Sometimes I really miss Arizona. Usually when the weather sucks as it does, indeed, suck now. I both love and hate that there are only two seasons in the desert: sweltering and kinda cold, and that the in-betweens last only for a week or so. Today is March 30th, and in NYC it's 40-something. Right this second in Arizona? 80 degrees. I remember in first grade (Cochise Elementary School!), my teacher gave us these problem sets to help us learn the right measurement units to use. Sample question: Would you measure a road in miles or feet? That sort of thing. One of the questions though (which I lost points on!) was, "What is your ideal temperature?" And me, being a Desert Child, put 84 degrees. My teacher said that was "A little hot" and put a sad face by it. Which, what? How was there even a wrong answer to that question? My ideal temperature could have very well have been 120 degrees for all she knew. 84 with a little breeze is like heaven. Anyway. Tangent over.
When I was trying to figure out where I was going to go to college, I had this idea in my head--having spent all of my first 18 years of my life in Arizona--that I really wanted to go to school "Back East." I guess because Hollywood conditioned me to associate university with red brick academic buildings and fall leaves? Who knows. It was mostly because I had this crazy obsession with the American Revolution (and, let's be honest, George Washington) right around the time I was applying, and I ALSO knew I wanted to study Colonial America. So basically it was between Boston and Virginia, and there was no chance in hell that I was ever going to be able to survive a Boston winter, so Virginia it was!
One of the biggest surprises I had my first few weeks "Back East," was how very few of my new friends had never stepped foot west of the Mississippi River. Someone once told me their theory about how West Coasters are much more willing to travel east than East Coasters are to travel west, which actually does make some sense. They really do have everything they need, as well as some of the more interesting cities in the country. Also, they have Disney World. Which is bigger, but I would argue inferior.
So my classmates had been all over the East Coast and sometimes even Europe and the Caribbean, but I would say a good two-thirds still considered Arizona to be the last strong hold of the Wild Wild West. I mean, in some ways it is. But the Arizona of the 1980s, when my parents first moved there, is completely different than the Arizona of today. For one thing, no one wears their guns and cowboy hats to the grocery store anymore. Bell Road (which is now more commonly known as Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard) no longer is a dirt road with horse ranches. My mom told me that you used to be able to walk up the street and visit with the horses--and, actually, thinking about this, you can still find horse x-ing signs in places that you wouldn't expect.
I've been thinking a lot lately about just how different my upbringing in Arizona was compared to, say, me growing up in Midwest or even the Southeast. Most of these ruminations were inspired by contemplating what it's like for kids to go to school here in Manhattan, and how crazy bizarre it must be to be trapped inside one building all day (I would say 90% of all the AZ schools have "outdoor" hallways, if that makes sense). Because if you didn't grow up in Arizona you missed out on:
* Desert survival skill lessons, water conservation lessons, and learning to recognize heat stroke symptoms
* Visits to Native American landmarks
* That horrible Tobacco-Tumor-Causing-Teeth-Staining-Smelly-Puking-Habit ad program that completely scarred me for life.
* Playing this weird version of Chicken with neighborhood kids during the summer where your awesomeness depended entirely on how long you were able to stand on cement without having to jump to the grass or shade
* Diving and swimming lessons (Actually, come to think of it, a lot of people were surprised to find out that a VERY big portion of people living in the Valley have swimming pools, but you can't really swim in them in the summer. The water gets so warm you feel like you're taking a bath!)
* No snow days, but heat days when the school A/C broke and it was 100+ degrees outside
* Having prom in April and Graduation in May, because most graduations are held outdoors and it's 90 degrees in May compared to 100 degrees in June.
* Monsoons and crazy dust storms
* Running around Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon in the summer
I think you get the picture...
What I love and miss most about Arizona is the diversity of the landscape. Now, you all know I'm obsessed with Fall and Spring on the East Coast. I LOVE that there's a visible season change here, and I love the forests and what-have-you. Actually, my absurd love of the Shenandoah Valley is well documented in Black is the Color, as 3/4th of the action takes place in Virginia. BUT, I will say that it is pretty freaking cool that, in Arizona, you can be here:
And then drive two hours and find yourself here:
Also, Arizona has the Grand Canyon, so it pretty much automatically wins the Scenery category:
Arizona definitely has its problems--and most of them political--but it really was a nice place to grow up, though it DID NOT prepare me for winter. I have very strong memories of being in high school and waking up to a thin layer of ice on my windshield and not knowing what to do aside from scrape it off with my student ID.
So... no real point to this entry, other than to say I miss Arizona and my family and can't wait to visit and lay out by the pool like a little lizard.