Editor's note: We had so much fun over on Chow Bella, pitting New Yorker-turned-Phoenician Nina Gruber against Phoenician-turned-New Yorker Dominique Chatterjee against each other on the topic of food that we decided to do it again -- and this time, we're talking about culture. Today, we share Gruber's list of things that make Phoenix tops. Come back later this week for Chatterjee's view.
After listing items I missed from the Phoenix food scene while living away, I found myself pondering what characteristics of the city I now cherish after moving back here. I remember coming back to Phoenix during school vacations and realizing how quickly this city is evolving -- spots of cultural interest, art galleries, new and exciting restaurants, gardens, and so much more I don't know about. We have something special here that should never be neglected because of comparisons. So to be that hypocritical blogger, I will prove it, through comparisons.
See also: 7 Things About New York City That Make Phoenix Look Like a Cultural Wasteland 9 Things That Make Phoenix a Better Food (and Drink) Town than New York City 10 Things in New York City the Phoenix Food Scene Will Never Have
West Coast Mentality
I have often heard that it is easier for an East Coaster to move west than the other way around, and I do not disagree. And though Phoenix is not a West Coast city (we are a bit landlocked), the easygoing nature associated with our western neighbors certainly rubs off on us. There is a sense of competitiveness, formality, and absolute need for instant gratification that comes with how things are done in the Northeast, which generally means that good stuff gets done, and fast. And getting there to do it? Make sure to clear the path. We may not be as speedy as "the city that never sleeps," but we sure do appreciate our shuteye and don't seem to be lacking too much because of it. So, why so serious, NYC? Cool down, take a breath, have a margarita (or smoke a medically permissible joint), and realize there's no need to rush.
Concert Ticket Ethic
Here in Phoenix, there is the lovely notion that I can decide, day-of, to go to a concert of a band I love. I understand that concerts do sell out here in Phoenix, but the thought of meandering over to grab a ticket for a beloved, slightly popular indie band at the Music Hall of Williamsburg the night of their concert is a bit comical. You see, a slightly popular indie band in Phoenix is almost passé in New York and even further behind the curve in Brooklyn, which means that in a place of 8 million people, the 400 spaces available at a venue get bought out quick. So cherish those tickets you buy for two dollars more at the door of Crescent Ballroom, because they aren't likely to exist in NYC.
Francis Ha was not filmed here.
Really, we should be very happy that this is not the type of character that represents our burgeoning population. I'll stick with Twilight's Bella.
Nature: Our tumbleweed is a bush, not a plastic bag
This may be the biggest point for me since moving back. There haven't been more than a handful of days since returning that I haven't spent at least a good portion of it outside. In nature, beyond that of human construction. Given, I am an avid hiker and, yes, these were some of the nicest parts of the year, but, hey, summer isn't stopping me yet!
We live in a valley. This inherently means that we are surrounded by mountains. Hikable mountains! Plus, the mighty saguaros are completely unique to this part of the world, so don't overlook the beauty of our desert. And those skies? Don't take them for granted, either -- those are some good skies. New York may be close to some of the most beautiful national parks in the country, but there is a reason why these areas are designated as upstate: When immersed in the city, it is easy to forget about those terrains just a few miles north. In Phoenix, this is not quite the case. Mountains surround us and are in central parts of our city. Our cityscape may not scrape the skies, but our mountains, skies, and desert are part of our urban cultural landscape whether you relish in them or not.
"New York is the Best. Really it is. I'll tell you all about it. Are you listening? It's the best."
Despite the context of this post, a typical Phoenician does not consistently dwell on how her city compares to others around the world. The amount of times I have had conversations like, "only in New York" or "no city can compete" or "where else could you live after living here?" really makes one wonder if New Yorkers are compensating for something. How often must you assure yourself that you live in the best city in the world before you believe it? Does talking about a place in this way make it easier to live there? You live in a sweet town, I get it. But dude, cool it.
Within the bustling Gotham, it is easy to get lost in the current. Now, when you do stand up to the tide, it is a mighty powerful thing, which I think is what pulls people to New York. But to be honest, a city like that provides opportunity to follow or to compete against countless others doing the same thing, or at least something eerily similar. In Phoenix, there is the space to be creative and unique, leading the way along your own path. Phoenix is just coming on to lots of these new business and cultural trends, so if you catch the right wave in this desert pond, you can certainly rise up fast.
One of the beautiful things about living in Phoenix right now is the opportunities it provides for all of us. It is a huge metropolis, yes, but it has yet to develop into the city it can truly be. We get heckled for unsustainable living, for processed brands, and the endless grid lacking in culture -- but we Phoenicians know better: Phoenix is our unwritten book, our blank canvas to discover, create, and lead down paths that have yet to even be thought of out here. We have a "teenager" of a city, as Lindsay Kinkade told me, one that is "full of energy and promise, ready to emerge and define itself," a place capable of maturing into whatever type of town we want it to be.
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So while we may not be the Big Apple, we don't have to be -- we can be the big prickly pear, that is, a place entirely our own. Not following in the footsteps of others, but placing our feet down where we see fit. We have this wide open valley filled with passionate, creative, and cultured people ready to say, "New York, who?"
So ask away, fellow Phoenicians, and pursue the town that we want to be. We are already well on our way . . .