Even the most skeptical auditor of Phoenix's challenges and follies must admit some pride in Major League Baseball's All-Star Game being held there. And in downtown Phoenix, not some "Valley," not in exurban "Glendale, Ariz." Considering how city leaders allowed the central city to circle the drain for decades, visitors will see some impressive efforts at revitalization: CityScape, the Phoenix Convention Center, Sheraton, biosciences campus, ASU downtown and light rail (we built it, you bastards). Oh, for big-city boutique hotels at the Westward Ho and Professional Building. The baseball stadium is ugly, a lost architectural opportunity, but at least it's downtown, an eventuality I highly doubt if it were being built today under present ownership. They can hop a train to Midtown to take in the spectacular Modern Mexican Painting exhibition at the Phoenix Art Museum, a pleasant contrast to the general, and generally deserved, reputation of intolerance and racism for the state at large. If you want to boycott, do so against the East Valley and Scottsdale (but not the Poisoned Pen bookstore), not tolerant central Phoenix.
Some quick advice to out-of-towners: It's a dry heat, but so is hell. So is a thermonuclear explosion. Stay hydrated (I freeze bottles of water to carry with me; they melt quickly but you're not left drinking hot water). Avoid much exposure to the sun. Wear light-colored clothes, especially white, and cover as much skin as possible. Keep some popsicles in the freezer at the hotel; have one to help cool down when you come in from outside. Don't do something stupid like climb Camelback Mountain or go "exploring" in the desert. God created air-conditioning for a reason — use it. A dark, cool Mexican restaurant is an especially satisfying hangout in the summer. If the media say the high will be 105, that's in the shade at Sky Harbor. The surface temp on the street is around 140. I hope to hell somebody will give them such advice, so there's not a great All-Star die-off. Too bad City Hall encouraged all that concrete, all that gravel and no shade trees.
Still, the big game is, at best, a temporary respite from the troubles of city and state.
This is not to say the weather isn't changing for the worse. The latest studies of temperure change over the decades show an alarming 11-degree increase in night-time temps in Phoenix, which translates into longer, hotter summers. Monsoon storms are now violent as they collide with the heat island. And we haven't even begun to cook with climate change. But nobody in the media seems interested. Ha, boobs, indeed.
One wonders how the Kookocracy will try to get in on the All-Star action. One source told me The Badged Ego was going to send a chain gang over to clean up the stadium area. How could he resist barging into the national spotlight? This would be a good time for somebody's special forces to rendition him to a third country for the same treatment he metes out at the tent jail (nearly 150 degrees last week) before landing him in the Hague as a cellmate of Ratko Mladic. Surely John McCain will make some incoherent but outrageous blurt ("Foul balls are caused by illegal Mexicans!"). Ah, here we go: A Republican state senator from Anthem pointed a gun at a reporter's chest. Nice! Meanwhile, Russell Pearce is facing a recall. Will Jan Brewer, who owes him her governorship, sign the bill for the election? If it happens, Democrats would be smart to unite behind a sane, Mormon Republican. Otherwise, Mr. SB 1070 might survive.
Meanwhile, hosannas are being shouted about signs of an alleged recovery in house sales. I'm skeptical — the bounce is tiny, the hole deep. But even if the Growth Machine restarts, to what general good? Don't think me hard-hearted. I learned yesterday of another friend in trouble because of the bust. But recovery of the old unsustainable monster will only set the table for an even bigger feast of disaster. Nobody has learned anything from these hard years. It seems auspicious, then, that Jay Butler, ASU's real-estate professor, decided to retire. The Republic hailed him: "Because he wasn't paid by homebuilders or real-estate agents, he was free to say what he thought, and his unwavering honesty and outspoken opinions gained him harsh critics."
Maybe he had a harsh critic in that nutjob who (used to?) put out a super-booster real-estate newsletter. Otherwise Butler was safe and cautious, full of the conventional growthgasm boosterish sprawly consensus until reality was screaming so loud that even he and economist/developer Elliott Pollack could play at being bears and bearers of hard truths. It was always surprising, given Phoenix's dependence on a single industry, why ASU didn't develop the nation's most respected center for real-estate studies (such as the one at UCLA). But that would be too dangerous. Better to have Butler, who claims that "no one" (??!) saw the big crash coming. A nice guy, he still epitomized the Upton Sinclair quote, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." As do so many. The fist of the Real Estate Industrial Complex can reach into ASU (ask Tom Rex), the Republic, anywhere. Thus is an astonishing conformity of thought enforced upon a metropolis that can ill afford it.