Phoenix, Arizona: The Tropical Desert Paradise of My Youth

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If you can, imagine a teenage, Arizona-style country-boy, raised out in the middle of the Navajo Reservation. Making the occasional five-hour drive to Phoenix was a little adventure that I anticipated. I once made the long drive with a couple of friends to see a band play. Other times I would come down with my youth group for one thing or another.

The temperature would gradually change as I passed by the beautiful Lake Powell, around the magnificent North Rim of the Grand Canyon, through the cold and snowy mountains of Flagstaff on Route 66 to the hot-and-sunny, cactus-filled paradise in a valley. Palm trees popped up around the highway (we didn’t have palm trees in my little town). It was always exciting and new.

In 2001, I moved to Phoenix. A little bit older and with the pleasant experience of college-life in Dallas, Texas, I was now well adapted to city life. In fact, I preferred it to the small town in which I grew up. However, Phoenix did not have the same charm I remembered.

In reality Phoenix is a smoggy, dusty grid of highways that seem to connect nothing to nothing. It is mostly inconsequential save that it is the capitol of this fine State. There is nothing interesting to do and nothing interesting to see.

As a teenager, I never noticed the graffiti on the dirty old buildings, highway signs, and construction equipment. I didn’t see the endless miles of cookie cutter homes with prominent garages that eat people every evening. I never noticed the victimized Hispanic population fighting for their rights. I never noticed the purposeless urban rat-racers, the teardrop tattooed angry gangsters, or the plastic faced, snobby little gold-diggers nestled near their mountains.

All I saw was a tropical desert paradise.