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Arizona Dreaming

Arizona Dreaming

While I was growing up in the Old Scottsdale of the sixties and seventies, the place always seemed to possess a distinctive, retro-chic style, and held the deeply nostalgic scent of my earliest childhood memories; living with the nuclear family that existed for such a brief time in my actual life, but forever in my own mythologized life-story. Both of my parents seemed to float in time as symbols of the era, and their very young family existed preternaturally within the culture of hope and optimism about the American Dream, which held so much meaning for so many at the time. Watching the moon landings on a black & white television, spending hot summer nights at drive-in theaters and hamburger stands, weekends at the zoo shooting 8mm home movies, and sharing in a social society were all reliable cultural rituals that soon became forgotten relics. Sunday drives and picnics in the beautiful Sonoran desert, which was as wide open and undeveloped as the hopes and dreams of those little kids, became more crowded and littered with trash, and started to symbolize the slow decline of a certain way of life. It was a family and a culture on the precipice of a major change, and heading for a complete physical and spiritual transformation. In a few years time, it would all vanish into the ether of collective memory and history and regret.

Forty years later I traveled back to the area with my own young family to attend my thirtieth high school reunion, and we stayed at the original Motel 6 in downtown Scottsdale. Like much of the Old Town area, on the surface it has remained virtually unchanged in the years since, like a movie set styled for the deepest reaches of my memory and imagination. And yet the entire world surrounding it, of course, has been in a constant state of destructive evolution and profound change. The metropolitan Sun Valley now has a population of many millions, and the sprawling blanket of suburban development spreads across the open desert like floodwaters. With the onset of extreme changes in the weather and seasons, and questions about the long-term availability of water and the sustainability of such an urbanized and congested core, the future of this desert megalopolis seems increasingly dystopian and unrealistic.

Now another fourteen years have gone by, and many of the people who shared that dreamscape and helped shape those memories are gone, including both of my parents, many in my extended and adopted families and even my beloved wife and partner, Debbie. Grief and loss becomes a larger part of your life and spirit as you grow older, and the acceptance of that burden in some ways replaces the sometimes reckless emotional enthusiasm of youth. If only we all could be so wise as to savor each moment in time as rich and profound and meaningful as it is when it happens! In many ways this is the basic creative impulse of filmmaking, and the artist’s challenge is to capture a single instance of truth or beauty that can reflect the fullness of their lived experience. And so we keep moving forward, grateful for the past and for those we have loved, but hopeful for those with which we share the future.

A short Super 8mm film. Shot on Ektachrome with the Leicina Super camera.