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June 02, 2014


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Singing in the sun... singing in the sun. Walking in triple digit heat for months without end...but its a dry heat. Just ask anyone who hasn't lived in Phoenix for a few years. And let's not forget skin cancer risks.

In 1990's Seattle, during the Californication of the Emerald City, robust population growth was the consequence of demand for employees to work for Microsoft and other technology related companies. Long term Seattle residents lamented," Please don't move here, there is no more room."

Even in the 1990's, commuting was a hassle and parking pricey in Seattle proper. Much easier to bus in from elsewhere in King County. The area responded with initiatives to bolster non-auto travel within the metropolitan area.

Seattle's embrace of non-auto travel wasn't a consequence of good planning nor enlightened thinking. It was a practical response to limited land and painful commuting over bridges and around the sound. Urban areas similar to Seattle include the Northeast US and SF.

Will good planning, hope, and a predicted "movement back to cities" transform Phoenix into a walkable Seattle type metropolitan area? Too much space in places like Dallas, Austin, Houston and Phoenix will continue the sprawl until the price of gasoline rises sufficiently and consistently to make non-auto travel prohibitively expensive for individuals.

As Seattle evolves into silicon sound it will price out teachers, nurses and other professionals from living there. Look to silicon valley.

Phoenix will continue its low rent low wage sprawl.

I was looking at this photo thread of downtown Kansas City the other day. http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?t=211601 It tells the story of virtually every city in America - good buildings, lovely old churches, some stunning art deco masterpieces, and sidewalks
so empty you wonder if a neutron bomb took out the human population. Some of the pictures explain the problem in heartbreaking detail: vast surface parking lots where car storage replaced the actual guts of a once vital city.

Phoenix has probably the worst downtown of any city in this country, but when I was a kid, it may as well been heaven. It was complex, economically and socially diverse, tightly woven, and magical. By the time Chris-Town opened in 1961, it was clearly hurting. By the 1970s, it was pretty much dead. And this same story can told in almost every other city in this car crazy land of ours.

I was walking through Nuremberg, Germany a few years ago, which had been completely destroyed in World War II. Say what you will about the Germans and the bizarre tic they have about cleanliness and pure blood, this city is stunning. It had been reconstructed in amazing detail and grace. And these weren't simply showpieces restored for tourists. There was all the vitality of an organic life form, relatively few cars, and people everywhere walking but also sitting at sidewalk cafes or milling around store windows. I muttered to myself "who won that fucking war?"

I can tell you this: we surrendered the magic and vitality of our civilization for a mess of mechanized pottage. We gave up everything that makes communal life wonderful for the false god of mobility. I think about this as I walk through Portland, one of the most walkable cities in this country and gaze at the yawning gaps in the streetscapes that are occupied by cars. Nuremberg this ain't. People are still addicts to speed and comfort even in this mecca of organic produce, bookstores, and vegan strip clubs.

Phoenix has no core, no urban neighborhoods, no trendy shopping districts, no sidewalks filled with human beings, and no civic soul. It has a few set pieces in its inert downtown suggesting, almost seductively, that those qualities might someday reappear if we only squint our eyes and click our heels. Try that the next time you're driving down Central.

I spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday in downtown Phoenix. Did the opening at Changing Hands, a movie, Phoenix Market and walked around Arizona Center. My allergies were terrible. Now back 37 miles from downtown at the Superstitions, Breathing easier.

San Carlos, Mexico ocean and hanging with the Seri's is calling.

There are plenty of opportunities and then there are missed ones. Infill development is all the rage right now, but we're still struggling with an appropriate balance for walkable vs car-centric design.

Take a look at Fox Restaurant Group's newish concept, "The Yard", on 7th Street. On a recent visit with my wife, we commented on our way in (as we drove around looking for parking) that the surrounding neighborhood has been very displeased with the traffic that this new drinking/dining establishment has brought to the hood -- there's even a big LED sign on an adjacent block to forewarn people against trying to park on the permit-only streets. Nonetheless, because I prefer not to valet and wanted to try approaching the building street-side, we parked across 7th and walked over. Lo and behold there was no entrance ("I told you so," she said), so we walked around the back and into the expansive bar area. As we sat there looking around us and contemplating what kind of beer we would like, I couldn't help but observe that the place was huge! It seemed almost like a revelation at the time, even though this wasn't my first visit.

Then it occurred to me that this sort of infill very well threatens the sensible objective of shifting to a more walkable zoning code. The restaurant's corporate owner took advantage of the city's renewed interest in infill development and successfully offset its normal parking requirements for such a commercial enterprise -- and then they built a hip trendy complex of 3+ attractions in an otherwise suburban type of setting. I don't know what the capacity is, but I bet that many of the neighbors can growl it at you if you ask nicely; they are now dealing with the negative externalities of our enjoyment.

The same phenomenon occurs when discussing traffic on our "arterial" streets (7th Street is one), where most people want to get places faster and, at the same time, everyone wants their own little low-traffic enclaves. In much the same way as street design, it all comes down to scale and well integrated infrastructure support. A smaller street with low speed limits and traffic calming measures will naturally create less traffic, just as a smaller business establishment will produce less overflow parking. As for access and commutability, we need to embrace mass transit options and shaded bike/walk paths.

This means a drastic overhaul of how we design our neighborhoods, and I don't see that happening without creating a sense of balance with the current massive block model that our suburban zoning ordinance supports. However, I don't hear many people asking for that kind of compromise; people seem rather passionately divided on one side or the other. I'm holding out hope for the developers' evolving sense of economic incentive to create continued infill development, offset by the community's demand for livable neighborhoods. The only challenge in this hope, from my perspective, is that we don't always reach an effective compromise this way. We need the city to take a better leadership role as intermediary, which is a role it cannot yet take on with our current plans.

PTB, Dont hold your breath.
"I'm holding out hope for the developers' evolving sense of economic incentive to create continued infill development, offset by the community's demand for livable neighborhoods."

Everywhere I drive I see empty commercial buildings but I also see tons of new apartments being built?

It's a great article, Jon. If I could add anything, it's that the photo of the trolley and street activity above could be the basis of a great novel. What an amazing downtown vignette. Between that bitchin' motorcycle, an African-american woman in a sea of white faces, the street bunting, just wow. that looks like a real city.

I'm all in favor of new apartment buildings and other housing infill in central Phoenix since the central city desperately needs to increase density. It would be wonderful if that infill could be urban-scaled with limited parking. But Phoenix is really stuck here since mass transit and bicycling are, at best, boutique approaches to transportation here. It's terrifically hard to retrofit a sprawl town like Phoenix where ease of driving and free parking are the default reality. Too bad, but if you live in great older neighborhoods like Windsor Square or Medlock Place, you'll have to put up with all those people parking on your streets. On the plus side, you get to walk to all those trendy new restaurants. That's the trade-off and it's not a bad one.

Phoenix has little bits and pieces of urban tissue that don't quite make a real city but are definitely preferable to the wasteland of just a few years ago. I really don't know if Phoenix can grow this tissue in and around Camelback & Central, Roosevelt & Central, and 7th Avenue & McDowell. Part of the problem is the existing drive-everywhere transportation system which means cars whizzing by at uncomfortably high speeds. The Melrose district is hamstrung by this problem. I remember when the Streets Department in city government saw it as their mission not to balance the interests of an existing city with moving people around but to do everything to favor cars over people who might be walking, bicycling, or living close by. Phoenix was a very tough city in this regard. That take-no-prisoners' approach has softened in recent years but remains dominant.

Even in Portland, I hear ordinary people grousing about bicyclists, pedestrians, the streetcars, and other mass transit. The sense of entitlement that car divers have is extraordinary, of course. Even so, Portland is routinely rated as #1 when it comes to the nation's most courteous drivers. Phoenix rates as the seventh most discourteous city.

Twenty years ago, you could go downtown to see a concert or attend a game and not worry about parking. Those days are over. City government has a vested interest now in getting you out of your car and onto light rail, or a bicycle. That's the future. If Phoenix eventually succeeds in urbanzing itself, that will entail a revolution of sorts. But if you like to drive, don't worry. Scottsdale will always be there for you.

1. Is that cal on the motorcycle.

2. The republican response to getting our soldier back is despicable. They have no shame. McCain is our continuing shame.

3. For five decades I've heard about vacant land in phoenix: "boy, whoever is sitting on that property is going to make a killing."

A. Who are "these people"?
B. how many generations are they going to wait "till they make that killing"?
C. If it's multigenerational, isn't it hard to pass on malevolent plans for sitting on these properties?

I was just wondering.

Ruben, some people did make a killing - land-flipping during booms, for example. But you're right to suspect that many, like the notorious Colliers, simply took a bath. It's the most frustrating thing about the private sector is that in gaming the system to favor its own interests (such as favorable tax treatment for tearing down buildings), it ended up creating a perverse system of incentives to strip-mine the city of its old-building stock. In effect, they all hoped to be first in line when the next boom hit. But by the time it did come, there were already too many of them. They were, in effect, counting on a mega-boom to rescue them from their own greed and bad stewardship. All that land banking ultimately made Phoenix less alluring as a city to invest in. And since they had bid up the land values to nose-bleed territory, smaller-scale development wouldn't pencil out.

You can't clear-cut the city and expect a decent city to emerge from the stumps. The free market needs rules and buffers to protect itself from its most ravenous - and blind - practitioners.

Bravo, Soleri. I couldn't have said it better.

In 1950 U could go to a concert at the Encanto Band Shell or paddle around in a Canoe or just lay around in the shade.
So U infill downtown and get electric transportation for the long hauls will it be easier to breathe?
Beam me up Scottie.

This fine post that scolds us all collectively, really, could be titled simply "The Automobile," and I'm grateful to see it. One cannot write too much about the pernicious influence of the rise of yer-own-internal-combustion-engine.

I point also to the contents of the thread to bolster my rather obvious point:

..."bolster non-auto"..."price of gasoline"..."vast surface parking"..."car storage"..."this car crazy land of ours"..."Nuremberg, Germany...stunning...rlatively few cars"..."mess of mechanized pottage"..."the false god of mobility...the yawning gaps in the streetscapes that are occupied by cars...addicts to speed and comfort"..."car-centric design"..."as we drove around looking for parking"..."everyone wants their own little low-traffic enclaves"..."mass transit and bicycling are, at best, boutique approaches to transportation here"..."ease of driving and free parking are the default reality"..."the existing drive-everywhere transportation system which means cars whizzing by"..."to do everything to favor cars over people"..."people grousing about bicyclists, pedestrians, the streetcars, and other mass transit"..."The sense of entitlement that car divers have"..."City government has a vested interest now in getting you out of your car and onto light rail, or a bicycle. That's the future."

Jon points out that the walkability of Phoenix took it's initial (and subsequently accelerating) drudging in the '50's, which is of course when America's love affair with the automobile turned into the shotgun-wedding of Utopian glee that was the National Highway System.

We were undeterred when James Dean received his consideration for this madness.

I mean to be more obvious than precious here. It's the automobile, and its dear cousin self-determination, self-reliance, self-worship, self-, that is most culpable for the ills of the day.

And the Luddites were right. They always were.

Petro, pure car blasphemy U write.
Its the hand that kills not the gun.

Ned Ludd was a pernicious lad as was the well endowed and crazy East of Eden James Dean. I would speculate however Ned Ludd never tasted "On The Road" as did James Dean until he took his last ride in a 55 Porsche 550 Spyder.

cursing Hwy 1 in hell in my 49 Hudson

I feel the power, the front end of my 59 Chevy 348 rises as the rear tires burn the tar, leaving a trail of black smoke. My girl friends,skirted legs astraddle the four speed on the floor, shifts as I work the clutch and strain to keep all four wheels in a straight line on Central Avenue. At a 100 as we near Thomas we work down thru the gears and careen into BOB's drive Inn for a malt that you can turn upside down and too avoid that ticket happy motorcycle cop, Jon Sellers.

Cal Lash on Gas steroids 1960

cal, you make my point most poetically in your comments, in spite of the "aw shucks" pastiche that gets under Emil's skin.

Oh, I too have shame - I have wonderful memories of a mid-engine Toyota MR2 and a Mustang 5.0... and some other fun cars.

So I'm like an ex-smoker... I'm more judgmental about car owners than is probably appropriate. :)

Wow... what memories.
I remember riding my bike from the vicinity of "the Red Devil" (30th and McDowell - last I checked, it's still there) to the library on Central to spend the summer days. I often tell people that riding a bike in that "city"traffic taught me how to drive.
You're right, the city was more accessible back in the early 50s and early 60s.
I spoke with someone this evening (here in the DC area) and they said that Phoenix seemed to be 20 years behind LA, and headed in the same direction - - - I could not but agree.

Bearsense. The Diablo Rojo is still there.

Spot-on article -- as I always tend to think with your work, Mr. Talton. Lived in AZ 18 years (1985-2003); Mesa, then U of A, then Central Phoenix (Ashland Place). So much to miss, and so much more to not. Now in Portland, which gets me to Soleri -- I couldn't agree more, and I am troubled by this town's inclination towards the tear-down in favor of apartments. At least, though (back to the original posting) its with a (perhaps misguided -- we'll see.....) view towards urbanity. Soleri -- send me a note and I'll buy you a local, organic, and sustainable beer or glass of wine sometime!

Petro, whatever you do, don't look at news about new car sales. It will not make you happy.

Sycamore, if you successfully meet up with soleri, you will have created the Portland branch of the Talton fan club.

I'm trying to start one here in show low, but instead of coffee, we will use meth. Teeth are optional.

Sycamore, if you're considering a power grab, don't think about it. Cal is Talton club west coast director for life .

Ruben, it is very dangerous to be overheard mentioning Taltons name in Showlow. Soon the lost tribe of Israel will send the boys in white shirts to knock on your door.

Given my condition the club may soon need a new dictator. To settle that question I suggest a duel in the Arizona noon day sun in the shadows of a giant Sajuaro between Emil and Soleri with Bic pens.

Sycamore, thanks for your invitation. Reach me at [email protected]. Looking forward to a pint of Portland's finest hefeweizen!

Ruben said: "2. The republican response to getting our soldier back is despicable. They have no shame. McCain is our continuing shame."

I am having trouble with this issue Ruben. And not because I am a republican. Because of the guy rescued. In the next couple of years the praise Obama will get will be overshadowed by the crap heaped on him. I believe he should have brought a Republican on board, particularly a military type Republican, as this decision went down. As for the "Terrorists" a couple of drone strikes will resolve that issue.

My update on the heroic Edward Snowden.
I suggest he is this country's new Paul Revere. The feds are coming the feds are coming.

Ruben and soldiers:
A reprint of mine from The VA mess
Patriotism - War
Draft - Veteran
Draftless - Employee

A walk able Carmel
A republican that supports Obama Carbon rules.

Cal, thank you for putting "tator" at the end of your title to make it politically correct.

I didn't know if the club wanted it to be common knowledge about your foot in the grave and other foot on a banana peel thing. I hope you still have quite few miles left in you. At least a few more oil changes.

BTW, Sycamore, I'm really conflicted on the subject of Portland's tear-downs. I agree the city has to get denser but I hate to see wonderful old craftman-style bungalows destroyed in the process. Many of the new apartment buildings are cheaply constructed and badly designed. The city does have a vigorous design-review process but they can force better outcomes only so far.

The development on Division Street really gets to me because much of what makes Portland special is that hippie-aesthetic where funky old buildings are playfully reinvented. Once you start building for yuppies, you kill the vibe that has made Portland world-famous. This process has already taken a heavy toll on San Francisco and Seattle. I hope Portland finds a way to mitigate its worst effects. Success is always a double-edged sword. I'm here like thousands of others because hippies did so much to make this city cool. I hate to think I'm contributing to a blander Portland by forcing higher rents. I'd look terrible with a pony tail, a tie-dyed T shirt, and Birkenstocks. Still, I may have to light the bong and eat the organic granola.

Soleri, I am sending Ruben into exile in Portland before the Eastern Arizona Temple crowd puts out a hit on him.
Can you get him a pony tail, a tie-dyed T shirt, and Birkenstocks. He will bring his own supply of Jack Daniels.

Soleri, Regarding Downtown Portland development, sounds like you need to get politically active?

Speaking of growth, here is my Sunday Seattle Times column:


Off topic question for all you readers. What two or three classic novels would you suggest are a must read in one's lifetime? Your suggestions would be appreciated.


"A SAILOR has told Australian authorities she saw a burning Boeing 777 near Thailand the morning MH370 disappeared. Katherine Tee said she was sailing across the Indian Ocean in March when she saw what she believes was the missing Malaysia Airlines plane MH370 billowing black smoke across the night sky. . . . The British woman was sailing from Kochi, India, to Phuket, Thailand, with her husband, Marc Horn, when she saw what appeared to be a large aircraft on fire."


GPS logs support her claim that she was in that area on that date and that she was in the projected flight path of the missing plane. I've had some problems with the above link and there is no cached version as yet.

As noted earlier, Malaysian military radar picked up the plane entering Thai airspace, which the Thais denied.

Define "classic novel".

Are you looking for books traditionally classed as "literature"? What about "classic" genre literature (e.g., Golden Age mystery novels)? Translations of foreign works?

I was thinking "classic literature" along the lines of.....les miserables pride and prejudice, etc.

I'm not big on "classic literature". The central feature of classic literature is human and social relations; but most of the "people" within (and outside!) its pages seem to be built on a model with which I am not familiar and to whom I can't relate, finding them repellant and/or boring. Thus, I tend to read fiction for other qualities (e.g., humor, social or political satire, mystery, exceptionally fine prose, atmosphere, background, etc.). I'm always pleased to read straight fiction involving people that act like people, not the weird travesties and robotards I've come to expect, particularly if there is something else of interest going on in their lives and the author writes well, but I seldom come across this.

I'm also not big on lists of "novels you must read". Novels are a form of entertainment, and though they are sometimes informative, big-issue novels tend to be overwrought and melodramatic. If I want to read about Afghan history and/or muslim societies, for example, I can inform myself far more deeply and efficiently by reading specialized non-fiction than I can reading, say, The Kite Runner (which is too recent to be classed as "classic" literature anyway). I loved The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but decades ago when I read these they weren't considered literature at all by serious types. Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-glass stand out, but scarcely as "great literature". I really enjoyed The Grapes of Wrath -- the movie with Henry Fonda, not the novel, which I've never read. I've read all of Mark Twain's travel writing but can't stand most of his fiction.

I read Gulliver's Travels decades ago but recall enjoying it then. Its satire is metaphorical and many of the conditions and institutions it pillories are metaphorical, and though superficially dated actually hold up well in modern times. I enjoyed Martin Chuzzlewit by Dickens for the exceptionally high writing quality and the amusing satire of American society (which was even more gun-crazy then than now); but it's one of his "least favorite" novels. I enjoyed aspects of Max Beerbohm's novel Zuleika Dobson, which involves Edwardian Oxford and is largely satirical; but few today have even heard of this, much less read it; and its frankly ridiculous, though a feast of prose. By and large I enjoyed James Herriot's All Creatures Great And Small series of novels in the life of a vetinarian and his family, set in Yorkshire (England) in the first half of the 20th century.

This should suffice to expound my views, though it fails as a must-read (or even, have-read) list of classic literature.

Whoops: veterinarian, not "vetinarian". I do know how to spell. Sort of.

Decades ago I tried reading Proust (Remembrance of Things Past), because I thought I "should" read "great literature". Boring doesn't begin to describe the experience. Tedious is an understatement, because it fails to express the nearly physical weariness, and the sense of desperation and entrapment, induced by the book. It's seven volumes and I absolutely could not force myself (though I tried) to get through the first one.

Ditto the English version, Anthony Powell's A Dance To The Music Of Time. Actually, though I also had to quit without finishing the first volume, I was merely bored, not feeling like a raccoon with my foot caught in a trap, as with Proust. But I kept waiting for something to happen, and it never did! Very little humorous commentary to enliven it, either. I contrast this with Powell's humorous novel Agents and Patients, which I enjoyed and which led me in search of his other works.

Very little walkable in most parts of the City of Phoenix. I consider myself lucky to get off the street and away from the traffic onto something like an SRP canal path, but even so it's paved and scarcely scenic.

Phoenix has a great and large system of desert park trails (South Mountain Park and the Phoenix Mountain Preserve are the two largest municipal parks in the United States), but unless you're lucky enough to live near a trailhead you have to drive to get there. I used to do night hikes in the Mountain Preserve and in some places it was so quiet that you could enjoy true silence if you stopped and stood still; but building the Squaw Peak Parkway through parts of the reserve and nearby ruined this. The sky at the horizon on clear nights used to have the most extraordinary indigo glow; but now there is a white haze from light pollution and/or particulates. During the day, the latter create a smog cloud which obscures and fuzzies up the mountain ranges ringing the city, as seen from a high point during a hike.

Anything by Dostoyevsky, particularly The Idiot,The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment, in that order.

(Amazon links provided for reference only, of course shop at your local bookseller.)

Being There, by Jerzy Kosinski, also rocks.

I really should read the rest of Kosinski's oeuvre, come to think of it.

Crap, I missed a tag end, so everything is italicized... maybe Jon can fix it.

[DONE jt]

Anyway, it's just that time's running short, and there's so much non-fictional stuff to absorb...

But seriously, Reb, Dostoyevsky's essential.


Petro wrote:

"Anyway, it's just that time's running short, and there's so much non-fictional stuff to absorb..."

Actually, I probably read more fiction than non-fiction. Very little of it would be categorized as "classic literature", though indeed the definition becomes more and more lax as time goes on. In a couple more decades I expect to see college courses on Harry Potter (if they don't already exist).

Can't argue with Dostoyevsky -- definitionally, the very core of classic (modern) literature; though I don't like any of those books; his novels are filled with "people" I can't understand and don't want to know, doing things which (from the standpoint of human psychology -- real humans that is) are simply inexplicable.

Nabokov on Dostoyevsky: "not a great writer, but rather a mediocre one—with flashes of excellent humour but, alas, with wastelands of literary platitudes in between". Nabokov complains that the novels are peopled by "neurotics and lunatics" and states that Dostoyevsky's characters do not develop: "We get them all complete at the beginning of the tale and so they remain." He finds the novels full of contrived "surprises and complications of plot", which are effective when first read, but on second reading, without the shock and benefit of these surprises, appear loaded with "glorified cliche".

His style was deemed "prolix, repetitious and lacking in polish, balance, restraint and good taste". Saltykov-Shchedrin, Tolstoy, Nikolay Mikhaylovsky and others criticised his puppet-like characters, most prominently in The Idiot, The Possessed and The Brothers Karamazov.


Being There is a film classic; I enjoyed Peter Sellers. Written in 1971 I'm not sure the novelette qualifies as "classic literature" in Ruben's sense, but his parameters may be more elastic than it seems.

OK, Emil. Dostoyevsky was kind of Shakespearean with his "all complete" characters, intending to be, not real, but foils for human psychology. Duh.

So the disturbing pedophile apologist Nabakov gets to comment on D. Wonderful. Plus some other jealous Russians.

Sorry, I found Dostoyevsky quite stimulating and enlightening.

Happy to get a dose of Emil, though.

We’re not going to be Portland, and, truth be told, this on-the-make city never really wanted to be.

I don't think Seattle was ever going to be denied its emerging status as an alpha city. The location and proximity to natural resources are, by any measure, outstanding. Yes, it did some things right (and other things like transit not particularly well). In the end, it really didn't matter since its destiny was the same thing as its geography.

Phoenix's destiny was not to be a great city, nor even a large one. It got to be large by virtue of a modern set of technologies and economic events it didn't create - cheap oil, air conditioning, federal water projects, and a highly mobile population looking for warmth and comfort. Now that this kaleidoscope is turning, even the largeness of Phoenix seems threatened. How many people will want to live in a city in the cross-hairs of climate change? I predict a mass migration out within 10 years.

You can look at cities as always evolving human inventions. San Francisco's invention was amazing for most of the 20th century not so much economically as culturally. Now, that culture is fast receding as the new economy makes it a world capital. Seattle might not have been on the same level as San Francisco, but I can fully understand why some people would want to hold back the dawn. Seattle used to be a city in glad rags and now it's all gussied up for its entrance on the global stage.

Portland is a bit of an outlier, a city that emphasized quality of life as much as economic vibrancy. That virtuousness translates economically now. Portland is probably never going to be a world-class city but it is patiently making itself into a world-class destination. The sadness that some of us have is sensing all those one-time qualities disappearing before the onrush of history. Portland has prepared itself well for an impatient world and a ruthless market. I half expect to see this city's cachet branded and franchised before long.

Off Topic! I was picking my wife up from St. Joseph's Hospital around lunch, and who gets on the elevator on the 4th floor of the 3rd Ave Parking Garage but none other the AZ Attorney General Tom Horne. Not that anything happened other than an exchange of hellos. He got off on the 2nd floor with it AC walkway and I got off on the 1st floor. Fortunately it wasn't even warm yet in Phx (that is under 100). Small world.

Fortunately it wasn't even warm yet in Phx (that is under 100).

(that is under 110).

There. Fixed it for ya. :)

Ruben, I'm not sure why you want to read "classic" novels. My general opinion, not unlike Emil's, is that reading for your own good is a waste of time. If you need to wade through all of Henry James or George Elliot for a class, that's one thing. Otherwise, read the Cliff Notes. Like Petro, I do recommend Dostoyevsky. Also Dickens, E.M.Forster, Joseph Conrad, F Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler. I also recommend a few of the difficult writers like William Faulkner and Franz Kafka.

I think novels tend to be more interesting to us the closer they are to our culture and time. I read everything that Jonathan Franzen, Richard Powers, Cormac McCarthy, and Marilynne Robinson publish. What do all these writers have in common? Readability, although McCarthy's Texan vernacular can be difficult at times. I had read all of Thomas Mann in my youth but I don't recommend him because his complex themes and dense writing make it feel like hard work, not pleasure. Reading should be fun. If you don't want to pick up a book after 20 pages or so, chances are it's not going to get any better.

For u all with some good years left I recommend Amsterdam and Uraguay.
Ruben for "Classics" try Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy. Or Frank Herbert Dune Triilogy. Better yet for how it all ends "City" by Ciifford Simak. For rather negative points of views go for most any Edward Abbey novel particularly "The Good News".
And for why democracy may not work, Plato. Thats Plato not Petro.

Thank you all. You've given me some great direction. I appreciate your help very much.

Emil, as I've stated before my money is on your analysis concerning the missing flight. I feel so bad for the families and the hell they must be living through. Would it be correct to say that the parties charged with looking for the plane would be unable to follow your theories due to political and nationalistic barriers. If so, that is tragic.


I am big on classical literature, the canon, particularly if one is blessed by good teachers and professors as guides. The classics, along with history, are the treasures that can see us through hard times, through a new dark age, carry forth a civilization, open new worlds, save our souls, link us with the ages.

Two? That is too limiting. A random selection: One should at least read Homer ("Iliad" yes, "Odyssey" secondary), Dante (the "Divine Comedy") and Plato's Republic. Aside from the sonnets, Shakespeare is best experienced as theater.

Random reading list continued: "Paradise Lost," "Moby Dick," "The Sound and the Fury," "Sister Carrie," "Invisible Man," "To the Lighthouse," "The USA Trilogy," "The Grapes of Wrath," "The Heart of the Matter," "The Sun Also Rises," "A Soldier in the Great War," "Lonesome Dove," "Cities of the Plain" and "Their Eyes Were Watching God" will get you started.

Never stop reading.

And don't forget "South Phoenix Rules" and "Deadline Man."

I want to bring the thread back to Phoenix.

It is a sign of both the hollowing out and the automotive "soul" of the place to see Central collapsing.

The Circle K at Virginia is long gone. The McDonald's farther north closed — to much celebration by the local crowd, but will anything replace it? Around 7 pm a few weeks ago, I went by the IHOP, which has been on Central in one iteration or another for decades, and it was totally empty. So I suppose it will close, too. Followed by the Burger King.

And none of this would matter if they were being replaced by new companies, employers, condos, apartments and distinctive walkable retailers. But that isn't happening.

Instead, the action is moving over to Seventh and Seventh -- and mostly farther out -- because they will carry more cars. Somehow the average Phoenician can't make a U-turn to patronize Circle K or McDonald's, much less be out of their cars -- so it's light rail's "fault."

But the pathology is deeper. Near total car dependence. Fear by the toffs of going south of Camelback. Lack of investment and capital infusion and new, well-paying jobs in the core. Lack of urban values and appreciation. I don't know how you fix it.

Soleri said and I agree:
"How many people will want to live in a city in the cross-hairs of climate change? I predict a mass migration out within 10 years."

Rogue, thank you for your reading tips. I've read each of your books at least twice. When you can do that, you know the writing is very entertaining.

As I mentioned above, the news is all about booming and rebounding car sales. We are a car culture and it will only end when we confirm that there is no oil on the other planets.

Show low is turning out to be a walkable city. Of course it's because of unemployment and no money for cars and gas.

Nice flavor of the times, Rogue... The train depicted is actually a Phoenix streetcar, part of the system known as the Phoenix Street Railway. At one time the tracks extended all the way north to Glendale. At ASU we have a fine archive of Lawrence Fleming's streetcar materials and some McCulloch and McLaughlin photos of the cars. Fleming founded and ran the Arizona Street Railway Museum in Phoenix for many years.

Rather off topic but I am curious about Rogue's opinion on Timothy Geithner. I listened to the interview via The Front Page and was impressed by the civility of it. Like most people, I'm angry, suspicious, and utterly out of my depth when it comes to analyzing the bank bailouts.

Here's a scathing take-down of Geithner by Matt Stoller.


I liked the "wall of money" analogy in the article.

The same people who scream for government to stay out of their business now were the same people who screamed for government to save them during the crisis. For them , the main goal is for them to benefit either way.

When the financial industry is the shark, they want a feeding frenzy. When they are the flounder, they want Greenpeace to save their ass.

"wall of money"
What would TR have done?

I see Vermont is taking on Monsanto (good luck Monsanto gets people locked up for hoarding seeds)and Vermont is the most irreligious state in the union if only they had a desert.

Ruben since you are in Showlow I recommend reading a Lost Tribe of Israel classic.

The Gathering of Saints



Below is a column I wrote about my Geithner impressions. The savaging is easy and deserved. In the interview, I tried to approach it as a historian interviewing a figure of historical consequence, which he is. What did he think? Why did he make this or that choice? How does he answer his critics, etc.?


Rogue, boy, your banker friend nailed it in the last paragraph.

Our entire economy is an empty egg shell filled with fairy dust.


100 to 109 warm
110+ hot

There are people who say i'm a lizard.

In support of Soleri's mass migration:

Meanwhile back in unwalkable Phoenix:

Great assessment of Geithner - I missed that one. What floats to the fore (and I felt this way after seeing his The Daily Show appearance) is banality and "little Eichmanns."*


*I hope that doesn't violate, er, validate Godwin's law.

By the way, Reb, this was great:

When the financial industry is the shark, they want a feeding frenzy. When they are the flounder, they want Greenpeace to save their ass.


Thanks Petro.

I'm reading Dostoyevsky for one day and look at me I'm a writer !

Great gatsby, the sun also rises, my Antonia, Raymond carver's short stories, Richard shelton's older poems.

I still think Jon's utter nostalgia for a vanished Phoenix is simply a reflection of the desire to return to a much smaller city.

I also think Light Rail was way too limited- the real failure is the connecting bus service. Without real local rush hour bus service (8 minute buses- late night service for working people), light rail simply transports ASU students, faculty, and employees. Plus some sports transport. Every single city referred to above has a real urban transportation system, a complete system that mitigates the need to have a car.

The talk about Nurnberg is a good example, I know it well, as part of the family is from there. Now, transport goes all the way out to the radial suburbs by subway, then streetcar, and finally real bus service, which is heavily subsidized by the City.

Further, the Altstadt was rebuilt after the war in a conscious city led decision to preserve the historical fabric, instead of just allowing whatever to be built, the city absolutely decided what was going to be rebuilt, and what extras would be allowed. No way would business allow that level of control here.

Reality dictates a different way to run Phoenix. Now, Jon's small town exists- I believe it is called Flagstaff.

Because it is still small and walkable.

You want a walkable Phoenix, push density through tax breaks, and punish land banking through tax hikes.

But why bother, with electric google bot cars, the need for everyone to have a vehicle is going to fade. I am already tempted to replace one of the two vehicles with a plug in car for town only use.

Make it cheap enough, reliable enough, and drop the enormous premia for them, and next thing you know they are common.

Our stupid legislature, instead of encouraging electric cars, is talking about taxing them because they don't use gas, while staring at our brown cloud.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

Ruben I failed to mention my favorite writer Albert Camus and of course you must read about the heroic Jean Genet, a bio by Edmund White, You can borrow it from Petro as I am passing it off to him at the next club festival at the new Changing Hands bar and bookstore. U can come via the lite rail as soon as Showlow gets hooked up.

Citizen Allen, I lived in Bonn for a year so I got to know some cities fairly well. Most European cities have strong ceremonial cores where the old city is cared for even if the commercial centers are often far away. Vienna, for example, has a "suburb" that would qualify as an urban core in America even though the Vienna tourists know is inside the Ringstrasse. Other cities like Düsseldorf manage to combine commercial and historic functions, and still others like Berlin have telltale gaps in their urban fabric from Cold War days that are now being filled with daring new architecture. None of these cities have anything as wasteful as American sprawl although some of the suburbs (e.g., around Paris) are depressing as low-income ghettos.

When "Real Americans" say they don't want to be like Europe, what they mean is that they can't imagine a future that is unlike the present. But this non-negotiable American way of life is already showing stress, particularly in our drive-everywhere transportation system. Somehow, we have to get a handle on energy and infrastructure costs. A good way to do that would, dare I say, be a bit more like Europe. Germans, btw, seem to be very popular with "Real Americans", for reasons I don't care to speculate about. If they only knew how unionized those solar-power and bicycle-loving Krauts were!

BTW, I've been curious how names like Nuremberg evolved from Nürnberg. I'll assume there was some academic who tried to replicate the "u" sound without an umlaut. Other curiosities would include Cologne from Köln, and Munich from München (in Italian, it's Monaco!).

In being airily dismissed by Citizen Allen for peddling "utter nostalgia," I fear I was not clear. Or he is a concern troll.

Nostalgia has its psychological benefits but that's not what this blog is about. My two broad points were to show that Phoenix was once walkable, something inconceivable to most residents today. Second, to discuss how parts of it might be made so again. Even sprawly LA has many walkable neighborhoods, as well as rapidly improving transit. A tertiary point was to show the arrangements necessary for a truly walkable district.

Yes, the bus system suffers. It is inadequately funded.

Sadly, Flagstaff is not the little town it once was. Even if one lives downtown -- few do -- most stores are out in the newer sprawl, requiring a car. Pendleton, Ore., might be better. But Wal-Mart and sprawl have destroyed so many small towns' useful walkability.

A place does not have to be particularly dense to be (largely) walkable. Rogue speaks fondly of ‘50’s Phoenix, which was not all that dense. I have lived in three places that were very walkable (for the most part) that consisted mostly of free standing houses. The key factor is small lots and a good mixture of commercial and residential areas. One of them was in the Tokyo/Yokohama area in the early 70’s. This may be one of the densest areas on the planet. But in the region I lived in almost everyone lived in a single family house (admittedly a small house on a small lot).

I have no real objection to a little driving. As long as I can do a lot of the routine stuff via walking, that’s fine. An occasional trip to the super-market or Home Depot is no big deal. Ditto for driving to work –as long as it meets my 20 minute commute guideline. I live in a totally unwalkable neighborhood currently (something I intend to change). My gas bill is about 10 dollars a week. I don’t find owning a car to be all that burdensome. I budget a $100 a week for car related expenses – which is a lot less than my beer and cigarette allocation. Yes, I’m car dependent; but it beats the hell out of being transit dependent.

Density is nice to a point. I don’t know how anyone could bear to live in Manhattan. I lived in downtown Atlanta (21st floor condo) for a couple of years and hated it; nice to be able to walk to work in 10 minutes – but not enough to offset the isolation and alienation.

Something I’ve commented on before; but what the hell. You don’t need the whole city to be walkable – just the part you live in. This can be accomplished in as few three blocks. Instead of raging away about what the LDS is going in Gilbert or Chandler you’d be spending your time more productively trying to establish one neat neighborhood on Phoenix (something I have been unable to find). Even in the sprawlingest city I can think of, Atlanta, I can provide GPS coordinates for at least two neighborhoods I think any urban type would find totally cool. Without even thinking hard I think of five here in B’ham.

wkg, I'm going to hazard a guess here why you don't want to be transit-dependent in Birmingham. It has something to do with those people who are.

I don't mean that as a slur, either. I'm living in Portland, the whitest of America's large cities (around 75%). Transit feels like something middle-class people do. I'm not stretching my comfort zone living here. In Phoenix, I struggled on light rail. There were countless times I felt extremely uncomfortable - loud and aggressive young men meant keeping my head bowed for many of my trips. I was never assaulted although I was actively threatened. Of course, transit for the underclass is a real necessity unlike the middle class. Over time, I found myself finding more excuses not to use the train.

Phoenix has been getting poorer over the past few years, which means we're not likely to make the white middle class feel safer using transit or living closer to the poor. Our best opportunity to make this city work - gentrification - is almost tapped out. There are simply too few old houses left to fix up. That means, the young will have to be lured back to a city that lacks real urban virtues.

A walkable city is a fairly fragile ecosystem. It's not just high-dollar condos but funky old apartment buildings, an integrated retail fabric, and countless human connections. Phoenix is trying everything, but it can't force-feed this goose in order to make good paté. There's really no solution that I know of where the organic city was allowed to die and then be revived by civic will. It's painful because you want to believe humans can be taught to be nice and tolerant but the tipping points are intractable. Unless Phoenix becomes much more prosperous in its core, its fate is more or less sealed.

Phoenix will not rise out of the ashes again. It had its chance and blew it. As for "raging" about LDS in Gilbert and Chandler.
If you are not aware that the Temple in Salt Lake rules in Arizona U do not understand Arizona politics. And other than the LDS Mayor of Mesa, Scott Smith, the pols at the legislature hate Phoenix and Tucson. Interesting to me that currently Mesa has the best mayor and police chief in the state maybe the southwest.

As for living "downtown" anywhere! Not my idea of good.
Every time I come to downtown Phoenix I hate it more and more with a couple of exceptions like Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe and the Valley Art theater.

I like towns that have a court house in the middle and a one way street around it with a cafe, grocery store, a barber shop, a sears small outlet and a movie house. with the Churches out in the forest. Vermont?

@ Soleri: Bham transit mostly for the working class and destitute. Basically being white trash, I can deal with that. It’s the Inhumanity of the whole thing that turn’s me off. I feel the same way about air travel these days.

One of the reasons I like the free standing house is that mostly they are owner occupied. Provides stability and ownership. I especially like it when they are working and middle class families with children. Schools and little league just as important as neat pubs and cafes.

It is a very dynamic environment. Better to have lot’s of small businesses.

Regarding fiction: I like Kosinski a lot. But only the early version. Really recommend “The Painted Bird”, “Being There”,”The Deviel Tree” and “Cockpit”. Like many authors, his latter stuff really got bad: like ‘vonegutt or pat conroy.

It’s a bit south-centric but I liked “All the King’s Men” a lot.

I take transit nearly everywhere in Seattle. The Orca card makes it easy to board any conveyance. If necessary, I can get a Zip Car. Taking light rail, streetcar or bus is so much more pleasant than driving and frees me to do other things en route or simply relax. Car-driving has absolutely no appeal for me any more -- maybe when there were 100 million fewer Americans, no realization of climate change and cheap gasoline. Not now. Nor does airplane travel. If time allowed -- and we were an advanced nation -- I would take the train everywhere.

My favorite mode of trave is a passeger ship which "zooms" along at about 20 miles an hour.

Acquaintance reviews of AMTRAC travel have not been too good.

I have heard a lot of good things about Megabus.

My monthly transit pass in Portland costs me $26, an excellent deal although I wish the rail part was faster. The buses are excellent, however. The MAX lines really creep along at a virtual snail's pace through the center city and the streetcar lines simply feel as if they're too infrequent to be truly useful. Maybe increasing density will eventually solve that problem. Bicycling in the center city is, by far, the most convenient transportation mode, even factoring in the rain. Walking (and running!) is good because the blocks are short and the urban fabric is tight. Walking in Phoenix, by contrast, is hellish. The traffic is oppressive and the streetscapes are boring.

It's not an accident, by the way, that modernist architecture happened in the automotive age. Instead of looking at buildings on foot, we started looking at them from a car going 30 mph. The mind no longer needed to savor details so much as get a quick impression and go on. Kunstler is fond of calling these streets "crudscapes" filled with clown architecture. The curse of mobility is that you get to places faster that aesthetically nullifies the effort itself.

The Solution:

I should add that Seattle has abundant Amtrak service -- at least until Republicans take the Senate (how come conservatives don't want to conservative anything?).

We have multiple Amtrak Cascades trains going south through Portland and as far as Eugene, and north to Vancouver, B.C. Very easy and a delightful way to travel. Yes, there is bus service on the subsidized Interstate highway -- but it's a bus. No thanks.

We also have the long-distance Coast Starlight to LA and Empire Builder to Chicago. All depart from and arrive at King Street Station downtown, which has been beautifully restored.

Amtrak struggles from lack of funding and GOP sabotage, but I have found its service to be good-to-excellent on my many train trips. And so relaxing.

I don't expect most Americans to "get" how important choices in travel are, or how great trains can be. Too bad for us as a country. If I were 30, I'd move to northern Europe.

A reason for the Rogue's gallery to be proud:

"Even in places with smart, thoughtful readers, the comment sections tend to be more like lists of unconnected ideas than genuine conversations."

How Comments Shape Perceptions of Sites' Quality—and Affect Traffic

Of course, here I am introducing an unconnected idea. :)

I read many articles but this is the only place I comment. Because I like the crowd here and because it feels good.

Well, if we're allowed to include sci-fi in the category "classic literature" then I second cal's recommendation of Asimov's Foundation series. I didn't know I could also include detective novels (e.g., Chandler), otherwise I could have mentioned Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon is a terrible movie but a fine novel). And about a million other books that make good reading but don't fit traditional notions of "classic literature".

I vaguely recall reading Don Quixote (from which the word "quixotic" was coined) many decades ago and enjoying it. After seeing Jose Ferrer's movie version of Cyrano de Bergerac, I went out and bought the book (play) by Edmund Rostand. I liked the movie better; Ferrer's version was alienated but likeable; Rostand's original was a nasty s.o.b..

I don't think walkability is inrinsically "nostalgic" nor do I think Mr. Talton is yearning for small-town life in touting walkability. Paris is a modern city but highly walkable. It also has more than 400 parks and gardens, more than anyplace comparable in Europe. Walking in New York is often the most practical way to get around. Boston, Providence, Munich...the list could go on and on.

But I do agree with the comment that walkability is easier to design in than it is to reverse engineer after a city has developed along the lines which Phoenix has.

The most walkable cities, and the most walkable parts of cities, tend to be those that are old. This includes Seattle: places like downtown and Pioneer Square.

True walkability requires not only pedestrian friendly walks but a variety of essential services and goods within walking distance; there are many pretty neighborhoods where it's possible to walk, as a sightseer, and far fewer that are liveable for walkers. Seattle seems to have increased the walkability of its older sections by developing them for living. They've made an investment that has taken areas which might have been largely abandoned or transformed along modern city models, and made them walkable.

I am just curious if any of the numerous commentators picked up on Mr. Talton's "City Beautiful" reference? If it breezed right by, perhaps a search on that wonderful and far reaching idea might be in order. How enlightened our species can be if we value intellect and community over bombast and greed.

Northern and 19th Ave is very walkable. Many small businesses, grocers, drug store. If those small businesses can survive the light rail construction they will do very well.

The urban core is walkable. More of a hip space. Each area of Phx that is walkable is so in a different way with a different feel. Maybe we could make the most of each areas special offerings.

Remember "Two Lips Cafe"? Wasn't it in one of those old mansions on Central? Don't recall when it was razed.

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