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Escape Artist
12-22-2010, 12:07 AM
I have a story set in Tempe, Arizona, and I'm wanting to know just bits and pieces as far scenery, the way people live, etc. I'm from Texas, so in my mind, Arizona is a very red, dirt-laden kind of place. I'm picturing homes with little to no grass outside - maybe decorative rocks or something? I saw some home improvement show set in Vegas and instead of grass in their yard, it was filled with rocks. I'm used to seeing grass of some sort, though during Texas summers, it's usually anything but green. Anyway, any details as to the city of Tempe itself, or the look of the land in Arizona as a whole - mountains, etc. What type of housing/landscaping is prevalent. Weather, too. Thanks!

Also, just an interesting thing - my male character told his love interest that her hair smells nice - like the desert after it rains. I'm not quite sure as of yet whether he means this in a sense of a rare, unique, special smell since rain wouldn't occur too often in a desert, or if the desert would actually smell nice after it rained. Anyone familiar with this?

Stijn Hommes
12-22-2010, 01:01 AM
Have you ever tried Google Streetview? It won't help you with things like smells and sounds, but how things look in Tempe, Arizona would be something you could quite accurately check for yourself.

Whenever I have a meeting in a town I don't know I use Google Streetview to see what the place looks like so I don't walk or drive past the right street.

MaryMumsy
12-22-2010, 01:02 AM
I have a story set in Tempe, Arizona, and I'm wanting to know just bits and pieces as far scenery, the way people live, etc. I'm from Texas, so in my mind, Arizona is a very red, dirt-laden kind of place. I'm picturing homes with little to no grass outside - maybe decorative rocks or something? I saw some home improvement show set in Vegas and instead of grass in their yard, it was filled with rocks. I'm used to seeing grass of some sort, though during Texas summers, it's usually anything but green. Anyway, any details as to the city of Tempe itself, or the look of the land in Arizona as a whole - mountains, etc. What type of housing/landscaping is prevalent. Weather, too. Thanks!

Also, just an interesting thing - my male character told his love interest that her hair smells nice - like the desert after it rains. I'm not quite sure as of yet whether he means this in a sense of a rare, unique, special smell since rain wouldn't occur too often in a desert, or if the desert would actually smell nice after it rained. Anyone familiar with this?

The look of AZ is as varied (or more so) as TX. We have miles and miles of sand dunes over by Yuma. We have mountains all over the state, both desert ones with scrubby bushes/trees and northern ones with massive tracts of huge pines and aspens. There are desert areas with heavy cover of various cacti and small bushes. Pretty much the only part that is red dirt is up around Sedona.

Tempe specifically is a small city, with AZ State University in the middle. It is also completely surrounded by other cities. You won't find dirt yards in Tempe. Or any large areas of vacant land either. If I knew where in TX you are, I might have a better idea of how to describe the houses etc. There is everything from small 1930s cottages to more recent McMansions. Near ASU, mostly the small cottages.

The rock yards are in some of the retirement communities. Places where people leave for the hottest months, and want no grass for someone else to tend.

Ah, the smell of the desert after it rains. Greasewood bushes, aka creosote. Not the smell like creosote on railroad ties, but from the actual bush. I can't think of any thing else like it.

Hope this helps

MM

firedrake
12-22-2010, 01:09 AM
Tempe is a bit different. For starters, it's fairly built up, especially around the University (Arizona State University). Mill Avenue is the main drag and it's bars, shops, restaurants, etc. The one thing that is striking about Tempe is the trees. The City has a street tree program, and the streets are tree - lined. There is an older residential neighborhood which has mainly single story homes built in the mid 20th century, with lawns and loads of trees. I'm not so familiar with the other residential areas, but the houses tend to be single story and a good number have grass rather than desert landscaping.

As for the smell of desert after rain. It's not fragrant, like flowers, it's an odd smell, I think it's greasewood or the creosote bush that gives off a very distinctive smell. I'd be hard pressed to describe it. I know there are some AWers who still live in AZ who can help out here.

Ha. Just saw MaryMumsy's post. :D

Tifferbugz
12-22-2010, 01:16 AM
From my experience (living in a burb close to Tempe), the southeastern side of the valley is very green. Well, 'very green' by Phoenix standards. Gilbert, which is not too far from Tempe still has quite a few farms, although I suspect they'll be replaced by neighborhoods in the next few years.

MaryMumsy can speak to it better than I, since it looks like she lives in Scottsdale, but I've noticed that in parts of Scottsdale, the desert scenery really embraced, and you see some neighborhoods that have mainly desert-type scenery. It seems much more deserty than in the burbs by Tempe.

I can say that my yard has grass and rocks, along with a cactus here and there, and a few desert bushes and a big tree. I have no idea what any of them are called though. :(

Escape Artist
12-22-2010, 02:47 AM
MaryMumsy, I live fairly close to Waco, Texas (home of Baylor University) - if that helps...

So, as a native Arizonian (is that the proper term?) would you be offended if a guy gave you the "desert after it rains" compliment? Would you think it was sweet or take it offensively? Would you immediately think of the smell itself, or think of it in terms of the uniqueness of it? Keep in mind, the girl he's saying this to grew up in Arizona, just like he did. Because obviously, if this would come across as rude, I'll yank it out of the story, but he just kind of said it. Characters have a tendency to want to do their own thing - especially this guy.

SilverBirch
12-23-2010, 03:41 AM
Mary's posts cover pretty much everything already, so I'll just throw my 2 in for your perusal. I'm up north, so I can't offer any specifics about Tempe, FWIW. I've always heard 'Arizonan', not 'Arizonian'.

As far as the desert after it rains comment, what it brings to mind is the actual smell. The desert can smell like many different things after a rain, from nice fresh nature-y scents to not-so-nice smells you'd find in any city. To be honest, it just strikes me as one of those empty comments that guys think is really poetic/meaningful/etc. :Shrug:Maybe it's just me though.

Oh, and as far as the rocks used in place of grass in some yards, there are two kinds you tend to see - dark lava rocks (that really hold in the heat in the summer, ugh) and light pink rocks.

Good luck! :)

MaryMumsy
12-23-2010, 09:32 PM
I'm not familiar with Waco, so that didn't help. I know more about San Antonio and south and west from there. The suggestion of google street view is a good one.

*I* would not be offended by the reference to the desert after it rains, but that's me. The smell of greasewood is kind of herby, a little sharp, but I think it is very pleasant. Once you are familiar with it, you don't mistake it for anything else.

Pretty much Tempe and the area close to it look like any other small city. Modest homes, mansions, and lots of apartment complexes near the university. My brother lives in south Tempe, and it's an area of mid-seventies ranch type homes.

Good luck.

MM

Escape Artist
12-23-2010, 10:43 PM
Mary, I'd not be offended by the comment, either, but that's because I know this guy is an absolute sweetheart and it's only because his love interest is a writer. He's trying to impress her with sweet words, basically. He says, "Your hair smells nice. Like the desert after it rains." So I think with that precursor - your hair smells nice - that she can't mistake it for anything other than a compliment and she does take it that way - as a compliment.

The majority of the time, he's cracking sex jokes or just being silly funny, so it's not like he spits out this stuff all the time, only every once in a while. In fact, later on in the book, after he's nearly one-hundred percent sure she has more-than-friendly feelings for him, he makes a move on her and says point blank, "I want to be inside you" and that's more his style of speak - upfront and very honest. Basically what it comes down to is that she got the wrong first impression of him and then is just too damn stubborn to admit she's falling in love with him.

Anyway, sometimes I feel like I'm writing for men, or writing for women who think more like men (like me), because my version of romance is sex, sex, and more sex. My other book starts out hot and heavy and ends up that way as well, so I was proud of myself on this one for keeping the couple from getting together intimately until close to the end...

Tsu Dho Nimh
12-23-2010, 10:49 PM
Definitely use Google Maps to get birdseye views and some street views and an idea of the landscape. You have everything from neighborhoods of the California 1950s ranch style with green lawns to posh condos, sleazy apartments, and mansions. There are traffic cams, and a couple of other web cams that show the area.

What you do not have are tree-covered hills. We navigate according to the local mountains, which are cactus, rocks and some scraggly bushes.
Do mot plan hot animal sex on the mountain tops. Too many rocks, cactus, hikers, and poisonous critters.

The uni area has been yuppified. It used to be grungier and way more fun.

And the desert smell after a rain - it's mostly creosote bush and wet dirt. It's sharp, pungent, clean and earthy and wet all at once. Hair that smelled that way would not be a good thing.

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Adding: The Salt "River" is usually mostly dry sand bars, except for the Tempe Town Lake area.