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Too Darn Hot

2008 Fay Jacobs

Fay Jacobs

I just got back from Phoenix, Arizona, where it was 114 degrees at high noon. Everybody told us we'd be okay, it was dry heat. Please. You could fry a frittata on the bench in front of the hotel. I got third degree burns of the fritatta.

This was some fancy schmancy resort, with rooms going for $500 dollars a night in the season. That would be winter. In August, they say "Let the lesbians have it for a literary conference." It's practically free for a great room, great service and when you go outside, it feels like walking into a blow dryer.

The conference - Golden Crown Literary Society - celebrated lesbian writers and books published in 2007. And it was wonderful. I was invited to speak on the topic of humor, which historically, lesbians as a species are thought to lack. I started class with the old joke "How many lesbians does it take to change a light bulb?" Answer: "That's not funny." Fortunately, the crowd tittered.

Afterwards, at the gorgeous pool, staff took our food and drink order and we dunked in the cool water. We got out to eat, but two bites into the meal we got dizzy from the heat and settled for sucking frozen Margaritas through a straw while applying the frosty glass to our wrists.

Two minutes later we had to violate the sacrosanct parents' rule by not waiting the requisite half hour after eating before swimming. For the record, we did not get the oft-threatened cramps, but I nearly needed a tour of the local burn unit after touching the metal pool ladder. Three minutes after that we were back inside the hotel.

At 6pm (109 degrees) some sadist suggested a visit to the Wild West Tourist town on hotel property. We survived the four minute walk across the steaming desert parking lot, entered 'town," and immediately, got "caught" in a faux gun fight. Three suspected out of work actors, poor bastards, "killed" each other, winding up flayed out in the dirt.

Hoping I wasn't next from heat stroke, we set off for the saloon, ducking into the air-conditioned "jail" on the way. The "sheriff" offered shot-gun wedding re-enactments for a fee. We decided not to ask for a same-sex shotgun wedding, unclear whether they had access to live ammunition.

Finally, we guzzled a beer and got the hell out of Dodge, both thrilled to be heading for A/C and being able to use the phrase "got the hell out of Dodge" literally. At the hotel, where it was now a balmy 106 degrees, I studied the architecture and wondered if the three-sided adobe/concrete entrance was supposed to replicate a PeePosh Indian pueblo oven. See the Mesquite grilled columnist stagger into the lobby.

At the Saturday night award ceremony and reception, we met and talked to readers and writers from all over the country. Bonnie was most amused by a reader of my books who looked at her and said "Gee, I'd pictured you as much more butch." Neither of us knew what to do with that comment, so Bonnie just smiled. Then grunted.

Conference organizers had arranged for two Native American men to entertain us before the awards. One resembled a short, fat borscht belt comic in headdress and war paint while the other was a tall, thin man with a pony tail who did a beautiful Native American hoop dance. Following applause for the intricate dance, the performer told us he was an attorney, working on Native American human rights issues and likened their fight against discrimination to that of the gay women in the room. In the early 1900s the Gila River had been diverted by non-natives, causing entire communities to disappear from lack of water. Recently, a series of dams helped reverse that action, so the Maricopa tribe has its water back, along with mammoth casinos, draining dollars from the white man, which is eminently fair.

His comments were both interesting and touching.

On Sunday, we left the hotel for a drive in our air-conditioned rental car up Superstition Mountain - a collection of hills, mesas, buttes and cacti I had previously only seen in TV westerns. I expected black and white. But no, it was all in living brown. The scenery was impressive, if a little scary. A sign at a scenic pull-off warned us not to put our hands anywhere where we couldn't see them. As if I ever would.

The rutted dirt road wound up the mountainside, with nary a guard rail in sight and two way traffic comin' round the mountain hauling boats, campers and head-ons waiting to happen. Neither of us has a fear of heights, but it was a hair-raising ride, worth it for the awesome canyon, gully and mountain views. We were warned to beware of wildlife, and although we kept a wary lookout, the wildest life we saw were several Geico spokesnewts running across the road. We did see the rare and gorgeous blooming cactus flowers - rare because only a handful of morons are stupid enough to visit the desert in August to see them.

Next, we visited a friend of Bonnie's who lives in a terrific resort and retirement community for lesbians called The Pueblo in Apache Junction, AZ. Hundreds of women live there, only the place was nearly deserted because it was August and these lesbians have the good sense to go North for the summer. Bonnie's buddy Marge was back to visit with us and show us around. Like Care Free resort in Florida, Rainbow Vision in Santa Fe and potentially the Open Door community here in Sussex County, more and more of these retirement options are springing up. Who'd a thunk it back before Stonewall.

Our final weekend adventure was getting home. Let's face it, folks, air travel sucks these days. Between the complimentary CAT scan, an over-sold plane in Phoenix, and thunder storms closing the runway in Atlanta, it actually took us a half hour longer to get from Phoenix to Philly than it did to get home from a trip to Beijing.

In hindsight, for scenic views and lesbian literature it was a wonderful trip. And I learned a few things.

1. Calories saved when it's too hot to eat are more than made up by life-saving frozen cocktails.
2. I have a new respect for the term "You're toast."
3. And when people say "It's not the heat, it's the humidity," tell them they are full of crap.

Back in Rehoboth, the thermometer said 92 degrees. Felt like a cold snap.
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Fay Jacobs, a native New Yorker, spent 30 years in the Washington, DC area working in journalism, theater and public relations. She has contributed feature stories and columns to such publications as The Advocate, OUTtraveler, The Baltimore Sun, Chesapeake Bay Magazine, The Washington Blade, The Wilmington News Journal, Delaware Beach Life and more.

Since 1995 she has been a regular columnist for Letters from CAMP Rehoboth, and won the national 1997 Vice Versa Award for excellence. Her columns are collected in the books, As I Lay Frying: a Rehoboth Beach Memoir and the newly published Fried & True - Tales of Rehoboth Beach.

Fay is Publisher and Managing Editor of A&M Books, the publisher of the 14 classic Sarah Aldridge novels.

She and Bonnie, her partner of 25 years, relocated to Rehoboth Beach, DE in 1999. They have two Miniature Schnauzers and a riding lawn mower.

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