Friday, November 03, 2006

Returned to Arizona

The sky is a cloudless cornflower-blue, arching overhead with eggshell brittleness. From everywhere there is heat, even this autumn day, bleeding out of everything and pounding down in torrents of liquid sunlight.

The dust and heat of day are pervasive: they are the original welcoming wagon of Phoenix as anything else, the phalanx that keeps all comers from our door. We fight them back on a daily basis like bad neighbors, running indoors, dodging across the street to keep to the shade as we move along. We spend little time outdoors in the smothering brilliance of the sun and chastise each other to “take water or buy a bottle on the way” every time one of us heads out into the urban desolation alone, even if our route only takes us a mile on foot.

A white car drives past, rumbling Spanish hip-hop as it rides—a low-rider, obviously the prize of its owner as he blasts everyone nearby with his passion for music, it pours through the open windows and fades away as he turns the far corner. I wonder if I'll see the car that has the undercarriage so low that it sprays sparks as it drives. For some reason these things strike me most immediately of Phoenix; they are not things that I would expect to see back in Michigan.

The smells of the city linger all around me, the pleasant aroma of desert plants mixed with city dust, the stinging perfume of diesel fuel and oil simmering on the road in a puddle, and the ever-present scent of mesquite from a barbeque or sage smoldering. Most distinctly, the smell of wood smoke and mesquite remind me of camping trips, lead by a caravan of aunts, uncles, and cousins; battered cars, smelly pickup-trucks, ragged and rattling jeeps; and all the other trappings of a convoy into the brush. The mesquite sticks added to the fire roasted and built a billowing white fog that brought us back from among the grey-green bushes and red rocks to find sizzling burgers and hot beans waiting for us.

But now, the smell issues forth from households and neighborhood cooking parties—I haven’t had a time to return to the desert proper in many years.

Beyond the pocked, oil stained road rises the steel and silver latticework and white smoke towers of Ocotillo, the power plant, below the horizon of houses, blocked from my view, is a carpet of shimmering mirrored plates that follow the sun every morning to evening. Heliotropes grown of silvered gallium-arsenide, photovoltaic cells that drink the sunlight and supplement the energy that powers our lights, runs our televisions, and keeps the crackling heat at bay.

Welcome back to Arizona, to the Valley of the Sun.

1 comment:

feedle said...

Heya Kyt. Haven't talked to you in like.. forever. Would love to chat.. I don't know if you heard, but Frank is living at my place now in Portland (even though I'm now _NOT_ in Portland, long story).

Look me up.. check my profile at for IM contacts and E-mail..