Saturday, September 27, 2008

Arizona, Day 1 - Welcome to Phoenix

Though it's only 6:30 p.m. here, my mind and my body tell me that it's really 9:30 p.m., and I am winding down. I'm in my pajamas sitting up in bed in our hotel room/efficiency in mid-town Phoenix.

My friend, Kelley, and I caught our 9:20 a.m. flight this morning from Charlotte with little fanfare. The lines at the airport were long, but they moved quickly. We flew to Detroit for a connecting flight, where it was a chilly 61 degrees. I'd like to take a moment here to tell you how much I love the Detroit airport, primarily because of the magnificent bathrooms. The stalls are huge---it's nice to find an airport bathroom that contains stalls designed for people who might have (gasp!) luggage with them. The doors and walls are low to the ground and high to the ceiling; hence, no one can reach under or over to snatch your bags while you're sitting in a most vulnerable position. Another nifty feature is the Express Tram. It's a shuttle that carries people from terminal to terminal, and the nifty part is that the track is about 21 ft above the main floor of the airport. I know, I doesn't take much to excite me. But I do have fun riding the tram and watching the action on the airport floor below me.

We had a brush with greatness on our Detroit - Phoenix flight. We sat with a pleasant gentleman who initiated an animated discussion about the upcoming election when he overheard Kelley and I mention that we were polar opposites regarding our political views. He was quiet for awhile and worked on his laptop, and then we began to talk again. He lives in Massachusetts, but received his MFA degree at UNC-Greensboro. He was fun to talk to, and he shared a picture of his adorable young daughter with us. We discussed our various reasons for traveling to Phoenix, and he mentioned that he was on a book tour. As it turns out, this fellow was author Steve Almond. He told us about his book entitled "Candyfreak", and I made a mental note to Google both his book and him. His website is very good, and the reviews that he has received are most impressive. He even received accolades from Amy Sedaris (she was brilliant in the Comedy Central series "Strangers With Candy"), one of my favorite comedians. I'll be purchasing one or two of his books online tonight after I finish this entry.

The flight itself was a long one. As time went on, I could sense the people around me growing restless. They were no longer content to sit quietly and read or listen to their iPods. Portable DVD players were being played at loud volumes, children's electronic toys could be heard bleeping and blipping noisily, and the overall noise level was growing. I thought to myself that if airlines were to ever allow passengers to use cell phones in-flight, there will be chaos. Mutiny even.

As we touched down in Phoenix, a flight attendant made a request over the P.A. system: "Due to the excessive heat outside, please pull the shades down on your windows before you leave the plane." Oy. That's never a good sign. Yes, it was a balmy 102 degrees in Phoenix, and the heat all but knocked me over when I walked off the plane. It felt like someone was blasting a hair dryer about 4 inches away from my face. It's true what they say, is dry heat. So we had that going for us.

I met a cute young guy from New Jersey working behind the Enterprise rental car counter. He saw that I'm from North Carolina, and he asked how far I live from Charleston SC. He mentioned that he has a friend who plays for the Charleston River Dogs, the single A affiliate of my beloved New York Yankees. I asked his friend's name since I like to keep up with the minor league players, too. His friend's name is David Williams, and I will keep that name in mind as more Baby Bombers move up through the ranks.

We picked up our white Chevy Impala and found our way to the hotel. We were extremely hungry as neither of us had eaten much today. We decided that when in Rome, we should do as the we looked for some regional cuisine to have for dinner. I flipped through the yellow pages, and I found a restaurant in Tempe called Z Tejas that offers southwestern cuisine. The food was absolutely delicious! Instead of the usual basket of rolls or muffins, this place serves up a pan of freshly baked cornbread, and it's even still in the iron skillet when it's brought to the table. There were actually kernels of corn in it, and it was served with honey butter. And yes. I took a picture of it.


I ordered Jack's 5-Cheese Macaroni & Achiote Chicken. To call it "delicious" is a gross understatement. It's made with bleu, Jack, cheddar, parmesan, and Romano cheeses, finished with toasted bacon gratin (I copied that straight from the menu). I could eat that stuff everyday until I die, and I would never ever get sick of it. I'm serious.

Kelley ordered a frozen margarita that was much too strong for tastes, so it was mostly untouched. Had I not been driving later, I would have gladly helped her out---in spite of the fact that my history with tequila is not so favorable. It happened during my freshman year in college, but hey--that's another blog post altogether.

So tomorrow it's off to Chase Field to watch the Diamondbacks take on the Colorado Rockies. There's not much at stake at this point, as both teams are already eliminated from playoff contention. However, I will get to see the great Randy Johnson pitch. I am looking forward to that, although I'm still pissed that he wasn't so great during his brief stint with the Yankees. Anyway, he can throw the hell out of a baseball; as my brother Grant advised, "Don't blink." I am also excited about seeing a new (to me, anyway) baseball stadium.

And that is it for Day 1. Stay tuned.

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