Sunday, May 15, 2005

107.9 should be the last radio station on the FM dial

Not the observed temperature in my parking lot on May 15th.

The official temperature in PHX today was I believe 100, but I swear to you they take that offical temp from what must be the coldest spot, in what we accurately but not very creatively call "The Valley of the Sun". I typically see temperatures from 5 to 10 degrees hotter than what the weather channel and/or national weather service officially report.

Honestly, I carp about living in Phoenix (Scottsdale actually), but it's really quite a pleasant place to live.. 'cept for about four months a year (mid May through mid September).

I have only three gripes

1. It's too damned hot
2. Theres no frikken water (Tempe town lake and the salt river don't count. I grew up on the ocean, and lived in lakes summers)
3. It's kinda boring and all the same (my GF is a native Phoenician and insists this is untrue)

The first two are kinda related, and simply a natural consequence of the location and environment. Thats why god made air conditioning, and low low weekend airfares.

The last is something else entirely, and is a consequence of the explosive growth of the area.

As of 2005 the estimated population of the Phoenix Metropolitan area is 4.2 million (4.9 million if you include the illegals - and no, I'm not kidding). In 1980 it was about 1.1 million, in 1990 about 2.2 million, in 2000 about 3.4 million... I think you get the picture.

It's actually so rare to meet a native, that most peoples first question upon meeting is "So where did you move in from, and how long have you been here?"; followed by a shock "Oh that's rare" if one IS a native (like my GF, who is quite proud of that fact thankyouverymuch).

NOTE: the first time I visited Phoenix was in 1987, and I've only lived here off and on since 1993

Phoenix used to be a lot more interesting. There were quirky local places that had been here forever; and it was really still a western town. Even as late as 1993 when I first moved to Arizona, there were more family owned businesses than chain stores; though that was changing rapidly as new highway construction came in.

Then the California real estate market went into it's late 80s-90's rollercoaster, and all the Californicators started moving in, literally in the millions. The new growth and expansion was so fast that local busineses never had time to move in, or build clientelle; everything was purchased and built up by national franchisees looking for the fast buck on cheap land.

And so we have become latte land, 380 miles due east.

Coloradans, Nevadans, New Mexicans, and god help me Utahans (is that right?) have the exact same complaint by the way. The residents of Clark Country nevada (home of Vegas) probably have it worst of anyone, with their permanent population quadrupling in the last 10 years.

School districts can't build schools fast enough, doctors and hospitals cant move in fast enough etc... the entire region is bursting at the seams from people trying to escape the high taxes and costs of living of California, the upper midwest, and the northeast; and to some extent they are bringing their most unwelcome liberal/socialist politics with them (though they are generally soundly defeated, they did manage to elect a governor in a moment of weakness; our last two Republican governors were indicted criminals).

By the time I moved out of AZ "for good" in 1997, phoenix was already pointing the way to what it is today; and the process was essentially complete by the time my mother moved down here in '99.

So what is it today?

Basically, it's a 47 mile across (on the diagonal) unbroken strip of shopping malls, parking lots, chain stores, apartment complexes, and 1 or 1.5 storey "southwestern style" houses as far as the eye can see.

And the most frightening bit to me?

People like it that way...