No, really. You can, thanks to the nice folks at the Phoenix Public Library, take an online class from the comfort and convenience of your own home. You can choose from aromatherapy, digital photography, book publishing, Buddhism, freshwater fishing, criminal profiling, yoga, and more than 500 other classroom topics. Classes are self-paced with real instructors who offer video-based lessons, graded tests, and certificates of achievement. Library customers can enroll in up to five courses at one time, and take six months to finish each course. All you need is a library card and the ability to click on "Learning and Research" at www.phoenixpubliclibrary.org. And just like that, you're on your way to an accredited course in something you care about.
For those of us less likely to traffic in the ether, there's the distinguished permanent collection of art at Burton Barr Central Library. Displayed in public locations throughout the building's five stories, the collection includes such big-name artists as Fritz Scholder, Ed Mell, Shonto Begay, John Waddell, Merrill Mahaffey, and Paolo Soleri.
A separate collection in the Central Library's Center for Children's Literature (a hidden treasure in itself, with more than 3,800 pieces of classic literature and an extensive collection of folk and fairy tales) features a collection of original works by award-winning local artist/illustrators Ron Himler, Sylvia Long, Lynne Avril, Amanda Shepherd, and Michael Lacapa.
For folks who aren't into art but do love Arizona, the Arizona Room at Central Library is, in honor of the approaching centennial, pumping up its collection of non-circulating materials about all aspects of our state: archeology, architecture, history, geography, geology, famous Arizonans, current events, and more. Who knew that there were so many files in the Arizona room devoted expressly to all the movies that have been shot here over the years? Or that the collection of oral histories of Arizona-based Holocaust survivors was so extensive?
We didn't, but we do now — and it's a secret we don't plan to keep, either.
The system of canals SRP operates today was developed by the Hohokam Indians, American pioneers, and the federal government. The precise locations of the original Hohokam canals remain a mystery, in part because most of them have been destroyed by land development. Redeveloped over the past 100 years, each canal — with unglamorous names like Arizona, Crosscut, and Consolidated — has a unique history. The Grand Canal, constructed in 1878, is the oldest remaining pioneer canal on the north side of the Salt River, and the site of at least one annual (and quite secret) pioneer re-enactment game, complete with covered wagon. (Shhh!) And while portions of the old crosscut canal have been turned over to the city of Phoenix to carry away messy storm drainage from the northeast side of town, it hasn't discouraged neighborhood teens from making this canal their after-school hangout.
For some desert dwellers, though, the canal system is an open invitation to play. An unofficial society of canal dwellers can be found most weekend mornings, hunkering around the Tempe Canal or the South Canal over by the old Val Vista Water Treatment Plant. Summertime swimmers are forever being fished out of the canals and sent home with citations, since the canals aren't a resort feature, but a functional means of moving agua from here to there — with sometimes dangerously fast currents. And speaking of fish, trolling for trout is a pastime among many canal fans. While the thought of eating anything caught in a canal makes us go "Ack!," we can't really blame people for wanting to throw out a line or jump in and splash around a little — some of the canals are beautifully seated in lovely areas.
The New Crosscut Canal in Papago Park is surrounded by lush plant life and offers a stunning view of the Papago Buttes. And the Arizona Canal, located about a half-mile below Granite Reef Dam, affords visitors a perfect view of the Four Peaks mountain formation and a man-made mini waterfall that's nice to look at.