Monday, December 14, 2009

A Sign of the Times

It was Sunday afternoon and less than two weeks before Christmas.

We drove to Historic Old Town Scottsdale (AZ) hoping to be able to park our truck near some of the shops. But we had no trouble finding a spot on the street in the heart of Old Town.

This was way too easy.

We were expecting to find crowded sidewalks because of the numerous art galleries and restaurants. Instead, we found these sculptures--more sculptures, in fact, than shoppers--at the main intersection.

They represented a fitting tributes to the Old West, and even though there was a warm welcome to this district, the scene revealed the economic realities of the season.

Although Scottsdale's "modern" history began in 1888, when one of the early settlers, U.S. Army Chaplain Winfield Scott, purchased a 640-acre parcel of desert land for $2.50 an acre, for at least 12,000 years, much of the Sonoran Desert was home to native peoples, including the Hohokam who formed a sophisticated agrarian society in the area from about A.D. 1 to A.D. 1450. The Hohokam are perhaps best known for developing the largest web of irrigation canals in pre-Columbian North America.

Several shops emphasize this connection to American Indians and their art. Some of the examples were typical of children's toys, while others featured more elaborate artistic works. I would imagine that Old Town is more tourist-centered, so the sparse crowds may say more about the drop in travel to the Greater Phoenix area than a general comment on the economics of the area. But still, it was surprising.

Stores from T-shirts and souvenir shops to up-scale jewelry boutiques had "Sale" and "30-80% Off" signs in the window.

The jewelry in the window (above) was beautiful, but there were no more people buying jewelry than T-shirts.

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