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July 26, 2011


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Thank you Jon for another enlightening post. I'll return with a more detailed response, but couldn't resist being first to comment.

From 1978 to 1990, my office was in the Smitty's complex on S. 7th and the Salt. To be truthful, it was pretty much a foreign country for me until my colleagues began introducing me to a number of wonderful little Mexican restaurants where I was often the only whitebread guy in the place. This process of assimilation took a while but it changed my life as I worked on my Spanish and learned to hobnob with the locals.

Smitty's vanished and Bashas' took over the facility. When I visited it for a meeting several years back, some of yesterday's ghosts and spirits were still there.

A Phoenix friend of mine is a retired Post Office carrier who delivered mail around 23rd Ave & Southern (85041 zip code). He has fond memories of South Phoenix, as the folks he delivered mail to were friendly to him. Since he delivered monthly checks to many residents, he was a welcome person in their neighborhood.

South Phoenix was alternatively lyrical and savage back when it was a real place with extended families whose histories were as old as Arizona's. We marveled they could love something so homely and difficult but that's what people will do if they stay in one place long enough. All that's vanished as Phoenix's parts became interchangeable and disposable.

I used to tell people in the '70s and '80s that if they wanted to see what most of Phoenix looked like back before the boom, they should drive around South Phoenix. Now that's mostly gone. The boom finally took out the last authentic places we left unguarded. You can't really detect the magic because even the few remnants - orchards, fields, old farmhouses, etc. - don't interweave with a genuine community. They're inert relics for the most part and embarrass us with their irrelevance.

I spent my working life in South Phoenix so I saw the devastation up close. The pattern was quite familiar to me so I didn't really mourn the loss. Even as a boy, when I went with my father to his medical office at 16th Street & Mohave I knew this place was undervalued. There weren't the same prosperous people driving new cars that I saw uptown. Their poverty frightened me.

We buried a lot of Phoenix over the past 60 years, including the people we didn't care to know or understand. We replaced it with commodities and nice, middle-class people. It's not that their lives aren't equally valuable. It's just that we know they'll be gone in a few years to some other equally anodyne city or neighborhood so there will be nothing to mourn. Without love, there isn't loss. And that's the tragedy of Phoenix as well as I can describe.

"A Phoenix friend of mine is a retired Post Office carrier who delivered mail around 23rd Ave & Southern (85041 zip code). He has fond memories of South Phoenix, as the folks he delivered mail to were friendly to him. Since he delivered monthly checks to many residents, he was a welcome person in their neighborhood."

Oh, really? How touching.

I'm not to keen on how Phoenix has changed over the last 3 decades that I lived here, so much so that I almost despised it for it's lack of history and culture.
There is much to be admired how it has improved (in Central Phoenix at least) since the dismal - in my opinion - 1990's, but my appreciation of Phoenix has grown since I started reading this website and especially Phoenix 101. Just wanted to say thanks.

South, north, east, and west . . . Phoenix blows.

The destruction of “South Phoenix” began when “American” natives (HoHokam) began to dig ditches to irrigate crops. Prior to that the natives planted along natural waterways and planted according to their knowledge of nature’s way. The plow and the drill have doomed this planet earth. Today we have come along way baby. Monsanto and the big boys can grow you anything you want (aw babies in test tubes).
First came the Japanese now called Zuni’s and the Spaniards, a few guys from Iceland and of course the devastating flea bitten small pox ridden white guys from Europe. They ravaged and raped their way across the continent and built great urban dreams in their own image and named their kids Junior. As for Arizona my hero Teddy approved the big dam and set the stage for the eventual destruction of the great Sonoran desert.
South Phoenix is screwed. But if you are a native or been around for 75 years you can still find pockets of nostalgia. I climb South Mountain many mornings and have since 1950, as the sun breaks the horizon as do hundreds of others on foot or bike. I haven’t seen a Gila monster in the park since 1992 and the rattlesnake I teased as it lay in the shade of the same mesquite for years, is gone. However almost every AM I see two big well fed drooling coyotes making their way out of the burgs of Ahwatukee back into the mountain side. Someone is missing a cat or dog. Mas Tarde. Cal and his dog Spot

Cal, I've tried to explain that theory to other people with decidedly mixed results. Most of us take it as a given that civilization itself is a good thing. We're happy not to be hunter-gatherers living a literal hand-to-mouth existence. There's no desire to return to the paleolithic era even if it meant preserving the planet. If you get into the deep ecology school, it appears nothing is sacred except Earth itself. Man no longer occupies a throne in the great chain of being.

When I look out at the horror of greater Phoenix, I'm completely with you. But when I contemplate the horror of the sudden cataclysm where billions die, my mind shifts frantically to survival strategies. I can't help myself: that horror is still too horrible.

The current drama in Washington has me riveted. I'm assuming that something will be done and that the crisis will quickly abate afterwards. But the longer term damage is immense. We are being pushed around by know-nothing zealots. That "we" includes the president, media mandarins, along with institutional memory and authority. This is unprecedented. My mind races for analogies but I can't really find any.

Here's Michael Tomasky's channeling my anxiety:


I have always wondered why the City of Phoenix has never taken an aggressive stance towards the area of 19th Avenue @ Broadway to the curve @ 43rd Avenue. It seems like they experience a greater alarm fire in that area about once every 3 months.

Now we're learning about a family who abused a child to the point she died. From the media reports she suffered andher family is pure evil. That entire area has been nothing but a venue where criminals congregated for decades. When I worked at PHX FD Engine 21, we never enjoyed that area. It was and remains to this day a shit hole. I spent 11 years of less than glorious duty in that place. Thank goodness I always had a strong willed crew who always tried to do the right thing. Too bad I couldn't get the numb nuts at Fire HQ and City Hall to see the area as one giant destination for criminals. Brunacini, Kime, Catteleme and others blew me off. Screw them.

I have since retired, moved on, and I took a path Mr. Tarlton hasn't mentioned. I went East to Northern Oklahoma and I never looked back.

It seemed to me in the 70s Phoenix started to change....

So now we have a debt deal maybe/kinda/sorta, per the Pres' most recent statement. The dude looks sub-dued, doesn't he? At best our country gets a black eye out of all this. Far-seeing strategists like Jon Talton may prophecy much worse. So, does anybody suppose that We The People have begun to understand the damage the wingnuts have done?

There's a lot of differences in Phoenix. Even just being down town, or off the 51 you can have a really nice gated community right in the middle of less-than-beautiful apartments.

Late-comer here. I began commuting from central Phoenix (Thomas Rd. back then) to South Phoenix to attend a church, then to visit my girl-friend (now wife of 55 years). That all began in 1960 and segregation was total. My wife's family is well-known among the Black community of Phoenix and I watched the area change over the years. We still go back to the church (mainly funerals) although many members have "moved on up" and away while still returning.

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