Letters

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
Phoenix

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
Phoenix

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 "The Big Sequel" (Spiked, April 8): 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.

Name withheld by request

Hawg-Tied
RUBbed the wrong way: In New Times' coverage of Arizona Bike Week ("High on the Hawg," March 25), Jimmy Magahern's comments regarding "RUBs (rich urban bikers) crotch-rocketing around on BMWs and Ducatis" showed a real lack of knowledge concerning two of Europe's finest motorcycles. Owners of Ducatis are more likely to be found competing at a local track event, while BMW owners are more likely to be far from an event like ABW, visiting out-of-the-way places, accumulating many thousands of miles of long-distance riding.

On the other hand, the overpriced, under-engineered Milwaukee Butt Jewelry most in evidence at ABW seems better suited for parking outside the local saloon. In the rare event Harley riders do venture outside the city limits, they tend to do so in great numbers. That way there is someone to offer a ride home to those unfortunate riders whose bikes litter the highway with discarded parts.

Still, it was nice to see motorcycling at least mentioned in New Times.

Please don't print my name. In case you didn't notice, some of the aforementioned Harley riders can be a scary bunch.

Name withheld by request

Say "Hizz-allelujah!"
Religion is fun: This is in response to the article "Jesus Christ Rap Superstar" (Darren Keast, March 25). I am amazed and proud of the support this paper has given to the Christian hip-hop scene. It is so refreshing to read that people, especially teens, are finding a positive path. The detail of the trials and tribulations pertaining to this cause really opened my eyes: Groups like these need more support.

The presentation of the article really catches a "young eye." Religion looks fun and inviting, youthful and current with the times. I am not a religious "freak," but I did notice a small conflict. On page 23, I saw that there was time taken to insert the sentence, "His Hellbound record label (run by a lackey named Py-Diddy) tempts all rappers to sign away their souls in exchange for the earthly delights of bling, malt liquor and loose women." Since this seems to be a plot in one of the shows performed, I found it strange that on the cover, Jesus is covered in "bling." He is even pointing and holding a large necklace. I know that it is hard to appeal to youths. Everything seems to be represented in a positive way, but contradicting a main plot almost defeats the purpose of the article.

Again, I would like to express my appreciation for New Times supporting such a positive cause. The article was more than wonderful and was a delight to read. Besides the cover, it was exquisite, all the way down to the slang. I would like to thank everyone involved and thank you to the reader(s) of my letter.

Cassandra Poole
Phoenix

Up in Smoke
Civil rights violations: Thank you for your interview of Mark Brnovich ("Blowing Smoke," Robrt L. Pela, March 11). It's about time someone finally got an opportunity to point out that the anti-smokers have been violating our civil rights. Disregarding the Constitution with the excuse that it's "for our own good" is not acceptable. Almost everyone who wants to take away a piece of our freedom claims to mean well. To protect our civil liberties, we need to beware of our so-called friends more than our overt enemies.

Denying freedom of speech and press to tobacco companies years ago should have been our first clue. I still don't know why that wasn't challenged and reversed as soon as it was done. Excessive taxation on cigarettes is unfair and regressive, doing its most economic harm to those who can least afford it. Taxation should not be used for behavior modification by attempting to starve us into submission.

Encouraging frivolous class-action lawsuits is another bad tactic. Once tobacco companies were forced to print warnings on their products, all liability for ill effects of tobacco should have ended for good. Will tobacco-suit precedents be followed for other products? If bad legal decisions are only allowed against one industry, then where is equal protection under the law? How about carmakers and oil companies? Using the same legal logic, we could probably bring our entire economy to a halt.

And now we have attacks on property rights, trying to prevent business owners, employees and customers from agreeing on a smoking preference. The owner and the employee suffer reduced income, and the customer is deprived of a place to enjoy entertainment and social interaction with other smokers. Nobody wins.

Though it is said that smokers are now a minority, they are still a majority of the people who actually go places and do things. I drive a taxicab, and at least 80 percent of my customers ask if they may smoke. My answer is, "When you're in my cab, you're still in America; yes, feel free to smoke."

Michael Walker
Glendale

Safeguarding health: Talk about blowing smoke. Mark Brnovich has it down to a science. This isn't about rights, it's about the health and safety of the citizens of this city. I cannot understand why only 20 percent to 25 percent of the population smoke, yet they continue to hold the rest of us hostage because they have an addiction they can't control. No one is telling this 20 percent they can't smoke; they can certainly pollute their own homes and families to their heart's content, but they don't have a right to smoke around me in public. My health needs take precedence over their need to satisfy their addiction. Just once it would be nice to go into a restaurant and not have to smell the stench from their cigarettes.

Wake up, Phoenix. It's time to put an end to this debate and outlaw smoking in public places to safeguard the health of all its citizens.

Gary Higgins
Via e-mail

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