In regard to Phoenix, I meant "there are probably some redeeming factors I am unaware of; Tempe is not so bad," not Tucson. Sorry for the mistake. :)
I'm from Arizona. I've got to say this judgment seems to me to be a hair-trigger judgment based on two terrible events in the last year and a half or so (the Jared Loughner massacre/attempted political assassination in my hometown and the passing of the racist law SB1070). However, as a liberal, and a young person (if 28 still counts as young), I would like to say in rebuttal: 1)Tucson. Full of hippies and hipsters (albeit they can also be annoying, but add color and style to the city) and how can you not love them rubbing up against bikers and rednecks on second Saturdays downtown? There's a great music and arts scene. The university of Arizona is one of the best universities in the country. It has one of the best creative writing programs, one of the best visiting writers series, and amazing science programs, including one of the biggest telescopes in the world and one of the best astronomy programs (Flagstaff has another amazing telescope and astronomy program; the now-demoted planet Pluto was discovered there). Arizona has dark skies policies to keep the stars bright for astronomers. Hey, this may add to crime, but it certainly makes the night sky beautiful. Light pollution is pollution too. Pima community college is the seventh-best community college in the nation. Tucson is affordable by any standards. It has a thriving international community (many of whom come for the university). The residents themselves are mixed, mostly white, Hispanic, and Native American. There are plenty of good people fighting the border fight (No Mas Muertes/No More Deaths is big on both sides of the border). Arizona is ground zero for a lot of our country's issues, which makes it an interesting state. And, the Sonoran Desert. It's beautiful. It's a living desert, an alien landscape home to thousands of bizarre and breathtaking species of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Tucson is surrounded by huge mountains; you can ski in the winter. There is a natural underground aquifer supplying the city's water. If you drive up Mt. Lemmon, you go through so much different terrain you end up in something akin to Montana's pine country at the top. Old Tucson preserves the cowboy charm of this outpost whose name derives from the Tohono O'odham word "Chukson," village of the dark springs at the foot of the black mountain (can you think of a more poetic name for a city?). Many famous Westerns have been filmed there. The Sonoran Desert Museum preserves wildlife in the natural desert setting. Sabino Canyon boasts beautiful hikes and waterfalls. And the ocean is a four-hour drive away (in Mexico--bring your passport and your Spanish). And the food is amazing. Seriously. Border food? Authentic Mexican food? How can you go wrong? Not to mention desert treats like prickly pear jelly. 2)Phoenix--a conservative water-wasting shithole and one of the most boring big cities on earth. But ASU has a really good university I'm told (one of the largest in the nation). And I'm sure there are some redeeming factors I'm unaware of. Tucson is not so bad, and I've heard tell of a great electronic music scene that plays out in the desert (I have fond memories of desert raves going back to adolescence). 3)Jerome and Bisbee--beautiful historical towns! Jerome is one of the oldest ghost towns, originally a mining town that burned down, was rebuilt, and became a hell's angels' center of operations/hippie paradise in the 1970's. Charming and full of history. Bisbee is home to copper mines and alabaster and marble quarries, full of artisans and history. Oh, and there's Tubac, another artist's town. And let's not forget Tombstone, setting for many famous Westerns and home to the Blood Bucket Cafe, historical reenactments of gunfights, and Boot Hill, which boasts real tombstones from the 1800's with such tragically hilarious inscriptions as "here lies William Smith, hanged by mistake." (Probably not funny to Mr. Smith, though). 4). Sedona--need I say more? Alien conspiracies, vortices whose sister power spots exist in Tibet, visits from the Dalai Lama, power crystals, psychic healers, wine tasting, red rocks, rivers, natural beauty and general zaniness 5)Flagstaff, beautiful hippie town 7,000 feet up in the mountains, in pine country, with several great breweries and a nice university 6)the Grand Canyon, the most well-known attraction--I recommend riding the historical steam-engine train from Williams, going down the Havasupai trail to the 1,000-year-old Native American village and the huge blue waterfalls at the bottom, going up to the Hualapai reservation to go on the Skywalk, or going out of AZ to the North Rim to see some real wilderness 7)monument valley, achingly beautiful rock formations 8)canyon du chelly, which technically is in the four corners area, home to the 2,000-year-old Anasazi villages carved into the cliff sides, only accessible by hiking or horseback 9)the white mountains, gorgeous and mysterious, and again known for alien activity and 10)it's the most ecologically diverse state in the nation, amazing considering it no longer has true wetland, or ocean. But just driving up a mountain you can go through quite a few ecologically distinct types of terrain. And 11)it has the most beautiful sunsets you've ever seen. purple, red, orange, spreading over the sky through the cumulus clouds. and lightning storms. lightning chasers go there just to photograph them. and did i mention the monsoons? hot rains drowning the desert so all the flowers come in bloom. what's not to love in arizona? did i mention the magnificently tall saguaro with the winding arms, graceful as dancers, with the owl-holes and the yellow flowers? did i mention the teddy bear cholla? the coyotes? the javelina? the red-tailed hawks? the quail? the deer? the rabbits? the mountain lions? the barrel cactus you can drink from? the prickly pear you can eat, either as nopales--salad greens made from the paddles--or as tunas, the sweet purple fruit picked from the top? did i mention the red-blooming ocotillo? the tall slender nightblooming cereus, its body swaying towards the sky, huge white blooms opening through the summer only late at night? tell me, really, what's not to like?
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