We hear it all the time: Phoenix has no density; Phoenix has no true Downtown core; Phoenix is the king of sprawl and not much more. I’m not writing to argue these points. But, looking back on the 2009, Downtown Phoenix got quite a bit more urbanized — probably more than one can reasonably expect in a year’s time.
You can’t help but be amazed that how successful the METRO light rail transition has been. The ridership numbers in year one completely blew away expectations. A rail culture, fueled by endless promotions, great blogs like RailLife.com and LightRailBlogger.com and a seemingly immediate impact at several intersections (most notably Central and Camelback) has me excited to see that Phoenix has indeed embraced mass transit. Sure, there are still kinks to be worked out, but all those who said it couldn’t work have been proven wrong. I’ve even run into several Downtown Phoenix residents over the past year who have sold their cars since the light rail launch. That’s progress.
Civic Space Park opened in 2009, along with the restoration of the historic A.E. England Building on its grounds. The heart of Downtown Phoenix has needed park space desperately, and this is a true urban park — solar power, gray water redistribution, funky artwork, retail spaces and scheduled entertainment. It helps that the focus on actually getting to the park has leaned toward transit or by foot or bike. The close proximity to ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus has been a boon, and integration into the First and Third Friday scene was swift and successful. Now if we could only utilize that amphitheater space to its full potential…
We had heard about it for months, and when the Urban Grocery and Wine Bar finally opened its doors, it was a pivotal point in Downtown Phoenix’s history. We’ve yearned, begged and flat-out shouted our need for a grocer south of I-10, and it was beginning to feel as if it would never happen. Now, after a few months of experimentation, the Urban Grocery has a great balance of amazing local produce, food products and wine and beer; just the right amount of household necessities (all eco-friendly!); and a highly underrated kitchen that churns out some of Downtown’s best lunches. The regularly scheduled wine tastings don’t hurt, either.
And, who can debate that our taste buds had a nice 2009? Tons of great places opened: Nine05, Postino Central, Lola Coffee Uptown and Roosevelt, Hula’s Modern Tiki, Gallo Blanco Café, Local Breeze, PastaBAR, St. Francis and the Turf, as well as others, all opened in ’09 and became instant favorites.
With so much progress in a year (let alone during the big bad recession), it’s encouraging to see what’s happening in our city. Nothing happens overnight. Perhaps there won’t be much difference at this point in 2011. But, great people are doing great things close to us. Let’s encourage it. 2010 has great things in store.Banner photo by Jason Garcia
Previous week’s games
12/25/09 SUNS 124, Clippers 93
12/26/09 Warriors 132, SUNS 127
12/28/09 SUNS 118, Lakers 103
12/30/09 SUNS 116, Celtics 98
Next week’s games
01/02/10 SUNS vs Grizzlies, 7 p.m., My45
01/05/10 SUNS @ Kings, 8 p.m., My45
01/06/10 SUNS vs Rockets, 7 p.m., Fox Sports Arizona
This past Saturday, after the Suns lost a game they definitely should have won against the lowly Golden State Warriors, most Suns fans wanted to jump off the Chase building. Today, Suns fans are singing a different tune. Funny how much things can change in less than a week.
After a rough first 27 days of December in which the Suns let some games get away, Phoenix finished the month off with two of its most impressive wins of the season.
The Suns got the ball rolling on Monday when they stomped the heavily hated LA Lakers. A few weeks ago, Suns Spot took a look at what it means to beat the Spurs. Beating the Lakers is about a hundred times better. I can honestly say without a doubt, there is nothing I hate more in this world the Lakers. Everything about them — their stupid jerseys, their horrible “fans,” their name — is horrible. There’s not even any lakes in LA! (Yes, I realize they moved from Minnesota back in the day and the name fit there, but they should have changed it).
After the trashing the Suns gave the Lakers, they laid a beat-down on the boys from Beantown, as they defeated the Celtics on Wednesday at the Purple Palace. So what if Boston was a little banged up? (OK, a lot banged up.) They’re still a top-notch team, and the Suns pushed them around (and let’s not forget, the Suns did dominate a healthy Celtics squad earlier this year in Boston).
More important than the wins the Suns got over these two teams is how they got them. They came out with tons of energy in both games and active hands on the defensive end. Despite being undersized in both games, the Suns battled on the boards. On Monday, Phoenix kept pace with the league leaders in rebounds by finishing the game even at 43 boards apiece. Against Boston on Wednesday they actually controlled the glass, out-rebounding the Celtics 42-38. The effort on the defensive side clearly showed against Boston, as the Suns came up with nine steals, seven blocks and forced Ray Allen and Rasheed Wallace to shoot a combined 7-24 from the field, and 1-9 from long range.
The bench continued its solid play in these two games, especially in the Lakers contest. Robin Lopez got his first significant minutes in a meaningful game and really impressed, actually leading the Suns in scoring at the end of the first and causing problems for Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. In the Boston victory, it was Leandro Barbosa who stepped up big, looking to be back in form after the ankle injury as he chipped in 17 points, four assists, four steals and two rebounds.
I expect to see more play like this from the Suns over the rest of the season as opposed to the play we saw at the beginning of the month. They have to. They’ve already shown us that when the effort is there they can compete with the best of them, so there aren’t any excuses from here on out. Hopefully, the Suns themselves realize the same thing I noticed from these last two games. Either way, at least these last two games were nice way to close out the decade.
Tis the season of resolutions, so I felt it necessary to trek up to Luci’s Healthy Marketplace.
Since I was a little under the weather, probably from the early stages of post-holiday blues, I decided that this week was perfect for some healthiness. Also, it is definitely time to start establishing your list of resolutions, and eating right is always a good start.
Sitting on the corner of 16th Street and Bethany Home Road, a place like Luci’s is definitely in the far reaches of Uptown, but we can make an exception.
From the moment I entered, I was greeted and welcomed warmly. This place knows how to hire people with sunny personalities. Not the “oh-crap-here-they-come-again” kind of friendliness, but the welcoming kind. Every employee was willing to help me find something that would make me feel better. It was refreshing to be here from the get-go, and I had not even decided what I would eat. Hospitality does not just reside in the South.
I selected the Harira soup after it received high praise from one of the friendly faces behind the counter. So, I walked over to the coffeebar counter and poured my soup and exchanged delightful conversation about the weather with the attendants there. This place definitely has a home feel to it.
Once I was seated in the cozy dining area, I began to admire the décor. Huge, retro signage adorns the place, but not in an overbearing way. Luci’s collects itself in a quiet cool that resonates in its every aspect. From the friendly staff to the unique wooden tables in the dining area, this place has it together.
From the first sip of the Harira soup, I was warm. A Moroccan soup in origin, this stuff is a meal in itself. Packed with beef, chick peas, lentils, onions, carrots, tomatoes and potatoes, this is one hearty and filling broth. Every bite was soft and delicious. I was unwilling to put my spoon down until it was finished. All I could do was stare sadly at my empty bowl once it was gone.
The warmth of my visit is still sitting very well with me. Any place that can make you long to return for both friendliness and cuisine is a winner in my book.
Luci’s Healthy Marketplace is located at 1590 E. Bethany Home Rd. in Uptown — 602.773.1339
Miniature Tigers, long a fixture in the Downtown Phoenix music scene, are packin’ up and heading to Brooklyn, and they’re kissing us goodbye with one final show at the Trunk Space on Tuesday, December 29.
In case you don’t know, the Mini Ts are one of those super buzz bands with killer witty lyrics and catchy pop jingles, lauded by authorities like SPIN, Rolling Stone, Death+Taxes and CMJ. We knew they’d grow beyond the tiny confines of our tight-knit music scene. They’re simply too big and too killer for us now.
The band is the premier piece of once-Phoenix-based (still kinda-Phoenix-based) label Modern Art Records, which quietly occupied a Downtown area bungalow for a while before (also) heading to the hipster mecca that is Brooklyn. Having spent most of 2008 and 2009 on the road, the band’s following has ballooned. Brooklyn, treat ‘em nice.
The show at the Trunk Space is sorta last minute, and that’s probably good, because any more time to build up the buzz and the place would certainly break any fire code the city could impose. It’s also good because the Trunk Space just got done holding a benefit concert this past weekend, and we don’t need to lose Grand’s best venue. Go to the show, and bring enough cash for a Trunk Space t-shirt. And maybe a Mini Ts one, too.
The Trunk Space is located at 1506 NW Grand Ave. Call for times and price — 602.256.6006.
Previous week’s games
12/17/09 Blazers 105, SUNS 102
12/19/09 SUNS 121, Wizards 95
12/21/09 Cavs 109, SUNS 91
12/23/09 Thunder 117, SUNS 113
Upcoming week’s games
12/25/09 SUNS vs Clippers 6 p.m., ESPN
12/26/09 SUNS @ Warriors 8:30 p.m., My45
12/28/09 SUNS vs Lakers 7 p.m., Fox Sports Arizona
12/30/09 SUNS vs Celtics 7 p.m., Fox Sports Arizona
For the second time this year, a Suns two-game skid has caused me to switch topics for the Suns Spot. Instead of writing about the current stretch of home games the Suns are finally on, their recent performance has forced me to switch gears. During Wednesday night’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Suns lacked punch off the bench, with the reserves only chipping in 12 points. This is normally where Leandro Barbosa would come into play.
With his scoring numbers dipping just a bit from recent years and the emergence of Jared Dudley and Goran Dragic, it was easy to overlook the play and overall importance the Blur has on the team. However, even with the slight drop-off in overall scoring, LB was shooting a career high from the field before his nasty ankle injury (although even when playing he was banged up) and he was on par for his overall career average from long range, plus he was still getting to the basket at will. The only reason there has been a decrease in his scoring is due to the fact that he was playing less minutes this year and taking less shots. The stats don’t even begin to tell the story of what Barbosa actually brings to the table.
When LB is healthy he gives the Suns a whole other element. With him on the bench, the second string has a lot more firepower to work with. Although he hasn’t done as much this year, partly due to the injury issues and partly due to the other bench players stepping it up a notch, he still does provide another threat that can always come in handy. This missing threat has become very evident over the course of December as Barbosa has been sidelined with the ankle sprain.
Before Barbosa went out, the Suns were 8-2; since then they’ve struggled to a 10-9 mark, and the team definitely could’ve used LB in a few of those losses. The most recent loss to the Thunder was a prime example. The Suns got brilliant performances from three of their five starters, but got very little help from their reserves. In such a close game, bench play can make all the difference. That’s why come Christmas evening, barring any setback today or Christmas morning, all Suns fans can thank whatever higher being they believe in that Barbosa will be suiting back up in the purple and orange.
Dudley jersey giveaway
Earlier this week Jared Dudley and the Phoenix Suns began the “Jared Dudley Twitter Holiday Jersey Giveaway” as Dudley and the Suns teamed up to give away 100 of the former Boston College standout’s jerseys. Suns fans were able to win one of the first 12 autographed Dudley jerseys by entering contests through the Suns’ official Twitter page. In addition to those 12, the gritty small forward gave away 50 jerseys himself to the first 50 fans that showed up outside the Casino Arizona Pavilion at US Airways Center Tuesday afternoon. The remaining jerseys will be given out during Friday’s home game against the Los Angles Clippers.
Ride the Rail to the game (and Majerle’s)
Speaking of the home game this Friday against the Clippers, Suns fans are encouraged to attend the game via the light rail as part of the Ride the Rail Event, which allows anyone with a ticket to an event at US Airways Center to ride the METRO light rail for free. And, for those that are looking for a place to grab drinks before or after the game, be sure to swing on by Majerle’s, just up the street from the Purple Palace at 24 N. 2nd St., as it will be open on Christmas day to serve those in the area and those attending the game.
A little Suns holiday spirit
On one last note, everyone should head over to the Bright Side of the Sun to check out Mike Lisboa’s brilliant Suns-themed holiday poem, ‘Twas the Night Before Clips-mas. You won’t be disappointed.