Encanto Walk #1

Swans head for a siesta in the shade.

Swans head for a siesta in the shade.

It is a Tuesday, early afternoon in sunny Phoenix.  Temps in the low 90s.  On my way to the town’s best cheeseburger at the Encanto Golf Course cafe.  Encanto means “charm” in Spanish.  Just looked it up.

I pass the residence in Palmcroft where I first saw my first-ever purple-flowered artichoke. The plant is pretty much shot but the flowers still dazzle.

The park is dead. A pair of lovers lie in the grass under a shade tree. Only one picnic table being used.  Dozens of pigeons and doves feeding on the ground. Everywhere.

A bridge I've crossed over many a time.

A bridge I’ve crossed over many a time.

The swimming pool is filled now.  They began running water into it on the 16th.  The surface is roughed by a stout west wind.  Pool probably opens this weekend. Someone is cleaning up the Snack Bar.

A man in his 60s waves a puny metal detector over a grassy spot near the lagoon.  Looking for coins and other lost valuables, I assume.  I ask how deep the detector can go.  Unsure, he stops to look at a screen on his gadget.  “About 8 inches” is the reply. “But I never find anything that deep.”

An American flag flutters in the wind by the meeting hall.  Reminds of a recent trip I made down Car Row on East Camelback.  Enormous flags flew over four dealerships.  Dealers dig big flags. The bigger the better.  Phony patriotism but good for business.  Two of the flags at half-mast, Honda and Toyota.  Not so at the two U.S. places. Japanese have to fight harder for the dollar than domestics.

Lots of geese and swans floating around in the large lagoon.  One Mallard and a Coot also.

Cafe is all but empty.  Two elderly duffers sit behind me talking golf.  Out the barred windows I see the driving range.  No hackers today.  See only four guys with smooth swings.

A stranger. Not sure what it is.

A stranger. Not sure what it is.

Order the cheeseburger with pot salad and all the fixings.  Lettuce, mustard, pickles, tomatoes and onions. Pepper’s on the table.  Cheese. Swiss or American? I make the patriotic choice. But really. Hate the big-holed Swiss. Comes to just over $7 with tax.  I slip a dollar bill into the tip jar. Service is quicker than usual.  A new female cook.  I tell her about my recent unimpressive visit to at the ShakeShack at Uptown Plaza.  She seems pleased that I like her cooking better than that new “cool” place she’s never heard of. Better food here, bigger portions, less expensive.

Stood by a bench and watched a dozen or so racist pigeons fight over a piece of bread on the ground.  Scrap over a scrap. A grackle and starling finally give up.  Chased away every time.

Checked my pedometer when I get home.  Picked up about 5,000 steps of my 10,000 daily quota. Makes me feel good. I’m much the slackard lately.



A quiet battleground

Bird of Paradise near the swimming pool entrance.

Bird of Paradise near the swimming pool entrance.

It’s been the same now for a while.  When I feel desperate for the best cheeseburger in town, I head out north from my house to the Encanto Golf Course cafe.  A short walk.  One and one-tenth of a mile by my GPS. Round-trip, it eats about 30 minutes of my usual languorous noon-hour.

The now well-worn route of mine takes me through the old-money neighborhood of Palmcroft and on up to the quiet battleground that is Encanto Park.

Encanto by description offers the best of city living.  A large park with room to roam among the shadows of palms and other tall trees, a large swimming pool, numerous basketball and tennis courts, a patch of sand for volleyball, a softball and soccer field, picnic tables, a large lagoon with a wide array of waterfowl, a boathouse built in 1936 for paddlers, a meeting  hall, parking lots and an 18-hole, grass-green golf course with driving range and practice putting greens.  And a small cafe.

Filling the swimming pool.

Filling the swimming pool.

The tension comes like this.  Encanto is surrounded by several historic neighborhoods like Fairview, Palmcroft and, yes, Encanto where home owners increasingly like their peace and quiet.  This at a time when an increasing Phoenix population of mostly-young Hispanics and their families are drawn to the park’s soccer field and weekend picnic tables.

Add to that a sizeable number of young black basketball enthusiasts who flock to the courts at night.

The city has countered this activity on weekends with blocked residential streets on two sides of Encanto where it is easiest to park.  “Local traffic only” signs bar entrance.  And as far as I can tell the signs are obeyed.  Park lights go off at 10, just when youth gets rolling.

The Boathouse, built in 1936.

The Boathouse, built in 1936.

Whether this irritation at Encanto is measured by decibel, lumen or skin color I do not know.  Perhaps all three.  I do know there is a growing resentment in town toward the dark races, particularly Latins.  As the trend continues, whites in Phoenix will be the minority in a few decades.  The salvation, some whites seem to think, is Trump’s Great Wall along the border with Mexico.

In any case I am drawn to this tinge of tension as I stroll through the area armed with only my trekking pole (protection from unleashed dogs), a camera and a backpack loaded with reading materials, notebooks and writing tools.

I plan to post regularly from my walks up to the city’s best cheeseburgers.  I will tentatively, maybe permanently, call these posts, “Encanto Walk.”


Lies of our fathers

From almost the moment of birth, we are bombarded by lies and half-truths.  And by the time we die, one might say most of our lives amounted to nothing more than a dream mixed with a dab of reality.

I was reminded of this today in reading a NYT article, “Author Now Doubts His Father was in Famed Iwo Jima Photo.”  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/04/us/iwo-jima-marines-bradley.html?_r=0

The author of “Flags of Our Fathers,” James Bradley, was duped in believing his father, John, was one of the six fighting men seen atop Mount Suribachi, raising the American flag.  The photo by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press — shot on Feb 13, 1945, as WWII wound down — has become a symbol of patriotism and America’s fighting spirit.  The photo earned Rosenthal a Pulitzer Prize.  President Harry Truman and the U.S. government promoted the photo, helping to enrich American coffers with war-bond money. Yet it has been known for many years now that the photo was a lie.  Rosenthal’s photo was the second flag-raising and staged.

Doubts were raised about John Bradley’s involvement two years ago in an article that appeared in the Omaha World Herald.  Two amateur historians studied the pants, headgear and cartridge belts on a photo taken of John Bradley at the first flag-raising.  They discovered the items did not match “John Bradley” in the second photograph.

Why it took James Bradley, the son and author, all this time to question the authenticity of his father’s role is not fully known.  The obvious reason is that the author did not want to admit his own glaring error.

The arid lands did not go without its own “hero” at Iwo Jima. There was an Arizonan in the famous second photo.  Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian whose home was on a reservation just south of Phoenix, was identified as the last Marine in line, the one with his hands off the flag.  He came home a hero, though I doubt he believed he was one. The highest mountain in the Estrella range southwest of Phoenix is named in his honor.  No evidence has yet revealed that he was not in the famous Suribachi photo.

Living in America is smoke and mirrors.  You never know for sure what is truth and what is a lie.