We visit a friend above town.
Last night, my husband and I spent the evening with a friend who lives part-time in Wickenburg. His house sits on a ridge overlooking the town.
As I drove up the road that led to his home, I felt I was rising above the scum that floats just below the surface of Wickenburg, the scum of small-town politics, corruption, and business owners being threatened for signing petitions that support their personal beliefs.
Our friend, Tom, can’t live full-time in Wickenburg. He simply can’t get the things he needs to live comfortably. So he has a condo in the Deer Valley area of Phoenix, near where his business is based. He comes to Wickenburg to work on his house, which he’s systematically torn apart and put back together over the past three years, working with one contractor after another to get each job done. By the looks of things, he’s about 80% finished. He shops in Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Phoenix before he comes to Wickenburg, bringing up organic groceries to stock his kitchen and incredible wines to stock his in-wall wine “cellar.”
I used to try to get Tom to move his business up to Wickenburg, to build a building in the town’s industrial park and operate out of there. But he would tell me that he has a great staff in Deer Valley and he knows they wouldn’t commute up here. He doesn’t want to lose them. Now, after thinking about it for a long time and seeing the hurdles a small business needs to jump to get set up in Wickenburg — I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to get an office at the airport for my helicopter charter business for more than eight months — I don’t nag him about it anymore. I wouldn’t want to push him to a decision that would make him unhappy.
Tom’s ridgetop home offers stunning views in every direction, marred only by the power lines APS recently strung along another ridge nearby. The poles and wires are a heartbreak to Tom, who bought the house because of the incredible views. He’s angry because APS had an alternative route, one that would have taken the power lines through unoccupied areas of town where they wouldn’t be such an eyesore to residents. But APS took the easy route, following the edge of state land. Although I agree that they hurt his view, the situation is even worse for the homes they pass near. Literally dozens of homes were affected by the power line installation. But although he’s complained to APS and the Town of Wickenburg, no one seems to care.
We spent the evening listening to classical music and jazz, drinking wine, making dinner, and looking out at the lights of Wickenburg far below us. Tom’s view of the town at night is just like mine from the helicopter as I come into Wickenburg at the end of one of my moonlight dinner tours. He remarked at how many more lights there are now than there were just three years ago when he bought his home. “Imagine how the difference is to us,” I told him. “We’ve been here ten years.”
At Tom’s house, I felt so far removed from town, like I was in another place. A place where culture, fine wine, and quality food were an important part of everyday life, not something to be treated to once in a while. The air seemed somehow cleaner up there, the political situation not so dirty, the conversation more educated and interesting. It was as if we’d left Wickenburg and stepped into a city home. Not necessarily a Phoenix home, mind you. Perhaps one in New York, high above Second Avenue and 60th Street.
The feeling stuck with me all evening as I sipped wine chosen by my host, minced fresh garlic for the garlic bread, and ground sea salt over my soba noodles. Less than two miles as the crow flies from my home, I was in another world.