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.