My first visit to Arizona was in April, 1997. I did not know much about Arizona. I looked it up on the map and saw that it is west of New Mexico – way down south. And my friends told me something about a desert, and heat. That the weather in April would be like early summer. And there is no ocean where I was heading to – Phoenix and Tuscon.
I love this city’s name: Phoenix. It is a bold name and gives a strong feeling of freedom. The city itself does this as well. There is a lot of space there, everything is wide open. People are thus not used to walking around – they drive. Taxis have to be ordered far in advance and are not cheap. People usually have their own cars, I take it. There is a particularly conspicuous mountain there called Camelback because it looks like the back of a camel. When a taxidriver asked me what I liked most in Phoenix, I answered, »The mountains«, because that is definitely what I felt. It is wonderful to look at them, they are like a pithy quote, something you can rely on.
Then I rented a car and drove to Tuscon. Driving through the desert is nicer to imagine than to do because there is not so much of the desert to see if you use the motorway. It is all civilized. For a foreign driver, this is definitely better, because I had a feeling of safety this way. A normal motorway, with private, business and industrial buildings along it, electric poles, building sites, streets.
Tuscon is more romantic than Phoenix. You can still feel the desert there. The houses might even be in the desert. There are forest of cacti. Realforests, although the cacti are not as dense as trees are in the woods we know. The inner core of a cactus is like wood. One can see it when a cactus is dead: the wooden stump remains standing.
Tuscon can give you the feeling of being on a holiday. The people are nice. And the day I was there – it was raining. Excellent, my friends told me. A mighty sign of fertility, as after the rain all the plants grow very fast. There are only 2 – 3 weeks per year when it rains at all, and then there are rivers and streams over night, and it is the same every year. All of the planning these riverbeds into account.
In Arizona, there are still a lot of Native Americans. The next time I go there, I would very much like to meet them.