Wednesday, September 23, 2009

There will always be a Phoenix.

In the famous words of the late Governor Ann Richards, you can put lipstick on a pig and call it Monique, but it's still just a pig. That's kind of how I feel about Phoenix. You can bring in all the palm trees and esperanzas you want, fill the streets with Beemers and Volvos, and paint all the houses in earth tones, but it's still just a big, dusty flat spot in the desert.

It's not much of a tourist town, by any stretch. The attractions here are more geared to those who are here year-round, or at least through the winter months. People who live here, at least all the ones that I've met, enjoy it. The dry heat really is a lot more comfortable to those who venture outside than the relatively moist air of San Antonio; yesterday it was 104 and I thought it was very comfortable ... lying in the pool. But still.

And getting around is pretty easy, except where the traffic gets really bad. All of the through streets are wide and straight, and the entire Valley of the Sun is a grid of evenly spaced thoroughfares bracketing architecturally cohesive subdivisions, each with its monumental entrance, its water feature, its theme of colours and edificial gewgaws (Cupolas! Niche windows! Pilasters!). And where the population has reached a certain critical mass of density and prosperity, the appearance is one of comfort and order: a sort of riverless Rhineland.

And of course, it's a very, very large city, with a large middle class, so it's full of good restaurants, and probably has a first-rate nightlife, for those who want that sort of thing. There are jobs here, and a sense of opportunity and promise. It may even be a very good place to raise your kids, though I'm not sure what the criteria for that is; honest small-business owners and con artists seem to come from all backgrounds equally.

But driving around the city yesterday, on the way to the vistas of Dobbins Point and South Mountain Park, I felt a certain je ne sais quoi, a feeling that the pleasant and promising aspects of Phoenix are unreal, that this massive sprawl of urbanity and civilization is more than just artificial; that it is an interloper in this desert, that it will eventually move on to places more suited to human habitation (please, God, not South Texas!) and leave behind the crumbling hulk of Spanish tile and concrete, like so many cicadas.

But that's not really going to happen, is it? No, as long as there is electricity to power the air conditioning, and gasoline to power the pick-up, and as long as there is snow in the Rockies to fill the canals here, Phoenix will survive, and prosper. So I'm thinking I should buy some land here, maybe a dusty half-acre on the Scottsdale side....

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