Phoenix Rising

Love it or leave us: I was incredibly impressed with your story "Phoenix Has an Inferiority Complex" (Amy Silverman, May 12). Being from New York, and having more recently moved here from Boston, I personally find myself saying more and more that the worst thing about Phoenix is the people who talk shit about Phoenix.

I'm getting sick and tired of hearing the classic (now cliché) tirade from everyone about how much better New York, L.A., San Francisco, Chicago, etc., are. My response is that they should then remove themselves from the Phoenix equation immediately and move to the paradise they speak of.

The fact of the matter is, after living all over the country, including some of its best cities, I can say that Phoenix easily holds up against all of them. Simply put, it's just designed differently.

Regardless, I hope this story is a wake-up call to those who are pessimistic.
Joe DiPadova, Phoenix

A rare bird: "Inferiority complex"? So what exactly should Phoenix try to be more like? I'm quite involved in local arts, and I must say that despite all of the whining done and then confirmed in publications such as yours, Phoenix is very supportive.

Our supposed indifference to our own sense of culture is a very, very tired chant. And I'm sick of hearing it. Perhaps the problem is that our community is not so easily caricatured, and we fail to accept the compliment.
Bryan Hughes, Phoenix

It ain't Houston: I am a native Houstonian, and since I graduated high school 20-plus years ago, I have spent many a waking moment devising a plan to move to Phoenix. I have vacationed there twice and still yearn for residency.

What makes your city great are the little things. It's a big city with a small-town attitude (I actually enjoyed watching the news there). Phoenix isn't covered with concrete and buildings. If you feel stressed out, you don't have far to go to escape and get some peace. The art up on your freeway walls. How cool is that?!?

Awesome sunsets. The city is clean. There are few traffic problems. On a weekend, you can actually leave the state or go to a completely different climate in Arizona in a few short hours.

Really and truly, you guys have the best of all worlds. Count your blessings!
Terena Jessup, Tomball, Texas

Art is the key: Great job on the "Inferiority Complex" story! It summed up everything I'd been pondering about Phoenix and why I still live here.

It really hit the mark and brought out thoughts I had been having for nine years -- since I took a step and moved here from my hometown of Boston, only to question if I had taken a huge step backward.

I believe it's a love/hate thing because there is a great creative presence in Phoenix. What Phoenix lacks is a creative cosmopolitan pulse, since it's without a designated downtown location specifically designed for art galleries, playhouses, art studios and retail space.

I wish Mayor Phil Gordon would be more proactive or forward-thinking and develop an arts center near Third Street and Roosevelt, a community that could thrive with such an urban plan. And I'm referring to a true plan, which would be first created by a board of local artists, and second by developers. The city could then take a visual wasteland and turn it into an area of creative synergy specifically developed for artistic convergence.

As a digital artist and trade-show designer, I am just one of hundreds of artists who could contribute ideas on how to define, capture and build on the energy of First Friday. If you know of anyone who could slip this note under Phil's door, I'd be happy to share my thoughts with him on how a proposed arts center could look, feel and breathe life into that area of the city.
Erik Nashawaty, Phoenix

Happier than Michigan: I loved the "Inferiority Complex" story! It really got me thinking, and wanting to explore Phoenix more. A friend of mine is yearning to leave here for Chicago; she says she wishes Chicago were here in this weather. She doesn't dig Phoenix yet. I want to change her mind.

We both moved here in August, from the suburbs of Detroit, where everything is sprawling as well. I took my first real job, and since I teach, I've got the summer to get hooked on this place -- although a trip to escape the heat will have to happen eventually.

I'm optimistic about this city. The people make the place, and out here, people are happier by far than Michiganders. Detroit is a mess. The Pistons and the Wings are our only real inspirations back there.

The reason I wrote was to say that I like the way the writing flowed in your story. It kept me reading, and I made a list while I read. It was a list of the coffee houses, bars, galleries and other things I need to visit. I'll take my friend with me, and maybe we'll both get hooked.
Jason Torrente, Phoenix

Enlightenment: Just read your superb article on Phoenix's inferiority complex. I started to read it with my mom, and as we read it, we would make comments. It seemed that you'd read our minds!

I think it's great that you put out this article, because I believe those who read it will come away with the same great appreciation for Phoenix as I did.

I think I really will speak very highly of Phoenix now. Not that I exactly put Phoenix down before; it was just that I never came out and told anyone about all the cool and interesting places in Phoenix.

Heh, I loved the ending to the article. It left me with a happy and enlightened feeling. Thanks for spicing up the completely boring world of newspaper articles.
Shannon O'Hara, Phoenix

Shut up and deal: I'm from San Francisco and lived in New York City for several years. Chicago, too. I couldn't believe it when I ended up moving to the Phoenix area 10 years ago.

I used to complain constantly about the lack of culture and things to do here. I realized that I must either quit complaining, or move -- which isn't a possibility.

I started doing things. I love Tempe. I love Mill Avenue, ASU and all the one-of-a-kind funky places in Phoenix. They aren't easy to find, but once you find them, there's a lot to do here.

I'm really beginning to like where I live. Is it home? I'm not sure about that since I miss the ocean terribly. But I enjoy it here now much more than I ever thought possible. Absolutely loved your article!
Beth Brizel, Tempe

Um, thank you: I'm a Homicide fan. Consequently, I probably know more about what to do in Baltimore than here. And I've lived in Phoenix since I was 1. That's kind of sad.

Occasionally, Baltimoreans complain about the image that David Simon gives their city because he writes about their crime and political strife, but I read that stuff and think: "At least you have an image." We have what? Raising Arizona, in which the town where I went to college is transformed to Sonoita, or somewhere else that is remote and rural, and not Tempe, dang it!

I've been tempted to e-mail the Coen brothers for years, invite them to my house and show them we have shoes and flush toilets, universities and libraries.

But if we ever got attention that was not embarrassing, I could probably get over this. Local news does not help. I am still embarrassed by the footage of the people standing around waiting for that power transformer to come in, waving at the camera.

I'm cringing, still, thinking people from other places see that. And, you know, Evan Mecham and people like that. Which is, I guess, my long-winded way of saying, "You're welcome."
Erika Jahneke, Phoenix

What about the Suns?: The problem with Phoenix is, there isn't any one thing that unites us.

Commonalities in other large cities -- such as going to the beach in L.A., riding the subway in New York or eating barbecue in Chicago -- are things everyone does. Everyone being millionaires to homeless people.

Phoenix doesn't have one thing that breaks the boundaries of class to give us something to talk to our neighbors about.
Martha Leesley, Phoenix

We can still be "cool": I just got done reading your "Inferiority Complex" article, and I thought it was awesome! My family gathered in San Diego last week for a family reunion, which of course caused us to entertain thoughts of how great it would be to live close to a beach in a "cool" city.

Then last night, after coming from a meeting at the Bikini Lounge, I thought how great it was that Phoenix is one of those places where we still have the opportunity to decide what we want it to be.
Essen Out, Phoenix

We need more "squishy" things: Thank you for helping to bolster my will to be a proud Phoenician.

I migrated to Phoenix eight years ago from Rochester, New York. Strangely enough, I used the graduate school method to come to Phoenix, not escape it.

As a musician, I think I understand the lack of "squishy" things Joel Garreau speaks of. I think, in large part, it has to do with how easy things are here. I have musician friends in cities like New York, L.A., Chicago and Philly who are doing great things. But none of them owns a house, and few own a car. On the other hand, their lack of fiscal success seems to force them to focus on artistic accomplishment.

I don't think that suffering is essential for art, but I do think that when people can't find happiness in one area of their lives, they strive for it in some other area. In Phoenix, we have so much in the way of basic amenities that I think it detracts from our will to create happiness in our art and culture.

I know that when I lived in Rochester, there were cool coffee houses and bars every few blocks, but I think that was largely because everyone lived in a crappy house or apartment they couldn't wait to get out of.
Ted Belledin, Mesa

You like us, you really like us!: I moved here in January 2003, taking a risk (albeit heartfelt!) on a guy from Arizona I'd met while on holiday in the south of France. We are now married, I am happy to say. After living in London, New York and then Paris, I really didn't know what to expect of "The Desert."

So, when I arrived, I found that no one really had anything good to say about Phoenix. Which, of course -- being the new and susceptible kid -- rubbed off on me.

This led me to months of frustration caused by a sneaking disbelief that they must be wrong. How could a city so big, with so many people, not have at least a little of what I was looking for? A year and a half later, I am glad to say that Phoenix has grown on me.

It appears that Phoenicians have played the role of the conditioned and the conditioners for too long. If people tell you often enough that a place is doomed, then your brain naturally gets tired and just tends to sigh and agree.

We definitely need more articles like yours to wake up the community's imagination and suggest to residents that Phoenix isn't really so bad after all. You just have to do a little searching here.
Lowri Notebaert, Scottsdale

Other people don't think we're inferior: I really enjoyed Amy Silverman's breezy style while musing about Phoenix's alleged inferiority complex.

Working in the travel industry, I sometimes get callers who're curious about where they're calling. When I say, "Phoenix," and add, "Margaritas around the pool," clients usually laugh appreciatively. If Phoenix still suffers from an inferiority complex, it seems like everyone else has gotten past it!
Scott Hume, Phoenix

Don't talk smack about Phoenix: I'm a native, too. Before reading your story, I thought I was the only one who ever felt like that. I have a few of my own "escape from this hellhole" stories. I always said that if I left, I'd never come back. Funny thing, though, I moved to Texas for two years, and coming back was a dream come true.

Your story is so true. We do talk a lot of smack about Phoenix, but it seems to me that if other people do, we get mad. It's kind of that brother-sister relationship. Like I can call my brother an idiot, but you better not even dare. I've always said Phoenix is the closest place you're ever gonna get to Hell, and I don't just mean the heat. Great story!
Veronica Rodriguez, Phoenix


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