Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Great Arizona Name Game

Arizona is a great state. And it contains places with strange names that portend even stranger aspirations. To wit:

Phoenix: Both a great American megalopolis and a mythical bird of great beauty. The Phoenix is fabled to live 500 years in the desert wilderness only to burn itself on a funeral pyre, then rise from its own ashes in the freshness of youth and live through another cycle of years. Is Phoenix a living fable of idealism reborn? Is it the essence of Hope? Or is it an expression pure folly? History will decide.

Taliesin (West): Both a Welsh bard and architect Frank Lloyd Wright's then-rural Phoenix winter home and school in the desert from 1937 until his death in 1959 at the age of 91. Apprentice architects worked and lived along side this master of organic architecture to create a complex of buildings. By all accounts it was a very groovy place to work and learn. Today it is the repository of the life work of the great master and a first-rate tourist trap.

Arcosanti: An experimental town in the desert of Arizona, built to embody Paolo Soleri's concept of "arcology"--the fusion of architecture with ecology. It should come as no surprise that Soleri apprenticed at Taliesin West. Not content to build houses, Soleri dreamed of building entire cities. Specifically he dreamed of highly integrated and compact three-dimensional urban forms--the antipode of and antidote to Phoenix-style suburban sprawl.

And so he has. Or has started to. Sort of. Nowadays his crew of young and earnest apprentices earn their daily bread by casting nifty bronze wind chimes, hosting classical music concerts, baking cookies, and giving tours of an idea of a city that's been on the drawing board since the 1960s.

But there is hope. If Arcosanti doesn't come to pass, there's always Soleri's Tower of Babel.

: Apache for "crooked water," Tuzigroot is the name of a lost city built by the Sinagua people between 1125 and 1400 CE. Now a National Monument and one of the largest and best-preserved of the Sinagua pueblo ruins, it occupies a hilltop beside the Dead Horse Creek State Park and campground. Great ruins, great campgrounds, and great names. Three great things that go great together.

Sedona: A town in northern Arizona blessed with stupefying natural beauty of such power and wonder that it has been cursed with a blight of tourism on par with Disney World. The area nonetheless remains a paradise for hiking, mountain biking (both of which we can personally attest), and any other hardcore outdoor adventure sport known to man.

Sedona is also a mecca for New Age hucksters and suckers, the most accessible of the living rocks imbued as they are with healing vortexes of electric energies (masculine); magnetic energies (feminine); and electro-magnetic energies (neutral). And tetrahedrons.

Don't forget the tetrahedrons.

We have one more name to add to this list. Since we haven't seen the sight yet we're loathe call it out here. It's been called Grand. It's been called a Canyon. Perhaps it's both. The groovy hitchhiking couple we picked up after a Sedona hike assured us that we will experience the grandest of canyons. We shall see soon enough if such a royal name is appropriate.

1 comment:

  1. You missed Why, AZ, but why not?

    Nice convict photo too -- you're a natural.

    Doc Holliday