Best Bathroom 2012 | Liberty Market | People & Places | Phoenix
Heather Hoch
Apricot Glazed Chicken from Liberty Market

It's hard to top downtown Gilbert's charm, and Liberty Market, housed in a circa-1935 grocery store, might be the most charmed building on the block. The breakfast and lunch joint had us at the omelets, but the quaint touches extend to the bathrooms. There are five separate units, each complete with its own vibe, music, and look. Our favorites? There's the awesome men's room (with hot rod memorabilia and good looking pin-ups), the Italian room (complete with a Vespa tire), and an oceanside room, because staring at a serene sea makes us feel so nice about . . . well, you know.

Dry cleaners? Check. Grocery run? Done. Mani-pedi? Finished. In a Valley full of meh-tastic strip malls, shopping becomes a boring, forumulaic exercise in driving from place to nondescript place.

That's why finding a strip with a unique lineup of shops is so terribly exciting. Hence the allure of Tempe Square. Boasting our favorite indie bookstore Changing Hands as its starring headliner, the southwest corner of McClintock Drive and Guadalupe Road can keep shoppers busy for hours on end. In between perusing the latest in lit, you can grab a snack at Wildflower Bread Company, Trader Joe's, or Mac's, check out the consignment goods at Love Child and Turn Style, and then dance off the calories during an aerobics class at Express MiE. And — voila! — your boring day of errands just got a whole lot more interesting.

That noise you hear when you walk into Alterations and Creations may sound like an elderly man quietly coughing after having fallen to the ground, but look down and you'll come face-to-face with Batman. No, not Christian Bale dressed in a cape and mask, but a pint-size puffball of black and brown fur. Batman is always hanging out in the small storefront located on the street level of the Roosevelt Apartments complex, and he loves attention. But the coolest thing about Batman is "It's a Pomeranian, dude!"

If you're in the need to get some dry cleaning or alterations done, you can do that too. The folks at Alterations and Creations can turn around both in less than a week if needed, and they do a solid job.

Every time you see one of those TV commercials with the hungry kittens and sad, neglected puppies, you want to throw yourself into traffic. Right? Well, don't. Instead, do something to help those unhappy animals by volunteering at the Arizona Animal Welfare League. There, you'll be involved in virtually all aspects of helping four-legged friends to find a home — everything from adoption counseling to dog-walking to keeping up the AAWL grounds. Not much of a cat person? Don't really like dogs? You can work with birds, rabbits, rodents, and reptiles, instead. AAWL offers various volunteer training programs that will help you help them find homes for strays that might otherwise be put to death. Talk about a worthy cause.

A trio on Craigslist looking for a dog to have sex with found a match earlier this year, with a guy offering up his male golden shepherd mix to complete the foursome. Unfortunately, for the three humans in the deal — Shane Walker, Sarah Walker, and Robert Aucker — the guy offering up the dog was an undercover detective with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. The trio's plan, according to the Sheriff's Office, was to use Craigslist to find the dog to "fornicate" with the woman, while her husband and friend watched. The detective eventually was also offered the "opportunity to join in on the act," although it's not clear exactly what his role would have been. At the time, Sheriff Joe Arpaio exclaimed, "People who do this for enjoyment are a different breed, that's for certain." The three humans in the busted foursome all eventually pleaded guilty to bestiality charges.

With themes of self-loathing, loneliness, and longing, the music of Manchester's gloomiest, The Smiths, is already comic (in an absurdist, depressing way), but it took the good folks at SpazDog Press to gather up a slew of indie comics' finest, like Foo!, Sam Laggren, Kayla Cagan, Tara Abbamondi, and New Times' own Brad Dwyer, to put pen to page and illustrate the melodrama for two volumes of Unite and Take Over: Stories Inspired by the Songs of The Smiths. The morose croon of Morrissey inspires everything from psycho-sexual slapstick to violent, vintage Image-style splatter-fests. Recognizing a readily apparent connection between the post-punk mythos of The Smiths and the intimacy of the black-and-white page, Unite speaks to the alt-pop nerds as easily as the comic book guys — turns out, they're the same kids anyway.

Channel 5, KPHO, has a history chasing the mythical creature known as the chupacabra, but there seems to be another animal obsession going on at the TV news station — cats. KPHO's the only news outlet where you can find stories such as "Does cat behavior change with the seasons?" or "Hidden household cat poison." Then there was the time a local man filmed his house cat giving a high-five to a bobcat — and KPHO went on location to tell it like it is. In a story the KPHO anchor said "we just have to share," the TV station's coverage of high-fiving cats is absolutely incredible: three different videos about the high-five on the station's website, on-location reporting, an interview with the homeowner — and the homeowner's re-enactment — and the "backstory." And that's just one of the cat tales from the station's archive. Little does KPHO know, it's the dogs that rule, and the cats that drool.

Michelle Ponce and Damian Jim are local artists who have a long history of collaboration on small works and projects. And when the two connected over the concept of a stapled art zine, they knew they'd started something that could last a while.

This year, they launched Ziindi, a full-color quarterly zine dedicated to showcasing work by contemporary indigenous artists and providing a connection within the community. The first 16-page issue is full of work by local and regional artists, including ARMZ, Averian Chee, Jeff Slim, Shamie Encinas, Damian Jim, Bahe Whitethorne Jr., Jeremy Arviso, and Thomas Greyeyes.

"Plenty of native artists travel back to the rez, and they share their artwork here, but a zine is great way to offer something that will last a little longer to kids on the rez and in the city. We hope it'll be something they can take with them and something that will inspire their own work."

The group of ladies responsible for PoolBoy Magazine — a local hipster porn rag — joined forces as "cuntributors" in 2009 to create "an independent adult lifestyle magazine for badass women," and though they haven't printed an edition in a year or so, they've kept us plenty satisfied through their blog and Twitter feed. Here, in twitpics, dirty puns, and 140 characters, the founders update us on their latest male candidates (including Hump Day Hunks on Wednesdays), their roadtrip promotions, their thoughts on Mommy Porn, and the best penises of the 2012 Olympics. The ladies say they'll be publishing a second issue of PoolBoy sometime this fall, which, if we're lucky, will include a similar glossy collection of good-looking (but also normal) 20- and 30-somethings who meet the "PoolBoy" requirements. And if we know anything about how to keep track of their latest updates, releases, and, yes, pool parties, we'll be glued to their Twitter feed for the release date.

Thanks to the photo-sharing application Instragram, we can see through the lens of Phoenix photographer Alyssa Aragon. The 24-year-old has an endless stream of local images — late-night parties and concerts, street art, architecture, and portraits of this city's well-known creatives — that keeps us busily scrolling through her everyday routine. Aragon started taking photos a few years ago for her friend's custom car shop, Kreepin Kustumz, and started bringing her camera to late-night events she had on her calendar, including weekly DJ nights at downtown's Bar Smith and Tempe's Yucca Tap Room. Her photography venture, New.Era.Gone, provides a fresh look at this town, and through Instagram, we can see them all in real time.

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