I've been pissing and moaning about Phoenix, pretty much nonstop, for more than a half-century now. It's getting harder to do, though, because Phoenix is getting a heck of a lot more interesting. "There's no culture here!" has become "I think I'll go to one of several dozen art galleries downtown." And "There's nothing to do!" has morphed into "Should I go see the Kuchar series at FilmBar or to the reception for the Jacqueline Groag exhibit at the museum?" (To be perfectly honest, "It's really fucking hot too much of the time!" has remained in my repertoire.)
I'm actually starting to like it here. And while I can't say I'm living my dream life (that would require never getting out of bed and eating nothing but ice cream), I've recently met two young people who are living their dream — despite the heat. They even moved back here after being gone for barely a year.
Josh and Sarah Rhodes left the Valley for their dream job, designing products for women's DIY lifestyle company A Beautiful Mess in Springfield, Missouri. They bought a lovely house there. But somehow the Show Me State didn't — at least not to the Rhodeses. They longed for Phoenix.
"I couldn't stop thinking about Lux," Sarah says. "And Federal Pizza. And taco trucks. And Bosa Donuts."
Josh interrupts his wife. "Don't forget Vovomeena."
But the Rhodes family didn't come running back to us just because they missed Phoenix's burgeoning culinary scene. "We missed the creative community, more than anything," Josh says. "People here are excited to be moving forward, and we wanted to return to that. There's not a lot of that kind of creative ambition in the Midwest."
"That's such a mean word, ambition," Sarah says. "But it's true. We found this kind of creative drive here. All the creatives know each other. There's this real sense of support. We thought we'd go to Missouri and eventually find that same creative community. We didn't. We're not sure they have one."
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Josh and Sarah haven't wasted any time getting back into the swing of things since returning to Phoenix. When he's not creating illustrations for Emmy Award-winning motion design director Justin Katz's Flock of Pixels, Josh is making custom furniture for his new home design venture, Subtle Takeover. Sarah's put her photographic art career on hold for a while to focus on a different kind of creativity: raising baby Imogen and preparing for the couple's next child, due this summer.
They're glad to be back among a community of forward-thinking creatives, some of whom we've profiled in this 2015 edition of our Summer Guide: popular YA novelist Amy K. Nichols; obsessive bread baker Mandy Bublitz; Jesse Teer of folk-pop group The Senators. We've got other dreamers to introduce you to, as well: baseball player Josh Chesler and Judy Nichols, who recently hit the road. Someday, we hope, Nichols will be back, just like the Rhodes family.
"I feel like I'll never complain about the heat again," Sarah Rhodes says. "Living here is beautiful. And being inspired by others around you is dreamy."