Tipoff is less than two hours away at the US Airways Center in downtown Phoenix, and the streets are teeming with folks from "back East." It actually feels like a "real" city, a real downtown.
We're speaking of the NCAA West Regionals, which include four Sweet 16 teams, one which will advance on Saturday to the Final Four.
The four squads are Michigan State and Louisville (which tip off just before 5 p.m.), Florida and Marquette, and each has a strong contingent of fans to cheer them on.
We met a couple of those fans, James and Cheryl Johnson, of Madison, Wisconsin. The couple both graduated from Marquette University, a great Jesuit school located in Milwaukee.
They are diehard Golden Eagles' fans, and made the trek from cold country yesterday to watch their beloved team play. They were looking for a good "local" place to eat downtown, and didn't want to "do a chain," by which they meant any number of joints that have sprung up downtown--Chipotles, Jimmy John's, Five Guys, and so on.
We suggested Vitamin T, the fairly new taco spot at First Street and Washington. We walked them over to the place, as they raved about the perfect weather and the vibrant nature of Phoenix's downtown.
We chuckled, and they asked why.
It's not always like this, we said, a rare understatement.
It gets a lot warmer than this, we continued, and it's gonna happen sooner than later.
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Yeah, but it's a dry heat, Mrs. Johnson told us, sincere as only a Midwestener can be.
We could only shrug.
By the way, they loved Vitamin T, which does serve a mean torta, among other delic things.
And they loved downtown Phoenix, and we had enough Chamber of Commerce flowing through our usually cynical veins not to even try to dissaude them.