Well everyone, it is 2014, and I’m dubbing it the Year of Ch-ch-changes. I’m going resolution-less this year, commando, and in the immortal words of David Bowie (who likely is actually immortal) this year I’m going to “turn and embrace the strain”. (PS – I always thought the lyric there was “turn and embrace the strange” which I kind of like better . . . .)
2014 finds the Living Analog abode relocated from St. Louis to Phoenix. We’ve been getting out a lot and trying out everything and anything and essentially being tourists in our new town. (We went to the Barrett-Jackson car auction last night, for which the only descriptor is insane.) This inevitably leads us to lengthy discussions on the comparable and/or contrasting elements of our former and current cities. We’ve been making an effort to live in the present – no one wants to hang out with the person who spends a whole evening saying “Well, in St. Louis, they did it like this . . .” and “In St. Louis, so-and-so was so much more cleaner/better/quieter/any other descriptor” and so on and so forth. So, I thought I’d just get the bulk of comparisons out of my system with a quick run down of the things I have noticed thus far.
(Image below both my STL and PHX library cards. Whoa Nelly.)
1) Weather. This is a no-brainer but it’s very disjointing to have the whole national news broadcast focus on a huge snowstorm and see all your teacher friends on Facebook post about snow days when you’re wearing open-toed sandals and only need to put on a light jacket or sweater once the sun goes down. I’m not complaining at all – the weather here is gorgeous, it’s just one of the many changes we are adjusting to (and enjoying). The dogs lay outside and sun themselves during the day and I have caught Shenanigan flat out on his side on the warm brick pathway more than once. Below is where he sits at the back yard door and “guards” the house. (Also – a fiddle leaf fig – one of my “Dreaming Of” items that I picked up thanks to my friend Ikea.)
2) Driving. This one came as a surprise and I feel like we’ve already adjusted to this but in Phoenix, the driving is fast and furious. The grid-system roads are easy to learn and navigate but the highways do crazy things and what calls itself west really runs north and east is really south . . . there are loops and all sorts of things. Also, pretty much everyone has warned us of the consequences of drunk driving – I guess you end up in an outdoor labor camp somewhere wearing a pink suit. That has been no problem to comply with and on New Year’s Eve just used the new “get a cab” app JT had downloaded on his phone. But like I said, the main difference is in the driving style — everyone goes so fast, runs any color of light (the red light might as well be the green left arrow light) and really does whatever they want on the road. Crazy.
3) Language. Another kind of obvious one but it is still a strange thing to see billboards, signs and half of the TV channels in another language. So many people are bilingual (and a lot of the job postings I’ve browsed have it as a high priority). I was one class shy of a French minor in college but I am pretty positive my conversational French would point me amiss were I to try to use it. To me, it gives Phoenix a more cosmopolitan vibe and reminds me a bit of New York where we would hear at least three other languages everyday. I definitely want to take some conversational Spanish classes someday, until then I will just watch the Telemundo soap operas for equal parts language assimilation and utter entertainment.
(Picture above taken at South Mountain which is a five minute drive from our house. We actually sent out New Year’s cards this year (first time!) and this is an outtake. I got a little tripod/gripper thing for my phone and downloaded a self-timer app in an attempt to be in more pictures . . . )
4) Flora and fauna. We were expecting a lot of cacti in the desert and that hasn’t disappointed, but there’s also a lot of other succulents, sages, laurels and plants I don’t know the names of. In short, it’s not as desert-ish as I was expecting. There are not nearly any little critters such as we would see in South City (bunnies and squirrels seem non-existent). We do have one little lizard guy who lives in the shady spot where the block wall fence meets the house. The birds are all different and make totally different noises. We saw quail at one of the parks and they’re hilarious with their little headpieces and the noises they make when they run around. The other big difference I have seen running around is a lot of people’s dogs. This goes against everything in me as a volunteer for a rescue group and while there are leash ordinances and such in Phoenix, it just seems to be a cultural difference. I don’t like it, not one bit.
5) Architecture. Not only are there a lot of stucco-ed houses and buildings, which I was expecting, Phoenix seems to have a lot more modern and forward-thinking architecture. I think because it is a younger city than St. Louis, it doesn’t have the hang up of clinging to historical styles. There’s also a ton of Californians here so I think Phoenix also is on the fringes of a West Coast mentality and that also makes it more progressive. (The architecture, not the politics. I guess I could add politics as #6 and guns as #7 but we just won’t go there, okay?) The weather also allows for a much broader use of materials – an easy landmark we use to locate our house from the tops of all the mountains we’ve been hiking is the University of Phoenix building. It’s a massive glass skyscraper (in a land of two-story or less buildings – everything is zoned to be short here for the most part) wrapped in an oblong shape with what appears to be Corten steel. There’s also a lot of awesome MCM houses which I found through the equally awesome source Modern Phoenix (www.modernphoenix.net). I went on half of this driving tour while we were living in the hotel and plan on going back soon and taking some proper photographs.
So that’s all I can think of right now as the big culture shock/adjustment differences we have noticed. Time has really flown by and we have now been here 2-1/2 months – some of these things I won’t even remember as differences in another week or so! Have a great weekend everyone – Cheers – CT