Sunday, September 20, 2015

Divertimento with Heat and Happenstance

Transit shelter, bicycle, car repair oasis, and one of the "Happenstance" markers on Scottsdale Road (Artist Tad Savinar)

When I was a kid on road trips with my family, I used to plead, or beg, to stop when I noticed one of those "Historic Marker Ahead" signs. Usually, you have no idea what history they might be marking, way out there wherever it may be. Sometimes we'd stop, sometimes not, pile out of the car, and run over to find out what the CCC built there in 1935, or what the date was when Meriwether Lewis explored the area, and so on.

When I found out that there were some marker-like objects along a auto dealership strewn strip of Scottsdale Road, I had to divert from my normal TCT (Tri-City Tour) path through the green belt over to check them out. Here's a list of them with themes and locations:

Themes and Locations:
Farm to Market: East side of Scottsdale Road, just North of Roosevelt/Continental.
Better Mousetraps: West side of Scottsdale Road, 1/4 block North of Roosevelt/Continental.
Sand and Snow:  East side of Scottsdale Road, South corner of Granada Ave.
Home: East side of Scottsdale Road, South corner of Oak St.
How I Came To Be Here: W side of Scottsdale Rd, Transit Shelter just South of Virginia Ave.
Water Has the Right-of-Way:  East side of Scottsdale Road, South corner of Earll Dr.

Remarkable little "Alice in Wonderland" style of jackrabbit on one of the markers

Riding my bicycle slowly along the sidewalk as the cars rushed by in the road, with the long shiny rows of angry-faced new cars parked in the lots on the other side of me, these markers evoked a strong feeling of the passing of time and the altering of place. Whether it's Rage Cycles moving out of their old location that I passed, or the stores that have gone out of business to be replaced with newer, generally more generic and more national commerce-oriented ventures (an old used book store gone, obliterated, replaced by the march of profits with I don't even remember what).

The heat hasn't quite given up yet in Phoenix--it was over 100°F for this ride--so I didn't see a lot of pedestrians out strolling to read the markers. That accentuated the feeling that these bronze and concrete objects are part of some probably losing battle between humans walking and cars roaring past. You really have to pause, lean in, read these markers, to appreciate them, but to do so is the be noticeably near to the passing roar of many people not doing that. This next one, for example, which has evocative words about the airport, and the Yacqui, and people moving into this area, has a precious little frieze of the rank and file, that you can barely see from the sidewalk, let alone from a car passing at 45 mph.

"How I Came to Be Here" with cyclist reflection

I got a feel of the actual dissonance these markers create when I stopped by the first one, which says, in part, "As you read this you are hearing the sounds of flowing water mingle with the sounds of vehicles passing by on Scottsdale Road. The water that passes below your feet through gate 24 is itself mingling from many sources..." The hot afternoon I visited, water could indeed be heard gushing through gate 24, but the sound wasn't so much mingling with the cacophony of the traffic, but rather murmuring to it unheard by everyone by this random cyclist stopping by to read it closely. Everyone else was too busy going elsewhere fast, not even knowing there was a moment to be had here at this spot.

I know there's a yearning for these moments though. It echoes in my memories of bouncing out of the car to go and look at historic roadside markers. These things are here. Time passes by, but some stories remain, even if the air happens to be so polluted that particular day that you can't quite make out the hole in the rock in the distance any more. These connections stretch out in bicycle time, I'm sure of that. I've felt it, looking at tiny statues of strangers in a line, staring their bronze stares at fleeting flashes of cars speeding by. I breathed, and I swear I detected the faintest wafting of creosote on the breeze, out of time.

Another kind of yearning on Scottsdale Road, another kind of movement that creates a different destiny in its own time.


  1. My favorite "instant history" is the University of Phoenix Stadium. It took a few hearings about it before I realized the connections...

    1. University, with a nice stadium, but do not have a team. Yet.


Please feel free to comment here, almost anything goes, except for obvious spam or blatantly illegal or objectionable material. Spammers may be subject to public ridicule, scorn, or outright shaming, and the companies represented in spam shall earn disrepute and ire for each occurrence.