Vulcan’s Peak

Spring break in Phoenix and what’s up here

March 19, 2007 12:39 am

Hello again! Get comfortable; this is a long one.

Phoenix was gorgeous, while Boston was cold, cold, cold two weeks ago. (We kept track. Phoenix: almost 70. Boston: 17. Etcetera.) Coming back to cold weather wasn’t too much of a wrench, though — last week we had some gorgeous weather, it almost felt like real spring! Meaning I went out Wednesday morning with NO hat, NO scarf, NO gloves! Fewer pieces to keep track of — I almost lost my hat on the subway a few weeks ago. I’d tucked it under my arm and it slipped out as I was leaving the subway station. Hit the cold air outside, missed it, and ran back. Lucky me, some wonderful person had picked it up and set it on top of a fire extinguisher! Nothing like starting the day with a scare! But I digress…

My first full day in Phoenix, we headed a little further south — Pug, me, brother C., and girlfriend A. — to spend the evening at Kitt Peak. Along the way we stopped at the Indian ruins at Casa Grande, as well as a Mexican place in Tucson that is notable for serving meat that they dry in what you might mistake for a birdhouse with mesh wire walls. Very tasty. We had so much good Mexican food last week.

Kitt Peak has quite the public outreach program. You come for the evening, watch the sun set and the moon rise from the mountaintop. They have a few astronomer types on staff to explain everything, and as it gets dark, they open up two or three of their medium-sized telescopes and point them at things for everyone to peer at. Quite fantastic! Pug had been before on one of their family trips out there — he’d been talking for some time about wanting to take me there. Naturally, it’s great for seeing a huge wash of stars that aren’t visible for most of us, but we happened to be there during the full moon, so that washed out a lot, but still definately not a wasted trip! The slightly perilous part is that when you leave, they don’t want everyone’s headlights creating light pollution for the telescopes, so they send a van down in front and everyone else caravans down the first mile with only the parking lights on. (At that point, we were not sorry for the moonlight!)

So that was Saturday. Sunday we wandered around Phoenix a little bit, particularly Scottsdale’s Old Town, which isn’t far from where Pug works. Scottsdale is one of the nicer suburbs, reflected in things like higher property taxes — and the city’s use of them. Some of the civic buildings, the performing arts center, and the library are all right next to this lovely park area that just keeps going and going — fountains and lots of green grass and a stage/amphitheater area or two. There happened to be a Celtic band performing that afternoon, complete serendipity! At first we didn’t think much of it, some of their songs didn’t sound that Celtic, but then I heard one that I have on one of many CDs that my dad has bought because he heard a song on NPR, but most of the album isn’t so great. The song was “The Newry Highwayman” by Solas — and at first I thought it was Solas, but the singer later admitted to having stolen it from them. But our interest had been caught, so we went to sit in the grass and listen.

Speaking of Celtic artists and concerts, Loreena McKennitt is doing a North American tour this year! She’ll be up here in late April and then in Arizona in May, so with luck we’ll both be able to go…just not together. Exciting anyway, though! I need to see if anyone I know is interested — though if not, I will go alone in a heartbeat.

Phoenix weather was gorgeous — hot enough for shorts one day! — but evenings cool off as soon as the sun goes down, which is great and supposedly keeps the evenings pleasant all summer, like in Albuquerque.

Later in the week, because of Pug’s strange but very nice every-other-Friday-off schedule, we were able to head north of Phoenix as far as Sedona and red rock mountains. We found a short-and-sweet trail to hike up, which was enough to tell our lungs that we had left sea level far behind! Down was easier. We also perused some of Sedona’s art galleries and stopped at more Indian ruins — cliff dwellings called Montezuma’s Castle (a misnomer — no relation to the Aztec leader) on the way back. Of course they don’t let you anywhere near it anymore (apparently my grandfather’s family visited in the ’30s when they let you climb the ladders up into the dwellings) but it’s still very impressive. And frankly, after a guide pointed out exactly where each ladder would have led, I’m perfectly okay with my vantage point from the ground.

I was wearing my Year of the Humanities T-shirt that day and had my hair up (originally to hide the fact that it had been mostly wet when we left that morning), and so many people commented on my shirt! The back reads “Think Human, Act Human, Be Human, Study the Humanities,” and before we’d even gotten into the little museum, a pair of little old ladies started admiring it. The shirt also got me noticed by a park ranger (who saw me again as we were leaving and said, “There’s the humanities lady again!”), and an elderly gent who commented that more people in the world should behave according to such sentiments. By the time we left, turning to read exhibit signs was making me self-conscious…

…but not nearly as self-conscious as I felt at the mall a day or two before. We had gone because Pug wanted hiking boots to take to Sedona, but we also browsed some jewelry stores, looking at rings. Which by nature apparently involves dealing with sales ladies who are far too perky (but I promise I was good and didn’t snap at anybody). We made an interesting combination of He Who Learned About Jewelry From His Mother and She Who (by and large) Doesn’t Have a Clue. Not quite true — I lived with Poke long enough to understand when people talk about jewelry (like how the rectangular one is an emerald cut and the funny-shaped one is a marquis, unless it’s the other funny shaped one, which is a trillium, which is a fun name but they don’t put those in engagement rings, usually), I just have very uncertain ideas of what I like. So they showed us lots of shiny while I tried to form opinions about things like round or rectangular (oops, emerald-cut) and cathedral settings and why exactly do I think this is god-awful ugly and Could You Live With This For The Rest Of Your LIFE. Oh no, someone’s asking me to make decisions again… Shockingly, previously mentioned perky sales ladies generally exclaimed over how my opinions were exactly right, which didn’t quite convince me that I have Good Taste. Whoops, that’s the cynic coming out again… Anyway, nothing conclusive yet of course, though there were some elements that I particularly liked, like one with a band that had a couple of twists on either side of the stone. Call it a fact-finding expedition.

An exciting week, as you can see, and I haven’t even gotten to the opera and the Renaissance Faire. Yes, I really was just there for a week! I can’t even claim that I dragged him to the opera. C. and A. came too, so we had a nice evening of it. The opera was a version of Beauty and the Beast written by a French contemporary of Mozart, though it was sung in English. I feel like I should find this inappropriate or unfaithful to the original and therefore bad, but I do actually like it. It was a good production and an interesting portayal of the Beast — they chose to steer away from the usual bear/boar/lion sorts of beasts. There are a number of bird references in the opera, so they made him a bird of prey, and I thought it worked well. There were a handful of dancers dressed in court garb with large bird headpieces — neat!

Interestingly, except for going to the airport (which has a pretty central location), this was the only time we were really in Phoenix proper. It really is a sprawl, though it’s very much a planned sprawl — everything is a grid, so it really is easy to find your way around. (And god knows, much as I love Boston…it makes NO sense. Ditto London.)

Speaking of the airport, since it is in the middle of the city, and since the sky is usually so clear, and since there are few tall buildings around, you see airplanes in the sky constantantly! More than FWB, and more than Boston, where you just don’t notice them. At night you can see their lights coming from a long way off, sometimes two or more in a row off into the distance as they approach the airport. Actually plane-watching was a running theme of the week — in Sedona, we could see their airport for light aircraft from the baby mountain we hiked up. The airport’s on a mesa, so it was really cool to watch a little plane land there. Almost like landing on an aircraft carrier, it seemed.

Saturday was the last full day I was there and we drove out to the Arizona Renaissance Festival, which is a major production and lasts for something like eight straight weekends, so it has a small village of permanent structures outside the city. Pug had the outfit he’s put together over the last few years; I took the long red skirt and cobbled something together (pictures are at Flickr). We spent the afternoon there looking at artisans’ wares — leather, metals, garb, all the usual goodies. Plenty to attract those who aren’t rabid fans of fantasy or history, but generally with a Renaissance flavor of some kind. Funny things like dragon puppets that sit on your shoulder; you control them via a wire or two that can be threaded down your sleeve (some adorable faces, too!…but we restrained ourselves). Watched an acrobat walk up a flaming rope. Pug put a “crowning” touch on his costume with an amazing French-cocked hat — we suspect that with the brim flat (un-cocked), it will double as a good, shady hat for even such activities as hiking. This would also be minus the plumes, of course… Another leather worker whose wares we admired had created leather book jackets to wrap around your favorite volumes. Prominently displayed were leather covers made for the Harry Potter books — each one had a simple design stamped into the cover that was representative of the book. A snake for Chamber of Secrets, a goblet for Goblet of Fire, etc. (No, we didn’t buy those, either.)

Since I’ve gotten back, I’ve been busy working on a couple of papers due in the next couple of weeks. For Book Overview I’m in the middle of a book critique — we had a long list of books we could choose, all of them about books or editors or publishing or some such. Mine is called The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age by book critic Sven Birkerts. I picked it because it sounded like a topic that I have an opinion about, but as it turns out, Birkerts is more interested in bemoaning our changing culture and writing elegies for the death of literature than looking at what may lie ahead for books, reading, and the publishing industry, which is what I’m interested in. As far as I’m concerned, the reports of literature’s demise are premature. Birkerts presents himself as a huge Luddite who is afraid of the technologies that I think offer some intriguing and even bright possibilities for the written word. So he’s pretty frustrating. I like to picture Sven Birkerts meeting The Internet and, shall we say, totally freaking out!!!

Meanwhile, it’s full steam ahead for the Magazine Editing assignment for which my professor, wanted us to interview an editor. After fretting about the whole idea, I wrote to my boss from the New Hampshire internship a year and a half ago, and he offered me a list of several “wonderful people,” who wouldn’t mind talking to me. He also mentioned that he and a couple of the editors I’d worked with would be in Boston at a conference for social studies teachers and invited me to stop by and say hello. The conference was last week and was held at a hotel about three blocks from school, so I did go and we talked for a bit about Emerson and Boston and Cobblestone and their glut of interns last summer (six of them! Six!!) and conferences and such. They had display copies of the Civil War books with them — I hadn’t seen the finished copies yet — and they look great! Nice people, good to keep in touch.

Meanwhile, I had been setting up not one but two phone interviews (because I’m clearly a masochist…). I managed to stress myself out worrying that I wouldn’t hear back from the editor I contacted and then I would be pushing the deadline to get in contact with someone else, so I contacted two people to start with (Chris Clark of Highlighs, who I’ll talk to next Friday and Suzanne Morrissey of BH&G, with whom I’ve already spoken) and both responded promptly (so I’ll probably just write about the first one unless the second interview is just that stunning — which it could be).

I talked to Suzanne Morrissey on Thursday and she was very friendly and eager to talk, so even though I think I was an awkward mess, all in all it came out okay. I suppose it can’t have been all that bad, because at the end of it she asked if I would be interested in doing freelance writing for her, which I certainly would! As the “special interests” editor, she puts together magazines like “Colorful Kitchens” and “Simply Perfect Storage” (she has five all together) that only come out once or twice a year and don’t have a subscriber base but are available at grocery stores and sometimes hardware stores where people who are re-doing their kitchens (or whatever) can pick it up. The piece she offered me is not a huge amount of writing, but it’ll be a little experience, probably a byline, I get paid for it, and it could lead to similar projects if it goes well. She’s mailing me all the details this week. I’m a little worried by all the papers I’m writing at the same time, but I feel this is something I shouldn’t turn down!

In lighter news, we had a snowy St. Paddy’s Day here! After feeling so springy earlier in the week, Friday took a turn for the colder and the snow was collecting on the ground by the time I came home at noon. My roommate got off work at three due to the weather and announced that we were going for a walk! It was the first really pretty snow, uncomplicated by sleet, ice, rain, etc., so we took our cameras. We wound up stopping along the way for eggs and butter so we could make pancakes and have our own pajama party in front of the tv — we’ve gotten hooked on Heroes, but we’re both in class when it’s on this semester, so we tape it and are usually a week or two behind. So we’re caught up for the moment — very exciting!

We were less excited when we woke up next morning to find water dripping through the living room ceiling. Maintenance guys were around most of the day — apparently other apartments had similar problems and it was because melting snow on the roof was leaking through the building. So they shoveled off the roof and told us that there was no need for extensive wall repairs like after Christmas. We told them we knew one roofing place they’d never use again… We’ve spread a tarp out under the drips, which were fortunately nowhere near any electronics or furniture that couldn’t stand a little water. The dripping has stopped, though the carpet is still damp. Ew.

Despite the weather, I did spend yesterday evening wearing the green out at an Irish pub near Central Square with a few friends. Very crowded, of course, but we had a good time. We were sorry we’d forgotten our light-up green buttons and bobbley shamrock headbands…wait, no, actually not.

So that’s my life in a (really really big) nutshell. Very busy, but pleasantly so!

10 Responses to “Spring break in Phoenix and what’s up here”

Pug wrote a comment on March 19, 2007

Oh my gosh, how did I miss out on the Better Homes and Gardens editor lady offering you some freelance writing? Awesome – congratulations!

Thanks for blogging about your trip, now I feel further compelled to actually write something myself. 🙂

Poke wrote a comment on March 19, 2007

It’s Trillion Cut, hon. Really…I taught you better. =0P

And you can get whatever you damn well please in an engagement ring! Go against the grain! I would have if C hadn’t had that beautiful diamon from his grandfather. Luckily, the sales people fawned over it instead of me. It was funny to hear them squeal, “Wow! I’ve heard of this cut, but never seen it! Hey, so and so, come look at this diamond! It’s an Old European Cut!” Apparently they aren’t allowed to cut that style anymore…

But choose what you want! Heck, sapphire and emerald are traditional in Europe. Go for something unique! I promise you’ll get more comments on some different. Most engagement rings are too damn boring…

Carmen wrote a comment on March 19, 2007

You have no idea how tempted I am to write:


Odette wrote a comment on March 19, 2007

Heh! You’d miss all my news, but you’ve got a point. Would it have been better to set it up to post episodically over several days? ‘Cause I know I’m guilty of long, infrequent posts.

Pug wrote a comment on March 20, 2007

What is tl;dr? *looks it up* Wow, that’s fairly dumb.

Tae wrote a comment on March 20, 2007

Had to look it up too. Frankly I like long posts, especially from Katie cause she’s got *style*. ;D
You still owe me movie reviews when you get unburied though. 😛

Carmen wrote a comment on March 20, 2007

I know it’s dumb, Pug, but I was still tempted. 🙁

Odette wrote a comment on March 20, 2007

Thanks, Tae. Heehee! Don’t worry, movie comments are still coming.

Am now tempted to hit Carmen with a quip about temptation, but I can’t come up with anything that would live up to Tae’s comment… 😛

What I really want to know is…should I interpret lack of action on the meme I posted as lack of people looking at my blog or just the fact that iTunes came up with crazy songs that no one knows?
(Hint: this would also be a perfectly acceptable opportunity for de-lurking…anyone?)

Pug wrote a comment on March 22, 2007

*lurk lurk lurk*

Tempest wrote a comment on March 22, 2007

*lurks occasionally and doesn’t do memes*

(That lazy so-and-so!)
I resolved not to do those post for the hell of it type posts on my blog or respond to the same. 😉 And long posts are perfectly fine, especially when they are well lettered as this one is.

Care to comment?