Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Unlike hell, you can return from Phoenix

    Chicagoans, nestled in the bosom of the greatest city on earth, have limited interest in the bland nowheres beyond its borders. Therefore, as a columnist for Chicago’s preeminent daily newspaper, I try not to bore Chicago readers with places that aren’t Chicago and therefore don’t really matter.
     However. With temperatures in Chicago predicted to hit 100 degrees Wednesday, I feel obligated to share my recent experience in a certain sun-blasted city, despite it not being Chicago.
     Specifically, Phoenix.
     If you know one thing about Phoenix — and who doesn’t? — you know it is very, very hot. Surpassing 110 degrees for 31 consecutive days this summer. Fate dictated I fly there last week.
     Going to Phoenix in August must seem mad. In my defense, it was one of those duties parents sometimes find themselves shouldering, in this case delivering a cat to its owner, a young man associated with the federal judiciary there.
     While I did consider simply landing, handing over the beloved pet, then catching the next fight home — it is Phoenix, after all — that seemed a failure of imagination. Besides, there was a single aspect of Phoenician life I was curious about: the temperature. What must that be like? The hottest I’ve endured as a resident of Chicago was 105 on July 13, 1995. I still remember walking one block to the dry cleaners, then returning to our apartment on Pine Grove Avenue and lying down, utterly drained. 
     But 111 degrees is ... not bad, particularly if you are lounging by a pool. Yes, the concrete is too hot to step upon with bare feet, the metal rail leading into the water too hot to touch. But once you are submerged up to your chin, 111 degrees is just fine. It is, as they say, a dry heat.
     Beyond the heat, I couldn’t imagine what else Phoenix might offer. An art museum of some sort, no doubt. But so vastly inferior to the Art Institute that going would just be sad. Third-rate works by familiar names, larded with forgettable local efforts. I never considered going.
     As my host drove me around, showing off the Sandra Day O’Connor United States Courthouse — quite beautiful — Phoenix unfolded, a rather uninspiring hodgepodge of junior colleges and welding supply yards, interspersed with occasional streets of high-rises of the most anodyne architecture imaginable. Occasional silhouettes of mountains in the background, trying to add interest. It was as if someone shuffled together Franklin Park and Central Station and began dealing cards.

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  1. It is an amazing museum. Unfortunately, I left it until my last day and am also looking forward to returning as I didn't even scratch the surface.

  2. We were dragged under protest to the Museum, and our reaction was as yours! Amazing place! We now recommend it to any of our Chicago friends visiting there.

  3. My only quibble with the Museum would be about displaying that... whatever it is... horn... without a mouthpiece. That's like showing a vintage car without its steering wheel. I know as an ex-musician (in a family of them) that the mouthpiece is the musician's personal choice and not something permanently bonded to the instrument, but still... they could at least toss on a vintage prop mouthpiece just to complete the look. Oh, well, if that's the most I can complain about today, that's a good sign.

    1. Maybe it was something particular to that specific horn. I looked at my photos from the museum, and most horns have their mouthpieces. There was one I almost used as the blog cover shot, with a mouthpiece, so I put that up, for your viewing pleasure.

  4. Are we really that provincial Neil?
    And do you really have such disdain for us?

    I read your first paragraph as sarcasm but was it facetious?

  5. Sounds like you don't care for the Rock Hall, Mr. S, as Clevelanders call it. It draws a lot of tourists, but locals...not so much. It's expensive for what you receive, and the building on the lakefront has never appealed to me. I think it was supposed to look like an old record player with a stack of 45s on a spindle. Makes it hard to get around the various levels and exhibits. And now it's going to be expanded and enlarged. Meh.

    Suburbanites and out-of-towners have to pay the piper, but city residents are admitted without charge, which still seems unfair, even though I live in the city. Despite the free pass, I don't visit the Rock Hall very often. Maybe once a year, if that. Love the music. The museum, not so much.

    Sadly, they seem to feel that there MUST be a class of new inductees every single year. Which means the roster is greatly watered-down and thinned out. I mean, like...Dolly Parton? Seriously? Gimme a break. The Rock Hall could stand to learn a few lessons from the baseball folks in Cooperstown.

    I would love to visit the Musical Instrument Museum, but the only cousin I had in Arizona passed away in January, so I no longer have an excuse to travel out there. By the time I get to Phoenix, I'll be feeble...and probably too frail to appreciate it.

  6. Sorry Grizz. I disagree. There have not been enough inductees especially women. Dolly is an excellent choice as the membership has expanded to a wide variety of genres. Why not country? IMO More of the women of rock should be included

    1. There is a country hall of fame. I am fine with Dolly Parton being inducted. She is one of 16 performers or groups inducted in the both Halls of Fame.


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