Letters

Letters from the week of November 13, 2003

Bright Lights, Big City

Cruise control: My blues band, the Loose Cannons Blues Band, plays quite often at Monroe's (3 West Monroe), and the rockabilly band I play in, the Haymakers, performs at Big Al's (710 South Central) quite often as well. These are restaurants and/or bars that you don't mention ("Sorry, We're Closed," Paul Kix, November 6). Séamus McCaffrey's also has live music downtown, as do a number of venues. Why don't you mention them?

We have been getting fairly good crowds. There could be more help from the city (which is your point), but this mantra that "there's nothing downtown" is a real buzz kill. I think it really chases people away.

Another factor you don't mention is that there used to be thousands of people in downtown Phoenix before they banned cruising. I'd like to see them bring that back. It was great until it got out of hand because it became so popular. There are a lot of classic car clubs that have "cruise" nights all over Phoenix and the Valley that are very successful. Why can't we do that in downtown Phoenix? Because everyone's afraid of the anti-cruise ban attitude that came around during the mid-'80s.

Please continue to point out the opportunities to have a good time in downtown Phoenix as well as the improvements you can obviously see are needed.

James Bailey
Phoenix

Creative class act: I left the New Times-sponsored lecture by Richard Florida at the Orpheum Theatre on October 21 feeling both energized and overwhelmed. I had no idea how I personally could move forward the ideas presented. What happened on the way to my car, however, got me thinking.

About 1,300 members of the Valley's creative class had just surrounded me in the Orpheum Theatre; yet, one block south, I felt like Tom Cruise walking through an eerily vacant Times Square in Vanilla Sky. One of the benefits of our city is that there is usually a free parking spot if you are willing to walk a few blocks.

I hadn't had time to eat before the lecture, and as I walked through the surreally deserted city, I realized I was hungry. I passed three open but empty restaurants and decided to stop and eat at one. I sat, talked with the manager, and ate my dinner. No one from the Valley's creative class came in. However, in that time, a group of six out-of-towners entered. They were here for a convention, looking for a strip club. In that moment, I realized that my acts of walking, eating and conversing were political acts.

If we want to create a vibrant, energetic, living downtown, if we want to create an authentic Valley culture, then we must engage in political consumerism. Political consumerism means investing time, money and energy toward actively promoting positive change. For now, Valley residents who want to foster a creative culture must first support the small, independent businesses that are unique to Phoenix, and go to national chains as a last resort. This can take more time, cost more money and be less convenient. But creating a stimulating, vibrant culture is not about convenience. Convenience means going to the mall on a Friday night and participating in generically cloned consumerism. Seeking out and supporting independent businesses and restaurants is about using our consumer power to help support a creative culture unique to the Valley.

We're Americans, and we buy stuff, lots of stuff. Valley consumers who consider themselves the creative class must develop a political awareness to consciously go buy the stuff that supports the creative, independent retailers. This might mean going to an independently owned store even if it's out of the way. It might mean not getting 30 percent off best sellers from the generic chain store. We must remind ourselves that, in the end, 30 percent off is meant to kill the competition, and the competition is the independent shop owner. It also means if the independent retailer does not have what we want, because they cannot afford to have a large back stock, we need to order it from them and wait. Instead of cruising Ray Road for large chain restaurants, we need to find independent restaurants we like, go back on a regular basis, and tell our friends to go.

Thirteen hundred of us drove into the city to hear a free lecture about fostering and supporting a creative culture. Then, everyone got back in their cars and left. Imagine if all 1,300 of us had taken the time to walk downtown that night in order to find a local restaurant, bar or coffee shop, then ate dinner, had a drink and talked.

Dan Hull
Phoenix

Florida key: Thank you for your review of Richard Florida's visit to downtown Phoenix ("Speech Therapy," Michele Laudig, October 30). I have read the last few articles in New Times about downtown (re)development and was interested to hear about Mr. Florida's visit.

I have worked downtown at Majerle's for the past three-plus years. I started out as a doorman, and am currently a manager and bartender. Over the past three years, I have become intimately acquainted with the many facets of downtown life and nightlife. I agree wholeheartedly that downtown Phoenix needs direction and leadership to become the flourishing and vibrant downtown that Mr. Florida (and myself!) believe that it can be.

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