In February 2015, I visited family in Phoenix. It was not a happy occasion: my uncle Frank had passed away. But it was good to see the family. I tagged along with my parents. It was my first time seeing Phoenix.
We didn't see downtown Phoenix. We stayed at the Hampton Inn at the Happy Valley Towne Center shopping center, about as far north as you can while still within the city limits. The "city" up there is pretty sparse; shopping centers surrounded by parking lots separated by desert lots. Wikipedia says Phoenix has about 1/6 San Francisco's population density; we were in an area that showed why. My aunt Jean, my cousin Steve and his family live in Anthem, a housing development north of Phoenix. My introduction to Phoenix was navigating as my dad drove through Friday rush hour traffic on 17 North. It was pretty stressful; I was pretty wiped out.
At the hotel, we quickly bumped into my cousin Danny and aunt Judy: they were staying in the room right next door. This was good news: we got caught up on plans even though it turned out that neither my parents nor I had current phone numbers for the Phoenicians. Soon we were in the lobby talking with Dan and Judy. Soon after that, we headed partway into the city for dinner.
Dinner was at Bobby Q's, a BBQ place. The good news was that they served me vegetarian food, though I had to brattily "order off the menu". The bad news was that the place was pretty loud; highway noise (it was just off highway 17), water-feature noise, noise noise. I maybe heard 1/3 of the conversation around me. But maybe that was just as well: I was still pretty wiped out, and probably wouldn't have followed the conversation anyhow.
After dinner, back at the hotel, I forced myself to stay awake long enough to check email. Except that I didn't check email: my phone's wifi internet hotspot wasn't actually giving my laptop a connection to the internet. The laptop happily connected to wifi, but couldn't actually ping anything. I took this as an omen, gave up on technology, and collapsed into bed.
The next morning, my mom and I set out for a mini-walk to see the neighborhood. Thus, we walked through hotel parking lots towards the shopping center, then turned back when it started raining. I'm not sure how often it rains in Phoenix. Probably not often. (Back in San Francisco, there was hail. How often is there hail in San Francisco? Not often.)
My parents and I and Dan and Judy gathered in the lobby to break fast and talk. (The breakfast included omelets that looked like they were cooked in omelet-shaped molds. Maybe made from powdered eggs? It sounds gross, but this might have been the best hotel-breakfast breakfast I'd had in a while.) Heard about cousin Eric's experience with newborn twins (and how to pronounce those twins' names).
My parents and I went for a walk, this time making it as far as the Happy Valley Towne Center shopping center parking lot.
The memorial service was in Glendale, a suburb northwest of Phoenix. Before the service, they showed a slideshow of photos. A USAF honor guard folded up a flag that had been draped over the coffin while taps played. Cousin Kathy played a piece on the flute. Cousin Steve gave a speech. When alive, Frank had told jokes; he'd loved dogs. The speech reminded me of this.
I kinda wanted explanations of some of the photos in the slideshow. Maybe that was an idea for an alternate form of a memorial service. Show photos and let audience members chime in to explain the photos. The other people in that photo, who were they? Where was that picture taken? What was the occasion?
After the service, we drove up to Anthem for a dinner at Steve and Amy's house. The Hosken contingent sat at a table with a couple of ladies who play games at the public library. Aunt Jean plays Mexican train there with Jolene, so Jolene was there. Barb plays other things; maybe she was there to make sure Jolene had someone to talk to. I was glad she was there because she told us about her son, the artist Mike Kimball, her son. I like the artist Charles Sheeler, and Mike Kimball apparently did too—many of his pieces have a Sheeler feel; some especially so.
Back at the hotel, I tried checking email again—but now my phone couldn't get a data connection. I imagined there weren't too many mobile-data-wifi-hotspot folks in northern Phoenix; I imagined the local Sprint office suddenly sounding with warning klaxons as everything broke. Once again, I chose sleep over investigation.
The next morning, my wifi-internet worked. I checked email and confirmed that everything could wait.
I walked around the shopping center parking lot. People had hidden Munzees there, so I captured Munzees. Munzee's a game in which you find scan codes folks have hidden in places. Normally, I don't like to just walk around shopping area parking lots, instead going after Munzees in more interesting places. But we were where we were.
Back in my hotel room, I figured out part of why I'd been exhaustedly collapsing so much: the air conditioning wasn't turned on. Phoenix had been uncharacteristically gray, so it hadn't been totally obvious this was happening. But coming inside from the cold morning. I turned on the A/C. I was still sleepyheaded, but at least now I knew why.
Lots of people met at The Good Egg for breakfast. This was somewhat complicated by the fact that The Good Egg was a chain. Thus us Hoskens went to a different branch; we had two groups of folks wondering why the other folks were late. But we got it worked out.
My parents and I checked out of the hotel.
The Hoskens went to Jean's house in Anthem to talk with Jean and Steve. We talked about dogs, life in Phoenix, life on the east coast. Hospitals, crazy nurses, healt care, and health scares. Governments and economics. It was a good visit, probably my favorite part of the trip.
And then the drive back to the airport; which on a Sunday evening was easier to take than a Friday rush hour. And then our plane was late; and went to a different gate so everybody had to hop up and walk to a different terminal. But after sitting around and waiting so long, it was nice to hop up and have an excuse for a brisk walk.
Back in San Francisco, I slept and slept.
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