After a brief hiatus, the Insecure Critic column is back with the same poignant, insightful, selective insecurities as before, but with a new focus: examining the city in which he lives, the issues that he faces and the people and places he encounters.
When I got home from my recent trip to Ohio to visit family for the holidays, it struck me: Phoenix is home to me now. I know that may seem obvious since I have lived almost a third of my life here, but it hadn’t hit me until this trip that I was most at home in the desert. When I first moved to the Valley in 2000, transferring jobs with a former employer, I never saw the move as something permanent. I expected to stay here for a few years then move on. Something has kept me here, though.
If I boil it down to the basics, there are three things that keep me here: the special places that make Phoenix unique, the interesting blend of people you will find here and the paradoxical beauty of the desert.
While some people say that there isn’t anything to do in Phoenix, I find I have the opposite problem. When family comes to visit from out of town, we have trouble getting everything done in time. For example, the Heard Museum is unlike any museum I’ve ever been to, with its unique collection of Native American art. Every time I visit, all I can think is, “Why don’t I come here more often?” I also love the experience of taking someone into You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies at the Phoenix Art Museum for the first time. Sure, neither of those places is MoMA, but they offer things that are uniquely Phoenix.
Not to get all museum crazy, but the other thing that I absolutely love in Phoenix is the Desert Botanical Garden. It is fun, interesting, beautiful, romantic and inspiring. I also highly recommend the guided tours they offer — I’m personally not much of a guided tour kind of guy, but I went on one last time I was at the garden, and it was fascinating.
I just realized that I am starting to sound like one of those cheesy tourist guides that you find on the nightstand at the Airport Hilton, so I apologize, but there is a reason that the Convention and Visitors Bureau recommends these places: they really are world class, and they are right in Phoenix.
Anyway, my other favorite places in Phoenix are our unique, local restaurants. There is nowhere else that you can find Matt’s Big Breakfast or Postino. I’m not sure of another place that I could find a bar as chill as The Lost Leaf or service as ambivalent as that at Carly’s.
I love the people in Phoenix; sure, when you have a populace that consistently elects the craziest sheriff in the country time after time, you have to wonder about the general mental state of the people, but I appreciate the distinct Arizona culture. As someone with a libertarian political view that borders on anarchist, I like the sort of “live and let live” attitude that tends to prevail in Phoenix. I see it in the way people interact in social situations, the way people behave at work and the way laws are written. Yes, this means that in Arizona your pet project, whether it is bike paths, or publicly funded solar panels, is less likely to be showered with tax dollars, but it also means that people in general respect your ability to make your own decisions. I like that.
I have met some of the most thoughtful, intelligent, clever people I have ever known right here in Phoenix, and I am sure I am going to meet many more.
I remember the first time I was told this maxim about our desert by a priest at a church I attended long ago: The miracle of the desert is finding beauty where you would never expect to see it. It is so true. The most barren and desolate mountain has an uncanny majesty as it stands against the bands of color in the Phoenix sunset. There is inspiration in seeing the tiny blossoms of a desert plant surrounded by acres and acres of dry, dusty land. It is a reminder that the most beautiful and meaningful things often come to us in hardship and difficulty. The desert speaks to me.
Am I a diehard evangelist for Phoenix, or am I vowing to stay here until I die? Absolutely not. But, by the same token, I will never be one of those people who constantly bitches about Phoenix, about how awful the transit, weather, people, politics or education is here, and how they can’t wait to move to San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland or Seattle, as though someone were holding a gun to their head forcing them to stay here. If someone offered me a dream job in Boston or Chicago, of course I would move. But, I’m happy where I am now.
Past week’s games
1/02/10 Grizzlies 128, SUNS 103
1/05/10 SUNS 113, Kings 109
1/06/10 SUNS 118, Rockets 110
Upcoming week’s games
1/08/10 SUNS vs Heat, 7 p.m., My45
1/11/10 SUNS vs Bucks, 7 p.m., Fox Sports Arizona
1/13/10 SUNS @ Pacers, 5 p.m., My45
With the NBA trade deadline just around the corner, Suns Spot has decided to take a look at what moves, if any, the Phoenix Suns should make.
We know where the Suns struggle: on the defensive end, especially against bigger teams, and on the glass. As far as strengths go, Phoenix has an abundance of scoring — the best in the league — and great chemistry. Now in the perfect world, or NBA 2K10, we’d just ship out one of the extra scorers we have for a big that can defend and rebound with the best of them. Unfortunately, this world is neither perfect nor played on Xbox 360, so teams are shopping talented big bodies at a great price.
So, what to do? The Suns have three players that you’ll probably hear come up this trade season: Leandro Barbosa, Jason Richardson and Amar’e Stoudemire. One has value, one has a big contract Phoenix wouldn’t mind shedding and one has an uncertain future.
First, we’ll start with the value in Barbosa. All teams need scoring off the bench, and LB is one of the best. He’s a great outside shooter that can get into the paint at will. Now think about the fact that he’s a great bargain for what he does, especially when you consider the guys that make more than him and do less, and there are plenty of teams out there that would love to have the Blur leading their second unit. Plus, with the improvement of Goran Dragic, Barbosa’s minutes and production are down, so he could be expendable.
Since LB’s return from injury, the Suns have gone 5-2, and although they blew “gimme” games against the Warriors and Grizzlies, 5-2 is still much better than they had been playing while LB was out. Not to mention, the guy never complains, is said to be a great teammate and wants to be here. For me, that’s more than enough reasons to hold onto LB.
Then there’s Richardson. He’s not as desirable as Barbosa because of his fat contract, but he is more than serviceable as a starting 2 in the association. He’s a great scorer, above-average rebounding guard and when he wants to, can be a fairly decent defensive player. In an uptempo offense, much like the one the Suns run, Richardson is a great addition.
Trading Richardson would require us to take on a bad contract of someone who will more than likely be far less talented than him. Plus, when Richardson is clicking, the Suns are completely different beast on offense, so I think it’s best to keep him.
Lastly, there’s Stoudemire, and the whole “will he or won’t he opt out of his current contract this summer” scenario. Even after STAT makes that decision, he has to decide whether or not he wants to be here and how much he plans to make. We know he’s one of the most explosive offensive players in the league, but his defense and rebounding continue to be suspect, although he has shown some improvement in the rebounding department over the last month or so. He’s shown he can bounce back from major injuries better than anyone else in the league, so health shouldn’t be a concern. You can bet Amar’e’s name will come up often in trade rumors.
Despite the fact that Stoudemire can opt out after this year and the Suns could lose him for nothing, trading him would be a huge mistake. You don’t trade a guy with this much talent, just out of fear for losing him in the summer. He’s just too good. You offer him a contract extension and keep him here for the long haul. Amar’e’s maturity level has taken great strides this year and he deserves to be rewarded. To top it all off, I honestly believe Stoudemire wants to be here and would settle for less than max salary. Owner Robert Sarver and GM Steve Kerr just need to make it happen.
Bottom line, if I’m calling the shots, Phoenix stays pat. While there are areas of weakness the Suns can improve on, the risk is too high. When chemistry plays such a high role in a team’s success, you just don’t mess with that.
From the Arizona Room is a weekly column examining the historic, reuse and infill structures in Downtown Phoenix. The inspiration for this column stems from the ever-expanding resources in Burton Barr Central Library’s Arizona Room (located on the fourth floor). For further information on this and other historic structures in the area, visit the Arizona Room during normal library hours.
614 N. 4th Ave. in Roosevelt
Two doors north of Local Breeze sits one of the Roosevelt neighborhoods’s original structures. This house, listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 30, 1983, was constructed in 1906. But, if you’re new to the area, you probably don’t know that it was part of a dynamic duo. One lot to the north, the former 618 N. 4th Ave. (now Metro 4 Twelve apartments on a double lot at 620 N. 4th Ave.), was a virtually identical cottage built five years prior in 1901.
The historic name of the twin cottages is unknown, but their uncanny likeness to each other — one-story concrete block cottages with hip roofs and dormers, porch overhangs and similar craftsmanship “designed to look like stone” — was unlike anything the neighborhood had seen. Even the trim and accent colors were strikingly uniform.
Today, the remaining house is simply known as “Concrete Block Cottage” in historic references, or “Concrete Block Neoclassical House” by the city of Phoenix’s Historic Preservation Office. The city added the building to its historic register three years after its NRHP designation in September 1986.
The building left standing at 614 has been boarded up for some time, but its turn-of-the-century charm remains apparent, despite its current state. It needs of a new roof, a serious paint job and some structural work on the porch and overhang. The front and back yards of the property are empty dirt space.
Source: Phoenix Historic Building Survey by Charles Hall Page and Associates, Inc., September 1979; City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office
Is there a historic property in Downtown Phoenix you’d like to see in From the Arizona Room? Email me at email@example.com with the address and a brief description.
Alright faithful Sips and Grub readers, I have a confession to make. Brace yourself, but I have been to Carly’s before. OK, I’ve been there a lot. This tends to happen when it is only a few blocks from my front step. I don’t normally eat there, though. Normally I darken their doorway for one reason: their willingness to sell PBR and Sessions Lager for $2. What can I say, I am easy to please.
So, this venture was cause for a more serious focus — my growling stomach. I had long heard tale of the Carly Q: warm roast beef drowning in special barbecue sauce on an onion challah roll with cheese. Whew. Just writing that part made me hungry again.
Carly’s sits right in the middle of it all, across the street from Revolver Records, just downwind from Modified Arts and a hop, skip and jump from Monorchid. So, it stands to reason that you might have heard of the place.
I mosey up to the bar and slide into my comfy seat. The place is artsy and inviting from the moment you cross the threshold; you’re embraced by hip artwork and even hipper company. In my previous experiences the barkeeps were all noticeably friendly. This time didn’t disappoint. The lovely lady behind the cartoon-laced bar was eager to slide me a drink and crack the whip on the kitchen to get out my order.
I’m going to admit that you guys almost didn’t get a picture of this meal because I was hellbent on devouring it when it arrived. The barbecue sauce was pouring from the sandwich, just mocking me that I would have it all over my face before I was done. The warm roast beef was thickly sliced and roasted to perfection. To top it off, the cheese was melty and delectable. I’m not sure that I have ever had a barbecue sandwich like this one. After ravenously consuming it and needing second and third rounds of napkins, I had conquered the Carly Q. I felt that the feat was deserving of a shirt, but the satisfaction of quieting my rumbling tummy was prize enough.
So, make sure you hit up Carly’s for one of the best barbecue sandwiches around. I might be in the corner sipping my PBR. Be sure to say hello.
Carly’s is located at 128 E. Roosevelt St. in Evans Churchill — light rail station at Central/Roosevelt. 602.262.2759
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