I scrambled up the last few boulders of the butte in the middle of the city, heart still pounding from the exertion, grateful for both the driving Thievery-Corporation-heavy playlist and the onset of more moderate wintertime Phoenix temperatures.
I arrived at the top to find a hazy city just emerging from cocooned sleep and now deeply occupied with the ritual of memorized morning preparations. Walk the dog, shave, shower. I imagined the joy of thousands of breakfasts – freshly-squeezed, locally-sourced, organic breakfasts – lovingly cooked and served to dear ones. I imagined the pangs of thousands more hungry lone wolves staring groggily into lightly-provisioned refrigerators wishing dearly that someone would cook and serve them a freshly-squeezed, locally-sourced organic breakfast. Corticosteroid inhalers across the valley fired in anticipation of a breezy, grainy, smutchy day. Light rail clacked on just below the butte, lightly-burdened and aptly named, while cars of the morning commuters winked in the emerging sun.
Delta did away with the redeye flight to Detroit, either that or it’s a seasonal thing, and so it meant an additional night in town. So make the most of it, Boy. Keep the rah-rah business dinners casual, short, and light, hightail it back to the hotel, strap on the running shoes, get to know your real estate on foot. Complete a journey that if committed to film might be called: “Man’s Great Search for Decent Shawarma and/or Above Average Tacos.”
Then wake early, get up to the holy mountain places, and wait for the Big Inspirational Thunderbolts to shower down upon the conscience – blinding new understandings of the cosmos, dazzling new ways to more effectively reorganize a winning life, brilliant revelations on how to navigate the particularly sticky kid-troubles.
And when the Thunderbolts don’t arrive?
Reflexively reach for your phone, check the status of your flight and cabin upgrade, answer a few emails, delete a couple dozen more, refine the Christmas list, respond to the group text about recent post-election interest rate volatility. Admire the rooftop garden on that glassy slab of neomodernist building down there – green and lush as The Pampas – and briefly ruminate on the crazy impossibility of someday seeing a cow grazing up there. Feel the jets thundering in and out. Survey the vast student ghetto – 60,000 strong – reeking of that special collegiate waft of both psychoactive drugs and laundry detergent – the same mist you get in the heart of Ann Arbor, Lawrence, Boulder and Chapel Hill.
Beyond the students observe the sprawling neighborhoods, Cracker-Jack-box developments, and the hole in the ground where your fund’s latest building will be sprouting up into an uncertain and nervous investment world.
So that’s what I did.
A freckled, pale-complexioned student with a shock of brilliant ginger-maroon hair and a monstrous, near-military-sized backpack ambled up and perched a few boulders below. She pulled out notebook, calculator, pencil and phone, propped her neon orange Under Armour sneakers up on adjacent rock, and went to work. Despite the constant temptation of spectacular views it was a good, lofty place for study, and the right season for it too, especially for the Irish-American population of Tempe.
Then it came. First a realization of gripping morning hunger. And then a Thunderbolt. Powerful, clear and moving enough to cause me to make a note of it on my calendar. Wake extra early tomorrow and whip up a freshly-squeezed, locally-sourced organic breakfast for the loved ones.