Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California.

How to beautify the city that you love


I like living in beautiful places. When I was old enough to leave home, I did. My goal at the time was to just get away from the cold and snow of Minneapolis, and as the years went by I pondered where I should live? Like most young people I was mostly concerned about earning money, so when I graduated from ASU I moved to Los Angeles, which was to me "the big city", where I could make my way.

Turns out that LA is a lot tougher than I had thought, and a friend of mine from Phoenix recommended that I go see a business associate of his in Santa Barbara, which is about an hour north of LA. I got the job, but there was no reason for me to stay in my apartment in Los Angeles, so I moved to Santa Barbara, and was there for three years. And in Santa Barbara I fell in love with the idea of living in a beautiful city. If you've ever visited there, you know. And a beautiful city is worth money, make no mistake. Those ocean views and mountain views add up to serious serious Real Estate value!

The lesson I learned that I'm still applying to where I live, which is Glendale, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix. No, I don't expect the Real Estate value of my neighborhood to be exploding with multi-million dollar houses, nor would I want it to. I live here, and hopefully always will, and high Real Estate values just mean higher property taxes for me. I just want to live in a beautiful city, which I do.

I care for the appearance of what I call my "tiny little bit of Arizona". My house doesn't have a bunch of weeds growing around it, or a junked car in the front yard, because of some Home Owner's Association rule, or some civic law. I do it because I want to live in a beautiful city. And if you want to live in a beautiful city, here are some suggestions, depending on your budget:

• Plant a tree, and care for it. There are a lot of trees that are appropriate for the area. Go learn about xeriscape, go visit your local nursery. Yes, it will cost you money, and yes it will take effort to care for it.

• Clean up your yard. No, I'm not from the HOA, giving you a notice. I just would like everyone to do a tiny bit. Go out and pick up the trash from your yard, from in front of your street. Look around and find people in your neighborhood who can't do that - I have a neighbor who is now in her 90s and I keep an eye on her yard. She has landscaping people come out regularly, but it isn't as if she can bend down, while she's on her walker, to pick up a stray plastic bottle that has fallen into her yard.

• Smile and wave at people. The last time I checked, this didn't cost anything. Grim-looking people make for a grim-looking world.

If you're in the habit of ranting on Facebook, or calling some government official because you'd like to make your city more beautiful, I recommend that you knock that off, and start with a smile and a wave. Oh yeah, and plant a tree and care for it.

Image at the top of this post: Phoenix, Arizona in 1924

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