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

The good and bad of Homeowner's Associations in Phoenix, Arizona


If you live in the Phoenix, Arizona area, chances are that you live with a Homeowner's Association, or there's one nearby. And there are good things, and bad things, about them. As someone who has lived in a neighborhood with an HOA for over twenty years, I tend to understand the good. But I also understand the bad. And it has to do with rules.

The West has traditionally been a place of freedom, where a man can do as he pleases without having to say "please and thank you" to a lot of people telling him what to do. The wide-open spaces invited that way of thinking. The song that says, "Give me land, lots of land, don't fence me in" says it the best. And yet when you have neighbors, the expression "Good fences make for good neighbors" really applies.

Rules are like fences. Whether they're municipal laws, or Homeowner's Association rules, it's all the same. It's a bunch of rules that tell people what to do. Speaking for myself, I've never needed much in the way of rules - I didn't need to study the local laws to, for example, not rob a liquor store (an extreme example, I know!). I also didn't need to study local laws to know that I shouldn't run red lights, or park my car on my lawn. I certainly didn't need to know local law to know that I shouldn't have a yard congested with weeds, and covered with stuff that should have been hauled off to the dump years ago. But that's just me. Some people need to know specifically if something is against a law, or a rule.

When I went shopping for a house, I intentionally looked for a neighborhood with a Homeowner's Association. I wanted good fences, and good neighbors. And no, it's not perfect, there are always going to be neighbors who really don't know that they shouldn't do stuff, like leave their junked cars on the street, or play loud music at 3 am. I understand. But an HOA neighborhood gave me a better chance to be around like-minded people, and I've been happy here.

On the other hand, I've seen ads for houses that advertised "No Homeowner's Association", and I can understand that, too. There are a lot of things that HOAs don't allow, that many people love to do, like restoring old cars, and having the bits and pieces lying around, and having the noise and commotion associated with that. And not everyone can afford to have a shop separate from their house to that kind of stuff. Luckily, Phoenix has a LOT of places without HOAs, where you can do whatever you please, and be around like-minded people.

I like living in a neighborhood with an association, but then again I also like living with a wiener dog. To each his own! In Phoenix you can live and let live. I like that.

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Los Angeles as non-Angelinos see it


Every city is unique, and the only people who really know a particular city are the people who've lived there. And it's true that all cities have misconceptions that reveal the outsider, maybe the way something is pronounced, or which direction is uptown, or whatever. And I've found that most people are just wise enough to shrug their shoulders and say that "they never lived there, and they just don't know". But Los Angeles is different, there are a lot of people who've never lived there you think that they know it well.

And I can't blame people for thinking that they know Los Angeles, even if they've never lived there. Los Angeles is portrayed in movies, in TV shows, in books, and just about every way that you can imagine. So I won't roll my eyes and correct people who see Los Angeles that way, but it does give me a bit of a pain. If you've lived in a city that you know well, you know what I mean. And if you've lived in Los Angeles you know that:

• Hollywood isn't two steps from the ocean. In fact, it's miles away. Of course there are countless movies where the hero steps off the porch of his Hollywood bungalow, turns around, and is at the ocean. So if we're going to visit the Pantages, you really can't just turn around and see the Pacific Ocean from there. Sorry.

• Los Angeles doesn't include Disneyland. As big as Los Angeles County is, it isn't big enough to include Orange County, which is where Disneyland is. People who hear that I lived in Hollywood, in addition to imagining that the ocean was outside my door, think that Disneyland is just a couple of steps away. It's not, it's miles away. A lot of miles!

• Freeways didn't make Los Angeles crowded. Los Angeles was crowded long before the first freeways were built. Traffic jams, and gridlock, go back to the invention of cars. If you want to see what Los Angeles was before it got crowded, you have to not only go back before cars, you have to go back before trolleys. And even then there were a lot of horses, and people!

• There's no such city as Hollywood. Or Van Nuys, or hundreds of other areas that are actually just part of the city of Los Angeles. And I mean that legally. This is confusing even to people who live there, but it's easy to determine if you're in a different city - look for the police cars. Beverly Hills has its own police force, as does Burbank. Separate cities have their own mayors, but Hollywood has an "honorary mayor" during the Christmas parade.

OK, the list goes on and on, but you see what I mean. The city of Los Angeles has been blurred by the mythology, and it continues every time someone sees a movie or TV show set in LA. And by the way, no one in LA says that they live in LA, unless they live downtown. And even then they'd probably describe the neighborhood. I lived in Hollywood, and Canoga Park, and Winnetka. I worked with a woman who lived in downtown Los Angeles and called it "the City". I liked that. And if you've ever heard the radio describe the area as the "Southland", yeah, they do, but no one who lives there calls it that.

Image at the top of this post: The Greater Los Angeles area in 1910.

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Could people live in Phoenix, Arizona after technology collapses?


As someone who loves to use his imagination, I like to imagine what Phoenix would be like in some dystopian future, with the collapse of technology. Let's time-travel into a kind of scary future!

So the first question would be about water. Would water need to be brought in from hundreds of miles away? Of course not, water flows through Phoenix, and has for thousands of years.

Since most people have no idea how Phoenix works, it's considered a place where people could only live if water arrived from hundreds of miles away. But that's simply not true. People were living in the Phoenix valley long before any kind of "high tech" stuff was around. They were called the Hohokams, and they lived in a very primitive way. They didn't even have iron, they used stone tools.

The loss of electricity, and pumping stations, wouldn't dry up Phoenix. There would still be a lot of water right there. The water that Phoenix uses doesn't come from hundreds of miles away, it's right there. The water that flows down from northern Arizona goes right through the valley. It's a floodplain, and all you have to do is to stop the water, store it and channel it. The Hohokams did it.

So there would be plenty of water. But that's just part of the equation. The next thing is damming and channeling the water. The Hohokam people dug canals with stone tools. Speaking for myself, I doubt whether my weak lower back would allow me to be of much help there, but for people with muscle it's doable.

And then it starts to get really difficult. Because the people who lived there, like the Pima people today, would have most probably been genetically predisposed to survive in those type of harsh conditions. They had the "thrifty gene" (you can Google that if you want to) which meant that their bodies could survive on very few calories. My European body would definitely starve to death long before a Hohokam, or Pima, body. And my light colored skin and eyes would give me no protection from the sun.

So, the collapse of technology would be fatal to people like me, but certainly not to everyone. The people who survive would have to be as tough as nails, very strong, and with a strong community spirit. It's been done before.

Image at the top of this post: The Hohokam village of Pueblo Grande, part of which has been preserved, at 44th Street and Washington, Phoenix, Arizona. You're looking southeast towards where Tempe is now.

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Meeting Dave of Dave's Car Care, Glendale, Arizona


As someone who's interested in the history of Phoenix, I realize that it's a very fine line between talking about a businesses and promoting them. In fact, I'm more comfortable talking about a defunct company, like Valley Bank, than one that's still in business. And I think that it gives the illusion that most businesses don't last in Phoenix, and that's not true.

Yesterday I went with a friend to Dave's Car Care in Glendale. I just went along for the ride, and to give moral support, and while my friend was talking to the guy behind the counter, I was wondering, "I wonder if that's Dave?" It was.

I get a big kick out of meeting someone who's name is on the sign of a business. I guess I expect businesses either to have fictional names, or that someone sold it to someone who sold it to someone, etc. I think I became suspicious of asking if the person whose name is on the sign from watching "Happy Days" in the 1970s, after the episode where the owner explains that it would have been too expensive to replace the sign "Arnold's", and besides, it was a sign and name that people knew and recognized.

In the course of the conversation between my friend and the guy behind the counter at Dave's Car Care, he just said, "I'm Dave", and it made me smile. When their business was finished being conducted I made a point to go over and shake his hand, and I asked permission to take a photo of their business hours. No, I'm not going to show you a photo of Dave - that's kind of an invasion of privacy, you know. I gave him one of my history adventuring cards, with the assurance that I wasn't selling anything, and I got the usual look. He may want not to admit that 38 years in Glendale makes his business "historic", but I think that it does. It weaves into the day-to-day life of the city, and to me that's much more important than anything else.

I like my neighborhood, and I'm one of those people who never had to be told to "buy local". I don't own a car anymore, so Dave won't be getting my business, but whatever money I have I try to spend locally. I've always felt that way, even when I lived in Los Angeles, that these people are my neighbors. They live here, work here, are raising their families here, go to church here. Yes, of course there are bad guys everywhere, but they really are in the minority. Most of the people are good guys, even people who repair cars.

Exploring the history of Phoenix south of the railroad tracks


Like the vast majority of the people that I know, including many people who profess to be experts on the history of Phoenix, I know nothing of life south of the railroad tracks. It's strange, but just a few blocks away from an area that I know very well, downtown Phoenix, I can hardly tell you the names of the streets. And since it's a subject that most people don't want to talk about, it's history that gets forgotten, and ultimately is at the risk of being erased forever.

I understand. Some of it just isn't very pretty. And things like segregation are parts of the past that many people would like to forget. And since I'm not a "person of color" - I'm an "average white guy", there are many people who resent my even talking about it. But it's like every aspect of Phoenix history, it fascinates me, and recently I've gotten some help with it, so I'm hoping that soon I'll be able to share more.

I have a PhD (Phoenix History Detective) whose main interest is the history of south Phoenix. It's where he grew up, so he has a very personal connection, and he is also deeply interested in history, right now to the kind of details that I like. Even as we speak he's working on it, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he finds, and will share.

I realize that there is a very fine line between interest in the historical aspects of a city, and simply voyeurism. And south of the railroad tracks things could get very suspicious, no one is denying that. But this was a place where people lived, raised families, did the kind of livin' and dyin' that makes a city.

Going south of the tracks in Phoenix, even just to talk about it, seems taboo. Certainly it isn't something that I intend to treat lightly, nor do I plan on re-writing history to make it all squeaky-clean. Watered-down history is an insult to the people who created that history.

If you're interested in this journey, I suggest that you start at Carver High School, which is now a museum. It's so close to Chase Field that you could probably hit a baseball most of the way to it, but in the historical life of Phoenix it just seems so far away.

Image at the top of this post: George Washington Carver High School in 1942, 415 E. Grant, Phoenix, Arizona.

The George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center is a historical preservation site that is dedicated to the Collection, Documentation, Preservation, Study and Dissemination of the History and Culture of Africans and Americans of African Descent in Arizona. https://gwcmccaz.wordpress.com

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Why the neighborhood streets are so quiet in Phoenix, and in Los Angeles


As someone who is interested in the architecture of cities and how everything in them functions, right down to the streets, I'm fascinated by how successful cities like Phoenix and Los Angeles have been in protecting neighborhoods from traffic.

If you've never realized that, I owe you a thank you, and I feel kinda sad that you've always been on the other side of the equation. Please let me explain.

I was out walking this morning in Glendale (a suburb of Phoenix) since it was such a beautiful day. I took the photo at the top of this post as just a typical view. And it's what you're not seeing that I want to point out - traffic.

Now don't get me wrong, as I walked along the neighborhood streets there were a few cars this morning, but mostly they were doing the thing that cities like Phoenix and Los Angeles have been designed to do, they are getting out of the neighborhoods and onto main streets and freeways. If you could see way down there to the busy intersection, you'd see a LOT of cars. Yeah, it was rush hour when I was out walking this morning.

Now don't get me wrong, I would imagine that most modern cities have done this. I only know Phoenix, Los Angeles, and where I grew up, Minneapolis. Even Minneapolis has plenty of freeways, and some very wide streets to move traffic back and forth. And of course most people only remember the quiet little streets from their childhood because as soon as they get a driver's license, most people spend their time on the freeways, and major streets.

I've always avoided freeways and major streets. I've been lucky that I haven't needed to spend all that much time there. Yes, of course I've been there, and more than I ever wanted to. And yes, it makes sense to be there in a car, where you can get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. That's why all of this works. It's just human nature to want to get where you're going as quickly as possible. I've known people in LA who will drive several blocks in the wrong direction in order to pick up a freeway, and even in Phoenix I've known people who will drive several blocks north out of my quiet little neighborhood in order to be on a major street, even if their destination is south.

There are no signs that say "cars must get off of the neighborhood streets immediately", but it works out exactly that way. It's as if cars don't belong there, and they need to get out. In fact, it works so well that most of the people I know don't ever spend any time in their own neighborhoods. They get in their car and immediately go to a major street or a freeway. The effect is wonderfully quiet neighborhood streets.

Now that the weather is nice I may go walking again tomorrow, on the quiet streets.

Image at the top of this post: Looking south on 63rd Avenue at Desert Cove, Glendale Arizona, during rush hour.

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Imagining the future in old-time Phoenix


Time-travel with me back to old-time Phoenix and let's try to imagine the future. Don't get me wrong, I like it here in the 1940s, but the future is going to be great!

The first thing I'd like to see is all of the flooding controlled, and more paved roads. This is ridiculous! Every monsoon season the roads turn into mud and everyone seems to get stranded until the water dries up. We're in the 1940s, we have the technology, let's fix it! Once the war is over, I expect the Army Corps of Engineers to get over here, and do some of their engineering magic. No, I have no idea how they do it, but I know that it can be done.

Speaking of which, how about a way to have air conditioning in our cars? I've been reading about it in Popular Mechanics, and it's another thing that would make it nicer living here. Just imagine, getting in your car and pushing a button, and cool air? And I understand all you have to do is mount it on the roof of your car. If I had air conditioning in my car I'd never ask for anything more, that's for sure!

Yeah, I know that I read too much Buck Rogers, but what about being able to talk to people on some kind of "walkie-talkie" without phone lines? Yeah, I know that sounds crazy, but you mark my word, some day people in Phoenix will be able to talk to anyone, even if they're sitting at a table in a restaurant. Won't that be nice?

The future will be wonderful. I imagine not only paved roads, but "free-ways" where you could drive really fast, and not have to stop for anything. It will be wonderful!

What's that? No, I won't lend you my latest copy of "Amazing Science Fiction" - I want to read it again, and dream of the future!

Image at the top of this post: Looking north towards the mountains from the Jokake School in the 1940, which is where the Phoenican Resort is nowadays.

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A fascination with wide open spaces in Los Angeles and Phoenix


Like most people who live in big, crowded cities, I'm fascinated by photos that show it back when there was a lot of wide open space. You know, before the freeways were built, before all of the buildings blocked the view, before everything got so crowded, like in Los Angeles, or Phoenix. Of course there's still a lot of wide open space around these places, as anyone who has ever traveled between LA and Phoenix knows, but the photos that fascinate me the most are the ones that show an area that is now so congested that I can hardly breathe, what it looked like back in the day.

Don't get me wrong, I love LA and Phoenix, and I have never been tempted to live way out "in the middle of nowhere". I've seen places like that, along the 1-10 freeway, or looking out of the window of a Southwest Airlines plane. And I always wonder why people are living so far away from everything, and then I go and complain about how crowded it is where I live. Go figure!

Of course, if you don't know the places in the old photos they just look like a bunch of nothing. But it's the bunch of nothing which is so fascinating when you do know where the photo was taken. Because in spite of the fact that we can logically think that there had to be a bunch of nothing there at one time, it's hard to picture when all we've seen is traffic, and buildings, and congestion.

Image at the top of this post: Looking north towards Camelback Mountain from Thomas and 57th Street in the 1950s, Phoenix, Arizona. I'm fascinated by the wide open space!

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Being attacked by stinging ants in Phoenix, Arizona in the 1960s


The story that you are about to read is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent people who got stung by ants in Phoenix in the 1960s. This is based on an experience that was shared with me by one of my top PhDs (Phoenix History Detectives). He was a kid at the time, and could laugh about it then, as now.

It's the 1960s, and we're leaving Phoenix on our way to California on Highway 60. We always have fun on these trips, because mom gives us plenty of sandwiches made with Holsum bread and bologna. Mom and Dad prefer sandwiches made with cucumbers and Braunschweiger sausage (yuk!). So yep, no fancy restaurants for us, but that's great because we're kids and we love to sit at the picnic tables at rest stops. You never know what's going to happen!

OK, let's have those sandwiches, I'm hungry! But wait, what's that? I see a couple of big ant hills, and you know what that means - those nasty stinging red ants. Let's get out of here. Back in the car!

We're back on the road now, and I'm sure that there will be another rest stop coming up soon. But wait, Dad sounds upset. "OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! Oh Holy Sh@#$%$#t!!!" He pulls the car over in a cloud of dust and jumps out screaming bloody murder, drops his pants and starts picking out the ants and stomping on them. We're laughing so hard we we're crying, including Mom! Well, Dad ended up laughing too, but painfully…

Image at the top of this post: US 60 map in the 1960s, the road from Phoenix to California.

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Behind the scenes: taking history adventuring into Instagram, and IRL (In Real Life)


Since history adventuring is my life, I want to go everywhere, and be everywhere. I started doing this many years ago as mostly a journey of imagination, and it still it, but with my ever-improving health and fitness, I'm trying to get out into the Real World more often, and it's happening more this year. And oddly enough, it's also guiding me into a corner of cyberspace that I really never understood before: Instagram.

I want no limits. I want to go as deeply into the history of Phoenix as possible, and also to see it from the point of view of people who just want a quick look. And since you're here, reading my blog, you may be wondering why someone would just want a quick look, and not want to find out more. And all I can say is that sometimes you feel like a full meal, and sometimes just a snack would be perfect, if you follow what I mean.

For those of you who know me IRL (In Real Life), or have read between the lines here, I have some severe physical challenges. I like to say that I wobble, but often it makes even simple walking just about impossible for me. And now waitaminute, I'm not looking for sympathy here, this is just behind the scenes, and it's not all bad. And I've discovered that the best medicine for me is history adventuring. And I've decided to show my face in all of the places that I go, both in cyberspace and IRL. I want people to see me and say, "Hey, that's that history adventuring guy!" I like that.

And getting out there IRL has give me more of a reason to use my nice little Smart Phone. And to my surprise, there are some cool things that those people who seem to be always looking at their phones see, and one of them is Instagram. And I gotta admit that it puzzled me for about a year. I started with a personal account, and posted pics of my wiener dog, or my exercise equipment, or views of where I was exploring in my immediate neighborhood, or whatever. Little by little it started to click with me that Instagram was a delicious place, and although not as satisfying as what I'd been used to, kind of nice.

History adventuring really isn't a business, but from the point of view of places like Instagram, it kind of is. So I created a business page there, called historyadventuring. My plan is to repost stuff that I've already posted on Facebook, but in a more condensed form, and maybe some other stuff that's more appropriate for Instagram. That's what Instagram is all about - a quick look, a short caption. Once I did that, I also converted my Pinterest account from personal to business. That is, instead of wiener dogs, historic photos of Phoenix. Well, I may sneak in a wiener dog every once in a while, if it's an historic Phoenix wiener dog!

I like exploring, and I like sharing. And to me there's no wrong way to do it. I want to do it all, with everyone. Thank you for walking with me.

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History adventuring while avoiding museums, tour guides, and brochures


Usually when I tell people that I'm interested in going history adventuring IRL (In Real Life) they imagine that I want to go to a museum, or stand and listen to a tour guide. I don't. When I get out there, I want to see stuff. I don't want to see pictures of stuff, or artificial displays of stuff, or people talking about stuff. I love seeing that stuff on the internet all of the time. But real life is different, and very precious, for me.

The first time I saw the Grand Canyon, my friend continued to interrupt my enjoyment of it by asking me to stop looking at it, and instead to look at photos of it. This seems to be such typical behavior that I've every once in a while decided that I should be more polite, but then I think, "naah" and go right back to my rude behavior, which is wandering off. I don't go into gift shops when I arrive at an historic destination, I don't look at brochures. If someone wants me to look at the photos that they have just taken on their phone, I try to politely refuse. When I'm out in the real world, away from just looking at photos of things in books and on the internet, I want to look at the real world.

Now don't get me wrong, there are times when the best I can do is a book, or a museum. I've been rahabbing an injured ankle for the past decade, and it looks like I'll being that for the rest of my life. Some days are better, and worse, than others. On bad days I spend a lot of time looking at photos, reading, that sort of thing, staying off the ankle. When I feel better, I want to get out there. I want to see the mountains, I want to breathe the air. When I get home, after taking photos during an adventure, I get myself off of the sore ankle, and while the tendons and ligaments recover, I do all of the stuff that I avoid when I'm out there - I look at the photos, I do more research, I visit websites, I communicate with experts.

I love to go adventuring with friends that I call "my diplomats". They're the ones who are always happy to talk, or listen, to the tour guides. They go to the gift shops, and carry around brochures. They apologize for me when I wander off to go looking at stuff. I've been known to do a thorough exploration of an historic area in the few minutes that one of my more diplomatic friends has been standing there talking to someone. It seems a shame when we get back in the car that I've seen so much, and they haven't, but most don't seem to mind.

By the way, I don't trespass. I ask permission. If someone says, "Can I help you sir?" that's usually a polite way of someone saying that I shouldn't be walking up to a building. Of course most people think that I'm just looking for the bathroom, or want to go into the gift shop, or would like a brochure, so if that's all it is, I smile and thank them and go about my way.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-social. I love talking about Phoenix history, and have been known to go on, and on, and on. But you need to let me sit down, possibly with a beer, or maybe an ice cream cone. When I'm on my feet, the clock is ticking for me, and I need to use my time as efficiently as possible, looking at stuff.

If you've like to try to do what I'm doing, I encourage you. Be prepared for some strange looks from people if you glance back while they're still talking, probably asking you if you want to go to the gift shop, or look at a brochure, or whatever. And if you're not exactly sure what to do, walk with me, stand next to me, and look in the direction that I'm looking. It will be amazing, and you'll see things that most people never have the time to see.

Thank you for walking with me.

Image at the top of this post: At the Grand Canyon, with the typical view of me that most people see, my back. I'm looking at stuff.

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Understanding affordability in California and Arizona


I just spent a little over a week in California, and while I was there my mind was boggled by how expensive everything seemed to me. I live in Phoenix, and I rarely travel, so I'm sure that I got a double-whammy when I went to pay for things. Or a triple-whammy if you consider that I can remember all of the way back to the 1960s, when I could buy a comic book for twelve cents!

Whether something is expensive, of course, or cheap, always depends on the person who is doing the paying. And as someone from Phoenix I was amazed at how expensive the houses are in California. Many of my conversations were with people who assured me that, really, a one-bedroom apartment rents for that much. And that led me to listen to when people said that, "they couldn't afford it".

I like hearing the phrase "I can't afford it" because sometimes it makes sense to me and sometimes it just seems ridiculous. I'm not very good at math, but I can do some quick calculations of what people have to pay for their mortgage, or property taxes, or whatever. I'm familiar with Proposition 13, and I know that there are people living under its protection, mostly the generation of my parents. Prop 13, which passed when I lived in Los Angeles in the 1980s, allowed people to stay in their homes with their property taxes assessed based on their original mortgage, not the inflating home values. Before Prop 13, people in California were literally losing their homes as they were unable to pay their property taxes.

So, yes, there are a fair number of people who are living very close to their incomes, especially elderly people. And when these people say "they can't afford it", even if I see that they're living in a house that now worth half a million bucks, I believe them. If their property taxes jumped from paying on a $50,000 house to paying on a $500,000 house, they would literally not be able to afford it. But I'm not really talking about those people, I'm talking about people who have plenty of money, but are careful about how they spend it.

To me, of course, the people I see in California look like the guy on Monopoly money, wearing a top hat, and lighting their cigar with a hundred dollar bill. I've never actually seen it with my own eyes, but I have it on good authority that you can go to an ordinary bar in San Francisco, and pay twenty-seven dollars for a class of wine. So when I step off of the plane in California as an Arizonian, it's as if I'm dealing with a different currency. I like to think that I can move the decimal point over, but sometimes it has to be moved two places.

And of course by now you realize that I just wanted to grab everyone in California by the lapels and ask, "how can you afford this?", but obviously a lot of people can, and do. Stuff that's insanely expensive to my Arizona eyes sells so fast in California it's as if they were giving it away. My jaw just hangs open the whole time I'm in Cali.

In a long life, I've learned that people will pay for what they value. Speaking for myself, I wouldn't walk across the street to watch a football game, although I'm sure I'd go if someone I knew was on the team. But otherwise, I'm gonna say that I can't afford it. In fact, even when I see the price of parking at stadiums I say, "I can't afford that!" And I certainly can't afford a glass of beer sold at a stadium! Well, really I guess I could if I valued it, but I don't. And that's the lesson I'm learning.

Image at the top of this post: 1904 ad for the Alvarado Hotel in Los Angeles, California. I really don't know how much the rooms rented for at the time, but if you say a dollar a night, it would be thirty dollars a month, with meals being probably close to fifty cents, and a shave-and-haircut being two bits (25 cents). Wildly expensive!

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Classes for Black students at Phoenix Union High School in 1921, before Carver


Time-travel with me to 1921 in Phoenix, Arizona. If you're familiar with the history of race relations in the United States before desegregation, you know that the law of the land was "separate but equal" (which was never true) and that meant that black and white students were separated, and in theory, treated equally. And if you've visited the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center, at 4th Street and Grant in Phoenix, you know that it was the first high school built for black students, in 1926. It was closed in 1954 when Phoenix desegregated its schools, but it still has always left me with the question of where the black kids went to high school before 1926?

Or rather, colored. In 1921 that term was as acceptable as is "persons of color" is today. And yes, as a white guy this whole subject makes me a little uncomfortable, but it's part of the story of Phoenix, and is as important as anything else that has ever happened there.

Nowadays most people don't think of high school as being particularly advanced. Most of the people that I know went to high school, and in fact a large percentage went to college. I even know people who have advanced degrees. So a "high school degree" doesn't sound like much in the 21st Century. But it meant a lot in 1921, and it meant a whole lot to persons of color.

I found the article at the top of this post today and have been pondering what it can teach me. The population of Phoenix in 1920 was over 20,000 people, so it was already getting to be a sizable city. The high school which had been recently built was enormous, with multiple buildings, more like a small college campus than a high school. The population was booming! And there were 26 colored students. It's also interesting to note that their teachers were black, too. I'm going to see if I can find out more about Mrs. C.B Caldwell, who taught American history, algebra, geometry, Latin, civics, and penmanship. There was also Mrs. M.M. Rogers who taught English, general science, ancient history, and business English. The article doesn't say who taught chemistry and sewing, but the mention of sewing in 1921 clearly indicates to me that some of the students were female.

Understanding the history of Phoenix often means looking at things that are very unpleasant. And my feeling is that I'd rather know than not know. The history of black people in Phoenix isn't something to be erased, nor should it be bowdlerized. It's like everything else that's precious, it should be preserved, and honored.

1920 Commencement, Phoenix Union Colored High School, its fourth year. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020558/1920-05-29/ed-1/seq-16.pdf


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George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center
Cultural center & museum showcasing African-American arts & heritage, with regular programming.
Address415 E Grant St, Phoenix, AZ 85004
Hours
SundayClosed
MondayClosed
TuesdayClosed
WednesdayClosed
ThursdayClosed
Friday11AM–5PM
Saturday11AM–5PM

A day trip out of Phoenix to Cherry, Arizona


I love living in Phoenix, but sometimes you just gotta get away. And at the risk of sounding like a commercial for Arizona, that's why it's so great to live there. Because all you gotta do is get out of town, and the scenery changes very quickly.

Yesterday I rode along with a co-adventurer who is typical of the people that I like to ride along with, someone who just needed to get out of town for a few hours. We went to Cherry, Arizona.

If you've been to Cherry, you know what I mean. If you haven't, then it's kind of hard to explain, because there's really nothing there. And that's exactly the point. Places like Cherry have always been my antidote for the feeling of stress and strain that I feel living in a big city.

Now don't get me wrong, I like living in the big city. I like my little neighborhood in Glendale (a suburb of Phoenix), but every once in a while I want to see something besides 100+ temperatures, and cactus, and traffic lights. And since the Phoenix metro area is conveniently located at the bottom of many hills, all you gotta do is climb up those hills and you can go from 1,000 feet of elevation to 5,000 feet before you know it. And everything changes so quickly it's as if you're watching a time-lapse. The desert becomes high desert, then the hills start to turn green, and you see pine trees. If you keep climbing, it can get too darned cold for an old desert rat like me, so I'll rarely go all of the way to Flagstaff.

Although I've never really had any excuse for it, I've always gotten the "hee-bee-jee-bees" in places like Los Angeles, and Phoenix. I love those places, but I've always felt better getting away for a little while, finding quiet places. And then when I find these quiet places, like Cherry, Arizona, I think that I wouldn't like to live there, I become concerned about whether I would have good internet access, I look at my phone and there's no coverage. So I roll back down the hill and am reminded of why I really do prefer to live in the big city.

The Cherry, Arizona Cemetery

Cherry, Arizona is just a scattering of a few houses, including a bed-and-breakfast, along a dirt road. The most interesting place we saw was the cemetery. In the whole time we were there, wandering around a bit in the cemetery, I saw no one, and when we got back in the truck I saw another car and jokingly complained about "the darned traffic". We waved to each other, because that's what you do in places like that. The big city is filled with people who always have eyes front, never acknowledging anyone, except maybe to curse at them under their breath in traffic. I understand, the big city does that to people.

I just love going to these places. I just want to stand there, and soak up the peace and quiet. And if anyone asks me why I'm there, I've always just said that I needed to get out of town.

Image at the top of this post: the road to Cherry, Arizona.

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Behind the scenes of history adventuring IRL - In Real Life


Although history adventuring in my imagination is wonderful, because I can travel to anytime, be anyone, and go anywhere, every once in a while I'm privileged to accompany one of my PhDs (Phoenix History Detectives) to go history adventuring IRL - which is an internet abbreviation for "In Real Life". But the real world has limitations for me that I try not to worry too much about, and although it's not a secret, I do try to keep my limitations "behind the scenes". I wobble.

I bought these nice walking poles a couple of years ago while I was out history adventuring in Prescott. As someone with a vestibular disability (I wobble) just the small undulations of the sidewalks there can be difficult for me, but these are the places that I love to go. I got these, and practiced with them, and although they're intended for "power hiking", they help me to just mosey along, which is what I really love to do.

I dislike carrying a cane, and a cane really doesn't work for me, as I would need to switch it back and forth from one side to the other. When I first tried the walking poles, they worked for me. If you haven't used them, you might be surprised at how much weight is held by the straps. That is, you don't need to hold on tightly to the handles, you just lean into the straps, that have to be adjusted just for you. It's surprisingly comfortable, and sturdy. I have good upper-body strength, and this takes a lot of strain away from my weak ankles.

OK, I don't want this to sound like an infomercial here! Let's see, in the photo you can see the pad where I leave my cell phone, with a wiener dog pattern, made by a good friend, and a patch that another friend gave me after I visited Shawmut, Arizona. And I always find little things to remind me of my trips, I'm a little kid that way. Sometimes it's just a rock that I put in the garden, and each time I look at that rock it reminds me of an adventure. They're small rocks, but they mean everything to me.

I won't be packing a lunch for tomorrow, so part of the adventure will be finding food and water out there somewhere in Arizona. My co-adventurer knows that I will need to get food and water during the day, so I'm not worried. I've been with people who won't stop, and I just won't adventure with them. Adventurers stop, look, and listen!

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How to behave like a wealthy person in Los Angeles, California


Every year for the past ten years I've gone and house-sat for a friend of mine who lives in a nice neighborhood in the hills near Los Angeles. And as a humble person from Glendale, Arizona (a suburb of Phoenix) of course I wanted to be able to "blend in" with the rich and famous people around there. Of course I got it all wrong.

If you've spent time around rich and famous people, you know how it all works, but it just seems so backwards to me. I just got it into my head that these wealthy people walked around looking like the guy from Monopoly, with a tuxedo and a top hat. But that's so very wrong. People who have the big bucks don't have to dress to impress anyone. When you see them at the coffee shop they look a mess. It's as if you start to suspect that that person over there is rich and famous because their clothes are dirty and wrinkled, their hair isn't combed, and they look as if they haven't shaved for several days. Of course if they were planning on being filmed, they would be all dolled up, possibly with a hairdresser and stylist right nearby. When they're not, they're just casual. Real casual. Some of these rich and famous people just walk past you all of the time in Los Angeles, and you'd never recognize them. And you probably want to get away from them, as they often smell bad.

And since I've never had "money to burn" I tried to imagine what a dollar would feel like to someone who would be making a LOT of them, as if it were a penny. In my imagination rich people would be lighting their cigars with hundred dollar bills, and throwing great big handfuls of money out to the people passing by. Not true. And I think that's where the reputation of rich people being so cheap comes from, because they're just like you and me, wanting value for money, glad to get a discount, happy to accept things for free. How open-handed, or close-handed someone is just depends on their nature, how gracious they are. I've known a lot of people, and how they spend money is all about their heart, not their bank balance.

As I write this now, in Glendale, I'm reluctant to go to the store before I shave, and get cleaned up. No one here is going to mistake me for a celebrity if I look a mess, it would just make me self-conscious. And whether I give an extra dollar to a charity, or not, will depend on how I feel, not stacks of gold bars that I might have sitting in a vault somewhere.

Image at the top of this post: the Pacific Ocean off of Malibu, California.

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Living where things get stolen in Phoenix and Los Angeles


I've always lived where things have gotten stolen, and it looks like I always will. When I first moved to Phoenix, I lived in a "sketchy" neighborhood that hardly even seemed to be safe to walk around in, especially at night. It certainly wasn't a safe place to leave your car doors unlocked, or to just leave a bike leaning against a fence! And when I moved to another "sketchy" neighborhood in Tempe, I made a point to bring my bicycle into my apartment. I also didn't go out wandering around at night.

When I moved into some "sketchy" neighborhoods in the Los Angeles area, I was also cautious. I have to admit that it jangled my nerves to always hear car alarms, or the wail of police sirens day and night. And I wanted out of those neighborhoods! But it turns out that there's really no getting away from worrying about your stuff getting stolen, as long as you have stuff.

When I moved into my safe little suburban neighborhood, where I still am, in Glendale, Arizona, I kept locking everything up. I put my car in the garage, locked, and closed the garage door. I installed security doors. It did seem kinda paranoid of me (I was still imagining that I felt earthquakes!) and then my neighbor's Lexus got stolen from his driveway. And over the years I've known a lot of wealthy people who live in pretty much the same nervous state that I was in way "back in the day" in California.

The solution, of course, is to own no stuff. I've never really met anyone like that, even the transient people I've known have had to worry about their shoes being stolen while they slept on the beach. And so I've been trying to remember when I owned no stuff - it was when I was about four. I remember that because when I was 5, my "Vrooom" motor was stolen off of my bike. My parents had bought me the bike, but the Vroom motor (it just made noise, and mounted on the handlebars) I had won in a coloring contest from the Post Cereal Company. And it hurt my feelings when I walked back over from T-Ball practice at the park, and it was gone. Luckily, my training wheels weren't stolen, so I could get home.

Now as I go into my golden years, I'd like to believe that, aside from a few hearts, and kisses, I haven't stolen anything. I grew up reading comic books, and I wanted to be the good guy. The man I wanted to grow up to be would the Lone Ranger, or Zorro. Now when I look in the mirror at my grey hair I see Don Quixote. But never a bad guy. Never, ever.

But it turns out that there are no bad guys, only little animals that feel that they need to take things in order to survive. And there's no getting away from having stuff stolen, because even on your big ranch in Montana, there will probably be raccoons!

Image at the top of this post: In my "sketchy" neighborhood in 1982, Tempe, Arizona.

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The history adventuring project, chapter two


I like history adventuring. There's really no point to it, which is exactly the point. I've never had a goal of writing a book, or turning it all into a major motion picture, or anything like that. This is my life. And I know that when I say that it puzzles many people, who become suspicious, but I really do mean that all I want to do is to go look at stuff, and imagine places in Phoenix and California "back in the day". I've been doing this for decades, and it's really all I want for the rest of my life. If you understand, you know what I mean, but if not, then it's logical to think that I'm doing it for other reasons, especially now that I'm sharing.

I'm in the second chapter of my history adventuring, which is sharing. It's still a very personal thing with me, as I wander off and try to imagine Malibu when there were Malibu Indians (which I can't help thinking as funny-sounding), or imagining flying over the Sonoran Desert (as a hawk) before the city of Phoenix was built. In the past I've tried to cover it up, come up with some plausible reason why I was so lost in thought, telling people that I was day-dreaming, or thinking what I'm going to have for lunch. But I'm history adventuring.

The second chapter began a little over ten years ago when an accident suddenly took away my abilities to get out there and explore as easily as I did before. But I still needed to go places in my mind, and with the help of the internet, I did. And then I started writing down my travels in my imagination, and to my surprise there were people, like you, who liked them and didn't think that I was crazy (well, not much!).

The second chapter of my history adventuring will include a lot more people like you. I need people who can drive, fly airplanes, know which way is east and west, that sort of thing. In theory, I guess I could do these things, but I'm just not very good at them, and I'd like to turn my attentions elsewhere. I call these people PhDs, which means Phoenix History Detectives. And they can be IRL (In Real Life) eating a hamburger with me at the Chuckbox, and they can be in cyberspace, maybe just following along with me on their computer, or their phone. Or all of the above!

History adventuring puts much-needed structure in my life. I've never been someone who can just "go through the motions", doing the same thing day after day - I need adventure! And I've really been enjoying sharing it with like-minded people. I've created a Facebook page, a Patreon page, and most recently an Instagram page. I have the domain name of historyadventuring.com , and it helps me to, as I say, "spread the love". But I've accidentally bumped up against spam, and promotions of products and services, so I'm aware that many people are suspicious. It seems like I'm selling something, but I'm really not.

If you're reading this, you're part of my second chapter. If you saw me stop my car and go walk up to touch a palm tree for the first time in Phoenix when I was 19, you were also part of the first. Thank you for walking with me.

Image at the top of this post: the YMCA, Water Users building at Federal Park in the 1920s, 2nd Avenue and Monroe, Phoenix, Arizona. You're looking northwest.

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Behind the scenes of my upcoming trip from Phoenix to Los Angeles


Since I'm not really a "traveling man" - not in the way that most people do it, I rarely talk about how I like to travel. And that's because it really just puzzles most people, and they wonder if I'm kidding. And since it's Friday, just three days away from my big journey from Phoenix to Los Angeles, I thought that I'd try to explain to you about my preparations.

Of course, most people want to know the details of the trip, what freeways I'll take, or my flight number, what airline, all of those "left brained things" that I've never been good at. Yes, I have it written down, and I can refer to my notes if someone asks, but it really doesn't matter to me. On Monday I'll be going west, and when I return I'll be going east. And when I've said that, most people have just stared at me and wondered if I'm kidding. But the pilot knows the way, and I don't need to show him (or her) how to get there. And the nice shuttle driver knows where the airport is, where I live, and where I'll be staying. I have other interests. If the shuttle driver wants to tell me the mileage he (or she) gets on their vehicle, or how long their tires have lasted, I'll show interest, but I'm hoping that they won't. If they want me to look at a map when I'm looking out of the window at the mountains, I'll smile politely and say "no thank you".

The Ehrenberg Ferry Boar on the Colorado River in 1908, between Blythe and Quartzite.

My first preparation for the trip was to do some research on how people historically traveled between Phoenix and LA. And of course the answer is: they took the train. There were two main routes, the first one being from the south, through Tucson, and the second one being from the north, near Flagstaff. And of course before the trains, people rode stagecoaches, or walked. The biggest challenge was crossing the Colorado River. And so when I fly out on Monday I'll be sure to be looking out of the window of the plane especially as we cross the river, where the three main crossings were Yuma, Ehrenberg, and Parker. When cars became popular, they were ferried across the river until the automotive bridges were built, decades later.

I've talked to a lot of people who have traveled a lot, and their conversations seem to mostly revolve around waiting in line in airports (and complaining about it), and car rentals (where you can get a discount), and restaurants (and the type of food they like). To me, they may as well have stayed home as they could have spent that time just standing in line at their local airport, or wherever, and renting a car to drive to a restaurant. Most of these people proudly speak of how quickly they got from point A to point B, and that's just as interesting to me as standing in an elevator. I want to go look at stuff. I'll be packing two pairs of shoes.

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Why cotton became so important to the economy of old-time Phoenix


One of the "Five Cs" of Arizona is cotton, along with Copper, Cattle, Citrus, and Climate. And if you're like me, you can understand how valuable copper is, even cattle, citrus, and climate. But cotton always puzzled me. It made me wonder if somehow Arizona had been the tee-shirt capitol of the world? Or maybe towels? I had no idea that cotton was important for tires. Yes, tires. Rubber tires.

Time-travel with me back to when automobiles were just becoming popular, after the turn of the century. Of course, back then, just as now they ran on rubber tires, which wore out. In fact, our modern tires have much longer wear than a tire from, say, 1918. And our tires are reinforced with steel, as in "Steel-belted radial tires". But back then they were reinforced with cotton. Really.

In the early days of automotive tires, cotton was ridiculously expensive, which drove up the price of tires, and the cost of owning a car. The best cotton for tires came from the Middle East, and was called Egyptian Cotton. So the idea hit businesspeople in the US that they could save money by growing it locally. And the climate of Phoenix, Arizona turned out to be absolutely perfect for it.

And this is where it gets really interesting, and ties into modern-day Phoenix. And that's a company called Goodyear. Yes, the tire company. They invested heavily in seeing if the cotton that they needed could be grown in the Phoenix area, and it paid off, big time. Goodyear started growing cotton in an area that they called Goodyear, south of Chandler, and then bought up a bunch of land where Sun City is nowadays. After World War II, they moved to a community that is still known by the name of Goodyear, and that's where the name came from, and the connection to cotton.

Of course nowadays cotton isn't used for tires, but cotton still grows well in the Phoenix area, and is still a valuable crop. It reached its height of value during World War I when the demand for tires with cotton inside of them, skyrocketed. The cotton grown in the Phoenix area was called "Pima cotton", along with "Sarival Cotton" (Sarival is short for Salt River Valley, which is where Phoenix is). There's even a road in the west valley named Sarival.

Go go Goodyear! And cotton!

The Goodyear sign in 1968, I-17 and Grand Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona.

Image at the top of this post: The Arizona Egyptian Cotton Company in 1918, 5th Street and Buchanan, Phoenix, Arizona.

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How cities like Phoenix and Los Angeles squeeze people out of affordable housing


I just cycled down to my local Walgreens, which is about a mile away, and was pondering the loss of affordable housing in my neighborhood. I've lived here for over twenty years, and I have rarely taken a good look at what people like me have done to squeeze people out of affordable housing.

Before my house was built, in 1985, this area, which is Glendale, a suburb of Phoenix, was a very affordable place to live. Well, not exactly where my house is, but less than a mile away there was a trailer park, which is still there. I have no way of knowing how far back the trailer park goes, but I know that the houses built next to it started going up in the late 1970s. You can find that out easily enough on Zillow.

The houses, of course, have driven up property values, and rent. When this area was "way out in the middle of nowhere", it was cheap. Real cheap. There may not have been a Starbucks nearby, but buses ran out there, and people could live on low incomes. I rode past some of the old trailers this morning, and it looks as if they were VERY affordable. And yes, I'm trying to be nice here, they're simply tiny flimsy pieces of aluminum, not luxurious. If they had any insulation I'd be surprised, and they must be miserable when the temperatures go above 100, which happens every summer.

When I moved here, in 1993, many of the people that I worked with downtown were suspicious of my living on the west side. Most of them lived on the east side of Phoenix, and most of them could afford a lot more than I could. I remember thinking that the Arrowhead neighborhood, which was being developed just north of me would make my neighborhood, uh, "less suspicious", and it has.

I'm not saying that my neighborhood is anywhere near as ritzy as the Arrowhead area, but it's certainly more expensive than it would have been in the 1970s, when there was nothing around but the trailer park. And it's all about point of view.

The reality is that when neighborhoods get more expensive, it squeezes people out who can't afford to live there anymore. I've lived in very affordable neighborhoods, in Los Angeles, and yes they're scary places with a lot of crime, but they're affordable, you can't deny that. I'm not saying that crime and affordable housing necessarily have to go together, but in my experience, they have. People who can barely afford to pay the rent, and feed their children, are often "opportunistic" about ways to get by, if you understand what I'm saying here. Don't even think about leaving your bicycle unlocked.

The crash of 2008 was good to my little neighborhood here. A lot of people who could no longer afford their big houses in the more ritzy parts of town moved in. In the last few years I'm seeing the houses look better than ever, with new landscaping, etc. A couple of my neighbors have even put solar panels on their roofs. The homeowners association recently sent out a letter demanding that all yards have trees, and shrubs. So the neighborhood looks great, to me, because I can afford it.

To people who can't afford a neighborhood like mine, they will need to go elsewhere. And finding affordable housing along with a job that will pay for even that can be very difficult. Sometimes I hear the question, "Where will they go?", but more often than not I know that these people aren't given a second thought.

Image at the top of this post: My neighborhood in 1993, when it was beginning the process of squeezing out affordable housing.

How to explore Arizona, starting locally


I like exploring. I've been that way since I was a kid. People have asked me what I'm looking for, maybe buried treasure, and when I say that I just like looking around, most are confused. What's the point? And I understand that it's very grown-up to have a point, to have a destination. But it's not what I like. And it's been wildly confusing to the grownups when my explorations don't even take me all that far away.

Yes, I know that in order to be a real explorer, you have to travel to distant places. Quite possibly you have to wear clothing with a lot of pockets, and maybe even some type of explorer hat. You have to pack a large vehicle with a lot of stuff, maybe even have all that stuff transported on a plane. Sometimes there are maps with little red dots to show how far away explorers are going. And sadly, all I see is the time spent packing, and sitting in a vehicle, and waiting at airports. And I'd rather go exploring! Come with me, and let's get started right away. We'll be exploring locally.

I live in Arizona, which means that I can step outside and I'm in Arizona. When I lived in California, I had the same mindset. People came from all over the world to visit where I live. Yes, it's a silly and childish point of view, but I'm silly and childish.

There must have been a little rain last night, I can smell it. There's nothing like a thunderstorm in the desert, and here in suburban Glendale I'm surrounded by thousands of miles of Sonoran Desert. In spite of what people say about how much people have impacted the desert, really it's not much. The desert is huge! And really, the Sonoran is just one of the gigantic deserts around here, including the Mojave, and the Chihuahuan. When the dams fail, and the people go away, the desert will quietly reclaim the cities, and go back to what it's been doing for over 10,000 years.

I'm particularly fond of plants. I like to see the drops of water on the leaves. I like the look of plants, the feel, the smell. Heck, I know people who even eat plants!

And there's wildlife here. But you can put away your binoculars, and your book of "rare desert animals". My favorites are the rolls-polly bugs (please stop me if I'm getting too technical here), and I'm always excited by a visit from a dragonfly. There are no lack of birds here, in spite of the fact that most people scoff at "common" birds, and don't bother to look at them, or listen to them. To me, they all matter, the way that everyone matters, not just celebrities.

Thank you for exploring with me, and I'm just going to go do some more. No thank you, I'd rather not sit in a car, or an airport, or help to pack a vehicle. To me that's not exploring.

Image at the top of this post: See Arizona First in 1921.

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