In Arizona, we drank strong espresso and drove around through mountains and palm trees and talked about politics and the education system and immigration reform, but also Celine Dion and monster-truck rallies. We ate midnight sloppy joes and Torino beer then talked about relationships over falafel and lemonade. We shopped for robots and records, as well as trombones in an antique store with a Doberman who nuzzles you as you shop. We went to biker bars and put Cher on the jukebox and Mexican restaurants where you could feast for $6 and get suspiciously racist stick-on mustaches for an extra $.50. We wandered around bougie boutiques mentally plagiarizing their overpriced goods before playing a board game called Mr. Bacon’s Big Adventure at a punk kid’s birthday party.
Earliest thing I see my first morning is Brian making me coffee with blue agave nectar and Fran prancing around pantsless, saying “I’m SO glad you’re here!” I think that is the most appropriate way to sum up Brian Kelly and Francesca Musumeci, in that they are inherently warm, and also that they know how to cut right to the core of me with my two weaknesses of coffee and an abhorrent attitude towards pants.
And while they insisted that Arizona culture is severely lacking, we still managed to hit up some really rad places, including:
Smeeks- Have you ever wondered where you could buy meatball-flavored gumballs, candy that you thought didn’t exist past 1992 and toenail clippers shaped like a ’57 Bel Air? Wonder no more. They also had my personal Kryptonite: a photobooth:
(The second strip was included in the price, which we didn’t know, hence the Ringu-like blank first frame.)
Red Hot Robot- not 24 hours before arriving in Arizona, I was brainstorming with a friend on how to properly celebrate Daft Punk’s robot birthday, and how tactless it would be to show up without a gift. I worry no more, because Ms. Manners would totally approve of my party etiquette after my stop here, assuming Ms. Manners has a chapter on how to properly behave at robot birthday parties.
At this point, we stopped being Brian and Meg, 24 year olds, and became like, Elmore and Gertie, 90 year olds, as we spent the afternoon antiquing, trying on sequin lion jackets and vintage dresses, searching for skeleton keys and reading postcards sent between friends in the 1920’s.
I have always said that I needed to see a southwestern sunset before I die, and while I saw one from the train in New Mexico, Brian sends me a text one night saying “find somewhere high, look west.” Ever obedient, I did and saw this:
And felt my heart explode.
In my first small-world encounter that Tempe had to offer, a girl from my old neighborhood that I grew up in (Sacramento Avenue, represent) works around the corner from the place I was staying and picked me up to bring me to A Mountain, where we hiked up and talked about her upcoming nuptials and family and happiness all while taking in this view on an incredibly crisp night where the air inexplicably smelled of barbecue. (Editors Note: Not complaining.)
For my second small-world encounter, my junior-high best friend had now moved to within 2 miles of where I was and found out I was in town. The only thing you need to know of running into her was that it went something like this:
Me: “Hey, I know we haven’t seen each other in 10 years and that we randomly met up 1,800 miles from home, but I’m going to LA tomorrow and you should come.”
Her: “I’ll pack a bag.”
So after getting an Amtrak-themed album from Brian, new books on the transgender experience from Fran, and a new travel buddy, its time for the Sunset Limited to Los Angeles.