Scottsdale, Arizona


Yesterday I spontaneously booked a flight for Doug and I to Phoenix. With all that’s been happening with K___ I just realized life is unexpected and short. Take the trip. Buy the shoes. Spend the money.

So…here we are, on my official birthday, at the gate, after getting here rather late, sipping coffee to quell my migraine that I’ve had all night and day. First leg of the journey–Columbus, Ohio. Then onward to Phoenix.

I figured that Amangiri, my desert dream hotel, was out of the question ($2000 per night is way out of our budget); so, we’re slumming it at the Scottsdale Four Seasons. I was here years ago with my kids when I drove cross country and it was one of my favorite hotels on the planet. Oh, heaven. How many times I have dreamed of that luscious desert garden resort with the prickly pear, saguaro and eucalyptus landscape. The sounds of desert dwellers at night and the smells of limestone and red rock…

“The vegetation of the Sonoran is the most diverse of all the North American deserts. In addition to the saguaro cactus, the signature plant of the desert, common types include the barrel cactus, organ-pipe cactus, prickly pear, cholla, ocotillo, yucca, century plant (agave), ironwood, palo verde, elephant tree, mesquite, and creosote bush; endemic to Baja California are the cardon (up to 60 feet [18 metres] in height, a relative of the saguaro) and the unusual boojum tree (known in Mexico as the cirio). Thorn forest occurs in southern Baja and Sonora. Higher elevations support trees adapted to more-temperate climates. Desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, collared peccaries (commonly known as javelinas), mountain lions, gray foxes, and coyotes make their homes in the desert. Other typical residents include desert tortoises, Gila monsters, tarantulas, scorpions, and a variety of lizards and snakes. Rabbits and rodents, such as jackrabbits and kangaroo rats, are abundant, as are several species of bats. Birds include roadrunners, Gila woodpeckers, Gambel’s quail, and a variety of owls and hawks.” —Britannica


We arrived rather late last night, almost 10pm. It’s a 40-minute drive from Phoenix Sky Harbor to Scottsdale and while exhausted and still fending off my migraine, I was once again blown away by the Four Seasons. Our room is small but we have a super cute terrace overlooking the Sonoran landscape and all the great amenities that make this place five-stars. I got up early, as always, to write  and did so outside on the deck. I watched the sunrise behind me turn the hills before me a beautiful yellowy-orange,  and inspired by the views I woke Doug up with a coffee from the cafe.

We sat pool side for most of the afternoon. I always feel like I cheat fate by flying from crappy weather to a place where you can sit half naked outside and soak up the sun. We did that for hours. I continued my research of desert flora. I had to remember the Palo verde and the agave. I had forgotten about the chaparral creosote bush and the mesquite. It felt nice to remember. Like knowing these plant names actually connects me to them. Like secret passwords to the Southwest.

We had poke bowls and detox drinks right in our little cabana–Doug had a prickly pear margarita–and then we stumbled down the desert path in the blazing noontime sun back to the room to rest from all that rest. Doug instantly fell asleep. I showered, put on my street clothes and went over to Proof, at the hotel, for an afternoon coffee. When I came back we managed to find the energy to head to Old Town Scottsdale, a very kitschy, slightly has-been tourist spot of a few streets of Native American “trading posts,” art galleries and restaurants. We found no T-shirt’s and I bought nothing except a ring.

By five we were back in the room only to rush out to dinner at Onyx, at the hotel, where Doug went ahead of me to grab us a table. Otherwise we would have had to wait until 7:30 for reservations at Talavera. Way too late for me (I run on Seniors hour). Dinner was ok. Jamon, olives and manchego with stale bread and then salmon for dinner. Doug’s steak had a pretty interesting pepper sauce on it. We dined through a Jewish wedding down in the garden. And then I stumbled back to the room in heels, drunk. I spent most of the rest of the night texting Kristy who 12 years ago joined me at this spot on my cross country road trip with the kids. She sent some old photos and we laughed about penis rock. I think I went to bed around 8:30.

I was jarred awake at 2:30 a.m. by some belligerent drunk a few casitas down whose girlfriend Nikki apparently locked him out. I would have too. He kept screaming at the top of his lungs telling his buddy, “Why the hell am I out here while all my stuff is in there?” And then he would scream, “Nikki! Nikki! Open the door!!!” The racket drew me outside where I was able to witness a night sky filled with stars. It was such a warm summer night. And I honestly wished I had the energy to stay awake and soak it in. But, I went back inside and called the front desk on the guy and went back to bed.

I had a mysterious dream that woke me in a panic. I was trying to make sure me and my kids and Jess and my mom and Dennis all had our passports updated and that we were packed and ready to catch our flight. At one point I was calm and sure that I had plenty of time, then it hit me that I had to pack and leave in a few minutes. As I was pulling a brilliantly large suitcase out of storage my accountant came up to me and said, “please take these credit cards. I’m a good person.”
“I know you are, John,” I said.
“But, I’m working with no money and so, I keep driving up the debt.”
“It’s ok.”
And as I was addressing him I am furiously trying to pack up Jess’s clothes and then drag my suitcase through an incredibly small space and I’m relying on people to help pull me through and they’re not doing it and I am petrified that time is running out and I’m going to miss my flight.

Hmm…sounds like the dream of someone who fears she’s out of time and money. Credit score, 806, check, money in the bank, check, only age 50, double check. I dunno. Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, aren’t they?

Sunday, Tucson

Driving north from Tucson to Phoenix I was looking at the olive trees, wondering out loud if the early Spanish settlers brought them over or if they’re native to this area. Doug goes, in all seriousness, “I would think it’d be really hard to transport a huge tree on a ship like that.”

I said, “Doug? Seeds.” We both laughed so hard we practically started to cry.

Inside Congress Hall, Tucson

Tucson is weird. There are all these hip little places–urban style coffee houses, gift shops, breweries, restaurants –but they’re spread thin amid a vast and desolate grid of wide, empty streets and abandoned warehouses. There’s the attempt at redevelopment combined with a southwestern college town feel, and yet, something’s off. If anyone who knows Tucson can explain it, please do. I am super curious to know.

We lunched at The Cup in Congress Hall, a somewhat gimmicky old midwestern hotel where John Dillinger and his posse were supposedly captured. Food here was great. Creative, fresh and artistic. The ambience was hip. And I absolutely loved the rockabilly wait staff.

Before Tucson, we drove through and hiked parts of Saguaro National Park. Hello! What an extraordinary spot on the globe with all these super alien cacti that grow nowhere else in the world but the Sonoran desert.

“ The saguaro is the largest cactus in the United States. Most of the saguaros roots are only 4-6 inches deep and radiate out as far from the plant as it is tall. There is one deep root, or tap root that extends down into the ground more than 2 feet.”

I learned their flowers only bloom at night. They don’t have their first bloom till about 35 years old. And they don’t grow limbs until about 50. I, too, am just starting to grow new limbs at 50. Let’s hear it for late bloomers! My spirit animal is clearly a plant.

We got back around 5pm, showered, dressed and had an early dinner at Proof. Ribs, coleslaw, pickles and a really fabulous East Side.

Wandered around. Asked about the fake cacti on the highways. We think they’re utility boxes. Asked about how they transport massive saguaros on their property. Apparently they can’t be transplanted very far, they must retain their same sun-facing side and it’s incredibly expensive.

At the end of the night, back in our room, reception called. We got $100 taken off our Four Seasons bill for the ruckus that Nikki and her boyfriend caused. Thanks, favorite hotel. But, I wonder if Nikki and boyfriend patched things up. Life is short, maybe they should. Can a place like this really go down in history as the last time two lovers would ever be together? It seems ironic and sad. Then again, boyfriend might have been a complete idiot and Nikki finally seized her moment to get him out of her life. Go Nikki! Boyfriend got what was coming to him. Just like poor John Dillinger.

We leave tomorrow and plan to do a 3-mile hike up a small incline behind the hotel before we go. Back to the cold. Back to NJ. Back to reality. I guess I’m ready. Doug is not. Too short for a vacation, but perfect for a trip that was never supposed to happen. Take the trip. Buy the shoes. #lifeisshort

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