Sedona is extraordinary. We arrived mid-afternoon, driving up from Phoenix, and saw the light play with form and volume and colour, with the road some way below us and the rocks, that hopeless, inadequate word, above. Down to our left, roadworks were in progress, and other kinds of building, which will almost certainly transform the place for the worse, but it will take an awful lot of spiritual merchandising and motels and whatever else takes place here to destroy the absolute indifference of the geography. Photographs don’t do it justice, and neither do words.
Between one butte and the next, we stopped at a place that sold all kinds of local, and not so local, artefacts: skulls, native American jewellery, odd cast iron sculptures, cowboy hats, signs like the ones in the photograph, postcards, roughly made vases from China. While I was looking for a present for my sister, Tyla asked if there was some place we could go to enjoy the sunset. The colours of Sedona – ochre, orange, red – are sunset colours. What we wanted was a place above the valley, with Margaritas and Corona beer and silence. The woman who ran the shop knew exactly where to send us.
Maybe it was because I hadn’t bought anything and her retailer’s instinct told her I wasn’t going to. Maybe she didn’t like us, or was innately wicked, or didn’t understand what two foreign men were doing with one American woman and thought we needed some mild sort of punishment, nothing too taxing or permanent, a warning for future memory. Maybe she had a dark, sardonic sense of humour. Maybe she had no taste, or aesthetic sense, at all.
We followed her directions and ended up at Sedona airport. We ordered our drinks and waited, staring across the car park, and the wire fence, and the air field, with its clutter of tiny private planes. What we’d imagined was the whole inhuman splendour of the landscape in the dying light of day. What we got was the homely squalor of a small commercial airport, appalling service, the smell of fuel.
PS Tyla has posted this message below: “Oh the memories….Cold coffee, warm beer, weak margarita. But it was all worth the sexy image of Giuseppe silhouetted against the chain link fence, dressed in black, deep drag on his cigarette. The barbed wire coil on the top of the fence only added to the James Dean renegade-like feel of the moment.”
I thought you’d like to see the image she mentions, so here it is.