Greetings from "the valley," short for "the valley of the sun," the local name for Phoenix and its environs (aka "Maricopa County.") I admit this is not my favorite part of Arizona. I prefer Tucson, which has fewer people, less pollution, a better skyline, my wonderful alma mater, and a longer history. But this is where my sister lives, and yesterday I drove up here from Tucson so I can hang out with her, her husband, her four children, and her really cute dog.
It's also where Wayne's parents live, and since arriving in Mesa, I'm also hanging out with Wayne. Yesterday we went to a bookstore, walked around a mall, drank coffee, tried to find a Mexican restaurant we were willing to eat at (which shouldn't be that difficult in this part of the country, but we had a hard time) and talked about how very weird Mesa is.
Mesa started out as a Mormon settlement--one of the first temples outside of Utah was built in Mesa, and I admit it drives me NUTS when people find out I grew up Mormon in Arizona and react as if I'd told them I'd gone to a private pingpong college on Mars. "I thought Mormons lived in Utah," they say accusingly, then tilt their chins and narrow their eyes in suspicion while they wait for me to admit that I've just told a great whopping lie. At such moments I sometimes become indignant at the illogicality of such responses, as if I didn' t know full well where I was born and raised; as if Utah and Arizona didn't share a freakin' border; as if people who forged a trail from Illinois to Utah (a journey precipitated by the fact that they were driven by murderous mobs from their homes in Illinois, an expulsion that occurred in the midst of a MIdwestern winter so severe that the MIssissippi froze solid, which meant it was unimaginably cold if you haven't experienced temperatures like that but also meant that the refugees were able to drive wagons containing the few possessions they managed to salvage across the Mississippi, but then had to weather the next few days in TENTS [and the shock of the temperature--60 below zero Fahrenheit or so--was so extreme that over a dozen pregnant women went into labor] on the Iowa bank of the river), said trail requiring these people to find a way up eastern edge the Rockies, then drag their wagons up and down god knows how many peaks and valleys, before they decide to settle down in a valley dominated by a huge, smelly, inland lake saltier than the ocean, a valley they somehow figured out how to make habitable by doing things like setting up one of the best irrigation systems in the entire US--as if people who could do all that couldn't also make their way south and figure out how to build houses with big windows and sleeping porches so you can deal with the summers, even 150 years or so ago,which is when several of my ancestors arrived in Arizona.
Then there's all that missionary work Mormons do all over the world--they actually manage to convert people now and again, and some of those people reproduce. I have friends who were born and raised Mormon in places as far from Utah as Argentina, England and Taiwan.
Well, THAT was quite a substantial side comment, not what I meant to discuss at all.... For those of you who wonder why, despite the fact that I'm no longer a practicing or believing Mormon, I still feel so attached to my Mormon heritage and was so invested in my Mormon upbringing, I've either clarified things or made you even more confused.
Anyyway. My point was going to be that these days Mesa is this huge sprawling awful suburb of Phoenix, albeit one that still has a high concentration of Mormons. Every couple of miles you see the same pattern: a bunch of tract homes built around a Mormon church, then a Walmart and/or a Target and/or a Costco, then a few restaurants, including a Coffee Bean and/or a Starbucks for the heathen; then it all starts over again.
Though we mustn't forget the Sonics: a Mormon custom--one I admit I partake in when I'm here, because Sonic has good sodas--is going to Sonic during Happy Hour and getting a big ol' soda. My sister and many women like her have a special sticker on their cars when they pass through the drive-thru, the person at the service window knows they are part of a special frequent buyers' club.
I'm hoping to spend more time with Wayne today, though he may have to hightail it back to LA for work, which would SUCK, since he's one of the main people I wanted to see here. But I'm having fun with my nieces and nephews and then there's always the weather: it's really beautiful. And there's also the fact that if I want a grapefruit for breakfast, I can just go outside and pick one. Which I think I'll do now.