Arizona Highways: Scottsdale – not just Carmel with Cactus
Visiting Scottsdale had not been high on my list. After all, I grew up only an hour from Carmel, the West Coast apogee of artsy quaintness-by-the-sea. What was Scottsdale with its art galleries but Carmel with cactus instead of ocean? As usual, once I had visited, I knew once again how wrong preconceptions can be. Scottsdale is to Carmel as meaty BBQ ribs are to seared sea scallops – both wonderful, but incomparable.
We visited on a Sunday morning, so the galleries along the Art Walk were closed. We were more relieved than disappointed: the galleries would have seduced us into dallying inside, while on a temperate and sunny morning there was plenty to see in the sculptures that lined the sidewalk and rose from the median. At first I noted the proliferation of horses frozen in wood, ceramic, steel, and bronze, galloping, rearing, bareback in herds or straddled by cowboys, cowgirls, or the Original Inhabitants. [Note: We met several locals with red-brown skin and aquiline noses, who told us to “Relax. We call ourselves Indians. It’s easier.” I will follow this advice hereon.] But there were also bronze children, artists, and unmounted Indian maidens both nude and clothed. Also various vaguely humanoid shapes, and a giant green head which might have been Buddha.
We left the Art Walk and meandered toward the center of town, a meander made easy by a grass-lined pathway going beside and over a dry creek and eventually leading us to the central plaza, bordered by the City Hall, Art Museum, and Performing Arts Center, all impressive and interestingly designed modern buildings. The plaza was full of activity: a craft fair was just setting up, with tents offering Indian artifacts, jewelry, clothing, and food. A stage at one end promised music to come, and some families were already staking a claim with blankets on the sloping lawn in front of the bandstand. And at the other side of the plaza I found an old friend, one I had first met in Philadelphia, then encountered again in Tokyo and Taipei. I was delighted to see again Robert Indiana’s famous LOVE sculpture.
On the way back to our car we walked through Old Town Scottsdale, and found the tourist gift shops beginning to open. I bought a silver-and-turquoise earcuff to replace a much nicer one I had been given and lost years ago, hoping to combine old and new memories.