And The Road Goes On:
Saturday, June 30th-Sunday, July 1st, 2018
By Bud Stratford
It’s been a long and busy couple of months that have, frankly speaking, included far too much work, and far too little play. Last month, I happened upon a neat little urban experiment called Arcosanti while I was on my Camp Verde-Sedona-Cottonwood-Clarkdale round trip. At the time, I didn’t have quite enough money, nor quite enough time, to really explore the place enough to do it suitable justice. A couple weeks later, I got a marketing e-mail from Arcosanti inviting me up for a dinner-and-concert combo, with a deal on overnight accommodations tossed in for good measure. It was an offer that would be almost impossible to refuse, so I decided straight away that I wasn’t even gonna try to refuse it. I promptly booked my solitary weekend getaway, and made my plans and my itinerary for a wild weekend of hard-earned rest and relaxation.
“Arcology, a portmanteau of ‘architecture’ and ‘ecology’, is a field of creating architectural design principles for very densely populated, ecologically low-impact human habitats.”
The premise of the place is really pretty simple. Arcosanti is, above all else, intended to be a working experiment to study the feasibility of “arcology”. Put much more simply: it’s an effort to build tangible proof that mankind can exist in a far more harmonious manner with our natural surroundings, as well as with each other. It’s a study of truly sustainable living, via an artistically engineered environment where everybody has exactly what they need to not only survive physically, mentally, and emotionally… but to thrive, while minimizing our environmental footprint to the smallest exposure possible. Arcosanti was designed in the late 1960’s, and built throughout the 1970’s and the 1980’s, long before these sorts of concerns became an integral part of our mainstream consciousness.
The fact that the Arcosanti concept was so forward-thinking, and quite ahead of it’s time, isn’t quite immediately striking at first exposure; that frank fact only reveals itself with a little bit of preemptive research. That, right there, is why geeks and nerds rule the world, kids. Because research brings an understanding of causes, effects, and context.
And yes, that sort of stuff still matters. Especially when you’re out exploring the world around you, trying to figure out the finer points of life.
“Arcosanti is a projected experimental town in Yavapai County, central Arizona, 70 mi north of Phoenix, at an elevation of 3,732 feet . Its arcology concept was posited by the Italian-American architect, Paolo Soleri (1919–2013). He began construction in 1970, to demonstrate how urban conditions could be improved while minimizing the destructive impact on the earth. He taught and influenced generations of architects and urban designers who studied and worked with him there to build the proposed town.”
This is a skateboard periodical, of course. So, naturally enough, I used my “job requirements” as a sly excuse to also schedule a bit of skateboarding in my travels to and fro. The recent acquisition of a matching pair of Skaterbuilt OG Pigs made that deal a little bit sweeter than it otherwise might have been, and gave me a bit more incentive to go outside, wreck shit, and destroy myself. And that, right there, is why skateboarding still kicks ass, even well into my mid-forties.
I had more of that tedious and dreaded “work” to do on Saturday morning, so I wasn’t in a position to leave town until right around noon. The pleasant surprise of the weekend was that I would be carrying a virtual date (of sorts) around in my pocket all weekend long in the form of Trish, a pretty remarkable gal that I had to reluctantly put off meeting in person on account of my previously scheduled road-tripping adventures.
Feeling like a bit of a heel for delaying our first meeting for a couple of days, I asked if maybe she’d like to stay in touch (via text) over the weekend; in return, I’d be more than happy to send back the photos and the quick-hit news bits of my misadventures along the way. Surprisingly, she was more than ready and willing to be my spirit companion on this trip, which is something that never, ever happens in my weird world. Unsurprisingly, she ended up being infinitely better company than a quite a few of my recent, real-world dates. With that pre-date in perpetual play for the weekend, I deftly kicked the car into gear, and headed straight outta Dodge.
Left: Anthem Veterans Memorial, just across the way from the skatepark. Right: my virtual date for the weekend, Trish. She totally had me (without a word) with those big, brown eyes…
The first stop was at Anthem Skatepark to break in those brand new pigs. That was some fun f’n “work”, right there; thank God for Davo’s foresight to make such epicly slashing skate planks.
Anthem features a large amoeba bowl, and a dozen (or so) flat banks that make up the bulk of the “street” area… which was pretty much skatepark perfection, considering that the real takedown target of the weekend was an easy ten miles’ worth of ditches on the north side of the Phoenix Metro that I was planning on barging into, and beating up.
The lack of scooters was a really refreshing departure; the baking high noon high temperatures must have kept them in their air-conditioned poof pads while the real men of the world got their shit put down proper. The rail-grabbing frontside carves were a lot of fun, even on Trackers, which took a little bit of getting used to for an old Independent purist. But those beasties do actually turn, and they even turn fairly quickly (much to my immediate amazement) for being the big and beefy 219’s that they are.
The wheelbite, however, wasn’t nearly as fun as the carving was. That unforeseen character quirk scared the shit straight outta me, and sent cold shivers all up and down my spine. It was absolutely horrifying; when an 81a wheel grabs the underside of a board, it’s a bit like stomping on the brakes, and realizing just how brutally effective they can be as your head flies straight through the windshield. I made a real quick mental note to stay a little more centered during my real-world ditch mission, because some unexpected wheelbite at just the wrong time, place, and speed in one of those bitch ditches could very well spell the end of our favorite fatass.
Time for pie (again) at the Rock Springs Cafe. Fatty’s jealousy must be raging right about now…
Top: Arcosanti from the beginning of the washboard road. Bottom: random art awesomeness at Arcosanti’s entrance gate, with a high plains backdrop
The road to Arcosanti is long, dusty, rutted, and rugged. The washboard damn near shook the last of the nuts and bolts right out of the Econobubble. But once I arrived, it quickly became well worth the adventure. The staff was beyond friendly and accommodating. It felt a lot more like joining a small and exclusive family of enviro-idealists then simply showing up for a dinner date and a dance. They pointed out that I had arrived more than early enough to join the 5 pm tour of the facilities; that the pool is open all night; and that I was welcome to park right in front of my room for the evening. I decided to walk my way around, because they also advised that my small room was a mere five minutes away by foot. What they didn’t advise, however, was that it was halfway down a super-steep mesa. Or so it seemed to my tar-encrusted lungs, at least.
Left: a selection of the famous Soleri bronze bells in the Arcosanti gift shop. Top right: a Paolo Soleri original sketch (circa 1977). Lower center and lower right: a bronze ladle holder and bronze tile from the Arcosanti foundry
Left: densely packed living space at Arcosanti lives in harmony with the scenescape. Upper right: my guide for the evening tour. Lower right: spontaneous art at The Vaults
I’m the biggest journalist-slacker ever. During the course of my guided walking tour, I managed to totally forget to write down anything even remotely useful, because I was far too busy nerding out, and asking the guide fifty thousand questions along the hike in, through, and around the compound, while simultaneously texting everything that I was learning immediately to Trish. She seemed to be enjoying the trip almost as much as I was, and I quickly found myself wishing upon a star that she was right there with me, instead of half a million radar waves away.
Left: the first course (penne rigate in red sauce) was wheeled out in wheelbarrows. Top right: The Vaults, post-festivities. Lower right: the second course
Dinner was held in the giant arches of The Vaults promptly at 6 pm; due to our guide’s diligence, we were almost right on time. The penne rigate was delivered by wheelbarrow for the guests to be served; the wheelbarrows represented the never-ending creation and construction that defines the nature of Arcosanti itself. Every table had a luscious sampling of wines, fruits, and antipasto… but the only thing that was within arm’s length of my bubble butt was a single lump of cibatta. I took prompt hold of it as if it was a priceless plunder; lunch was a quickly fading memory, and all of that skating at Anthem and hiking around Arcosanti had made me one starvin’ Marvin.
Everyone else at my table, and at every other table in The Vaults, seemed to know each other already. It looked like a room full of old friends had congregated for a long-anticipated reunion. They were busy animatedly laughing the time away while they shared their stories, experiences, and lives… but all of a sudden, I realized that I didn’t know a single soul. And here I was, sitting alone at the end of a sparsely populated dinner table, with nobody to talk to at all, and nothing to enjoy except my single lump of crusty bread. It was a little bit disheartening.
Suddenly, a vibration in my pocket reminded me that Trish was right there, impatiently awaiting my next report. I sent a pic of my balsamic-marinated chicken with roasted peach, my side salad piled high with fresh greenery, and my rapidly disappearing cibatta; she replied that her heart was wishing that she could have been there with me, too, enjoying the evening, the festivities, and my company.
I might have been sitting all alone at dinnertime, but at least I wasn’t lonely anymore. Having somebody there in spirit always beats not having anybody there at all.
Left: The Accordionist. Right: more random art from my Rock Springs pie-munching expedition
My suspicions ran pretty high when it came to The Accordionist and The Baritone. Their names happened to be Nick Ariondo and Gregario Gonzalez, respectively… but I prefer the way “The Accordionist and The Baritone” sounds, so that’s what they shall remain to you and me.
Now, believe me on this one: I’m not the sort of fickle fellow that lives to spend my chill time listening to this sort of fluffy stuff. But my God, these guys were really funny, and massively entertaining; I was a certifiable fan after just a few bars of their extremely gregarious introduction. They descended the left stairwell, gesturing wildly and singing way beyond the tops of their lungs; they proceeded to deliberately make their way through the entire crowd, introducing themselves to every single attendee by song, verse by verse and chorus by chorus, until they made their way through the throng, back to center stage, where they took their places in front of their microphones (which they barely needed), neatly surrounded by their little sound-amplifying moat.
Trish simply could not believe her eyes and her ears when I sent her that field report. Even though I was the chap that was sitting right there in the high seats of the amphitheater… clearly present and fully accounted for in the crowd… I was still having a really hard time believing it, myself. I simply could not recall the last time I had been so thoroughly entertained by anyone, or anything.
Sleep didn’t come easy that night. There was a glowing blue solar-light art display sprawled out in the Verde Valley that I watched slowly fade to darkness from the tall bay window that fronted my little bedroom; that distraction alone took up quite a bit of my scheduled slumber time. Then, to make matters even more unbearable, my fan struggled to keep the hot and stifling air moving around my room; when it finally caught up to the task, it ended up freezing my feet out. There just weren’t enough pillows in the world to make up for that mattress of infinite firmness that I was trying to sprawl my big ‘ol Buddha belly on to.
But none of these things were the things that were keeping me awake. What was really keeping me up was the excitable anticipation of a hastily scheduled phone call from somebody special that finally rang me out of my uncomfortable slumber right around midnight.
Ten seconds after I hung up the phone, I was fast asleep.
It’s way too fucking early for this shit. The walls are unusually thin, and my neighbors have suddenly decided to exercise a little bit of physical passion at half past five in the morning. And here I was, the less-than-lucky dude that had the front-and-center seat to every literal blow by stroking blow that came knocking through the walls of my austere surroundings. They sounded like they were having a really great time, and I suppose I could have commended them for that… but I certainly wasn’t having half as much fun as they were, so I felt like I shouldn’t have to listen to these sorts of shenanigans. Especially when the object of my immediate desire was far out of reach, tucked away neatly inside my telephone. So, out of sheer frustration, I got up, started my day, and decided to hit the pool instead. Any action, I figured, would be far better than no action at all.
That ended up being an even worse idea than the freak-fucking that was happening back in the next-door hotel room. Holy shit, that pool was frigid; diving straight into a bowl of ice cubes will wake your ass straight up first thing in the morning, and shrink your nuggets into some warm corner of your swimming shorts. It wasn’t particularly pleasurable… but it did jolt me fully awake and alert, which I desperately needed. There was, after all, a bit of a ditch mission to finish up and put to bed, and ditches don’t like to impatiently lay in wait forever.
The first of the many on my Sunday morning ditch mission. The Skaterbuilt OG gives scale to just how deeply scored these ditches were. The authorities have their anctics; Abec 11 has the antidote.
Clearly, The Authorities had gone well out of their way to “skate-proof” these otherwise fine examples of water-diversion infrastructure. What they don’t know, however, is that there is really no such thing as “skate deterrence”. The very best thing that they could ever dream of might be “slightly skate inconvenienced”… and even that fairly limited goal can be readily reduced to a steaming pile of sheep shit by a smart man with a diabolical plan. Sure, they may have had a really sharp (and heavy) rake to score those wet concrete walls with, creating an extremely rutted and abrasive “skate-proof” surface… but I had Davo and Chappy in my back pocket, so I’d already won by default. Even if The Authorities would have no way at all of knowing it.
Armed with a Skaterbuilt Beasty, those 219’s… and most importantly of all, two sets of fresh 65mm, 81a No Skools… I silently took up the challenge, and dared those fuckers to “skate proof” my fat ass. I had the power of the roll behind me; they had nuthin’ but virgin ‘crete for me to pillage and plunder. The war was already won by default; it was just a matter of figuring out how one-sided the turkey shoot was gonna be.
Big, small, long, short… they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. And boy, were they clean. The water runs fast through here; I barely picked up my broom all morning long.
Seven ditches was the take; the cost was a mere three hours of my early Sunday morning. There wasn’t a cop to be found for miles; victory was complete and uncontested. Sure, the cheese-grater consistency of the concrete is a little daunting at first; the easy way out of that sort of fear is to drop your fat nuggets, step up your A-game, put your skills to some good use, and simply refrain from falling. At the end of it, I figured out that 65mm 81’s roll over cheese-grater concrete much like 55mm 101’s might roll over a little bit of irritatingly rough asphalt. It was a literal breeze.
That’s the sort of pertinent experience that only punk rock experimentation can yield. Suddenly, I realized that I’d found the key to unlocking every single ditch in the Southwest, no matter how “skate-proofed” they may be. The future looked really bright. And that bright future reminded me to take my morning telephone break.
“The farther you go, the more you know”. The farther I went, the smoother the ditches became. The one on the right was rolling perfection. All you jealous people…
I text-tussled Trish out of bed around nine, with a witty weekend update about my uber-successful ditch mission. Trish is a really smart cookie; she immediately demanded pictures, or it didn’t happen. So being the doting boyfriend that I had quickly and quietly been anointed over the past twenty-four hours, I huffed, puffed, and hiked my ass straight back into the fray to shoot a few for her enjoyment; a little exercise, after all, is never all bad for a former smoker.
She surprised me by asking me in her reply where I’d parked the car, and how to get into the action. One look at the text, and she decided that she might want to start exploring some empty ditches, too. Turns out, Trish is an avid urban explorer. Well, go figure. There was yet another common interest on top of the several-dozen common interests we’d already shared over the long weekend.
Most women think that this kind of stuff is completely nuts. To Trish, it all sounded like a whole buncha fun. I decided, right then and there, that I might have a keeper on my hands.
Very few skaters will ever figure this sort of shit out for themselves, and that’s just too damn bad. Skaters used to be an inventive and intrepid lot; now, they’re more than happy to be spoon-fed little-league “street” trickery. Yet the ditches are all right there, out in the open desert, glistening brightly in the sun, almost completely devoid of dirt or debris, just laying in wait for some super-smart skater to step out of the sheeple steeple, and stumble straight into their skateboarding salvation. Everything else is all flow-and-go from there.