I’ve been in AZ. It’s hot. It’s fine. It’s been a few years and I was glad to be back. But.

Unless you rent a car on a trip like this, you’re at the mercy of your hosts. Even if your hosts are gracious and accommodating and have more than one vehicle, there’s only so much they can do. The son has the car because he’s off at a tournament, swinging at some ball of unknown dimensions. Could be small, white, and dense, or larger, yellow, with slight fuzz. In any case that car is gone, and you don’t even want to begin to ask for the other one, since the head of the household is one of those doctors who may be called at any moment to deliver a baby. I don’t think he made it through one of the Elite Eight games on TV yesterday without having to get up, drive somewhere, and help bring new life into the world. You don’t want to be at Target and get a text that says “will you be long? Baby is crowning” so you stay put.

I could walk, but there’s no place to walk to. There’s a million places to drive to but no place to walk to. You could try, but it’ll be 96 in an hour, and the sight of a person walking down the street is one of those unsettling things that makes people wonder if things are beginning to go awry in subtle ways that will soon accumulate, multiply, and tip the world into chaos. Besides, I’d just go to Target anyway.

Really. Went there last night to get badminton shuttlecocks for daughter and cousins. Earlier in the evening wife had suggested I go to Walgreen’s to get them, and not being stupid I got up and went to Walgreen’s. But they didn’t have any. Ah: there’ s a Fry’s, which is a grocery store that has furniture, so you know they have a sporting-goods department. They had tennis balls. No shuttlecocks. Bad as this was, at least I had gone the extra mile - well, 1400 feet - and tried. Had I gone to CVS? No - but I was making a command decision here. If Walgreens didn’t have them, it was unlikely CVS would have them, all lessons and theories of capitalism and competition aside. Fry’s, being larger than both, would be the key argument here: if they didn’t have them, then it was unlikely CVS would. Besides, dinner was 6:30, and it was 6:27.

When I got back to the house the girls were sitting in the front room with badminton rackets in their hands and expectant expressions, like birds in a nest with their beaks cracked open in case this approaching creature really is Mom with a craw full of worms. They were crushed, but on the other hand, there was dinner, and dinner would mean dessert.

After dinner I went to make coffee, only to discover that my brother-in-law does not drink coffee. He has a machine, and a crumpled bag of Caramel flavored coffee. Hmmmmm. Since someone else had requested decaf, this was the signal to get back in the car and drive to Target, because two of the girls wanted shorts, and surely they’d have shuttlecocks. Right? So I drive, French Brother-in-law is shotgun, three girls in the back. Off to Target. Driving! Windows down! Everyone’s happy.

To my surprise it was a crappy Target, and made me wonder anew if our Targets are better because the home office is so close. Smaller and hence dense, with more clutter. We didn’t find shuttlecocks, but did find a set of two rackets that included shuttlecocks, and this I bought. Mission accomplished. Drive back. Make coffee. Play badminton on the tennis court. Did I mention that? Yes. There’s a tennis court in the backyard. The house also backs up to a golf course, so there’s nothing but lush views from the back. The front is rockier but that’s why you don’t look out the front. It has ornamental succulents that can cut your flesh, another hallmark of the region that seems peculiar if you think about it too much. It’s like planting rose bushes that don’t flower but produce a bumper crop of thorns.

Anyway, the shuttlecocks - described on the package as “durable” - disintegrated after 30 minutes of play, so I am taking them back and will be cheerful about expecting a refund.

Hey, it’s something to do.






Two days in - three days? Can’t tell. Most of it spent waiting for a ride. Spring break!

Well, it’s not a vacation. It’s a trip to my wife’s family, with whom I enjoy spending time, and others are here from around the country. But today, for example, they were touring a retirement community where Mother-in-Law might go, and all I would do there would be to nod and point at things like Kim Jong Un, without the cold sweat and fear of course.

We had breakfast at Eggstacy. Breakfast seems to be a popular idea here, a new thing. This is good. Breakfast is everything you want in a meal. The pancakes were a bit crisp on the outside; I prefer mine not to have the aspect of a Frisbee, as the syrup slides right off. Everyone’s meal came with pancakes - including the pancakes, which had a side of pancakes - and so we left with a takeout box containing six intact pancakes. They will sit in the fridge for a day as an offering to the God of Plenty (A two-faced god, like Janus; also the God of Waste) and then they will be sent into the waste stream on a journey you can only imagine. The moment when they were put into the container was probably as good as it got for them. Spared! We live another day!

Ah, but then what? You worry too much, my friend. For now we are together.

In the afternoon we went to the Phoenician, a resort that screams HIGH EIGHTIES if you know what to look for. The way styles change and date a place is subtle in this part of the country; everything’s the same color, so it’s a question of details. Sister-in-law was staying there, so we lounged by the pool in the beating sun and drank water. I mention this only because I went for a walkabout to study the hotel, and when I went outside to the entrance, sitting on ledge was a guy who looked like a shrunken Stephen King, with a flattened mullet that looked like he’d been wearing a tight box for a hat. A shirt proclaiming allegiance to a sports team; bandy legs in high grey socks and old sneakers. The only reason I mention him is because he had been paying his bill at Eggstacy that morning, and I’d thought “he looks like a shrunken Stephen King,” and now here he was again.

I wouldn’t say that’s the highlight, but it’s been a low-key trip. Family suppers, driving, waiting, catching up, lounging, and for my part reading books by favorite authors. Just reading and letting the hours tick past. Ahhhh.


Tomorrow: the incredible conclusion of the busted shuttlecock story.


Have to include the OCS, or obligatory cactus shot.



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