Best Of :: People & Places
They leave well-rested, well-nourished and well-traveled. But at Metcalf House, a hostel that's more like a home, guests sometimes leave almost as much behind.
The historic hostel is on Ninth Street between Portland and Roosevelt, and part of its charm resides not only within the wood and brick crevices of the almost century-old house, but also in the knickknacks, art and handwritten musings of travelers past. Once you make it through Metcalf's lush front entrance of bamboo, ferns, palms and cactuses, you'll find a handmade cuckoo clock left by a German tourist above the living room fireplace. Tacked to the ceiling above the dining room table are more than a dozen portraits drawn by a visitor who spent six months at Metcalf House. Others leave foreign currency on windowpanes, helpful hints for getting around Phoenix (in foreign languages), or flags of their home country draped across one of the 18 beds the hostel provides.
For $15 a night (or $30 for the hostel's only private room), guests get plenty in return. Manager Sue Gunn is known to mother weary travelers with tidy and cozy accommodations, and the backyard firepit -- with a great view of the downtown skyline -- provides ample ambiance for a night's worth of conversation.
Husky hepcats in search of fly threads or the latest in alt-rock wear at the local big and tall store usually wind up fat outta luck. Try finding a catchy club shirt that doesn't smack of tackiness -- it's an exercise in fat-boy futility. So if you're living large and look more like Jack Black than Jack White, seek out this hip-hop haberdashery that includes sizes you won't find at Hot Topic. Piles of Dickies slacks and Levi jeans fitting up to a 66 waist size practically overflow from the close-quarter shelves, and short-sleeve Western shirts up to 10X crowd together on circular racks. The joint's also got ghetto-fabulous gear with brands like Ecko and Enyce for sale -- not to mention formal wear in shades so ostentatious they'd make Andre 3000 proud. Forget about a five-finger discount, unless you want to join the Polaroid rogues' gallery of shoplifters hanging by the front door. It's all good, especially since bargains abound and 40 percent-off sales are so common that when you depart, your wallet remains fat and your style stays phat.
Hey, couch potato, flip off MTV and make your own dream come true. If you're looking to boost your Mack Daddy attack arsenal, Big Boyz Toys is your artillery headquarters. Big Boyz Toys boosts the bad-ass factor with a full line of custom body kits and graphics, dash accessories, lights and interior add-ons. They can dress up your engine with color wire looms, hose sleeves and oil caps, install custom Euro taillights, fog lights or conversion headlights, and slap some flames on the hood. Big Boyz Toys also offers a full line of custom wheels to wrap around your hubs, including König, Motegi, Arospeed, and Primax. (Yes, you can even get those cool shiny hubcaps that keep spinning when you're parked, for perpetual pimpin' motion.) They've also got a phat selection of wings and spoilers, and a full line of speed and performance products, including race oils, battery extenders, underdrive pulleys, adjustable fuel pressure regulators, and nitrous oxide systems. Just keep an eye on that glow-in-the-dark speed gauge -- you can buy some custom shift knobs or designer seat-belt shoulder straps for the price of a speeding ticket.
Readers' Choice: Soundwerks
Driving the streets of Phoenix doesn't seem so mundane when we pass through the intersection of 12th Street and McDowell. Since 2000, a shrine made up of three white wooden crosses has been lovingly maintained on the dirt lot across the street from Banner Good Samaritan Hospital, honoring three teenagers who died there on a summer evening when a drunken driver barreled into their car.
On any given day, the shrine is decorated with flowers, stuffed animals and other mysterious trinkets, or festooned with bright Mylar balloons marking yet another birthday where, once again, the guest of honor is absent. We see shrines along busy streets all the time, all over town, of course, but none so carefully tended -- and for so long. The flowers and other decorations are always fresh.
And so is the thought, each time we drive by, that you can die in the shadow of an enormous hospital.
Ever since the drive to Las Vegas got speedier when U.S. 60 went four-lane, local cardsharps have had more of a reason to skip town for Sin City. But why risk becoming another roadside cross when the Salt River Pimas have all sorts of ways to separate you from your weekly wages? With two casinos within a 30-minute drive from downtown Phoenix, you're just the kind of chap or chick who'd be an ace at improving the tribe's bottom line. True, Vegas has showstopping entertainers, but get enough $3 beers into you, and even Beatlemania Live will start resembling the real Fab Four.
You've probably been jonesing for an opportunity to practice your Texas Hold 'Em skills ever since watching all those World Series of Poker reruns on ESPN2, so stop off at Talking Stick -- where there's also Omaha and 7 Card Stud to be had. Two rules to remember, high roller: System players go broke systematically, and the house always wins. So when the flop doesn't go your way for the nth time, head down the 101. The main digs await, where 30 blackjack tables (from $5 to $250), 1,500 multidenominational slots and keno lounge will help buy you a one-way ticket to Tap City, population: you.
Ever wonder why that solid antiperspirant works so well? Because some kind, sweaty soul was willing to try it out for you first, to guarantee it won't cause a heinous rash in a hard-to-reach spot. He got a few bucks for his time, and so can you. Hill Top Research, a national product-testing firm, has a location in Scottsdale, and it's looking for people to test moisturizers, shampoos, cosmetics and, yes, antiperspirants and deodorants. Be warned -- or, rather, warn your friends and family: Guinea pigs have to go through a "washout" period first, during which you're not allowed to use any sweat/stench-preventing products.
You probably won't get stinking rich, and you might end up with that aforementioned rash.
Or you just might come out smelling like a rose.
We know the nice folks from Arizona Chain Reaction are flipping through "Best of" right at this very moment, clutching their heads and shaking their fists whenever they see mention of a chain store or restaurant. Sorry, guys, we tried to keep it to a minimum -- but sometimes bigger is better. Not always, though, which is why we wanted to pause and say a few kind words about this little group. Modeled after an organization in Austin, Texas, that has done a lot to help preserve that city's unique flavor, Arizona Chain Reaction's creators are hell-bent on adding some spice to the Valley by helping small businesses flourish -- and giving us even more great stuff to write about.
We're still giddy over the impending arrival of IKEA, but we're thankful for you, too, Arizona Chain Reaction.
Some mornings, reading the daily paper just feels like a chore. For a treat, we turn to The Vent. It's a simple concept: just a column down the side of the editorial page of the Tribune, devoted to the rants of readers who call a dedicated phone line and, well, vent. Random excerpts from the callers' diatribes -- usually having some connection to current events or something specific that's appeared in the paper, or, often, another Vent -- are printed in no particular order, making for an often creepy glimpse into the mind of the East Valley resident.
One day in August, The Vent included a slam against an anti-Prop 200 column by an ASU professor: "I'm sick and tired of these liberal(s) such as Roxanne Doty calling concerned taxpaying citizens racist and white supremacist. I'm glad I wasn't in her political science class in that liberal university wasteland that doesn't even have a dress code."
This random observation:
"I just served 16 weeks of grand-jury duty in Florence and would do it again. I will be 80 years old in September."
And finally, a comment on The Vent's favorite topic, which is, of course, The Vent:
"For all you readers who complain you don't like The Vent: Why don't you get a life and quit complaining and read something else. Because there are a whole lot of us who really like reading The Vent. It makes us very, very happy."
He used to be president of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. She used to, um, work for Governor Fife Symington. We'd heard they were an item, but we'd never seen them together until one night around Valentine's Day, when we spotted them together in the Camelback Trader Joe's. It was just before closing time. They bought a lot of coffee and chocolate raspberry sticks. She paid.
It was a great Phoenix moment.
Jason Rose is not a shy fellow. And he doesn't shy away from controversy -- he shills for the likes of Joe Arpaio and Andrew Thomas. But we hear that even Mr. Rose was blushing when his latest personal PR campaign went, well, flaccid. Rose ran a half-page ad in the Arizona Capitol Times -- a small paper that covers the Arizona Legislature -- advertising his public relations, um, firm. The ad showed a nude black man flexing his biceps, wearing a sign over his crotch that read, "Size Does Matter" -- a reference to Rose's, er, long client list. At the bottom, in fine print, the ad read: "Not an actual picture of company president Jason Rose."
We can't imagine that ad won Rose a lot of African-American clients. But we can't wait for Rose's next PR campaign.
Phil Gordon is truly a pig in shit. This guy was dying to be the mayor of Phoenix for as long as we can remember, and now that he's got the title, we've gotta say -- he hasn't screwed up yet. Actually, he's done some good, steering downtown development away from sports and demonstrating a real vision for the city's future. We like the fact that he's working closely with ASU to bring a medical school downtown.
We don't like the fact that he continues to prop up the ill-conceived convention center, that he robbed our libraries of porn -- and what were you thinking, you schmuck, endorsing Andrew Thomas for county attorney?
We know the old saying, you gotta go along to get along -- so go along, now, fearless leader, and get us what we want, like a replacement for Patriots Park.
If you do your job right, Mayor Phil, everyone in town will someday love this city as much as you do.
Readers' Choice: John McCain
Technically, Deb Gullett represents north central Phoenix in the Arizona Legislature. But in her relatively brief time in office, she did a lot of good for the whole state, demonstrating again and again that she's not afraid to stand up to special interests and fight for what's right. This year, she made sure a law was passed that protects victims of car accidents from hospitals that want to double-dip in the victims' insurance settlements. Gullett is smart and she doesn't hedge. Even though she technically survived a challenge to her campaign petitions earlier this year, she decided to opt out of what promised to be an ugly race -- probably the smartest thing she could have done.
But we hope we haven't seen the last of her.