Reflections on my last days in Phoenix, Arizona, as it slides out of view from the porthole of an Air Canada Airbus 321.
21.12.2008 - 24.12.2008 15 °C
With my trip to the ghost town of Swansea behind me, I only had four days left in Phoenix. Three and a half, really, as my flight on December 24th was leaving at 1 PM. Not much occurred, as my Sunday was spent shopping for Christmas presents, flat and unbreakable, to pack in my luggage and take home to Toronto, and Monday through Wednesday was spent completing any and every thing that needed to get done at work.
With that, however, I have a few reflections on my time here in the desert.
Another Kind of Ghost Town
The office I am working in is surrounded by desert. There are two large buildings and a third under construction, a parking lot for all the workers' cars, and then desert in all directions. I was on the phone with my father last week, sitting in my car after a long day at work, and a coyote came strolling into the parking lot, poking around for any scraps left from the careless humans. I chatted with my father and watched as the coyote weaved in and out of the fence and sniffed at the curb.
It's not all planned to be wilderness forever, though. In fact, a lot of it was planned to be developed in the next few years. However, with the economy hitting a wall, a lot of those developments have been put on hold, awaiting an upturn. On my way to work in the morning, I pass numerous signs advertising homes for sale, with nothing but vacant desert, or perhaps a few phantom roads marking them.
With the economy the way it is now, though, there is no guarantee that any of these developments will ever happen. Like Swansea disappeared with the great depression, so to these planned communities may never exist because of a downturn in the economy and a rethinking of building in a waterless desert at a time when fresh water becomes harder to get.
It's a different kind of ghost town, the one that never gets built. Planned, but never executed desert communities, swept over by the same sand that took Swansea.
Of course, we are all probably living in ghost towns. Unless you happen to live in Jericho in the West Bank, or one of the similarly old cities in the middle east, most of us are living in a place that is relatively new. And there are a lot more places that have disappeared off the map than are still on it.
My house in London is situation in a reclaimed marsh in a time or rising sea levels. That's not exactly a recipe for longevity. I was watching a TV show on the Travel Channel last week that said Niagara Falls would soon (i.e. within a period of time measured in thousands, not millions of years) disappear completely due to rising land mass at it's downstream end. With it, who knows what will happen to any of the Great Lakes cities - Toronto, Buffalo, Cleveland or Chicago. Of course, some of those could disappear much sooner - victims of offshoring of jobs - both manufacturing and white collar. The job I do, as a business analyst, seemed a secure choice to go into once all the programmer jobs disappeared overseas back in the late 90s. Now, not so much. Chinese and Indian Business Analysts are on the verge of being able to do what I do at a fraction of the price. Time for me to start looking for a new path, perhaps.
Who can say what the future holds. Hopefully if it is disaster, it at least holds off until we've all had a chance to live our lives. Sorry to all of you in the future reading this who may have suffered from my wish for things to hold off until I was dead and you were living, but the late 1900s / early 2000s were nothing if not a time for selfishness.
Feeding the Multitude: Fish In the Desert
Speaking of selfishness, my last night in Phoenix I went to a really good Sushi restaurant called Ra. As one might imagine, there isn't much of a fishing industry in Phoenix, so the fish is all flown in from around the globe that day to be cut up into thin, pricey slices just for my benefit that evening. I'd feel a lot worse about it if the Sushi hadn't tasted so good.
Of course, if you've ever eaten... well, really anything that wasn't slaughtered in the room next to the kitchen in which your meal was prepared, you have probably had the same experience. It is just that it is so obvious when you are eating fish in the desert that everything is flown in from far away. Our greenhouse gas meal. We got free water too, which there isn't much of in the desert either.
It was, though, really good fish.
Forty Days in the Desert... Okay, Thirty-Eight Days... But that is close
I bid adieu to the South-West.
On Wednesday, December 24th at 1:50 pm on a sunny day in Phoenix, my flight to Toronto left fifty minutes delayed thanks to weather in everywhere else in North America other than Phoenix. In fact, for the first time in 40-something years, every area in Canada had a white Christmas. That did, however, mean lengthy (i.e. days) delays, especially for those out west. Vancouver and snow do not mix well.
With my flight living the end of the runway in Phoenix and launching out into the blue skies, my 38 days in the desert ends. I may be back, though it seems doubtful. However, you never can tell with the economy nowadays. Anything past January 2nd at this point is unclear, and really even that isn't set in stone, as I might try and travel somewhere over the New Year's period. Cross my fingers for good last minute deals on hotels, train tickets and/or flights!
It has been an interesting five-and-a-half weeks for me out in Phoenix. I made a little coin, replenished the bank account, and rebuilt a little bit of my bruised ego (at least when it comes to thinking people don't want me to work for them). I had some excellent adventures and did some great hiking in Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Tombstone, Phoenix and Swansea. I even got to drive across London Bridge.
Mostly, though, I learnt about the desert, and gained an appreciation for why people come here. It is a beautiful place, but also a deadly place.
While I always had a good supply of water, granola bars and never was really too far away from my car, it is easy to see how, without food or water (especially water), one could succumb to elements quickly. The desert is definitely a place to respect, even when going out for a day hike. For that reason, it is a humbling place. Much like being out in the brutal cold of winter, being out in the desert makes you realize how frail you, as a human being, are. It reminds us, and connects us to our humanity, and the fragility of that state.
That being said, my 38 days in the desert has taught me one thing for sure. I really want to make my time in the U.K. work. I want to live abroad - truly abroad - and I really want to see this through to some sort of logically conclusion.
So, prepare yourself for more blog entires from the east-side of the Atlantic.. After a short stint at home in Toronto, I'll be at home in London, and hopefully back to immersing myself into a life European.