Here's a dollar figure we'd like to throw out atcha: $6,700. It's the estimated average cost in Arizona these days for getting nailed with a first-time DUI conviction, including a slew of fines, court fees, and payouts to the insurance man. (Ouch!) And now, we've got a substantially lower monetary amount for you: $55, which is the average price of having an employee of Zingo Arizona drive your drunk ass (as well as your car) home safely. A quicker alternative to most cab companies, which tend to get pretty slammed around last call, Zingo's drivers are available from 8 p.m. until 2 a.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, to ride their portable scooters to drinkeries throughout the East Valley (other areas require an additional fee). Pick-ups are $25 and include the first three miles free, with $3 per mile thereafter (most of their trips are 10 miles or less). Sounds better than forking over a mint to the man or cooling your heels in Tent City, doesn't it, huh? Yeah, we knew you'd agree.

El Mirage Police Department

The police department in this tiny (but still growing, even now) town in the far West Valley used to have a reputation among other law enforcement agencies as notably inept, way behind the times, and even, gasp, corrupt. And that was even before the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office contracted to do a lot of the work inside town limits. (That agreement, which ended in 2007, was an expensive mess.) But in late 2007, retired Phoenix assistant police chief Dave Frasier assumed the mantle as El Mirage police chief and brought along two other respected Phoenix police veterans, Bill Louis and Jerry Laird. Their difficult mission: remake a police agency mired (on a good day) in mediocrity. Seems to us that El Mirage is a much safer community these days and, judging by what our prosecutor pals tell us, the department's criminal investigations are light years more professional than they were in the pre-Frasier days. For this, we give thanks.

In other parts of the country, and even the Valley, getting up close and personal with the mayor is limited to pictures in the paper, scathing editorials, and the occasional segment on the nightly news. Thanks to Mayor Phil Gordon's love of coffee and downtown Phoenix — and not to mention the fact that he's one chatty guy — you're invited to join him in a roving monthly coffee klatch. The caffeinated movable feast never sits still, just like the man himself, and we have it on good authority that he often picks up the tab. We're sure this event is enough to give fits to Gordon's staff, since the early-morning mayoral rendezvous tends to lend itself to the kind of informal banter you just won't hear anyplace else. Can you blame the mayor for going off script that early, and before at least one cup of joe? Sure, there's the requisite party pitch about downtown development or the "state of downtown," but insiders know to stick around for the no-holds-barred question-and-answer sessions at the end. If you're cultivating a career in politics, stay around for the meet-and-greet, and create your own photo-op. More than one mover or shaker has realized his or her political ambition here, but it's not all politics. Sometimes you just need a cup of coffee, and if the mayor's buying, it's pretty hard to resist.

Chris Tingom knows coffee like a veteran barista knows "the shakes." Lucky for us, he's got a steady photo hand, despite all of his caffeine consumption. Tingom brews Arizona's ultimate coffee blog day in and day out: Arizona Coffee. Tingom delicately balances news posts about coffee openings and closings with full-flavored analysis, written with a level of detail and research usually reserved for medical journals. We're especially fond of his "Latte Art Throwdown" coverage. Checking out Tingom's photos is almost like drinking the real thing.

Heather Lauer wasn't always into porcine belly meat. As the author/blogger told a correspondent for www.mrbaconpants.com last May, her infatuation with the heart-stopping delight began in the summer of 2005, when the then-partner at a D.C. consulting firm and her brothers got drunk, tipsily lit on the subject of bacon, and came up with the appellation "Best Meat Ever."

"The next day, when I was sober, I still thought it was a good idea — perhaps the first time that has ever happened after a night of drinking," says Lauer, who now splits time between Arizona and her native Idaho. "I fired up blogger.com and thus began baconunwrapped.com."

Four years later, riding the crest of the social-networking wave, her blog about the doings of "Bacon Nation" is going strong, and her first book, Bacon: A Love Story — A Salty Survey of Everybody's Favorite Meat, garnered a largely favorable response when it was released in May '09.

Though she took up bacon idolatry as a joke, Lauer's serious as a heart attack about her mission: detailing America's fascination with the crispy breakfast staple. Both the blog and the book are chock-full of recipes, gossip, history, and high-on-the-hog arcana, and the site is brimming with tweets and posts along the lines of "Bacon Wrapped Tater Tots," "Diet Coke with Bacon," "Bacon Candy Bar," and "Baconvision: Jim Gaffigan on Bacon."

As hard as it is to believe, waxing rhapsodic about bacon doesn't pay the bills, so Lauer focuses on cured pork strips when she gets off her day job at Tribe Effect, a socially conscious public-affairs consulting firm that she co-founded.

But for her long, black mane and the constant chirping, buzzing, and tweeting of her social-networking accoutrements, you could mistake good-time girl Raven Valdes for a film noir minx. With her exotic dress and carriage, she seems out of another time. The irony, of course, is that she's the very definition of her linked-in age.

The 50-year-old divorced mother of a 10-year-old son has been throwing professionally engineered parties in the Valley since 2004. Thanks to their creative themes and Valdes' innate knack(s) for marketing and detail work — not to mention her 10,000-plus-member database — Raven's dialed-in events draw nightlife crowds that are half the native Texan's age, though her target demo tends more toward business-casual folks in their 30s and 40s. And Raven herself is a core attraction; she personally hosts each gathering, and you'll find her at the center of things, holding court in the eye of the storm.

Her staples are business mixers, happy hours, and charitable events, but several times a year, Raven lets down her jet-black hair and unleashes something massive, like her annual Red Light District Costume Ball at the Wrigley Mansion. Last May's edition featured music by Nineball and DJ Old School, a costume contest, celebrity MCs Amber M. and Amber B. of the Bad Girls Club, and pole-dancing lessons courtesy of the PussyCats Pole Dance Company.

Sound like fun? In classic Valdes style, it was hellacious merriment disguised as a fundraiser for domestic-violence shelters.

That's so Raven.

What? You haven't heard about meetup.com? Let us introduce you. Meet Up is all over the country, including Phoenix — a free Web site where people with all kinds of interests can hook up. We don't mean that kind of hook-up, though we suppose a few love connections have been made this way. The rules are a bit complicated — you'd do best by checking the site, www.meetup.com. But the most important thing you need to know is that Meet Up is about finding people with similar interests — like crafts, or sushi. Or wine.

The Arizona WineBats, run by Aaron Leeming, is a group of 642 (and counting) wine lovers from across the Valley. Leeming and some assistant organizers scour the local wine scene, finding deals on tastings and wine-related social events with the goal of arranging "blind" taste contests. Guess the variety of wine, win a prize. You'll have to pay to drink, but the prices are nominal, the company's good and the wine's sure to be even better.

By now you've heard of Meet Up. And you've probably heard of Twitter, another social-networking site that allows you to . . . Well, so far, all we can see is that it allows you to waste time at work when you've exhausted your options on Facebook. But have you ever heard of a tweet-up? Believe it or not, we had trouble choosing the best in town — there are several regular events, a hybrid knock-off of a meet-up for Twitter users curious to see the people they're tweeting with.

Created by Twitter user and local social media expert @Evo_Terra, a.k.a. Travis Unwin, "East Valley Friday Nights" is designed to give anyone looking for a good time a place to meet new people — away from the keyboard. EVFNs have gone down at such places at Roka Akor in Scottsdale and (at the end of every month) Whole Foods in Chandler, where the bar staff triples to account for the 40- to 60-person crowd. Often, venues hosting EVFN will offer incentives to attend such as extended happy hours. Search for "#evfn" to join in the fun. If you're not on Twitter, visit www.phoenixfridaynight.com for details.

When we got a press release last summer stating that a self-proclaimed "superfan" of P.F. Chang's China Bistro was about to go on a seven-state road trip in order to eat at as many different (and yet exactly the same) restaurants as possible — all for the sheer joy that Mongolian Beef brings him — we were a little skeptical. To say the least. The kicker was that this fan was going to document every noodly, rice-filled, or fried meal of his trip on Twitter. C'mon. Would you have bought that? But the biggest surprise came when we met said superfan, Adam Aponte, at the send-off party Chang's threw for him (and as many members of the press as they could muster). He was completely serious. He really loves P.F. Chang's. As it turned out, what had really taken place was not an event of extreme marketing genius, but an event of extreme marketing luck — taken to shameless, tweet-filled measures, of course. But we can't blame you, P.F. Chang's marketing team, for taking advantage of a crazy fan and a new social-networking tool for publicity purposes. For, indeed, Mr. Aponte had written you an e-mail explaining his love and dedication to your mu shu chicken and lettuce wraps (which just happened to mention his upcoming road trip). And we have to admit you were really quite generous (in return for the continual tweets): At least you comped his meals!

Though he's since sissied out, changing his handle from "JoeArpaio" to "FauxSheriffJoe" and adding a clear disclaimer explaining that he's "satirizing" our sheriff (who twitters under RealSheriffJoe —or at least, someone on his staff does), for a while JoeArpaio seemed to have some people fooled. Then a local TV station killed the joke, sorting out the whole matter in a light-hearted piece. Still, tweets like, "The common taco? Just a cheap knockoff of a hot dog. Don't be fooled into thinking it tastes better because it's 'different,'" are at least better than the trite slogans posted by the real deal, whose most interesting post so far was a parting shot at beloved Mesa Police Chief George Gascón, who left to take over San Francisco's department: "Bye [sic] the way, i woudl [sic] like to wish the new San Francisco chief of police luck. I think this is a good move for both cities . . ."

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