to as Phoenicians (the latter is called a "demonym," a new word for me). I, along with Martha, live in the suburb of Chandler, so I guess our demonyn is Chandlerite. In any event, try out this new word at the next high-brow party or low-brow tavern you attend. “Hey, babe, what’s your denonym?” will probably elicit a good poke in the eye with one of those sharp drink umbrellas.

10. To me, the best thing about Phoenix is the wildlife. Just south of the city is the Pima-Maricopa Indian Reservation— and wild horses that roam as freely as they did thousands of years ago. Sometimes, they are quite close to the highway in the dry Gila River bed, every one a different size and color—but of course I never carry a camera. They are awesome.

Flicks of some of our other wildlife:

The Mediterranean gecko. We have two who live in the house to eat flies and crickets.

Hummingbirds, They are extremely territorial here because of a lack of nectar. Feisty little buggers, too: one used to dive bomb Martha and scare the hell out of her.

A road runner. Martha thought they were a figment of my Warner Brothers—cartoon—mind until she saw some on the Gila reservation. "Gee, they're really fast!" she exclaimed like it was front page news.


(click photo)

So there you have it, a peek at where on earth I live. If you have questions in your comments I will, with joy and glad tidings, attempt to answer them.


savannah said...

phoenix is one of those places i always thought i'd visit when i lived on the west coast because we had family in arizona. somehow, we never made it there. tucson, sedona, tempe, but never your lovely city. we'll just have to remedy that on our next cross country road trip, sugar! xoxox

TechnoBabe said...

This is a nice post and the pictures are great. My hubby was born and raised in Phoenix and his brother still lives there. The brother is a teacher for 27 years now. Glad you like it there.

Mary Witzl said...

(Term paper? Is what I'm writing here a term paper?)

This was a fantastic peek at a city I'm not one single bit interested in. (Or at least I wasn't until I read your post). I miss seeing lizards and hummingbirds, and the roadrunners that used to come to eat our cat food.

I grew up in Riverside, an uglier, Californian version of Phoenix, but very hot and smoggy. Deserts tend to fill me with nostalgia -- and the thrill of having escaped.

Tiffin said...

Cockroaches in palm trees just don't do it for me, Charlie. Nor do termites in file boxes. Now the desert bursting into bloom would be another matter. And the wild horses. But what is with the water wastage?! If you have people living where people aren't really supposed to live, shouldn't they be just a bit careful? And I KNOW if they run out they're going to be looking thirstily up our way....gack!

Pat said...

Brilliant Charlie. All I knew before was that lovely song 'By the time we get to Phoenix...'
It looks pretty unique - not like anything over here and I'm glad the climate suits your lungs. Your birds put my fatboy robin to shame.
Just ordered 'This is where I leave you.'

Fay's Too said...

Lovely post. It seems like Phoenix would be a lovely place to live if about 90% of the humans moved away and took their trappings with them. I do love the way Martha handles things.
You've inspired me to write about my hometown.

Charlie said...

SAVANNAH: If you made it to Tempe, you were here. We lived in Tempe for six years before buying Casa la Dumpa in Chandler. Martha still works in Tempe--a mile away.

TECHNO: Teaching here is a real trip: the curriculum and testing standards change every Tuesday morning. Bless his heart for sticking to it.

MARY I guess I can assume you won't be moving to a desert country anytime soon.

I've been through Riverside several times and never realized it was a desert--it appeared green and lush. Perhaps I wasn't wearing my glasses.

Charlie said...

TUI: Gee, I spared you the worst of the creatures.

I've added a montage of the desert in bloom (i'm like a sportscaster, telling you what you've just seen for yourself).

Someday, water in the Southwest will be more precious than gasoline. But someday hasn't happened yet.

PAT: I thought you might like the uniqueness. Now you know why I covet your greenery.

And I love your robin--I haven't seen one in years. I did see a cardinal for the first time, and the red was spectacular. No camera, of course.

I hope you like the book.

FAY: LOL at Chandalier. Isn't there a famous book about the Three Chandaliers? No, maybe not.

Phoenix was traditionally a small city peopled mostly by American Indians and idiot Caucasians. The landscape was covered with citrus groves, and the Pima Indians grew the finest pima cotton. Now, the groves are all tract houses, empty big box stores, and 10 million McDonalds.

And yes, please do a piece on your hometown.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Thank you for the fascinating travelogue. I had no idea that you had crazy-assed highways like that, and considering that my sister and BIL (who can't see worth shit, but refuses to acknowledge it) are currently in your fair city, I would advise you to stay clear of the roads for a couple of weeks.

I love that roadrunners exist outside of Bugs Bunny cartoons.

Kevin Musgrove said...

It all looks splendid (well, not the road system...) A real "treat this with respect or else! landscape (just like the road system)

Ta for sharing.

lisleman said...

I enjoyed Lake Powell and the surrounding canyons years ago. I've seen pictures of the drop in water and the ring around the tub thing.
It's amazing that people don't conserve water better. I live in Illinois and we have water restrictions some summers (even odd days of watering).
After watching the National Parks series on PBS and the history of the Grand Canyon, I was left wondering about the attitude of people out west.

Meg said...

Sociopathic engineers. Haha. The freeways there are a strange thing of beauty, though. That doesn't mean I'd want to drive on them. Nope, nope. My favorite parts of Phoenix are Pete's Fish and Chips and Jack-in-the-Box. Mmm.

Robert the Skeptic said...

We usually touch briefly at Sky Harbor going to and from Mexico to escape the Oregon Winter rain. From the aircraft we notice the spread of the city out into the desert. We always wonder when you guys will run out of water... and will the city stop growing when the water stops flowing?

I heard Robin Williams once quip that the Arizona state motto should be "Damn, it's Hot!!"

Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

Dang -
We've lived here almost 5 years now, coming July 1 and we don't know some of this stuff. that what those big things that appear in the drive way are?

And the freeways they are scary - I couldn't drive on them for three years until recently.

We also have the added benefit of living in Scottsdale and therefore get to call it Hotsdale.

Take care Charlie, thanks for another entertaining post!

Charlie said...

BARB: No worries about your sister and BIL: we just close our eyes and hang on like they're doing.

The road runner, BTW, is the state bird of New Mexico--I'm not joking.

KEVIN: A harsh environment requires harsh measures to survive. Most creatures bite or sting, and many plants have thorns or needles.

I know you're an amateur horticulturist, so I'm glad you enjoyed the photos.

LISLEMAN: You're right--Lake Powell is a sorry shadow of itself. There are rumors of draining it altogether.

We had odd/even watering in Denver 20 years ago, but the attitude out west? Nothing more than attitude.

I love your blog, BTW.

Charlie said...

MEG: I didn't realize that you've been here before.

The "free"ways, which cost billions, are things nightmares are made of. And they keep building more or widening the ones we have, thanks to John McCain pork. I avoid them at all costs.

ROBERT: Are you kidding, stop growing? That would be economically unfriendly. Growth provides jobs; water doesn't.

And yes, it gets warmish at times, but hot? Only when it's pushing 120F.

SHELLIE: Those big things in the driveway are sewer roaches--they're similar in size to the roaches in Texas and Hawaii. And they can fly.

Hotsdale? Scottsdale is referred to as Snotsdale. The signs at the city limits say, "Welcome to Scottsdale. Now get out."

You are not a snob, however. The real money is in Paradise Valley.

Wandering Coyote said...

Nice post. I think my dad should start heading to AZ in the winters because all he does is complain about the snow around here and the fact that he can't get out to walk as much. I think it would be really great for him.

Man, no water restrictions? That is not good. Fuck, we have a huge snow pack and a gushing freshet in the spring and 2 reservoirs for 3500 people - and we STILL have water restrictions. People just don't get it.

Really, the only thing that interests me about Phoenix is (well, other than you & Martha) is Alice Cooper!!!!

Alice said...

My mom lived in Phoenix for a short stint as a child (my grandfather moved around with "the calling" a lot). She says it was her second favorite, right after...wait for it...Little Rock, AK. Huh? Anyway, my husband would love it. I'm pretty sure we could provide water for a small African nation with the amount he uses on our lawn in the summer.

kara said...

that's the second time i've heard of someone being attacked by a hummingbird THIS WEEK. and i think that is awesome.

Kim Ayres said...

Ah, so it's not all yellow sand, punctuated by the occasional catus or tumbleweed. I did wonder.

John D said...

Hi Charlie. Excellent post - very amusing. As a fellow resident of the grand metropolis of Phoenix I'd like to offer up numbers 11 and 12 for your list.

11. Dry crispy skin. No matter how manly the local male population likes to think itself, it's so blooming dry here that most will end up slathering lotions and potions on themselves just like their female counterparts.

12. We have had for an awful long time now a very scary local sheriff who seems to think we are still in the 1800s. Unfortunately the truly awful Sheriff Joe is only slightly scarier than our local politicians.

Despite which, it's still a "cool" place to live. The desert is magnificent and those flowers are just starting to bloom.

Charlie said...

WC: Your dad could walk for a million miles, unless he tries to cross a street. Pedestrians are very low on the food chain.

And yes, Alice Cooper is alive and well.

ALICE: (But not Cooper.) I knew a gal in college from Little Rock and I loved her accent. Her biased opinion was that it was quite a nice city.

And your hubby could use all the water he wants on his summer and winter grass. We have just a small patch of summer grass in the back for the dogs' potty.

KARA: Those little hummers are amazing. They dive bomb, and just before they hit the target they stop on a dime and hover. I suspect they are laughing.

lisleman said...

thanks for following and adding my blog to your list.
I did the same with yours.
oh I see you are having some problem with blogger.

Charlie said...

KIM: I was thinking of you when I said our desert isn't like Arabia's. There are dunes at the Sand Dunes National Park on the western slope of the Rockies in Colorado, but I think they're caused by downslope winds.

JOHN: Regarding #11, I think another word for dry skin is "flaky." Martha slathers lotion on her bod every night, and one of these days she's going to slide right out of bed.

#12 and Sherrif Joe. He gets elected term after term and is a media hog. You're right about him and the 1800s--they don't call this the wild west for nothing.

Especially since you can carry guns into bars now, which he disagrees with--and so do I.

Quite different here than Yorkshire, isn't it.

LISLEMAN: I just caught you in time here with my comments.

Thanks for the link back, but you'll probably be sorry.

And I'm back up and running again, no thanks to Google. I had to manually reconnect to everyone--it's a good thing I don't have 10,000 maniacs following me.

John D said...

Definitely different from Yorkshire. The most dangerous weapons there are sharp tongues.

Stinkypaw said...

I've always been attracted to that part of the States, so maybe in a few years, when the Snowbird in me wakes up I'll make my way...

Pat said...

The flowers are so lovely and varied. I tried to pick a favourite but I couldn't. They must be a joy to you and Martha.

Charlie said...

JOHN: LOL, even though I know about the sharp tongues: I have two long-time blog friends from Yorkshire.

Dickens knew about it too, especially the boys' boarding schools in Nicholas Nickleby.

STINKY: Come on down--there's plenty of room for two more nice people.

PAT: I was hoping you'd like the montage. The bad news is that few, if any, have a fragrance.