Some people say I don’t get out much. And, yes, I’m busy, constantly juggling work and family — just like lots of people in the East Valley.
But I have my favorite social and recreational venues around town. And every once in a while, I leave town for a vacation.
Being a professional communicator, it’s “normal” for me to talk with strangers, especially a new place. For better or worse, I slip into “host/interviewer” mode very quickly, and often end up asking, “Where are you from?” and “What’s it like living in (name of location)?”
I’ve always thought of this as being “personable,” and I’m guessing that both Dale Carnegie and Stephen Covey would give me the thumbs-up with this.
But for this summers’ out-of-towner, I decided to break my mold. Rather than succumbing to my usual routine, I began asking my acquaintances, “What do you
know about the place where I live — Arizona?”
THE COUNTRY OR THE SHIP?
My time away entailed flying to Vancouver, B.C., and then cruising to Alaska. In fact, I’m writing from the ship right now, headed back home.
And since I’ve had the chance to network with people from all over the world, I thought I should check and see how Arizona is doing with that elusive agenda of becoming a “global trading partner” and an “international travel destination,” a frequently stated goal of Grand Canyon state politicians.
My first “foreigner” experience was on the front end of the trip, with a Vancouver airport employee. Unknowingly, my 8-year-old son tested the new procedure first, saying to the young woman: “I’m from Arizona — do you have any idea how hot it’s supposed to be there today?”
After she correctly guessed “probably very hot,” my son then unknowingly ventured into some dangerous waters on the international relations front, asking the woman, “Do you like Weird Al Yankovic?” (the comedic song parody artist), and, “Are you offended by his song called ‘Canadian Idiot?’”
Fortunately, the woman laughed, indicated that yes, she does like Weird Al, and, although she hadn’t heard the song “Canadian Idiot,” she thought it sounded funny and did not take offense. Even so, this event lead to a little father-son chat on the subjects of “diplomacy” and “avoiding unnecessary risks.”
Upon boarding the ship, I encountered a crew of nearly all non-North Americans. And this is where things got really interesting.
When I popped the question — “What do you think of Arizona?” — to Noelle, a native of Trinidad, she said, “You mean the country of Arizona?” “No, it’s not a country,” I replied. “Oh,” she said with a chuckle. “I’m sorry, I guess I’ve never really heard of it.”
Jennifer from Manila, upon hearing the name Arizona, immediately blurted out the words “Pearl Harbor.” “You’re thinking of the ship?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied. “It was terrible. I’m sorry.”
“Thank you — but are you familiar with a place called Arizona?” I asked.
“I think there’s a place called Arizona, but I’m not sure,” she replied.
Francisco, a native of Indonesia and the lead guitarist for the ship’s house band, knew nothing about Arizona either. Thinking I could draw a musical connection, I asked, “Have you ever heard of Glenn Campbell? Or Michelle Branch or Stevie Nicks or Jordin Sparks?”
He didn’t recognize any of those names. And ironically, this guy had performed, “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” the night before in the ship’s main lounge. And Agong, a native of Bali, drew a blank, too. When I asked, “You ever heard of The Grand Canyon?” he replied, “Oh, yeah — that’s in Las Vegas, right?”
FAMOUS? MORE LIKE INFAMOUS
But what about my fellow Americans? Would they have something interesting to say about my home state? Comedian Frank King (www.whitecollarcomedy.com), part of the on-board entertainment lineup from the Seattle area, had an interesting memory of his last visit.
“Ah, yes, Arizona, the only place where I’ve been paid to not perform,” he said. “It was a private event at the Phoenician, scheduled the night of the last game of the World Series in 2001. During the dinner they had the Diamondbacks up on the big screen, and the audience was so into the game I never made it to the stage. I was handed my check and told, ‘Enjoy the last few innings.’ But hey, what a great hotel.”
And Karen Vail, a talk show host from KTRS radio in St. Louis, Mo., said “I know you’ve got Californians moving in by the droves, but that‘s about all. I really need to vacation there someday.” Lots of Californians, and a possible vacation destination. So much for our “international” status. I’ll start thinking of ways to improve upon this — just as soon as I get through “customs” at Sky Harbor.
Austin Hill of Gilbert hosts a talk show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on KKNT (960 AM), and is co-author of “White HouseConfidential: The Little Book of Weird Presidential
History.” He is also an editorialist for the national news