When you're not sure where to have Thanksgiving dinner sans the traditional trappings and trimmings, a good bet is the Four Seasons.
My best good friend Jenny (I can't help but describe my friends in the style of Forrest Gump) flew from Atlanta to Phoenix to spend Thanksgiving week with me, traveling through northern Arizona.
It was a welcome gulp of familiar air after I'd driven through the desolation of southern Arizona's sandy dunes.
Our friendship grew over the years as we went on countless power walks through Atlanta's finest neighborhoods. (We're in our thirties, that's we do.) We knew each other well, but had never traveled together. I wasn't worried. We agreed that if we got sick of each other, we'd just change plans. Often the simplest solutions are the best.
I picked up Jenny from the Phoenix airport on Thanksgiving Day and took her to the retro lounge-inspired yet wonderfully modern hotel where we'd be staying for the night.
Dinner was fancy enough for us to feel both contentedly spoiled and excited at the prospect of being asked to leave, lest they recognize that we were neither rich nor classy like the other clientele. Note that I am trashy enough to use the words "classy" and "clientele."
The following days were packed with driving and hiking as we tried to see as much of Arizona as we could in the short week we had together.
Our plan was to go to Sedona, Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon, and then back to Phoenix for her flight back to Atlanta.
The first thing we did upon arriving in Sedona was eat raw food -- because what the hell else are you going to eat in the elite, New Age mecca of the Southwest?
We hiked -- or, rather, climbed and then awkwardly scramble-slid down -- Cathedral Rock. The views were incredible, and we knew we were off to a good start. We found other trails between Sedona and Flagstaff, where we were staying in Lucy and Desi-style twin beds at an Airbnb with a pleasant French couple.
Views from Cathedral Rock, so named because you're praying on the way down.
Do you see them?
A hazy view from the Sterling Trail saddle.
...desert Fraggle holes?
A friend of ours tipped us off to a jewelry stand in a Dairy Queen parking lot where Native Americans sell tables and tables of goods. I bought many, many things and will return to buy many, many things in the future.
With the southeast rim of the Grand Canyon just a couple of hours away, we took a break from Sedona to get a good gape in.
Jenny doesn't like driving, and I do. She spent the ride napping while I listened to old Car Talk episodes and chuckling to myself like a dad. I drove us to a lodge where we sat in their sports bar, sitting side-by-side at a table eating potato skins and gossiping about the football players' hair like a couple of Upper East Siders.
That night, we watched trash TV and looked at the post-Thanksgiving sales on our laptops. It was immensely gratifying to do something innocuously superficial with a loved one.
The Grand Canyon was a jolting opposite to our lodge-lazing. It was awe-inspiring and bracingly cold, which only enhanced the experience. We didn't hike given the weather, and took a shuttle up and back. I'm not the first person to be gobsmacked by it, so I won't waste the words.
We went on some fantastic hikes in brisk, just-above-freezing weather between Sedona and Flagstaff, but it was our jaunts on the beaten path that stuck with me.
When we got back to Sedona with just a short time left in our trip, I was set on seeing the "woo woo" stuff for which Sedona is famous -- and mocked.
Hear me out: I've been practicing transcendental meditation for over ten years, and I've been a Reiki master for not quite as long. What's become blithely labeled as "New Age" is actually an amalgam of ancient rites, scientifically substantiated phenomena, commercialized pseudo-philosophy and, frankly, some really tacky art.
I decided I wanted to have a photo taken of my aura at the Mystical Bazaar. I was pleased and unsurprised by the results: still yellow after all these years. I bought some stones and bid the stucco strip mall adieu as we went on to our next hike.
There was plenty to look forward to -- most of all, being sucked into a vortex. I was ready to take my energy for a spin.