My, how things have changed. A couple years ago, the records office moved to spacious quarters in the bottom of a parking garage at Sixth Avenue and Jackson. Now it's no problem finding an empty parking space, and the office itself is thoughtfully designed and laid out to accommodate people who may need to be there a while and need a place to spread out some paperwork. There are more than two dozen desks and several large round tables scattered throughout the room, so privacy is not an issue. A nice touch is the kid-size tables for those patrons who have to bring small children with them. There are numerous computer terminals for looking up case numbers. Rows of couches fill the room so waiting is comfortable (even though the wait seems shorter these days and the counter clerks more plentiful). Magazine racks full of recent copies of a range of publications stand on one wall. Our favorite element: clean public rest rooms at the back of the main room. Now that's public service.
The ultra-clean alley sports new carpet, spotless rest rooms and a snack bar. Even better: non-smoking lanes. But there is also plenty of room for getting rowdy at the pool tables in The Legends nightclub featuring karaoke on Friday nights.
The lanes host regional Professional Bowlers Association tournaments and the popular Strike Force Tour, and have leagues for kids to seniors. It's rock 'n' roll time on Friday and Saturday at 10:30 p.m. when black lights and strobes enshroud the lanes for Extreme Bowling ($14 for two and a half hours, including shoes). Reservations are recommended.
The friendly staff is always ready to help, including providing bargain-priced personal lessons. Ask for desk attendant Jeremy McElliot, who has a half-dozen perfect 300 games to his credit.
At Penske Racing Museum, diehard fans can experience some action in two full-size simulators, on a custom-designed racetrack, or on the off-road course. Then check out the 16 championship winning cars on display, including the 1984 Indy winner, the Pennzoil No. 6 car. Peruse the plethora of memorabilia or view the video wall.
The Penske Racing Museum had the rabid race fan in mind, and it shows at this utopia for speed machines.
And while Phoenix has yet to realize what a rare gem he is, the rest of the country has jumped on the B-train. Brandon Webb is one of the country's few legitimate rookie pitching phenoms, and he couldn't have arrived at a better time for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
With Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling nearing the end of their careers, Webb has given D-Backs fans a new beginning. He is the future, the national poster boy of the emerging Baby-Backs.
The 2.45 ERA as of mid-August. Sixteen quality starts out of 18. Arguably the most wicked sinker in all of baseball. This from a low-round draft choice who just happened to do what thousands of others fail to do: refine spectacularly a raw and wild talent.
Now the D-Backs and their fans have the best of all worlds: a genial, fan-friendly star whose stay should be measured in decades, not months. Thanks, Brandon, for making the future look bright for baseball in the Valley.
Readers' Choice: Luis Gonzalez