The Coolness Factor

Chains of cool: When did chains become cool? I was shocked to see on the map in the article "What's Cool" (Amy Silverman, December 4) you included IHOP as a "cool place" in downtown Phoenix.

What exactly makes a restaurant that is part of a chain "cool"?

The article talks about what individuals in Phoenix are doing to change the character from uncool to cool, by opening up independent venues, galleries, restaurants, and shops that are different from what one would expect in the suburbs and uncool cities. Having relocated to Phoenix after living in "cool" cities such as San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Houston, I can safely say that the restaurants (and stores) in those cities that are patronized by "cool" people, looking for "cool" places, are certainly not chains.

What makes a restaurant or store "cool" is when it is different from every other restaurant or store, not when it is identical to every other one with the same name. If Phoenix wants to move forward and become "cool," then its citizens need to give up the mentality that chains are "cool." I hope this does not mean that we can look forward to a map of the "cool" fast-food restaurants in Phoenix. I doubt there is enough paper in the world to compile a list of all the fast-food restaurants we have here.

Richard Carr

Cool geeks: When I was in junior high, all the popular kids, the cheerleaders and jocks, etc., would get together and write the school newspaper and vote themselves the prettiest, the smartest, the most "team spirited" (gag!!). Now I see artists in downtown Phoenix behaving the same way. Congratulations and how uncool of you.

Name withheld by request

On the shoulders of giants: I read Amy Silverman's article about "Phoenix Cool" and was surprised to find myself on the list. This feeling quickly turned to embarrassment as I thought about what it meant. I'm sure I took the spot of someone a lot more deserving of "coolness."

I have only been in Phoenix for three years. I enjoy working here, doing my art (wouldn't do it anywhere else), seeing the scene grow and get respect. But there are a lot of people who've had their shoulder to this grindstone a lot longer, and who have done a lot more for the arts in our town.

I bet I'm not the only one who feels this way, and on behalf of "the cool people" I'd like to say that that list would be a whole lot longer if we'd all been asked who we'd put on it.

Thank you, New Times, for all the attention you've given to all of us. Now let's all go downtown and enjoy all the cool people and places, so we can keep it happening and growing for a long, long time.


Round 'em all up: While I deeply regret the gentrification and displacement of the poor -- particularly poor people of color -- that the influx of ignorant yuppie scum to downtown Phoenix brings, perhaps there is an upside to it after all. With the invading nouveaux riches so heavily concentrated, packed into their newly sanitized "urban" environs along with their willing accomplices, the Phoenix art community, they will be all the easier to round up and execute when the class war finally comes and both these sorry cliques get their well-deserved comeuppance. I, for one, can't wait.

Brian Tomasi

Signs of life: I recently made my first visit to the burgeoning downtown arts district. My friend, artist QueenBritta, was displaying some of her work at Thoughtcrime gallery, which coincided nicely with her birthday. Until that night (December 5), I had not been aware of the mosaic of nearby galleries and events. For the first time in many years, I viewed and enjoyed real art done by real people! In addition to the several galleries featuring the work of local artists, I witnessed a number of performance arts (rope tricks, puppet shows, comedy, etc.), enjoyed a set of fine young musical talent in the form of Army of Robots, and savored a fantastic meal at nearby Fate restaurant, skillfully prepared by chef Johnny Chu. Later, I had perhaps the most intellectually stimulating conversation in a long time with an amazingly bright and well-spoken young woman (I am frustrated that I cannot remember her name, but would welcome the opportunity to speak with her again . . .)

I would like to take this opportunity to express gratitude to the dedicated few persons responsible for the impetus of this new cultural events district, in particular Kimber Lanning, owner of Modified Arts downtown, and Stinkweeds Records in Tempe; she is a pearl of wisdom amid a sea of corporate monotony, possessing not only crystalline foresight, but the firm resolve to get things done. I am impressed by the fact that there is finally some decent culture in this giant strip mall/suburb of a city where I have lived most of my life.

In closing, I quote George Orwell: "If there is hope, it lies with the proles." Indeed.

Garrett Holway

The Bike Men Cometh

A woman's place . . . : I'm writing in reference to Susy Buchanan's December 4 article "Clan of the Bike Men." Ms. Buchanan wrote a balanced, issue-centered article. However, Ms. Buchanan fails to mention that several of the pedal-cabbers hauling 600-pound loads and burning thousands of calories during a shift are, gasp, women. Having worked for Arizona Pedal Cab for three years, I was occasionally the sole female riding at a game. But there were plenty of afternoons and nights when I was joined by Leslie, Sherry, Brandy, Natalie, Cory, Tria, Kasha, Blossom, Sue, Nicki and others. The women who pedal-cab are an interesting, motivated cross-section of females. Our ranks include moms, grandmas, students and professionals. And yes, a few of us might even consider ourselves street hustlers -- just like the guys.

I find it highly amusing that you've disregarded the women pedal-cabbers in an article that partially focuses on the financial aspects of the industry. Ask nearly any male pedal-cabber who makes the more money and they will tell you -- with a look of either wonder or complete disgust on their face -- that it's the girls.

Betsi Phoebus

A dying breed: I am an independent bike cab operator who has been in business for roughly two years now. I got my start through Billy Oxford, who owns Arizona Pedal Cab. Billy was a fatherly figure to me who pushed me to be my best at pedicabbing, and helped me realize my potential in the industry. I own and operate my own cabs (otherwise known as "trailers" in bike-cab lingo), my main focus being on downtown Tempe at the moment.

Your article failed to mention the impact independents have made on this industry. Most of us independents set the bar for what pedicabs -- and a general picture of the industry itself -- should be. Through cab appearance and level of professionalism in how we look -- most of us always are clean-shaven, wear athletic gear associated with mountain-biking -- we convey having our fingers on the pulse of the very definition of what pedicabbing is: transporting people from point A to point B, getting them there safely, providing the customer with an alternative to walking or taking their car. This is a business to us, and we treat it as such.

What I'm trying to say is we independents are a dying breed. This is because of the massive surge of various companies that have sprouted up in the last few years. A number of these companies will hire just about anyone to fill up a bike for various event nights in Phoenix or Tempe, even if they are unkempt in their appearance, or of the criminal element. I don't claim to have all the answers on how to make things right in the pedicab industry, I just know that the elite group of operators that remain are made up mostly of independents. We have set the standard through the years. I just wish our viewpoint could have come through in your article.

Ross Teal
Atomic Pedalcabs

Rapping Deity

Jesus is still The Man: I am sure you will receive your fair share of "anti-Christian" letters on "Holy Crap" (Charles Gray, November 20) comparing and contrasting Tupac Shakur and Jesus. I can appreciate the tongue-in-cheek and clever support of your point, so I will argue with you on just one point. Jesus was hardly ascetic -- here comes the Webster quote -- "practicing strict self-denial as a measure of personal and especially spiritual discipline."

He describes Heaven as a Marriage Feast. In fact, it was the Pharisees that complained He and His followers failed to keep the fast. He said, "I'm the groom, celebrate while you can, because the party here on Earth is about to end. We'll pick it up later in Heaven." His very first miracle was to turn water into wine -- incredibly good wine. Though He didn't partake, He hung out with harlots quite often. And tax collectors, too, who instead of our current-day IRS employees would be better described as loan sharks collecting seriously high-interest loans. He was the honored guest in wealthy homes eating high-end Hebrew culinary fare.

Of course, He did try to teach us to enjoy this life in a way that brings eternal life instead of death -- looking to get out of this mess we live in, not glorifying it as Tupac did. I'll take Jesus' next-day hangover to Tupac's any day.

Heather Kirk

In Tupac we trust: Hello, Mr. Charles Gray. I just finished reading the article you wrote about Tupac being similar to Jesus and on him being even better than Jesus. I am a fan of Tupac (his movies, music, the man). I am a believer in Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

You are right in comparing the two, but Tupac is not better than Jesus. Jesus' legacy and spirit are still alive in the hearts and souls of millions more people and have endured for many generations. Tupac's legacy will live forever in the hearts of people he touched with his words and actions.

I appreciate your article. I just wanted to make this comment.

Azniv Tepirdzhyan
Via e-mail

Good Review

Men of Substance: I was glad to see a review of one of Phoenix's up-and-coming music groups, Illegal Substance, reviewed recently ("Substance Abuse," Christopher O'Connor, October 23). I do feel the article did justice to the party atmosphere this group embodies, but I think the article was a bit lacking. I know most of the band members personally, and can tell you they all work hard as hell to make their band as good as can be. No one ever said they are reinventing the wheel here, but they have put their own brand-name touch on a genre that has taken itself far too seriously far too long.

FD Werner


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