When the feeling’s right, I’m gonna fly all night

When the feeling’s right, I’m gonna fly all night
Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix, AZ

Technically, I had two full days in Phoenix, which isn’t always the case when staying two nights. That length of stay gives time to get to a place, explore a bit and sleep, then have one full day before leaving, but I was flying at 11.54pm, so could kill a full day. My lovely hostel were happy for me to leave my bags there and after a run and breakfast I wandered off into another warm day. I’d figured I might splurge the $4 on an all day pass for the light rail, which was my transport of choice for reaching the airport, later. So nice when a city doesn’t have the ‘wedding pricing’ model for anything connected to an airport. A five mile journey? That’ll be two p…oh, you want to go to the airport? Then that’ll be four times as much, please.

Orange and red sunset
Sunset over Phoenix.

I found myself walking into town again, though. Once I’d made my way from 13th avenue to Central I was hot and ducked into the public library to cool down. It also allowed me to continue my tour of world libraries; Phoenix has a large but sparse one. It’s well stocked, but the reading areas are open plan rather than cosy and comfortable.

I’d spotted a quirky cinema, Filmbar, on Tripadvisor, but their offerings didn’t start till after 5. The AMC, though, was nearer and huge, 23 screens and I could watch 12 Years a Slave for $5, an astounding bargain. I’ve got the book ready to read, didn’t plan to watch it first but it was an unsensational representation of an astonishing story, albeit with the odd over-lingering shot. Nice to be given the time to think ‘I wonder if he’s thinking about x, and what is he looking at that we can’t see off screen”, but throwing that thought around for a whole minute is a bit too much of a luxury.

Post cinema I lurked downtown, checking out ASU, eating in a public square and being approached by the fabulously polite homeless locals. I had picked up my bag by 7.30 and was on my way, and with the light rail delayed by a car accident on the tracks I only had three hours to make it through the airport. The light rail is swift and friendly-with the delay, the driver had to change ends (the train went round the accident on the west bound line then backed up to go round the top of a loop, the other way)-but the Skytrain is even better, intersecting with the light rail and whisking us to terminal 4 within minutes. It makes the airport seem further out of town than it is, I’d walked from the bus terminal, one end of the airport, to the light rail, less than a mile. The Skytrain is two stations further on out of town, then you walk up steps, onto a huge pedestrian bridge and ride a travelator, wondering ‘is this the Skytrain?’ before finding there really is a train at the end of the bridge. Three stations, all with beautifully decorated flooring, whoosh. Another stroll and onto the shuttle to terminal 2-if I’d been in a rush I’d have been off at 24th and Washington and walked, that would have been quicker.

Blue and gold murals at the Skytrain
Skytrain murals.

The spring break factor kicked in again, with my flight to Chicago full. I was offered a $200 gift card to go later but opted not to work out if I could still get to parkrun that way. Two short flights only totalled 4 and a quarter hours, but with an hour and a half at Chicago to walk down 15 gates and a three hour time difference, I landed in Raleigh/Durham at 9.30, slightly bleary eyed but sufficiently with it to get the right buses and make it to Durham centre.

Ah’m no man, I’m a she-male

Ah’m no man, I’m a she-male
Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix, AZ

Streets lined with palms
Streets lined with palms. Which were apparently introduced by Dwight Heard, who with his wife Maie founded the Heard museum of Indian artefacts, based initially on their own collection.

A museum day in Phoenix. That wasn’t quite the highlight, though, which came as I chose the lower level route over interstate 10 (which is buried in tunnels) by going through Margaret T Hance park. I’d already walked through a green and pleasant part and was intrigued by the urban art I’d spotted. I was also intrigued when walking through, as a creature in a red dress appeared ahead of me and spoke briefly to two girls passing through. I don’t know what was said, but then they spotted me and walked over. I’m friendly, learning to be more so, I smiled and accepted a damp handshake.

“My, you’re cute. Can I have your number?”
“I don’t have a phone.”
“No phone? Oh my. Facebook then?”
“No Facebook. I’m off the grid, man.”
“Did you call me man, I’m no man, I’m a she-male.”

Well yes, you are. But I am edging past.

“Are you busy?”

Yes, I am busy. This is definitely the correct answer. For once my brain does not insert the wrong answer when I come to speak.

“Yeah, I’ve got to go.”

I move another step.

“Oh, because I would **** **** **** in the bathroom.”

“Oh, thanks.”

And I moved on.

It’s not the journey, it’s the adventure. I’d had a short run in the morning then finally got out to walk round town a little. It’s not that great a walk from the hostel, out at McDowell and 13th Avenue, but on a hot day I ended up overdoing it by walking 5 miles. Those 5 miles included visits to both the Heard museum and Phoenix art museum, though.

A green sward of grass outside The Heard Museum
The Heard Museum.

The former was started by Dwight and Maie Heard to house their own collection of Indian artefacts, and has expanded from their 3,000 to 40,000 objects. It looked to be energetically curated, with exhibitions coming and going with speed to supplement the large main room to which you head first, which has pots and paraphernalia along with some tribal history. The exhibit on Indian boarding schools was particularly affecting-children were sent in some cases, but others as young as five were taken, with the idea that the ‘Indian’ would be educated out of them.

The Art museum is free on Wednesday afternoons, from 3-9pm, and has modern art on the ground floor, traditional on the first. By now I was pretty tired and fading, but appreciated the exhibits and found the ‘Read my Pins’ exhibition, showcasing the pins and brooches worn by Madeleine Albright much more effective than my initial reaction expected it to be. She wore some beautiful objects, some of them large, such as the zebra pin that sat on her shoulder to meet Nelson Mandela. As a quote from Albright says, her pins may not have ever set the world on fire, but then avoiding anything inflammatory is exactly what a diplomat is supposed to do.

Multi-brown coloured building for Arizona Statue University's Downtown campus
Arizona State University, Downtown campus. The USA’s largest by enrolments

Once through the museums I was tired and hungry, and only realised how thirsty I was when on my third refill of water. A huge pizza at NYPD pizza put me straight, only for two beers in their happy hour to knock me off line again. Overall I came out on top, and spent the evening in the hostel first talking to a friendly man from Oklahoma I’d met the day before. He had moved on from explaining what Spring training was all about-all the baseball teams gather in Phoenix and Gateway, and fans can see them at low cost, along with minor league games. One facility in Phoenix has 17 diamonds.

Who could imagine football clubs doing something similar?

Exhibit text: A story begins... The jar had cost him a great deal, both in money and in effort. The ship's journey across the ocean had made him ill. "I hate sailing," he muttered, as he wrapped the cloak around his shoulders.
See, Corporate England? That is how you do it. You do not need ‘in terms of’ in front of those two objects – how much neater it is this way.

Tonight he was more interested in how far I lived from The Queen, how much I followed Downton Abbey and which stately homes I’d been to. The accent was worth listening to, even if the subjects were hokey, and he looked very well for someone born in the early 50s. Eventually I left the younger guests playing games in the living room, which is great, just a lovely comfortable home living room, and went to bed. The Grand Canyon’s minor peril stayed with me for a couple of days, with my brain straying on to thoughts of how close I’d been to some big drops, but today’s excitement caused barely a ripple in my consciousness.

Reading: Rome 1960, David Mariniss. I’m a third through, the athletics hasn’t even started yet and already I’d put this in my favourite books.

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