Best Of :: People & Places
If Arizona Strong Beer Festival 2010 had had to compete against Arizona Strong Beer Festival 2009 in this category, it surely would have lost. Though the move from Mesa Amphitheatre to a downtown Phoenix park within walking distance of the light rail was a win with some local beer fans, the smaller selection of brewers and a ridiculous vending situation (one truck selling sandwiches and tacos to thousands of tasters) at the 2010 fest didn't impress us. Luckily, however, the Strong Beer fest doesn't have to compete against previous incarnations of itself. It's still, by far, the best beer fest in the state. It's not just the fact that almost everything poured at the event is special — though the requirement that everything be 8 percent alcohol or above almost totally assures that — it's the fact that the strong suds forge lasting bonds among Phoenix's beer snobs. Year after year, you can count on seeing the same pretzel necklace-wearing diehards testing their mettle at this festival, hugging us and everyone else they sorta remember from years past. It's the only beer festival we'd recommend training for — you should drink at least three beers a night for a week leading up to the event if you hope to stumble out without memory loss — and the only annual Arizona beer festival you absolutely cannot miss.
Want an original piece of art but can't afford the hefty price tag? Enter the Art-o-mat, a restored vintage cigarette machine that poops out handcrafted art pieces as if they were gumball-machine trinkets. The project began in 1997, when North Carolina artist Clark Whittington displayed his black-and-white photos like old-school ciggies. People loved them so much that the display became a permanent fixture and the idea blossomed into a national network of machines (though this is the only one in Arizona). Pop your cash in the slot, pull the old-timey plastic knob and out comes a work of art from the project's huge roster. Most are pretty amusing. Recent sightings at the slick chrome machine include Bearded Bunnies by William Hessian, Victorian vignettes, and Julie Graces' "Peep Show" secret spy mini-telescopes. You're obviously not going to get a Van Gogh-quality oil painting here, but for $5, any piece of art better than a line drawing is a steal.
Those Christian Louboutin kicks looked damn cute when you saw them on sale at Barney's — and even cuter when you wore 'em — but honestly, that's hardly practical footwear for an evening of walking around Old Town. Easy on the eyes, murder on the feet. Since your pocketbook's emptier than Lady Gaga's head, following your latest shoe-gasm, we've got a suggestion that's equally chic and cheap: Hop aboard one of the four Bunny Rides street-legal golf carts puttering from club to club. Operated by entrepreneur Aaron Lipson, these eight-passenger rides provide complimentary jaunts (although tips are appreciated) from 7 p.m. until 3 a.m. every Thursday through Saturday night. Decorated in electric pink livery and pumping out Top 40 tracks via built-in stereos, Bunny Rides are hard to miss, even after dark. Lipson's crew cruises a service area encompassing Old Town (which stretches south from Chaparral to Thomas roads, and east between 68th Street and Hayden Road), which means schlepping slews of drunken divas and dudes to danceterias, as well as back to nearby hotels. "People get loud and crazy, girls show their boobs, you name it," Lipson says. "It's like a party on wheels." Some caveats: They won't take you home, and those appearing to be overintoxicated aren't permitted to ride. "We don't wanna get sued if people fall out," he says. Besides, why risk the chance of scuffing up your $500 babies? Reach Bunny Rides at 602-405-2106.
We've long thought Phoenix's skyline was pretty — if a little odd. Why do there appear to be two downtowns, and why does one lone skyscraper — the building formerly known as the Dial Tower — rise up from the earth between them? Then we learned something about our skyline that got us asking another question. Why are we so short? Here's a telling fact: At 483 feet, Chase Tower is Arizona's tallest building. Okay, maybe that number doesn't mean anything to you, so let's put it in perspective. Arkansas has a building that's 546 feet high. We're talking about Arkansas, the land of Walmart and rampant shoelessness. Actually, such less-urbanized and less-populous states as Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Nebraska all have buildings taller than the biggest and best of Arizona. Chase Tower wouldn't be one of the 20 tallest buildings in Texas, and that state isn't exactly known for passionate urban planning. Actually, of the country's 10 largest cities, only San Jose, California, has a tallest building shorter than Chase Tower, and, let's be honest: No one knows how or why San Jose is one of the country's 10 largest cities.
As a former New Yorker who's lived in the Valley for a decade, Marshall Shore may know a lot more about Phoenix history than most natives. Like the fact that Mr. Lucky's was intended to be Arizona's first casino or that Wayne Newton was a regular performer at Bill Johnson's Big Apple. Shore, who calls himself an information curator, deals hour-long doses of local lore each month at the Phoenix Retro Spectacular. For a fiver, listeners and fellow tale-tellers can sip wine and lounge on vintage furniture at Phoenix Metro Retro while Shore, through stories and images, shares his understanding of Phoenix antiquity and the importance of saving it.
Photo booths are always cool, like black T-shirts and motorcycles. They practically invite rebellion, so we give ourselves permission to act up. We contort our bodies with those of our friends and family as we try to get everyone in the frame. In short, we ham it up. So what could be better than a traveling photo booth? Enter Mr. Fun Booth, where you can take as many digital pictures as you like with a nifty remote control inside the 2-by-2-by-6-foot box. Renting Mr. Fun Booth comes with delivery within 50 miles of Central Phoenix, setup and teardown of the booth, three hours of shooting time, and a webpage for viewing and/or purchasing prints. Call 480-588-2778, and have fun.