Phoenix Has an Inferiority Complex

Or maybe you do

I was born and raised in Phoenix, but I'd never noticed the TV towers on South Mountain.


For years now, I've been telling people all about how I've made my peace with Phoenix. Sure, I hated it growing up, but I like it now, I say. About five minutes after Christa got married, I started dating a guy who worked in advertising at New Times. His family moved to Tempe from Queens when he was 11 (you should see the neighborhood where he grew up! It looks exactly like the opening scene in All in the Family!), and he got to go to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade when he was a kid, but he really hated New York, vowed he'd never go back. He was one of the first people I'd ever met who truly loves Phoenix. The guy actually had (and still has) an Arizona flag bumper sticker on his car. We got married at the Royal Palms, post-remodel, and bought a place in Tempe, across town from where I grew up. I took to humming the theme to Green Acres around the house, and even went camping a few times, and to the Desert Botanical Garden. I still refused to ever open the car windows, and continued to insist that large open spaces made me feel uneasy, but I had decided that being happy isn't about where you are, it's about who you are. Early one Tuesday morning in late summer, I was watching an ER rerun, feeding our three-month-old daughter Annabelle, when without explanation the show broke to an image of the second tower collapsing.

Keeping the good thought.
Jeff Newton
Keeping the good thought.
"But there's nothing to do. . ."
Jeff Newton
"But there's nothing to do. . ."

I was meant to come home, I thought. When my husband suggested (joking, I'm sure) one day that maybe we should move to New York, mix things up a little, I looked at him in horror. What, and leave two sets of grandparents behind? How would we ever find a baby sitter? Or jobs? Or a place to live?

And I had made friends here. Granted, most of them usually left after a while, but some stuck around.

Okay, I didn't exactly love Phoenix. But I was done hating it. Or so I thought. And then one day not long ago I was talking to my boss, Rick Barrs. Rick moved to Phoenix from L.A. about two and a half years ago. He grew up in the South, but had lived in L.A. forever. He's a big-city guy. But he actually likes Phoenix, he told me. And then he told me a story. When he first moved to Phoenix, he found an apartment downtown, in the Post Roosevelt, a new complex on Central Avenue. The parking garage was filled with out-of-town license plates, and all of his neighbors were happy. "Welcome to Paradise!" they greeted him. "We love it here! Look how clean the city is, how beautiful the mountains are! It's November, and the sun is shining!" Rick looked around, and he felt happy. Then he came to work, where many people apologized profusely for the fact that he was stuck in Phoenix.

I, he said, was the prime culprit.

I thought about it. He was right. As soon as I met Rick, I started badmouthing Phoenix, embarrassed to admit I was actually born here, even more ashamed that I'd come home and stayed. This guy from L.A. was going to think I'm a total loser.

Who knows, maybe he did. He's too polite to say. But Rick wound up liking Phoenix. Sure, he says, he understands why people don't like it. It's hard to find any of the cool stuff, like Richardson's or Hot Pink; it's all sort of tucked away. Everything's spread out. The sprawl sucks. But the livin's easy, that's for sure. And he never would have been able to afford the house he just bought here, in L.A.

But back to me. How weird was it that here I thought I was over the whole hating-Phoenix thing, but really, I was no better than ever? I started to think about all the things I like about Phoenix. I like my house, which I always tell people reminds me of someplace else -- like someplace in the Midwest, or back East -- with its screened porches and hardwood floors. I like the fact that we finally got an Anthropologie, and a Sephora. I like it when it gets all cloudy in the winter, just like San Diego in the summer. I like my drive-through Starbucks. I like the fact that the airport's really close, and that the cost of living's so low in Phoenix that I can visit my friends in other cities.

Uh-oh.

I'm exactly what Kimber Lanning hates. The other day, she went on and on about those flags someone's hung on light poles on Seventh Avenue that say "Melrose on 7th."

"It's inexcusable, because Melrose stopped being cool 10 years ago," she says, adding, "It's not the cool factor that I'm worried about. It's the whole idea that we're pretending to be something we're not."

I decided to make a concerted effort to ♥ Phoenix.

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