Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


Happy Birthday here in the wasteland

There's a charming passage near the beginning of T.S. Eliot's epic poem "The Waste Land":

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water.

This is almost a perfect description of Arizona, and it's to Arizona we must now turn our thoughts. You may ask why I am ranting about Arizona yet again, even though the question you should ask yourself is Why don't you rant about Arizona every day? Well, I'm ranting about Arizona because today, 94 years ago, Arizona was the last of the 48 contiguous states to achieve statehood. Valentine's Day, 1912. And look how far it's come!

Phoenix, specifically, is fascinating because it's kind of a petri dish for unbridled expansion and capitalism. People should come here to study what happens when a metropolitan area has no plan to deal with growth except to say, "Bring it on!" In this area, fast food restaurants and other chain businesses actually set up camp way out past the terminus of civilization - they know that in a few years, the houses will catch up. It's freaky.

I have mentioned before that it feels like Phoenix has no soul. The area could be magnificent, with spectacular xeriscapes and the rugged ring of mountains encircling it, but people don't want that. They want convenience. At the major intersection nearest to my house, on one corner is an office park, on another corner is a Safeway, on another corner is a 7-11 fronting a strip mall, and on the final corner is a Walgreens fronting yet another strip mall. This could pretty much describe about 80-90% of the major intersections in the Phoenix area.

Another problem is the sheer overwhelming number of shitty businesses. We have a lot of strip mall space to fill, people! Therefore, although there are plenty of independent businesses, there are a lot of chains. And because this is America, there are a lot - A LOT - of fast food restaurants. Near my house are close to a dozen, probably more if I really thought about it. In the strip mall surrounding the 7-11 there are five (5) fast food restaurants, plus a few others that might count.

To the west of the convenience store sits a Taco Bell. Between the Bell and the 7-11 is a Dairy Queen.

Right behind and north of the 7-11 is an Arby's. In the strip mall behind the 7-11, a Subway is located. Across the street, behind the Walgreens, is everyone's favorite - a McDonald's.

These businesses are all located within a few hundred yards of each other. Add to that the children's pizza place, the Mexican restaurant by the Walgreens, another pizza place in the strip mall behind the Walgreens, a pizza place down the street from the Safeway ... it gets pretty overwhelming. You may think the choices sound great, but it's really all crap food, isn't it?

You'll notice a few other things in all these pictures: the wide streets and the beautiful sky. Well, the beautiful sky is kind of an illusion - we have a TON of pollution here, because there is nothing to stop it. Arizonans care about a few things, but controlling business isn't one of them. I posted pictures the other day of the Grand Canyon - it's as if Arizonans said "We're going to keep certain sections of the state pristine, but screw the rest of it." Yes, I'm aware that this is a big city and it attracts a lot of business and pumps a lot of money into the local economy, but it's the great debate once again: how much is enough? The big wide streets factor into this. I have mentioned before that it's almost ridiculous to walk anywhere in Phoenix. The blocks are huge and the streets are wide. It's like the city designers were begging people to drive their cars.

It's easy to bash the state (as you can tell, I take great joy from it), but it's also interesting to speculate on how and why it got this way. I have nothing against the desert - I don't like it, but I can see its charms. Sixty years ago, I bet this place didn't look so horrible. I bet it was unpleasant because of the summer heat, but I doubt if it was as hot during the day, or certainly at night, when it really gets uncomfortable. The winters were cooler, and instead of the thick, brown, polluted air, you could smell the orange blossoms from the orchards from miles away.

Of course, I'm sure things weren't all that idyllic. I, for one, probably would have still hated it. But my point is, the place hadn't been overrun. Air conditioning made it a desirable place to live. Evil, insidious air conditioning. I love mine, but I have decided it's pure evil. Think about it. Here in Arizona, you had a bunch of Indians who had gotten used to the heat, and then the tough people. You had to be tough to live here. But then, you could cool the air easily, and anyone could enjoy these winters. But, of course, the more people who came here, the more air conditioning they used, the more pollution they caused, and the more crap they produced and discarded, and the worse this place became. It's a vicious cycle, too, and nobody, especially not politicians, have the will to stop it.

I mentioned the trash lying around, which almost makes me go Crying Indian on these people. Cities throughout the world are trash heaps, I know, but that doesn't make it right. In Portland, there were trash cans everywhere, and people generally used them. The cleanest city I've ever been in is Melbourne, but Portland, for an American city, is pretty damned nice. It's fascinating, because it's not hard not to litter, yet people here treat the desert like their own personal garbage can. My big grand theory is that in other places, people feel worse about littering because the space looks like nature - it's green, there is grass and there are trees, the landscape isn't flat, there may be water - but in Arizona, people look at the desert and they see a wasteland. It isn't, of course, but people don't think that far ahead. It's ugly, they think, so who cares if we dump some trash? I don't like the desert, but that's not an excuse to shit all over it.

The saddest thing about it is that nobody seems to care. I'm certainly not calling for government control over everything - we saw where that got the economies of the Soviet Union, North Korea, and Cuba. It annoys me that whenever there is a whiff of what some people might call "socialism," everyone goes ballistic, never wondering if perhaps capitalism without inhibitions might be just as bad as extreme socialism. There has to be a balance. Phoenix cannot allow itself to continue to grow at this pace. I've mentioned it before, but it's worth repeating: there is not enough water here. It's astonishing how bent out of shape some people in the Letters section of the newspaper get when the paper mentions this fact. They've looked for aquifers. We don't got them. We're sucking the Colorado dry and we're fighting Nevada for that right. We need the government to step in a restrict some of the outrageous plans people have for this area. Like I said, capitalism is fine, but this is unharnessed capitalism, and it's going to get people in trouble. Intel won't care when the area runs out of water - it will just pack up and leave. Britney and Jennifer/Vince won't care - they'll just find the next hot spot and leave Scottsdale choking in the dust.

How do we solve these problems? They're not necessarily unique to Phoenix, although I have never lived anywhere else where it seems so obnoxious. Do we have a problem to solve? Should I just stop worrying and let the money flow? I don't know. I know I will continue to dislike this place and continue to look for a way to leave. We want to live someplace that feels real, and not like a mall.


Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: air conditioning and irrigation have made possible populating places that perhaps were not meant to be populated. There was a lot of conversation about how dumb living in New Orleans is, and it may be, but no dumber than living in say, Las Vegas, or on the flood plain of the Mississippi River.
There are a lot of souless cities out there. Houston's my favorite, but I've never been to Phoenix, or indeed to Arizona or to New Mexico.

15/2/06 7:41 AM  
Blogger Disintegrating Clone said...

I've not spent much time in the USA, but Houston regularly gets mentioned as the epitome of the soulless city. My view of US cities may be biased, as the only one I've spent any time in was San Francisco, and I loved it.

It's sad about Phoenix, as it sounded like a romantically lonely place. The chances are, as you say, the water will run out and the city will die. Capitalism is all about using up resources - but so is socialism, come to think of it.

15/2/06 9:34 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

I've heard that a lot about Houston. Thomas, where are you to back it up!

Mr. Clone, that's certainly true about capitalism and socialism. I suppose it's "people" who use things up too quickly, but it seems that a nice balance between the two systems might check that.

Someday I'll do a post about the two most evil inventions of the 20th century: air conditioning and the television remote control.

15/2/06 4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i just moved to scottsdale and i have felt the lack of brotherhood in this city like no other, meth is the big elephant in the room and it cant be moved, the phoenix is the worst example of capitalism disgustingly rich mixed with the disgustingly drug addicted and mentally ill. theres no can deposit, recycling nearly non existant. the whole city is almost completely run by jp morgan chase one of the most ruthless banking dynasties in history its an awful, awful place and im glad someone else recognizes this

28/1/08 5:25 PM  

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