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Where Tourists Dare to Tread

August 4, 2009
“Are you going to write about how blue the sky is and how blue the water is, Daddy?” – Stella Parsons, age 14
“Don’t let the smile fool you. Sarcasm is encoded in the DNA.”  – Anonymous


Recently mi Madre flew into Phoenix from Cincinnati for a visit; it’s been her yearly tradition since the missus and I moved out to the desert. (Desert, n.: any geographic location devoid of or lacking water or adequate rainfall and suitable vegetation to sustain life and/or culture; also, adj: any geography where the bare skin-to-modesty ratio is askew and barely literate semi-silicone enhanced humans of both genders roam drunk to freely fuck like monkeys. –from: The Parsons Dictionary of Often Used Words and Phrases.)  She generally times her visit to coincide with my daughter Stella’s (also annual) summer visit.  Stella is nearly 15 and trying to mentally prepare for the trauma of being a High School Freshman.  Mom is a respectable, and therefore unmentionable age; but she is equally young at heart and wouldn’t think twice of tripping you with her cane to get a harmless laugh. (She’s using it until her back fully recovers from surgery. Other public school teachers will understand the weight she typically shoulders and should make sure their insurance is current.) Melissa decided it would be fun for us all to Do Something. She asked me; but as usual, I didn’t have any suggestions. After some searching around online, the missus offered up Canyon Lake, about an hour northeast of Tempe, in the mountain country near Apache Junction and Tortilla Flat.

We don’t get out of the suburban dead zone of Tempe very often; so I was pretty excited. Melissa was incredibly stoked, since we’d be going on the first full weekend she would have off since the day she started working from the age of 7 ½.  Mom was also pleased; my last attempt to take her to see the desert ended in my driving around the greater Chandler area – which is a desert of a different kind than she wanted to see.  We left that Sunday morning after one of Melissa’s awesome homemade breakfasts. We had Melissa’s infallible directions to guide us and me behind the wheel of Mom’s rental car – a gray Chevrolet HHR. This, by the way, is a pointless car. It’s too small for a large family, to big for somebody who’s single, and the body style looks suspiciously like the milk man’s panel truck from an episode of Leave it to Beaver.  

It got decent gas mileage, though, and the brakes and air conditioning worked. We arrived without getting lost – though at one point the roads were so curvy and twisted that both Melissa and Stella threatened to puke on me. Mom was more worried about the interior of the rental than my reaction to being covered in half-digested homemade biscuits, gravy, and scrambled eggs; but after a slower pace and one brief stop at a look out over the lake to take pictures like tourists do, we arrived at the lake, ready to enjoy ourselves. 

The objective of the visit was to see the desert and take a narrated steamboat tour of the lake. (Picture files are available for viewing on Facebook. For three (3) simple payments of $39.95, I’ll sell you one. But I get to choose which one. Leave a comment if you’re interested.)  The lake was beautiful and the rocks were full of character. I’ve always been interested in geology, and I like being able to indulge that intellectual habit. I like rocks because they’re older than anything, and because before Homo sapiens started figuring out how to write and scribble things down, natural was doing it already.  The steamboat captain, Jeff, was thoroughly annoying. So was the soundtrack, which started with music from the movie Titanic. My wife picked up on the unpleasant irony of the song choice before I did – because the last time I sat through the god awful movie, I was 3/5 of the way through a fifth of bourbon.

In spite of the nauseating narration from Captain Jeff and the odd pick of soundtrack, ranging from Titanic, to bad country music, to Irish folk, to Louis Armstrong – whose music I love – I enjoyed myself. Really.  I don’t get out of Tempe nearly enough, and I felt nothing but peace and the rays of an apathetic sun beating down on me. I told Melissa several times (and I have mentioned several times since) that I wouldn’t mind living out there. 

And it’s true. Lately I’ve been wanting to indulge my tendency to stay as far away from other people as possible without making it impossible to find food, coffee, tobacco, and the occasional visit to a bar.  I think I could be content – in as much as I can ever be content – in a place like the area around Canyon Lake. My drive and need for solitude is demanding – sometimes bordering on belligerent.  My patience with others, in spite of every tidbit of common sense I’ve heard since the age of 5, has shrunk rather than expanded. I reserve all of my love and good will for my wife (who deserves it for putting up with me); Stella (who has inherited not only sarcasm but a complete lack of patience from me);mine and Melissa’s immediate families; my friends (Yes, I do have some. Stella was surprised, too.). The rest of my limited love and goodwill is reserved for critters (cats, dogs, ferrets, etc.) because they’re honest, and small children because they’re not responsible for themselves yet; in that order.

But now that I’m ensconced in my cave back in the dead zone of Tempe Arizona, in the shadow of the monolithic institution that calls itself a university, I can only look at picture files, close my eyes, and dream. Mom flew back to Cincinnati yesterday after a nice visit. Melissa is at work. Stella is upstairs, probably chatting with her friends online about the weather, Canyon Lake, or how odd her Dad is and how lucky he is to have married a woman who loves him anyway. (She’s right, of course.) I’m down in my cubby – that would be the laundry room to anybody else – where I’ve put my desk. The neighbors have been fighting off and on since four this morning, and the heat and lack of funds make it difficult to escape to a more pleasant location. I like being at my desk – clearly. But I’m starting to notice that the cement brick wall between the neighbors and us seems to be thinner than anywhere else in the entire apartment; and my neighbors, in their usual daily rehash of the three act play, The Dysfunctional American Family, always end up arguing and slamming the back door leading to alley – where they stand and argue some more. I won’t write about that, though. Because this is nothing new and everyone has a neighbor that someone should’ve had the sense to either sterilize or lobotomize.

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