Why do I love Phoenix? Simple. Because she loves me back.

— Wynter Holden, arts writer

I confess: I'm one of those losers who never left Phoenix, my hometown. I never did the "go away to college" thing like most of my friends, I never took a job in another city to spread my wings, and the longest I've ever visited a foreign country was a mere month.


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But here's the deal: Every time I think about leaving, Phoenix won't have it. Like a boyfriend who will do anything to keep me, Phoenix steps up its game and makes me fall in love all over again.

After college, I got a job writing and discovered that, at a young age, a culturally young Phoenix gave me an opportunity to have a voice. I don't think this would have happened in any other city.

And though I've stayed and nurtured a relationship with this city, virtually all my friends who were making money and having great careers in other cities started to trickle back. Many took pay cuts and financial hits to get back to Phoenix.

Why? Simple. Because they love this city. And so do I.

I'm increasingly discovering camaraderie in a social network of peers — musicians, artists, writers and creative thinkers — who absolutely adore Phoenix. And we talk about it all the time.

We're not idiots. We fully realize that Phoenix doesn't offer a strong cultural identity for us to latch onto. But instead of griping, we embrace it. We have a chance to propel this city forward and create this place's future. Rather than relocating and riding on the coattails of generations past that culturally settled a city before we were even born, we're opting to make this place our own.

The prospect is exciting. I don't really know what Phoenix will look like in the years coming. But I suspect that if there are enough of us who love this place and continue to do the things we love here instead of somewhere else, an identity will naturally occur.

I want to be a part of that process. It's going to be a hell of a challenge and it's going to be a lot of fun. And it's something unique to Phoenix that other cities can't offer.

I've made a commitment to this place. And, like any long-term monogamous relationship, there will be bumps in the road and it may get frustrating to stick it out. But I can't help it. Really, it's the least I can do for someone I love.

— Lilia Menconi, arts writer

Growing up in Queens, I knew NYC was the greatest city in the world and had no particular desire to leave. But in 1977, when my parents told me and my sister we were moving to Phoenix, I was happy and excited — after all, I loved the television show The Wild, Wild West.

Metro Phoenix has never disappointed me. I could go on all day about my appreciation of the Sonoran Desert, the mountains, and the weather. On nearly any day of the year, I can enjoy top-notch outdoor experiences within a few miles of my home. That's what I love most about living here.

Urban amenities? There are enough for me. They'll get better as the population grows denser. To me, the best thing about the Valley's city life is that the city is relatively new and growing. Even the dust in the air carries a sense of optimism — much of it's from construction, anyway.

A lot has changed in 31 years, but this Wild West frontier town still gives me everything I need.

— Ray Stern, staff writer

My friends in Los Angeles are always trying to persuade me to move there, but there's no way I'd leave P-City for L.A.

There are many reasons for this, but my top reasons for staying in Phoenix are wife-beaters, guns, and freeway driving. I can wear wife-beaters year-round without worrying about being so cold that my nipples greet strangers. I can go Christmas shopping in shorts and a tube top if I wanted to, and I can have a natural tan in January.

While wearing my wife-beater, I can shoot my guns, because Arizona is a gun-lover's state. In Phoenix, I can legally buy an AR-15 rifle and have it in my hands within a couple days, after a background check. In California, I wouldn't be able to buy or own an AR-15, and if I wanted to purchase any other kind of firearm, I'd have to wait several weeks. And driving to the range (or open desert) to shoot is easy.

Unlike the freeways in other large metropolitan cities, where traffic's so congested you barely move, I usually drive 55 mph on the freeways, even during rush hour. Try doing that in Los Angeles.

— Niki D'Andrea, staff writer

Since moving to Phoenix from Chicago three years ago, I've gotten a lot of "Wow, you must really miss Chicago." Sometimes I do, but not as often as I thought I would. Phoenix is my home now. It's where I got married, it's where I've met a lot of cool people and made some good friends, and it's where my wife and I are comfortable and enjoy a lifestyle that's no less fun than the one we enjoyed in Chicago.

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Why would I not want to stay in Phoenix? I came here in 2003 with an open mind and a lot of optimism. I bragged about my move from the Northeast to everyone who would listen. No more cold winters I would tell them. Within 3 years, all the wind had been knocked out of my sails. I live in the East Valley but have traveled all over the Valley and beyond on numerous occasions. There are nice people here but they are few and far between and they are insular and hard to meet. Neighbors rarely talk to one another as they hide behind their block walls. I never had breathing problems before, but thanks to the brown cloud that hangs over the Valley I have trouble breathing out here. I never had a car accident before I moved here - not once in 22 years of driving! I had my first one here when an impaired lady rear-ended me at 40 miles an hour at a red light, in addition to hundreds of near misses. The cop was too busy to give her a field sobriety test. He had other calls pending, he told me. The woman had a little boy in the back seat without a seatbelt on and the officer didn't care! My shoulder was torn up and he had other calls to attend to! I never had a windshield break in 22 years. I had 3 break on me out here in one year from flying rocks! There is more crime in one month here in Chandler (which is actually safe by Valley standards) than there was in ten years combined in my hometown!. Road rage and drag racing was rare in my experience until I moved here. Women back east are more diverse and classy in their thinking and style. Here I see a parade of bleached blonds, pumped up with plastic surgery and covered with tattoos as they strut down the street with their thongs pulled up six inches over their pants lines! The women under 40 all seem to emulate Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears! Out here in the "new L.A.", money and looks seem to count much more than brains and personality. I have been mocked out here by women many times for asking them to do cultural things with me, like have a picnic or see the symphony, a play, a jazz concert or a musical. I have a hard time finding intellectual, well-read people to talk to about current events, history, politics, art, science, literature and religion. I have met more women with "baggage" out here in five years than I met in 20 years of dating back home! I am sure that women will say the same about men out here. The Valley is a melting pot for people looking to shed their old skins and escape from the troubles they tried to leave behind in another state. The educational standards out here are sad. My nephew, who lives in Ahwatukee, faced more challenging school work and teachers in the public schools back east than he has faced out here in the public and charter schools he has attended. I never had issues with illegal aliens before. But since moving here, I have learned to appreciate the anger and frustration that so many feel about the issue. We are all paying a heavy price for having such an open border. I often have to remind myself that I am still in America and not in Mexico. I miss having a vibrant downtown where I can dine, see shows and shop. That is sorely lacking here. The closest thing to a real downtown out here is Mill Avenue. I never drank bottled water before I moved here. Now that is all I drink because the tap water is so foul. My auto insurance was 70% lower back home for the same coverage! I was very happy with the level of medical care that I received back east. Now I am scared to ever be sick. Apart from a couple of institutions like the Mayo Clinic and Barrows, the quality of care out here is pathetic. I have been to an emergency room maybe 4-5 times in my life. The only time that I ever had to wait more than 90 minutes was the one time that I went to an E.R. here and was told that the wait time would at least 8 hours! I left in noticeable pain from a shoulder injury rather than wait. Before I left, I asked the nurse why the wait was so long and she told me that the 40-50 Hispanics in the waiting room were all there for the free medical care they receive in the E.R.; not for any real emergencies. Back east, when someone calls and makes an appointment for a contractor, the contractor shows up. Not here. Many don't show up at all and some of those that do show up try and inflate their prices halfway through the job. Many are not even licensed. The only power outages we ever had back east were due to extreme weather. I had 13 temporary outages in 4 months at one Chandler neighborhood I lived in! Same with the phone service. I never lost phone service except on rare occasions in very extreme weather. Out here, at my current home, I lost phone service 5 times in one month! One of those outages lasted 7 hours! All the representatives at the phone company (Cox) could tell me was that they were doing upgrades in the area. Any time I ever had to call the police back east, they would respond in minutes. Not here. It can take hours for the cops to show up, if they even show! And even when it is a life threatening emergency, they take their good ole' time. Last Spring, two people were shot in their vehicle near Pecos Road & McQueen Road, about a mile and a half from the Chandler Police station. From what I read, it took about 15 minutes for the police to respond to the 911 call! Dogs, love them, have one. Back east, most dogs are for pets only. Out here, so many are bred for fighting. I have had little kids run up to me and tell me that their pit bulls would rip the head and tail off of my sweet black Lab. I never had mail stolen before I moved here. At my old house in Chandler, I had to put a lock on my mailbox because of all the theft. When the cops finally caught the 15 year old who was stealing the mail on my street, the U.S. Attorney would not prosecute him for mail theft because they allegedly were too busy with drug and immigration cases! Mail theft was not the only mail problem. In 2005, due to a post office computer glitch, all first class mail to my house took 30-40 days to arrive. That problem went on for 5 months until I finally reached a district manager and got it resolved. Can you imagine the problems that caused? I never found any foreign objects in my food before I came out here. In 5 years there have been 7-8 times that I have found items ranging from glass to plastic to metal in my food at restaurants! Even a bag of tortilla chips that I bought from a local store had sharp pieces of metal in some of the chips! I almost broke my tooth biting down on them! In one restaurant, my mouth was bloodied when I chewed my mashed potatoes. There was broken glass in the potatoes. My buddy looked me in horror as blood streamed down my chin. The manager (and this sums up the bozo mentality here in the Valley) was not even sympathetic! Nor did he offer to comp my meal! I could not get anyone at the Maricopa County Health Department to investigate any of these occurrences. I heard the same line that I hear all the time out here from officials - we are understaffed, sorry! And hey, where are the monsoons that everyone told me about before I loved here? All we get are ungodly hot, dry summers that keep getting hotter. The light rail? What a joke! It will only help a few people who live near it and already it has destroyed dozens of small businesses and made traffic a mess. Someone made out well in that deal and it sure wasn't Joe Taxpayer! Obviously I could go on and on all day about the problems here. The bottom line is that Phoenix has become another L.A. with all the crime, smog, traffic congestion and road rage, and without all the cultural and ethnic diversity, entertainment, mild summers and ocean breezes. I hate to say it, but the terrible ranking that the whole Phoenix area received in Places Rated Almanac by Sperling last year was well-deserved. Even though I will take a huge loss on my house, I am selling and getting out next year. I call this place "hell valley" to my friends out here. They used to laugh at me. Now many of them agree with me. Phoenix is the pits and it's only getting worse! No place is perfect, I know; but there have to be more strands of "green grass" in other places. Oh that's right, there isn't any grass here at all!

Hannibal Lecher
Hannibal Lecher

Niki, can you post a picture of yourself in one of your wife-beaters? Preferably when the weather is cold!

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