Phoenix – Day 1

5 03 2012

We recently had our 5th wedding anniversary, after 20 years. Yup – we got married on 29th February, back in 1992. Totally in line with my preference for doing things not quite the same way as everyone else. In due deference to her long suffering of said oddity, I felt it only fair that my wife pick where we went to celebrate the passing of another 4 years. That and the fact that she organised everything, and I didn’t get much say anyway!

She found a rather neat little package by Allegiant Air, flying out of Bellingham, WA, just over the line from our home in White Rock, BC. For about a grand for the pair of us, we got flights to Phoenix (yes… and back too), car hire, 3 nights in a hotel, with a fourth thrown in for free. Bargain!

We flew out on a rainy Wednesday (yes – the 29th of February), and landed around 9pm at Phoenix Mesa Gateway airport, about 20 minutes from the hotel in Mesa itself – just to the East of Phoenix proper. It was an MD-80 series plane, and the cheap tickets came at a hidden price… no seat allocation! If you’re familiar with this plane, it will come as no surprise that by the time we got to board, we ended up right at the back of the plane at the perfect audio focal point of the two screaming jet engines that keep the tin can in the air. My hearing has just about recovered now.

On arrival in Mesa, a mediocre meal at Red Lobster was ameliorated by a reasonable bottle of Merlot, and we were tucked up in bed well before the witching hour. The morning brought us an explanation for the industrial strength blackout roller blinds and mesh covers on the windows. By around 7:30am, the heat through the PVC blind was quite noticable in our East-facing room. One free breakfast later, and we were under way for our first adventure… sniffing out the locale. Despite the sunshine it was still a bit breezy, and we were quite obviously marked out as “damned tourists” in our shorts and T-shirts, in sharp contrast to the be-coated and be-hoodied locals shivering in the mid 20s (That’s °C!). The mall offered up some sweet beverage and gooey snacks at Cinnabon (hey – we were on holiday!), and Macey’s delivered a rather fetching tie to add to my collection. And some socks. And a brace of shirts. And some hankies.

So I don’t get out much. What’s your point?

Then we set off for a proper explore… to Taliesin West. This was about 15 minutes away to the North-East of Mesa, East of the popular Scottsdale. In fact it still is, probably! This was built by Frank Lloyd Wright as his winter camp, and basically a tax dodge. The tour wasn’t cheap, but I thoroughly recommend it, if you’re in the area. The tour guides are very knowledgeable, and though they seem to hold FLW as a near deity, they were honest enough to admit that he was an arrogant egocentric bigot. Such is genius…

The buildings were originally open to the elements (which were typically mild in the months of occupation) and had canvas screens to protect from the sun, and open areas for ventilation. FLW’s third and final wife insisted on glass and a more conventional approach, so the current incarnation is a little more enclosed. His arrogance is still visible in one area at least, where he insisted that a bowl on a shelf was “in the perfect position” and must not be moved, so that when the window was glazed, a hole was cut in the glass to accommodate the 30% of the bowl which lay on the outside of the new physical barrier in the window frame.

He built everything from local materials to allow for a more sympathetic blend with the surroundings. A genius to be sure, but I’m glad I never needed to do business with the guy.

He’s quoted as saying the following:

“Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose the former and have seen no reason to change.”

Can’t say fairer than that, I suppose!