Monday, December 14, 2015
I went for a walk in Scottsdale.
Nobody, it seems, except street people and mad dogs, goes for a walk there. There are sidewalks, miles and miles of lovely sidewalks, and paths and landscaping and big boulders and fountains, but no people.
I walked a long ways, for over an hour. It got dark but the lights pulled me forward. Scottsdale uses a lot of electricity. There are also lots of screens in Scottsdale. I went into a bar and talked to a smiling waitress with bright eyes. She showed me pictures of her corgi dog on her phone. She wore a micro mini Scottish skirt and revealing plaid halter top. The screens were ubiquitous, even in the bathroom. The volume was loud enough to wake the dead. I gave the waitress a big tip for being friendly, the only friendly person I encountered.
People in Scottsdale drive. They drive really fast -- climb-up-your-bumper-and-roll-over-you-if-you're-only-ten-miles-an-hour-over-the-speed-limit fast. And the cars are buffed, lustrous, squeaky clean masterworks of foreign engineering. On my "block" near the hotel, there were Porsche, Ferrari, Audi, Jaguar, Alpha-Romeo, and BMW dealerships. They were lit like baseball stadiums and full of gleaming new cars.
I am guessing Scottsdale is where some of the one-percenters hang out. They like their cars new, fast, and clean. They like their waitresses young, beautiful, and scantily clad. The gods of goods and flash assault the senses.
Of course, the other great way to really see a place is to go for a bike ride. I took a sixty-mile bike ride to Bartlett Lake, a reservoir on the Verde River. Drivers couldn't get enough of buzzing me with their fancy cars as I slogged up the hill toward Cave Creek and Carefree.
Once I turned off for the reservoir on Bartlett Lake Road, however, traffic disappeared. I had the road to myself. And it was a lovely, lonely, winding, hilly ride.
The day was a chilly one, and I was a long way from Scottsdale, my rental car, and the hotel when my chain snapped. It was at the turn-around point, about 30 miles in. I was at the marina at Bartlett Lake, at the bottom of a four-mile long hill. As I pondered my situation, an airplane soared low over the lake. It flew low enough to see me but made no move of recognition. The pilot wore a Santa cap. The beautiful twin engine Beechcraft was a pilot's dream machine. No surprise there. It fit in with all the boats in dry dock at the marina. The yacht club has access to a jewel of water out here in the middle of the desert. Owners were off shopping, no doubt, because it was Christmas time, too cold for water skiing. No people, but white, clean, impressive boats stood witness to my predicament.
I have to admit that all of this is lovely beyond imagining. The lives of the super-rich are the bread and butter of envy-laden tabloids. These people don't have to deal with stolen trucks or lean months of paycheck-to-paycheck accounting, or broken chains. At least, that's what one voice in my head was saying. That is the voice of drama and poor me. As I stood there in the cold sun, drenched in blessings of day and body, I took stock. There was the chain. It is here, hanging on the handle bar.
I thought I was screwed, but found in my trusty bike bag, a chain tool, somewhat the worse for wear, that was just enough to repair the chain and get my sorry ass out of there and on my way back to Scottsdale. I was grateful for my chain tool, my burning legs on the long climbs back out to Cave Creek, the fabulous machine I was piloting -- the equivalent in bike terms of the best of the Ferraris -- my breath, the sun, the road, the turquoise water, my myriad blessings of living flesh. I wanted to be nowhere else, to be no one else.
Just as I finished the last climb of the road to the lake, traffic started to pick up again. Angry drivers took to cutting it close with their foreign sports cars; the smells of money began to waft on the breeze; and a spoke broke.
My rear wheel was a wobbly mess for the next twelve miles or so back to shopping plaza, but I made it.
Now, one could get upset about the inegalitarian distribution of wealth that is these United States, get tweaked about trust-funders holing up next to golf courses, hogging all the cool cars, living in a plastic diorama of shopping malls and gated communities. Yes, one would be justified in such a stance. Life is not easy for most of us, nor fair.
The "middle class," as we all know, is shrinking. The super rich are getting more and more while the rest of us move to other side of an increasingly yawning gap. This, friends, is one of the great issues of our times.
But we have our guides in this maze of injustice. Mine is a voice of working class wisdom and existential philosophy. He is a sage who wants nothing more than a little peace and a cold beer at the end of the day. He doesn't pine for yachts, planes, fancy cars, aggressive driving, fat plastic shopping plazas. He embraces his place in this world, inelegant as it is. He is a working class hero.
He is my guide, my spiritual director, my role model. Homer is The Man. With him I can go anywhere, do anything, not fear the inevitability of breakdown and greasy hands.