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July 09, 2013


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A dry heat? Yes, like a microwave oven.

Given this nation's attitude about infrastructure investment - Socialism!!! - what happens in the future when Arizona has a huge power failure during the summer? Where do people go when all the highways are packed with overheating cars? If we truly cared about the economy (and not just making the rich richer), we'd be making crucial improvements to the power grid now. But we can't do anything that challenges the Randian paradigm. This isn't just Arizona, it's all of the Red States, united in fear and loathing of the public square.

I was born here in 1948. During the 1950s, we'd still have occasional daytime thunderstorms although the main shows were during the evening. Around 1970, the urban heat island was beginning to take hold and the daytime storms decreased. The last major daytime storm I can recall happened in August of 1983. The fringes of the metroplex still get these storms as they ping off the heat island's bubble. I'm not certain about this, but I would assume these storms are now causing greater damage to places like Fountain Hills, east Mesa, and Queen Creek.

The epicenter of the heat island is central Phoenix. When the inevitable decision comes to dramatically increase water rates, this will be the place that will bear the greatest suffering. Xeriscaping the center city will seem like a good idea to greens and greedheads alike, but it will only serve to worsen the already stressed urban climate zone. We desperately need trees and grass to cool this place down but the boosters will tell us that "we live in a desert". I want to scream back at them: a desert is actually an ecosystem. This, by contrast, will be a wasteland. At that point, I should be living in Portland, so I'll be sure to write.

The future:


I always avoided swimming in the canals. The first friend I can remember drowned in one around Scottsdale Road and Camelback circa 1961. He was four or five years old.

I went to the baseball game Sunday and as we were leaving a little girl behind us said, "its so hot, its like fire". And it was. More like August than July of old.

For me, the longer summer with its almost unrelenting heat means more than just "sun". It means more (lung-scarring) Bad Ozone and more skin damage. I've become a poster guy for Mohs surgery. Footnote: Phoenix has skin cancer rates that are second only to Queensland in Australia, yet most of the dumb-assed golfers don't know enough to cover up and lather on their screener.

So, what to do? Once, I looked into an escape place in the high country . . not fully realizing the risks of fire and Mormons. Then, we fell in love again with the Oregon coast, having been captivated many years ago. Now, we have become climate refugees rather than just snowbirds. It is clean and cool and green. Stuff grows year around. Rhodies, azaleas and all manner of flowers flourish from April through October. There's an active arts scene and great restaurants no more than 20 minutes away. There are way more moderates here who join us in thinking that Arizona has become really whacked out.

Sorry for the self-absorbed rambling, but after 40+ years in Phoenix I find the place almost a total turn-off except for the fact that my family still lives there.

Terrific post! Thanks for the "look back" when our beloved town was a lot different than it is today. Still, this midwest transplant of 17 years wouldn't want to be anywhere else!

This must be coot-dom: reminiscing. On the bus down Central home from highschool mid-Oct of '64 and seeing the temperature sign across from Park Central at 104, people along with me commenting- still so hot. The swamp cooler fanned a long hallway upstairs and we kids would line up head to toe at night. Better the wooden floor than a heat trapping mattress. There were huge ash trees on the west side of our lot, much grumbling about all the leaves to be raked during the fall. Sleeping on screened porch in Iron Springs smelling pine needles and the faint reek of animal pee then the 4 older kids sent off for the day with sack lunches for a ramble over boulders meeting up with other kids later near the Saxbys' small office and grocery. We had a crank telephone and a wind-up victrola there. Saturday nights the train would come through. Kids would put their ears to the tracks trying to be first to announce it coming and replacing their heads with pennies on the rail. In Phoenix the monsoons could be intensely scary for a young kid. We had tall, thin palms in front and the winds so strong that they seemed to bend double. The air/sky would go green, storm drains might clog with blown down palm debris , then water over the streetcurbs- what fun! As a seasoned (sometimes mildewed) Oregonian I wonder about whether/when we'll have climate refugees, whether the state might export water. If y'all have any problems at the border just tell 'em you're with Dawgzy up in Portland.

Gershwin? I thought that was from a Sublime song.
Great writing, Phoenix 101 never disappoints but this one was both charming and current. I often think of modern America in terms of my own childhood and what has been lost. Although Phoenix in the 1960s sounds more fun than my semi rural roots in the South.
morecleanair said "after 40 years this place is a total turnoff". I have much less time invested but often feel the same.
Northern Arizona still great for train watching though.

Nailed it:

When I came back to Phoenix, it was amusing to see how the corporatized television stations had made weather a big deal, as if they were in Oklahoma.

There are some good new posts from Emil on the most recent Friday Saloon.

Side note: three new comments in the previous Friday Saloon, including: a reply to Soleri re "preemptive capitulation; a pro-Nazi screed possibly written by a relation of the Koch brothers; and Andy Tobin's opportunistic (and very brief) embrace of communitarianism.

You beat me too it, Rogue: but thanks!

Emil, I posted a response.

Also in Friday Saloon - soleri wins me over...

USA Today is now engaging in some truth-telling about the heat and the drought we face in AZ. Their corporate affiliates in Phoenix still make light of it . . . bad for bizness y'know. That is to say, if your bizness is building or selling stucco crap-ola the game may be changing. Fred and Myrtle from Cedar Falls may be less willing to retire or "winter" in Phoenix if the truth gets out. Sidebar: "championship golf" is yesterday's strategy . . prices up, usage down throughout the Valley. Many clubs in tough financial shape with no relief in sight as the demographics are against them.

Andrew Sullivan is evidently trying to become the Atlantic's David Brooks. A dog's breath of an article (ref. the link below):


Side note: a new comment in the previous Friday Saloon on why it's OK for liberals to critique Obama (and offering some strong but fair criticisms).

...and we stood in lines going around the block at the Bank of Douglas to deposit our paychecks on Friday. There were no ATM's in existence at the time.

The blacktop parking lot would smell like the La Brea tar pits and the heat-softened asphalt would stick to the leather soles of our Florsheims. The full fury of the afternoon summer sun would bake our eyeballs in red gobbets of meat until we were functionally sun-blind.

Yep! That's the way it was - and we liked it!!!!

Haha, e-dog, thanks for the link. Brooks, yes, with a salt of Thomas Friedman - I'm surprised there wasn't a taxi driver quote. (Though I think these middlers are all on alert not to admit to the taxi driver. Ever. Again.)

Jon, did the storm rip the roof of your former home when you lived in it or after you left town? If it's the latter, how'd you come to find out? Just curious. Thanks.

"even our technology gods can't defeat a desert wronged."
and may the spirit of Edward Abbey Haunt us.

Home on wheels may be a good thing?

Chris, it was after I left. I keep in close touch with Phoenix. Otherwise, how could I write Rogue?

The oracle predicts a Mapstone move to Seattle and severance of the hometown Umbilical cord. Big loss for Phoenix as it fries and dies.

Seattle drowns under Global warming tidal waves. The red dude and the phantom of spot ROLL on.

The media still doesn't get it. The first ? is always-who or what caused the fire? Every U.S. citizen is causing the fire by still relying on a petro economy that is baking us to death. Churchill was right: Americans can be counted on doing the right thing -- after trying everything else.The problem is that we have set the example for the rest of the developing world and they are resisting accepting climate change just as we have done. This is all the corps need to sow enough dissension among the pubs to allow them to continue a fossil fuel economy and continue to collect trillions.
At 66, I can sit in my cabin in Flagstaff and enjoy it's climate,but I truly fear for my children and their children.

P.S. Moyers' Frontline Wed. night should be mandatory viewing by anyone who cares about the future. It amazes me how resilience and subservient the middle class has become.

Is that a request or a hope, Lifer?

I never promised I would write Rogue forever. Indeed, I would happily give it up if **anyone** in Phoenix media were writing the perspective, facts, context, history and reality that it provides.

The way I was raised, I have come to realize, was very strange. I was taught that Phoenix only existed because of the sacrifices and hard work of those who came before -- so I owed.

As for Mapstone, one can't swing a dead cat in Seattle without hitting a published author. Seattle has plenty of fictional detectives. Phoenix only has Mapstone. So he'll be staying there. If you want to see me writing about Seattle, check out my thriller, "Deadline Man."

I've lived all over the country. So Denver, San Diego and Cincinnati are all my adopted hometowns. The same with Seattle. But Phoenix will always be the home of my heart, even if it doesn't want me.

Side-note: a new comment in the previous Friday Saloon explaining the power of the reconciliation process, and how the Democrats punted, fearing Republican backlash:


Neither Rogue. Phoenix needs all the help it can get. Mapstone gets better with each book.

Side-note: one final (additional) sally re Obama and compromise added to the previous Friday Saloon.

Speaking of summers of olde in the Valley of the Sun -- what about open irrigation canals and the huge old cottonwood trees -- perfect for tree house 'forts'.

In Fountain Hills, 40% of the population is GONE until it begins filtering back in October. Some are in the high country. Some are traveling the US. Some are "back home" in the Midwest.

This is based on an engineer's study of sewer/water usage . . . and the seasonal drain is increasing. Maybe this is of little import; however I see it as perhaps a portent of what is to come.

I miss that metal guy, thank you for posting that particular pic. He is smaller than I remember. He seemed huge to me then. I also miss the days when Iron Springs was the defining symbol (for me) of old money privilege. How quaint that seems now. Most of all, I miss the magic of Phoenix summer nights. Part of it was, no doubt, the optimism of youth that makes the future, even three hours into the future, a thing of beauty. More than that, though, it was the air - warm, but by 11:00p.m. gently warm and full of possibility. I could wax eloquent for days about the nights and the lights and the dream that was Phoenix at night in the summer, but I would either be preaching to the choir or unable to convey that special time in this special place. Either you were here or you weren't. Some things haven't changed. You can still tell the people who aren't from here by how fast they move outside as they rush from air conditioned space to air conditioned space in the summer. Anyone who is from here moves slowly and gently swims through the hot, thick, air unless someone is actually dying. I still take hot showers in the summer because everyone who engaged with summer before ubiquitous AC knows that there is little as pleasant as the cool sensation of stepping out of a hot shower into a to warm room. I never understood the physics of it, but a hot shower before going out into a hot day made it less onerous somehow and, for me, it still does. Plenty of hot water this time of year... It will be interesting to see where the next ten years take us. So far my acre-of-eden project is moving along nicely in what one of my neighbors calls "our own little slice of Michigan". The peaches and apples and berries and grapes seem to be thriving along with the citrus, pomegranates and other denizens of extreme heat climes. I wonder how long that will last. I lost a roof in Tempe to a microburst about 10 years ago. The house was insured and coming up on replacement anyway so it was no big deal at the time. My eden project property in Mesa backs up to three five story pine trees and an assortment of other tall 50+ year old trees. God help us all if they are microbusted. In Tempe a solid block wall (not mine) looked like a truck had driven through it. That kind of wind force would be devastating here. Still, I wouldn't trade the 15 degrees of cooler summer temps for the immediate safety of gravel and an occasional barrel cactus. Like the man said (misappropriating Mark Twain), "You pays your money and you takes your chances".

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