SMITH COLUMN: Phoenix Reunion

Published 8:00 am Friday, May 3, 2024

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TEMPE, Ariz. – The winter season has passed for the Phoenix area, the 11th ranked media market in the U. S., and the temperature is rising.  The thermometer crept past 90 last week but there was the most pleasant of sunsets and shirt sleeve weather as the defending National League Diamondbacks hosted Shohei Ohtani, a household name in the sports world, and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chase Field.

Half of the Big-League teams conduct spring training in this desert metropolis, and there are the Arizona Cardinals NFL franchise and the NBA Suns to help entertain the populace along with more golf courses than you can count.

I have returned to Arizona’s capital city for a three-generation reunion with my son, Kent, and my grandson, Alex.  As a student at Arizona State, Alex grew up in Dallas but became a passionate sports fan whose love of Georgia Bulldog football is about as high on the charts as possible.

He started out majoring in journalism but has settled into history with a minor in business which is where he will likely wind up.  When his doting grandfather sits down to cobble together something for print, there are plenty of sources available at the UGA sports information office, but Alex will always be a most valuable backup.

Visiting his apartment brought about reflections of yesteryear, but much different from what I experienced in the late fifties.   His roommate Julian Casciano, whose stepfather is Gary Nicklaus, the third son of the Golden Bear, is a broadcast major and an avid sports fan, too.

Like all college kids today, Alex and Julian are into music.  Alex plays the guitar and soft rock held sway as we all rehashed the recent NFL draft (the first-round results were hand lettered on a placard attached to the refrigerator). Music and sports posters are affixed to the walls.

The place is orderly and kempt, which got my attention right away.  These are two college kids who are responsible students who have manners and industriousness.

On the roof top of the apartment building is a small swimming pool which offers the most exciting of views—principally a mountain range that frames the skyline of a major U. S. city.

Phoenix has a far-sighted plan for water conservation.  It is constantly addressed, and should a long-term drought come about, there is a plan in place for all residents.

Meanwhile, people wash their cars out here, golf courses are maintained with reclaimed wastewater, and if you want water at a restaurant, you must ask for it.

When our annual reunion takes place, our base has become the Tempe Mission Palms hotel, a Hyatt property.  The colorful flower-oriented courtyard makes our day, every day.

Skyscraper palm trees tower over the layout, which has a tropical feel.  In addition to the palms, there are abundant Ficus and fruit-bearing citrus trees, and, in one corner of the courtyard, there is a healthy cactus to remind you of the varied landscape with defining character.

This is a great place for jogging aficionados, who adjust their schedules so that they can get in a good workout before starting their business day as the sun bears down under cloudless skies.

Morning comes early for those whose habitat is three time zones to the east.  Even before the kitchen opens, you can make coffee in your room and go down to the courtyard and enjoy a respite with nature’s surroundings.

The moon seems to linger.  Birds chirrup with a symphony that electrifies your emotions as you enjoy the solitude that is so comforting.   There is no amplified music, no bleating horns from traffic congestion, no backfiring and repugnant motorcycle blasts.

Pretty flowers, becoming hedges, and resplendent fruit breakfasts stimulate a mood of Thanksgiving.   The Tempe Mission Palms and a family gathering trump the melancholy which you find in the headlines wherever you go.

Taking my son, grandson, and his roommate to a Diamondbacks game for some peanuts, popcorn, and crackerjack in one of the classiest ball parks in the country made me realize that the headlines don’t reflect what America is all about.