December 24, 2016

It’s two days before Christmas and I drop into our traditional Friday night pizza joint and notice red and silver balloons on the second barstool over from where I usually plant my work week worn-out carcass. Radcliffe, a.k.a, “Rad”, the boyfriend of my favorite bartender/waitress Carlie (who always makes sure the kitchen doesn’t screw up my order) is in his usual spot three spots down from me.

“Yo, Rad. What’s up with the balloons?”

“Mike died two weeks ago. They’re having a party for him tonight.”

Now Mike was a true regular. Until he retired he sold very expensive cars in Scottsdale to the point where he could divorce his wife and give her all the dough-re-mi she could ever want, yet still have a boatload of it left for himself. Over the years I only spoke to him a couple of times over beers; he seemed like a nice guy. He was 78. As the story goes a few weeks ago he had a mild stroke that led to a major stroke and that, as they say, was that. So a tiny restaurant with a small, loyal clientele gathered together to bid a nice guy who probably didn’t have much of a footprint in the greater scheme of things farewell. A table with a dozen people, a collage of pictures featuring Mike and some of the other regulars, a toast and a meal together. Not sure what his family did in terms of arrangements, but knowing Mike as little as I did and from talking with him and the circle of so-called regulars who gathered to remember him, I think he’d have preferred the latter.

I’m waiting for my pizzas and ask Rad what he’s getting Carlie for Christmas. Now Rad’s been dating Carlie for about four years, and it’s pretty clear they’re destined to spend the rest of their lives together. He looks up from his smart phone and casually replies, “a foot massager and a gun.”

“Wow!”, says I. “A gun. That is so cool!. What kind of gun are you getting her?”

Rad goes on to tell me that he’s not really getting her a gun, but guiding her through the whole concealed carry thing here in Arizona so she can get a gun. It means finding a place where you can take a 4- or 8-hour course in gun safety and use – Caswells is just up the street from us – and once you pass and are fingerprinted and approved you’re free to legally purchase and carry the stick of your dreams.

“So, what are you getting her?”, I ask. “I’ve been thinking of a Glock 19 9 mm myself. My wife and I are planning on going through the very same process together after the new year. I figure we might as well do it – hell, everyone else in Arizona will soon be concealed carry. And you never know what’s about to go down.”

“That’s a pretty damned fine firearm”, says Rad. We’re not quite sure yet, but I guarantee it’s a gift that she’ll cherish for a lifetime.”

The party for Mike is just getting started and I’m nursing the last of my Pinot Grigio while I’m waiting for my pizzas to come out. And I’m reminded once again just how different this place called Arizona is from my Massachusetts home in every way imaginable. My Goodboys friends couldn’t even imagine just how much: between the weather, the sun, the year-round golf, the lack of rootedness, the politics – we might as well be on another planet. I had a difficult time getting accustomed to this place after we moved here, and while I’ll never consider it home or the place I’d like to see the rest of my years lived out in, there is something about this place and the lack of ties and the freedom it brings that makes it tolerable.

There are any number of places I could imagine that are better than Arizona, but there are a whole lot of places that I could consider worse. The summers are brutal, for sure, but out here you don’t have to shovel sunshine, as they say. And there is something about a place where your entire wardrobe consists of a myriad of T-shirts and lounge pants, a dozen shorts, and two pairs of long pants. That’s it. Add to that a Tiki bar, swimming pool, and a bunch of palm trees for a backyard that on only two or three brief occasions a year see the thermometer dip slightly below freezing ain’t half bad.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:29 | Comments Off on A Christmas Story, Arizona Style
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