Arizona has been taking a beating lately. Between immigration laws and mass shootings, people have asked how I can stand to live here. The truth of the matter is, I love it. After all, this is the burning desert that I crossed to find my true love.
My wife sung the state's praises in her blog. Once again, she's inspired me. She concentrated on the state's natural beauty and wonders. I'm gonna be my usual perverse self and concentrate on things unnatural.
Sitting on top of the geological chaos, with botanical madness growing through, as meteorological fury blazes above -- all that inspired Percival Lowell, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury, and me to dream of Mars -- there's all kinds of stuff in Arizona that is the result of human beings living in a place that stresses their bodies and does bizarre things to their brains.
Influences of the outside world – I'm talking California and the Midwest (Mexico is Arizona on steroids) – threaten to cover over this weirdness in corporate/Hollywood franchised plastic-flavored blandness. Em and I used to eat at a place called Pancho's that was across the street from La Cucaracha and Ammo For Less. We used to live near an intersection that had a three-story tower of toilets and a pink building with the word TOPLESS in fat, black letters across the front. Sadly, those are gone.
There are still sections of Phoenix where colorful, hand-painted signs blend with murals and graffiti, clusters of stop-lights arc over complex intersections in displays of naked technology, while freight trains chug past mounts of glittering scrap metal.
Atlantis Mariscos is still around even though the night club that twenty years ago had a mural with flying pyramids is long gone.
Getting away from the Metro Phoenix Area and the ancient Hohokam canal system, roadside weirdness abounds, from wild datura jungles, to curious encampments with fences made from discarded car hood and doors. The roadkill gets hard to identify: Sasquatch? Chupacabra?
Route 66 takes you through some true Americana that Norman Rockwell never painted. The land of cowboys, Indians, hot rods, and UFOs beckons. Keep a look out for the chipping, decaying hand-painted billboards advertising businesses that may or may not still exist. There's eccentric architecture from Arcosanti to the Mystery Castle. And ruins from cultures that traded with the Maya.
And there are those who would like to sell it all to developers so they could dynamite down all the hoodooistic mountains, then fill the desert up with tract housing and shopping malls with the same stores from more civilized parts of America, so the immigrants from Back East can feel at home.
Of course, they'll have to do something about the temperature.
Meanwhile, I am happy to live here in Aztlán, the Aztec homeland, as a proud citizen of the Seven Cities of Cibola.
I put my trust in the ancient Thunder God who still rules the Superstition Mountains. I'm sure the messages along the Hieroglyphic Trail assure us that the traditions going back until before the Ice Age will continue.
Besides, how can corporate Americarama compete with the mutant Gila Monsters?