The temperature in Phoenix is finally above 100. It’ll hang there until September, at the earliest. Walking outside is like dredging through molasses. The heat slows everything down. Occasionally, a jackrabbit makes a mad, almost suicidal dash across the pavement. If the cars don’t get it, the blacktop will. Each hop draws water from the bottom of its soles, and water has been scarce lately. We are all waiting for the monsoon rains. Some areas received a light sprinkling, but out here, in the west, we’ve only had the metallic wet smell of dusty air (get over here, already).
Our plants are suited for desert life, but after weeks of no rain, even they begin to look weary. First, the tips of their spikes/leaves/feathery things begin to wither. Then, the limbs. Finally, the entire body turns brown. Some plants are lucky to release their roots and flee across the desert landscape after dying, but most become some sort of biomass on the ground. Eventually the rains come, but not yet.
I haven’t heard much about the recession in the news. Perhaps I’m not reading the right outlets, but it seems to me that many Americans have come to realize that if they were going to lose their jobs, they would’ve by now. Or, maybe, Americans are focused on more important things, like Obama smoking cigarettes, celebrity deaths, and whether or not Jon and Kate fuck as hard as they fight. If Marijuana were legal, we could all take a drag and go man, whatever man, fuck it man, but it isn’t so our drugs are on T.V. and in the trash rags that line the Supermarket check out aisles. Farrah’s hair and Brittany’s cellulite provide some small comfort; a little toke to remind us that even the wealthy have nasty bodies and sickness and sucky things.
Phoenix is a desert plant, nestled in the valley of varying mountain ranges. In the west, there are the White Tanks. The southwest has the Sierra Estrellas. In the south looms South Mountains. There’s also the SanTans, the Superstitions, the Goldfields, the Usery, and the McDowells. It hasn’t rained for a bit and the tips of Phoenix are dying. In the Northwest area, where I live, massive door locks and for-sale signs are as common as lizards bolting when the front doors of any building open. Daily, we observe the moving trucks barrel down our residential roads. Two years into this Recession and Phoenix is still slowly dying.
My wife and I play morbid games to keep us entertained. “Remember that sushi place we ate at a couple of months ago, and it wasn’t very good. They didn’t even have any eel?” “Yeah.” “Well, it shut down the other day. Not only that, but the pizza place next door to it, and the gelato place behind it closed down, too.”
“Remember that custard place we really liked and where Hellspawn found that he could get free sweets by batting his eyelashes at the girls?” “What about it?” “Well, it went.”
“Remember the BBQ place that your parents took us out to about a week after we announced that I was pregnant?” “I remember that place. They offered free salsa but all the tomatoes in it were canned.” “It folded.”
We drive past blocks of empty office buildings, with commercial lease signs hanging in their windows. There must be hundreds of thousands of available square feet in the five-mile berth. It’ll be years before they’re all filled, if they’re filled at all. Our town isn’t exactly a business magnet. Before the Housing Bubble, the Northwest area of Phoenix was known for three things: its legions of old people, its legions of medical buildings, and its legions of services targeting old people. The Bubble brought in a younger demographic, and a shadow demographic of investors that shriveled and died when the banks combusted.
Across the street, there used to live a family of four. The youngest daughter was around Hellspawn’s age. He used to sing to her and then attempt to steal her sippy cup. They’re gone. About a month ago, they found out that the owner of their home hadn’t been paying the mortgage. The house went into foreclosure and was auctioned off. The new owners wanted the family out within thirty days. So, there was a lot of trash and cardboard boxes, and one afternoon, a moving truck barreled down our residential street and they went.
Every morning, Hellspawn learns to swim at the local pool. In the beginning, there was I, and a lot of mothers. They looked askew at me. Lately, I’ve been noticing more fathers splashing in the water. More pasty beer bellies. More sagging chest hair. More baldness. Less breast implants and bikinis. Most of Phoenix’s economy relied on construction and other typically male, blue-collar work. Everyone’s out of a job and everyone’s finding that the gender dynamics are flipped, perhaps irreversibly. It’s more fun to take the kid splashing in the pool than it is to wake up and grind through traffic. No matter how demanding the kid is, one can always put them down for a nap. No one can force an adult boss to nap. And, no matter how hard stay-at-home moms complain, stay-at-home dads are finding that the work really isn’t that hard (if one doesn’t mind the stinky diapers and the incessant whining and sometimes one just wanna, ooh).
My biggest fear is that eventually, the tips of Phoenix will crumble. We’ve been lucky, so far, that where we live is a retirement destination. Their money will keep some of the local businesses afloat. But, we need the rains to come (jobs, lovelies, jobs. I could use one), otherwise the whole of Phoenix will barrel down the desert, likely in the direction of California (with a large smattering back towards the Midwest, were a lot of us came from).
Pretend_Farmer has a nice response-cum-appendum that I think deserves reading in addition to this post. You can find it here