This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is not supported by advertising, it's supported by the generosity of my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

Being the "Where did he come from? guy" in Phoenix, and Los Angeles


I've been the "Where did he come from? guy" several times in my life, in Phoenix, and in Los Angeles. To clarify, it's what people say when someone just sort of shows up out of nowhere, and is able to do stuff. In the Westerns, it's the gunslinger, in spy movies, it's an International Man of Mystery. What I discovered in the work world it was whoever was willing to do the work that needed to be done. And that's me. The "Where did he come from?" guy (or woman) is one of my favorite characters in movies. They're the hero, the person who will make it right, no matter what it takes.

And no, it has nothing to do with Phoenix, or Los Angeles, or even Minneapolis, where I grew up, although for a long time I thought so. I would often talk of my "Midwestern Work Ethic" or the flakiness of Californians, who never seem to be able to get anything done, but who seem to be workaholics compared to what I saw when I first moved to Arizona. If you've jumped to these stereotypical conclusions, step away.

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As I learn more about the history of Phoenix, I find a lot more "Where did he come from?" people. People like Jack Swilling, or Del Webb. People who did stuff, who dreamed big and made their dreams a reality. And I picture them stepping out of a crowd, and stepping up to do what had to be done, with courage, conviction, and what I call "unrealistic optimism". And it doesn't matter where they came from, that's just something that people say. All that matters is what they can do.

Being a "Where did he come from? guy" has it's advantages and disadvantages. For me, literally the greatest thing was to actually hear people ask me where I came from, as if that would answer who I was, and what I was doing. When I looked over my shoulder and saw my little neighborhood in Minneapolis, I wondered if that really could have been the answer. Of course not. The disadvantages, as you who are "Where did he/she come from?" guy/woman know is that your neck is sticking out, often quite a lot. And there are a lot of people who are petty and mean. I wish it wasn't that way, but it is.

When I first started teaching at the Art Institute of Phoenix, I saw a lot of people that I called "superstars". People who did amazing stuff, had a lot of talent, worked hard, made great stuff. And I would often wonder where they came from. But it didn't matter, all that matters is where they were, and where they were going.


Image at the top of the post: On the 31st Floor of the Bank One Building (now Chase) in 1993, Central Avenue and Monroe. I came from Los Angeles. Or was it Minneapolis? It doesn't matter.