Dreaming of Snow

The other night I dreamt it started snowing and it was wonderful. I know, strange statement coming from a guy who had come to detest the white stuff by the time we left Denver. But this dream was…different. I wasn’t in Denver; I was in Phoenix. Now, snow in Phoenix isn’t unheard of, but it’s extremely rare and seldom lasts more than a few hours after dusting the ground. It’s so rare in fact, that I had a very hard time finding any decent photos to illustrate it.

In this dream I was coming out of a Trader Joe’s…or a Sprouts…or a Whole Foods…or some other hipster-addled grocery store where people buy ready-to-eat artisanal, cruelty-free organically-grown, non-GMO gluten-free potstickers and during the time I’d been in the store (picking the last of the good orange cherry tomatoes individually out of a bin), the skies had clouded over and temperature had dropped precipitously. It felt like snow weather. The clouds were hanging—to quote a line from Rocky Horror—dark and pendulous. The ground was already turning white as the flakes began falling.

I wasn’t concerned. I knew it wouldn’t be like a Denver storm where I might have trouble getting home, and the sheer joy I felt at the cold temperature made me realize on some level I actually missed that kind of weather.

We’re now in our third summer back in Phoenix; a milestone that I’ve always marked as being fully acclimated to a climate—especially one as brutal as Phoenix. It’s marks the point that you can relax and take solace in knowing the ridiculously hot days won’t last forever; that in just a few short months cold water will actually start coming out of the cold water tap again and you might even have to wear a hoodie when you go out.

Come to think of it, the whole thing might just have been fever-induced as I was coming down sick—something akin to a (reverse) plot line from that old Twilight Zone episode The Midnight Sun

Two Years

This week marked our two year anniversary back in Phoenix.  It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long, but it has. After all, two years ago we still had adults in the White House.

I’d be lying if I said there weren’t things about Denver that I miss—especially at this time of year. It doesn’t help that I stream KUVO (Denver’s jazz station) on many a morning and afternoon commute and hear the high and low temps. I’m sure I won’t feel the same way in six months once the snow starts falling, but right now it sounds wonderful.

But there’s this…

Ah yes, the Denver commute from hell. Such fond memories of driving the 25.

And then of course this…

…are all that’s needed to snap me out of any nostalgic longing I may have.

We also just signed another two year lease on our current domicile. It’s not perfect (we’d both rip out the 69-year old bathroom and kitchen and replace them in a heartbeat if we could), but the house remains a good fit for us at this point in our lives. We still don’t have use of the third bedroom, filled to the brim as it is with Ben’s mother’s crap, but we’re planning on getting some sort of outside storage set up for that in the coming months to get it cleared out.

And then there’s the back yard. It’s 5500 square feet of weeds in winter and nearly dead lawn no matter how much water we throw on it in summer. Several months ago we proposed to the landlords that we cut the lawn down to a small patch directly to the west of the patio (that’s shaded and protected by a large elm tree) and lay gravel down in the remainder of the space. Throw a couple drought-tolerant mesquite trees back there, a paver walkway from the patio to the back gate, and call it done. Surprisingly, they just agreed to it—assuming of course, that we pay for it.

So that’s not gonna happen any time soon. But who knows…we could win one of those HGTV giveaways we keep entering or strike it rich with the Arizona lottery!

Some Days I Do Miss Denver

I knew it was hot the minute I walked out of work yesterday afternoon. The car thermometer registered 119 for most of the commute, topping out at 121 as I turned onto our street. The temperature probe on this thermometer had been in the shade all day, so that was the actual air temperature.

On days like this, -8℉ and 10″ of snow in the middle of May doesn’t sound so bad. But then I think about the other aspects of life that caused us to flee Denver and realize it’s just the heat (and a bit of nostalgia) talking to me.

I fear these temps are becoming the new normal and their onset and duration will only get earlier and last longer. (But according to Glorious Leader and his minions, global warming is just a myth perpetrated by Liberals and the Chinese to sell more us air conditioners and take away our guns, force us to have abortions and get gay married…or something.)

It’s Hot Out There

I’d be lying if I said that after only one year I’d fully reacclimated to the Phoenix summertime heat, because I haven’t. It’s damn hot out there.

It doesn’t help that it’s currently about ten degrees F hotter than it was a year ago on this date. Or the year before that. Or the year before that. Or pretty much any time as far back in my lifetime as I want to go.

If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that Mother Earth was tired of our shit and is running a fever, hoping to rid herself of the human virus…

One Year

As of today, we’ve been back in Phoenix exactly one year.

I wish I could say my employment situation has improved since leaving Denver, but as we all know, it hasn’t. I remain optimistic. It usually takes me two or three false starts each time I change cities to get situated somewhere that I like and that lasts for more than a few months, so we’re coming due here pretty quick.

Other than the employment thing, life has been good over this past year. I love the house we’re renting, I love the ease of getting around Phoenix, and though I learned over during the four years we lived in Colorado that I prefer being cold and dry to being hot and dry, I still love being back in warm weather.

And while photos like this…

Photo courtesy Erik Rubright.

…get me feeling a little nostalgic and make me realize how little of the state we actually saw during the time we lived there—all I have to do is think of the cost of living, driving in the snow, getting stuck while driving in the snow, working at DISH, and the appalling insanity of Denver drivers, and I’m cured of any nascent longing instantly.

Then And Now

Top: 1960-something. Bottom: 2016. Central Avenue just south of Monterey Way looking north.
Top: Late 1960s/early 1970s. Bottom: 2016. Indian School Road just east of Central Avenue looking west.
Top: Late 1960s. Bottom: 2016. Indian School Road east of Central Avenue (about 100′ further east than the picture above) looking west.
Top: 1950s. Bottom: 2016. Van Buren and Central Avenue looking southeast.
Top: 1960-something. Bottom: 2016. Central Avenue at Polk looking north.
Top: Early 1970s. Bottom 2016. Indian School Road at Central Avenue looking south.
Top: 1960-something. Left: 2016. West side of 7th Avenue just north of Heatherbrae looking north.
Left: 1960-something. Right: 2016. The Professional Building at Central Avenue and Monroe. The building sat empty for many, many years, but was recently renovated and is now the Hilton Garden Inn.

If I Don’t Put It Out There It Will Never Happen


As I have lamented on this blog previously, one of the biggest regrets of my life was that I’ve gotten rid of so many things I wish I’d held on to.

The first of those things being the notebooks I’d amassed that were full of audio manufacturer literature from the 70s and 80s. I don’t actually recall at this point if I intentionally threw them out or if they were inadvertently left in a closet when fleeing an unfortunate roommate situation in 1989, but the fact remains at some point they disappeared.

The second of those things were the multiple notebooks of the floor plan/exterior elevation handouts I’d collected from Hallcraft Homes for the duration of my dad’s employment with the company. I believe I left them in Dad’s care when I first moved out of my folks’ house in the early 80s, with the intent of eventually getting them back at some point. Well, life happened and I’d all but forgotten about them (and the dozens of actual construction blueprints in our possession) until some time after he moved to the Bay Area and I inquired as to their whereabouts. “Oh, I threw all that stuff out after the divorce.”

Well fuck me.

My heart sank. Looking back on it now, I think his tenure at the firm (especially the last few years after they’d been bought out by a Canadian company) became increasingly difficult and when the opportunity presented itself for a purge of all physical reminders of his time there, he went for it—something totally out of character for my dad who seemed to hold onto every other thing in the world.

With the advent of the internet, I’d always fantasized what a great resource having all those handouts would be to current owners of the homes—if only for historical reference, and after his death I’d hoped against all odds that my sister would find a hidden cache in his things. Alas, no such cache was found.

Searching online for already published examples of those handouts has been a lesson in futility—until yesterday. With all the Phoenix history swirling through my brain of late, I did a search for “Hallcraft Showcase of Homes.” This led me to—of all places—the Sunburst Farms HOA page. Sunburst Farms was the first of several Hallcraft subdivisions with one- and two-acre lots. (Ben’s grandfather actually still owns a home in one of the east side developments.) On this HOA page there was a link to “Historic Documents” and on that page were links that sent my heart fluttering: Hallcraft Flyer 1, Hallcraft Home Plans 1, Hallcraft Home Plans 2, Home Elevations, Home Prices…

It wasn’t a treasure trove, but considering I’d previously only possessed three floor plans and an equal number of exterior elevation sheets, being able to add three more was like Christmas to me.

This morning, while I lay awake at 4 am again, another thought came to me: Craigslist! and I thought, “Fuck It! If I don’t put it out there, it will never happen.”

So now I have a “wanted” ad on the Phoenix Craigslist seeking these handouts; not to buy, but simply to scan or photograph in hopes of getting them all posted online. In the 1970s alone there were about 45 different single-family floor plans, and probably an equal number of townhouse/fourplex plans. The fact that someone kept a few—that I didn’t have—tells me that somewhere in Phoenix, in boxes at the back of closets and garages, my treasure may be lurking.

The images above are from yesterday’s discovery, and that particular plan was actually one of my favorites even though—god forbid as far as my mother was concerned—it didn’t have a separate dining room. That seems silly now, as I could easily see using the “family room” as a separate dining space since I could never understand the need for having a living room and a family room.

Sucked Down Memory Lane

I’ve fallen down an internet rabbit hole. This was prompted by waking from a dream a couple nights ago wherein I was in the studio of the interior designer my mom worked for in the 1960s and then wracking my brain trying to remember exactly where on Central Avenue it had been located. I can only assume that as yet another example of mid-century architecture it was leveled decades ago to make room for one of the new condo complexes that now line the Central Corridor—or more likely for the I-10 deck park tunnel. All I can remember is that it was on the west side of the street and the tall palm trees that used to line both sides of the boulevard were out front. There was also a small grass lawn separating the sidewalk from the studio itself. In case anyone is interested, it was called Kay Baden Decorators.

The last time I was there I couldn’t have been more than 10 years old.  They relocated to a small storefront in Biltmore Fashion Park shortly thereafter. The funny thing is, I can easily remember the smell of the studio more distinctly than recalling anything specifically visual in it—except that the front part of the studio/showroom was a dark labyrinth of furniture, accessories, and stuff—a lot of it completely inaccessible. In short, it was a mess. A fascinating mess for a young person to explore, but a mess nonetheless. (It wasn’t really a showroom; it was used more as a storeroom.)

While I was eventually able to file this unexpected memory and fall back to sleep, the first thing I did upon waking the next morning was to begin Googling for old pictures of North Central Avenue.

I still haven’t found anything that even remotely looks like what I remember, but it led me two two websites that have consumed me for the last couple days. The first is The Rogue Columnist, who is an amazing trove of Phoenix history, and has posted dozens of photos from the time when Phoenix was just a sleepy little desert town (or at least not the car-obsessed asphalt jungle it has become). The second is a discussion forum called How Do You Remember Phoenix? Stories from Long Time Residents. At 850+ pages, it’s going to take me quite some time to wade through it, but it’s already triggered memories of long-gone places that I didn’t even realize were gone until they were pointed out. This has emphasized how much I want to document places around town now—as mundane as some of them may be—to help future residents remember places that are just as likely to be razed in the future as Thomas Mall (just one example) was in the past.

Remembering Phoenix

After we had gotten, in disco parlance, ‘sufficiently cocktailed,’ we’d head way downtown to the trashy gay nightclubs, places with names like Bullwinkle, Hotbods Desert Dance Palace, and our favorite, Sammy’s Steak House—a sleazy toilet that served neither steak nor any other kind of meal. The gay clubs played the best music—a combination of hardcore disco (Lime, Sylvester, The Twins) and dance-punk (New Order, The B-52s, The Thompson Twins) that drove us mad with pleasure. Here, in the ‘bad part of town’ at 2 in the morning, freaking out to DJ Hubert’s obscure Eurotrash mixes, we could forget the suburban strip-mall jobs and junior-college grind that awaited us on Monday. And Tuesday. And, we feared, forever.” ~ Robrt Pela

(I knew Hubert, although not well—and didn’t particularly like him. My most vivid memory of the guy—and one of the main reasons I didn’t care to be around him—was how from his perch in the DJ booth at HisCo. Disco about six feet above the dance floor and very near the club’s entrance, he’d lean over the glass divider and yell “Uterus!” at the female patrons walking in.)

…and Circles













…and sadness.

From the AZ Central Archives, 12 March 2010:

When Circles Records & Tapes closes its doors Saturday, a sentimental chapter in the lives of many Valley residents will also come to an end.

For 38 years, Circles has stood at Central Avenue and McKinley Street in downtown Phoenix. The neighborhood may have changed, but the store always remained devoted to pleasing people who cared about music.

“Record stores almost used to be kind of a cult thing,” said Angela Singer, who started the store in 1972 with her husband, Leonard. “People would go in and look at the album covers and read the liner notes. They would come in and just browse, which doesn’t seem to be what people want to do today.”

The world has changed since the Singers first got into the record-store business. The couple’s entry into the world of music happened in a roundabout way. Leonard owned Associated Distributors, a wholesale company that sold automobile accessories.

In the mid-1960s, that included tape decks, though few were manufacturing tapes. Leonard stepped in, signing deals with such labels as Motown and Atlantic to produce cassettes and 8-tracks.

By 1968, Associated Distributors boasted more than $2 million in annual sales. Circles opened as not only a record store, but as a way to distribute the Singers’ products.

“People were excited when we opened because there really wasn’t anything like this in Phoenix,” Leonard said. “It was something different.”

Tower Records had yet to arrive. Mass-merchandisers such as Borders and Best Buy didn’t exist. Circles, with its knowledgeable staff, deep catalog and late hours, was unusual and exciting.

“This was a music lover’s paradise,” said Rick Nuhn, who worked at the store when it opened. “At the time, this was the only place where you could pick up a lot of the records we were selling.”

The Singers staffed the store with people who knew music. It was Nuhn’s first job after graduating from Washington High School. He now lives in Los Angeles, where he hosts a syndicated radio show and works as senior director of promotion for the Concord Music Group.

“The ’70s were a different culture,” he said. “You’d go to Circles and talk to someone that you thought was cool to find out about cool music. “People can do that today through blogs and the Internet, but it’s not the same kind of connection.”

Industry leader

Circles gained local prominence and became an industry leader. In the days before Nielsen SoundScan tallied music sales, a select group of record stores would report top sellers to Billboard to form the magazine’s charts. Circles’ weekly reports tallied Phoenix’s hottest hits.

Recording artists often visited to sign their latest albums. One-hit wonders like Redbone (“Come and Get Your Love”) stopped there as did country stars like George Strait and Lyle Lovett. Angela Singer remembers a vivacious young Bette Midler meeting fans. Barry Manilow was there, as was Arthur Fiedler.

So many celebrities appeared that the Singers can’t remember them all. They used to have artists sign a door, but it was removed a long time ago – now tucked away in an upstairs storage room. It bears signatures of such acts as the Isley Brothers, Eddie Rabbitt, Michael Franks and David Gates from Bread. Bruce Springsteen’s signature also stands out.

“Oh, yes!” Angela exclaimed, her memory jogged. “He was here. He was quite pleasant, as I recall.”

Valley disc jockey Steve Goddard recalled escorting Natalie Cole to the store in 1988, when she was riding high the on the charts with “Pink Cadillac.”

“She was just delightful,” he said. “But that’s the thing with Circles: I’ve got so many memories there. Some are big ones like that, and some are just me getting excited at finding something there I couldn’t get anywhere else.”

One of Goddard’s favorite parts of the store was the “Wall of Hits,” in which every record that was on the Billboard Hot 100 occupied a spot.

“I’d go in there once a week with my list from Billboard, and I’d get every record that I was missing,” Goddard said. “It was awesome.”

All genres welcome

The building, a sprawling 36,000 square feet, is as distinctive today as when it was built in 1947 as an auto dealership. A huge front window curves around the side of the building, a reminder of days when it revealed the latest Studebakers.

Life-size posters used to fill the window; in the ’70s, one could see images of a beaming Helen Reddy or a brooding Patti Smith.

That was another thing about Circles: It didn’t matter what kind of music you liked. The store aimed to make everybody feel welcome.

“That was intentional,” said Nuhn, who once got an autograph from pianist Van Cliburn during a visit. “It wasn’t someplace that was trying to be hip. It was just about music. It didn’t matter what you liked. We would help you.”

The store stocked Latin albums in the ’70s, before they were easy to find. It carried polka music, religious tunes and became known as a haven for R&B fans. The selection of classical and jazz discs was equally extensive.

“Going to Circles was one of my favorite things to do,” said Sonia Moreno, a federal employee who shopped at the store since it opened its doors. “If you loved music, it was the place to be. You could find anything there, and if by some odd chance you couldn’t, they would order it for you.”

A digital demise

In recent years, the music industry has undergone massive changes. Tapes disappeared, and vinyl was turned into a cultish item when the compact disc took over. Now, CDs are giving way to digital downloads as chains such as Tower and Virgin have disappeared.

“We probably should have closed a long time ago,” Angela said. “It was just hard. We had employees that had been with us for years. You know people depend on you, and you don’t want to say goodbye.”

The Singers, who own the building, are hoping to sell it. The building will be vacant until it is sold.

The store remained devoted to its original goal. It sold a few music DVDs and some accessories as CD wallets, but it never strayed far from the original concept. It didn’t sell books or magazines or paraphernalia; it was always centered on music.

But as popular discs could be had cheaply at Walmart or Target, as well as online, it became harder to compete. And if you didn’t feel like getting dressed, you could download any number of songs to your computer. Circles became a dinosaur in the world of music retailers.

“Most music stores today do not sell exclusively music,” said James Donio, president of the National Association of Record Merchandisers, an industry group. “Because of the sheer dint of economic realities, they began diversifying more than a decade ago into doing other things.”

Revolver Records, just blocks from Circles, opened in downtown Phoenix last year. Co-owner TJ Jordan said the store has a different mission from Circles.

“I really love Circles because you could go in there and browse,” Jordan said. “But, if you deal with younger kids, these aren’t people that are used to going in and browsing. They have it all at their fingertips.”

That’s why Revolver emphasizes vinyl albums and used CDs and DVDs and relies heavily on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Circles didn’t focus on used products and never had a Web site.

“In reality, as great as Circles is, it’s just hard to have a record store like that in this day and age,” Jordan said. “It was more like something you’d see in the 1990s.”

The Singers seem to see the truth in that. Leonard said that once the store sells, the two plan to travel. Angela is active in the local arts scene. But he said their days in the music business are behind him.

“The business is so different than it used to be,” Leonard said.

“We sort of stumbled into this industry,” Angela added. “But, all the way through, we loved what we were doing.”

Memories…

I ran across this online today while searching for something else. I had to pass it on.

You Lived in Phoenix in the 60s, 70s, and 80s If…

You remember when Bell Road (especially through Glendale) was the considered edge of civilization. There was nothing there but tumbleweeds and prairie dogs. Now, it’s where you go to run all your errands. Or if you were traveling eastbound on Bell Rd. the sign that said “Scottsdale- 21 miles.”

You needed to pack a lunch to drive to Sun City.

Your parents took you to Legend City, the only theme park in Phoenix.

Afternoons were spent watching The Wallace and Ladmo Show.*

You remember when Beardsley Road was a seldom traveled, two-lane blacktop. Now, it’s the eastbound frontage road for the Loop 101 freeway.

Before there was Target, there was Gemco. Now, most of the old Gemco stores are Targets.

You remember the original Cine Capri theater at 24th Street and Camelback. You also waited for hours in a line that wrapped around the building to see the original Star Wars there.

You remember stores like Yellow Front, Woolco, Newberry’s, McCrory’s, TG&Y, Fedmart, Sprouse Reitz, Wards and Yates.

You remember when Metrocenter Mall had an underground ice skating rink. Watching skaters from the overlook above was the best way to escape the summer heat.

Metrocenter also had a Farrell’s ice cream parlor. No Farrell’s trip was complete without getting to see two waiters run though the restaurant with a sundae resting on a stretcher, while lights and sirens whirred in the background. Sometimes, the ice cream would fall off the stretcher. Don’t forget the trip thru their candy store.

You were bummed when Farrell’s closed. The space was later occupied by ‘Round the Corner, a burger and sandwich place similar to Red Robin.

You saw a concert at Compton Terrace when it was attached to Legend City.

Your folks subscribed to the Phoenix Gazette (afternoon newspaper) and the Arizona Republic on Sunday.

You remember when the Brass Armadillo antique mall was Angel’s—a building supply warehouse similar to Home Depot.

You remember when you got your building supplies from O’Malley’s, Entz-White or Payless Cashways.

You remember when the Phoenix Suns were the only professional sports team in the state, and they played their games at Phoenix Memorial Coliseum.

Your groceries came from Alpha Beta, AJ Bayless, Basha’s, Lucky’s, Neb’s Market or Smitty’s. Smitty’s even had a little coffee shop attached to it. Smitty’s sold everything.

A night out consisted of family dinner at the Lunt Avenue Marble Club. Their French Onion Soup and deep fried mushrooms were the best. (I’m here to witness, let me tell you!)

You remember when eastbound I-10 ended at Dysart Road. In order to continue east, you had to take McDowell or Thomas Road 15 miles to I-17 and head south. I-10 started up again somewhere east of downtown.

You remember when the Chili’s at 20th Street and Camelback (recently demolished) was The Jolly Roger.

You ate breakfast at Sambo’s or Bob’s Big Boy.

You drove to Central and Thomas to have strawberry pie at Big Boy’s because it was a car hop and they brought it to your car.

You remember when most houses were built with carports instead of garages. Roofs were covered with wood shakes or asphalt shingles instead of stone tiles.

You remember home builder’s billboards that advertised interest rates of 5%.

Your aspirin and cough syrup came from Skagg’s, SuperX, Revco, Thrifty’s, or Drug Emporium.

Your shoes came from Buster Brown.

For cafeteria-style French Food, you went to Café Casino at 24th Street & Camelback.

For some of the best Mexican food in town, you went to La Cucaracha at 7th Street and Indian School.

You remember when CBS was on Channel 10, ABC was on channel 3, and channels 5 and 15 were independent. Now, CBS is on Channel 5, FOX is on Channel 10, ABC is on Channel 15, and Channel 3 no longer has a network affiliation. NBC and PBS are the only ones that stayed on their original stations (channel 12 and 8, respectively).

You accompanied your dad to the True Value Hardware store in Westown in hopes of getting to stop at Baskin Robbins afterward.

You shopped at Valley West Mall before it became a ghost town, and was ultimately torn down.

You shopped at Phoenix Spectrum Mall when it was known as Chris-Town. Broadway was on the east end and Montgomery Wards was on the west. In the 80s, the mall was extended south at the west end and Bullocks anchored the southwest end. The movie theater was on the second floor of the east end of the mall.

You remember when Park Central was actually a full-fledged mall. You bought clothes at Goldwaters and Diamond’s.

You woke up to Bruce Kelly in the morning on KZZP. Before that—Jonathon Brandmeier and his ‘loons!’

You remember Phoenix’s only real rock and roll stations were KRIZ and KRUX in the 1960s.

You rode the ‘Tico’ to Park Central.

You remember quality local programming like Open House with Rita Davenport or Sun Spots with Jan DiAtri.

You accompanied your dad to the LaBelle’s catalog showroom to buy your mom’s Christmas present and where you drooled over hi-fi equipment.

Before he was governor, you remember Evan Mecham as the owner of a Pontiac dealership in Glendale.

You remember when Castles-n-Coasters was known as Golf-n-Stuff.

You remember when the entire state of Arizona only had one area code. Now, there are three in the Phoenix area alone.

You remember when Scottsdale Fashion Square was an outdoor mall with Goldwater’s, Bullocks and Leonard’s luggage being the only stores.

You remember when Goldwater’s was bought out by Robinson May who was then bought out by Macy’s.

You remember when Diamonds was bought out by Dillards.

You remember when Diamonds box office was the only place to buy concert tickets.

You remember when it hit 99℉ and that was considered HOT.

You remember when Big Surf water park was the place to go to beat the heat. Then hitting the drive in theater to see movie across the street.

You remember when best ice cream was found at Thrifty’s Drug Store, where $0.85 cents would get you three scoops.

You remember when you wrote all your information down on a piece of paper and then your drivers license was mailed to you. It was very easy to change the 1968 to 1965 (because it was still in your hand writing) so that you could go to Devil House drinking because the drinking age was 19 years old.

You remember when you could go to Devil House for dancing after hours which was from 1am – 3am.

You remember going to see Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight on Mill Ave.

You remember when 44th Street and Thomas was Thomas Mall.

You remember when 40th Street and Thomas was Tower Plaza, and there were a few people that climbed to the top and threaten to jump.

You remember when there was a canal at 48th.

If you are of a certain sexual orientation, you remember Miss Matty’s Attic, Maggies/HisCo Disco, The Connection, The Forum, and Hotbods.

You remember when driving up Pima Road and you could see for miles and miles because there was nothing east or north of Shea Blvd. And it was very dark and scary.

You remember when the only way to get to Shea Blvd. was thru Dreamy Draw Park and there weren’t any streetlights. Squaw Peak was the name of a mountain, not a highway.

You remember going to concerts at Graham Central Station because the band was not popular enough to fill Mesa Amphitheater.

You bought vinyl at Odyssey Records and Circles Records & Tapes. At circles you had to pass through what seemed like a hermetically sealed passageway to get to the classical section.

You lusted over high-end audio at Jerry’s Audio and Bruce’s World of Sound.

You remember Terminal 1 at Sky Harbor.

You remember Sky Harbor before it was Sky Harbor International.

You remember being able to go out on the observation deck above Terminal 2 to watch planes arrive.

You ate lunch at McDonalds on Central under actual golden arches (one of the original designs). A Big Mac cost 55 cents.

You got your hair cut at Long Hair Inc. and maintained it with Conceived By Nature Shampoo, Creme Rinse and Conditioner.

You and your family ate at Sirloin Stockade, Guggy’s, or Hobo Joes. If it was a very special occasion, you went to Beefeaters on Camelback.

The smell of orange blossoms permeating the air everywhere in the spring.

You bought model kits at Webster’s Hobby Shop and ate lunch at the lunch counter of McCrory’s in Uptown Plaza.

You remember KXTC Disco 92 and their silver mylar bumper stickers.

You remember when the Colonade was an actual enclosed mall, with Sears on the east end and Rhodes Department Store on the West.

You shopped at West Plaza. You bought your pool and backyard fun supplies at Paddock. You bought plastic models from Hobby Lobby (no affiliation to the current behemoth).

*My sister and I were actually on the show one afternoon after our names had been selected from cards we’d mailed in.

My Favorite Example…

…of mid-century multi-family residential building in the entire valley, Phoenix Towers.

My mom’s long-time employer owned one of these condos from the 1960s until her death. I’d only visited once, but I was impressed by the design as well as the incredible view she had.

I’d been itching to get out and take some photos, and since the weather has been gorgeous lately I had no excuse to stay home. I also wanted to check out the camera on my new phone (since it was basically the only reason I upgraded) to see if I’m at the point yet where I can ditch the DSLR.

The results? Damn good, I will admit. Perfect for 90% of the things I photograph. But am I ready to ditch the DSLR yet? Not yet, but I think we’re getting close.

Ghosts

A curious and unexpected effect of being back in Phoenix has been the appearance of ghosts. Not the horror movie variety, but rather memories of persons, places and things long gone. I’m not talking about memories of my life in Phoenix post San Francisco and pre Denver, but stuff from my 20s!

I had to run out to my new employer’s occupational health office to get screened and vaccinated prior to starting work several times over the past couple weeks, and the route takes me past the locations of three of my favorite gay bars from the late 70s and early 80s: Bullwinkle, The Forum, and Hotbods. Of course, none of those places are still in business, but the mere act of driving past conjures up so many good memories of the evenings I spent in them. Driving past The Forum, I am reminded of meeting friends Mike and Michael (and running into an acquaintance from high school whom I previously hadn’t a clue that we played on the same team), and the DJ George, who I often bumped into at lunch at the McDonalds (that used to be on the northeast corner of 16th Street and Camelback vs. its current location on the southeast) where we’d discuss the week’s latest disco releases over our fries and Big Macs. The Forum was where—to the strains of St. Tropez’s Violation,  I first slow-danced with another man.

Bullwinkle, and later Hotbods were where my friend Steve worked. I remember many evenings spent at the latter venue in the DJ booth with him (at least until the pharmaceuticals started flowing). It was the place where Dennis (my first partner) and I would drive two hours from Tucson to spend a Saturday night dancing—and then turn around and drive two hours back home after they turned the lights up.

Ah, youth.

Then there are the two audio equipment stores where I used to hang out: Jerry’s and Bruce’s—neither of which are still open, and in fact haven’t been in years—but nonetheless elicit memories of my first major purchase on credit and where I went every six months to get my stylus examined under a microscope for signs of wear. (No, not that stylus, you bitches!)

There are plenty of other examples of these 30 year old memories being dredged up, but I won’t bore you. The question I have to ask however is why? Why here, why now? I don’t remember this happening when I moved back from San Francisco in ’02…

Reshaping Phoenix

I’ve often remarked—half jokingly—how my dad’s tenure at Hallcraft Homes in the 1970s reshaped the look of  mass-produced residential architecture in Phoenix. Driving around town this afternoon, I realize I’m probably not far off the mark for saying that. You can’t go fifteen minutes in any direction without running into a house, townhouse or fourplex that my dad designed. But while driving around, I’m also reminded of the other builders who left their own unique mark on the Valley: John F. Long and Cavalier Homes are two that come to mind.

In my memory, it always seemed to be a bit of an arms race between the big builders at that time. Every year there’d be a slew of new floor plans (or at least new exteriors), with everyone “borrowing” design clues from everyone else; some more successfully than others.

I recall how as a family we used to tour the competition under the pretense of simply being potential homebuyers, and even then I remember remarking (sometimes to the point where I had to be shushed by my folks (because the model homes often did conceal hidden microphones) about how so-and-so blatantly ripped off one of Hallcraft’s design ideas from the previous year.

I wasn’t totally biased however. When dad’s designs stumbled I wasn’t afraid to say so. His response? “They put food on your table.” While he was the lead and chief architect, there were other designers in the mix, and I could tell without asking whether something was dad’s design or one of the juniors’.  Perhaps not surprisingly, while they weren’t as good as what my dad did, I didn’t find their designs nearly as terrible as he did.

At one point I had a 3-ring binder that contained floor plans of everything Hallcraft built in the 1970s. (I seem to remember giving it to my dad for safekeeping in the 80s when we both lived in California and it was only many years later when I asked for its return that I learned he’d thrown it out before moving back to Arizona, thinking I no longer wanted it.) I now have only a few sheets remaining that were duplicates of what was in the notebooks, but they don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what was lost and after scanning and posting to a website would’ve made an excellent online resource for the new generations buying these homes now.

Autumn Finally Arrives

I am cautiously optimistic that we are finally done with the triple-digit temperatures for the year. Just as I remember the change of seasons in Phoenix from all my past years here, it was as if someone flipped a switch the other day and it was suddenly autumn. There’s a change in the air; a change in the light. While we’re not out of air conditioning season completely yet (another few weeks, if memory serves), it’s positively chilly in the mornings when I take the dogs out, and as I sit at the coffee house writing this tonight, they have the big rolling door up, letting in the glorious cool evening breeze.

And the mosquitos also seem to have departed. Even better, because I’ve grown very weary of being a walking buffet table.

Legal!

One of the tasks I was dreading upon returning to Arizona was going to the DMV. While compared to Colorado (where drivers’ licenses and vehicle registration are administered by two completely separate entities requiring separate visits to different offices) Arizona is heaven sent; it’s a one-stop-shopping experience.

It turns out that it wasn’t all that bad. I had feared that because I did not have my Title, it would turn into a major hassle to get the car registered. (I paid off the car a little over a year after we’d moved to Denver, and the finance company mailed the Title to my old Arizona address after the USPS forwarding order had expired, so I never received it.) Turns out the only issue I had was needing a smog certificate before getting a duplicate Title from Arizona. Once I had that in hand, it was a breeze. I got the Title, re-registered the car in Arizona, and even got my AZ Driver’s License in about 30 minutes.

Delightfully Strange

That’s the phrase I have to use to describe our return to Phoenix. Things are familiar—yet different. I find myself straining old, unused neural pathways to remember where things are and what the best route is to reach them.

That being said, my first impression upon being back is seeing how incredibly easy it is to get around. Compared to Denver, even having to go completely across town is a breeze.

Have I mentioned that I can breathe again? It’s funny, but it seemed like the altitude had only started affecting me within the last year or so, and it wasn’t simply because of being out of shape and having to climb two flights of stairs to get to our apartment multiple times a day.

Most—if not all—of our old haunts are still in business, although as one can imagine, subtle and not-so-subtle changes have occurred over the past four years. It’s also fun seeing how memory has played tricks on me; things that I could’ve sworn were in one location are actually somewhere totally different.

When I was in Phoenix briefly two years ago to attend to my dad’s end-of-life affairs, Phoenix felt alien; it wasn’t home any more. Driving past my old apartment felt like I was viewing it through someone else’s eyes.

That’s different now. Not only does Phoenix now feel like home, in many ways it feels like we never left. But then I’m confronted with something that has wildly changed since our exodus, and I’m reminded that Denver was not, just a bad dream.

Okay, I’m not being fair. We had some very good experiences there, and the first winter was kind of fun. Because of its location, we got to see several things (Devil’s Tower, Mt. Rushmore) that we probably wouldn’t have otherwise. But on the whole, I’m glad to be gone from the place. It was time. Cosmically speaking, I tell myself the entire reason we went there was to get Sammy.

And speaking of the lovable little furball, he’s adjusting to life here more quickly than I could’ve imagined. He loves having a yard to run in and doesn’t seem to mind the toasty temperatures. He does seem to have developed a garden hose addiction, however.

If I have any regrets about leaving Denver, it was that we didn’t get a chance to take advantage of the relatively quick drive up to Yellowstone. It’s still a bit of a hike to get there from Denver, but nothing compared to driving from Phoenix. Then again, the west coast is so much easier to get to now.

Fingers crossed on the job front. I had what I consider to be an excellent interview with a state agency yesterday (as well as meeting with a placement agency that was a complete waste of my time). They liked me, I liked them, but I am up against one other candidate. I’m not going to stress; I know in my heart of hearts that we’re supposed to be here and work will be forthcoming.

Giddy

The wheels are in motion!

We have secured a new residence in Phoenix. Now all I need is a job.

T-minus 65 days!