Desert daydreams include wide boulevards, the Desert Botanical Garden and the Calle 16 Mural Project, all showing different sides of the distinct identity of Phoenix, Arizona.
On a February day, I drive through surrounding dry brown hills of tourist-laden heights down into this desert city.
On the radio, hip-hop rhythms calm me as I navigate unfamiliar freeways on my own without the benefit of GPS or travel partner.
Through Airbnb, a bed-and-breakfast service, I’ve booked a room in a private home near South Mountain Park. Will it be as nice as the pictures on the website? The house-sharing organization has generated its share of controversies, from hosts facing massive destruction to zoning disputes with municipalities. I worry about what I’ll find. Or not.
It turns out the real question becomes, “Will I find it?”
The house is on South 27th Way. In this part of Phoenix there are two different South 27th Ways, along with a South 27th Place and a South 27th Street.
Confused, I drive around in circles for thirty minutes, then head to Gallagher's, a pub I saw while driving in the wrong direction. A very helpful customer whips out his iPhone, explaining he knows the neighborhood and understands my dilemma.
To my Toronto-habituated eye, the most striking feature of the area is the sprawl of houses and land. Nothing lies within walking distance.
Neighborhood blocks are Brobdingnagian, vast as desert plantations. Saguaros and smaller cacti dominate the landscape along with tiles, concrete and sand. There are gates, though I note they are mostly open.
In this part of town the streets are wide and massive, leaving the impression of deserted Mayan boulevards lined with uniformly sand-coloured intact architectural treasures.
Just past 8 p.m., I arrive at my destination. There are no lawns anywhere, only sand and coloured gravel as a nod to ecological impossibilities.
No one is home.
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