Day two, Sunday

Daniel F. Smith in Arizona

Yawn. Overnight the air conditioned room managed to get very warm. I spent time to repack my suitcase and headed out. The lady in charge of the motel ran after me as I started to leave, waving a list of churches that she had misplaced before. Hey---there was a Calvary Baptist Church in Mesa to which I'd only be 10 minutes late for. I aimed in that direction.

It was a very nice church with a very nice senior pastor with a very nice congregation. It made me realize just how lucky I am to attend the Calvary (Baptist) Church of Los Gatos. Even though everything here was very nice, it just didn't work for me. The older people singing up front couldn't keep a tune; the senior pastor's right eyebrow had a severe tick that reminded me of the villain in the Pink Panther movies; the sermon was about how bad everyone else was (Ephesians 4:17) and nobody except the loud lady behind me seemed to know how the hymns were supposed to go (and the lady behind me definitely knew how it went, it was just that it didn't correspond with what how the pianist though it should go).

But it was interesting enough. I have never seen a room with such a devotion to air conditioning. The actual congregation seemed friendly ("AMEN!"). I had a short conversation with a gentleman outside who was concerned about how they'd only had three days of rain in the previous eighteen months and how he'd really like the monsoons to come back. Eventually his wife, Virginia, dragged him away.

On to the second order of the day.

I have frequently noticed a quiet obsession my brother has about the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. I think his buildings are attractive but wasn't really sure why he has a following. Mr. Wright had built a winter retreat in Scottsdale in the desert, so I decided to check it out and see what the fuss was all about.

It turned out that not only was the building a real gem of design (it may be difficult to comprehend how a good design can be so satisfying) but our tour guide was a real enthusiastic retired architect too. Eric had all the stories of Mr. Wright's foibles and quirks, and he relished expounding them upon us. Afterwards he lamented to me that architects aren't paid enough to make good radical designs, but are compelled to make drab buildings just to eat. He looked well fed.

I thoroughly enjoyed being an architecture critic. I was warned by my realtor that buying a contemporary home made selling more difficult. But I cannot resist the joy and satisfaction of living in a home that isn't four square walls and a roof. Perhaps when I retire I can design a home of my own. I can see why my brother has his interest: perhaps it's genetic.

On the Wright track: the architect so nice, they named the street after him. Sol: guess who found a del Sol just like mine (except for color). Eric: our enthusiastic guide gesticulates his pleasure at the lack of shadows in the customer briefing room. The ceiling is a canvas and plexiglas shelter, providing a very pleasant environment.
Red theater: Mr. Wright's favorite color was red. I wonder if that was his Sol? Taliesin grounds: the exterior was subdued, but still beautifully prepared. Red concert hall: the acoustics and atmosphere here was most unusual. Even the seats were arranged at an angle to make the audience comfortable. Apparently the Christmas lights had been put in for a performance once, but had worked so well that they had stayed there indefinitely.

According to my guidebook, I was only a short distance away from Fountain Hills, home of the world's tallest fountain. Wow! I couldn't come all the way to Arizona to miss this chance. According to the rather tired-looking girl in the drugstore, the fountain was under repair, and wouldn't be operating again for a year and a half. Well, these world class engineering projects need maintenance---just look at the Space Shuttle. The views at the park were still spectacular, even if there weren't accompanied by huge gushing jets of water.

World's tallest fountain: currently looking rather small and dormant.

Okay, next stop was trying to navigate through the desert down to the Biosphere 2 in Oracle. Unfortunately, the desert turned out to be an Indian reservation with large signs warning about how people trying to drive through there would come out with rather more arrows than they went in with. I headed back to town. The map said I'd be crossing a huge lake so I was anticipating tolls, people boating and ducks quacking. The actual sand pit I crossed had small plants growing on it. So much for the lake. Out on Main Street, Mesa, past the endless mobile home dealerships and out into the desert at last.

The desert is beautiful. The majestic cacti, distant misty mountains, 110 degree weather and the beating sun. I was actually getting quite acclimatized and turned off the A/C and rolled down the windows. It's a dry heat, they always say, and it's quite comfortable. I didn't make very good time as I kept stopping to take photographs. It was 8pm by the time I got to Oracle, and there was only one chalet motel and one open restaurant selling pizza. The young man in the motel-cum-lock store explained the situation. He was in the army and had been stationed in North Carolina; he was not too keen on the temperature out here. I was loving it: the thermometer said 90 degrees at sundown and I was pondering whether to put on a jacket. I went off to try to find food.

The open road: miles and miles of straight road... Straight paths: ...miles and miles.
The new world: then the landscape started to change. Reaching higher: like tall thin trees, the cacti yearn skywards.
Windwater: signs of habitation in the wilderness. Desert farm: what would one do in the desert? This town was called Cactus Forest. Cactus: they had cacti.
It went bloom!: one of the small flowers in the sand. Lined driveway: how come I can't even grow small cacti, yet out here you can make a cactus-lined driveway? Cactus skeleton: perhaps not the most enchanting sight, but it shows the wooden struts that keep the cacti standing upright.
Roadside markers: these striking white flowers grow along the sides of the roads. On the run: there is wildlife in the desert. These deer were trying to make themselves less obvious. Flower show: when the light hits them in the right way, these common flowers can look stunning.

I munched the pizza back in the A-frame, two bed chalet and pondered all the musings and things that had happened that I wanted to remember for my diary, but in the end forgot. Yawn. I wonder if the ants will stop exploring my pillow when I turn out the light?

Sunset in Oracle: every night the sun set. In Arizona, it's a spectacle. Lock shop: the motel chalet doubled as a lock store. One of only a handful of retailers in the whole town. Chalets: the A-frames make a picture at night.

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