Monday, April 06, 2009

By the time I got to Phoenix

This travelogue is a combination of three trips to Phoenix I made this month to cover the Dodgers’ spring training.

It was quite a culture shock going from Hawaii where everything was named Wailea and Lahaina to Phoenix where I drove over Skunk Creek.

This is a sprawling city of giant shopping malls broken up by sports complexes. Oh and numerous aircraft boneyards. From rusted out WWII planes to 747s that haven’t flown since Braniff went under, they’re all here. Was hoping to swing by and pick up an L1011 fuselage but time got away.

Other major attractions Phoenix can boast about: the world’s largest Kachina Doll, the world’s largest inflatable dam, and the world’s largest sneezing nose – a fitting tribute to the many allergies people suffer from in these parts.

Famous sons of the Valley of the Sun include Steven Spielberg, retired golfer Alice Cooper, Wonder Woman, Hugh Downs, Barry Goldwater, and most prominent of them all – American Idol Jordin Sparks.

To get anywhere in Phoenix – to work, a restaurant, the rental car outpost from the airport – you just get on the freeway and go 13.2 miles. Everything is 13.2 miles away. Except Circle K’s. There are two on every corner. How much beef jerky can this town chew?

I’ve seen ads for the University of Phoenix in Los Angeles and St. Louis and Philadelphia but who knew? They also have a branch in Phoenix!

On my first trip I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express near the big University of Phoenix stadium, (home of the Superbowl losing Cardinals) which looks like an enormous Jiffy Pop bag just before it explodes. What college has an enormous stadium but no football team?

You can sure feel the effects of the economy. The Dodgers kicked off the Cactus League season against the Cubs in Mesa. Usually Cubs tickets are harder to get in the desert than oceanfront property but this year even opening day didn’t sell out. Obama’s bailout plan is going to have to include scalpers I’m afraid.

Next day we headed to Scottsdale (13.2 miles) to face the dreaded Giants. Scottsdale is the ritzy section of Phoenix. As you approach it the car dealerships get much more upscale.

Scottsdale is gorgeous. Known for its swank resorts, golf courses, art galleries (you better like “southwestern”), and the Bob Crane murder.

Most restaurants in Phoenix are a chain but at least in Scottsdale they’re Morton’s and Roy’s. Most everywhere else they’re McDonald’s and Roy Rogers.

But it was not worth driving 13.2 miles for fine dining when right nearby there was a Tilted Kilts. Who knew anyone could improve on Hooters? The breasts seemed more real, the kilts more skimpy. And for an even finer culinary experience I recommend the chicken wings appetizer. When they arrive ask for a different dipping sauce so the hot tattooed Betty Boop has to return and lean over your table to deliver it. Any top chef will tell you – it’s all in the presentation.

The new Dodger complex in Glendale is magnificent! Camelback Ranch (not to be confused with the Mustang Ranch – the other spring training destination for most men). Camelback Ranch looks like it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright after a long night at Tilted Kilts.

But the amenities for the fans are amazing and if there’s anything better than having a picnic with your family, sitting out on a grass berm and watching major league baseball in the sunshine I don’t know what it is. Okay, maybe also getting a Valentino Pascucci home run ball and several fans got those.

Hung out with my buddy, Kurtwood Smith at one of the Dodger games. Kurtwood’s a great actor. You’ve seen him in a million things including DEAD POET’S SOCIETY, THAT 70s SHOW, and of course BIG WAVE DAVE’S. Recently, he’s been on 24. Not that Dodger fans aren’t the most knowledgeable in all of sports but Kurtwood said he went up to the concession stand and people were calling out at him, “Hey, man, lighten up on Jack Bauer!” (SPOILER ALERT: Kurtwood gets killed… for the 500th time in his career.)

Missed the big ostrich festival. Ostrich races AND Foghat!!!

Best Phoenix TV show bar none is “Lone Butte Casino’s LUCKY BREAK” every Saturday night at 10:30 on CBS 5. It’s a cheesy AMERICAN IDOL ripoff hosted by Olympic Gold medal swimmer Amy Van Dyken. Grand prize is a dinner for two at the Verona Chop House. One of the judges is a plumber. I’m not making this up! One of the contestants was 83 and just had a hip replacement. Did not bust a lot of moves in her routine. Halfway through the judges blasted an air horn to stop her. Nice. She had to be helped off the stage. Next up was her daughter who got the air horn even faster. Five contestants ended in a tie so to break it they each had to sing Happy Birthday. One actually stumbled over the words. She won.

Come ye all to the annual Arizona Renaissance Fair. Wear ye heavy garb of velvet and wool or ye full suit of armor. Imagine if they held this in August. Merry Old England during the Bubonic Plague.

The local oldies station, KOOL has a very limited playlist. “China Grove” by the Doobie Brothers. That’s it. But for their big weekend feature playing all the hits from the 60s-80s they add “Long Train Running” by the Doobie Brothers.

You can go Indoor Skydiving in Phoenix. A simulated freefall chamber will drop you 13,000 feet at 120 mph. It seems to me skydiving (outdoors) requires courage but offers an incomparable thrill. Indoor skydiving down an elevator shaft requires losing a bet at a frat party.

Pheeniks is number nine on the US list of most misspelled cities.

I was really stylin’ the second trip. My rental car was a maroon Chevy hearse. At least that’s what it looked like. I kept checking to make sure Bob Crane wasn’t in the back.

Alas, spring training is over. Last week rooms at the Holiday Inn Express were $165 a night. This week they’re free with a ticket stub from the Ostrich races. But if you’re a baseball fan or you just want to see if the Red Lobster in Phoenix is any different from the one in your town, you’ve got to come to Arizona in March. I’ll never be able to see HOGAN’S HEROES again without wanting to go back.

26 comments:

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

...and Bob Crane was sooo cool as a DJ on KNX. I still wanna be him - without the finale.

Anonymous said...

As an actor, Bob Crane was hard to beat......

gwangung said...

Nailed Phoenix to a T!

Paul Duca said...

Mr. Aloha...WHICH Bob Crane do you want to be? The church-going family man successful in his career, or the one indulging his appetites?

WV: phorquet--what one shouts before swinging the mallet

Joe said...

Say what you will about Vero Beach, but they've never even had so much as a Werner Klemperer sighting.

Mike Bell said...

But I thought Kurtwood Smith was a Tigers fan...

I mean, I've seen Robocop a couple of dozen times and...

VP81955 said...

Kurtwood Smith gave his character Red Forman some real texture on "That '70s Show." What could have come off as a one-dimensional stereotype instead became someone you had empathy for.

Also, Ken, did you see the Los Angeles Times piece on the number of sitcoms among pilots? It particularly noted the revival of the multi-camera format, which, to paraphrase Don Steele, is "alive. ALIVE!" (Somewhere, Desi Arnaz is smiling.) Maybe I should dust off my treatment and scripts for a series I envisioned about a sitcom writer who's secretly a witch...

wv: "mityme" -- a Verne Troyer type who harbors Thurberesque fantasies.

Michael Hagerty said...

Ken:
Next time you're in town...call!

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Anyone remember Bob Crane from The Donna Reed Show? I wonder if he hit on Donna, or Shelly Fabres.

Jennifer said...

A friend of mine just moved to Phoenix. I'm so sending her this link.

gwangung said...

Jennifer, my condolences for your friend...

Jim said...

Sadly, Phoenix is looking like a model American city.

Kurtwood Smith made That '70s Show worth watching, if you had a mute button handy for when Demi Moore's boytoy came on.

(Am I having some kind of stroke, or have the WV words gotten very hard to read?)

D. McEwan said...

I always felt that Alfred Hitchcock knew EXACTLY what he was doing when he had PSYCHO start out on an aerial view of Phoenix. The message of PSYCHO was clear" "Live in Arizona; end up slashed in the shower, dead but clean."

"Paul Duca said...
Mr. Aloha...WHICH Bob Crane do you want to be? The church-going family man successful in his career, or the one indulging his appetites?"

They were inseperable. You can't have one without the other. (Those appetites empowered his success.) But to answer for myself, I would NEVER want to be described as "church-going."

When my cousin had a heart attack while climbing a mountain in Arizona last year, the nearest hospital was a 20 mile drive, which he made himself. He WISHES it had been merely 13.2 miles. (Fred survives to this day, but has had to have several heart surgeries since.)

But you know, they still got one hell of a canyon there. Well worth the trip to see it in person.

WV: antax: 1. The Republican bail-out's big idea.

2. Less profitable than an Aunt Tax.

3. A harmless white powdery substance.

Ref said...

Love me a Kurtwood sighting! Always been a quality actor. Nice to know he's a good guy with a sense of humor.

Anonymous said...

Bob Crane was dedicated to his work, both in radio and TV. I worked at KNX four 4 years and Bob was always most cooperative. He appeared at my College, five year reunion dinner for me, did his routine (recorded voices, etc.) and knocked 'em dead (bad metaphor). As far as I knew, he never drank or smoked and was married to his high school sweetheart. Had no idea about his sex life, until one night he walked into the "Classic Cat" on Sunset Blvd. with another guy (probably the one who offed him). I was shocked to see him there. Even more shocking he know all the girls! I was there attending a Board Meeting for a club I belonged to.

Paul Duca said...

Cap'n Bob...by the time Crane appeared on THE DONNA REED SHOW, Shelley Fabres had left.
Now you've made me worry about the child actress who played an orphan girl the Stone family adopted, to replace Fabres' character.

Alan Tomlinson said...

I think I saw Kurtwoood Smith playing at the California Actors Theater in Los Gatos, California in the late 1970s. I'm sure I was younger then.

Cheers,

Alan Tomlinson

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Geez, I was gonna write something flip and perhaps humorous in response to Paul's comment, but after reading Crane's Wiki again, I appreciated his work more than ever...and all the funny ran away.

Bob Crane was a great DJ and productive actor.

I'm not worthy...

A. Buck Short said...

-----PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT-----
The National Parks Assn. reminds you not to throw things into the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is your canyon. It is the deepest canyon we have. But it will cease to be the deepest canyon, if tourists and campers keep throwing things into it. If you would truly like to help in this campaign to preserve our natural wonders, use the litter cans on your city sidewalks. Don’t throw things into the Grand Canyon.

Small world. Bob and Ray classic, shamelessly replaced by the Kilauea Crater in my Hawaiian standup, Myron Kahuna, The Last of the Great Jewian Storytellers. Incidentally, being the baseball professional that you are, I guess I don’t have to tell you how much that friggin’ Astroturf grass skirt weighed.

I may be the only person who ever was less than a half hour from the Grand Canyon, and yet never actually got to see it. Stuck in a lousy motel room on a deadline. Welcome to my life. However, as a family, we did have ample opportunity to actually negotiate the narrow paths and cliff dwellings of nearby Walnut Canyon. All of these sites greet you with the same introductory sign. “As long as 3,000 years ago, an ancient people known as the Anasazi, occupied the walls of this canyon. Then, mysteriously, 700 years ago, they all disappeared, and no one knows where they went.”

I’ll tell you where they went, Bunky. Over the damned side. That’s where they went. Those paths are maybe 3 feet wide, tops. One begins to grasp the logic of the papoose concept.

All of which raises the question, what? Garry Shandling and Worst Week don’t even get a nod? With regard to that Arizona Fair, I’m proud to announce that, once, spending a night at the Renaissance Phoenix, I had two resurrections. As for judging talent, plumbers really ought to stick with electoral punditry, where they belong. And that Tilted Kilts joint needs to look over its shoulder. We’ve got a bid on the lot next door for our topless Arizona police hangout, Copper Tailings. Incidentally, you do take a nice photo.

John said...

Ken:

Next week the hotel prices go up again -- NASCAR.

(I had the pleasure of being at the Embassy Suites three years ago when the Dallas Cowboys and NASCAR were in town at the same time. They really should plan ahead better for Happy Hour liquor supplies...).

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Thanks, Paul, for the info on Shelly Fabres. The girl who replaced her was Patty Peterson, real life kid sister of Paul Peterson, who played Donna's son Jeff.

Megalion said...

You must have missed the University of Phoenix campus in Waikiki Beach... we didn't!

jbryant said...

Don't have anything of substance to say, really -- I just thought there should be one post in here that spelled Shelley Fabares correctly. :)

spearNmagicHelmet said...

uh, that's Clarence Boddicker from Robocop and he's a real badass.

Kenneth Walsh said...

I grew up part of the way in Phoenix and must say, this post would be hilariously perfect if not for the Roy Rogers reference, of which the Valley of the Sun has none.

That said, the Arby's on West Guadalupe Road in Mesa is by far the BEST one in America ...

Term Papers said...

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