Best Impossible Ticket 2018 | Tovrea Castle | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix

You can't miss Tovrea Castle as you're driving on the 202 Red Mountain Freeway between Phoenix and Tempe: It's the only wedding cake-looking building surrounded by a sea of cactuses in town. Completed around 1930, the structure was originally intended to be a hotel and ended up a private residence. The city of Phoenix bought the castle and the land in 1993, and today, you can take a tour of the property — if you play your cards right. See, there are only a few tours each week, and not many people are allowed on each tour. Right now, there's not a single ticket available through the middle of 2019. We recommend getting on the mailing list to get notified when tickets for late 2019 become available — they go quickly, and it's worth the reasonable admission fee to check out this unique piece of local history up close and personal.

Arizona has a rich history of strange Fortean phenomena: the Phoenix Lights, Travis Walton's abduction in Snowflake, the Mogollon Monsters, native Skinwalkers, Thunderbirds — weird shit happens in our neck of the woods. So the fact that one of the nation's largest annual UFO conventions is based in Arizona should come as no surprise. Every February, the International UFO Congress brings together a packed roster of guest speakers, documentarians, and eyewitnesses to talk about all things UFO. Despite the sensationalistic subject matter, they take a sober approach to the material, inviting scholars and scientists to weigh in. They even have therapeutic support groups where abductees and people who've been through paranormal experiences can talk about what happened to them in a safe and supporting environment. If you're interested in finding out whether the truth is out there, there's no better place to start than spending a few days at the UFO Congress.

It's safe to say that there are a lot of people in America who would like to punch Harvey Weinstein in the face. After he was outed as a serial sexual predator who used his money and influence to keep victims from speaking out, the disgraced Hollywood producer claimed that he was suffering from "sex addiction" and fled to a rehab center in Arizona, where, presumably, he hoped he wouldn't be recognized. That didn't work out so well: A guy known only as Steve spotted Weinstein eating dinner at the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort in January and took the opportunity to give him two hard whacks to the face. "You're such a piece of shit for what you did to those women," our hero reportedly said. Since Weinstein declined to call the police, Steve never faced charges, and we never got to learn about this crusader. Like any true superhero, his identity remains a mystery.

In a world where you can buy cupcakes, caviar, and coats from vending machines, why not cars? That was Carvana's thinking. The Tempe-based startup is a used auto dealer that puts the entire car-buying process online, from shopping to financing to trade-in. But what happens when you've selected and purchased your next ride? Obviously, you head to the nine-story car vending machine that went up this year at Scottsdale Road and the 202 Red Mountain Freeway, put a special coin in the slot, and wait while the contraption retrieves your vehicle. Of course, there's nothing stopping Carvana from storing their inventory in, you know, a warehouse or some other normal building. It's a publicity stunt, but it's not the worst one we've seen, and it must be a fairly successful one, considering the Tempe machine is one of 15 of these things stationed around the country.

Earlier this year, the city of Phoenix unveiled its plans for the revitalization of Hance Park. The renderings included features like a jogging loop, skate park, an amphitheater — and one more thing. An eagle-eyed Reddit user noticed that one of the computer-generated citizens enjoying the new version of the park was none other than Wheelchair Drake. What is Wheelchair Drake, you ask? It's a meme featuring a photo of rapper Drake (real name: Aubrey Graham) as Jimmy Brooks, his character on Degrassi: The Next Generation. We still don't know who put the image in the rendering or why (although we suspect the answer is "for the fun of it"), but we do know that about a day after the meme was discovered, a new version of the image (minus Drake) was put out by the city. Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted.

On March 26, the whole city came to a standstill because a black-and-white cat was stuck on top of an electrical pole. After ABC15 started livestreaming, the Phoenix Fire Department was flooded with calls, and we held our collective breath watching as the cat pawed at the pole and played with the wires, then looked like he was contemplating jumping off. Nearly an hour had gone by, and the crew from the Salt River Project was still nowhere in sight. Then, finally, a heroic neighbor found a tall ladder and started climbing up alongside the pole. When he reached the top rung, he reached up and grabbed the wriggling cat, holding it steady with a grip that was later compared to that of a linebacker. And then, slowly, he climbed back down. Viewers later learned that the cat was named Gypsy, but the rescuer was never named or spotted again. Whoever you are, good man, we salute you.

Roosevelt Row's murals are nice. But just like the high-rise apartments next door, they lack the gritty feel of the rest of downtown Phoenix. So instead, we recommend you travel a few blocks to the east to "Calle 16" in order to view some of the best street art in Phoenix. Many of the tire shops, pet stores, and restaurants that face 16th Street feature brilliant murals. Some of the works of art adorn active businesses, while others are on decrepit abandoned storefronts. The art styles range from run-of-the-mill graffiti tags to astonishingly detailed works that could hang in a gallery. One of the most memorable murals lies in the shade of a bus stop near Thomas Road. A work of the late Phoenix artist Rose Johnson, the mural portrays a diverse group of people in the modern style of Picasso. Above and below the figures are lines from the prayer attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi: "Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy."

As you're reading this, Chris Birkett is busy prepping for the holidays. After all, it's only a couple of months until the most wonderful time of the year, and the 43-year-old wedding DJ wants to be prepared. But instead of buying gifts for his wife, Sarah, or their two daughters, Birkett's probably picking out lights and decorations for Winter Wonderland, the gigantic holiday display adorning his Scottsdale home every Christmas season. Each December, the Birkett family transform the place into a glowing and glittering tableaux with 250,000 lights, an enormous Disney-esque holiday castle, a choreographed light show, and even jets of faux snow. There's also a quaint Western town along the side of the house and a Frozen-themed display decorating the backyard pool. Powering the display, along with electricity, is a sense of whimsy and wonder, perfectly illustrated by lights in the front that read, "Believe in Magic." It's one of the best displays in the Valley, and no less a source than The Great Christmas Light Fight has said so, as the Birketts won an episode of the ABC television show last year. Don't stop believing in magic, Chris, you're an inspiration to would-be Clark Griswolds everywhere.

For many years now, artist and preservation advocate Beatrice Moore has put out the call for artists and other community members to submit their own creative takes on piñatas for the annual art show that features dozens of intriguing variations on this particular sculptural form. Often, they reflect a contemporary collective psyche, featuring everything from Donald Trump in diaper mode to a camera used for Instagram captures. The show moved from Bragg's Pie Factory to Weird Garden during this year's Art Detour in March without sacrificing any of its charms. It's still a beautifully quirky tribute to the ways communities are perpetual works in progress, created by the collective spirit that arises from delightfully diverse individuals doing their own thing, together.

There was never any love lost between Phoenix New Times and the Arizona senator, but we have to admire the final words John McCain left to be read after his death from brain cancer on August 25. An excerpt: "I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world's greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. ... We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been. ... Ten years ago, I had the privilege to concede defeat in the election for president. I want to end my farewell to you with the heartfelt faith in Americans that I felt so powerfully that evening. I feel it powerfully still. Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history." Rest in peace, sir.

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