I’m eating my second push-button pancake in the hotel breakfast room. On the television I can see something festive is happening. It’s a bicycle race or a foot race, or a parade.
The pancake is not a pre-cooked, warmed-up, ersatz mistake. Inside a machine the size of an old-fashioned breadbox, is a plastic bag of pre-mixed pancake batter. You push a button on the left, the box emits a quiet hum, and after three minutes, a perfectly round, medium-rare comestible gradually rolls out of the side of the machine. Think pancake fax.
With push-button yogurt (plain low-fat Greek or vanilla fat-intact American), push-button juices, and push-button coffee, you can make a good start on the day.
Glancing up again at the tv, I realize, it’s Earth Day. I’m looking at how they celebrate Earth Day in Arizona.
Who doesn’t remember their first Earth Day? On April 22, 1970, first Earth Day ever, I was six weeks from high school graduation. It had been three years since the Summer of Love, a year since the Tet Offensive. Eight miles north of town, Dow Chemical, naplam producer and unfettered polluter of the Tittabawassee River, and Dow Corning, plastic wrap and breast implant manufacturer, were reminders that the earth belonged to us, too, and Earth Day had a purpose, an urgent one, even.
It was a bright sunny day, I remember that much. And a number of us walked out of school, though whether we had the blessing of Mr. Haenke, the school principal, I do not recall. I would like to think it was an act of civil disobedience.
This morning I’m grateful for the good hotel breakfast because our room last night was challenging.
For some reason we were checked into a handicapped room, which means oddly located light switches, a closet with hangers and rail at waist level, no visible electrical outlets (how that helps a handicapped person I do not know), and a wheelchair-friendly shower. (Our friends, for the same price, got the room with a fireplace, with a small sitting room, with frontage to the desk facing red rock buttes.)
“No water pressure,” I hear my wife say from the shower. “And the thingie doesn’t work.”
It’s the hand-held nozzle attached to a hose, an accessory she absolutely requires. I have a look. It’s a bad situation. She not taking a shower. She’s taking a dribble.
I ought to be able to fix that. Three consecutive years I took people to a moderately crappy, extremely affordable hotel in Florence, ridiculously named Hotel Versailles. Everyone had private bath but me. I didn’t mind. I was by myself. But the bathroom I used, up five steps and down a hall, had a showerhead that was almost totally stopped up. It squirted and fizzed.
The first year I stayed there, I found a hardware store and bought a showerhead. Problem solved. Every year I took the showerhead home with me and took it back with me on the next trip. The fourth year, Versailles went under.
In our handicapped shower, the problem eludes me.
I call the front desk, they offer to send a plumber. For one night? And who wants a plumber in their hotel bathroom?
The mild irritation I feel at the altered space and accommodations in the room must be nothing compared to what handicapped people have felt their whole lives, in spaces not made hospitable to them. This room indicates we’ve made progress, I don’t know how much, but when I reach down into the closet for a hanger, I tell myself: get a grip.
And outside, at 7:00 a.m. in Sedona, is cloudless blue sky, red rock towers, arches, buttes, mesas, a place and a planet that still need Earth Day, need it every day.