Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mr NYC in Phoenix

One of the reasons for my lack of blogging lately has been that I've been out of town -- most recently to Phoenix, Arizona. We were there for a short weekend and greatly enjoyed this city in the sun.

It isn't going too far to say that Phoenix is about as different a city from NYC as an American city can be. Unlike our city of islands, Phoenix is an enclave in the desert. It's surrounded by gorgeous mountains and, at sunrises and sunsets, provides stunning views. Also, unlike our highly dense, concentrated city, Phoenix is spread-out and sprawling. Instead of the trees and occasional flower beds that decorate our streets, those in Phoenix are dotted with palm trees and cacti. And while many buildings in NYC are 100 years old (or older), in Phoenix a building over 50 years old marks it as ancient.

One thing that NYC and Phoenix have in common, though, is size. NYC may be the largest city in America but did you know that Phoenix is the fifth largest? In the last twenty years, its population has exploded. In the last decade alone, it has grown by a third. Wow.

Our time in Phoenix was limited but our host was amazing and she showed us some of the the best parts. 

First up, we went and got some lunch at In'N'Out Burger. My wife and our host rolled their eyes at my enthusiasm for eating this but these are truly some of the best fast-food burgers in the country. Sadly, In'N'Outs are located only in the southwest (California, Nevada, Arizona and a place in Utah) so any trip out west demands a visit. Amazingly, we were able to get three burgers, three orders or fries, and three cokes for ... drum roll please ... $17! Only when you leave NYC do you realize how much cheaper the rest of the country is.

Next, we went to the Desert Botanical Garden. This is a huge and beautiful spread of cacti and desert plants and I really learned a lot about the nature of the desert. Contradictory as that might sound but the desert really is an amazing ecosystem. Did you know that cacti really aren't plants -- they're more like trees? That cacti have bones and, when they decay, you can see their bones? Most amazingly, is the (sad) fact that cacti can get cancer. We even saw a cactus with a giant bulge of cancer and it was fascinating. If you ever get to Phoenix, you must visit this place and experience a whole new terrain.

The next day we visited Taliesen West. This is a foundation/museum/architectural school founded by the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It's a beautiful compound designed by the master himself and it is a western extension of the place called Taliesen that Wright originally built in Wisconsin (Wright and his family and students spent the fall and winter in Phoenix and then he spring and summer in Wisconsin. Smart guy.) We took the hour and an half tour and walked around the grounds and through the buildings that are like no other architecture I've ever seen before. It was amazing to sit in a real Frank Lloyd Wright living room and I even got to sit on the great man's bed! We also got to visit a screening room that Wright built where he would watch movies with visitors like John Wayne and Ann Baxter (the Oscar winning actress who was in All About Eve -- and was also Wright's grand-daughter). I really loved this place.

The rest of our short visit was spent doing what you can only do in the West -- swimming and luxuriating in a hot-tub. 

Phoenix is a great town to visit -- it's very pleasant -- but, obviously, as the summer gets closer, it's really, really hot.  

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