October 4, 2017. Phoenix, Arizona.
Never visit Phoenix. This land is cursed.
Off the plane, running on 25 hours of jetlagged wakefulness, a mound-shaped leper in a button-down tried to renegotiate everything about the rental car I ordered in advance to avoid having to negotiate it on landing.
“A lot of people pick economy on business so there aren’t many, and if you’re going to the Grand Canyon you might want something with a little more power. I can upgrade you for only a little more.”
Look, man. I’m here to look at rocks and drink weird beer with nuts and peppers in it. I don’t need a hemi to do that.
Dude was also hellbent on getting me to take special magic rental car insurance, no matter how many times I declined. When we finally did get to the parking lot, the attendant upgraded us anyway for free.
But once I started driving through Phoenix proper, I understood, that leper was just looking out for my best interest.
You know how when you’re born, you get a social security card? Just cuz you’re born? That’s how driver’s licenses are in Arizona. No one here has the faintest concept of how driving works. The part of the brain that controls visuospatial processing is entirely missing. At birth, they excise the motor cortex and jam the newborn behind the wheel of a busted-ass 4×4.
Every car is damaged. Headlights dangling, tail lights missing, whole grills absent. An overhead view of a car, it’s a rectangle, right? Each corner of these cars are smashed in, so they’re all irregular octagons. It’s fucking calamitous. Every road here is a freeway, every freeway has 11 lanes, and no one pays attention to any lane demarcation. Every Phoenician is just gunning it and laying on the horn and screaming and crashing, all the time.
For those of you back in West Chester, imagine if the Wawa parking lot spanned an entire desert, and that’s southern Arizona.
So I’m trying to navigate through this mayhem, swerving through clouds of red dust amid these swarms of vehicular manslaughterers in the 101 degree heat.
I find the hotel, which is called “Ramada Tempe near ASU” which would cause one to believe that it was a university town, right? Not right. ASU stands for Anarchic Slaughter Urbis, The hotel was across the street from:
– no less than 3 gentleman’s clubs. There were no gentlemen in the area. They are presumed murdered by cars
– two liquor stores engaged in a “shadiest liquor store” competition. The winner was without a doubt the combination head shop staffed by a single leering hunchback
– a third, “Drive thru liquor store”, which was surrounded in police tape. What could possibly have gone wrong?
– a cash for gold place
– a tattoo and body piercing shop next to it
– a cash for jewelry place that also offered “LOAN$$$”
I’m on vacation on Fury Road. Witness me.
We survived the night huddled around a burning barrel in our hotel room, aiming high-caliber handguns into the leaping shadows. For breakfast, we considered going to a place called “Matt’s Big Breakfast”. When we first got off the plane, I didn’t know that was a restaurant; I saw a young lady wearing a t-shirt with the name and thought that the locals were just really forward.
Well, it turns out the big part of the breakfast is the price, as there’s really no way to convince a dude who eats 4 eggs every morning that 2 scrambled eggs and some shredded potatoes are worth $15. Instead, we ate at Joe’s Coney Island breakfast, knowing full well Coney Island is three time zones in the other direction. It was a literal and figurative oasis, although we did see a man die out front.
He was a portly middle-aged guy, laying on the ground behind the bus stop bench when we arrived. He was still there when we got out. He made what looked like an attempt to sit up, but it was halfhearted, and he returned to his prone position to bake in the godless Arizona sun. Another day in the wasteland. A businessman with a Playskool phone case was calling someone as we roared off onto one of the largest freeways, kicking up dust in our wake. We presume he was calling either the hospital or his cousin Vinnie, the neighborhood chummer.
Roll credits. MAD MATT (2017).