Here’s what I got up to during the last two days of my Arizona adventure…
One thing my parents hadn’t done yet is visit the Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix (there’s also a location in Scottsdale: Heard North Scottsdale). And part of the fun was getting to and from, which we did on the light rail, part of the Valley Metro system in Phoenix. The light rail line goes between Mesa and downtown Phoenix, through Tempe and the Arizona State University (ASU) campus, with a stop across the street from the Heard. For those of you who live in Toronto, picture the dedicated track of the St. Clair streetcar but instead of a streetcar, the vehicle looks more like a train. I was very impressed by how economical the day pass was too: $3.50 for adults, with a reduced rate for the folks, who are seniors. Seriously, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his transit folks should check this out if they haven’t already.
The Heard Museum houses exhibits on American Indian art and history. We decided to take two tours while we were there, then wander about ourselves. The first tour, which we took with a young tour guide named Isaiah (who turns out was Navaj0), was of the museum’s Signature Exhibit – Home: Native People in the Southwest. This exhibit features pottery, jewelry, textiles, Hopi katsina dolls and a Navajo hogan, as well as video/multi-media – and Isaiah’s tour was especially good as he was able to provide personal anecdotes of being present at celebrations and ceremonies.
The overview tour gave us a look at the museum’s art collection, an exhibit of American Indian dolls and even one on the history of the bolo tie – and ongoing exhibits on the history of boarding schools (which we call residential schools in Canada) and one on the 21 tribes in Arizona, which included a presentation of student art (12- to 18-year-olds). The student art has been reproduced in greeting card for and the proceeds go to support grants for art supplies for teachers of American Indian children and the American Indian Student Scholarship Fund of the Heard Museum Guild. Perhaps one of the most interesting things we learned during our visit came up during a chat with the overview tour guide (whose name I can’t recall) when we bumped into him in the courtyard afterwards: Arizona’s native peoples prefer the term “American Indian” to “native American” – to differentiate themselves from other native-born Americans.
My full last day there (a Friday), we spent the morning at the Mesa Market Place Swap Meet. And, man is that a gianormous swap meet! It’s actually not a swap meet, but a bunch of vendors in a covered aluminum building. A lot of vendors. It was here that I picked up a couple more things: my Dirt Shirt (which sports a Navajo design), and a silver and turquoise bracelet (of Zuni design). My folks got ASU hoodies for the grandsons and my dad found his sister a birthday present (which I won’t identify in case she reads this).
This is an honest-to-God sign I saw as we were driving into the parking lot of the swap meet.
With the afternoon free – and loads of time left before meeting my aunt and uncle for dinner – we drove out to Saguaro Lake marina, in the Tonto National Forest, not far from Mesa (there’s also a paddle boat tour you can get there). We had lunch there, with a beautiful view of the lake. Who knew there was so much water to be found? Seeing saguaro growing by a lake seemed a contradiction, in a way.
That night (my last night in Mesa), we went to Rosa’s Mexican Grill (in Mesa) for an authentic Mexican meal. I had the Flying Saucer, which – after eating their amazing appetizer of tortilla chips and salsa – I was only able to eat about three-quarters of. So good! Nice, homey atmosphere and a family-run place. Highly recommended – thanks to my uncle Gerry for suggesting it.
And that is it for my Arizona adventures. It was a great time, over so quickly – and I’d be happy to visit again.