Saturday, September 22, 2012

I Don't Think We're in Brooklyn Anymore

One of the best people I know in the world is my friend Phil. We grew up together on Somers Street in Brooklyn, living in adjacent houses with adjacent stoops. (To my amazement, I have learned over the years that some people are not familiar with the word "stoop". It is, I guess, an inner-city term for a flight of outside steps leading to the second floor entrance of a multi-family house. The stoop was a place to hang out on summer evenings and socialize with neighbors. It also provided the means to play stoop-ball, a city kid's game that could be played by one or more.) But I digress. Some years ago, Phil moved to Phoenix to get into a climate that would be more comfortable for his wife Margie's arthritis. Their daughter Claire and her husband Marc recently had a baby (Rosie) and we were invited to come out west for the baptism.

We were glad to go just to see old friends and to meet Rosie. We were planning a trip to Las Vegas anyhow and decided to piggy-back the Phoenix stop onto our itinerary. Our travel agent booked us into the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, the grand dame of Phoenix Hotels. Frank Lloyd Wright served as the consulting architect, and the Arizona Biltmore remains one of the only existing hotels in the world to benefit from his influence. Now owned by the Waldorf Astoria chain, the property is opulent. Set amidst the desert landscape of palm trees and cactus, the hotel offers every amenity one could want. There are also private estates on the grounds, but in spite of their grandeur, they had no stoops. Our room was on the second floor overlooking the pool. I didn't pack a bathing suit since I have a deal with all hotels in which they reduce my room rate in exchange for me not appearing at poolside in a bathing suit. Fair exchange.

We raced around seeing as many museums as possible. When I say raced around, I mean as fast as one could go in 100 degree heat! ("But it's a dry heat" is every Arizonian's programmed response.) Although it's not New York, Phoenix has a full range of cultural activities. We also learned a lot about the native-American people who thrived in the area for centuries before the white man arrived to screw them over. We did some antique shopping in one of the many kitchy markets that sell everything from arrow heads to Moose heads. There are also a ton of restaurants and we made sure to hit as many as we could. One disappointment was breakfast. At the Biltmore, breakfast could run into thousands of dollars, so we climbed into our rented Chevy Impalla and hit the streets. Don't look for a diner in Phoenix...there are none. We settled for bad bagels in a coffee shop run by an Asian woman. Yechh.

The baptism itself was wonderful. Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Tempe was not quite like the church of the same name in Brooklyn. The church itself was modern and sunlit. The choir, complete with instruments, could have given that Mormon Tabernacle bunch a run for their money. The words of every hymn were projected onto the walls of the church so there was no excuse for not singing. There were three babies being baptized that day, so every once in a while a loud baby yell would break the silence of the service. Rosie took her baptism like a trouper, allowing the holy water and oil to usher her into the ranks of Catholics in good standing. The homily, I'm sorry to say, was as monotonous as the homilies we get at home. The Asian priest had written it all out, but kept losing his place. (Sorry Lord, just tack on a few weeks to my Purgatory time.)

It was wonderful seeing Phil and his family again. Some connections are so strong that neither time nor distance diminishes them. Seeing the smile on Phil's face and getting to hold little Rosie made the five hours sitting in a cramped airplane seat seem like nothing. Tune in for part 2 of our vacation "Viva Las Vegas" appearing soon.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association  


The Whiner said...

So glad you got to see your friends and had fun! Will look forward to Part 2. My only experience in AZ was rafting down the river in the Grand Canyon and we all know how much I enjoyed that....

Jim Pantaleno said...

The canyons still echo with your screams.