Best Downtown Building to Poke Your Head Into 2011 | Westward Ho | People & Places | Phoenix

Best Downtown Building to Poke Your Head Into

Westward Ho

Ah, to have vacationed in the Valley in 1928, the year the Westward Ho Resort opened. The 15-story skyscraper was the height of glamour, the tip-top of the local food chain — and you can still glimpse a bit of that today. Providing you can get inside.The term "flop house" is not a nice one, and we're not even sure it technically applies, but this place is close and probably worse, if the smell in the lobby on a recent August afternoon was any indication. Only residents can roam the halls, one of the two security guards on duty warned us, explaining that the Westward Ho is now home to the elderly and "mentally disabled" (and with the latter, she made rude loopty-loops around her own ear — the international sign for "cuckoo"). No one we saw seemed particularly cuckoo, just down and out — even though they are living in a building with one of the prettiest lobbies in town. If you are fortunate to get inside, be sure to look both up (at the incredibly intricate ceiling) and down (at the perfectly preserved, painted tiles) and sneak past the guards to check the painted wooden beams in what appears to be a living room, waiting to be furnished. Such an ignored treasure — such a shame. If this place were in Portland, Oregon, it by now would be a hotel/brewery/nightclub/movie theater/tattoo parlor with a restaurant that grows its own herbs. Sigh.
In April, Michael Levine was back at it, cursing and working on the oldest remaining warehouse in Phoenix. The local artist, historic preservation advocate, and operator of Levine Machine Development pulled out his scissor lift and power washer, in hopes of restoring the Phoenix Seed & Feed Building before the national spotlight came with the MLB All-Star Game. With a high-pressure washer, Levine carefully lifted layers of old paint, brick by brick, to reveal the original Seed & Feed sign, which is more than 100 years old. And while a fresh old face isn't exactly what anyone hopes for after a lift appointment, it's exactly what (more than) a few Phoenix buildings need.
There used to be swastikas all over Arizona. And this was way before neo-Nazi-hugger Russell Pearce became state Senate president. Yep, back in pre-WWII Sand Land, swastikas proliferated: on official state road signs, on gas stations, hotels, maps, Navajo rugs and jewelry, baskets by the Maricopa and Pima Indians, you name it.Though the symbol is thousands of years old, an ancient icon of good fortune in many cultures, it was also a quintessential symbol of the American West. For the Navajos especially, it was a religious symbol, referred to as the "whirling logs," with its own mythology, used in art and sacred sand sculptures.Anglo-Americans adopted its use, and the symbol was so popular that it even adorned official buildings, such as the one housing the Arizona Department of Agriculture, catty-corner from the state Capitol, on the northeast corner of Adams and Washington streets. Next time you're there, look up, and you'll see swastika tiles ringing the roof of the structure, built in 1930, before that dork Adolf Hitler came along and really ruined a good thing.
All summer, all the time, it was "haboob this" and "haboob that" — amazing how a word we'd never heard before (despite having lived in Phoenix for decades) got tired practically overnight. For a while, all the boobie jokes ("I Love Haboobs," written in dust on your back windshield, for example) were funny, but by the end of August we were just ready for some rain. And we never did get a haboob to match our first — a real humdinger of a dust storm (that's what we called them back in the day) that put up a wall of dust between here and Tucson bigger than any of us old timers had ever seen. It was a spectacular (and terrifying) display — and one we're still cleaning up from. The latest reports estimate that the heavens dumped 50,000 pounds of dust on the city that evening alone.
Work hard, play hard. That was apparently the motto of Larry Black, a former top aide to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and Black's best buddy, Captain Joel Fox. These tireless public servants slaved for two years over a super-secret project to raise money for their boss' 2008 political campaign, then made an illegal $105,000 donation to the state Republican Party, which funded slimy TV ads targeting Arpaio's opponent. After the Attorney General's Office released its report this year, the public finally learned why Fox had struggled for months to keep the involvement of others in the scheme under wraps. He hadn't just been protecting his co-workers and wealthy posse members who had contributed to the fund. He'd also been protecting Black — because he loved Black. A search warrant served at Fox's home turned up several e-mails in which the pair, both married with children, expressed their feelings and referred glowingly to time they'd spent in a hotel room — not that there's anything wrong with that. Unless, as in this case, the relationship between superior officer and subordinate results in unprofessional and allegedly illegal activity.
Even Mike Tyson doesn't pack a punch powerful enough to cause someone to lose his leadership position in the state Senate. Aubry Ballard, the former flame of onetime Senate Majority Leader Scott Bundgaard, however, does. Ballard and Bundgaard went a few rounds on the side of a Valley freeway in February as they were driving home from a charity event. Details of the fight are sketchy, but Ballard suffered some cuts and bruises. After getting socked by Ballard, however, not only did Bundgaard have a pretty nice shiner, he went from being one of the most powerful people in the Senate to losing his leadership gig and getting charged with assault. In the end, Bundgaard avoided jail time but he does have to serve out the remainder of his term in office. Probably.
Quite literally, the food is garbage at Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jail. And humiliation is always on the menu. It starts as soon as an criminal suspect arrives, when the obligatory photograph taken during the booking process is posted on the Internet and entered into a taxpayer-funded game called Mugshot of the Day. Like a modern-day version of a stockade, the sheriff's web game aims to shame the prisoners. Typically, thanks to the callousness of an anonymous cyber-population, the "winner" is all too obviously mentally ill. Ha ha, look at the funny face! The one good thing that could be said about the ethics of this public contest is that all arrestees appear to be fair game. When one of the sons of David Hendershott (the chief deputy Arpaio had to fire this year for numerous policy violations and potential crimes) was arrested in July on suspicion of DUI and hit-and-run (no injuries, but still!), his picture appeared on Arpaio's game board — and shot to the top of the Mugshot of the Day rankings. Mysteriously, typing Hendershott's name into a search field didn't bring up his photo. At first, computer users had to find it by scrolling through the "DUI" category of the mugshot look-up site. A post on New Times' Valley Fever blog probably helped things along. Soon, he was listed in a separate web page of top contenders. After a day of online voting, Jeffery Hendershott, then 29, took the honors with more than 100 votes, narrowly beating out a woman arrested for alleged probation violation who inexplicably drew nearly as many votes. Hendershott's dad can rest more easily — his alleged crimes are being investigated by the federal government, which so far doesn't have its own National Mugshot of the Day award.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's the gift that keeps on giving (for political pundits, anyway). Not much will compare to Jan's epic moment of silence during a 2010 gubernatorial debate, during which she clammed up and giggled like a cheerleader for 20 painful seconds. But this is 2011, and Brewer's boneheaded-ness hasn't changed. Brewer, who's in her second term as governor, thinks she can run for a third — the Arizona Constitution, which clearly says she can't, be damned. According to the Constitution, "No member of the executive department shall hold that office for more than two consecutive terms . . . which shall include any part of a term served." Jan, however, seems to think the Constitution "is not really clear," and doesn't apply to her. Stay tuned.
What do you get when you cross politics, religion, and sex? One of the most bizarre sex scandals in the history of both sex and scandals, that's what. The sex scandal that has plagued the devout Mormon family of Maricopa County Supervisor Fulton Brock is a yarn that needs no embellishment. Over several months, it was revealed that Brock's now-estranged wife, Susan, had a sexual relationship with a teen boy starting when he was 14. Turns out, her adult daughter, Rachel, was having sex with the same boy. Court documents indicate that both Supervisor Brock and leaders in the Mormon Church knew of the relationship but never called police — and that's the recipe for a fantastic sex scandal.
The best part about getting executed by the state of Arizona, as several convicted murderers have found out (the hard way) this year, is the food. But some use their last meal to pig out more than others. Take kid-killing rapist Donald Beaty, for example. Beaty was put to death for the 1984 rape and murder of 13-year-old Christy Ann Fornoff. The night before his state-ordered death in May, Beaty ordered the following: a beef chimichanga with salsa and sour cream, a double cheeseburger with onions, tomato, pickles, lettuce, mustard, and mayo, and French fries. He washed it down with a Diet Coke and 14 ounces (nearly a pound) of Rocky Road ice cream.

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