Best Of :: People & Places
Truth be told, most parents get downright sick of seeing their youngsters (more boys than girls, according to what we've seen) numb their brains with video games and Skee-Ball. But when it's too damn hot to even go swimming, we've found a notable step up from the cardboard-pizza chains with those disgusting, germ-infested "play areas." This immaculate, warehouse-size, two-story complex at the Desert Ridge Marketplace has a big sports bar downstairs for big people, a well-lighted billiards room upstairs and -- listen up, kids -- a huge, sprawling, state-of-the-art game room. A restaurant sits in the middle of the game room, where parents can suck down a few cold ones while keeping an eye on the kids and on whatever sporting events happen to be on the strategically placed television sets. This "kiddy Vegas" is replete with every ear-splitting, eye-jolting flashy game that one can imagine. No tokens allowed at this money pit. Instead, you buy a game card, which makes it painfully easy for kids to drop $20 in a north Phoenix second. That makes for a serious lesson in juvenile budgeting or (for those parents who don't recognize these types of establishments as signs of the imminent Apocalypse) the realization that forking over another $20 isn't the end of the world. And so what if it is.
With fresh white walls, great lighting and a dramatically high ceiling, this cavernous warehouse turned gallery space not only does justice to the intriguing art on display, but also to the downtown pretty things who turn up in droves on First Fridays to check out the work as well as each other. Any given month, monOrchid might also be hosting a hip local band or DJ, a fashion show, or even film screenings, giving the whole place a kind of dynamic vibe that you would imagine came out of Andy Warhol's Factory -- if only it had cropped up in the middle of the desert, not downtown Manhattan.
Aside from the experimental, no-budget "microcinema" events that have popped up in downtown art spaces, the best chance Valley cinema lovers have of seeing the edgiest indie films is at this jewel box of a theater, tucked in the shadow of Scottsdale Fashion Square. While some competition has cropped up recently, it's mostly from within the Harkins chain. (In particular, the Harkins Valley Art comes in a close second, with some decidedly non-mainstream features.) And as far as international titles are concerned, Camelview is frequently the only destination in the Valley to showcase the latest flicks from foreign shores.
Readers' Choice for Best Movie Theater: Harkins Ciné Capri
Craig's List is a free Internet bulletin board system where you can buy, sell and trade just about everything, as well as cruise personal ads, find a job, or enter into one of many community discussion forums. Created in San Francisco in 1995, Craig's List came to Phoenix in May 2003 and has steadily built up its listings. Although still relatively sparse when compared to those cities in which Craig's List is better established, it is an easy, anonymous, free way to post bulletin board listings. Users reply through the Craig's List's anonymous e-mail system to postings, and the poster can choose to make contact or not. There are no ads, and no charge for most ads (the exception being employers who pay a small fee to post job listings).
And sometimes it's funny, such as this ad from July: "Now hiring 6-10 smaller carny types to drive/ride in modified tiny' Volkswagen beetle for grand finale of traveling road show. Experience necessary: Ability to manipulate small handles under duress. Resistance to fire is a plus. Similar roadshows are now igniting finale performers. Ability to dodge potentially dangerous projectiles. Must get along with others and pack animals. Excellent communication skills. Benefits: Travel and experience the West Valley!"
There's also an active singles area, including a kinky "casual encounters" board and "missed connections" in which you can post a note to that handsome stranger you wish you had spoken to at the bar last weekend.
Noted baseball architects Ellerbe Beckett designed this beautiful facility that serves as home to the Milwaukee Brewers. Built in 1998, and originally planned to house two spring training teams, the Maryvale park is not Bank One Ballpark, and that's why we love it. Sure, you can't see regular-season major league play, but when a game is on in this no-frills park, you'll see why we love it. There's no fancy-schmancy country club seating, or waiters to bring you drinks. This is the kind of park where people come to watch baseball, not talk on their cell phones and network. The stadium has more than enough seats to handle the volume of patrons it gets, without feeling like its cavernous sisters in Peoria and Mesa. Its partial roof offers shade to a large part of the stands, which provides comfort without ruining the "outdoor" feel of watching the game. The grounds are impeccable, there is ample parking, and its bright blue seats are actually pretty comfortable for molded plastic. The concession areas are well-placed, offering a variety of standard fare at different locations so that not a lot of walking is necessary to get your hot dog and beer, and smaller vendors set up booths of more unique items at the end of the walkways, out of the way of traffic patterns. The lawn seats in the outfield are set up on a steep incline, allowing even those in the cheap seats a great view.
The British-born Binder threw the state Legislature into a tizzy last spring when she elected to take her long-planned vacation during the final days of a contentious debate on the budget. Binder already had balked at draconian cuts urged by Republican leadership, and her departure forced the Rs to compromise with Governor Janet Napolitano's proposal.
We love her for that. And we love her because she is one of the few legislators who isn't afraid to depart from party line and do what she believes is in the best interest of her constituents. Her independence has triggered absurd reactions from other Republican leaders like pinhead House majority leader Eddie Farnsworth, who refused to move any of Binder's bills to the House floor for a vote.
A fiscal conservative with a social conscience, Binder has been one of the few voices in the state pressing for reforms to stop the coerced underage polygamous marriages practiced by a fundamentalist Mormon cult in Colorado City. Her courage and high principles are matched by her polite demeanor that seems to have more weight with that classy British accent.
Readers' Choice: Janet Napolitano