Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Wilted Cheesestick

The very first person I saw in Phoenix opened their car with an oven glove.

You know those science fiction movies where people are taken to a barren, suspiciously-beige, prison-planet to be left to rot in the brutally, relentless desert heat for the remainder of their lives? Welcome to Phoenix. I know what you're thinking. "But Gavin - you're a delicate flower. A tender, shockingly white cherubin who'd surely wilt in the desert. And yes - while it is true that if a Jason Bourne-style, super spy/assassin was to hide undercover within the general populace, then absolutely no-one would suspect it would be a milk-bottle-white Englishman in Arizona (although it totally, probably is you Gavin....tough as ten bears as we all know....) - the desert is no place for a girly, Milky Bar Kid, man-boy like you."

A native Arizonian
Alright. Steady on the girly, man-boy stuff. Jeez. Anyhoo - the first hour I set foot in Phoenix it was 107 degrees and my shoe melted. That's when I saw the oven-glove lady. And said, "fuck" out loud every four minutes purely because of the relentless heat. And realized that Arizona is bona fide mental after watching someone watering the driveway outside their house because it gets so hot the concrete cracks. That's right - people  here think using a hosepipe in a desert to keep the concrete cool is a thing. Think of it this way - the first Transformers movie and post-apocalyptic, nightmare movie The Postman were filmed here. So was Natural Born Killers. As were two of the Star Trek movies. And two of the Star Wars movies. And Planet of the Apes (the original and the remake). And Psycho. And Tank Girl. And Rambo III - which is set in Afghanistan. And Jarhead - which is about Operation Desert Storm. Basically if you want to make a movie that looks like aliens might bugger you, psychopaths might butcher you, scary foreigners might genocide you or gay Mancunians might try to be and gay and from Manchester on you (no idea on the last one - but it was on this list) - Arizona is the de facto place to do it. 

And seriously - I can't over-emphasize how hot it is here. Pardon me - I mean how fucking hot it is. That is the only word that helps articulate how hot it actually is. The locals bang on about a "dry heat" and how that's great. Well yes - if it was also humid nobody in their right mind would live here. Except Doug Stanhope and Hunter S. Thompson. But I repeat myself. Actually when I visited last year my thermometer in the rental car said 118 Fahrenheit. That's 48 degrees Celsius. I actually took a drive out into the desert and stopped to take this photo because I was stunned to see something green. At which point a guy passing stopped, said he noticed I had no tan (seriously.....) and refused to leave until I drove off because he said us tourists are always doing demented nonsense like wandering about in the desert without water being unusually white. He didn't say this I'm sure - but my memory of him has him telling me, "this isn't fun boy - this is Arizona."

That was last July. I only visited for four days and thought it was pure Hell. I hated it. I knew that despite the fact that my children now lived on what felt like the surface of the sun that every physical part of my body couldn't survive in Arizona. So obviously late last October I moved to Glendale, Arizona. There were a few reasons I didn't move in the early Spring of 2014 when my ex wife up-and-moved 2000 miles with our kids. We'll conveniently avoid those. But in October 2014 I called my son and he didn't want to talk to me. Or the next day. Or the next week. So I knew I had to move. Finally at the end of October he said he would only talk to me if I picked him up from school. Three days later I picked him up from school.

So Arizona. Very much the Mel Gibson of states. Yes, there's something incredibly likeable about it - but lurking not that far underneath there's something quite unsavory. Not to mention drive five minutes from anywhere and it looks exactly like the kind of place that Toecutter will show up trying to ram you off the road to siphon your gasoline in Mad Max. Arizona has got quite a stigma. On the one hand - it's known as an extremely right-wing, geriatric-dense, strangely fundamentalist, prejudicial, Sherrif Arpiao-run shithole teeming with cockroaches, old people from up north hiding from the Winter and Mexicans that somehow scare people as far as Upstate New York into thinking America is being taken over by nefarious foreigners who don't speak proper English like what they does.

And I'm sure it is seeing as politically that's who seems to run quite a lot of Southern Arizona. Personally I haven't really come across that. A majority of people I've met aren't from here at all. Quite a few of them aren't even Americans. To be fair I have met some spectacular lunatics. I was accosted quite early on by a "Soldier of Christ" whilst going out for iced coffee. They were quite shouty. And I know everything is relative - but everyone of those buggers I met wearing coats the day I moved into my place because it was a chilly 80 degrees can piss off. Plus there are a sizable number of escapee Mormons down this way. Met an eccentric-but-nice Mormon lady first week I was here. Who also happened to be a Goth. And a witch. And writes erotic vampire fiction. Apart from telling me she knew I was supposed to be in Arizona because she'd cast a spell specifically to bring me here, she was actually pretty nice. In fact most everyone else I've met has been kind, open, liberally-minded and nice. Really nice. It makes you wonder if there's just a cultural misunderstanding when you see this below next to quite a pompous, organic grocery store. Basically that's everything that Arizona seems to be portrayed as in one photo - a strip mall with a church and a gun shop with a name newspapers seem to give to people who massacre people at a school.

Anyway. That'll do for now. I have a ridiculous amount of things to talk with you about.

Oh - and hello again by the way. Absolutely fucking delighted to be writing this inane pish again.