Making the ordinary extraordinary in any town, including Phoenix
I just finished talking to one of my PhDs (Phoenix History Detectives) who was kind enough to express his appreciation for a couple of my articles about ordinary people in Phoenix that I saw as extraordinary. And it really is how I feel about my town.
And if you don't feel that way about your town, whether it's Phoenix or not, I kinda feel sorry for you. It's like anything you love, everything inch of it becomes precious. And you get defensive if someone criticizes it, or if anything changes, anything at all.
I don't know when I started becoming fascinated with what most people think of as ordinary. I tend to think of "grownups" as people who wouldn't understand, so I guess I've always been that way. I used to spend hours just walking around the little town in Minnesota where my grandma lived, and when the grownups asked me where I'd been, or what I'd seen, I really had no answer. To them I was looking at rocks and weeds. To me it was so different. And at an early age I started drawing the things that I saw in an effort to really try to understand them. I still try to, but I know that I never will.
When I discovered the artist Andrew Wyeth in my teens I started to understand what he saw, and shared. I've known people who just don't get it, who travel to Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and look around. And I know that if I went there I wouldn't see what Wyeth saw, but I know that I would try. But there really isn't any need for me to travel there. What he saw was color and light and texture. He was fascinated by the shadows on the hills. He visited his next-door neighbor, Anna Christina, who had to be the most ordinary person you could imagine, and he made a famous masterpiece based on her.
As a teacher, I'm a big believer in the old adage of "showing people where to look, not what to see". And I'm often saddened by people who won't bother to turn their head, or walk across the street, because "there's nothing to see". So here in my history adventuring blog, I share what I see. And what I see is extraordinary. If you can see it, too, that makes me happy. If you're standing there puzzled it makes me kinda sad. So thank you for letting me tell you what I see, and I hope that you find something worth seeing in the ordinary stuff that surrounds you. If you'd like, you can start by saying that Phoenix has great sunsets - most people will agree with you on that. And then you can take it elsewhere, into wherever you want to go. That's my plan, and if you come along with me I'll share what I see. It will be extraordinary, I guarantee that!
Image at the top of this post: Inside of my apartment in 1978, 4201 N. 9th Street, Phoenix, Arizona.
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Posted by Brad Hall