We were standing on the 14th hole of the Arizona Biltmore golf course when The Guy From Grand Rapids, maybe four beers and 80 strokes in, began to expound about his lack of desire. Not that kind of desire (for which I thank heavens). His lack of desire to see the Grand Canyon.
“Came here in 2008, so it’s been 10 years,” said Mr. Michigan. “I don’t see the point. It’s a long drive.”
Me: “It’s not any longer than this round of golf. And it’s one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. It’s 2 billion years old. Billion. With a b-”
Grand Rapids Guy: “Right. But when you think about it, it’s just a hole in the ground. I don’t need to drive four hours to see some big old hole in the ground.”
That was when I let it go, because I’ve learned there are three kinds of people in the world: Dumbasses, people who are proud to be dumbasses and the rest of us. I don’t argue with the first two. Even so, this encounter kept gnawing at me, because of what this ignorant Michigander has failed to grasp:
The essence of calling Arizona home.
See, I’d like to think that home isn’t simply a matter of geography. Home is a place where we all share certain things, common experiences that knit us closer together and maybe even induce a certain collective pride. If this was a social media post rather than a newspaper column, it would come with a hashtag, like #ThatsSoArizona or #YouKnowAZIsHomeWhen.
Having your breath snatched away while standing on the Grand Canyon’s rim is one such experience, a bucket-list moment some Chamber of Commerce copywriter might tout as “uniquely Arizona.” There are others, of course, though not all of them are as worth bragging about as the Canyon. What else feels “so Arizona?” How about:
Sitting on the outfield grass at Scottsdale Stadium and watching a Cactus League game. Learning the correct pronunciations of Prescott, Casa Grande and saguaro. Driving up to Rock Springs Cafe to get some pecan pie. Or watching a drunken sorority girl wobble down the fairway at the Phoenix Open in a miniskirt and four-inch spike heels.
You see where I’m going here. When you call a place home, you come to appreciate its nuances. Like how whenever you see Lin Sue Cooney on TV, she never seems to age. And how you always meet a Valley old-timer whose granddad had a chance “to buy a hundred acres over by (insert name of big mountain) for $22 an acre,” but didn’t. And how no airport in America boasts worse signage or slower luggage unloading than Sky Harbor. And how there’s always an hour wait at Pizzeria Bianco. And how people who call it “Squaw Peak” as opposed to “Piestewa Peak,” always seem a little proud of their political incorrectness.
Then there’s Arizona’s annual rites of passage, afflictions that occur as inevitably as another 112-degree day in August. Like one more losing Phoenix Suns season where the sports talk goofs proclaim, “the future is right around the corner.” Or seeing Arizona public education “jump up a notch to number 49” when it comes to funding schools and paying teachers. Or our state Legislature pulling up in January like a 90-seat clown car and spending five months playing grab-ass and debating whether to arm school crossing guards and PTA moms.
Some people say home is where the heart is. Me, I say home is where we skip Daylight Savings Time Sunday and spend all year trying to figure out what time it is at Dad’s house back east.
– David Leibowitz has called the Valley home since 1995. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.