I spent most of last week in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the State Policy Network annual meeting. (For those not \”in the know,\” the State Policy Network is the national organization for state free-market think tanks.)

I got into Scottsdale on Tuesday night, and I began to miss home within an hour of settling into my hotel room. It was especially hard, given the fact that I had spent the entire previous week in Minneapolis for the GOP convention. Sometimes, it takes not being home for you to really realize what you actually like most about where you live. I missed the big trees in my front yard, the \”back to school\” Wisconsin air, and fried cheese curds. Oh, and I suppose I missed my wife and kids, too.

I don\’t think I could ever live in Phoenix. All the houses look the same, it\’s too hot, and the weather is too unpredictable. Walking to a restaurant a mile away from my hotel, I got caught in a windstorm, and couldn\’t open my eyes with all the sand flying around me. I also was struck in the shoulder by a flying Dasani water bottle, which must have been amusing for the cars passing by.

The restaurant I went to was called Stax, which purported to be a high-end burger place. They sell fancy little burgers, so you have to order three or so of them. I walked in, sat at the bar, then noticed that my bartender kind of looked like a male model. Then another waiter came out and looked exactly like the first guy. Then another guy at the bar started chatting me up, letting me know that he and his buddies were going out on the town that night, in case I wanted tips on where to go. It was only on my sandstorm-inflicted walk home that I realized I may have actually just visited a gay burger joint. Who knew they even existed? Gives \”hold the pickle\” a whole new meaning, I guess.

The night before, the conference bused all its attendees 45 minutes away to a western-themed bar/restaurant where they actually act out the old west, much in the same way a theme park would. I turned to a black friend of mine and wondered aloud how far they actually take this schtick – because if they get too realistic, they might be chasing him with torches before the night was out. I just can\’t imagine the African-Americans in attendance have fond memories of the Wild West years in America.

Later that night, after a few beers, I rammed my head into a cactus. I\’m not sure whose f\’ing genius idea it was to put a cactus in a bar, but I immediately began lobbying the locals for a law change. Fortunately, it didn\’t draw blood, or it would have been really embarrassing. As I found out soon thereafter, cacti are protected species in Arizona. So, in the event someone had to call 9-1-1, it\’s more likely that they\’d cart the cactus off in an ambulance, and not me.

I have to say, I\’m not very good at conferences where I\’m supposed to be \”networking.\” It\’s really hard for me to go up and just meet people, cold. The other option is to drink a lot and meet people at these conference social events, but in order for me to want to talk to people, I generally have to drink so much that I start fighting cacti.

So I was happy to finally get on the plane and head home on Friday, although coming home was a 10-hour ordeal with a two hour layover in Detroit. On the flight, the old women in front of me were noticing the male flight attendant, and how tall, thin, and well-mannered he was. She then thought, given those requirements to be a male flight attendant, that her son might make a good one. Unfortunately, she may have been forgetting one small requirement that her son may or may not possess. And you know what it is without me having to say it. Let\’s just say her son\’s employment as a flight attendant might make Christmas a little more awkward next year. But she seemed oblivious.

When we got to Detroit, I noticed a fly on the plane, and began to think how much it would suck to be that fly. I mean, you didn\’t ask to move from Phoenix to Detroit – you were just minding your own business and happened to fly into a plane. Next thing you know, you\’re in totally strange surroundings with a completely different climate. You\’ll probably never get to go to your favorite restaurant again – so just to gain some familiarity with your new surroundings, you\’ll have to slum it and hang out by the dumpster\’s at Applebee\’s. And you\’re a fly, so you probably don\’t have satellite – so you\’re stuck watching Pistons games instead of the Phoenix Suns. Clearly, it was a long flight.

So after my trip, I came away with the following important observation: Anyone who is able to get the people of Phoenix hooked on fried cheese curds will be an instant millionaire. I\’m just throwing that out there for when someone does, just so I get a cut of the profits.