There is a scene here. True, it's not New York, but if that's what you're looking for, there's an airport right off I-10.

You may have to look for things to do, but they're out there if you're willing to put in the time to find them.

What does Phoenix have that those big-city fellers ain't got? A tight community. Whether you're a Scottsdale douchebag or a washed-out Tempe guitarist or just someone wondering what the hell you're doing in Ahwatukee, we've all gone for a bite at Matt's Big Breakfast. We've all tasted a few Kilt Lifters. We've all battled with light-rail construction traffic.

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Not to mention the numerous times I've run into someone I recognize from another part of town. How I can meet up with someone I know, purely by chance, in a completely different part of town is beyond me. Hell, some of them even have ended up as friends.

Just try to find that outside of this desert. I dare you.

Jonathan McNamara, web editor

By the time I got to Phoenix, I was 23. I recently had moved to Tucson from "back East," and it was like living on a different planet, what with the cacti, heat, spicy Mexican food, colors, landscape.

Within days of my arrival, someone warned me about Phoenix, which he referred to as "that hellhole up there," or something like that.

(Years later, former Maricopa County Attorney Tom Collins — who had fled the Valley for rustic Cochise County — said something similar when he told me, "When I drive up I-10 and get to the Gila River and I see this ugly gray cloud of schmuck up ahead, I just shake my head. That's Phoenix for me.")

Anyway, in early 1974, my girlfriend and I hitchhiked up to Phoenix to watch the Suns play the defending world champion New York Knicks at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum on 19th Avenue and McDowell.

Our ride took us to the arena after driving through downtown and past the ramshackle area known as The Deuce — where the Suns and the Diamondbacks now perform.

In hindsight, I know that we probably peered out at the La Amapola Bar, where Ernesto Miranda (of Miranda Warning fame) would be stabbed to death a few years later.

My pal was right — this place was a hellhole.

After the game, we stepped into the parking lot, where I yelled out to the departing spectators, "Anybody going to Tucson?" An elderly couple (probably in their 50s) soon offered a ride, which we gladly took.

Those were the days.

Ten years after that, Mike Lacey convinced me to put aside all my prejudices against this town — which, by then, included an irrational but lovely hatred of everything about ASU — to move up here and give his paper a shot.

That was almost a quarter-century ago.

Now it's home, and even if it still seems like a hellhole at times (especially in August, when a cool breeze seems light years away), I'd be hard-pressed to leave it.

The reason?

Friends, family, good job, good times. Period.

Paul Rubin, senior staff writer

The things and people I write about are always an inspiration for me — there are so many creative people here, and they're able to realize their dreams in ways they couldn't necessarily pull off in other cities. In some ways, Phoenix is like a giant small town, and although I don't have any family here, it's nice to be able to run into friends and acquaintances everywhere. The lifestyle is a big perk, and I don't just mean the weather (although nice weather helps!). I like that there's not as much attitude when you go out, that people are more laid back. Living here is also affordable enough that I can travel from time to time.

Michele Laudig, food critic

Maybe everybody wants to leave the place they grow up in. As a young woman, I was desperate to get out of this Valley. I ran away to New York, where I reveled in things I didn't even know I'd craved: old buildings, winter weather, fashion, long walks, gatherings of Democrats over 50 years old. Easterners didn't get it, of course; people asked me, "Why would someone move away from Arizona?" And when I wound up marrying my boyfriend from Tempe with the huge family, I knew we'd be back.

On visits to Phoenix, I began to see blooming oleanders as pretty, even exotic. (Turns out Van Gogh even painted them!) The color scheme of dusty green flora, red dirt, and indigo mountains began to seem natural and soothing. Our parents grew older.

So, 19 years ago, we came back — like salmon, if salmon drove a U-Haul. Some things had changed. We had changed. We found more opportunities and took on more obligations, as grownups will do. The ultimate anchor is that my family, my in-laws, and most of my friends are still here — they're dug in, and so are we.

Julie Peterson, arts writer/copy editor

It all depends on what you want out of life, but personally, I enjoy the opportunities that abound in this tween-aged town. It's no Boston or Chicago — nor will it ever be. Cities that build slowly through centuries hide nooks and personalities that Instant-Cities like Phoenix ("just add water") can't manufacture.

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3 comments
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Jim
Jim

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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