Last Scene Here
What I Did on My Summer Vacation
It’s Enough to Make You Yearn for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
Many things have been written about Arizona, some positive and many controversial. Whatever you’ve heard, I’ll tell you, they should think about changing the state motto to: “Arizona: Gayer Than You Think It Is.”
For a place with a reputation for conservatism and xenophobia, it’s astounding to say that nearly everyone that Sam and I met on our whirlwind tour, from the Mexican border to the Grand Canyon, turned out to be gay.
We spent three days at the incomparable Sunglow Ranch, in the heart of the Chiricahua Mountains (sacred land to the Apaches, where Geronimo and Cochise fought the federales). Most (but not all) of the gays we encountered were imported from Boston to help celebrate Sam’s 30th birthday, and whether we were horseback riding with Bucky or at a wine-tasting lunch at the Lawrence Dunham Vineyards, we all had cute outfits.
From there, we drove north to Sedona, home of monumental red rock formations and every kind of New Agey nonconformism known to man. We explored the jaw-dropping scenery in an ATV, and poked around the charming (if slightly touristy) recreation of the Mexican town of Tlaquepaque (which is just plain fun to say; never mind the shopping). L’Auberge de Sedona is now firmly on my list of favorite hotels. Tucked into a shady canyon, it has heart-stopping views of the mountains, and its restaurant—among the most romantic in the world—sits atop the magically beautiful Oak Creek. We also dined at the aptly named Enchantment Resort, where the manager bought us a drink and sought our advice for his upcoming vacation in Provincetown.
Bidding Sedona a reluctant adieu, we headed north through the world’s largest ponderosa pine forest for a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon—an experience so magnificent it moved me to tears, despite the fact that they played the theme to Star Wars over the headphones. (I know. Soooo gay.) Afterward, at the El Tovar Hotel on the southern rim, we were seated next to a pair of attitudinal queens from Colorado, who threw us shade for no good reason.
The emphatically gay innkeeper at the charming Inn at 410 Bed and Breakfast in Flagstaff directed us next door to the farm-to-table Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar, where a discernibly gay waiter was our welcoming committee and tour guide to mischief. Dinner was so superb, we ate there the next night, after which the waiter in question joined us at the Zane Grey Bar at the Weatherford Hotel, where the author lived and where the bar you belly up to was salvaged from Wyatt Earp’s saloon in Tombstone.
We also drove out to see Sunset Crater Volcano and the spectacular 900-year-old ruins at Wupatki, overlooking the Painted Desert. Being proud Bostonians, we were obliged to tour the Lowell Observatory, built by textile magnate Percival Lowell, where the earth-shattering discovery of the expanding universe and the slightly less earth-shattering discovery of Pluto took place. Later we took a fascinating house tour of the Riordan Mansion with a lovely lesbian couple from Long Island.
Our last night in Arizona was spent at the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, and despite not meeting anyone overtly gay there, its über-hip, mid-century chic is as Chelsea-boy as it gets. Plus, the fact that Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner got married there makes it homosexual hallowed ground.
So the next time somebody criticizes Arizona for being backward, or even cactus-y, tell them it’s the gayest place you’ve ever heard of. I swear to you, even the back cover of the Spring 2012 issue of Grand Canyon magazine has an advertisement for something called “Bearizona.”