Back to Navajo

Last week, I traveled to Scottsdale, Arizona to attend my elementary school reunion.  Here I am in front of the school where I spent 4th through 7th grades.    Navajo school

I had a paper route and delivered newspapers every afternoon. I used to tally the number of days the temperature got up to 120.  I delivered to a place called "The Maya Apartments." Many of the inhabitants were "snow birds" – people from the midwest and east who came to Arizona for the winter. This seemed to me an extremely jet-setty thing to do, and I considered the Maya Apartments very swell and swank. I returned to the scene of my paper route and instantly recognized a mildewy smell from my childhood. I had associated it with retirees' apartments but probably it is just the mold that forms on the concrete walkways.  

I was a very ambitious paperboy and built my route from 37 to 164 clients at its peak. In fact, I was "Carrier-Salesman of the Year" in 1974, and attended a banquet in my honor where I got a U.S. Savings bond for $75 and a big trophy. 

Michael & mrs hartman

Mrs. Hartman was one of my most influential teachers. I was in her class for 5th and 6th grade.  She had all kinds of innovations in the classroom.  She was a great teacher to help unlock a smart kid's smartness while letting him still be a kid. She lived all over Latin America growing up and had interesting child-rearing techniques she would share. At the reunion, we discussed Myers-Briggs. Apparently she is an ENFP. I'm an ENFJ.   

I moved to Arizona because my mom went back to graduate school to earn her Ph.D. after my parents' divorce. She had gone to ASU undergrad so it seemed like a good place. She ended up being the first Hispanic woman in the U.S. to get a doctorate in accounting.

Right now I am kind of scared of Arizona because it is in an extremely conservative and seemingly anti-immigrant phase. As someone who is half-Mexican-American, I pay special attention to these things. Sometimes I wonder it is all a bit exaggerated but my Chicano relatives in Phoenix say, "it's terrible!" They know people personally who have been picked up by the police and coerced into doing "voluntary deportations." Here is my cousin Dolores, who lives in Phoenix. She is a force for justice.

Lola 2

It is hard to fathom, but I did attend elementary school quite some time ago. When I moved to Navajo in 4th grade, the Vietnam war was still going on and Nixon was president. My mom used to constantly watch the Watergate hearings on television. John Kennedy had been president just 10 years before. Still, we were quite modern in some ways. I went to a yoga class with my mom a few times, she was a single parent getting a Ph.D., and our school had a modular building called "The Quad" where you could open up panels between rooms and join classes for some kind of creative activity.  Once a week I took a bus to another school for "the gifted program" where we spent a lot of time making geodesic domes out of paper. I also used to make something called "God's Eyes," which were stick-yarn combinations that could be extremely elaborate. I was quite good at these.

Here is my boyhood best friend Eric and my neighbor, Caryn (and Caryn's mom).  Caryn and I lived in "The Townhouses," which were about a mile from school. I rode my bike to school every day, which is why I think I have good leg muscles.  Eric is also an ENFJ, and also had a paper route. Sometimes we substituted for each other when we were on our respective vacations. I have the vague recollection that Caryn might have succeeded me on my route when I moved to California in the middle of 7th grade.

Caryn and eric

We had a pool at the Townhouses. It seemed really huge. The back part of the "L" is where we'd play "Marco Polo." At the pool, I entertained my mom and her friends by acting out scenes from the Lucille Ball and Bea Arthur remake of the movie, "Mame."  


Here is our unit at The Townhouses. I believe it cost $28,900 in 1972. At the time, this was Central Scottsdale. Now it is a tiny old-fashioned corner of the city, and Scottsdale stretches for zillions of miles north.


My sister, Teresa, and I were very skilled at identifying useful castoffs. We regularly searched the dumpsters at the Townhouses for usable things that we'd put in our clubhouse, which was a storage shed behind our house, and for Betty Crocker points that were found on the tops of cereal and cake mix boxes. You could redeem them for stuff. We climbed all the way into the dumpster which is how you get the good stuff. We were way ahead on the Portland dumpster diving craze. 


All in all I had a very delightful childhood in Scottsdale.  I rode my bike all over the place, had my own income and bank account because of my paper route, and I had a lot of unsupervised time where I could do my thing. Plus I had teachers who knew cared about me and had great intuition for how to tap into my potential and interests.  So even though I am kind of scared of the red states, it turns out they can be perfectly good places for kids to grow up, including kids who do things like acting out scenes from Mame for their mothers at the pool. 

Go, Navajo!

Incidentally, my favorite sport was tetherball and we frequently made sun tea.

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