As a lifelong Midwesterner, I was conditioned to look down on the West. I was among the many who thought Phoenix was all golf courses, strip malls, and old-timers. I was a fool. The West is where it's at. It's easy to see why people have been moving this way for generations. I still can't abide Phoenix's irresponsible views toward development and water usage, its underlying xenophobia, and its "don't tell me what to do" Old West values, but I'm pretty sure it will grow up, in time. For that reason, I look forward to being here as the future unfolds.

Love Phoenix? I'm getting there. Leave Phoenix? I'd be surprised if I ever were to move "back east" again.

— Jay Bennett, editorial operations manager


Listen to our staff's "Love Phoenix or Leave Phoenix" podcasts. And leave your own mash note to Phoenix.

One of the many reasons I love Phoenix is because my hometown is an ornery, ill-tempered mega-bitch from Hell. To me, she's an unrelenting shrew of Shakespearean proportions who brazenly challenges you to love her despite having many faults. Can you endure her inept or right-wing politicians, torturous 100-degree-plus temperatures, and sports teams that'll get your hopes up (only to crush them mercilessly)?

If you can, she'll reward you with gor geous sunsets across windswept deserts, a scrappy music and arts scene, the best Mexican food in the state. And perhaps her best quality: Small, hidden surprises she has in store for those willing to hunt for them, like quirky characters and cool out-of-the-way restaurants and businesses.

It's en vogue lately to ditch the Valley for hipper cities like Portland or Los Angeles (as many of my friends have done), but to those quitters I say a hearty, "Whatever." I have a perverse sense of pride at being able to survive and thrive here. We may not have a Voodoo Doughnuts or a record store on every street corner, but I think it's much cooler to find beauty in a place most people consider ugly or unattractive.

— Benjamin Leatherman, clubs editor

People complain about the heat. And when they do, I think about one of my former homes, Michigan, which had six months or more of serious winter. There would be suicides when it snowed past Easter, which it often did. People complain about the traffic. And I think about another of my former homes, Los Angeles, and just laugh. The reality is that Phoenix is an excellent place to live for so many reasons. You don't have to be rich to live in a beautiful desert location with an incredible view. The same thing in L.A. would cost you millions — and the commute into town for work is a killer.

The problem with Phoenix is the oppressive political environment. A friend likened it to Selma in the '50s, but it's worse than that. It's a place where even upstanding citizens can lose life and liberty at the hands of soulless government officials like Joe Arpaio and Andrew Thomas. It's a place where even millionaire newspaper execs get dragged out of their homes in the middle of the night, where dissension might well gets you a spot on the enemies list and a visit from the sheriff's Selective Enforcement Unit.

Hope springs eternal that sanity will prevail and the bastards will get thrown out, because if that were to happen, Phoenix would be paradise — eight months out of the year. Only Southern California has it better climate-wise, and its residents have to put up with the aforementioned, plus an astronomical cost of living.

— Rick Barrs, editor

I'm always threatening to leave Phoenix. I like big cities and old buildings. I have little interest in the things that presumably make Phoenix appealing: big houses, suburbs, white picket fences, white people. I hate driving.

And yet I stay. Whenever I'm presented a chance to leave, I start fantasizing — but I haven't yet been able to bring myself to take it.

It's too easy to thrive here.

Because there's no Old Guard to speak of, anyone can carve out a nice niche with minimal effort. You can make friends just by ordering coffee. ("You just moved here? Oh, my God. So did I!"). Most nights, you can get into the best restaurants in town without a wait — and it's not like the bars are going to turn you away, either. In an older city, you might have to donate big bucks to join the board of a prominent non-profit. Here you'll find people clamoring for you to join.

And then there's the weather.

Whenever I think about moving, I think what it would be like to go back to cloudy weather and gray skies. And about those lovely spring mornings when the desert looks like it's been dipped in stardust. Or the evenings when, as the sun sets, the sky is washed with pink and orange. This happens night after night here — so frequently that I sometimes forget to notice.

In spite of everything I hate about it, Phoenix has ruined me for just about everywhere else.

— Sarah Fenske, columnist

Before I moved to Phoenix, the few Phoenicians I'd encountered were quick to warn me that "there's nothing to do in Phoenix." How these people (speaking from experience or not) could expect me to believe that a city the size of Phoenix has no nightlife is beyond me.

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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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