Best Of :: Megalopolitan Life
Jack Durant was a small-town gambler with loose ties to Vegas racketeers. He had a big, obstreperous personality, owned our city's most successful restaurant, and was listed among the FBI's most dangerous men in Phoenix. Jack liked women, eavesdropping on patrons of his restaurant bar, and golf. He might have seen one or two people being murdered. None of this makes for grand opera, but it did make for an independent feature film by local filmmaker Travis Mills. His stylish post-noir profile of one of Phoenix's bigger characters, Durant's Never Closes, increased Mills' profile as an indie filmmaker who shoots his low-budget, tightly shot movies right here in Phoenix. A new, young producer/director who can lure Hollywood A-listers like Tom Sizemore (who played the title role in the Durant picture) and director Peter Bogdanovich (who wanders through as a shady character trying to get Jack a spot in the local country club) is doing something right, and we're cheering him on.
Part of the fun of a Donald Trump rally is that both he and those in attendance are totally unpredictable. His first two visits to Arizona this political season were relatively low-key — protesters held some very creative signs and engaged in shouting matches with his supporters, yet overall, no punches were thrown nor arrests made. But as Trump was planning his third visit, to be held on March 19 in Fountain Hills, violence was breaking out at his rallies across the country, prompting many to wonder if a similar thing would happen here. To be clear, we don't condone violence, which is why we loved the protesters' tactic. Dozens of anti-Trumpers linked arms or chained themselves to vehicles in an effort to block traffic (and the candidate) from getting to the park. In the end, the blockade was broken up and three people were arrested, but protesters can always celebrate the fact that they managed to peacefully block Shea Boulevard for hours.
It's not every day that a national satanic group sends local politicians into a tailspin by announcing it will deliver a formal invocation at a city council meeting. Even though the Satanic Temple is less of a devil-worshiping cult than a civic-minded group set on separating church and state, a handful of Phoenix City Council members reacted as though the group was planning to hold some sort of ritual sacrifice on the floor of the council chambers. Following the announcement and the promise of a lawsuit should the city deny the group its right to deliver the invocation, four councilmen led by member Sal DiCiccio started a bizarre campaign to fight "diversity and inclusivity." After dominating the local news cycle for a few weeks, the city finally voted to abolish religious prayer at its meetings, meaning that even though the Satanists could now be prevented from giving the invocation, in the end, they still won the battle — for the time being, anyway. The council quickly brought some prayer back.
Little news in the past 12 months was quite as traumatic as the realization that GusGus, a 3-week-old goat, had been stolen from the Arizona State Fair. Like people across the country, we waited with bated breath for updates, because petting zoo officials warned he was unlikely to survive more than a day or two away from his mother, who, by the way, was reportedly crying out for him — could anything be sadder? Thankfully, after 20 hours of sheer panic and a near-collective societal breakdown, someone found little GusGus wandering near a canal in north Phoenix. Though the story has a happy ending and GusGus was safely returned to his mother, we're still a little dismayed that the person who took him was never caught — c'mon, what kind of monster does something like that?
Remember that time a series of three massive earthquakes ripped through central Arizona, tearing down buildings and spreading hysteria in its wake? Yeah, we don't either. But what we do remember was the series of very small earthquakes that gently shook parts of the state on November 1, causing the occasional dish to rattle or dog to bark, and really only because of the totally outsized and hilarious social-media response it prompted. Within hours of the third aftershock, hashtags like #WeWillRebuild and #PrayforAZ were trending on Twitter and Facebook, accompanied by photos of a toppled lawn chair or spilled water glass. Some ASU students demanded classes be canceled, while others expressed shock that the vibrations they felt weren't just an exploding meth lab. Our favorite reaction, though, was a mock breaking-news meme warning of tsunamis in Tempe Town Lake. According to the experts, more than 1,000 small earthquakes are recorded in Arizona each year, meaning you might want to batten down the hatches, because no one knows when the next one will strike.
We'd like to think that the exoneration of Leslie Allen Merritt Jr., the then 21-year-old landscaper accused of terrorizing the city of Phoenix by driving around I-10 and shooting vehicles, was one of the more satisfying things to happen this past year. Merritt was singled out as the culprit based on flawed forensic evidence, and had his life — and the life of his fiancée and two young children — turned upside down after he was arrested and held on a bail he couldn't afford to pay. The public lashed out at state and county officials for seeming to ignore the whole presumption of innocence thing, so when the state's case against Merritt completely fell apart and a judge basically erased Merritt's bond, it felt like a vindication of due process. To top it all off, Merritt is poised to bring a $10 million claim against the state, Governor Doug Ducey, and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery for his wrongful arrest and public vilification.