Phoenix Rising II: Where the Hell Do I Live?

A resort in Verrado.

I know my street address. That’s not what I’m asking. I’m coming to realize I don’t live in Phoenix. I live in Litchfield Park—a suburb in the West Valley. And for some reason, when I tell people this, they go, “Oh, you live in the West Valley (har, har).” Now, what the hell is the matter with the West Valley? It’s beautiful over here! It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. (Have you seen Verrado?) People have YARDS in the West Valley, and palm trees taller than most office buildings line the streets. I have a freakin’ pond across from my house, and there are three churches, a library, and a dang resort within walking distance. So what THE HELL is the matter with the West Valley?

Let’s talk geography. Phoenix is a big place (over 517 square miles of metropolitan area). In general, it’s referred to as the “Valley of the Sun.” Downtown is downtown. Sure, there’s stuff to do down there, and I dig the skyscrapers. But there’s also plenty of ghetto, and as I realized at my Sunday Pecha Kucha committee meeting, it’s impossible—as an outsider—to actually realize where ghetto starts and safety ends.

From Sunday. Downtown. At least the ghetto has some super cool art.

There are suburbs. Tons of ‘em. However, it would seem that most Phoenicians stick to the East Valley, which is why I get all those “har, hars” about the West Valley (an area, which, as I said, is beautiful, so everyone can shove their “har-hars” … I digress). On the west side, there is Litchfield Park, Goodyear, and Avondale. These are your basic suburban towns with golf courses, chain restaurants, and a variety of Walmarts. (Did you know about these Walmart Neighborhood Markets? What the heck? How come no one told me about these sweet grocery stores?) There is also Glendale—a place of much interest to me, because the Arizona Cardinals stadium is here. And before you ask, no, I haven’t worn my Jerome Bettis jersey out in public yet, because I’m still not sure the pain of Super Bowl XLIII has passed. I do plan to attend football games at this stadium, though, because I love live football. See, what’s to dislike about West Valley, huh?

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West.

The East Valley is much more glamorous, and the majority of restaurant reviews and upcoming event announcements come from here. On the east side, you have Scottsdale (where rich people live), Tempe (college town), and Mesa. I haven’t even made it this way yet, because I dig the west side and downtown scenes. I DO. But I will make it this way, because, well, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West house is in Scottsdale, and it’s a place I plan to take my father when he visits. (What can I say? He always wanted a house in the desert.)

Phoenix is a spread-out city with lots to do. It can take 45 minutes to get where you need to go, and in this, it differs greatly from a place like Charleston, SC, where you can WALK anywhere in about twenty minutes. Jake needs to remind me sometimes, because I have meetings around town, and I immediately assume I can get there with minutes to spare. I’m usually incorrect, and thankfully, I have Garmin to yell at me.

On a less-tangible note, I have to ask myself “Where the hell do I live?” because just last week, Jake and I left the movie theater in Litchfield Park. We walked outside, and went right, even though our car was to the left. Jake stopped, looked around, and said, “Wow, for a minute there, I thought we were still in Charleston.” We’re still confused about where we are. Maybe it’s because we still have no furniture in our house. Maybe it’s because we’ve been so busy working, we have had little time to really “meet” our new city. Or maybe it’s because “home” is no longer dictated by geography. “Home” is now wherever Jake is.

So I ask: where the hell do you live? And if you scoff about West Valley one more time, I’ll punch you in the freakin’ nose.

8 thoughts on “Phoenix Rising II: Where the Hell Do I Live?

  1. I think i might be one of those who “scoffed” but not because of the west valley, just because of the distance from center. And it was more of a cringe.

    I ‘cringe’ at the travel time for people in either direction: your west and/or east like Queen Creek. Not a west valley thing, just a distance to the most populace thing.

    And I promise fractal/grand ave isn’t the ghetto. That’s a few more miles away. Then again, I’m from West Philly, so my idea of the ghetto is “I haven’t heard gunshots or sirens in at least 30 minutes and my car is still here, must be safe”

    Glad you’re finding out more about the valley.

    • Touche. Perhaps not ghetto. However, you are talking to a girl who just moved here from Charleston. The scariest thing in South Carolina was Mark Sanford.

  2. Well, awhile ago I would have said that wherever Ben is, is home…however after living together for nearly a year? Home is home. I will say that whenever I’m ready to get home, it’s usually in situations that I’ve been “Ben Free” for an extended period of time.

    Also, you should know better than anyone about stipulations about where you live. We lived in P-burg. It was cool, but people often assumed we were rich and stuck up. It’s the same way we assume people from the east side are trashy.

    Try not to let it bother you. It sounds like a Sylvania vs. P-burg fight. Both nice areas, but reasons a person would like one better than the other.

    By the way….if this does not make sense….I’m drunk. Love you!

  3. I think one reason a lot of people sneer at the west valley is because it seems to be where the east valley (more Ahwautukee, Mesa, Chandler, and Gilbert than Scottsdale & Tempe) was 10-15 years ago in terms of its development.

    There is a lot of plentiful housing out there with a lot of chain businesses and kind of a scattered nightlife. It took a while for the east valley to gain some momentum.

    A lot of that has to do with issues of urban planning and urban density. I think Yuri Artibise’s blog (http://yuriartibise.com) is a good place to read up on those valley issues.

    I’m not sure what Charleston’s like, but is it possible that Jake’s near-deja vu moment was prompted because that Harkins Theatre was in a strip mall that could have existed in Charleston?

    As a sidenote, the artwork of the mariachi calacas overlooking the fractal parking lot is from Lalo Cota (http://myspace.com/lalocota136). His work is all over downtown Phoenix and galleries around town, but he is frequently featured at Lost Leaf (http://thelostleaf.org) and Conspire (http://conspirephoenix.com) on 5th Street in downtown.

    • Thanks for your comment!! I’ll be sure to check out the websites you mentioned. I love that artwork by Lalo Cota. Amazing. Thanks for telling me about the artist!

  4. I loved this piece Sara – when I first moved from South Florida I lived in Scottsdale but soon realized that the West Valley was just the right kind of an area to put roots down. Both my husband and I built our businesses in the West Valley and although I have moved back to scottsdale (btw, not everyone in Scottsdale is rich ok young lady) I still have tons of friends and clients back in the West Valley and it’s one of my proudest moments to go back there and see the growth. There was a time when if you lived in Litchfield Park or Goodyear you had to go all the way up to Arrowhead to shop. So the amazing growth has been fantastic. With the new hospitals the demographics is changing and more and more “non chain” restaurants are and will be making their marks. Unfortunately the economy has halted some of that. Nonetheless, the SW valley is a great location for downtown commute, Westgate etc. There is a shift that’s taking place and the WV is becoming cooler each and every day. Now if the economy stabilizes I think the WV potential will once again burst at the seams.

  5. The area really is growing, Uzi. You are right! And I’m just kidding about Scottsdale … sort of 🙂 See you soon!

  6. Pingback: Phoenix Rising III: Farewell, Ye Old Inflatable Mattress « Sara Dobie's Blog

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