Reasons Why Phoenix is Actually a Pretty Decent Place


Vice has published an opinion piece about why Phoenix basically sucks. It’s a silly, twee little piece that doesn’t entirely square with my personal experiences of having lived here for the last nine years. First, go read the article. Then we’ll do a point-by-point on it, shall we?

Everything Is Beige

Like a giant, concrete version of The Thing, Phoenix is a bloated tangle of tasteless architecture that never seems to stop ballooning outward.

The one thing you’ll notice is everything looks exactly the same. It’s an ever-replicating mirage of beige skies, beige walls, beige houses, beige cars, beige people. Sometimes you’ll see a flash of color, but it won’t last long before the local HOA stamps it out like a cigarette butt.

The beige thing is nonsense. The skies are generally clear and blue. Beige walls? Maybe, but the houses tend to be white, which is smart, since that reflects heat. Same with cars. I’m not sure what “beige people” is supposed to mean.

All that said, the architecture here does tend to be very boring, and we do not have the best, most interesting skyline around. But Phoenix has only been a going concern as a major city for the last 50 years or so. Give us another 50, and then check back.

Shopping Malls And Movie Theaters Are Cultural Landmarks

Forget that Phoenix nightlife is so barren you can stagger downtown at 11 PM and find everything empty. “Snowbirds” (rich, white morons from Canada and Michigan who visit during the two weeks of winter) only come here for the fucking malls anyway. Chandler Fashion Center, Desert Ridge Marketplace, Tempe Marketplace, Scottsdale Fashion Square—they all have the exact same names, the exact same stores, and the exact same idiots who wear sunglasses indoors.

Are they? I haven’t noticed this, but let’s take the author at face value and assume that, yes, shopping malls and movie theaters are cultural landmarks. There might be some good reasons there. For example, malls have air conditioning. When it’s 120 outside (which almost never happens, but we’ll get to that later), you want air conditioning. Also, “white morons”…both racial and obnoxious. And in my experience no one, anywhere, except perhaps for people who visit Bloomington, travels to a large city “for the fucking malls”.

Further, what’s wrong with movie theaters as cultural landmarks? Movies can be a great art form! There’s nothing wrong at all with viewing theaters as a cultural landmark. I’m willing to bet the snob who wrote this doesn’t have much problem with Broadway as a cultural landmark in New York City.

Politics Takes Precedence Over Culture

When Arizona SB 1070 passed, allowing cops to demand proof of residency based on “suspicion” of immigrating illegally (read: having brownish skin), there was a national uproar. A laundry list of musicians, including Rage Against the Machine, Sonic Youth, Conor Oberst, and Kanye West refused to tour here for a few years.

But that was a while back and that’s all over now, right? Not really. Earlier this year, the local government threatened to pass SB 1062, a sort of anti-gay bill that nobody really understood, probably because it was written in crayon by stoned squirrels. The fallout was extremely similar to SB 1070, and our governor vetoed the bill only after the NFL threatened to take the Super Bowl elsewhere.

Even now, when you look at most band’s tour dates (which I do quite often), it’s something along the lines of LA, Boulder, Houston or Austin, Albuquerque, and San Diego. Phoenix is still often skipped over, and the general public’s perception of Phoenix as a bunch of racist, gun-toting, fag haters hasn’t helped.

This is much more of an Arizona problem than a Phoenix problem. In my experience, most people in Phoenix lean right, but not insanely so. On the other hand, outside Phoenix, Flagstaff and Tucson, you have one of the reddest of red states. It’s hard to do anything progressive here and it’s hard for Democrats at the state level to do much. On the other hand, Phoenix has a Democrat for a mayor, we have a couple of Democrats in Congress, and when I moved here, the state as a whole had a Democrat for our governor.

But, yes, it doesn’t help that Phoenix gets lumped in with the greater problems the state itself has. For example, “the local government” referenced up there in connection to SB 1062? That’s actually the state government, not the local one in Phoenix.

The Local Government Pisses All Over the Public Like Drunken Apes

Really, this is true wherever you go, but it’s extremely blatant in the Valley of the Spun. Every six months or so, in a greed-driven mentality still wrought from the days of Manifest Destiny, our legislature pens some Orwellian bill that clearly aims to rip off or jail anyone who isn’t rich or white.

Even if independent voters make up the biggest bloc in the state, their input is drowned out by constant bickering between useless Democrats and violent Republicans invested in the drug war. In rare instances when the public does have its meek voice heard, as in the case of medical marijuana, the state is quick to turn around and sue over it. The dumbasses we call “leaders” constantly lose these fruitless court battles, but in the process, millions of tax dollars are wiped up with shit and flushed down the john.

Our state’s governor, Ms. Jan Brewer, grins like a sad, melted puppet whenever she tries to feign solidarity with the public, but it’s clear that she and her best bud, civil rights abuser Sheriff Joe Arpaio, are more interested in keeping local prisons full of nonviolent offenders. Makes sense that Brewer is making boatloads of money through her connections in the incarceration industry. Legalizing pot or allowing immigrants to coexist would cut into profits! Keep that drug-war money rolling in!

Brewer is kind of a sad little waffle of a woman. I will give her points for expanding Medicaid (something her own party sued her for), and for vetoing SB 1062, though why she took more than ten seconds to do that is beyond me. But she’s going to be gone soon, and good riddance.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Speaking of Joe Arpaio, the civil-rights-abusing sheriff has been elected six fucking times.

This is a man who claims Obama’s birth certificate is forged, has his critics arrested in the middle of the night on trumped-up charges, and has been accused literally dozens of times for abusing inmates, many of whom were beaten to death or had their necks broken, all while failing to investigate hundreds of sexual abuse cases.

Then, “America’s Toughest Sheriff” treats his inmates like his personal court jesters, emasculating them with pink underwear as he watches them sweat in his “Tent City”—a jail made of Korean War-era tents that reaches temperatures of 150 degrees in summer. And all of Joe’s stupidity and callous disregard for justice has cost the city more than $50 million so far.

Also, Arpaio might run for governor. So we have that to look forward to.

Now that said, there’s no excuse for the existence of Sheriff Joe. I can’t blame the rest of the state for him being in office. That’s one we in the greater Phoenix area have to take a hit for. He costs our county millions defending his stupid little stunts, and he really does make us look like the national joke when it comes to his ideas of law enforcement. He’s really a complete embarrassment and I sincerely hope that after he fails at his bid to become governor, he takes his ball and goes home.

All that said, I’m inclined to doubt that Tent City reaches temps of 150, since that’s about 16 degrees hotter than the hottest temperature ever recorded in all of human history.

A shantytown of bars for freshly divorced Glendale dipsticks, Westgate City Center also houses stadiums for our sucktacular sports teams. The only use this whole area ever served was the time we hosted the Super Bowl. But despite bringing in a record-breaking $500 million to the local economy, the city actually ended up $2 million in the hole on that one. Cool.

I…actually, I know nothing about Westgate City Center. Looking it up Wikipedia, I notice it’s a place I have zero interest in visiting. Also, not to nitpick, but it isn’t in Phoenix. It’s in Glendale, which is a different city, though I’ll admit, even I had to double-check that. Also, despite the dismissive tone of the article, I do note that the Superbowl will be there again in a little while, so that’s a chance for even more money to come into the local economy. I suspect this writer simply dislikes the overall “feel” of the place, and as I said, I have no interest in going there.

No One Is From Here

Phoenix natives are rare as vegan sharks. As a result, everyone acts like a permanent tourist with a distinct lack of generational identity. Instead, everyone whines about how much better it is in California or Illinois or where-the-fuck-ever.

I’m sure the case with many booming towns is the whole “no one is from here” thing. But four of my best friends (hi, Rob, Jess, Tanya and Josh!), are all native-born Phoenicians. I encounter people “from” here every day. So, from this increasingly stupid article, I can guess that vegan sharks are pretty common as well. Something to bear in mind next time I’m at the ocean.

Yeah, really this is a stupid point that doesn’t seem to bear out in reality.

The Environment Is Actively Trying To Kill You

Phoenix summers start in April and don’t end until October. The first three months are bearable, so we collectively laugh, asking ourselves why we complained so much about the heat last year. Sure, it was 109 degrees the other day, but we have our air conditioning and our TVs and we’ll survive, even if the electric bills average $400 per month. “It’s a dry heat,” we mutter through our blistered, sunburned lips, blandly reminding ourselves of our trademarked postcard platitude.

But then mid July rolls around. The monsoon season is lackluster, as usual, and does nothing to combat our “urban heat island,” which cooks the asphalt like a pierogi, blasting scorching waves back out at night. Now, even after sunset, the heat won’t escape, and suddenly it’s 105 degrees at 1 AM. This is worse than humidity, because at least humidity cools down in the evening. The heat is in your clothes. It’s in your hair. You feel your dreams evaporating as you sleep. Even swimming or air conditioning provides only brief relief from the perpetual sauna before you’re glossed in sweat again. And you have another two months of this to look forward to.

Plus, the entire urban void is surrounded by an ecosystem of death. If the sun’s UV rays don’t smite you, the scorpions, Gila monsters (the only venomous lizard in the entire US), rattlesnakes, mountain lions, bobcats, javelinas (murderous warthog things known to attack humans), tarantulas, and other deadly spiders sure as fuck will try. If that weren’t enough, we’re all doomed because…

I saw a couple of coyotes once. But that was it. I saw them once in nine years. I’ve never seen any of the other various species mentioned, and that’s at least in part because I live in the city. Now people in the suburbs might, but…so? Most of those critters are in most western states. I also love his veiled swipe at TV. Because, you know, Americans are just fat losers who only watch TV, and TV is the worst thing ever, ever, ever.

Also, while I do find it annoying to have it be really hot at midnight, I don’t know that it’s ever been over 100 at midnight, though we do often have nighttime lows in the upper-90s during the most extreme of summer heat.

Now onto the final point.

Phoenix Is (Supposedly) The Least Sustainable City Ever

Phoenix imports almost everything—food, gas, and especially water. Depends on whom you ask, but it doesn’t look like that equation is gonna work too well for us in the long run. We often experience record highs of 120 degrees or more, but climate change could make those temperatures even more common, topping 100 degrees from April to January. These heat waves mainly affect the poor, mostly killing homeless people, so it’s not something most people worry about. Yet.

Plus, the state is in perpetual drought and all that water we trickle in from the Colorado River, the Salt River reservoir system, and underground wells, continues to dry up. Eventually this place could resemble a ghost town like Tombstone. Some claim these scenarios are exaggerated, so maybe we’ll survive. Fear or denial, pick your poison. It’s all we got here.

I think, and I could be wrong, but I think a large part of our water comes from a big aquifer under the city. Now that clearly won’t last forever, so even if we aren’t importing most of water yet, we will in time. Oh, and I think that pretty much every large city in every country imports their various resources. That is unless I somehow missed seeing New York’s massive oil wells and gas refineries.

As for the “we often experience record highs of 120 degrees or more”…bullshit. Pure, unadulterated, bullshit. I’ve lived here for nine years. The hottest day during that time was last year when we reached 119. That was the fourth hottest day ever recorded, which implies that there have been only three days that were hotter, ie: 120 or thereabouts. The hottest day ever was 122, but that happened only once, and that was in 1990. Now I could easily see there being more days over 100, or even over 110, but that isn’t the same as the line of pure bullshit about 120 degree days.

Overall, Phoenix is like every other city. There’s good things and bad. I spent much of my adult life in Seattle. The weather was terrible, the cost of living was very high, and smugness of the locals occasionally got annoying. On the other hand, summers were beautiful, the politics were liberal and the smugness was generally tempered by a good sense of humor and generosity. Me, I could do without the two months of hell that Phoenix has during high summer, and I could certainly do without the politics. But it’s an affordable place to live, with plenty of great things to do. You just have to pull your nose up out of your navel to see them.

Posted in General. Tags: , , . 1 Comment »

One Response to “Reasons Why Phoenix is Actually a Pretty Decent Place”

  1. Tanya Says:

    Let’s see….as one of the native Phoenicians mentioned above I say don’t tell anyone the ways this article is wrong. They will simply want to move here. I’d like everyone to go back to where they came from so I can have my orange trees back. Oh, and we have scorpions at our house (in the city!) – I’ll save one for you next time I see one 🙂

    But here are my nitpicks….one: we are running out of water. The CAP canal (a very controversial topic as California’s drought worsens – they get the water first) makes up 2/5ths of the water. Surface and ground water makes up half and this includes the reservoirs of the lakes NE of Phoenix metro area. The rest is reclaimed or from wells. The reservoirs are concerning because most of their water comes from winter run off and if there is a prolonged drought in Northern Arizona that will reduce that. Source: Finally, our aquifers are way tapped out – dangerously low. I can’t remember when but about 8-15 years ago there was a whole big conversation about it.

    As for the other things: Phoenix is more of a family town than a party town. It is true that there is nothing happening downtown late at night. However, if that’s your kind of thing Tempe is partying until the wee hours of the morning. The heat island is terrible and the heat is getting trapped in the city in the summer. We really need to paint every single thing white, plant more grass/trees (which will cause problems with the water – but hey!), and stop building so damn much! We also need to put solar panels everywhere. The summer monsoons go around Phoenix a lot now because of the heat island. That keeps it hot and I miss the old days when the night time temps were comfortable and even cool.

    Anyway, when people say how horrible it is here don’t correct them – we don’t want any more people here! 🙂 (Just kidding, a bit, I do like to meet new people. I just don’t like living in a big city.)

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