Not everyone can hang out at this refurbished historic hotel on Camelback Road its bar and restaurant are among the only places in town that ban blue jeans. But that's okay with us, mainly because there's something refreshing about seeing people a little bit dressed up, even if it is mostly in khaki. And we really can't think of a more elegant place to drink as the night falls than the Royal Palms' lovely courtyard, which features a full bar, excellent service, and surprisingly affordable noshes. But please: Don't tell the riffraff. This isn't for them, after all.
Given that Club Mistress is purely a women's play club (a strict "no cameras, no men" rule is enforced at meetings and parties), it's not surprising that the members are so covert. After all, the Mistresses who run the show (other participants are subservient "Girls") are seasoned pros, not exhibitionists looking to entertain the testosterone set. Club Mistress isn't a haphazard horndog fest, either. There is a strict set of rules everyone must follow (including not revealing the identity of other club members or discussing club activities with outsiders). Meetings take place at local lesbian bars and strip clubs, and play parties happen at private homes, with everything organized well in advance of the event dates. The club has no membership fee, phone number or address. So, how does a gal get into Club Mistress? (Guys, forget it you'll never get in.) The best we can tell you is to poke around on MySpace. But be aware that if the Head Mistress approves your membership and you attend a play party, participation is mandatory.
Firefighters! You gotta love 'em. They save lives. They put out fires. They make a nice pot of chili. And sometimes they screw sheep, too! At least that's what Mesa deputy fire chief Leroy Donald Johnson was accused of doing last March, when he was busted for allegedly screwing his neighbor's lamb. What made this particular chorus of "Baa Baa Fire Chief" so fun to sing was the accompanying police report, an eight-pager (with pictures!) so full of yuks you'd swear it was a hoax. According to the report, when Alan Goats (we swear, that's his name) found Leroy in his barn his pants around his ankles and a small gray ewe between his legs Johnson laughed and hollered, "You caught me, Alan, I tried to fuck your sheep!" So there's little question that, er, mutton happened. Rather than leaving Leroy on the lamb, coppers hauled him off to the Fourth Avenue jail; later, Mr. Johnson (who was charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing) was dumped by Mesa firefighters. But he'll always have his Lambkins.
A first date should be relaxed, fun and easy to escape if something goes horribly wrong. A 24-hour coffee shop with a weekly poetry slam is exactly what the date doctor prescribes. Counter Culture Cafe is a bohemian hideaway, with art by locals lining the walls, and bookshelves stocked with well-worn tomes to borrow. Seating is varied, which is ideal for a first date. You can opt for one of the smaller tables near the mic or choose a comfy couch if you want to test your date's cuddle potential. The Wednesday night Speak Up! open mic doubles as the perfect cover to avoid talking to Mr. Boring ("Shhh . . . I really dig the way this cat spits rhyme") or a conversation starter ("So what do you think of the establishment?"). Either way, you'll get the benefit of the Valley's best beatbox, urban, home-grown folk and old-school beatnik talents. Snap. Snap.
We love what Hollywood does with real-life miscreants, so this year's prime-time television take on polygamy really caught our eye. What HBO's Big Love series lacked in reality it made up for in high cheekbones and even higher-gloss soap opera antics, courtesy of co-creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer and a passel of midlevel movie stars. They took a randy religious practice involving multiple wives and pedophilia committed with underage "spiritual" brides and turned it into a weekly hour that's as down and dirty as an episode of Three's Company. The abuses of polygamy in the northern Arizona and southern Utah towns of Colorado City and Hildale never looked so good, particularly as described, over the years, in the pages of Phoenix New Times, where John Dougherty broke much of the news about the real-life polygamists. But leave it to HBO to turn a program about a perverted practice that enslaves women into must-see TV. We defy you to look away from Utah polygamist Bill Henrickson (played by Bill Paxton) or his wives Barb, Nicki, and Margene (Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloë Sevigny, and Ginnifer Goodwin), who live in three separate houses on the same hunk of suburban crabgrass. Despite our better judgment, we haven't been able to turn off this sudsy mess, which returns for a second season next month.
It's time to relax, and one beer stands clear. Not Miller, fools. Kirin Ichiban! A tall frosty pint glass of Kirin will chase away that desert-induced tickle in the back of your throat. Of course, it's best to imbibe where there's the appropriate Nipponese grub, a chill atmosphere, and some bar stars of both sexes for gawking purposes. Hey, you can eat sushi anywhere. But in the enclosed confines of the Zen Bar, with Japanese anime being screened on one wall, sexy bartenders, a hella-hip vibe, and that already mentioned glass o' Kirin fresh from the tap, the tuna roll or yellowtail maki just seems to taste better. And the restaurant serves sushi 'til midnight, which helps. Plus, most nights of the week, there's a reverse happy hour, with some free noshes provided. So let's get crackin' at it like a bag of knuckles. And if you arrive there first, pardners, save us a corner seat.
Caffe Boa on Mill
Lauren Saria
We love the concept behind happy hour cheap drinks and eats and a way to avoid traffic for a while after work. But the reality of happy hour usually sucks: We can only consume so many Buffalo wings and Bud Lights. Which is why Caffe Boa is our favorite place to blow off steam, and enjoy libations after a long workweek. Glasses of wine from the cafe's impressive list are half-price (try the Sauvignon Blanc Dry Lands from New Zealand). Bread and oil is served free, and, combined with a few glasses of wine, we usually call it dinner. If you're classier than we are and like actual appetizers with your drinks, check out the formaggi piatti a fancy way of saying "cheese plate" or the bruschetta. The atmosphere is better than most happy hours no unruly drunks in sight but you can still escape, nice and toasted, for less than $20.
Freedom Inn at Scottsdale
Voting ain't what it used to be, at least if the pathetic local and national turnouts in recent years are any indication. But given the choice of sitting on our behinds and whining about the sad state of affairs or casting our votes for whatever sorry sucker somehow strikes our fancy, we'll take the latter. That brings us to this spotless assisted-living facility, which also serves as a refuge for people with Alzheimer's disease. You've never seen volunteer service like this in your life. Probably three volunteers all of them in the homestretch of life for each voter. You need a glass of water before you start fooling with those chads or whatever they are? They'll fetch one for you. Hungry? They've got snacks. Need a quiet place to make up your mind once and for all? No problem. These well-informed oldsters are thrilled just to be alive; helping the electorate is gravy. Now if only we could convince one of them to run for office.
Giuseppe's on 28th
Jamie Peachey
Giuseppe's Italian Kitchen owns this spot, like Mark Cuban owns the Dallas Mavericks. Of course, it costs the Eye-tie eatery a pretty penny. Three hundred of them, to be exact. See, the corkage fee at Giuseppe's, the no-frills eatery with the way-above-average fare that's owned by Richard Bock, principal cellist for the Phoenix Symphony, is only $3 per bottle. That's about what you'd tip a Scottsdale valet these days. So rather than pay the 200 to 300 percent markup at some hoity-toity grub house for a jug of vino that'd cost you $10 at Trader Joe's, you can bring in your own fermented grape juice and sit down for a nice plate of linguini or baked ziti. See, Bock's in it for love, not moola. So he's fine with turning a modest profit without gouging his customers. Other restaurants allow BYOB, but we've yet to find a place that's anywhere near as low as at Giuseppe's on the corkage, so this space will remain as a free advert for Bock & Co., up until someone else out there in restaurant land finally gets a clue.
Janet Napolitano's the hands-down champion when it comes to political maneuvering around here. The mere fact that a woman who comes across as this butch can get elected governor and, before that, attorney general in Arizona (of all places) is testament to her political IQ. Plus, she's a bleedin' Democrat! Somehow she's been able to avoid all the hot-button issues, or make us think she cares hugely about them without really doing much, and now the pollsters have declared her unbeatable this election year. She offended her bedrock feminist voters by refusing to step in to stop the rape of little girls by the polygamists of Colorado City (would have pissed off too many powerful mainstream Mormons who pull the purse strings in this state), but who else are feminists going to vote for in the governor's race? Whenever we criticize her at a cocktail party, longtime lefty Arizonans (yes, there are one or two) chime in: "But you should've been here in the past she's so much better than anybody else we've had as governor!" She came out strongly that something should be done about illegal immigration but vetoed every Republican-inspired measure the Legislature came up with to beef up patrols along the border. Oh, right, she supported putting some National Guardsmen down there. Big whoop! Now, we richly enjoyed seeing knee-jerk Neanderthals like Representative Russell Pearce put in their place, but we recognized Janet's tactics as classically, well, Janet. That is, she makes a lot of noise about solving a problem that's big with voters and then takes the least possible action. Yet it's all working. There's not a candidate around least of all the GOP's Len Munsil who has a snowball's chance in the Sonoran Desert of unseating her. She's gotten so powerful that, if she really is gay (like a lot of people think), Napolitano could come out and say so and still get elected. She'd be the first lesbian governor. We'd certainly never hold it against her. But she'd never do that! Which is why she gets our nod as best pol this year. A great career politician never does anything that's even slightly risky. A great politician stands firmly in the middle of the road.

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