This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is not supported by advertising, it's supported by the generosity of my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

Being alone at Christmastime in Phoenix, Arizona

As someone who grew up in the snow and cold of Minneapolis, I am soooooo happy to be in Phoenix at Christmastime. With all due respect to that beautiful city, and the wonderful outdoor winter sports there, I just couldn't wait to leave Minneapolis. I bought a car when I was eighteen, learned to read a map not long after that, and soon figured out which way was west, and I went to Phoenix.

Many people have marveled at that, as if it were some big achievement. But really, you hold onto the steering wheel, put gas in the car a few times along the way, and you're there. I'm not saying I arrived in style, or even smelling good, but all that matters is that I had left the snow and cold for the glory of the warmth of Phoenix, Arizona. Yes, I lived where the "po' folk" lived, learned to feed myself by stretching a dollar until it screamed, and all the usual things that old-timers say that the young people don't have the discipline to do anymore. But I know that there are young people out there right now who are doing what they can, and there will always be. And I'm proud of those people, the way I can look back and say I'm proud of myself. I glad I did what I did. Most of the time it was just uncomfortable, but there was one time of the year when it hurt like crazy - Christmastime.

Now waitaminute, I'm not saying that I had any regrets finding myself alone in Phoenix at Christmastime, but that didn't make it hurt any less. Being alone stinks, and being alone at Christmastime is just about the hardest thing that anyone with a heart can bear.

In a long life, I've come to realize that I'm not the only one who has ever been alone at Christmas, and hurting. It's so common that I'm sure it's part of the reason of the spike in liquor sales at that time of the year. I did fly back to Minneapolis once after I graduated from ASU, to experience the blizzard of the century, and that made it easier for me to not feel so sad back home in Phoenix, and later in Los

Coming to Phoenix alone was an important decision in my life, and one that I'm glad I made. If you grew up in Phoenix, it's impossible for me to describe just how good it feels to go for a walk in December, in a tee shirt. So I won't try to describe it, you'll just see me with such a grim on my face you'd think everything is perfect. And it really is.

I wish people a merry little Christmas. If you've never heard the original lyrics to the song, it may surprise you. The version that plays on the radio isn't the same sad and lonely one that was originally written. When I was alone at Christmastime in Phoenix, I would listen for it on the radio, sung by Judy Garland. It still hurts a little.

Some day soon, 
We all will be together,
If the fates allow.
Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow.
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

Turning your life around at Glendale Community College, Arizona

Even though I haven't taught at GCC for years, I have great affection for the school. I taught computer software from 2001 to 2009, and what I got to see was much more than that. I saw people who were turning their life around at a Community College.

I apologize for how cliche it sounds - as if taking some classes at a Community College could "change your life", but I saw it happen. And no, I take no credit for it, I was just talking about Photoshop, or Web Design. And I'm convinced that many people were turning their life around in my tiny corner of Arizona, at GCC.

Glendale Community College in 1965. Yes, it still looks like that, the buildings are the same in the center of the campus, and the historic palm trees (that originally led to Sahuaro Ranch) are there.

Glendale Community College, which has been there since 1965, is on Olive and 59th Avenue in Glendale, Arizona. It began as what was then called a Junior College, as a way for students to make a simpler step from high school to college. I myself availed myself of this, by going to Phoenix College for my first two years before I went to ASU. And believe me, it make a big difference, and I'm grateful to have taken that route. I still recommend it: first two years at a Community College (which is what they're called now) then finish up at a University. It's not only less expensive, it's less overwhelming for young people.

But something happened to "Junior" colleges over the years. They expanded from their original intention into places that served the community, not just people making the transition from high school to college. And that's why a Community College is so cool, and why I recommend it to people, even if they're well-striken in years (30s, 40s, and beyond). No, it's not a miracle, but it's a place to turn your life around.

I saw a lot of elderly students, well beyond 19. And their situations were as individual as they were, some were tired of dead-end jobs, some had gone through a divorce, some just wanted to enrich their lives. And they one thing they all had in common is that they didn't realize that they would see so many other people like themselves on campus.

I like GCC, and I go there often, although now I just use the Fitness Center. And yes, it's open to anyone, you pay for it as if it were a class. If you're disabled, like I am, or over 65, and your medical insurance has "Silver Sneakers", you can use it for free.

If you don't know anything about your local community college, I have an assignment for you: Go there. If you go to GCC, the visitor's parking is up close to campus and you can walk around there as much as you want. I recommend visiting the Student Union, maybe grabbing a burger while you're there, or a cup of coffee. I like the hot chocolate! Yes, you'll see a lot of young people, fresh from high school, walking around looking as if they knew what they were doing. But don't be fooled, everyone is dazed and confused, and trying to figure it all out. And a community college is a wonderful place for that, at any age.

See you on campus!