29 December 2014

Cave Creek Escape

While Nate has been hard fast on uncovering the beauty in the micro scale of Roosevelt Row, a week full of holiday gatherings prompted introvert Nate to spend some time away from the hustle and bustle of Phoenix proper. In the great words of Tom Hatherford, a “treat yo-self” day was in order. “Treat yo-self “days are prime ways for one to learn about one’s self because yo-self is in charge calling the shots. 062

Having spent nearly every holiday day in north Phoenix, Nate was reminded how close Phoenix is to some great getaways that right in his own backyard. After sleeping through a majority of the Fiesta Bowl Parade, Nate made his way north, stopping first at the often overlooked North Mountain Brewery in the heart of Sunnyslope.  Along the lines of Tucson’s Sentinel Peak and Barrio Breweries, North Mountain is definitely worth a stop. With in-house brewing and a warm, cozy vibe, this is a step in the right direction away from “going out”.

From there, Nate headed up Cave Creek road to the town of Cave Creek. Not thirty minutes later, he was out of town and moderately back in time. Since Cave Creek is an old western town filled with modern cafes and with chotskis galore, anachronisms are bound to abound. History and tourism wash, but the true beauty of Cave Creek lies in the landscape. As the sun set, amplifying the texture and color of nature, Nate’s love of photography was rekindled.

As Nate sat in Local Jonny’s reading a Dwell magazine, he learned that coffee shops without wi-fi will not self destruct.

Nate even rode his bike around Cave Creek, inspiring him to “treat his-self” to a long overdue bike rack to continue his biking expeditions. If only he hadn’t busted a spoke on the trail, the adventures would already be underway. Perhaps the next adventure will be a lesson in intermediate bicycle mechanics.

The beauty of this whole experience is discovering that the beauty of Phoenix lies at many scales. The vast landscape of the desert surrounding Cave Creek takes ones breath away. The heart and soul poured into the communities of Sunnyslope and Cave Creek by local artisans and craftsmen inspires. The connection of the serene desert of Cave Creek to the energetic urbanism of  Phoenix, yielding the ability to enjoy the best of both worlds indicates that perhaps the historical placement of Phoenix isn’t as arbitrary as some suspect. Beauty surrounds, and someone early on recognized, organized, and has likely since capitalized.

Coming full circle to Gasoline, Nate is already reaping the benefits of having the time, space, and finances for spontaneous adventures. There was no large, messy house to come home to. No bills were left unpaid. The plan is functioning as designed, with days like this serving as a testimony.

23 December 2014

Atypical Evening in The Avenues

IMG_20141219_150244_285As Nate continues his journey in Central Phoenix, he is simultaneously rediscovering his roots in the part of town some call The Avenues. For those unfamiliar with the general layout of Phoenix, Central runs north and south in the center. Streets run parallel to Central and count up going east. Avenues also run parallel to Central and count up going west.

Nate recently heard from his friend Marc, “I have never been over there. I really have no idea what is in the avenues”. To hear statements like these is both astonishing and affirming. The astonishment lies in the fact that Marc has no concept of what lies in an entire HALF of Phoenix. The affirmation lies in the fact that Marc is localized and involved in his immediate community, and is living a life that is reminiscent of the great neighborhoods of Chicago, New York, and Pittsburgh. Marc wins.

Granted, the avenues are not exactly a destination. They consist largely of seemingly mundane housing developments and strip malls that were built between 1970 and 2000. They are well kept, nonetheless, and are neighborhoods where people do everyday life. 

IMG_20141219_155650_971Last Thursday Nate was invited to watch the Arizona Cardinals football game at the Swizzle Stick (not to be confused with the Swizzle Inn) with his dear adopted parents. Skeptical to spend time at a likely-to-be-dive bar in the avenues but excited to enjoy the company, Nate ventured out of downtown into unfamiliar territory. While Nate knew exactly where the bar was geographically and had passed it countless times, he could not picture the establishment due to the lack of placeless-ness that is the amalgamation of Glendale, West Phoenix, Peoria, and Surprise.

Despite the lack of architectural character, one thing became apparent to Nate immediately. These strip mall storefront establishments are the Phoenician parallel to a dark, brick-laden, tin-ceilinged bar in Chicago or New York. Locals gather without pretense for cheap beer, loud football, and quaint company. While downtown Phoenix is doing a lot right, they are actually lacking something the seemingly placeless sprawling zones are doing well – a place to meet your neighbors and come as you are.

IMG_20141219_150443_508Not only can one come as they are, they can test the waters and push themselves to grow without the fear of judgment or embarrassment often inherent in “the scene”. Point in case – with little coaxing, Nate was able to get his adopted Dad to sing karaoke for the first time at the ripe young age of 67- an evening not soon to be forgotten.

Coming back to a point to ponder as downtown transitions and Nate establishes – what is the perfect blend of going-out flare that will attract people to downtown and gritty local comfort that will cause people to stay? How can Nate contribute to this as an architect and prototype citizen? The places that people “go out” are easy to spot and abound, but the places people stay are not as so evident as learned through the Swizzle Stick experience. The next challenge will be to overlook the flash on “the scene” and determine if the next level of life exists downtown so he can kick it as would the Beastie Boys - Root Down.

03 December 2014


Thanksgiving Day was an interesting one for Nate in Phoenix – perhaps the first adventure where he learned more about himself than his city.

Thanksgiving 2014 was a quiet day. Nate baked a pie and put up Christmas lights at his childhood home. There was a baseline comfort of being home coupled with a rising discomfort with what is “home”.  The solitude of the moment exacerbated the emotion. The quietness of North 29th Avenue pierced the heart.

The placement of Christmas lights was a challenge. It was a challenge to agree on the placement. It was a challenge not to take control on a house that was no longer his. It was a challenge to meet creative proposals of change with resistance. It was a challenge not to be frustrated and immediately disengage from the entire situation.

It was matter of the eternal juxtaposition of the male and female way combined with the inherent familiar resistance to change in his maternal clan.  In that case, only Uncle Mike would understand in that intimate, empathic way. What Nate wouldn’t have given to have one more call, one more laugh. Sadness overcame.

God felt distant. Father felt absent. Would Nate ever felt like he had one again? Would Nate ever be a good one? Would Nate ever be one at all? Feelings of doubt and mourning came like a thief in the night.

It suddenly became clear that Nate is living in the tension of growing up and wanting to be a grown up. For possibly the first time, Nate feels estranged in his own family, but in a healthy way. Rather than feeling abandoned, he is feeling called away, called to have a family of his own.

To date, paralytic father wounds and fear are status quo. Without doubt, those lies will eternally linger in the background, flaring up intermittently. Only God can equip Nate with the tools to walk in the confidence that a better way is possible.

The journey into Phoenix was no doubt an initial success. Nate quickly became surrounded. The words of Jack Schull now haunt him nightly. “Live the connected life, not the surrounded life”. The next step is becoming connected, which means becoming vulnerable - real talk - with himself, strangers and the future Mrs. B, whoever she may be.

02 December 2014

Better on Paper

The city still boasts 85 degree highs as Thanksgiving passes by. Commercials and Christmas lights are the only indication that a season change is on the horizon. Even though it is scientifically oppositional, Phoenix spares no expense to bring outdoor ice skating to the heart of downtown. With hot chocolate in hand, Nate and his friends flock to City Scape regretfully bundled in sweltering sweaters and scarves. Cheerful music and glistening lights set the mood for this festive scene of “ice” and “snow” surrounding a tree that rivals the tree in Martha Stewart’s living room.

IMG_20141129_201517_696Nate and his friends could not be more excited to take part in this lovely affair. Perhaps Nate’s recurring desire to move east will even be pacified temporarily. As the pint-sized Zamboni prepares the ice, Nate and his childhood friends fill with anticipation until they are granted access to this magical wonderland.

The guard opens the gate, and to the ice they take. All goes well until the reality of the situation becomes evident after fifteen glorious seconds.

They are in Phoenix, Arizona. Most people in Phoenix, Arizona, by no fault of their own, do not know how to skate. Why should they? Skating is not ubiquitous. Skating is not a survival mechanism. The Phoenix Coyotes don’t have a track record that inspires future generations of ice hockey players. In fact, Nate had to travel all the way to the Crystal Ice House in Crystal Lake, Illinois to learn to skate at the late childhood age of 17. Filled with solid intentions, the participants of this event stumble and crawl as snails surpass.

Nate is by no means a seasoned architect yet, but even those who failed first year studio could predict that a donut shaped rink with an arbitrary peninsula  is no recipe for speed. Perhaps this is appropriate, as very few people on the ice possess the potential to achieve any speed with the exception of the one pro-hockey player who feels the need to endanger everybody else on the ice by flaunting his skills. Abandoning the peninsula, Nate resorts to shortening the course to a whopping 50’and avoids a majority of the other 3,486 people on the postage stamp piece of ice. As he laps Anonymous Child in Hoodie for the 16th time, he says a prayer that he won’t be used as a stopping wall  by him for a third time.

Before the story continues, it is time to stop and take a selfie with the fifteen other hopelessly romantic couples doing so at any given moment. While Bobby and Suzie create engagement photo gold and possibly their first child in the middle of the winter wonderland, the rest of the crowd negotiates death to avoid being a photo bomb or giving the future bride a black eye.

However, it is they year 2014, and still photography is a dying art. Fortunately, most Phoenicians are forward thinking and choosing the remember what ice looks like by taking video of their entire experience. These segments will be available on Vine and YouTube by searching #Sweaterweather #Phoenix #Iceskating #Romantic #TrueLove #Selfie.

As the night concludes, Nate leaves with the satisfying fact that he did not get any blisters from the solid plastic boot or maim anybody with the dull skate blade. Needless to say, redemption can be found once one has endured the well-intended comedy of errors better known as City Skate. Arcadia houses the fantastically hidden gem better known as Arcadia Ice Arena, where beer flows at the Ice House Tavern and skaters move in the forward direction.

28 November 2014

The Houses of Portland (Street, Phoenix, AZ)


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The journey continues for Nate as he explores the neighborhood he now calls home. Multiple seven mile journeys of city driving through unnecessary traffic to anti-climatic big box stores leads him to question why he makes such trips. The gasoline challenge suffers as a result of these zero-value added expeditions.

As the world bustles about this Black Friday for half priced toasters and TVs that were not nearly as good of deal as the TVs on sale last Tuesday, unbeknownst the masses, Nate begins his photographic essay of his neighborhood to more intimately discover what lies within in an effort to mitigate the aforementioned problem.

Nate hasn’t yet located an outlet for space heaters and a bottle of wine within walking distance for good reason. He only made it to the block behind his house, one of the most beautiful streets in Phoenix. Captivated by the seamless blend of modern and 1920s craftsman architecture, he invites all who are able to enjoy respite from the chaos of the city on the urban oasis that is Portland Street.




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22 November 2014


As Nate continues to grow from a young bud in the architecture profession, it is a constant struggle to decide what is “good design”. This detail is the essence of his livelihood in this profession. Bad design has the inherent problem of low client yield. Low client yield creates hunger pains.

At a recent presentation by the grandson of Charles and Ray Eames, an idea was put forth that is so simple, yet so beautiful. Good design keeps the guest-host relationship at its core. Indirectly, this principle is extremely biblical. Love God, and love others. Hosting is an act of service that communicates and gifts love. Creating space, architectures, and products with inviting interface is the measure of success.

IMG_20141121_210328_216On a very elementary level would someone want to be in the space? Would they feel comfortable? Would they be engaged on a multi-sensory level? The founder of Local First AZ said that the greatest measure of satisfaction of a city is not the great weather or the convenience of big box stores. It is, in fact, the feeling of connection to the place on a personal level. Are the qualities of a place unique, inviting, and interesting? Does one have a sense of purpose and belonging while they are there?


The homes, businesses, and infrastructure of successful cities, whether they know it or not, have nailed the guest-host relationship. The guest-host relationship is a very selfless, human centered approach. Space that nails the guest-host relationship is the backyard at the OHSO brewery in Arcadia. With places for bikes and treats for man’s best friend, a night is well spent in this fun, inviting, energetic, and personal space. The challenge for Nate will be to go beyond the pen and paper and engage in his own creations the same way he would engage in all the spaces he so thoroughly enjoys.

17 November 2014

Space in Time

It is the first real week in Phoenix for Nate since he has landed. Monday rolls around, and the calendar is blank. Knowing nobody and having no plans would typically be daunting or depressing for Nate. However, it is becoming clear that weekends with no plans typically turn out to be some of the best weekends. Nate is in an interesting season where he has more free time and fewer connections on his hands than usual. This is not his typical modus operandi. His Tucson calendar was fearfully packed back to back with social engagements and commitments. It sounds greatly fun and fulfilling, perhaps even productive. Saying “yes”, especially saying yes in the moment, just because there was space on the calendar somehow had become the default. Burnout quickly manifested, and emotions were splattered across the kitchen floor.

Phoenix is the opportunity for a cold-reboot.

Unbeknownst to the world, Nate is inherently clawing at the door and fighting thoughts of loneliness that are complete lies fueled by dangerous precedent.  Everything is more than fine.

Warren Buffet claims that “successful people say no to almost everything”. How could that be possible? The key would be disassociation with the lie that busyness is synonymous with success. What if a schedule free for spontaneity was the new benchmark for success?

This new season, however, is teaching him how imperative it is to leave space in time.These free times can be some of the richest and most fruitful. The conclusion – when one isn’t fueled by obligation – they are fueled by passion. They are doing what they do out of love. Love wins. Love wins the hearts of others and the heart of God.

The previously daunting vacant schedule turned out surpass most plans he would have contrived himself. Adequate rest was had. Quality time and service at the house was done joyfully and lovingly. Nate studied Fred Guirey architecture on the ASU campus and built a gingerbread replica with old friends. Guided by the wonderful Local First Arizona representative, he ate delicious celebrity chef pie at Pie Social. While walking off the pie coma, Nate happened upon the Fortouls Brothers art opening at the pop up 40OWLS gallery on North Central Avenue and McKinley. Nate has stories to tell about the weekend – stories he never would have had time to generate in the past. Stories he would have driven by wishing and wondering.

Not so ironically, Nate also learned the space in time concept beautifully complements the gasoline challenge. Biking takes time and requires alternative routes. This weekend took him down the enjoyable, quiet neighborhoods of Willo, Coronado, and Yaple Park. Neighborhoods that overflow with modest beauty unveiled by space in time. Slower paces allow for easier pauses. Pauses to think, process, and express gratitude.

As Nate becomes connected through work and church, will space remain? More importantly, what will happen to his heart if space disappears?

14 November 2014


Giant Coffee on 1st Street and East McDowell Road is a fabulous place to sit and watch the city go by at a slugs pace. Delicious coffee fragrances the air while hip baristas turn up the Passion Pit playlist. LED man on the side of the Phoenix art museum perpetually strolls faster than the dented Mitsubishi Lancer at rush hour.

Nate was raised on driving from A to B in Phoenix, even when you could see B from A. This precedent escalated , leading Nate to spend 25,000 miles and approximately $3500 on solo travel his last year in Tucson. At an estimated 35 miles per hour, this equals over 700 hours a year.  If one spends 16 hours awake per day, this equals over 40 days of continuous driving. 1/9 or 11% of Nate’s year was spent in the car, alone. Scary, isn’t it?

It is easy to write off a twenty minute drive here, a 40 minute drive there. Nate did. It added up.  This caused him to consider how valuable alone time was to his mission. Was it above spending time with God? Family? Friends? Having fun? Living out his purpose? How about overall health and well being? 30 pounds and countless sleep deprived, acid-reflux troubled nights later, the pile of Mountain Dew bottles overflowing from the backseat floor indicated there may be a bigger problem.

Watching life in Phoenix from Giant Coffee forewarns repeated history if intentional steps aren't taken. Therefore, the framework for Nate’s adventures in Phoenix is going to be very specific. Reconsidering what is an acceptable distances for recurring activities may cause him to say no to some “good” opportunities. What opportunities will emerge, however, if more time is spent connected with people, locally? Easily repeatable interactions are likely to grow deeper without the secret bitter resentment of exhaustive travel and effort.

How much healthier will Nate become if he can walk or bike to places in the neighborhood? What beauty will he observe at pedestrian pace? How much more generously will he be able to give with the money he isn’t spending on gas? How much more time will he have to write, engage, and rest? How much richer will his fellowship be when there is actual time to dedicate to it?  What spontaneous relationships will he build and what lives will he impact traveling with others on the light rail? Time is finite, and that is becoming more evident as years tick by.

It is going to be counter-cultural to live out this vision in conjunction with the existing infrastructure. Is it inconvenient? Likely. Is it more work? Yes. Will it pay off? Exponentially.

The challenge: use one tank of gasoline per month. Excessive travel to require an alternative solution,  polite declination, or global alteration.

12 November 2014

Welcome to Roosevelt

It’s time to tell a tale about how Nate landed in a very specific community within the megalopolis. In the weeks leading up to the move to Phoenix, Nate had traveled up north from Tucson several times to explore housing options.  He was melting away in the August summer sun as the move became more imminent each day. Walking around with little energy to spare, Nate was ready to give up. After several seeming promising options fell through and all the rest were uninspiring at best, Nate was ready to settle. However, he kept recalling the idea not to let good compete with great. If these kept falling through, God must have a reason.

It wasn't an easy concept to live by. Walking confidently into the unknown while trying to reconcile a basic need such as shelter does not yield peace by the world’s standards. Nate begrudgingly came to the conclusion one Monday night before community group that if he was going to make it through this situation ulcer-free, the answer was not going to come from where he was looking. In what should have been option one, but was now a last ditch effort, he gave it to God.

Not half an hour later, Nate found an ad on Craigslist that caught his attention. It had just enough information to not write it off as a total dive, and the potential to be amazing. Immediately he emailed, then called, not wanting the opportunity to pass by like so many others. On the drive to home group ten minutes later, a return call came in. A meeting was now arranged to meet the following Wednesday. Fortunately, God had already released me from work that day. He knew what was going on.

Wednesday was slated to be the biggest storm in Southern Arizona history. People were gathering sandbags. Schools closed. Reporters warned you to stay off the roads, especially the interstate to Phoenix. Would Nate make it, or would he miss the opportunity and have to start from square one?

Nate miraculously made it to Phoenix through the immeasurable amount of rain and enjoyed a delicious burrito bowl at Chipotle with his sister. Standing on the grand porch of his potential home with an optional umbrella watching the light drizzle, he surveyed the situation from a global perspective. This home met far more of the criteria than the fallout options, and he hadn't even been inside yet. God wanted “great” for Nate, but until now, Nate had gotten in the way trying to obtain something “good". This was great.

By leading Nate into this community, he also led Nate from a good church community to a great one. On his way back from the Phoenix Public Market Cafe his inaugural Sunday, he overheard worship coming from a church  that he had noticed a time or two. Unfortunately he had already committed to a newcomer class at different church. As he drove to the class, he recalled another concept God had put on his heart. His new church would be about having community within his community. Even though this church was a fine, Jesus loving establishment, he traversed what felt like 5 distinct communities to get there. If Nate was going to trust God, he had to say “no” to this church.

The following Sunday, he walked 4 blocks home to Roosevelt Community Church where he was seamlessly plugged into a community group instantaneously. This sealed the deal. Again, God knows great. Community exists within the megalopolis when you let Him lead you to it.
Clearly, Nate was placed in this home, in this church, by God, for a purpose.

The journey isn’t over. The biggest challenge is yet to come. Roosevelt Row is known for it’s connection to the arts community. The richest rich and poorest poor co-mingle in Roosevelt. These assets and deficits come in many fashions - financial, spiritual, emotional, and relational. Roosevelt is not just a neighborhood, not just a tourist destination, it is a clearly my mission field. It is real life, amplified. Looking around, there is impact to be had. It would have been easy to be anonymous and disconnected in the fallout locations. God knew this too. Challenge accepted. Welcome to Roosevelt.

10 November 2014


A once young, still inherently reserved aspiring architect, we will call him Nate, recently moved back to Phoenix on a leap of faith. Life was comfortable for Nate after nine years in Tucson. He had great friends, fantastic church, and an all around good network and support system.

Meanwhile, an increasingly large dark cloud loomed over Nate as it does Tucson in general. His job was causing a slow death and getting further from the end goal as each day passed. Purposelessness and insecurity abounded. Change was on the horizon. God kept prompting him to move forward and trust that in order to get something great, you have to give up something good.

This crossroads was exhilarating and terrifying simultaneously, often resulting in a wash of indecision and resistance. God opened the door for both work and housing effortlessly, affirming it was time to go. However, the biggest dilemma is yet to come. Nate battles with feelings of isolation quite easily. The aforementioned purposelessness and insecurity have a subtle way of becoming the modus operandi. Therefore, it is of great importance for Nate to engage immediately, build relationships, and change the course of history.

The cost of not engaging – depression, confusion, anger, regret, and an otherwise boring and miserable existence. The opportunity - a fun, fruitful, deeply connected life that demonstrates God's character and good will for our lives to others.

Where does Nate start in a city of millions that has completely transformed in his nine year Phoenician hiatus? Where does one meet people, maybe even a wife, in a city known for transience, anonymity, and freeways full of empty carpool lanes?

Guided by the locals and God alone, this blog will be a chronology of his adventures to uncover, edify, and inspire both himself and the foreign territory of Phoenix he calls home once again. Will Nate become a true localist and thrive in the heat stricken megalopolis, or get lost in the shuffle and look back wondering why he has no story to tell?