Pop Culture Gadabout
Saturday, October 20, 2007
      ( 10/20/2007 10:52:00 PM ) Bill S.  

THE WAY WEST - III: (Wherein We Finally Arrive in Our New Hometown)

Friday (9/28): We land in Southeast Arizona late Friday, my nerves still wired from the wacky highway that is I-25 in New Mexico. Driving into Safford, we're both too exhausted to do any serious scouting, so we head to our Best Western, check in and unload the pets and our travel suitcases. Because it's Friday, we know our chances of finding a place to more permanently establish ourselves over the weekend are slim, so we've taken the room for three nights. Monday, we're told, the motel has no vacancies: miners come into town on the weekdays to work on the recently opened copper mine outside of town, so rooms are at a premium.

So, it turns out, is housing. This part of the country is rich in copper and turquoise, and Phelps-Dodge Mining is in the midst of expanding its operations. Housing prices have skyrocketed in the area. Even though P-D has built a new trailer park to accommodate some of its workers, the waiting list for it is long, so rental properties go quickly. Because we still have a home up in Illinois to sell, were not in a position to take on a second mortgage at this time, so we scour the paltry Classifieds in search of a rental. It takes longer than either of us expected to find one.

In the meantime, because we need to get the rental truck to Tucson on Monday, I have to track down an available storage unite (even these are scarce in Safford), where I can unload the truck until we find a Place for All Our Stuff. Spend most of my Saturday lugging our home into two storage units: I'm definitely getting my exercise. It isn't until Sunday that we're able to finally find the time to drive around our new hometown: because of the day, the burg looks pretty quiet.

On Monday, October 1st, I drive into Tucson to return the truck and fill out all the requisite paperwork for my job. I pull out some decent dress clothes from a hanging clothes bag and discover I don't have a belt to do with the pants. Been wearing tie-up shorts all week, so I'm hanged if I know which of the myriad boxes in storage have my belts. Wind up buying a cheap 'un at the town's Super Wal-Mart (purportedly one of the largest in the country – though, unlike the Largest Cross in the Northern Hemisphere, I'm actually willing to believe this claim).

We spend three nights in Willcox, forty-plus miles south of Safford and the birthplace of movie cowpoke Rex Allen, and I drive to work each day to get acquainted with my new job. My new co-workers, aware of the difficulty finding housing in the area, do some additional scouting for us, and it ultimately pays off. By mid-week, we're given a heads up on a possible place. Outside of city limits are several spas devoted to natural artesian hot springs: one of 'em, Essence of Tranquility, has a campground with teepees and "casitas" available for overnights. The owner, we're told, also has a four-bedroom double-wide coming up for rent on the weekend, so Becky calls to make a reservation and ask about the rental. The two hit it off immediately over the phone, so we wind up spending three nights in one of the spa's cabins, then moving in on the weekend.

Three days on the campste, and I'm suffering major cable withdrawal: though the casitas contain TV/VCR sets, they're not hooked up to anything, so the only thing we can watch are videos. Most of these are boxed, of course, but I am able to rescue a small batch of cartoon tapes. (Spend one night watching Rocky & Bullwinkle uncover the secret of the Ruby Yacht of Omar Khyam.) We also hit the hot spring tubs every night, but to my entertainment-addled self, it's still no substitute of a new episode of Heroes.

Because the spa is on the outskirts of town, there's a decent selection of animal life making itself known: coyotes yowl in the night, piquing the dogs' interest; roosters crow at all times of the day. My first time driving into work, I have to slow down on the country road to avoid hitting a roadrunner. There must be a nest of 'em not far from the spa, since I see that same bird several times over the next week. Perhaps he's teasing me, like in the cartoons?

Safford itself is about nine thousand strong: over our first week, we quickly grow acquainted with most of the available stores and restaurants. To get to a book store or an industrial-strength music store, it looks like I'm gonna have to drive two hours west to Sierra Vista or Tucson.

Still, we're relieved be finally settled, even if most of our crap is across town, sitting in two concrete units. For the rest of the next two weeks, I schedule two daily trips – one at lunch, the other at the end of the day - to load up the back of the PT Cruiser and bring more crap home. We've turned one of the home's three secondary bedrooms into a study; the second into a craft room and the third into a storeroom loaded with packed books, collectibles and miscellaneous junk. At some point we'll venture into that last and start dealing with those boxes (mebbe even finding my belts in the process?) But for now, we primarily want to get our active living areas in shape. As I type this, I'm surrounded with long egg boxes filled with CDs and comics. My goal is to be able to walk across the study without stubbing my toe on corrugated cardboard.

A modest goal, I know, but it's mine own . . .

(To Be Concluded)
# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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