Letters from the week of April 15,2004

 The Chill Is Gone
Austin power: Great story ("Death of Cool," John Dougherty, April 8). What you didn't mention was the best coffee house on Mill -- Java Road -- replaced by a Bank of America, and then a yuppie-hell Internet cafe. And 6 East -- the best place to get loaded between classes. I was in Austin recently, they have a campaign called "Keep Austin Weird." If only we could keep Phoenix weird a little longer.

Richard Minardi

Memory lane: John Dougherty, as usual, is right on the money with his complaint that development tore the soul out of the Tempe Mill Avenue area. However, John hasn't been around long enough to know of all the great landmarks that made Tempe such a great little Western town before all the bling-bling came along.

From memory, then, let's go back in time about 40 years and recall what it looked like. First of all, the sidewalk was shaded along Mill, with canopies hanging from the brick building façades. You could window shop, walk with a girlfriend, and have a nice, interesting look at living history.

There were the bars: Parry's -- one of the great old Western saloons, with a long, mahogany back bar that (it was said) came from San Francisco. On a normal day in the 1960s, you'd find old guys in Stetsons playing cards at a green felt-covered table with a light hanging down. Later on, the young crowd discovered Parry's and its crusty, lovable owner, Morris Kalnitz, and his wife, Beulah, one of the great saloon gals of all time. The Casa Loma -- a residential hotel, with the coldest beer in Arizona. Dark as a tomb. The perfect place to hide out in the mid-summer. In the 1970s, artist Fernando Navarro took an industrial foam gun and sculpted unimaginable monsters on the walls and ceilings after the Casa Loma caught the eye of the rock 'n' roll crowd.

The restaurants: Shelley's Cafe -- Jim Shelley, who was the state representative from Tempe, opened at 5 every day. Worst coffee imaginable. Cheap breakfasts. Great and gritty ambiance. The vegetarian restaurant on Fifth Street next to the Gentle Strength Co-op. Can't remember the name.

The shops: Tempe Hardware -- south side of Mill, between Fifth and Sixth streets. The Curry brothers ran it (think Curry Road). I have never -- ever -- seen a more complete hardware store. Whether you were spending a quarter for two screws or $500 for an electric tool, the brothers and their younger relatives never failed to treat customers with kindness. A suspicious fire destroyed Tempe Hardware in the mid-'70s. Leathersmith & Lace -- Michael and Jeannie Smith, proto-hippie business folks. The Wax Thread -- George Canchola's wonderful leather working and shoemaking. The Boston Store -- where you could get real Western clothes, the kind worn by people who lived in, well, the West.

All these are gone now. And that just scratches the surface. Dougherty's correct: The "town fathers" let Mill Avenue rot until they could piously proclaim they had to destroy Mill Avenue to save it. It really is too bad.

Jack Lavelle

Hold someone accountable: Amen, brother! But your column doesn't go far enough. Somebody needs to hold the Tempe officials accountable -- the apathetic electorate certainly isn't capable. The media need to beat the hell out of the politicians who allowed Tempe's downtown to be raped. The greed that has taken over is appalling. How much rent and tax revenue are generated by an empty storefront? None!

David Jankowski
Carlsbad, California

Status Symbols
X's and O's: Your article appears a bit like a blow to the XOXOXO band's socioeconomic status rather than anything else ("No Love Lost," Joe Watson, April 8). Rich people live in Arizona, they cannot be stopped -- most people have accepted this. Were the band members actually interviewed so that they could give the finger to the Phoenix scene? For some strange reason, I believe the comments were taken out of context. (Could that possibly occur in such fine journalism like New Times?) I don't really think the article had much force because all that was critiqued was the on-the-surface characteristics of the band. I think the author had a personal agenda to pursue. So the members have scholarships -- how dare they strive for academic excellence! This article was unfocused and useless at best. If you want to attack someone for your own personal agenda, write it in your diary.

Name withheld by request

Airing It Out
Forgive and forget: Regarding "Tom Avila's Big Story" (Susy Buchanan, April 1) and : That man needs to be put back on the air! He was one of the best journalists I've ever listened to. God knows we all make mistakes. I forgive him and I'm sure others will, too. We need him back. Please.

Rhonda Krenz
Jenison, Michigan

Bland Bombshell
The lowdown on Uptown: You have undoubtedly received many messages decrying your review of Uptown 713
("Bistro Bland," Stephen Lemons, April 8). I agree with you about the place. Just read today that Gregory Casale is going out of business, yet Uptown is busy all the time. I don't get it. I live in north central Phoenix and I try to give my "eating" business to local small restaurants as often as possible. I appreciate it when someone opens up a restaurant in central Phoenix instead of north Snotsdale. I have gone to Uptown for lunch and dinner possibly 10 times -- but no more. I cannot find anything nice to say about the place. The food is bland and unimaginative. The prices are too high for the quality (and quantity). The service stinks. So why has it been positively reviewed? Just to help out small business owners? I hope not.

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