Torturous Times

The winged wonder on John McCain's righteous anti-torture stance, Stepford-like Gilbert and changes at hipster haven Lux

Shucks. The Bird thought growing-your-own was a tradition on the outskirts of Phoenix. Yet the folks in this Stepford-like East Valley city are doing what they can to protect the beauty of their putting greens, patios and swimming pools from the icky ecosystem of Gilbert's Daniel Lee Thompson -- whose front-yard garden is a mass of romaine, Swiss chard and towering turnip greens.

The 57-year-old Thompson's an advocate of "sustainable farming methods," which really just means he's ripped out his suburban lawn and replaced it with a vegetable garden. But rather than eat some of his rutabagas, Thompson's ultra-anal neighbors are organizing to get a city code changed that right now allows non-homeowner-association residents to do what they please with their own property. The nerve!

Their complaints to Gilbert officials have been heard by Town Council member Dave Crozier, who roused himself from his Barcalounger long enough to ask the city attorney to rule that Thompson's garden is a code violation. This failed, so Crozier's now looking into changing the ordinance that allows people to grow stuff on their own land.

Up the creek with a paddle. Now, that's a position we can support.
Fred Harper
Up the creek with a paddle. Now, that's a position we can support.

Crozier's gotten a lot of heat over the whole mess.

"People are calling and saying, 'Are you anti-garden?'" Crozier confided to The Bird. "But this just doesn't look like any garden I've ever seen before. It looks like a lost Mayan temple in the jungle. There's vegetation overgrowing the whole house. There's insects, and a lot of bad smells, and a dead pine tree that [Thompson] said was a shrine to his Christmas tree from last year. Whatever this is, it's not your normal garden."

Aha! Now we're getting somewhere.

Dan Thompson's garden isn't normal, which in Gilbert is the darkest sin imaginable. Want to live in a pink stucco prefab tract home, attend church every Sunday and join the PTA? Gilbert will embrace you. Want to devote your life to raising half a dozen kids, and drive an SUV? The citizens of Gilbert will genuflect at the mention of your name. But don't even think about wearing tie-dye, or growing a garden in your front yard.

Unless you want your neighbors to rat you out to the cops and sic the Town Council on you.

The fine citizens of Gilbert, according to Crozier, aren't allowed to have weeds taller than 10 inches growing in their yards, but crafty Dan Thompson got around that by only growing plants he can eat. None of which smelled, by the way, when The Bird flew over.

Like every single eco-nerd The Bird's ever spoken with, Thompson can blather endlessly about stuff like hydro-mining and losing the rain forests and the magic of mulch.

"The state of Arizona doesn't have enough oxygen-producing plants to support its own mammalian population -- which is us!" Thompson said. "We should be reforesting as fast as possible, not trying to stamp out some guy's front-yard garden."

More interesting to The Bird than any of this front-yard-garden stuff is the fact that Thompson's writing a book about his experience. The Bird knows: Who isn't writing a book these days? But Thompson's book is called Kootznawoo, which its author swears means "fortress of the bear."

One thing's for sure, kootznawoo's a fun word to say. After The Bird had said it about 30 times, it asked Thompson what he thought Dave Crozier had against his vegetables.

"Dunno," Thompson snickered. "But I do know that my neighbors all have these anally retentive yards, all straight and neat and poisoned with Roundup, which is really just the same fucking thing as Agent Orange with a little flavor change. And all I know is, Gilbert can't touch me. So I'll just keep planting."

You go, Dan! Because you may be a nut-box, but you're a nut-box within your rights. Just don't forget to drop The Bird some extra seeds.

Flux at Lux

Among its perches throughout this parched parcel we call a city, The Bird often roosts at the cool downtown Phoenix java joint Lux Coffeebar and the adjacent Pane Bianco, sometimes to peck at morsels strewn amidst the rusted-metal patio by lunchtime litterbugs, other times to ogle such local luminaries as Mayor Phil Gordon or record-store mogul Kimber Lanning, because in Phoenix these people pass for celebrities.

The Bird has heard that Lux owners Daniel Wayne and wife Felicia Ruiz Wayne sold lock, stock and coffee-bean barrel to Jeff and Tara Fischer last month. Seems the Waynes have risen above the latte scene and are too busy prepping their soon-to-open eatery, Lola Tapas, to trouble themselves with the decaf crowd anymore. Good riddance, as far as The Bird's concerned. The white-leather couches at Lux were always a popular nesting spot, but reports were mounting, during the Waynes' reign, of rude behavior from behind the counter -- much of it from the Waynes themselves, particularly Felicia, who sometimes practically curdled the milk with her snarl.

The Bird won't miss the Waynes. Already, reports are in that the service at Lux no longer sux. But there's concern that the new owners aren't hip to the hip factor. Almost immediately, the new owners covered the cool concrete floors and started piping Bruce Springsteen from speakers that heretofore had known only the likes of Coldplay.

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