Sunday, January 18, 2009

State Memories Project: Arizona

If you haven't seen my dad's comments on the first two states, give them a look. He's in some of my memories, although not all, and provides some early stuff as well. Incidentally, it's never too late to add your memory to an earlier state. I thought it might look cool to have quite a few comments--quite a few unique events in each state when all is said and done.

Anyway. Arizona.

I've had quite a few fun trips in Arizona to hang out with college buddy Rob, but I've selected a memory from my first-ever trip there (excluding a plane layover in 1983), which took place pre-Rob. My first year as a forensics coach, I was fortunate enough to qualify a kid for NFL Nationals, which took place in Phoenix that June. My student was eliminated after 2 days of competition, which meant we had a few days to kill. Killing all of that time in 117-degree Phoenix wasn't my favorite choice, so I joined up with another coach (plus all relevant chaperones) and we drove up to Sedona to spend the day at Slide Rock State Park. It's a natural water slide in gorgeous surroundings. I was worried the rock would tear up my butt, but I guess the water, plus the millions of butts that go down the rock every year, smooth it out. It was a fun thing to do.

We got to an area where the water got slower and deeper for a stretch of 50 yards or so, and flowed between 15-foot cliffs or so. I had one student with me, Julie, and my fellow coach, Ed, also had one student, Carmen.

People were making their way up to the top of the cliff to jump into the water below. The water was deep enough to do this safely...provided that you jumped out horizontally a bit. If you didn't get far enough out, the water near the banks was shallow enough to make a jump from that height dangerous.

Ed, my fellow coach, in what might be the most foolhardy move I can recall a teacher making, started encouraging his student to make that jump.

"Carmen...I think you can do that. It looks fun!"
I don't know, Coach. It does look fun, but I'd be a little scared.
"No. It's easy! Just jump from right there [pointing above] and make sure you get out to here [pointing at the area of water right in front of where he was treading]."
Well...I guess it would be fun...I'm just not sure, Coach.

Unbelievably, Ed sweet-talked Carmen into climbing up the bank. There she was, watching other people hurl themselves into the water. She did NOT look happy. I had already taken some time to tell Julie that I would NOT let her jump into the water. She replied that she had absolutely no interest in doing so. Now, we focused on an uncertain-looking 18-year-old kid in a bathing suit, looking down on us from quite a ways above. Ed resumed his pep talk.

"Okay, Carmen! You can do it! Jump right out to here, just in front of me!"
I don't know if I'll make it out that far!

Surely, surely my fellow coach would back down now...but no.

"You'll be fine! Just back up and get a running start!"
Um...all right, Ed...I'll do it!

Carmen backed up about ten paces and started running over the rock above us. About three steps short of her jump, I saw her freak out a little bit and buckle on a step. It took away quite a bit of her momentum, and my heart kicked over to a spot in my body it had never been before. She was going too quickly and was too close to the edge to stop, but that bad step made me worry that she didn't have enough speed to clear the dangerously shallow edge of the water.

Fortunately, the kid was muscular enough that she must have pushed off pretty hard. She cleared the dangerous part and landed safely, and we all slid on.

But that was a terrifying moment. I will never, ever forget the stupidity of that coach's actions, and I will never forget the moment when Carmen reared up like a spooked horse just a nanosecond too late to stop herself.

What do you remember from Arizona?


Chris Snethen said...

Ah, Arizona. How can I ever forget?

Paula said...

I remember people starting to introduce themselves, glancing at my name tag (which included my school), and stopping mid-sentence. I wish I had a dime for every time it happened.

But I also remember some very warm, very healing times with good kids. Talking, crying, loving each other. It was a hell of a year.

Jim Anderson said...

I remember the Vortex.

TeacherRefPoet said...


That story is so incredible--enjoyed seeing it again.

Jim--Snark at New Agers! Michelle and I wish we'd been there.

Paula--I really, really appreciated seeing you, Marti, and your students that summer of '99. What became of Sara? I didn't even know her until I saw her in Phoenix, but between her commencement speech and meeting her at Nats, she very much helped me through my own emotional struggles that summer.

I hope there's not a lot of 10th anniversary media crap this year.

Anonymous said...

TRP's Dad remembers traveling through Arizona in 1952 on one of those marathon family road trips and driving across the Navajo reservation in the four corners area. The sights were just as the pictures in our American history books showed it with hogan dwellings, men on horseback complete with head bands and wide turquois belt buckles, and little kids herding flocks of sheep. It could have been 1852. I was mesmorized.