PHOENIX – After a magazine publisher’s conference in Las Vegas this week, I decided to grab a flight to Phoenix for some R&R at the Royal Palms Resort & Spa for a few days — a favorite oasis — to extend the Endless Summer of 2019. After all, I was more than halfway there. Ha!
I landed just in time to experience record temperatures for Phoenix this time of year — 114 degrees. In the shade.
In fairness, 114 degrees in Phoenix is better than 90 degrees in some other more humid Sun Belt cities. Some examples: Fort Lauderdale, where I worked at the Sun Sentinel newspaper in the ’80s, or Houston, where my parents lived for a few years in the ’80s before retreating back to California.
The pool at the Royal Palms is an ideal spot to “beat the heat,” along with a bowl of gazpacho and a tall glass of iced tea. Opened in 1948, with its distinctive Spanish Colonial architecture, the hotel became a destination of choice for discriminating travelers, including celebrities such as Groucho Marx and Helena Rubenstein.
We first came here with our son for Major League Baseball Spring Training and had a wonderful time. We’ve been back numerous times, including at Easter break.
I’ve become a fan of Phoenix in my later adulthood, largely because of Spring Training, the Frank Lloyd Wright architecture (the Arizona Biltmore and Taliesen West) and restaurants such as Vincent on Camelback, and The Mission and Barrio Queen. We go in winter or spring normally.
Sheriff Joe, botched lip injections & disinformation mills
The Valley of the Sun also is fascinating to me from a cultural point of view. After all, it is home to characters such as “Sheriff Joe” (aka Joe Arpaio). “America’s toughest sheriff” became a flashpoint around Arizona’s anti-immigration law, largely struck down by the Supreme Court. Of course, Sheriff Joe also is known for investigating former President Obama’s birth certificate. You get the point.
Phoenix is a mash-mash of expansion in the middle of a desert with limited water supplies — an ongoing battle of Man vs. Nature. In an era of sustainability, that fascinates me too.
And the local news often screams outlandish. Here are two examples from this week alone:
This week the top story on the TV news was: “Valley women claim botched lip injections caused severe infection.” It continued: “We want to warn you – the photos you’re about to see are pretty graphic.” No kidding! You can see them here.
In another example, The New York Times also traveled to Phoenix for a special report that ran this week: It was about a Phoenix-area “online disinformation mill” that seeks to shape our political views on social media.
It reads: “The Western Journal rose on the forces that have remade — and warped — American politics, as activists, publishers and politicians harnessed social media’s power and reach to serve fine-tuned ideological content to an ever-agitated audience.” In this case, right-wing views and Trumpism.
To be sure, the Phoenix area is a microcosm of America in many ways. You know, the divided and sensational one. But I also like the dry heat, Spring Training, and history that includes American industrialists in the Golden Era and Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.
I have to admit that I liked the Royal Palms better before Hyatt bought it in 2016. (Hyatt was going to outsource valet and bellhop jobs to an outside vendor and laid off 15 workers. The hotel chain later reversed course on the cuts). But time marches on.