Desert Delights–AG 2002

Joan Markert, RIM Treasurer

Greater Phoenix Mensa hosted a fantastic Annual Gathering in Scottsdale. Arizona over the July 4th weekend at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, a Spanish Mission style (red tile roof, stone archways) resort set on 450 acres, landscaped with cactus and palm trees and with the McDowell Mountains as a backdrop. The courtyards are awash in fountains, pools and waterfalls–all the running water to create the illusion of ‘cool’ in the 116 degrees desert heat.

For over four days, there were 1200+ Mensans in attendance, from all parts of the country and even representatives of International Mensa. Programs ran the gamut from Introduction to Power Plants and Homemade Solar Electricity to National Vaccination Issues and Frequency Initiated Healing; from Romance in Film and Model Railroading to America’s Toughest Sheriff and Philosophical World Views; from Feng Shui and Spiritualism Today to Avoiding Wiley Hacker, FBI and Protecting your Assets. There were various awards luncheons and a brunch and the annual formal banquet with guest speaker, Janet Napolitano, the attorney general of Arizona and a candidate for governor. The Hospitality Suite was open 24 hours a day as was the Game Room. Children’s activities were coordinated in a separate Kids Trek program. Many of the SIGS, including Scuba, Club Med and London had scheduled open houses.

The agenda was extremely busy, educational and entertaining. A Mensan, professional comedienne Amy Borkowsky, delivered a hilarious monologue, If I’m a Mensan, Why Does My Mother Treat Me Like my IQ’s 12. A Mensan, Father Bill Loring, from an Episcopal parish in Connecticut, presided at an interdenominational service on Sunday morning accompanied by Mensan John Blasdale, an accomplished pianist who has performed in recitals all over the world. There was the business side of the AG, too with everyone invited to the annual meeting. I did attend some business sessions: Local Groups By-Laws Presentation; Treasurer’s Report; LocSec and former LocSec Discussion; and I came back with some information to pass onto RIM.

Our Mensa hosts had arranged for various tours of Arizona landmarks. Friday night, I along with some fellow Mensans visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and architectural studio, Taliesin West. With ongoing construction between 1937 and 1959, it is a complex of buildings with extraordinary furnishings connected by walkways, gardens and terraces that showcase Wright’s ability to integrate indoor and outdoor areas. Taliesin is an amazing 600-acre estate where apprentices camp in the desert and work in the studios carrying on Wright’s architectural methods. The piece de résistance was dessert in the desert served in Frank Lloyd Wright’s unique dining room.

I stayed on an extra day to take the four-hour bus trip to the Grand Canyon with 40 other Mensans. Our tour director was a knowledgeable, entertaining guide so the time passed quickly. Driving through the Sonoran Desert, we learned about the Saguaro Cactus, the state flower of Arizona and a protected species; it can take two hundred years for this cactus’ ‘arm’ to fully grow. Passing through the High Chaparral, at any moment I expected to see a covered wagon come over the horizon or at least some cowboys. (I watched a lot of Westerns in my youth.) From there, it was onto the Navajo Indian Reservation. Our tour guide pointed out the hogans, native American homes without benefit of water or electricity. They are built in clusters according to their clans, but are far from the nearest village, as much as 50 miles from a school on the reservation and 100 miles from a hospital. The Navajos drive many miles to collect water.

And, then we arrived at the south rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. The Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and a geological extravaganza. Where the Colorado River has carved an immense canyon through this arid land exposing layers of rock, each stratum of rock distinctly marks a period of the earth’s history from two billion to 250 million years ago. The colors of the rock formations are spectacular. The tour bus made three stops for viewing and photos opportunities. The Canyon is so magnificent, that it is hard to decide which angle to photograph. With several trails to the bottom of the canyon, some people hike the nine miles down and others travel by mule. I did traipse 100 feet on the Bright Angel Trail, just to say to myself I had been there. And, of course we stopped at a Navajo Trading Post gift shop where I acted the typical tourist and purchased souvenirs of my trip.

Tuesday, I left for home. On the shuttle bus to the airport, I met a woman from Minnesota Mensa who is on the 2003 AG Committee. When I told her I had been to Minneapolis on several occasions, she asked me for suggestions on tours for next year’s AGLight Up the North. I was flattered to very briefly become a Mensa AG consultant.