The Trouble With Phoenix

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The trouble with Phoenix is that we’re a city full of failures.  It’s cool, I am too.  But the fact is, we couldn’t make it anywhere else, not in a “real” city so we settled here.  The result is that we’re a melting pot filled to the brim with people who couldn’t cut it anywhere else and that’s what we’re stuck with.  The result is that we’re stuck with aggressive, unfriendly assholes.

This morning on my way to work, the trouble with Phoenix was completely personified with one person.  I was driving to work and this guy almost crashed into me.  Instead of stopping in the turn lane, he was driving in it and clumsily trying to merge.  He tried to merge right in front of me so I honked at him to let him know, hey, I’m right here.  Please don’t crash into me.  How he responded was by literally trying to force me off the road.  He pulled up next to me and motioned for me to pull over so he could, presumably, kick my ass.

Here’s the thing:  I wasn’t even upset or scared because this shit happens all the time.  It’s just a thing I have to deal with.

If an emergency response vehicle comes up behind you in Phoenix, and you pull over, watch how many other cars will use that opportunity to pass you.  People seriously use an ambulance’s siren as an opportunity to get five cars ahead.  It’s fucking disgusting.

And the thing is, when one of these aggressive assholes motions for you to pull over, statistically the chances are pretty good that the guy has a gun.  We live in Phoenix, after all, the city that time after time thinks it’s a solution to end violence by making sure every single person, baby, dog and cat owns a gun.  The solution to end violence, you see, is to mentally prepare yourself for a John Woo-style fucking shootout every single day.  Every single day you should be ready to shoot someone in the face.

We have the “toughest sheriff” in America, and despite that, we still must be armed to the teeth.

Phoenix is the most bizarre mishmash of people I can imagine.  We live in a city that continues to nominate Sheriff Joe Arpaio, despite the fact that he’s incompetent and racist, because the old fucks who live here in the wintertime just love him.  We also live in a city that is trying desperately to be hip.  Every cool neighborhood with affordable housing is being gentrified.  Downtown is turning a collection of condos and nothing more.  Cool, local restaurants and businesses are closing down to make way for new condos.  Fucking condos.  That’s all I can fucking see.  Close this down, knock this down, make way for a new eyesore with $300,000 condos.  Who the fuck would spend over a quarter million to live in Phoenix?  I guess lots of people, because there’s no shortage of developments.  That my landlord is cool enough to have not raised my rent is a fucking miracle.

I don’t understand how Phoenix can somehow be “urban” or “hip” enough to necessitate all these luxury homes, but still so outrageously conservative that Doug Ducey is our governor.  It’s these kinds of contradictions that have forged the city we live in.

If Phoenix pops up in the news, it’s never because of something cool that happened.  It’s either going to be an offensive, racist state bill that we want to pass, or because we fucked up major and thousands of people weren’t able to vote in the primaries.  And you know what?  The person responsible for that massive, electoral fuckup still has her job.  She refused to retire and nobody’s about to make her, because corruption on local government is just par for the course.  Arizona’s government is run like Louisiana’s was in the fucking 1930s.

It goes without saying that the weather is unbearable, but just how unbearable is impossible to imagine unless you live here.  Yes, yes, it’s a “dry heat” or so I’m goddamned told, but Phoenix also seems to be opposed to providing any sort of shade.  The only shaded parking lot I can even think of is at the downtown library, but libraries are often smart.  In the summer if you park your car while you grab some groceries real quick, you’re going to come back to an oven.  Because shade trees are unheard of here.

“Roosevelt Row” the hip area downtown did actually plan some shade trees for the sidewalk for some bullshit initiative and it was all over the news and it was the funniest failure I’ve ever seen in my life.  They had these tiny trees in these huge pots that were expected to grow, but they never did.  They died.

It’s crazy to me whenever I go on vacation in another city because people in other cities are polite.  If you’re walking down the street, people typically, when facing another person, will smile, nod or say hello.  In Phoenix, the usual reaction is to look away.  It’s such a strange thing that a city is known for, but 9 out of 10 people do it.  It’s kind of like a cultural identity for living here.  You’re not a Phoenician unless you greet people by fucking ignoring them.

My girlfriend and I put a little library on our front lawn, the kind where you stock it with books and people can take one or leave one.  It’s going fine now, but within the first month it was robbed twice.  Now we have to put “not for sale” stamps on the books because people will try to sell them.

I live next to an alley that acts as a super highway for homeless people, across the street from a halfway house, and in the shadow of a luxury condo that has units for sale for an amount of money that I will never see in my life.  Never.

I went out to eat with my girlfriend and we literally, without exaggeration, overheard a guy saying, “That’s why me and my friends from the midwest came out here in the first place.  We can live like kings out here, and for a fraction of the price.  I bought up all the property I could find.”  Who talks like that, apart from villains in movies about stealing Christmas from orphans?

More and more I’m convinced that the problem with Phoenix is actually the Midwest. They come out here and bring their bullshit conservative values with them and act like they’ve been here for forever.

Let’s say you want to avoid the whole road rage thing and car-is-an-oven thing that Phoenix causes.  Public transportation out here is awful.  In most cities, you can expect a bus to come every 10 to 15 minutes.  In Phoenix they come every “twenty” minutes, but really twenty minutes out here for the buses means they’ll arrive every 45 minutes.  And then every 6 months the bus drivers will go on strike again.  They always do.

I used to have this one bus route (it’s since been discontinued) that I loved to take home.  I’d ride my bike to work in the morning, and throw my bike on the bus on my way home when I was exhausted.  One day, I forgot the put the bike rack up and the driver banned me from his route.  Seriously.  He said, “You are not welcome on my bus anymore.”

I said, “Not even if I apologize?”

“No.”

I called Phoenix Metro and asked if he could do that, and they said he was rude, sure, but it was his bus.  I mean, not really though if you think about it for two seconds since he doesn’t own the bus, but they sided with him and I was effectively banned because I forgot to put the rack up.

That’s not an isolated incident, either.  The bus drivers out here are motherfuckers.  Ask a bus driver a basic question.  Ask them, “Does this bus go [insert destination here]?”  If they do answer you, they’ll be fucking shitty about it.  Most often though, the answer you’re going to get is, “There’s a schedule right there.”

I could stand living in a city with glaring problems like this, but that every neighborhood is being rapidly gentrified adds insult to injury.  The city is growing at an alarming rate, rents are going through the roof, buying a house is next to fucking impossible now, and nothing that I’ve described above is getting any better.  If anything, it’s getting worse as more and more people move in.  Because they’re not moving to this city because it’s awesome or a great place to live, but because it’s affordable compared to everywhere else.  So, they’re bringing their shitty baggage along with them, and they will spread around the notion that it’s okay to drive like an asshole, that it’s okay to not say hi back to someone and to build walls 18 feet fucking high so that they don’t have to see their neighbors and they can live in isolation in the middle of a scalding hot desert.

Obviously I love my family that lives here and I love my friends that I’ve made.  But sometimes this city beats me down and I need to vent.  Between the construction my neighborhood has been under for about a year now and my dickhead neighbors that park in front of my house so I can’t put my trash out, I just need to explain, in depth, how much I hate this fucking city.

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