So I was standing outside an adult bookstore Monday morning during rush hour, when I noticed a peculiar similarity among the men exiting the establishment: Their tucked chins, sidelong glances and skittish hustling mimicked that of a puppy that had just been caught soiling the carpet. Like a voice in their head was shouting, "No! Bad dog!"
Of course, it could have been solely my presence that freaked them out. Or perhaps the camera I had pointed in their direction.
I should explain: The past week or two, I've observed through my car windows the expected yet sudden proliferation of campaign signs for Phoenix's two mayoral candidates: incumbent Skip Rimsza and challenger Randy Pullen.
I've also observed that a lot of these rousing placards are planted in nasty, crack-vial and condom-strewn dirt lots. The kind of real estate that looks transplanted from the south Bronx.
Which makes Rimsza's slogan -- "Preserving Our Future" -- a bit of a chuckle.
Add to the irony Rimsza's role as supreme dictator of public morals in the set of anti-sex-business and swingers' club laws Phoenix passed in December, and the sight of the smiling faces of Skip and wife and one, two, three -- hell, a lot of kids -- in the scummy lot outside the Pleasure Palace on McDowell Road is, well, too good not to photograph.
Especially when Rimsza's sign in front of the pink-and-teal chamber of masturbation is accompanied by one of his opponent's, which assures us that Pullen is indeed Randy, and busy "Pullen for the People."
Cocked, Locked, Ready to Rock
I went to another gun show at the fairgrounds over the weekend, my first since the latest spate of mass shootings. (Keeping track of the mayhem in '99 is getting to be like counting how many shots Dirty Harry has left in his .44.)
Best title of a book for sale: The Handy Dandy Super Duper Junkyard Silencer Book or How to Shoot the Neighbor's Cat Without Getting Caught.
Best sight to piss off the liberals: a Nazi memorabilia booth run by an elderly couple who spoke German, and motioned me to peruse their collection of SS officer patches. I asked herr shopkeeper if he had any empty canisters of Zyklon-B for sale, and he smiled like it was an inside joke.
Further wanderings of the arms bazaar brought me to the stall of another brown-shirt organization, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, which bore mounds of pink undies and a stack of yellow pamphlets printed with blotchy black ink, showing a dog in a cage, wagging its tale, and the admonition: "Hey Kids, THE PARTY's OVER."
An anti-juvenile crime tract, it went on to warn would-be offenders of Arizona's intolerance for felons of any age, singling out perpetrators of graffiti, "discharging a firearm at a structure," and "drive-by shootings."
It concluded thusly:
"If you are considering committing an illegal act, please talk to an adult you trust."
From all of which we may infer the following:
1) Kids are dogs.
2) Crime is a party.
3) Dogs who party frequent gun shows.
More pamphlet fun was to be had outside the pavilion, where the National Rifle Association booth sat across the way from the Gun Owners of America booth, whose members believe the NRA is too soft on gun control. The NRAers and the GOAers eyed one another across the asphalt with the friendly contempt common to Methodists and Baptists in small, Midwestern towns.
The GOA's monthly newsletter, Gun Owner, carried one article accusing the Utah Legislature of caving in to the International Olympic Committee's demand to ban concealed handguns from 2002 Winter Olympics events ("Gun Control for the New World Order"). Another treatise raged against the federal ban on any firearms within 1,000 feet of a public school. This prohibits teachers and principals from packing heat, rendering them unable to return fire on "thugs masquerading as students."
The GOA certainly aims high. Why be stupid when you can be super-duper stupid?
I thought something was up Saturday afternoon when I heard the chattering techno soundtrack (to last year's ode to chaos theory and weird genius, Pi) emitting from the Tempe tavern Casey Moore's (normally a breakbeat-free zone).
Said hypothesis was confirmed by the eight Macintosh Classic computers, painted bright red, hanging from the branches of the big, dead tree on the bar's front lawn.
The Apple Tree doubles as installation art and a riddle. Runes painted to the bottom of each piece of antiquated hardware correspond to cryptic runes, hieroglyphics and several series of binary code engraved on a copper plate nearby. Credit goes to four ASU graduate students in physics and mathematics: Matthew Flansburg, Chris White, Jim Dekorse and Austin Godber.
Flansburg told me the riddle incorporates "nine or ten" disciplines, and requires a knowledge of ancient Greek, computer science, mathematics and literature. First person to solve it gets a free computer. The riddle is posted on the Web at www.uberhip.com
"This is a modern-day Rosetta stone for Tempe," says Flansburg. "If I may be so bold."
Mensa has been notified.
Last month, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors agreed to a moratorium on demolition of historic buildings within the warehouse district south of downtown, where the county plans to build a jail, a morgue and a parking garage.
The deal was this: The county wouldn't knock down any buildings until a committee of city, county and downtown business representatives met to discuss vocal, public opposition to the plan.
Last week, the county pulled a Milosevic.
As this column went to press, demolition was under way on the Safeway Bakery Building, one of four buildings on the "Borden Block," the proposed site of the new jail.
The SoDA (South Downtown Area) Action Committee called for a protest rally outside the county building Wednesday morning, when the Board of Supervisors was to meet to approve the expenditure of $2.5 million to compensate the owners of the buildings, whose properties will be condemned.
The Phoenix Historic Preservation Commission scheduled a special meeting that same morning to consider declaring the area surrounding the Borden Block a historic overlay district, which would offer the area purely symbolic protection. It wouldn't stop the bulldozers, but it would make the supervisors look even more small-minded if they impose a "county complex" upon the Valley's last hope for a vibrant, historic business and residential district.
Phoenix city councilman Phil Gordon called the county's action "one more step in the county's insidious, methodical plan to take the Jackson Street district apart block-by-block."
Irony Check, Final Take
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Touch a canyon wall and you touch the bedrock of an earthly being.
-- quote from Edward Abbey, on the wall of Burton Barr Central Library
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