Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona, just for fun. Advertising-free, supported by my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

Honest, and dishonest, poverty in Phoenix and Los Angeles


In a longish life, I've met a lot of people who have been poor. Some of them, I can tell, have been genuinely poor, but most have been like the little rich girl in the story who is asked to describe a poor family: "The daddy was poor, the mommy was poor, the children were poor, the butler was poor, the chauffeur was poor..." And I understand. It's all a matter of point of view. And the most common thing I hear about people being poor is that they had honest poverty. They may been poor, but they didn't steal stuff. Of course, there's always that one uncle...

Honest poverty, and dishonest poverty, go hand-in-hand. If someone has plenty of money, they can afford to walk past a hundred dollar bill lying there on the sidewalk, but for people who really need to pay the rent, buy food, that sort of thing, something like that can seem like a blessing from heaven. Yes, it's stealing in a way, taking something that isn't yours, but it's hard to imagine someone passing that up who really needs it.

I've lived in poor neighborhoods in Phoenix, and in Los Angeles. Most of the people I know nowadays can't even imagine that sort of place. The crowding, the noise, yes even gunshots. And don't even think about leaving a bicycle outside, even with a strong lock - if it can't be stolen, the parts will be stripped by the time you get up in the morning.

I've been lucky. When I moved back to Phoenix, at 31, I got a good job at Valley Bank in the graphics department (yes, banks have corporate graphics departments!). I was able to move out to suburbia, which is where I still am. I still see honest, and dishonest, poverty in my neighborhood, but not as much as where I used to live.

Poverty sucks. And it can happen to anyone. What people do with it is the measure of their character. I've seen honest poverty, and dishonest poverty. And sometimes the most honest people are the ones with the least money.

Image at the top of this post: the 1891 flood in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Eating my last burger at the Chuckbox for thirty years and counting


My favorite hamburger place is the Chuckbox, which is on University and Forest in Tempe, Arizona. It's just east of Mill Avenue, and just south of the Art Building, where I spent a lot of time in the 1980s. And every time I go there I think that this will be my last Chuckbox burger. I've been thinking that for over thirty years, and hopefully I will be able to continue to think that for many years to come.

If you're not sure what I'm saying here, I just have to say that to me it just seems too good to be true. And it was even back when I was going to ASU.

Unlike most of my friends, I didn't have much of an entertainment budget when I was going to school. I didn't go to concerts, I didn't eat at restaurants, not even fast food places. But on the rare occasions that I had some extra money, I would buy a hamburger at the Chuckbox. And the burgers were delicious beyond belief, maybe because it was such a special treat.

When I graduated and moved away to California, I remember dreaming of Chuckbox burgers. I tried every place that was suggested to me, but nothing seemed to be as good. I wondered if it was just my imagination? When I visited Arizona I always made a point to have one last burger at the Chuckbox. Tempe was growing quickly, and I knew that a little place like that couldn't last.

When I moved back to Phoenix, in 1989, I went to the Chuckbox, and again had my last burger, or so I thought. Over the years I've tried to go there at least once a year, and yes, I was always thinking, "this is the last burger!" And then my life changed dramatically, with an injury that I'm still working on recovering from, which took away my ability to walk into the Chuckbox, and carry a tray outside. I was devastated. Of all the things I'd lost, the loss of the Chuckbox seemed the worst.

But my friends have rallied. I don't drive anymore, and I'll probably never be able to do the "walk and carry" of a Big Juan, french fries, and a beer on a tray, but I've been back to the Chuckbox. This is how it works: I sit outside and go into ecstasies with the aroma, and my friends go inside and bring me a Big Juan, fries, and a beer. And yes, you guessed it, I'm always thinking that this is the last one.

And maybe thinking that there would never be another one makes it that much more precious.

Thank you for going to the Chuckbox with me!

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