Phoenix: Extreme Sun, A Flock of Hens & Meeting Rich Dad

At first, it seemed truly unfair that I should get to spend three days in super-sunny Phoenix when New York was experiencing a spell of miserably ridiculous cold. Then it seemed very fair, because I suffered Arctic Chicago in tights and bad shoes and lived to blog about it. But I will admit there is something unnatural about 90-degree weather in March. Unnatural, but also resembling a Caribbean vacation, which I am pleased to report I pretended my sojourn in Phoenix was.

I used to think the flower wasn't as beautiful as the name, but now I think that Birds of Paradise are divine in both nomenclature and visage. Ha! Nomenclature & Visage! A bookstore? A biography of Mendel? A frou-frou bath products boutique?

After staying in what fancied itself a Cotswold Inn-slash-business hotel (albeit lovely) in downtown Denver, I was giddy to find I’d been put up in what was essentially a family vacation resort. I’m talking about scads of kids playing in multiple pools, a sprawling compound of stucco hacienda-style buildings with red tile roofs (rooves?) with waterslides and just a hint o’ the wild wild west with establishment like the Cactus Creamery Ice Cream Shoppe and a poolside bar called “Slim Pickens” that serves exclusively frozen drinks.

I realized in the summer [sic] sun of Phoenix that I’ve been neglecting a very important part of the tour: having fun. I’ve been operating in an uncomfortable and anxious haze, worrying about making flights and looking like a fool on TV and not waking up at 4am when my four alarms go off in carefully choreographed succession and what if no one shows up at the reading and generally not appreciating the hilarity of the entire enterprise. It’s totally bizarre to be out in the middle of the country by myself with all these dear media escorts (who, with only one exception all drive Lexises) and my heartbreakingly kind readers and the varying climates and accents and anchorperson hairstyles and room service coffee carafes. Yes, it’s work, and it’s exhausting, but it’s a very strange kind of work that can, I think, if I choose, be hilarious.

I considered trying to pick up some friends and exceed the jacuzzi's capacity, but that kind of "fun" seemed too manufactured. Also, I didn't really have enough time to make friends with the families on spring break.

There is perhaps no better city than Phoenix in March at a family resort to decide that things are going to be fun from here on out. I had the afternoon ahead of me and did what any fun-loving author on tour would do—instead of manically seeking out the gym or going to the room to practice for the interviews, I bellied up to Slim Pickens and ordered a pina colada, which I drank by the pool while lying in a chaise longue observing shrieking adolscents playing "Musical Inner Tubes." Bliss.

I have to say, a lot of Phoenix looks like my hotel: low sand-colored stucco buildings with tile roofs/rooves and a lot of palm trees and cacti. My first media escort was the gloriously laid-back (and, I suspect, fun-loving) April, who ferried me in her Lexis to three television interviews, a Starbucks, her own gorgeous bungalow in Scottsdale and the big mall (known as Fashion Square, which, as my Virginia friends know, is the name of the little mall in Charlottesville—this, my friends, was about 500 times the size of the Fashion Square I knew, and outdoors, and sort of pretty, for a mall) where we had sandwiches outside and she blew my mind with tales of “The Scottsdale Girls.”

Scottsdale Girls (not to be confused with American Girl Dolls), according to April, who is actually best friends with one, are young women with super-duper-Donald-Trump-rich sugar daddies. April told me about how a night out with her Scottsdale Girl friend will typically involve going to a fancy restaurant they’d never be able to afford otherwise, texting the sugar daddy, who will then show up, pick up the tab, then slip each of them $1000 cash and tell them to take the jet to Vegas. These women actually exist, and these men actually exist, and the Girls have age-appropriate boyfriends who don’t know what’s up and the daddies have wives and maybe they are keeping more than one SG and yes the Girls sleep with them. As you can imagine, I was completely shocked to find that this is an actual phenomenon in Scottsdale, and made April tell me everything she knew about this racket. I cannot believe that I am the friend of a friend of a Scottsdale Girl.

Stucco. Lots of it.

I was sad to leave April, who seemed sent from the gods of Mount Fun-lympus to chat me back into myself. My self, incidentally, typically loves fun. Something about being on The Road makes me a little less fun. I’m here to say it can be a little lonely. There are exciting and foreign things going on, like going on a Phoenix talk show hosted by two laughy ladies who push me into talking about poop. It would be nice to have some friends around to recognize the pathos in stuff like that. It’s lonely, and then there’s poop talk.

I fell asleep by the pool before my reading at Changing Hands, the beautiful independent bookstore in Tempe that’s as cherished by writers as is Denver’s Tattered Cover. (I’m sorry to keep bragging about the sun, I can’t believe it myself, but look, I’m writing this on a four-and-a-half-hour flight back to the ice and wind right now, a flight that sat on the runway for an hour during which time I fell asleep, only to be awakened by a hyperactive toddler sprinting up and down the aisle like a small blond Road Runner who inexplicably decided to screech to a halt in my lap and I let out a yelp as I woke up to a child landing on me and then they made us get off the plane and walk 20 miles to another gate where we found out the flight would be delayed another hour so I ate a sad, sad salad by myself at someplace sadly called the Kokopelli Deli and I am in an aisle seat next to the party brigade of Williamsburg circa-1997 hipster boys with wallet chains who stink of smoke and an old man will not stop digging his knee into the back of my seat and getting up by yanking the top of my seat and with it my hair and my flight does not get in for another two hours, at which point it will be 2am and I will be at JFK way the hell out in cold Queens and I have to be somewhere at 9am. So forgive me. And remind me to fake a broken limb if I had to I the future—I cannot sit in an aisle seat without falling deeply into hate with all of humanity. Window! Window seats only! It’s bad enough I can’t use the first-class lav!)

Changing Hands was — you guessed it – FUN. People laughed and seemed to enjoy themselves and I liked standing on a stage at a podium and answering questions. There was a downright adorable old couple in the audience who came because they saw me on TV that morning (probably talking about poop) and who were asking questions and joking around (or I thought they were joking when they made me backtrack during my “here’s how I wrote this book” talk and tell them in detail how I got my job at Oxygen).

There were two young women from Phoenix who stayed after and chatted about Internet dating and making the leap from a 9-5 job to doing something with less security. One of the girls said she’d read the whole book and wanted to know if I actually practice what I preach, which is a question I’ve been waiting for someone to ask me. The grandmotherish woman asked me if telling younger women that life gets harder but they will get stronger, too, was good advice, and I nearly burst into tears, it was so sweet. The grandpa came up to me afterwards to chastise me for recommending Internet dating as a good way to meet guys because it’s dangerous (use your good judgment, ladies) and told me and the incredibly sweet and smart bookseller who organized the event at Changing Hands about how he met his wife and what life was like after World War II. Evidently he had to wake his wife up from a nap to come to the event--he was the one who wanted to come. They asked me what they should do because they wanted to get the book for their granddaughter, but they didn’t want to step on her parents’ toes, and also worried about giving her a book that says that girls can make their own decisions about who they have sex with. I felt very renegade until I was reminded that these people were nearly three generations older than the women for whom I wrote the book. I was thrilled that they were getting a copy for themselves because they get the feeling things have changed since they were in their 20s and 30s and they want to be educated about what life is like for young people today.

I had dinner at the health food restaurant next door to Changing Hands with Lois, my escort for the remainder of the trip. I fell in love with her—she’s got four kids and eleven grandchildren and you just know that she’s the one they all go to for advice because she’s open-minded and funny and, like a lot of people in Phoenix, it seems, very easygoing. We just clicked and I felt comfortable talking to her like a friend, which is not to say I am unfriendly to media escorts usually, but I felt like I had a lot in common with April and Lois both, and neither of them knew I’d decided to have fun but they were both just naturally fitting into my larger fun scheme.

This morning (Day 2 in Phoenix) I was on this local program called The Pat McMahon Show, which is totally the type of show I’d get View-style addicted to if it aired in New York. Pat sits in a modest brown studio at a table and talks straight to the camera and then has his guests sit opposite him at the table, and he’s funny and casual and unrehearsed and I got to watch him interview Robert Kiyosaki and his wife, then I met the Kiyosakis and thought, “Rich Melissa, Poor Melissa” (I know, it makes no sense, but I like the sound of it) and then after the show Pat told me his favorite dessert is vanilla ice cream blended with Kirsch liqueur and said that he has a friend who’s a producer at Good Morning America who says they’re sick to death there of talking about the war and they really need to have me on the show. I agreed, of course. I also met a couple who write books about gifted children, once again fascinating, and they gave me a book about how gifted children are often misdiagnosed with ADD and Asperger’s which I wish I had on the plane because I am having a hard time getting into my book and tried to find a copy of Blink at the Hudson News in Phoenix and I couldn’t find it. That book is EVERYWHERE and the one time I am actually looking for it, it’s not there. Come on, Hudson News. Work with me.

Robert Kiyosaki at the little table with Pat McMahon.

Oh today I also went to Lois’ house, which is beautiful and where she has a farm! She has like 20 hens, all different varieties, and a turkey, and a big giant white Easter bunny who stands up on his hind legs and eats the hyacinths. How fun is that? I put in a couple hours at the pool before my flight as it was 90 degrees. The pool was tepid, and my bathing suit is so old the elastic is losing its elasticity so it’s a little like swimming in a coat, but I loved it anyway. All in all, I’m very tired, but it was very fun.

Eggs!

This turkey likes to be pet. I thought it was a peahen.

Tyra is on the plane TV with Ryan Seacrest and he just gave her an awkward hug and she’s like 20 feet taller than he is and I think she’s wearing Bermuda shorts. Oh wait, it's a whole show of Ryan interviewing Tyra! Jackpot!

Oh PS Lois gave me a bookmark that she got in Mexico but I thought it looked like a bracelet. I think I will wear it for good luck and to remind myself that there are chickens in the world and they live in people's backyards sometimes.