My lovely wife, Lisa, and I are spending Valentine’s weekend in Arizona. Scottsdale, to be exact. I realize that Scottsdale doesn’t have the reputation of being the most romantic place on Earth, but we are staying at the Fairmont Princess Resort and it’s a step or two above the Village Inn in Porterdale, I can tell you that — although the food isn’t quite as good as Effie Boyd’s was.
As soon as we got here we reported to the spa, which they tell me is world class. I can’t say for sure but of all the spas I have visited, it ranks one out of one. It has pools and waterfalls and a room that smells like rose petals and other rooms that smell like eucalyptus — I ain’t making this up y’all. They have aroma rooms. You just sit there and smell.
They also have steam rooms and saunas and a waterfall spa where you stand under rushing hot water and let it massage your aches and pains away. It also has several giant swimming pools that seem to have been carved right out of the desert. We are in high cotton, understand.
And, no. I didn’t rob a bank or neglect to pay my mortgage this month. I have been invited here to speak to a national convention of building contractors. I am supposed to make them laugh. I hope I am up to the task because if the building industry in other parts of the nation is like the building industry in our area, these guys need a laugh.
Arizona is quite beautiful, without a snowflake in sight. I haven’t seen any political protestors, either. I have seen some spectacular scenery, though. Big red rock formations and majestic cliffs framed against a clear azure sky. You expect to look up and see an Indian war party galloping down the cliffs, or John Wayne riding out from behind one of the boulders. Or maybe Jeff Bridges, who seems to be the heir apparent, as you know if you have seen the new “True Grit.”
We discovered Sedona on this trip, and it is quite an eclectic community. In Sedona you will find new age mystics rubbing shoulders with folks whose ancestors bought snake oil from traveling salesmen and tried to coax a living from the parched soil. There are all sorts of shops, and you can buy anything from incense to turquoise jewelry to feather headdresses. Think Cherokee, N.C., meets Haight-Ashbury.
But I am here to work, and on Valentine’s Day morning will earn my keep by kicking off the big conference. Honesty compels me to admit that I am just a bit nervous. This will be my biggest gig since I followed the Goober Queen at the Dothan Peanut Festival. Now I know that folks from Splitsilk and Hahira think I am cute and can understand and appreciate my stories, but there will be people from up North at this meeting — Indiana, Illinois and Ohio.
I am really concerned about the Ohio attendees. If they are all like my good friend, Jeff Gutknecht, they might have pretty thin skins. Last week Jeff took exception to my column because I made a joke about Cleveland. Are you kidding me? Who doesn’t joke about Cleveland?
But despite what Jeff thinks, I have nothing against our northern states and nothing against Northerners. Shoot fire. I like Yankees. My daddy didn’t care much for them, but my daddy thought that Georgia was the center of the universe. He believed Florida was the tropics and that Alabama was the Far West. He used to sit around and gripe about how things were up north and I finally asked him if he had even been up north.
He got all puffed up and threw back his shoulders and said, “Son, I spent a whole week in Nashville one time.”
But I ain’t that way. I’m not. I only make fun of folks I like. When’s the last time you heard me tell an Obama joke, for instance? So maybe the people from Ohio and Illinois will enjoy my schtick as much as the folks from Mississippi will.
But, I brought an interpreter, just in case. She’s Sally Grace Galloway. Remember me telling you about the Goober Queen? That’s Sally Grace. She graduated from Troy State but did a two-week apprenticeship at the University of Miami so she knows the language. And no, I don’t mean Miami, Fla. Ohio’s got one, too. Just ask Jeff if you don’t believe me.
But wish me luck and say a prayer that I will get home in time for first period Tuesday. I think I’ll be OK. Delta’s not ready when I am, but Air Tran is.
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.