Best and Worst || Phoenix, Az.
Dominick, like most people you meet in Phoenix, is not from here. But he's even more not from here than average. He was born in the UK and spent enough of his childhood there that he retains an accent...when he's not masking it--expertly, I might add--in order to avoid having to tell every customer at the Public Market Cafe bar where he comes from, how long he's been here, etc.
For a moment, he went ahead and gave his British accent the leash, for my benefit, and suddenly his whole pale, buttoned-up, bespectacled thing took on an arresting exoticism.
But then he swerved back into an untraceable American accent, one that he learned pretty quickly after moving to Kalamazoo, Mi. when he was 10. In addition to sharing my familiar loathing of the city of Flint (where he went to play "basement venues" during his musical adolescence, and enjoyed both his first 40 and his first fistfight) and my affinity for whiskeys sour, he agreed with me that Phoenix's greatest virtue is the way it makes lemonade from its 125°F lemons.
What's the best thing about living in Phoenix?
"You have this gentle rebellion that's happening currently: we are victims of urban sprawl; let's just try not to participate in it any longer.
"Currently, at the present moment, there are a bunch of people, ranging in age from 13 to 58, living in the shadow of their grandparents (because Phoenix is the retirement capital of the world). Everyone here had to suffer the infrastructure of old people. A CVS and Walgreens on every corner, block housing, you're worried about breaking a hip (that's why there is no pedestrian lifestyle).
"And also, as far as legislation and politics, this was a very old person's state. It was a red state. But when grandma and grandpa live close to them, mom and dad had babies, and babies discovered the internet and were like 'You know what? Bike sharing!' they started wearing funny clothes, girls got short haircuts and boys got long haircuts…shit got weird."
What's the worst thing about living in Phoenix?
"One of the hardest things about being here is that there's like an identity problem. Assume Phoenix to be a 15- or 14-year-old in high school, at career day. Phoenix has no idea what it wants to be. Everyone's on the same team to make Phoenix better, but everyone has an opinion about what that is. There's not really like a cohesive movement. It's like the Occupy thing, but for cultural identity. 'This is totally happening!' [He raises a power fist.] '...What is it, though?'"
"Whatever it is you want to do, you'll pull it off. Like if you're a musician, you'll have no problem getting a band together or booking shows. You have the Lost Leaf, the Rhythm Room, and the Crescent Ballroom--those are the three venues for live music. If I started a band, I guarantee the first show my band played would be at the Crescent Ballroom. The ladder to the top is really short. But after that... If you put the time in to get something done, you're going to get the reward, but there's no longevity to it."
Visit Phoenix's Public Market Cafe for astonishingly worthwhile riffs on classic cocktails, and a number of my other favorite things, including French macaron cookies and sparkling water on tap. Come say hi...odds are good that I'll be there.