Snapshots of a City, and New-Found Love for a Hometown

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The task was simple; it took no more than a few minutes a day (and some planning) but quickly became an annoying chore. I went on a walk around my neighborhood and shot several things (a mosaic water tower, a tin bird in a tree, a nearby railroad crossing) so I'd have a backlog, just in case. I included many more posts about "nature" than I'd anticipated — prickly pear cactus blooming; pansies in January; my secret love of irrigation. Even some pretty clouds on one particularly desperate day.

By May, I was exhausted. A rhinestone pin spelling out PHOENIX that I found on Etsy buoyed my spirits a bit, but sitting in the parking lot of the Celebrity Theatre, trying to grab a super-quick shot of a round entertainment venue (try that with your iPhone) and still get to work on time, I questioned the worth of this whole thing.

Would anyone notice if I quit? If the goal was to learn to love Phoenix, it certainly wasn't working. In fact, this whole experiment was beginning to make me loathe the place in ways I'd never thought possible.

But I'd made it five months. I could do it. June was tough. It was hot. But I hadn't yet mentioned the sand art from the original Biltmore Fashion Park or the sprinkles section at ABC Baking. When I snapped a photo of "The Bingo Hall Where I Once Took Ballet Lessons" out my car window (I think the car was actually moving at the time), I knew I'd hit a low. The truth is, I was almost done. I'd taken just a few days off here and there all year, trying to schedule posts ahead when I was going to be out of town. But we were headed to San Diego for an entire week in early July, and as we were packing to leave, I realized I hadn't planned any posts, didn't have any pictures in reserve.

July's 8 post didn't have a photo, just "You know what I heart about Phoenix? . . . Our proximity to Southern California's beaches."

What a cliché, quitting at the most miserable time of the year. I didn't intend to quit when I wrote that post. I figured that, at worst, I'd take the entire week off and come back refreshed, ready to finish out the second half of the year. But it was so deliciously freeing to not have to think about that goddamn blog that when I got home, I just sort of kept not thinking about it.

I gave up. Hey, I made it more than half a year. I'd never come close to keeping a resolution that long. Plus, I figured, why keep going if it wasn't working? And it definitely wasn't working.

A couple of weeks passed and, to be honest, I didn't think much about the I Heart Phoenix Project, except for an occasional sense of relief. And then a funny thing happened. I was driving down McDowell Road and I noticed the U-Haul building near 24th Street and I thought about how the orange zigzag design on the side of the building looks just like rickrack and how much I love rickrack, and I reached for my phone to take a picture. Then I remembered: I wasn't doing the blog anymore. Don't get me wrong, I didn't care enough to actually start the thing up again. But I startled myself.

"Wow," I thought. "Without even trying, I found something I really love about Phoenix."

And it was in that organic way that an old sign on the side of a building in Brooklyn can make you stop and stare, or how the street lights in Little Italy look like folk art. Okay, maybe it wasn't quite like that, but it was a start. And it kept happening. Every few days, sometimes more often, I'd notice something that belonged in the I Heart Phoenix Project: the fried green tomatoes at FnB; a Colin Chillag painting on the wall at Lux; Dale Chihuly's green glass agave at the entrance to the Desert Botanical Garden; Roosevelt Row's field of sunflowers in downtown Phoenix.

I had failed, but in a small way I had succeeded, too.

The new year is now well under way; I didn't make any resolutions for 2012. But last year's still lingers. The other morning, as I rushed to get my daughter to school and get to the office to write this piece, she shivered in her thin Old Navy fleece, complaining about the cold.

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.