BEST PLACE TO CRASH IF YOU'RE A MILL RAT

TV Lounge

It's been a long night of spanging and bumming smokes in front of the Coffee Plantation on Mill Avenue, and now the dawn is breaking. You need some serious sack time, but too bad the cops busted up your squat the night before. Luckily, the cushy red couches in the TV Lounge on the lower level of ASU's Memorial Union will fit the bill nicely, and you can lay your crusty head down for a nap. If the sandman doesn't come posthaste, drop a couple of panhandled bucks for a Croissan'wich, watch cheesy talk shows and aging sitcoms on the gigantic-screen TV, or jam out at one of Hoodlums' listening stations in its adjacent store. If the occasional student worker (or "The Man") rousts you and demands some student ID, the jig might be up. As long as you don't stand out -- consider removing some of your funk in one of the union's many restrooms -- you won't look (or smell) much different from any of the other twentysomethings who're dozing after an all-nighter. When you wake refreshed, check your Hotmail account on any of the walk-up Internet stations before heading out to resume your night-crawling ways or to catch a train to parts unknown.
If you're a chubby, pale-skinned teen eager to replace your threadbare Misfits tee with something more likely to shock your already concerned parents, you've come to the right place. The first thing that grabs your attention as you enter the shadowy confines of this hardcore metal CD store and specialty boutique isn't the severed limbs that hang from the ceiling, nor is it the not-so-dulcet thunder of grindcore assaulting your ears. Nope, it's the rows of tee shirts from local and national acts. Three double-sided racks of pitch-black printed tees await you, any one of which will announce your newfound affair with the dark lord and make you the foe of the holy rollers everywhere. Get the folks pounding the Paxil with Cannibal Corpse's "Eaten Back to Life" shirt, which depicts a rotting cadaver consuming its own entrails. Too subtle? Perhaps Cradle of Filth's "Desire Me Like Satan" tog -- with a buxom, topless woman with legs spread wide and bound to an upside-down crucifix -- might get you into group therapy double-quick. Of course, no potentially offensive outfit would be complete without a pair of spiked leather gauntlets, gargoyle incense holder and copy of Terrorizer magazine, also in stock. It's like a head shop, without all the, er, tobacco paraphernalia.
If you've driven from San Diego to Phoenix, you know there's not much to look at. On a recent summer vacay, we were almost at the end of the road -- Maricopa Road, that is, en route to I-10 -- when we noticed a sign out the window. It was one of those Adopt-A-Highway signs, you know, the kind usually sponsored by the Sierra Club or the Audubon Society. Up 'til that point, Hooters was the oddest Adopt-A-Highway sponsorship we'd ever seen. But this one really made us wonder if we were hallucinating after too many hours on the road. The Church of Body Modification, chipping in for roadside cleanup? Aren't those folks too busy suspending themselves by their nipples and ramming hooks through their back flesh? Turns out they are too busy, according to Doug Nintzel, from the Arizona Department of Transportation. He confirms the Bod Modders sponsored a mile on Maricopa Road, just south of I-10, but says that our call prompted some checking, and that after more than a year, no one had heard from the Church. So ADOT "did a modification of our own," as the witty Nintzel puts it, and stripped the Church of Body Modification of its Adopt-A-Highway status.

Ouch, that smarts.

Don't get us wrong. We love our city. But we know our limitations. And let's face it, friends, Phoenix is not the nation's music capital. It's not the music capital of the Southwest. It's not even the music capital of Arizona, for crying out loud. That title goes to Tucson.

But no one mentioned this to Esquire magazine, which recently published a music guide including an article titled "Cities That Rock: A Guide to the 10 Best Cities for Seeing and Hearing Music." Clearly, the writer was trying to be counterintuitive, since Pittsburgh and Fresno also made the list. But we really had to chortle -- and then wonder if maybe we were missing something in our backyard -- when we found our own fair city at Number 9, below New Orleans and before San Francisco.

"The Phoenix and Tempe scene is like a desert flower in bloom," Esquire reports, referencing the Format and Necronauts as the bands to watch, and Stinkweeds and Modified Arts the places to buy music and hear it, respectively.

We love Stinkweeds and Modified, but do they catapult us above S.F.?

Who knows? Maybe we should start believing our own press.

Sloane McFarland is Phoenix's own renaissance man -- an artist who dabbles in real estate. Usually it's the other way around, but this young man truly applies his aesthetic to everything he does, and, whether he means to or not, is creating community in his hometown. He's best known as the landlord at Lux Coffeebar on Central Avenue; his slump-block complex also houses the sandwich shop Pane Bianco, and Passage, a boutique featuring locally produced fashion. McFarland is one of the guys behind Welcome Diner on Roosevelt Street, and now, we hear, he's branching out to Buckeye, putting artists in a strip mall and developing other properties, spreading the wealth west.

Thanks, Sloane, for helping us to fill the pages of Best of Phoenix. We can't wait to see what you do next.

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