This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

Why people shouldn't be living in Phoenix, Arizona, or any city on Planet Earth


If you've ever been in Phoenix in the summertime, you may have wondered "Why would people live there?" It gets HOT in Phoenix. Not warm, not uncomfortable, but life-threateningly, dangerously, fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot. During the big heat wave recently it was like standing on the sun. And there's no other way to describe it, the city should not exist, it's a monument to man's arrogance!

And I agree. So, the question is, where should people live? If you're in Phoenix, chances are your first thought is: San Diego! To which I have one word: earthquakes. I've lived in Southern California, and believe me, if you're a worrying person like me, it's not easy getting a good night's sleep thinking about that. Don't get me wrong, I love coastal California, but putting several huge cities on the San Andres Fault is really just a monument to man's arrogance. Or confidence. Or faith.

My first thought along these lines was when I was delivering newspapers on a dark and cold Sunday morning in the dead of winter in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The temperatures there regularly fall to thirty degrees below zero. And if you're not sure what that means, that's about sixty degrees BELOW the temperature which ice freezes. So as I stood there in the snow, with my newspapers, I really wondered what in the world people were doing living there? I was there because I was born there, and believe me, I got out of there as soon as I graduated from High School, got a car, and learned to read a map.

OK, so now I know what you're thinking? Where, exactly, on Planet Earth should people live then? How about a Tropical Paradise? Of course there are things called Hurricanes, and Typhoons.

Let's see, how about where a LOT of people choose to live, along along the eastern edge of what is known as "the Ring of Fire". That's where Tokyo is.

Yeah, I know now it sounds like I'm just picking on cities. Pick any city on planet earth and I'll give you a reason that people shouldn't be there. And now you see what I mean, because it's all about compromise. The people in Pompeii were happy there, with the beautiful weather, and the delicious grapes, until that darned volcano erupted.

I live in Phoenix. I shrug my shoulders on days that are insanely hot, and am glad that I'm not out in it, and that I have great air conditioning in my car and house. My friends in California don't spend a lot of time dwelling on earthquakes, they focus on the cool ocean breezes. I'm sure the happier people in Pompeii were enjoying the wine, not looking at Mt. Vesuvius. And that's how it works. The big blue marble is a very dangerous place for people to live, but it's the only home we have. That's us, that's home.



Image at the top of this post: Flying over Phoenix, Arizona in the 1950s

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Seeing your hometown through the eyes of a stranger - Phoenix, Arizona


I've lived in some pretty amazing places in my day, mostly because I just knew that there had to be somewhere that wasn't like where I grew up, which has two seasons: Snow, and Mosquitos. I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. So I left there as soon as I figured out how to read a map, and which direction was "West".

I came to Phoenix, Arizona, when I was 19, got my degree at Arizona State University, and went to Southern California afterwards, seeking fame and fortune. Fame and fortune I never found, but I was amazed by the places I saw, and even more amazed by the people who were essentially blind to all of it.

Mine is the world of palm trees and mountains. It's a place of Arizona sunsets. It never snows in Phoenix, and sometimes it gets so hot that it makes your eyes bug out just to walk out of your house. There are lizards on the walls, and there are trees with green bark (palo verdes). And there are palm trees! There are thunderstorms that are beyond amazing, and there's a smell to the desert that's the most wonderful thing I've ever experienced, especially after a rain. I could go on, and on, and I probably will, but I'll need to include the mention of a stifled yawn from people who just take all of this for granted.

I saw these people in California, too, even Santa Barbara. They had grown up there, or had lived there for a long time, and to them the ocean wasn't the most amazing and spectacular thing ever, it was just where their Uncle had lost his boat last year. The rainbows behind the mountains just reminded them that they were going to have to drive somewhere, and that the traffic would be awful. This isn't true of all locals, of course, but the vast majority were essentially blind to the beautiful place where they lived. I wanted to grab them by the shoulders, and shake them, saying "can't you see this?"

I learned a long time ago that it's a matter of choice where you live. You can live in an exciting, beautiful, and amazing world, or not. And it doesn't even matter if there's palm trees and mountains. I chose a long time ago to live surrounded by amazing things, to walk around with my mouth hanging open, to be a stranger in a strange land.

If you haven't seen it yet, I'm hoping you will. Walk with me.


Image at the top of this post: the Black Sphinx palms at 44th Street and Camelback, Phoenix, Arizona.

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