September 14, 2004
Years ago, I was flying back from Chicago, watching from my window as the land began to turn brown when the guy in the next seat asked: "Are you connecting to San Diego?" No, I told him. I live in Arizona.
He leaned in and said, quietly: "Isn’t it . . . really hot there?"
"Yes," I said. "But you don’t have to whisper. We know." In the ensuing conversation, I tried to explain we weren’t all bola-tie polygamists with saddlebag complexions and handguns for the kids. I tried to convey what it’s like being married, with a home and a job here. We get first-run movies, I told him. We download, drink coffee at Starbucks and commute.
"So, living in Arizona is pretty much like anywhere else?" he said.
Have you ever tried describing life here in the East Valley to an outsider? It sounds like a fusion of Levittown and "Death Valley Days." Some well-meaning gentlemen took me out once, claiming to know the true location of the Lost Dutchman mine. As our off-road vehicle bumped toward the Superstitions, and my hoss vividly recalled the dying Jacob Walz and his clues about the fabled Conquistador gold, we’d suddenly pass fairways, where elderly men in checkered pants argued about which way the green broke. That’s kind of how the day went: Folklore — fairway — planned community — checkered pants — cowboy on the range — senior with a seven iron. Living out here is clearly a had-to-be-there experience.
My mission each week is to capture some of the things men grapple with in the East Valley. Why men? Because we’re the undiscovered country. Women are very articulate about their emotional geography. Watch "Dr. Phil" and you’ll see women spinning yarn after yarn while their husbands stare off slack-jawed, looking for the buffet.
I have lived out here for the better part of 20 years, during which time I have been bachelor, husband, parent and homeowner. And, though most men manage issues by muttering to themselves and dying early, the fact remains that being a guy is a challenging, intricate, wonderful, rewarding, frustrating, weird business.
Together, we can explore some conundrums of East Valley life, like: Why grill when the patio you’re standing on is already 115 degrees? How would the boat in your neighbor’s driveway react if it ever actually saw the water? Where can we go to be better husbands and parents — and are there snacks when we get there? Can we still style ourselves as cowboy independents when every house around is taupe and you can see the Baja Fresh from the curb?
I’m counting on you guys out there for help. Have an observation about living, working, being a husband, a father, maintaining a home, recreating or simply drawing breath in the East Valley? Please share them. If you’ve ever had questions about the quirks of living out here (no question too dumb) this is your chance for an answer or to speak your mind.
We live in a strange but beautiful land, where superstitions are mountains, red mountains are freeways and, every July, you can break a sweat showering off. We need to pool every insight we have.
See you next Tuesday.