Monday, October 01, 2007

I was standing on a corner in Phoenix, Arizona

Notes from my weekend junket to the Valley of the Sun with my chorus, Voices in Harmony:
  • My first observation about Phoenix, from the air approaching Sky Harbor International Airport: Brown. Everything is brown. The land is brown. The buildings are mostly brown. Would it be too much to ask to broaden the color palette just a touch?

  • High marks for the Wyndham Phoenix Hotel. My 18th-floor room was nicely laid out and well appointed. I especially liked the bathroom, with its separated vanity and toilet/shower areas, full-length mirror (mighty handy when one is donning a tuxedo), and spacious closet with ample hangers. The bed may have been the most comfortable I've found in a hotel. All of the staff I dealt with were friendly and helpful. The one meal I ordered from room service arrived in a timely fashion, and was palatable to boot. My sole request: More (and faster) elevators to the guest rooms, please.

  • The Wyndham has a Starbucks right in the lobby — that's a gold star all by itself. In case you were curious, a vanilla latte at Starbucks tastes exactly the same no matter where in the world you drink it.

  • My hotel room window overlooked the Chase Tower, Arizona's tallest building, across the street. In its mirrored windows, I could watch jet aircraft landing and taking off.

  • I was surprised by the number of homeless people wandering the streets of downtown Phoenix. (Almost as many as in San Francisco. But not quite.) Although, after I thought about it, this made perfect sense. If you had to sleep outdoors, where would you rather do it: in Phoenix, where it's dry and warm (if not downright hot) most nights during the year, or, say, Minneapolis?

  • For a city relatively close to the border, I would have expected to find better Mexican cuisine in downtown Phoenix. Both of the meals I had in Mexican restaurants, however, were unimpressive. If I had a ballista in my backyard, I could hurl a boulder and hit three or four better Mexican joints.

  • Phoenix Symphony Hall makes an excellent venue both for performing and for enjoying a performance. Attractive environment, great acoustics, and surprisingly comfortable seats.

  • If you want to know what's really going on in a community, read the alternative weekly newspaper. Phoenix has a terrific one: Phoenix New Times. (So does Sonoma County, by the way. The folks at the North Bay Bohemian do an outstanding job.) Although I have to admit, I didn't know that a single locale could boast as many adult entertainment options as are advertised in the back pages of the Phoenix New Times. I suppose that when you live in a city where it's hot most of the year, it's easy to find people who are eager to get naked.

  • The best business to be in right now, apparently: Urban infrastructure. In both of the major cities I've visited in the past few months — Denver, and now Phoenix — half the streets in the downtown area are undergoing major construction. Somebody's making a killing in that racket.

  • The big story in Phoenix over the weekend: A would-be traveler wigged out at Sky Harbor Airport on Friday, after arriving late for her US Airways flight and being denied opportunity to board the already-departing plane. The 45-year-old woman from New York City later died while in police custody. I hereby affirm that I personally did nothing to provoke this incident.

  • On my flight coming home, I ran into the world's greatest vocal percussionist and live-looper — the astoundingly gifted Andrew Chaikin, better known these days as Kid Beyond. The Kid and I hadn't crossed paths since he was performing with San Francisco's a cappella pioneers, The House Jacks, a decade ago. (Frankly, I was stunned that he remembered who I was.) If Kid Beyond comes to your town, you owe it to yourself to buy a ducat and check out his act. In an era of talentless pretenders, this guy's is the real stone-cold deal. Drop by his Web site while you're thinking about it, and get a taste of his awesomeness.

  • I'd been saving a book for the plane trips to and from Phoenix, and it rocks like a house afire: Promise Me, the latest novel by Harlan Coben. It's Coben's first book in seven years to headline his favorite protagonist, former basketball star turned sports agent Myron Bolitar. If you enjoy a crackling suspense read in the modern style, hie thyself over to Amazon and pick up a few Cobens. You'll be glad you did.

  • As for the competition: Voices in Harmony came in second, as expected, with a score of 89.7%. That's a full two percentage points higher than our sixth-place score at International three months ago. (We'd have been fourth with these numbers.) Not bad for a contest set that included a ballad we began learning only eight weeks ago. Sweat equity pays off.

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5 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Anonymous sank offered these pearls of wisdom...

Minneapolis? You're in Minneapolis South. Phoenix is where go in the winter to see what old folks look like. I think there's more Vikings fans there than here most January days. My thoughts on Phoenix

- Now I know where the inspiration came for the repeating Flintstones backgrounds.
- I like grass more that I thought I did.
- Great zoo in Phoenix.
- the holidays, with wreaths on Suburbans and lights on cactus, santa hats on golf carts. just isn't the same as a nice winter walk in fresh snow.
- Corrupt Governors.
- Dumb kids, poor schools and really crummy zoning laws..

BTW We do have homeless in Minneapolis and you're right, you wouldn't want to be in their shoes in February.

6:13 AM  
Anonymous Eugene offered these pearls of wisdom...

If you had a ballista in your backyard, you must be in cahoots with the Getty Museum, stealing Roman artifacts.

In that case, could you get a Julian the Apostate sweatshirt?


8:24 AM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

Sank: Your homeless people have shoes?

And you're absolutely right about the Flintstones backdrop. I think we drove past that section, coming in from the airport.

12:16 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

Eugene: Did you want the "Rebuild the Temple NOW!" sweatshirt also?

That one and the Julian the Apostate shirt come as a set. :)

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Donna offered these pearls of wisdom...

Sounds like you stayed @ the same hotel my husband was in during a weeklong jaunt to Phoenix a few years before the turn of the last century. He was on a business trip for a company he worked for @ the time. I remember him telling me about the visibility for viewing landings and takeoffs from the local airport. Being the avaitor enthusiast I am, I was green with envy.

BTW, the Eagles were stanging on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. Such a fine sight to see. It's a girl my lord in a flat bed Ford slowing down to take a look at me.

11:38 AM  

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