Coffee heat rising

Epistle from the Church’s Reception Desk: You Know You’ve Been Stuck in a Rut Too Long When….

…driving through your city’s downtown is like visiting some other planet! 


Our city council likes to describe lovely Phoenix as a collection of “villages,” a metaphor whose purpose always sorta escaped me. But today it occurred to me…they could be right.

This morning before hitting the volunteer desk down at the Church, I had first to drive ALLLLLLLL the way to the far West Valley to pick up my lab report from the eager-to-operate dermatologist over there.

Then drive home, copy her report and write a note to MayoDoc explaining what OrthodontistDude said (viz.: don’t let any mere dermatologist slice up your face…get a plastic surgeon to do it) and expressing, as subtly but also as obviously as possible, the possibility that she might refer me to such a creature. Then get back in the car and drive and drive and drive and drive to the far East Valley to deliver this message. Then drive and drive and drive and drive to get back to the church, for whose activities I was (as announced to my coworker) running late.

It was the most extraordinary experience, driving from west side’s acres of former cotton and corn fields, now sprouting houses, CLEAR ACROSS THE CITY to the farthest eastern reaches of Richlandia! Because…I had to drive through downtown Phoenix, a garden spot I haven’t visited in a good 20 years. Or more. Then, once on the far side of those precincts, up Scottsdale Road through the fields of the now much updated and re-commercialized tourist traps.

The city of Px has changed SOOOO much as to be — seriously: no exaggeration — unrecognizable.

I used to work downtown, for a law firm that occupied three floors of a high rise. And DXH and I lived for about 15 years within walking distance of that small-town business district, in a much-gentrified antique central neighborhood. So, I knew the downtown area well.

Today the freeway was up-gescrewed, so I got off just to the west of the downtown commercial district and elected to cross the city on a main drag called Van Buren Street. This was my old stomping grounds: the Firm was located two blocks to the north, and this also was the route I used to take driving  across the city from our classic antique house to the university in Tempe. So I know it well. Or…so I thought.

What I found was not my mother’s route to Tempe…that’s for sure!! 😀 The entire downtown area has been SO MASSIVELY TRANSFORMED as to be unrecognizable!

Old bars and whorehouses are gone. So are most of the old office buildings and many of the old high-rises. These have been replaced by huge, shiny new high-rises, And the old SROs and dives? Mile after square mile of brand-new, very fancy mid-rise apartment buildings. A vast athletic arena covers blocks. The scary slums around the mental hospital: gone! Replaced by more apartments.

This goes on for blocks and blocks and blocks. Parts of it look like San Francisco; some of it reminds you of the higher-tax regions of L.A. What a thing to see!

Seriously: except that the roads follow the same routes, it was like driving through some other city.

driving driving driving…eventually I come to Scottsdale Road and turn north for the miles-long journey toward Shea Blvd. Out of the light-industrial low-rent area, northward into touristy downtown Scottsdale. And my gosh! Same story! It’s like the whole damn place has been demolished and rebuilt! Only a few of the buildings look familiar. Most of them are newer, snazzier, and ritzier!

driving driving driving driving…finally hit Shea Blvd. All of the formerly upscale housing developments along that route are now…MORE upscale! Walled, gated “communities,” not mere housing tracts. Holee moleee!

It’s a positive development…I guess. Goes a way toward explaining why property values are exploding in the’Hood. Any place that’s centrally located and middle- or upper-middle-class is going to inflate wildly in price, with all that fancy architecture and expensive real estate surrounding us.

But y’know what? When I got home to the ’Hood nestled between Conduit of Blight Blvd and Gangbanger’s Way, it struck me that our neighborhood has also gentrified madly…to the point where it is MUCH nicer and much more pleasant than snooty Scottsdale!!

 Those overpriced stick-and-styrofoam tract houses with their orange cement tile roofs do not hold up well to the passage of time: surely not as well as slump block and shake shingles. Our houses look soooooo much better and our irrigated yards with their towering green trees look sooo much prettier than those desert-landscaped McMansions…it rather defies belief!

And herein lies the point: When you live in your own “village,” an enclave of a vast urban jungle, you have your own aesthetic, your have your own ethic, you have your own shopping venues, social resources, churches, cops, veterinians, yard dudes, dogs, cats, and funny-looking neighbors. You have, in short, everything you need within arm’s reach. You don’t even notice the change going on in nearby “villages..”

No wonder the fix-and-flippers are having frenzies grabbing up our houses and selling them for three times what they’re worth… Who’d’ve thunk it?