But this big-little city does offer unrivaled opportunities to:

A: Be a big fish in a small pond

B: Be an anonymous Citizen Doe in a metropolis of vanilla


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

C: Spontaneously ignite while walking to your car.

I like options A (the opportunity for regional success that couldn't be had in, say, New York) and B. They both keep me here for now. But I'm a fair-weathered lover.

At best, Phoenix can be cool only when its weather is. I wouldn't care if we had the Smithsonian, the Guggenheim and the Eiffel Tower lined up downtown. Come June, my body starts telling me it would bake like jerky if not for the marvel of air-conditioners.

Biased? Yes. I was raised in a tundra of lakes, woods, and mosquitoes — a land where everybody gets at least one deer per hunting season, whether by car or by rifle.

Every autumn, I still expect a smack of cold air to slap me in the face when I walk outside. I long for colorful leaves, cool breezes, sweaters, and canteens of hot chocolate at football games.

Some burning July morning I will drive past my office, head north on the 17 and keep driving. Maybe I'll stop in Montana. Or Canada.

Then, when the snow arrives, I'll join the migration of snowbirds who winter in Phoenix. After all, the grass is always greener — even if it only grows on irrigated golf courses.

— John Dickerson, staff writer

Where else besides Phoenix can you ride a horse to California Pizza Kitchen? Not downtown, of course. There are no ranches — or branches of the beloved casual-dining chain — within trotting distance from the copper-domed state Capitol on Washington Street. But if you venture into the sprawling suburbs where most people in the Valley of the Sun live, you'll find such places: where ranchland sits comfortably next to newly constructed McMansions, where farmers drive tractors past the Apple Store, where a cash-only honky-tonk sits catty-corner from a skate shop. Anything you want, it's here somewhere — probably in a strip mall.

Phoenix, perpetually one of the country's fastest-growing cities, is a mecca for intranational immigrants, and, as such, has collected every identifiable type of American. And they've all brought their best traditions with them. After a year in the Valley I'm still only scratching the surface, but I'm constantly amazed by what I find and where. You can get California Pizza at the California Pizza Kitchen, sure, but you can also get bona fide versions of the Chicago and New York varieties, or Portland microbrews, or New Orleans jazz. Whatever it is, someone brought it out here to the desert with them and it's here for the finding. You just need to saddle up and look.

— Martin Cizmar, music editor

Every summer for the past five years, I've edited our annual Best of Phoenix issue at New Times. This fact makes my friends and family snort, given the disdain I've always shown my hometown. And it's true that nothing makes me crankier than reading about all the supposedly super things in this city when it's so hot outside that I have to risk second-degree burns to get in the car and visit them.

But deep down, I sorta kinda love the place. When I was growing up here, Phoenix had no history — none I'd count, anyway (sorry, Hohokam). Now it does. It has my history. From the Red Devil Pizza on McDowell to the goat barn at the Phoenix Zoo to the Veterans Coliseum in downtown Phoenix, this is my town. Okay, so it's shabby but not-so-chic, and you still have to drive 20 minutes to get from one worthy destination to another. Even the Bath & Body Works on Mill Avenue didn't make it. But I can take my kids to the Sugar Bowl on Scottsdale Road and make their eyes wide by telling them I had chocolate mint ice cream in this very place when I was a little girl.

It's a question I've pondered for years, but I still don't know if Phoenix is cool. (Neither am I, considering my first concert was Rick Springfield at the aforementioned Coliseum.) But it's most definitely home.

— Amy Silverman, managing editor

It took me a while to admit it, but I do love Phoenix. For me, Phoenix is much like a "hate-love" relationship. And because the positives outweigh the negatives, the relationship continues. Some reasons I choose to stay: My immediate family is here; the cost of living is relatively cheap; it does not snow; and everything is spread out. (I'm claustrophobic, so that really helps.)

Originally, I am from Lynn, Massachusetts ("Lynn Lynn the City of Sin, you'll never come out the way you come in"). My dad was offered a better job in Arizona and we moved here when I was 10. I remember living in Lynn and I believe that if we had stayed, I would not be where I am today. I would have not gotten the opportunity to learn how to play the viola, join clubs like yearbook and the debate team, or play sports like hockey or tennis. I believe Arizona has a lot to offer and people need not to be so quick to judge it. Phoenix may have an ugly exterior when compared to other states, but it has a beautiful interior.

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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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