The only thing stranger than being in a place for the very last time, knowing you will never see it again, is being somewhere that you will likely never visit again, but who knows. In the former category is my last day at any of my former jobs, drawing in bittersweet memories as I look forward to the new challenges that await me on the other side of the front door. I shall have one of those moments just a few months down the road when my current place of employment closes.
But today I am faced with the latter type of goodbye, as I soak up the final hours of what is likely to be my last of many visits to Phoenix, Arizona.
Our first visit to the Valley of the Sun took place almost exactly a decade ago. My wife and I were living in California’s Central Valley, both working for the phone company, when I changed positions and found myself with a boss whose office was in Arizona. Then I got to know her boss, who worked in Iowa. Then a company in India put in a bid for the purchase of our division and I was asked about my salary in rupees. But that is another story.
I communicated with the Arizona Boss Lady via phone, instant message and email for eleven months before she finally visited my location and I got to meet her in person. Not too long after, she decided to convene a meeting of all of her direct subordinates on her home turf in suburban Phoenix. Most of us got on a plane, but I am a white-knuckle flyer and we therefore jumped in our car instead.
My biggest fears about Phoenix were that it would be about a thousand degrees and that I would have a close encounter with a snake. Did I mention that snakes engender greater panic in me than even jetliners?
It was a 13-hour drive, and we did it all in one day. The company provided us with a lovely suite in an extended stay hotel for the week. I worked all day, so we didn’t have very much time to explore other than looking for interesting places for dinner. And I am happy to say that I did not set eyes on a single snake, nor was it a thousand degrees (only about ninety).
We subsequently passed through Phoenix on the interstate on the way to my sister’s in Texas a couple of times, but I did not visit again until about four years later, when I drove down with a friend to compete in a regional Scrabble tournament. Not only were my days fully occupied, but I had a horrible case of bronchitis. I had neither the time nor the energy to venture out of our hotel (unless you count lying in the sun by the pool and coughing).
So when we moved to California’s low desert three years ago, we rejoiced that Phoenix would be only 140 miles away, close enough to get on more familiar terms with the city. Along with Laughlin NV and Yuma AZ, Phoenix became one of our regular weekend getaways. After all, there wasn’t much in our little town. Without a movie theater or an Italian restaurant, and with the nearest Wal-Mart almost an hour away, every month or two we would bop out of town on Saturday morning in the hope of reacquainting ourselves with the amenities that civilization has to offer.
We could be in Phoenix in about 2½ hours, and our trips usually went something like this: Grab some fast food and drinks for the road, cruise into Phoenix, get the shopping done, check into the hotel, catch a nap, go out for dinner, see a movie, sleep late, go out to lunch, gas up and drive back to California.
We seldom varied from this routine by much. So now that we are a few months away from relocating to another part of California that is too far away for a weekend drive to Phoenix, I am forced to face the reality that I have never visited the art museum, never perused the impressive library at Arizona State, never attended a Diamondbacks game and never visited Harrah’s Ak-Chin casino.
Okay, alright, I never really wanted to do any of these things anyway (except maybe the library). We were always perfectly content to enjoy a few good restaurant meals, shop without California taxes and the annoying CRV on soda bottles, catch a flick at the cheapies up I-17.
So I guess it really is adíos, Phoenix. You’ve served us well during our years in the desert, and for that, we thank you.