I spent most of this week in Arizona, which is beautiful but empty:
The emptiness probably contributes in large part to the beauty.
When I was in high school, college, and afterward my parents went to my Aunt Geri and Uncle Mike's house every Saturday night for pizza. Whichever of us kids were around would also go (technically I guess my cousins didn't "go", since it was always at their house and they already lived there) so I happened to be there one night when my aunt was complaining about wanting to get away from upstate New York.
"There's nothing here," Aunt Geri sighed over her pizza, her gestures punctuated with a cigarette. "I want to move."
"To where?" one of us asked. Aunt Geri seemed to think about it for a minute, and then apparently blurted the first state that popped into her head.
I'm sure I smirked at this, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one.
"What's in Arizona?" my dad asked, and before Aunt Geri could answer Uncle Mike quipped, "A whole new nothing!"
That quote pops into my head every time I think about Arizona, probably because there are no competing musicals about that state (seriously, why has no one written "Arizona!" or "Tombstone on Ice" yet?) to squeeze it out, and I discovered this week that Arizona is a state full of nothing. Beautiful, desolate nothing:
I'm pretty sure I don't mean it in quite the same way as my uncle did.
We flew into Arizona, connected through Atlanta:
early on Sunday, and landed in Phoenix:
See how most of that picture is brown? Arizona is like that. If something's not irrigated, there's no grass, just some desert vegetation. It was weird to me for the first few days to see houses with lawns that were just bare gravel and cacti, but I guess if you live there you get used to it.
We landed at the oddly decorated Sky Harbor Airport:
and headed for our hotel, which immediately creeped me out. I don't know if you can tell from this picture:
and maybe it was just the western architecture in general, but all of the common spaces in the hotel made me think of the Overlook Hotel from The Shining. This impression was only reinforced when I got to my very nice room:
and discovered that it was decorated with what seemed to be alternate cover art from The Gunslinger:
Then, as if I hadn't been horrified enough, I noticed that my balcony doors had a warning label, and should never, ever be opened:
I know that calling them "Desert Critters" is an attempt to downplay the seriousness of the local wildlife, but if you already have an overactive imagination then the first thing that pops into your head is a veritable flood of scorpions, rattlesnakes, tarantulas, vultures, and vampire bats pouring into your room at night.
After I saw that warning label, I never opened the balcony door again.
The hotel was actually really nice, though, with fancy showers:
and a quiet pool area:
where someone brought me a pitcher of ice water as soon as I sat down:
I never made it back out to the pool for the rest of the conference, but that one afternoon after being on planes all day was very nice.
Our dinner out in the desert was also nice.
I made friends:
ate in a barn:
while listening to a band:
and taught a coworker to make a s'more before we headed back to the hotel.
The conference was very informative, and also fun. I have pages of notes saved on my iPad, and also gave a presentation that was very well received. There was enough space between workshops and mealtimes to keep it from feeling like a grind, and the hotel food was great. I never managed to adjust to the time change and am paying for that now, but I had a really good time and got a lot out of it, so I'm glad I went.
And that it ended early enough on Wednesday for us to get in some sightseeing.