Noted baseball architects Ellerbe Beckett designed this beautiful facility that serves as home to the Milwaukee Brewers. Built in 1998, and originally planned to house two spring training teams, the Maryvale park is not Bank One Ballpark, and that's why we love it. Sure, you can't see regular-season major league play, but when a game is on in this no-frills park, you'll see why we love it. There's no fancy-schmancy country club seating, or waiters to bring you drinks. This is the kind of park where people come to watch baseball, not talk on their cell phones and network. The stadium has more than enough seats to handle the volume of patrons it gets, without feeling like its cavernous sisters in Peoria and Mesa. Its partial roof offers shade to a large part of the stands, which provides comfort without ruining the "outdoor" feel of watching the game. The grounds are impeccable, there is ample parking, and its bright blue seats are actually pretty comfortable for molded plastic. The concession areas are well-placed, offering a variety of standard fare at different locations so that not a lot of walking is necessary to get your hot dog and beer, and smaller vendors set up booths of more unique items at the end of the walkways, out of the way of traffic patterns. The lawn seats in the outfield are set up on a steep incline, allowing even those in the cheap seats a great view.

The British-born Binder threw the state Legislature into a tizzy last spring when she elected to take her long-planned vacation during the final days of a contentious debate on the budget. Binder already had balked at draconian cuts urged by Republican leadership, and her departure forced the Rs to compromise with Governor Janet Napolitano's proposal.

We love her for that. And we love her because she is one of the few legislators who isn't afraid to depart from party line and do what she believes is in the best interest of her constituents. Her independence has triggered absurd reactions from other Republican leaders like pinhead House majority leader Eddie Farnsworth, who refused to move any of Binder's bills to the House floor for a vote.

A fiscal conservative with a social conscience, Binder has been one of the few voices in the state pressing for reforms to stop the coerced underage polygamous marriages practiced by a fundamentalist Mormon cult in Colorado City. Her courage and high principles are matched by her polite demeanor that seems to have more weight with that classy British accent.

Readers' Choice: Janet Napolitano

For fans of all things light-giving, Modern Lighting is the only place to shop. This Phoenix mainstay is as much a gallery of great lamps of all eras as it is a shining shrine that proves how illuminating art can be. It also proves that Seinfeld's Soup Nazi has nothing on Phoenix, where surly shopkeepers like Peter Alper (known in collector circles as "The Lamp Nazi") are as likely to snap your head off as offer to sell you a parchment shade. We've shopped here for years, albeit cautiously, because no matter how big we smile, no matter how politely we ask questions, our Mr. Alper (who's a genius at rewiring lamps and reupholstering old, torn shades) always sneers us at. During our last visit, we pointed to a fine-looking floor lamp and asked, "Do you know the price of this lamp?" to which Herr Alper replied, "Yes, I do. I know the price of everything in the store." And then proceeded to ignore us for the remainder of our visit. Another time we asked if a particular lamp was antique or a reproduction, and were treated to an astonishing display of eye rolling and the reply, "I am closing in seven minutes." And it's not just us; we've asked around and discovered that Mr. Alper's nasty temperament is as legendary as his remarkable selection of vintage goosenecks. But we don't mind. In fact, we kind of like it -- as long as Modern Lighting continues its bright homage to the wonderful lightness of being.
The Loser Line is arguably the cleverest bit of radio in the Valley, brought to you by the DJ duo of Kid and Ruben S who handle this too-short segment of the morning show perfectly. The premise is simple. Girls can call the station and get a phone number to give to guys -- total losers, of course -- who hit on them at clubs, in class, at the gym, wherever those annoying encounters take place. Guys call the number thinking they're calling the girl. Instead, the message machine is really at the radio station and their incredibly fumbling attempts to get laid are broadcast to thousands of listeners. Some morons call over and over, some are drunk, some are simply pathetic. All are hilarious. ("I've called you five times. How come you never call back? You're so hot. Please. Call me. Okay? I looovvve you.") We looovvve the calls from the girlfriends/wives who find the number in their man's pocket. ("You bitch. Don't even think he's going to call you. I'll kick your ass.") Funny, too, was the high school principal who thought he was calling a student's house to discuss problems at school with her parents. Or the woman who gave the number to her gynecologist who called -- twice -- with test results ("It's very urgent that you call us right away"). Great stuff! Even if you have to tune in at 7 a.m. when the Loser Line airs.

As if the northwest section of Grand Avenue isn't scary enough after dark, there's that giant Mr. Lucky's vintage marquee that's been putting the "yeeeeeeee" in "yee-haw" for coulrophobiacs (that's clown fearers to you) since the mid-'60s. For the mime dreaders, jack-in-the-box shunners and people who just plain freak out at the sight of Bozo, imagine cowering in the neon of a maniacally jeering jester springing some 40 feet high, balancing "COCKTAILS" and "DANCING" from each hand as if they were "HATE" and "FEAR" tattooed on his knuckles. By now you've guessed that we'd rather ride the live rodeo bulls you find every weekend at Mr. Lucky's than get a closer look at that marquee to see who's playing Saturday night. No, that would mean feeling Lucky the Clown's creepy peepers peering down into our souls, rightly sizing us up as pintsize wussies who can't even relax at a children's party if there's a juggler with drawn-on tears. Inside, Mr. Lucky's has real living, breathing clowns doing face painting, but even those white faces pale compared to the outdoor giant.

In its two prolific years of existence, this performance space/art gallery/espresso bar has graced downtown Phoenix with a wonderfully weird, unpredictable lineup of free or cheap entertainment and cultural happenings, making it a magnet for local creative types. On any given night of the week, Paper Heart might be hosting punk bands, experimental groups or singer-songwriters, improv comedy, spoken word, tango lessons, film screenings or performance art. Every few months, the place usually throws a bash with a bit of all of the above. First Friday events are fun, too, with live music to complement paintings or photography by local artists adorning the gallery walls.

The records office used to be in a tiny basement room in the county courthouse building at First Avenue and Jefferson. So if you needed, say, a copy of your divorce file, you had to circle the block a few times for an open parking space, then find the basement office, then brave the gridlock of lawyers, paralegals and others in the small room just to get to the counter to request a file.

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.

From its retro angular roof to its neon lights, Christown Lanes looks like a throwback to bowling's 1950s heyday. But once inside, the 48 shining synthetic lanes designed to enhance the "hook and spin" bowler's game boldly proclaim that Christown is still at the forefront of the Valley's bowling renaissance.

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.

There are not many things more annoying than being hit on at a shooting range, or being offered help shooting "that cute little gun." This is why we love the Ben Avery Shooting Facility's Annie Oakley Sure Shots program, and the Thursday "ladies' night." Created to provide a safe atmosphere for women to learn about and practice shooting firearms, the group was founded to provide instruction and mentoring for women, by women. Thursday night is always free for women. The facility, run by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, has a highly trained staff, safety officers, ear and eye protection, free ammunition, and a variety of firearms in a range of calibers. It even has complimentary gun locks. Membership in the club is also free. No knowledge or possession of firearms is necessary, and you can progress at whatever pace is most comfortable for you. Whether you're an experienced shooter or have never held a gun in your life, this is the place to go if you want to learn more, or just practice in a testosterone-light zone.

The Penske Racing Team has been awarded the most wins in the history of racing. So what do you do when you've done everything? Build an 8,000-square-foot museum, of course.

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.

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