ARIZONA- THE STATE OF MELANOMA

I spent twenty- three years living in Arizona, primarily Scottsdale. Yes, the land of Senator McCain,  Sheriff Joe, photo-radar- on -the -freeway, and melanomas by the bushel. I moved to Arizona from Chicago when my sister relocated there. I didn’t know a thing about the state, then. When I first saw palm trees and idyllic sunsets, I was in absolute awe. This is the place that people who have some money come  to get away from the hustle of Chicago, New York, and other major cities. It is a rather transient place. It is difficult to find someone born and bred in Arizona unless you go to South Phoenix  (or at least as it was before bogus eminent domain planning stripped the people there of their land to give it to some developers-where some taken areas remain undeveloped to this day!) You can find many tribes with their reservations and casinos. You can also find second & third generation Mexican-Americans who own their own businesses and have given the state a strong work ethic.

I arrived at Christmas time, elated. By the summer, I felt as if someone had shoved my head into an oven, or that a giant blowdryer was focused on me. I had to visit the dermatologist quite often because of the effect that the radical heat and bright sunlight was having on my skin. It seems as if the heat was baking out impurities within my skin, erupting as acne. I never had acne before, even as a  teenager. I also had eczema which made my condition slightly complicated to treat. Too much chemical drying-eczema; too much moisture-acne. When one lives in the state of golf courses, tennis courts, and horses, there are alot of outdoor activities that can give fair-skinned people a problem. I know a man with a landscaping business, who has battled recurring melanomas for many years, always managing to catch a new case. There are necks out there that rival rough leather saddles, to be sure. My daughter-in-law is a redhead. She cannot go out into the sun without a sunscreen.  Sun bathing is absolutely out of the question. I also have an allergy to the sun!  So it was that I became one of Arizona’s finest vampires-LOL. I worked the night shift, slept during the day, and wore Raffia-fiber hats because I am allergic to sunscreen, as well as the sun. Everyone who lives in Arizona is told at some point that they need to always wear sunglasses so that the intense sunlight would not cause some vision problems due to burning out of retinas.

So in Scottsdale, I would see all of the Jaguars, Porsches, Mercedes, and BMW’s with beautifully-tanned women emerging from the driver’s seat with sun-streaked blonde hair and expensive sunglasses headed out to Scottsdale Fashion Square- Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus.  Scottsdale is  the city who pioneered the on-the-freeway-flash-in-your-eyes-photo radar program. Now, make no mistake. There are photo radar areas everywhere in Scottsdale; at most main intersections, as well as photo radar police cars hidden in the brush to take photos of speeding vechicles when the speed limit changes by five m.p.h.  This is obviously a big source of revenue for the city of Scottsdale to the dismay of unwitting  “snowbirds” flocking to the pleasant winter weather playground.

Sheriff Joe’s Tent City is all too real in Phoenix. It is a massive tent outside that remains outside in 115 degrees.  It is quite a punishment for those who break the law. It is not known how many people have suffered from heat exhaustion or heat stroke, having done a stint in this special place. When someone arrives at Tent City, they are donned in pink-cotton-candy-colored boxers, pink slippers, and pink handcuffs.  When I was called to jury duty, I saw that Arizona is no place that anyone black could receive a jury of his peers. Hey, I was the only black person in this vast pool. I, then, understood what it meant to have an approximately 2% black population. I believe that Mike Tyson and DMX were quite foolish to move to Arizona. The judicial system is stacked against blacks by demographics.

Sedona, the hideout of Senator John McCain is the New Age capital of the United States. There are proported vortexes there, and thriving local businesses who capitalize on everything from spiritual guides to U.F.O’s. There are guides who will take you to the vortexes, as well as maps available to find them yourself.  Only people with money can afford this real estate. I would suspect that the reason that Senator McCain has a ranch in Sedona is not just because he can, and not for the “spiritual energy” asserted to be there, but because the temperature is usually at least ten degrees cooler which would be a plus for a melanoma survivor.

After a few years enduring the six-month-long summers, I hated Arizona with its ancient Native American curses, its Keating Scandal, its AZ-Scam sting operation, its bankrupt Governor Symmington, its Tent City, its rude newly-transplanted-from-back-Easterners, its phony eminent domain scams (which turned South Phoenix from predominately black into suburbs with white residents, gated communities, new schools and Starbucks with outdoor misters) I hated the way older white people looked at me when I went to Scottsdale’s Costco and asked me the disturbing question, “where were you born?” I used to wear colorful turbans as a reminder of “tignon law” that was enacted  by Spanish Governor Miro in Louisiana to make sure everyone knew who the “colored” women were.  I could wrap a scarf around my head in a hundred different ways. After 9/11, I had to take them off, and wear the simple “slave rag” I have been asked if I was Egyptian, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Iranian, or anything “colored”  These questions were alright until after 9/11 and the illegal immigration issue began to cause discomfort. Funny thing, after leaving Arizona, moving to Nashville and returning to visit my children, I was returning from Nogales when a Mexican border patrol officer looked at my driver’s license and asked, “what state were you born in?” Had it not been for the fact that my husband has a chocolate complexion and that I was in the passenger seat, I am sure that I would have been pulled over at a check point about twenty to thirty minutes North of Nogales. Now, I do not ever want to go back to the state of melanoma. I do not want to get caught in the sweeping net of racial profiling, and I do not want to lose my temper. I do have a passport, of course, but it never stopped  judging eyes.

Golf-lovers, tennis players, horse-riders, swimmers, tanners, and retirees. You can have Arizona! Take it and its latent racism and swallow it whole. Slather on your sunscreen, keep your hands from being burned on the hot steering wheels, sit in those melting carseats, suffer those huge electic bills, live close to the Palo Verde nuclear plant, suffer from allergies from transplanted olive trees, avoid scorpions in the closet, watch out for black widows, drill traps for legendary subterranean termites in costly homes, keep your children from drowning in those expensive pools, let the casinos take your retirement income. You are welcome to it all!!!

Alice Parris