Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Margin Notes: Arizona Edition

The Sugar Bowl in Scottsdale, Arizona was photographed from the Scottsdale Trolley on 9-January-2010

TORONTO, ONTARIO - I went to the Sugar Bowl on Saturday. The game wasn't being played on Saturday, you say? I went to the Sugar Bowl restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona with my cousin and his family. Dating from 1958, the establishment serves food as well as wonderful desserts and was featured in the Family Circus cartoons, penned by local resident Bil Keane. Their specialty is ice cream, and I can concur that their reputation for fine dairy products is well-deserved.

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Scottsdale struck me as the quintessential car-centric suburb. Other than the Scottsdale "trolley" (actually a bus) that moves tourists between Old Town and the Fashion Square mall, there was no sign of any public transit in the town on a Saturday afternoon, though the Valley Metro system map reveals that there actually is bus service. I guess that's why there is parking everywhere--it didn't seem particularly pedestrian-friendly, either, outside of the sidewalks of Old Town.

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Of course, pedestrians aren't especially well-behaved in Arizona. I found the prevalence of jaywalking to be disturbing. I grew up in the Seattle area back when there still was Jaywalking School and strict enforcement, so I regard jaywalking as a warning about lack of civility; I don't think it's a coincidence that there's a lot less jaywalking in Toronto than New York or even Chicago. It's not just people trying to catch a light rail train, it seemed to be universal across downtown, and even in Scottsdale.

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Yet another hazard for pedestrians is double right-hand turn lanes. The Valley of the Sun seems to have more double right-hand turn lanes than I've seen anywhere else, including other car-centric places like southern California and suburban Houston, Texas. I find it rather disconcerting to make a right turn on red from other than the far-right lane, but it clearly is legal in Arizona (unless the intersection is signed "No Right Turn on Red").

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A gecko was noted in the art along the highway 101 freeway near Scottsdale, Arizona on 9-January-2010

The car may be over-emphasized in the Valley of the Sun, but at least the freeways are attractive. All kinds of desert-themed art and different pastel colors appropriate for the desert decorate the freeway system around Phoenix. Lizards of various kinds, like the gecko above, are a common theme, as are Native motifs and succulent plants. Take one look at a freeway and it's obvious that it's in Arizona.

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Art was noted on a streetlight along Central Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona on 8-January-2010

The art extends to city streets as well, with quite a number of street lights near downtown Phoenix, Arizona decorated with various scenes. The Native themes around the Heard Museum and Phoenix Art Museum were especially interesting, including the one above.

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