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

Leaving California for Arizona - howdy, stranger


One of the things that I liked about Phoenix is that I never got the sense that the locals resented newcomers. Sure, there were the frustrated comments about how slow "Snowbirds" drove when they visited Phoenix, but nothing like the sheer hatred of people who were moving into California. And I guess I can understand. Phoenix may have gotten bigger in the 20th Century, but it never got as crowded as places like Los Angeles.

When I left LA, to move back to Phoenix in 1989, I know that I made a lot of Californians happy. I remember the bumper stickers that said, "Save California, when you leave, take someone with you." Of course, I only did half of that request, but it was the best I could do. I never knew the Los Angeles of the before the 1980s, the Los Angeles of the Beach Boys, I only knew the Los Angeles of standing in line for everything. If people asked me if I was going back to Cali, I'd say, "I don't think so".

Like I say, I can understand the frustration of the locals. One day they would have a private place on the beach to hang out, and surf, and the next day they couldn't even see the beach for the crowding. Attempts to make areas "locals only" failed, in spite of every effort on the part of locals to harass the newcomers, and ultimately California became a place of walls, and gates. Places became protected areas, patrolled by private security.

I hadn't planned on moving back to Phoenix. I just went back to see some old friends. I was "between jobs" and I felt like I deserved a break. And I still remember with shock what I saw: space. There was room to breathe, room to park your car. You could drive right up to a gas station and buy gas without having to jockey around lots of other cars trying to do the same. You could walk right into a restaurant, sit down and be eating just about right away. There were no lines.

I remember taking a walk around a Phoenix neighborhood that looked very similar to the one I lived in in Los Angeles. Except that the streets weren't lined with parked cars, every house didn't have a sign that said "Armed Response". And whether it was actually true or not, I felt welcomed. Every face I saw looked beautiful, everyone looked happy. I still feel that way about Phoenix.

Arizona has historically been a welcoming place. Back in the days of "the Old West", it was a place where people went to in order to start their life over, maybe after a bad start. Yes, it's true that you never asked a man's name in Arizona, you waited for him to share it, if he chose to. If he didn't, that was his business, and the proper response was, "Howdy, stranger."


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