Saturday was another slightly early day, as we took a small road trip about an hour and a half north to Arcosanti
, which is a bit hard to describe. Michael calls it a "wacky city in the desert", Wikipedia calls it "self-contained experimental town", and I call "Frank Lloyd Wright meets Deep Space Nine". The architect, Paolo Soleri, actually was a student of Wright's, and describes the city as an example of what he calls an arcology
, basically an urban configuration alternative to sprawl. It's a very neat theory, especially the obsession over passive heating, cooling, and energy collection, but everything about it is a bit out there. The many, many books available by him are full of fanciful drawings of possible arcologies, depending on the surrounding habitat, but there are also essays on a wide range of human topics, including family and sexuality. This seems to me to be a man straddling the thin border between genius and insanity. Arcosanti is not well funded (a good chunk of their income is from selling these awesome ceramic and bronze bells
); as a result, at its current construction rate, it will be finished roughly by the third week of never. That said, it is an impressive project and I hope that something comes of it.
As luck would have it, we stopped for a quick, light lunch in the cafeteria, and Michael and I both remarked on the... surprising amount of men there. Some of them seemed to be a bit flirty. And some of them had some discreet rainbow-colored logos on their hats or shirts. Turned out to be the local gay classic car club. We chatted with some of them a bit, but sadly we were not able to sneak onto their private tour group.
Our tour guide was... quite something. He'd been part of the Arcosanti project for a long time, and was pretty familiar with it, but he was the most unenthusiastic speaker ever. His routine was to wait for most people to assemble around him, give his speech, take questions, and then, without a word, turn around and walk to the next stop. No mention of things along the way, or what we were going to see next, just zoom on to the following appointed location. Very, very strange, but it was great seeing this start at a city being carved out of the desert.
We rested a bit after driving back to Michael's place, and took a local free shuttle (called an Orbit
; so cute!) to the Arizona State University campus, to take a look at the architecture there. Sure, it has things like the Grady Gammage Theater designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but it also has many other fascinating buildings, including what Michael termed "the Batman building" (because you could find it on the set of a Batman movie). His description was very accurate, as it had pools of rocks with steam coming off them, lots of exposed metal beams, huge metal fans for ventilation, and the little bit of non-metal color came from the huge yellow-and-black caution striped used for accents. Truly, the finest example of industrial design I've seen. One of these years, I'll get the pictures up.
For dinner, we met up with a friend of Michael's at the Four Peaks Brewing Company
. Wow. This weekend had been full of good food everywhere, but this place took the cake. I had not found the combination of good, reasonably priced food with excellent beer since I left PA and the unbeatable Bethlehem Brew Works
. Nearly all of the Four Peaks beers were just to my liking, and the enormous cut of prime rib was done perfectly.
Took the Orbit back to Michael's place, changed, and went out to a huge gay bar in Phoenix called Charlie's
. It reminds me most of the Cuff Complex here in Seattle: 3 separate areas (traditional bar, dance floor, and outside deck), and a great diverse crowd. Lots of fun. One thing Charlie's has that The Cuff doesn't is a huge outdoor volleyball sand court. Oh, and there were a lot more cowboy hats at Charlie's. Despite the fact that Michael didn't get a chance to dance, and the one boy I really talked to turned out to be more than a little bitter and drunk, we had a great time. It was a very high-energy crowd, and it was easy to have fun.
Another great, great night in AZ.