- Waste Management Phoenix Open
To start, I should explain that I have very little interest in golf. I can’t name many players besides Tiger and Phil Mickelson, I hate the clothes, expensive golf courses with their miles upon miles of greenways like artificial oases repel me (especially here in the desert where I cannot imagine they are very sustainable).
However, I’d always been curious out the Waste Management Phoenix Open because everyone says it’s such a spectacle. And as it turns out: ’Tis!
I somehow got to go hang out at the Open last year (2015) without paying for a ticket (long story). I discovered that all the crazy stories are true. If you get there during the day—like between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., the crowd is fairly tame and they are what you’d expect for golf fans—quiet (ish), conservatively dressed, driving nice cars. But they start drinking beer IMMEDIATELY. And then, well… things start to heat up. There is a whole set of young people, brightly dressed and some looking like they might be on their way to Vegas, or even ComicCon, who shows up eventually. There are dozens of vendors selling everything from donuts to shots to cell phone accessories and there are also tons of businesses with little tents set up giving away shwag and trying to get you to sign up for mailing lists. To kill time, I went into a money-grabbing booth (you know the kind? operated with a giant fan, you stand in the middle while your hair blows in your face and pluck $1 bills out of the air) that was being offered by a cosmetic surgeon. Apparently, for every fake Monopoly bill you could catch you were supposed to get a dollar discount ticket towards your next plastic surgery operation. I was curious. But they never called me with my coupon for a consultation. And I legitimately caught a good $62 in that booth!
Anyway, one of the places to party is a temporary bar set up called the Bird’s Nest. That is where big-name performers such as Rascal Flatts, OAR and Robin Thicke perform at the raucus night-time after parties. I didn’t stay for any of that because frankly the place was crowded and I’m not interested in any of that music.
What I did go discover—during daylight hours, mind you—was the 16th Hole. This is where everyone goes nuts, screams and yells, flashes selfie photos, throws Mardi Gras beads… I mean—it really is like a mini Mardi Gras out there on the golf course. There was a lot of drinking going on. I asked everyone what they were so excited about and a young man explained to me the phenomenon of Bubba Watson. He’s a young-ish guy, but a good ’ol boy. Apparently he’s been golfing since he was a kid and is self-taught, according to the legend I heard. He has a sort of unorthodox stance and stroke. It was interesting, because even for someone like me who really doesn’t know anything about golf (and doesn’t care much, either) it was fun to watch him play. It was clear that the crowd really adored this guy, and he seemed to calm and so common. Anyway, I’m pretty sure he got a hole in one that day.
The big thrill for me was actually a spill I took down a grassy and muddy hill. It would have been embarrassing if I’d been hanging out with anyone I knew, but I was solo. Basically, the day before there had been an unexpected downpour and the grounds were still soaked and mud-luscious. I made a false move trying to descend what looked like a pretty easy hill and suddenly I was sliding. I was wearing black pants, but one entire leg was soaked and brown with mud. I had to duck behind a vendor’s booth and steal a blue janitor’s towel to clean myself off. I guess it could have been worse.
Despite me ruining my best dress pants, the Phoenix Open was entertaining. I may not make it an annual thing, but I’d return at least once.
- Mutant Piñata Show at Bragg’s Pie Factory bldg/Frontal Lobe
I met Beatrice Moore a few years ago when I interviewed her for an article I was writing for JAVA Magazine. She was then remodeling some spaces at the Bragg’s Pie Factory building, putting up some new walls and generally changing things around. She mentioned to me a thing they did once a year called the Mutant Piñata Show. The way the show works is pretty self-explanatory, but the cool thing I should add to whatever you are imagining about this show is that it’s open to the public and they take submissions from anyone and everyone—you don’t really have to be an established artist at all. I’ve even seen work in the show by kids. I think she first told me about it in 2011.
I thought the idea was funky and cool and always imagined myself making a piñata to submit to the show. This is a weird thing to brag about, but as a kid I was really good at papier maché. I assembled materials like chicken wire and started collecting and saving old scrap paper and I always planned to make something. But every year I procrastinated. I finally made three female torsos, roughly about the size of women’s dress forms. But then I procrastinated and missed the entry deadline (I think that was in 2012). Then I thought up a different installation I wanted to use the forms for, and applied for a show in Scottsdale, but I didn’t get it. The piñatas went into storage. Then I went through a couple of moves and forgot about them for three years.
FINALLY, a few months ago, I just happened to be trolling the Bragg’s facebook page in and I saw a posting for the upcoming date for the piñata show. I called my dad, dug the torsos out of storage, dusted them off, and dropped them off at Bragg’s. It’s kind of a silly thing, and I don’t think any of my friends saw my work at all (as a coincidence, my husband was having an art show at the same time at the Chocolate Factory, just a couple blocks down. He got the spotlight in March).
Seems a small feat, I’m sure, but after 5 years, I finally get to cross “Mutant Piñata Show” off my bucket list. Other public art projects on the list are INFLUX and a temporary installation in the Scottsdale Public Library. These are things I hope to collaborate with friends on and I hope to write proposals and apply for these this year.
- Rainbows Festival
For years, PHX Pride was on my list, and this year I finally went in person (more on that in a later blog post). But a bit smaller and more localized festival is Rainbows Fest. Put on by the same folks who host Pride, this little festival happens in the fall (usually mid-October) at Heritage Square, and it’s free.
I was excited to go because I imagined the events and vendor areas to be less packed than at Pride, and I was right. Parking around Heritage Square is never that fun or easy. Although, one quick hack for the area: park in the Science Center garage. You may have to pay by the hour, but it’s worth it for the convenience. The festival is free so you don’t have to worry about tickets. They only stop you at the gate to check bags and your ID. There were plenty of beer booths around (I wasn’t drinking because I was hanging out with students) and lots of vendors with information on various communities, identities, community resources and social events. I was impressed because a number of Valley churches had a presence there, and I think that’s awesome. My students had fun because there were dance performances, a vogue-ing contest, and the live music was really good. Small festival, sure, but the attitude was friendly and there was plenty to do; well worth checking out next October.
- Ice Skating downtown at CityScape
I want to be fair with this review: Ice skating downtown when they do the temporary rink in the middle of the street near CityScape is not for everyone. I love it for the novelty—it feels like just a tiny little piece of Rockefeller Center is happening in Phoenix. I begged my husband to take me there on a date, and he did. But I don’t think he had nearly as much fun as I did. I can see how some people would not love this tiny rink so I’ll try to balance the good with the bad.
Good: an energetic physical, fun activity that can take you back to childhood. Personally, I only tried ice skating once as a kid. I sucked at it. But over the years and many, many trips to Skateland, I became a very good rollerskater, and as an adult I even skated “semi-professionally” (briefly!) as a derby girl. So a skating rink of any kind is nostalgia for me, and I always have a good time there.
Bad: If you are not good at skating or have never tried it before, this is not the place to learn. There are little kids everywhere (at least there were, the night we went) and the thought of crushing one down can be unnerving.
Good: A little piece of (ok, it’s artificial, but still) white Christmas. It’s chilly on the rink. You may can bundle up in scarves and other fun winter accessories we never get to wear in AZ. But you don’t need to overdo it. Remember: skating is a physical activity and you may overheat. Still, it’s fun to break out the nerdy holiday sweaters, leg warmers and even gloves once in a while.
Bad: This place is hella busy and there’s a serious shortage of lockers. I recommend NOT taking big purses or duffel bags for changing your clothes, and definitely don’t wear boots or other large shoes. They charge you for lockers and you only get so much space. The seating benches for booting up were also crazy crowded.
Good: The location is perfect for grabbing dinner before or after, or a soothing warming winter cocktail nearby.
Bad: Actually renting the skates, paying to get in and renting a locker is expensive. As are most of the restaurants within reach. This is not a budget activity. I think we dropped about $25 each.
All in all, I want to go again, but maybe with friends who like skating as much as I do, or at least more than my husband. He wasn’t having the greatest time. Though he was so brave for trying it out to me, and I really owing him one for taking me on a fun date that was my idea, he wanted to tap out after about ½ an hour. Which reminds me of one last piece of advice: check the operating hours carefully before you pay your admission. They really aren’t open all that late into the night, and they close down for breaks of around 15-20 minutes frequently to refresh and re-Zamboni the ice. You really need to plan this visit and pay attention to logistics.
- Orpheum Theater
This Arizona landmark has been on my bucket list a long, long time. Someone in my family told me they thought I went there as a kid, but I remember nothing of a visit.
Then, just out of the blue, my buddy Bill texted that he had an extra ticket through another friend of ours to see David Sedaris. I love it when kismet helps me knock things off the bucket list, so I’m just going to take a moment here to list out other AZ things I’d love it if someone invited me to: Titan Missile Museum, free hotel room in Bisbee for a night or two, Beckett’s Table, Nearly Naked Theatre, Phoenix International Raceway, the Henry for drinks, Dorrance Planetarium, jazz at the Nash, hiking Echo Canyon, Merc Bar, Maverick Copters, spa at Montelucia, Bearizona, Phoenix Mercury game. Ok—got that outta my system!
Sedaris was hilarious as usual. He came out wearing coulottes (yes, men’s coulottes) and started with a lengthy piece about oddball fashion. His set was excellent and the acoustics in the place are so good that at the end of his set he offered a Q&A with audience members, and we could clearly hear their questions to him from their seats even without them being mike’d.
The Orpheum Theater truly is an Arizona treasure. It is a classic. I read that they first broke ground on the construction in 1927. It comes from a sort of chain or family of “orpheums” nationwide and it has that awesome old-timey, Modernism about it (I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but I don’t know any other way to describe this kind of architecture and design). The inside of the theater is splashed with ornate mural work. I like the flow of traffic throughout, although I’d hate to be stuck in the ticket line if it even happens to snake out the door. The restrooms are in the basement, which reminds me of the old Roseland Ballroom that was in the heart of the Theatre District in NYC. Everything about the Orpheum is charming and classic and truly whisks you away to a different era back when going to theatre was a big deal and people dressed up and made a big fuss about. I can’t believe I haven’t been to the Orpheum for more shows. It’s now on my “must return” list.
See also: Friends of the Orpheum Theatre
- Harvey’s Wineburger
I can’t tell you what this crusty little hole-in-the-wall first attracted me, except for the name. Located in a completely nondescript little building on 16th Street, tucked back from the street and just south of Camelback, Harvey’s Wineburger, on first notice, does not look like any kind of place you want to invest a lot of time in. Still, I always thought the name was funny. So one day last year I asked Colin to go give it a try with me.
It turns out that a wine-soaked hamburger is actually a very good idea. Yes, this place is a dive with no hip fixtures, sticky tabletops and typical sports on the TVs screens, but there really is something magical about the burgers. As in, I’m thinking of writing Anthony Bourdain an email about this place for his show. The original Wineburger and the Cheesewineburger are my favorites, but I’m curious to go back and try weird menu items such as Sweet chile sriracha wings, garlic parmesan wings (yeah, I know: what-what?) and the Buffalo Bleu burger, which is a wine burger prepared with hot sauce (like Buffalo wings, I imagine) and slathered with bleu cheese.
I hope I’m not on my way to a premature heart attack or diabetes type 2. With places like Harvey’s and Lucky Boy down the block, I need to make sure I eat plenty of my garden greens during regular week days.