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August 15, 2011


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Oh Sigh! I prefer the comfortable patio of that Willow home over all others... You could of least planted a saguaro for Cal tho!

Yay for the iPhone photos and the lifestyle they depict! I do notice that there were no rainy day shots! I'll send you one of drinking a martini in the front yard of our Oregon flower garden. After 40+ years, the desert is in my heart and also in my lungs . .

WOW. Thanks for sharing. If I lived that close to Pikes Market I would:

Have fish for breakfast
Have fish for lunch
Have fish for dinner
Have fish for a bedtime snack
I would sleep with a salmon for a pillow.

I would sit on a park bench with a salmon dressed in a pink dress and we would sit and watch the cruise ships come and go.

And I wouldn't tell the salmon that I was seeing a halibut on the side.


If I lived in Seattle (and money was not an object), I'd probably want to be near downtown but not in it. I'd want to be near mass transit, shopping, and some lively coffee and club scenes. Because I'm already old, I'd also be thinking of medical facilities and - shudder - "campus of care" possibilities.

I've thought of neighborhoods like Queen Anne, Magnolia, Capitol Hill, even a few further out like Ballard. I liked Belltown when it was funkier (I wonder if the Hurricane Cafe will keep serving 12-egg omelettes given the gentrification around it). But if I was free to choose, I'd want to live in something older than a condo tower.

I think I could get used to the long, damp winters but I would miss the desert. Maybe January could be set aside for Arizona. At the moment, it's all a dream anyway. I'm stuck here because I drifted into a financial strategy that's paid me back in cinders. I call it Icarus because it made a spectacular descent.

This is my list of escapes from Phoenix (without practical concerns of affordability):

1) Portland
2) Berkeley
3) Seattle
4) Los Angeles
5) Albuquerque
6) San Francisco
7) Denver
8) Boulder
9) San Diego
10) Austin

Why Albuquerque? Because even though it's a car town, sprawled out, and mostly ugly, it still has something that Phoenix and Tucson once had and gave up. I can't quite name the quality. Maybe its the old Route 66 cutting through it, or the Hispanic complexion, but it vaguely reminds me that the West was once populated by gallant losers who didn't homogenize themselves for consumer civilization. It's like a Tom Waits song played late at night. You know it when you hear it.


The core of Albuquerque still feels like 1966. I agree it can't be quantified, I can't put a finger on it but it feels good. Better than you know where, (Phoenix). One possibility may be that the families who lived there in the 60's are still there now. The grandchildren of the original owners now live in the homes of their grandparents. That would allow for continuity of "community".

I'm entranced by Albuquerque also, especially if I could live in or near Old Town and not out in the 'burbs or on the right bank (west) of the Rio Grande.

I actually missed the desert more when I lived in Arizona again. I knew all that was gone. The ghastly drive to Tucson. The sprawl lapping at the gates of Taliesin West. Old Kingman destroyed. Prescott Valley. The High Country around Payson. The Verde Valley. Maybe it wouldn't have been so painful if I hadn't lived away for 22 years. I so missed the quick drive from the oasis unique to Phoenix to empty desert.

We wanted an urban lifestyle with a "we" culture, a big city, transit and trains, big city assets and a moderate climate. Seattle fit all those (don't tell anybody it doesn't rain all the time; they'll ruin it like they did Phoenix). Portland is nice but provincial, and too hot in the summertime. We also considered Denver (where I once lived downtown), Chicago, Baltimore, Boston and the Bay Area. I already did my time in San Diego, and it held no appeal for a repeat, unless a job had been waiting.

All I know about Albuquerque now is what I know from "Breaking Bad." I'll pass. It at least it high and has the Transcon main line of the BNSF. And its water resources are plainly limited.

Rogue: Portland is HOT in the summer? Consider climate change and its effect. They YEARN for the now-infrequent 80 degree days! Or has your thermostat been dialed down to 65 degrees?

Aberdeen, on the coast had like 3 days of Summer. Seattle is like Palm Springs in comparison. Port Townsend is the place to work remote from. Great weather, proximity to Seattle and a short commute to steelhead streams.

Not looking to return to the PNW yet though. My frosh daughter clearly loves Xavier.

I believe I was in the same condo overlooking the Cinerama for 5 years (13th floor), before moving north in Seattle. The Pike Place market was the best thing about being downtown!
I love to visit Phoenix to see the beauty of the desert, and feel the intense heat that is the signature of the Valley! Maybe opposites do attract, as Phoenix and Seattle are the tales of two different cities!

Seattle has changed a lot since my first stay there in 1980. The tech boom had not begun, softies no where to be found, and it had a blue collar feel. The downtown was old, rundown and had a welcoming feel. Very polished these days.

Bellevue Square represents much of King County ethos now. Was I having flashbacks of North Scottsdale during my last visit there? Did yuppies exist in 1980?

Phoenix for all its right wing essence provides a sense of individual freedom. No place for one who values intellect or moderate politics. Ecologically it has outgrown itself.

Seattle's rain is exaggerated but the lack of sun is not. Not good if mold is a problem for your system. The days are cloudy and awfully short during the winter.

Seattle is still a jewel of a city. Phoenix not so much.

morecleanair - This is only my 3rd summer in Portland, so I don't have much of a sampling to go by - seems to me this one has been cooler and dryer than 2009/2010...?

Jon - Portland provincial? Ain't it so! :)

I love Pike's Place! Loved going there as a kid and I actually still enjoy the original Starbucks when I make it back to Seattle. I don't drink Starbucks otherwise. I know there were complications getting light rail in Seattle, but running it north of downtown before Sea-Tac would have made so much more sense for ridership's sake. Now, I think it may be yet another curse for rail transit in Seattle.

A slight miracle may occur in Phoenix: 2 years after the NW extension in Phoenix was set aside it may be on track again thanks to rising transit tax revenues, high ridership, and support from Mesa and Tempe. Mesa and Tempe cities are extending rail with Mesa extending LRT into downtown and Tempe with the future Mill Ave Streetcar:


LRT "works" in Seattle...OK. For example, I can take a train from Westlake station to Pioneer Square or the International District. I take it to Mariners and Seahawks games, as well as to and from the airport. It has good ridership from Tukwilla park and ride, as well as to and from Rainier Valley. It was probably smart to go to the airport first, because so many travelers are coming downtown, and you see this on the trains.

The downsides: The airport station is at least a quarter of a mile from the actual terminal. And the link to the UW, much less, the East Side, is moving too slowly.

I hope Phoenix gets moving, although I continue to scratch my head about going to Metrocenter. If I could wave a wand, I would go up 24th Street to Biltmore Fashion Park (that would mess with their "exclusivity." And build deep into Maryvale, where so many depend on inadequate bus service.

Jon, from what I've been told by friends in Seattle is that buses from Tukwila, Columbia City, and Seatac were much more frequented than the LRT. Some of the bus routes were scrubbed in favor of LRT and this negatively impacted ridership...

As for Phoenix, I would prefer a line on Thomas Rd to Scottsdale, or like you say to the Biltmore; however, some of Phoenix' densest neighborhoods are around Metro Center. The density around that awful mall are 2 to 3 times higher compared to neighborhoods around Biltmore. Perhaps rail to Metro Center can spur more dense apartment building in vacant land around the aging thing.

I think this has been mentioned on this blog before but a Thomas alignment of light rail would rival numbers on Central Ave. Currently Route 29 (Thomas Rd.) is the busiest route in Arizona from Desert Sky Mall (75th Ave in Maryvale) to Scottsdale. Headway along Thomas is pretty good despite the heavy traffic on the road.

Any idea when they will run a light rail spur from my house to the Dirty Drummer at Country Club and Brown Rd. in Mesa??

John Talton, I miss you at the Republic. It's amazing you were forced out. You were one of my favorite reads. Now all I have is Robert Robb (who I know is in a much different political space than you). But having divergent, smart voices is what a newspaper is supposed to be about.


Fresh fish for every meal and fresh, hand-picked, wild blackberries for desert!

Looking at that first Seattle pic, it occurred to me Top Pot Donuts must be a very short walk away. Anyone who craves delicious sugar and oil bombs inside a midcentury gem ought to check it out. And then there's the Cinerama theater, at the bottom of the pic, another midcentury artifact blessed with a stunning restoration courtesy of Paul Allen. I saw The Simpsons movie here, and it was one of the nicest time-machine experiences of my life. I forget the Phoenix cinerama theaters (Bethany? Kachina? Cine Capri?) but what a shame we don't have at least one. And another shout-out to the Hurricane Café, a couple of blocks northeast. This is a greasy spoon you could imagine Kurt Cobain in at 3 am. DO NOT RESTORE. EVER.

Fear not, the Hurricane is still going strong. I have breakfast there regularly.

Also of note: The Mexican Consulate is in my block, the flag hanging proudly over Third Avenue. So I regularly hear the melodious Spanish of my home. Without the Anglo hate. (I never understood the consulate in Phoenix hiding out at the Esplanade).

Cinerama just underwent another big renovation. This is what happens when you have local stewards with money and love of their home city.

Looks like the new deep-bore tunnel -Seattle's version of the Big Dig- is going through (politically). There is a small chance it could still collapse under its own weight because some financing is still missing. If it doesn't, a money-sucking hole will open that generates more traffic. Well, can't win every time. Learning through pain is sometimes effective and darkly entertaining; though in this case so avoidable.

Ah, Seattle we love you but sometimes you don't seem to know what you want. Is it blue-state meandering or a purple-state affliction? Or was it the result of high-level shenanigans this time? The consensus (there was an earlier vote that rejected the tunnel) was moving towards the surface boulevard option but suddenly the governor, the mayor and some people decided that a tunnel would be super. Notice how the governor remarked to the NYT that other options would be tantamount to "social engineering" and "forcing people out of their cars".

On to new endeavors:

It's a beautiful home (the Willo house). Imagining it, I feel the loss deeply.

Recently, I spoke with someone here in Phoenix who said he had owned a land-survey business employing from five to nine workers (depending on activity). He said his personal income from the business was "more than $300,000 a year".

When the housing crash occurred and development ground to a halt, he burned through considerable personal savings trying to keep the business afloat. It failed anyway, and last year Social Security was his sole income source. (An object lesson for advocates of privatizing the program: if a go-getter like this can lose his life savings, it can happen to anyone; then the much-maligned Government is the only thing standing between you and life as an elderly pauper in the Land of the Free & Home of the Brave.)

When I asked him how he could have been so stubbornly persistent (I phrased this more politely) in a real-estate market like Arizona's during and following the Great Recession, he said that he had been surrounded by real-estate professionals (peers, clients, etc.) who were perpetually convinced that market recovery was just around the corner.

I mentioned that I knew someone who had written as a business columnist for the Arizona Republic, who referred to such cliques as "the real-estate industrial complex"; and that they had brought a great deal of pressure against him via his editorial and administrative superiors, intensely disapproving of views they regarded as insufficiently sunny. An uncomfortable silence followed; then the conversation shifted to another topic.

An amusing aside:

I recently attended something advertising itself as a "charity" yard-sale in a well-to-do section of a Phoenix neighborhood known as Moon Valley.

When I arrived, I noticed a large number of teenage girls (16 or 17 years old) gathered together in clumps amidst the customers, whom it subsequently transpired had organized the sale.

After inspecting a magnetic chess set with the bulk of its pieces missing, an arduous search through book boxes stuffed to overflowing with the works of odious drivelers like James Patterson unearthed a trade paperback copy of Bill Bryson's humorous childhood memoir "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid" (which I particularly commend to Cal Lash).

The price was unmarked, but they refused to take less than a dollar for it, because the funds were going to "charity". Another of the bevy of Moon Valley girls let the cat out of the bag when she explained that the "charity" consisted of a new-uniform fund for the cheerleading team of Thunderbird High School just down the road, to which they all evidently belonged.

Resisting both the impish urge to say "times is cruel 'ard" and to enquire whether their parents were Republicans (a foregone conclusion), I nonetheless firmly insisted that I was prepared to go as high as 50 cents but no higher. Rogue readers will be pleased to learn that I am the proud owner of this volume of genuine Americana.

"I would sit on a park bench with a salmon dressed in a pink dress and we would sit and watch the cruise ships come and go.

"And I wouldn't tell the salmon that I was seeing a halibut on the side."

I just wanted to say that I enjoy these little bon mots, azrebel.

Since we talk a lot about real-estate here, and Talton's prophecies were all about that industry and its role in creating our economic curse, it's worth noting that his forced but fortuitous exile was funded by it. When Talton bought the house in the late 90s, it was the highest-ever recorded sale in Willo. The house had just been beautifully renovated - it didn't even have central air prior to that. When Talton sold in 2007, it was for very nearly double what he paid for. Today, that house "Zillows" for less than what Talton paid.

The real-estate industrial complex in Arizona is mortally wounded. Its nemesis, by contrast, is living quite well in a much better city with world-class amenities in easy walking distance.

I'm not sure if the poetic justice in all this has been noted before. If not, here it is.

We moved from Seattle to Phoenix in 1989 with a Honda Accord that was void of A/C. That was the summer of 122 you may recall. Also a former newspaper man and also someone The Republic didn't want.
I have a love/hate affair with both cities. I did love Phoenix in 1989 when we lived in the area by Town & Country rather than now when we are in far north Snottsdale. There is no neighborhood in the Phoenix area that comes close to the utter everyday charm of Ballard. If not for the abysmal weather, awful traffic (I recall the days in the early '80s when there were no traffic reporters) he city would be a gem. I fear global warming is ruining both cities' ecoclimates but if you want to do the tale of the tape, I suggest you think about that day in November when the GreatNW is shrouded in clouds and drizzle and a few hundred folks are basking in 85 degree weather watching an Arizona Fall League Game. In short, no place is perfect.. oh wait.. Austin TX is.

I had a friend (whom I lost contact with or he cut ties with me) who trotted off to a promising banking career. He ended up at one of the too big to fail banks as VP of mortgage lending and of course lost his job after the collapse. He returned to AZ and promptly found a job as a VP of mortgage lending for a local mortgage company in 2009. He was quoted in the paper saying the signs all showed the real estate market was at bottom and now was the time to get in. That company of course went bust too. Such is the fate of the REIC these days. It's hard to get a man to understand a thing when his salary depends on the opposite (or something like that). $30 per square foot - don't pay more than that.

Austin, Texas is great but it is in Texas.The Texas approach to managed growth, in other words no management at all, bodes badly for Austin's future as a liveable city.

I'm trying to think of some bon mots, but I think I have a writer's bon mot blockage.

I already owe Emil one bottle of Jack Daniels. I may owe him two bottles if that bon mot thing is a compliment.

Hi y'all. Moved to Portland with the wife and two daughters from the sf(east) baby 8yrs ago. Best move I ever made BUT I need to deal achtively/adaptively to winter. I' m from Phoenix(kenilworth kindergarten with Mrs. Smucker, st marys elem and brophy. Heathen west coast college) lived on west Lynwood and e. Monte vista what's been retro dubbed Los olivos. Having lleft at 18 y.o in 1965 many fond sensory memories of the days from nov-May and summer nights. Aahh citrus blossoms! I've lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and east bay- with a lot of travel overseas and In USA. I don't find Pdx Provincial, but wonder what you see. There's hardly a week that goes by when don't reflect how glad that we're here. We had our kids in private schools in bay area- grant hs here just fine for them. Both are uo ducks. I lived in sf for a dozen years and was very busy the whole time. It's only over past 2 years when visiting my older girl there that I've fallen for it, but remembered moving in with wife to be in Berkeley, thinking about kids and ruling sf out for a lot of reasons, many involving $$$. I miss the old Phoenix. My 4 surviving sibs are there or nearby, but look forward to visits mainly for them, the winter sun and the foccacia at pane bianco.
My brothers liked reading Galton in the repub.
One Sunday drive with my dad we were at second st and van buren and he pointed to the repub/gazette bldg ankd said, "there's the Capitol bldg." we yelled, "no,dad, it's out on west Washington." and he shrugged and said" not these days, it isn"t"
Sorry for the lousy typing, I'm a maladroit on an I-pad.

Er, um, that's Talton. Btw I enjoy the comments a lot. Have learned a lot from the blog and comments.

I did love Phoenix in 1989 when we lived in the area by Town & Country rather than now when we are in far north Snottsdale. There is no neighborhood in the Phoenix area that comes close to the utter everyday charm of Ballard. If not for the abysmal weather, awful traffic (I recall the days in the early '80s when there were no traffic reporters) he city would be a gem.


No need to apologize for the iPhone photo skills... you got your points across just fine!

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