Valley Of The Clueless



Among my favorite words is "diatribe."

I like it because it's fun to say, in the same sense that "brouhaha," "donnybrook," "hoosegow" and "roustabout" are fun to say.

I also like it because, like the others, the word "diatribe" has an attitude. A diatribe is more than a lecture, more than a denunciation, more even than a tongue-lashing.

It is, in fact, a combination of a harangue and a tirade -- a bitterly abusive harangue and tirade to be precise.

But allow me to present a diatribe as an example. And let me preface my diatribe by saying that a truly great diatribe, in my opinion, starts out gently and builds to a crescendo.

My diatribe

I went to the Valley recently for an innocent weekend of shopping and recreation. While water wasting is a subject that is never far from my consciousness, it was the last thing on my mind as I turned onto Hayden Road.

The route to my hotel took me down Scottsdale Road, McCormick Parkway, and over to Pima Road (OK, I got lost).

And what to my wondering eyes should appear but example after example of a people -- a race, it seemed -- that doesn't have a clue that it's habitat is a freaking desert, for god's sake.

There were parks with fake lakes and sprinklers running everywhere. There was water laying in the streets that had overflowed golf courses, lawns and anything else that could be over-saturated with water.

I was really in no mood to become agitated on this recreational weekend, so I simply shook my head and kept driving. I reached the hotel, hooked up with a friend, and we proceeded with our weekend plans.

But two incidents, one on Saturday evening and another on Sunday morning, turned my mild perturbation into a raging, venomous frenzy. Allow me, please, to enlighten you.

Coming back to the hotel down Scottsdale Road around 11:30 p.m., our windshield was struck by a powerful blast -- of water.

A few yards ahead, we were struck again, and then again. Despite the fact that it was a cool, October evening, the sprinkler system at either an apartment complex or hotel (it was dark) was running full blast, and the individual sprinklers were misaligned to the point that they were nailing the windshields of passing motorists.

After a fitful night's sleep, punctuated by dreams of killer sprinkler heads swirling out of control, we headed out the next morning to do a little shopping before bidding the Valley a not-so-fond farewell and returning to the sanity and clean air of the Rim Country.

Our mall of choice -- one I had never before visited -- is known as Scottsdale Pavilions on Indian Bend Road. I'm sure many of you have visited this particular mall, and that you already know what I'm about to say.

Not only does the Valley of the Wasteful have 350 golf courses. Not only does the Valley of the Outrageous have more fake lakes and artificial water features than you can count. Not only does the Valley of the Foresightless run water down its sidewalks, streets and alleyways. Not only does the Valley of the Profligate plant winter grass during a season when the rest of the world goes dormant.

But this abomination of a place has at least one shopping center -- Scottsdale Pavilions -- with its own lake and fountains. And we're not talking some high-class, gated shopping center for rich people. We're talking a shopping center with tenants like Target, Ross and Chuck E. Cheese.

Now here's my favorite part of all. Just a few days earlier, The Arizona Republic -- the hometown newspaper for this community -- ran an editorial ripping Payson by name and other northern Arizona communities by proximity for not realizing that water and growth are linked.

"Getting the attention of rural Arizona is a lot like talking to a know-it-all teenager," the Republic wrote. "It goes in one ear and out the other."

Yes, they had the audacity to lecture the town of Payson, whose strict conservation measures have resulted in an average per person consumption of just 86 gallons of water per day, while Valley residents use 187, much of which is surface water taken out of the Rim Country by Salt River Project.

Historians will tell you that all great civilizations eventually become bloated and crumble under the weight of their own excesses. One of the more interesting theories for the decline and fall of Rome -- which was dependent on an elaborate system of water-transporting, lead-lined aqueducts -- was that the Romans slowly went mad from lead poisoning.

We all know that history has a tendency to repeat itself, in which case the Valley of the Immoderate will most surely fall upon its own swords and drown in the water running down its streets.

And that, my gentle readers, is a diatribe.

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