Carville & Matalin: Washington's Best-Loved Couple
As requested by A Fish Out of Water: Early last week (maybe even two weeks ago, I don't remember), Ryan called me with an offer I couldn't refuse: a chance to hear James Carville (CNN news analyst and Uber politico) and his wife Mary Matalin (FOX News analyst and Uber politico) speak at the Biltmore this past Thursday. Of course I said yes. (Thanks for buying the tickets, Ryan!) So I put on my nice new red dress shirt and my nice new red, white, and blue tie to match, and met Ryan at the Biltmore Fashion Park and we drove over to the Biltmore together. What I didn't know, and he didn't tell me, was that the event in question was the annual mega event for the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix. I think that Ryan and I may have actually been the only two non-Jews in the entire 1500-person population that went to the event. Kinda awkward. Anyway, after some introductions by the Foundation's chairman, and a recap of the previous year's events and those in the year-to-come, Carville and Matalin took the stage. Now, mind you, I haven't really listened to either of them intently before considering I usually have ABC15 local news, C-SPAN, or MSNBC on when I want to watch TV news. I'd rather hit up the internet news to pick out just the stories I'm interested in. But they were really funny! Mary Matalin went first, and gave a rundown of how it was sometimes awkward, sometimes frustrating, but always awesome to be married to someone on the polar opposite political spectrum from herself. Except on Israel - that's apparently their one issue point of agreement: a strong and sovereign Israel. Mary also talked about President Obama's cabinet picks and briefly touched on the need for support for the president, even though we may not support the president's policies right now (especially this stimulus plan). James Carville got up next and detailed some more of his thought's on Obama's first 30 days in office, made a few predictions about Israel, like that a peace treaty between Syria and Israel would be signed within 2 years. I don't know about that; I think it's a bit lofty to assume it, but hey, it's James Carville predicting it, so there must be some reasoning behind it. He discussed Bejamin Netanyahu in Israel and his formation of the Israeli government in the near future. Then there was a brief Q&A session of questions submitted by people who had attended a different function a week prior to the Carville/Matalin event, mostly all about Israel and issues of importance to persons of Jewish faith. After the event, Ryan and I snagged some dinner (the event had a nice little dessert plate for guests) and I went home. It was a good time, although, had I known the event was for Jewish Foundation members, I probably would have been expecting all the questions on Israel instead of hoping to hear them talk more about the stimulus and the economy. Sorry I took no pictures. My cell camera was useless in the big event hall, and my digital camera is currently not working.
It's Like the Bottom of the Ninth and I'm Never Gonna Win
If you know what song the title line comes from, you'll understand why I chose it for this post in a second. If not, well, listen to the radio more often, would you? Yesterday, I got up at about 5:00am in order to drive to Dobson High School in Mesa to stand in line to get a ticket to see the President Barack Obama speak there on Wednesday (tomorrow). --------------------------------- Interjection for rant on intolerance: Now, I know what you're thinking: why on Earth did a former College Republican, member of Arizona Victory 2006 for the AZGOP, Republican congressional intern, and PR assistant for four 2008 GOP campaigns go stand in a line with a bunch of Democrats to hear a Democratic president speak about his bloated government spending bill at a Mesa high school at 5 in the morning? My answer is threefold: 1. How often do you get the chance to see the President of the United States speak in your hometown (unless you live in the DC area, I suppose)? Democrat, Republican, whatever - I respect the Office of the President and the person who is in that job, even though I may disagree with some or most of his policies. If you're not secure enough in your beliefs to understand that, then I feel sorry for you as a Republican or Democrat or other party member, and I hope you take some time to reflect on what you're insecure about. 2. The President will be discussing the stimulus bill which recently passed Congress and about the housing crisis. Since this bill WILL be signed into law in a matter of hours, isn't it just a little bit important to hear how he plans to implement the policies in the bill? Isn't it important to hear how this bill will impact the next four years, at least, of our government? If for no other reason than it will showcase what flaws there are in the plan and where improvements can and should be made? 3. As a political science major in college, one of the most important things I was taught was to be impartial in analyzing data - legislation, research, etc. How can I be impartial in critiquing the stimulus bill if I don't know how the President plans to use it to stimulate the economy? Now, a lot of people I know have fallen into three categories of criticism for my wanting to go to the speech: people like former or current College Republicans who are "surprised" I'd go to the speech, Republican friends of mine who jokingly (at least I hope so) call me a traitor to my party and my ideology, and Democrats who think it's cool I am open-minded (and who also joke that I'm coming over to the dark side). I don't understand the people in the first group who find it surprising I'd do something like this - I'm interested in politics. Both sides. The world isn't black and white, Dem or GOP, yes or no. To fight something you first have to understand it. I feel sorry for the people who don't even try. End of interjection. ------------------------------------ Anyway, I got up at 5am and drove out to the high school with a big, thick coat (it was cold), a camp chair (4 hours sitting on the ground didn't appeal to me), and a book to read when the sun came up. I was a good quarter mile away from the administration doors, where the tickets were being handed out standing in line with a woman (who'd pretty much rolled out of bed like me and had also brought reading material, a chair, and a blanket), a Hawaiian gentleman with dreadlocks, and a couple of Dobson High students. For the first couple hours until around 7:30am, it was really, really cold, and we all were just there shivering and making small talk. The atmosphere was much like any line I've stood in to get a ticket to a GOP event - most people were talking about anything BUT politics, a few were remarking on why the opposite party was less than their favorite, and everyone was smiling and excited at the prospect of getting in the door. Around 8am, some people from the front of the line came back to tell us that they had taken it upon themselves to ensure order and had given numbers to the first 535 people in line (I remember the number because it's the number of people in the House and Senate combined). They also said that considering there were only 400 tickets available, anyone over #500 should probably just leave because we were wasting our time. In fact, that's probably the reason I got one of those tickets, because so many people in front of me left! There were in actuality about 600 tickets handed out, and I was number 575. They opened the gates and began letting people enter about 9:30am, and the line moved slowly and steadily as 20 people at a time were let through. At this point, we didn't know how many tickets there were, so we were on the bubble waiting to see if we would be able to make it. As time went by, rumors from the front of the line were that there were actually about 600 tickets available to the people in line, and my group began to get excited, because our counts had put us at about #570, just inside the margin. Finally, at about 11:30am, we were at the front of the line and were waiting our turn to enter when they stopped to count exactly how many tickets were left. The guy counting people came out and said "If I point at you, you're going in." I was one of those last few people, had to sign for my ticket, and came out to see a bunch of people still mobbing the security officers there trying to plead their way into a ticket and getting interviewed by the press about how it felt to be turned away. I confess myself a bit worried about making it back to my car without incident, seeing as how obsessive people are about President Obama. There were a couple times there I thought I might get mugged for my ticket. But nothing happened. After that, I went home, called a friend of mine who really wished he could have gotten a ticket, got criticized by every member of the GOP in Arizona it seems, got some support from a fellow Republican NOT in Arizona, and went and played Rock Band with Scott, Travis, Abigail, and Kim until about 9:30pm. I will post how the event went tomorrow with any pictures I am able to take.
The Wind Caves
Last week, I decided it was time to try to hike up Pass Mountain in the Usury Park Recreation Area (UPRA) up in northeast Mesa. I planned it for Saturday morning, and asked Scott if he wanted to join. To my enjoyment, and with a minor amount of coaxing, he agreed.
Now, for those of you who know not why this mountain is interesting, let me provide some background. Pass Mountain is the largest mountain in the UPRA and has a great trail complex - something like 15 different trails ranging from less than one mile to Pass Mountain Trail, a 7.2-mile trek around the mountain itself. Nearby, also on the same land, is the Usury Park Shooting Range for gun enthusiasts, a large campground area, and an archery range. The only trail that goes UP Pass Mountain is the "Wind Cave Trail" - so named for it's destination, the Wind Caves, which are Anasazi-like structures carved out of the mountain's sedimentary-rock midsection by the wind. The caves are roughly 2800 feet elevation, and the trailhead is 1.5-miles long originating at about 1200 feet elevation. That's a nice steep climb. If one chooses, there is an additional summit trail from the Wind Caves to the top of the mountain, another 400 feet elevation or so. In addition to all of this, there are two geocaches on the trail - one about halfway up, and the other on the very summit of the mountain.
We began our journey about 9am when I picked Scott up at his place. We went to Bashas to get some lunch supplies - sandwiches, chicken, fruit, that sort of thing - and then to Dunkin' Donuts for coffee and breakfast. We reached the mountain at about 10am, paid our $6 park entrance fee, parked the car, grabbed our backpacks, and got ready to go. I made sure to bring a light jacket just in case it was colder at the top (it wasn't), my GPS, and LOTS of water. Before the hike:
Once we got started, we found out how well we were going to be able to take the climb (not being in much shape to begin with, both of us were forced to take frequent rest/water breaks). The 1.5-mile hike up the mountain ended up taking about 4 hours to get to the Wind Caves, but it was worth it! Scott on a break:Andrew on a break:Finally, though, we reached the caves. The view from the top is spectacular. To the north, Fountain Hills' fountain can be seen every hour on the hour spraying up into the air. That fountain used to be the world's largest, back several years ago. Every St. Patrick's Day, they dye the water jet emerald green. I grew up in Fountain Hills, and that's still one of my favorite memories! I may go back this year for that party! To the west, just below the mountain is a set of smaller mountains, including the one that says "PHOENIX" in white lettering on the side, which used to be a navigation tool for airplanes a long time ago. I'm not sure if it actually was, but that's the legend. To the south, the caves, and to the east, the rest of the mountain. In the picture below, Scott and I stopped here to have lunch in the outcropping on the left. On the right, in the valley below, is the area surrounding Ellsworth Rd. and McKellips Rd. in Mesa.We made it to the caves!:After lunch, at around 1:30pm or so, we decided to try for the geocache on the top of the mountain. This involves going on a rough and rather dangerous "trail" out past the caves. It is marked solely by faded spray-painted arrows on the sides of the boulders up there, and we lost the trail at least twice. Once, I even made the error of thinking we needed to climb straight up the face of a sheer rock wall when in fact, we had just not seen the arrows. But eventually, we did find our prize, about 30 feet off the "trail" and over some rocks. The view from the top was AMAZING. The valley floor stretched out to the west of us (and on a clear day like Saturday, we could see out past downtown Phoenix), and the empty desert of the Goldfield Mountain Range and the Superstition Mountain Range to the east of us. The contrast between the developed west side and the natural east side created quite the juxtaposition! This picture is of me with the geocache, aptly named "King Usury's Treasure":But, hey, all good things must come to an end. The sun was beginning to sink in the sky, and we still had a long way back to the car with our water supplies running a little low. On the way down, I stopped to pick up the second cache on the mountain, which required a bit of technical manuvering on my part over some VERY loose gravel. But hey, I only slipped and cut up my hands and wrists twice! No snakes or scorpions, though, so that was good! The trek down the mountain was about an hour long, as opposed to the four-hour upward hike and the extra hour on the summit trail. By the end, exhaustion had set in, our muscles were achy, and I wanted three things: water, shower, and sleep, in that order. The "after" photo:Overall, it was a fantastic hike. Scott was a great motivator, despite the fact that he nearly fell off the mountain, saved only by my mad shirt-grabbing skillz (yo), and he had to put up with my banter the whole day (ask my parents, they'll tell you THAT ain't easy!). My plan is to do something of this nature every weekend - maybe not a 3-mile hike up a mountain, but something! Next time, y'all should consider coming along if you're in the area!