Secrets of the City

Written by Craig Outhier Category: Lifestyle Issue: May 2012

cement-like layer of caliche under our feet, which is why so few of us have basements and underground abattoirs and the like. Still, where there’s a will – and perhaps a Caterpillar 420EST backhoe loader – there’s a way. So join us in taking a peek under the Valley’s sun-drenched surface. And bring your flashlight.

UNDERGROUND CURIOS

The Westward Ho tunnel:
So-called “urban explorers” – i.e. city-folk who relish going places they shouldn’t – went into a tizzy when Valley Metro crews unearthed a 4-by-5-foot tunnel near the Westward Ho during Light Rail construction. Believed to be part of a primitive air-return system for the 85-year-old building’s original cooling unit, the tunnel terminates somewhere in the Ho’s basement and remains the off-limits Golden Fleece of Phoenix-area urban exploration. No truth to the rumor that Al Capone’s car is buried there.

Mountain Vault: 
Furtively drilled into North Mountain, this high-security storage facility is the closest thing the Valley has to NORAD. Reinforced to protect against pesky electromagnetic pulses and bunker-buster bombs, the Vault provides secure storage for personal valuables and business backup data, but they aren’t keen on publicity. “We get offers [for interviews] all the time,” the owner told us. “You couldn’t really offer me anything.” 11820 N. Cave Creek Rd., Phoenix, 602-943-9796, datamountaininc.com

The mayor’s underground escape tunnel:
Representatives of Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton will neither confirm nor deny the existence of an underground service tunnel that connects City Hall with nearby buildings and – we assume – could be used as an escape route should the city be overrun by zombies, Occupiers or Tea Partiers. Ex-mayor Skip Rimsza is more candid: “I imagine it’s a service tunnel for the chilling system.”
 

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The Gold Spot
For more than a half century, the Gold Spot Bowling Alley lay under Central Avenue and Pierce Streets, an oft-discussed but rarely seen piece of Phoenix lore. The underground edifice hosted bowlers and night owls until 1950, when it was closed and largely forgotten by everybody but the most determined of urban explorers and spelunkers, who found access points via tunnels below the Westward Ho and missing panels of sidewalk glass that once provided light for the subterranean bowlers. There wasn’t much left to see, they say, except for a few lane grooves painted on the floor and a bowling pin-mural on the wall. In 2008, just before construction of the METRO Light Rail was completed, the last known access point to the bowling alley was filled with concrete, forever burying the elusive G Spot.


URBAN LEGENDS
 

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UFO landing in Dreamy Draw
Roswell, New Mexico has a stronger brand as a UFO rest stop, but the Valley does pretty well as a recognized close-encounter zone. Everyone knows about the fabled “Phoenix lights” of 1997; less celebrated is the alleged flying saucer buried under Dreamy Draw Dam. Late in 1947, the story goes, a malfunctioning alien craft ploughed into the side of Squaw Peak (now Piestewa Peak), leaving a spectacular pile of wreckage. Naturally, the gov’mint caught wind. Instead of hauling off the wreckage – they already had a perfectly good UFO sequestered up in Area 51, remember – the Army allegedly simply dumped a bunch of concrete on top of the craft, named it Dreamy Draw Dam, and called it a day. Modern UFOologists claim the dam serves no discernible purpose and is clearly an E.T. mausoleum. Maricopa County counters that the dam wasn’t even built until 1973. One of them is grotesquely misinformed. 2421 E. Northern Ave., Phoenix, 602-262-7901, phoenix.gov/parks/trails/locations/piestewapeak/

Other totally unsubstantiated urban legends...
Montezuma’s Treasure
They say gold is buried in them thar Sierra Estrella hills. In fact, locals tell no fewer than half a dozen separate tall tales involving illicit treasure secreted somewhere in the South Phoenix mountain range. The most persistent of the legends involves a stash of gold in a cave near Montezuma Head, made semi-credible by the existence of a 19th century Spanish gold mine in the area. Modern treasure hunters are encouraged to “look for the old stone house.” 14805 W. Vineyard Ave., Goodyear, 623-932-3811, maricopa.gov/parks/estrella/


Birthplace of Modern Satanism?
Though some sources – including, ahem, Wikipedia – claim that Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey went to high school in Globe and may have spent time in the Valley as a young man, such legends are farce, according to Church of Satan High Priest Peter H. Gilmore. “His only time in Arizona was passing through briefly when he was on tour with the Clyde-Beatty circus,” Gilmore told us recently, before ending the conversation with a cheery, “Best wishes!”
 

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WILL IT PLAY IN PEORIA?
Did you know the Valley is a popular proving ground for Hollywood filmmakers? When preparing a would-be blockbuster for release, studios commonly enlist “test audiences” to gauge its commercial potential – if something about the movie rubs an audience the wrong way, the filmmakers might cut or reshoot it. According to insiders, the Valley is a common locale for test-screenings. “There’s a fair amount here,” one Valley-based studio rep says. “We have a kind of middle-America melting pot and we’re close to L.A.” Studio hits like Transformers and Tropic Thunder were tested in the Valley – as were box office pigs like Jersey Girl and 6 Days, 7 Nights. If you want to attend a test screening, there’s only one proven method for getting an invite: See a lot of movies. Marketers typically recruit their audiences from cinema lobbies. And keep your eyes peeled at the show itself – stars and directors often observe test-screenings from the back row of the theater.

FREE CULTURE
 

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Free Museum Days!
Phoenix Art Museum: Wednesdays, 3-9 p.m.; first Friday of the month, 6-10 p.m.; 1625 N. Central Ave., 602-257-1222, phxart.org
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art: Thursdays, 12-8 p.m.; 7374 E. Second St., 480-874-4666, smoca.org
Arizona Museum for Youth: First Sunday of every month, 12-5 p.m.; 35 N. Robson, Mesa, 480-644-2467, arizonamuseumforyouth.com
Children’s Museum of Phoenix: First Friday of every month; 215 N. Seventh St., 602-253-0501, childrensmuseumofphoenix.org

Always Free Museums
Arizona Capitol Museum: 1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix, 602-926-3620, lib.az.us/museum
Arizona Military Museum: 5636 E. McDowell Rd., Phoenix, 602-267-2676, www.azdema.gov/museum/index.html
ASU Art Museum: 51 E. 10th St., Tempe, 480-965-2787, asuartmuseum.asu.edu
Chandler Museum: 178 E. Commonwealth Ave., Chandler, 480-782-2717, chandlermuseum.org
Mesa Contemporary Arts: 1 E. Main St., Mesa, 480-644-6560, mesaartscenter.com
Phoenix Trolley Museum: (open Saturdays or by appointment October through May) 25 W. Culver St., Phoenix, 602-254-0307, phoenixtrolley.com
Shemer Art Center & Museum: 5005 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-262-4727, shemerartcenterandmuseum.org
Tempe Historical Museum: 809 E. Southern Ave., Tempe, 480-350-5100, tempe.gov/museum
Elvis Memorial Chapel: It’s not free, but it is secret, and it won’t cost you a hunk, a hunk of burning change. Located at the Superstition Mountain Museum (4087 N. Apache Trail, Apache Junction, 480-983-4888, superstitionmountainmuseum.org), the chapel (available for weddings) and museum showcases memorabilia from movies filmed at Apacheland Movie Ranch, including Charro, starring Elvis Presley.

 



SECRET EVENTS

Theater at Don Bluth’s Place
One of Hollywood’s most beloved animators lives in Scottsdale – and he’d love to have you over for a show. Don Bluth – creator of An American Tale and The Secret of NIMH – is also a patron of the stage; his Don Bluth Front Row Theatre company performs three plays a week. The location? “Basically, it’s his living room,” says one of his players. Until Alice Cooper starts staging smooth-jazz concerts in his wine cellar, this is the most unique live-entertainment option in the Valley. Tickets for the current production – Neil Simon’s Star Spangled Girl – are currently on sale ($15-$20). 8776 E. Shea Blvd., Scottsdale, 480-314-0841, donbluthfrontrowtheatre.com

Boogie Nights in Tempe
Demographically, the downtown Tempe scene isn’t so hard to figure out: college kids and crunchies, with the occasional elderly Midwestern football fan thrown in for good measure. However, once a year, the Mill Avenue strip assumes a different guise: center of the Internet porn universe. Ever heard of the Phoenix Forum? It sounds like a public-access radio show, doesn’t it? The truth is much more titillating: A weekend-long “education and networking event for the adult business community,” held every March at the stately Tempe Mission Palms Hotel. All in all, it seems like your typical trade convention, with scheduled events like “Extreme Poolside Networking” and “Naked Dodgeball.” And if you’re lucky, you might see a dodgeball player at the Smashburger down the street. thephoenixforum.com
 

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PAOLO SOLERI’S SECRET POOL
Cosanti – the Paradise Valley residence and sculpture studio of 92-year-old architectural giant Paolo Soleri and his students – is renowned for its ecology-inspired structures, but did you know it also boasts the Valley’s most righteous swimming pool? Tucked behind Soleri’s main residence toward the back of the compound, the pool is shaded by a massive, earth-molded concrete canopy improbably held aloft by telephone poles – which look like popsicle sticks relative to the enormous mass they bear. It makes for a fittingly surreal poolside milieu. On a slow weekday when nobody’s around, you might even be able to strip down and take a dip yourself. Open seven days a week. 6433 E. Doubletree Ranch Rd., Paradise Valley, 480-948-6145, cosanti.com
 

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Vintage Baseball
Founded in 2007, the Arizona Territories Vintage Baseball League plays the game by 1860 rules: no walks, no stealing, no tag-ups, but yes to underhand pitching. League President Lance Busch, who performs pitcher-manager duties for the Glendale Gophers, says the league appeals to baseball fans with an orthodox streak. “We play for the purity of the sport. It’s unscripted, unvarnished, there’s no way to cheat. We love it.” Patterned after similar leagues in Colorado and Illinois, the six-team ATVBL holds a 20-game season in the winter and spring. It’s cosplay for jocks. arizonavintagebaseball.com



SECRET CLUBS & HOBBYISTS!
 

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Arizona Moonshiners
Deep in the heart of east Chandler, the Alchemist uncorks a jug of homemade 140-proof grain alcohol and pours a bit into a shot glass. “That’s uncut,” he cautions. “You need to add a little water to make it fit to drink.” As hooch goes, it isn’t bad – smooth, crisp, a little peaty. Essentially, it’s the raw, unoaked version of a whiskey you might buy at the liquor store. Except this whiskey was made in Arizona, in a home-still much like the one sitting atop a washing machine in the Alchemist’s laundry room. Unlike Arizona’s bustling – and legal – home-brewing scene, the home-distilling crowd keeps a low profile. Regulated by the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau, distillation is heavily taxed and regulated, and making even a modest portion for personal use is against the law. It’s not particularly difficult, however. Australian-made, keg-sized stills are commercially available in Arizona, as are the necessary grains, sugars and yeasts. The Alchemist – who works in technology – says that absinthe-making was particularly popular in the Arizona distilling community until the green liqueur was legalized four years ago. Now, their output is a hodgepodge of whiskey, vodka, agave spirit, you name it. What’s the motivation? “The challenge of it,” he says. “Seeing if you can create something that tastes and feels like a [commercial brand].” Also, “It’s cheaper,” he says. “Some guys have the attitude: Why pay $15 in tax when I can make it at home?”

DID YOU KNOW?
>> Arizona is a homebrewing mecca? The Arizona Society of Homebrewers counts 435 men and women on its rolls – the most of any comparable U.S. regional organization. That’s a lot of off-the-books beer. azhomebrewers.org

>> Phoenix is home to a chapter of the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), the Freemason-like secret society once led by British mystic and Ozzy Osbourne-inspirer Aleister Crowley? Living life by their “Do what thou wilt” creed (translation: “Don’t beat yourself up about it”), the Valley-based Lapis Lazuli chapter has a website (lapislazuli-oto.org) and holds semi-regular mixers.

>> Mesa is home to a chapter of the Hells Angels’ most hated outlaw-biker nemesis? The California-founded Mongols motorcycle club (MC) not only has a clubhouse in the East Valley - they also have a Facebook page. (Look up “Mongols Mesa” and make sure to hit “Like.”)


WRECKS & RUINS!
 

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Mystery Castle:
Built by a tuberculotic laborer for the infant daughter he left in Seattle, this ramshackle mansion on South Mountain – made from broken pots, auto parts and other found junk, all held together with cement and goat milk – isn’t a ruin in the strict sense; tours are available from early October through May.
11 a.m-4 p.m. Th-Su. 800 E. Mineral Rd., Phoenix, 602-268-1581

Arvizu’s El Fresnal Grocery Store:
It’s not the only uninhabited brick building in Downtown Phoenix, but it’s almost certainly the only uninhabited brick building that also used to be a Mexican grocery and Masonic temple. Know it by the spookily-faded Freemason pentagram (likely representing the co-ed Order of the Eastern Star) painted on the back wall. 310 E. Buchanan St., Phoenix

The Duppa House:
Named after early Phoenician homesteader Bryan Philip Darell Duppa, this two-bedroom domicile in Downtown Phoenix is purportedly the Valley’s oldest residence – and it looks the part, with decayed walls and sagging crossbeams not fit for the slums of Rio. It’s believed to date from 1870, and its historical value is unquestioned: Duppa was the guy who named Phoenix. 115 W. Sherman St.
 

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Phoenix Trotting Park
Built in the mid-1960s with a wedding-cake roof and bizarre flourishes that practically scream “rejected Taliesin West thesis project,” the defunct racetrack sits off the I-10 like a decomposing animal, ignored even as the Valley fills in around it. Horse racing and entertainment weren’t enough to draw gamblers to then-remoter Goodyear, and the complex shuttered in 1966. Passersby often note the post-apocalyptic appearance of the grandstand – an effect achieved when its entire glass face was blown out during a pyrotechnic stunt for the 1998 Charlie Sheen flick No Code of Conduct. The facility is fenced and closed to the public, but adventurous souls and urban-decay fetishists have been known to brave its pigeon-befouled innards to get a closer look.
 

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Black Canyon City Dog Track
Like the Trotting Park, this pug-ugly ruin fell into a state of innocuous desuetude after its owners abandoned it in 1982. Once the epicenter of greyhound racing in Arizona, the track currently hosts only rats and the occasional squatter. Tellingly, its facade – which once proclaimed “Dog Track” in big, orange letters – later was defaced to read “Dog Crack.” Located just west of the I-17 north of Anthem.








INFAMOUS HAUNTS!

Every Valley schoolchild knows about the haunted room at the Hotel San Carlos – but what of the many ghosts, wraiths and assorted unsettled spirits that toil just as hard for your titillation, yet get a fraction of the props? Find a lesser-known blue-collar apparition at these Valley “haunts.”

 

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Phoenix Theatre
The Phantom of the Opera-style haunted theater is a necessary accessory for any town – and the Phoenix Theatre happens to boast an unusually detailed playbill. The 82-year-old playhouse features ghosts with names like “Mr. Electrics” and “Light Board Lenny,” not to mention a vengeful actor named Freddy who was allegedly killed in traffic on his way home after getting fired from a show. Nick Nolte also performed at the theater. One can only speculate what kind of spectral nastiness he left behind.
Haunting likelihood: moderate 100 E. McDowell Rd., Phoenix, 602-254-2151, phoenixtheatre.com


 

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Casey Moore’s
The popular ASU-area pub isn’t just a great place to knock off a Black and Tan; it’s also a grade-A ghost-chasing retreat. Owner Gavin Rutledge doesn’t know the specific origin of the poltergeists that allegedly populate the bar’s two upstair rooms and bedevil his staff, but we’re guessing it has something to do with a tragic oyster-eating incident. Haunting
likelihood: moderate 850 S. Ash Ave., Tempe, 480-968-9935, caseymoores.com





 

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Dirtwater Springs
Where haunting credibility is concerned, a long-forgotten murder is always a great place to start. Back in 1947, when this Apache Junction diner was a Shell station, a drifter named Angel Serna went on a shooting spree, murdering owner Katherine Gohn. Today, servers and kitchen staff say they sometimes hear Gohn’s ghost trip the station’s old-timey service bell. Ring ring. Ring ring. Current owner Dick Parks isn’t buying it: “I don’t believe in ghosts. Enough people scare me in real life.” Haunting likelihood: strong  568 W. Apache Trail, Apache Junction, 480-983-3478, dirtwatersprings.com



 

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Pioneer and Military Memorial Park
Volunteers still turn up unmarked graves at this freaky-deaky historic cemetery in a sketchy part of Downtown. Populated by prominent pioneers like “Lost Dutchman” Jacob Waltz and Phoenix namer Lord Duppa, the spot is self-evidently haunted. The park is locked, but stop by the Parks and Rec office at 2700 N. 15th Ave. on weekdays and they’ll lend you the keys. You must return them by 4 p.m.; after that, who knows what could happen. Haunting likelihood: strong phoenix.gov/parks/pioneer.html


 

 




SECRET EATS
Anyone can order off a menu. Only a deep-cover Valley dining pro such as yourself knows about the special stuff that chefs stash away for their favorite and most fastidious customers. Welcome to the club.

Sweet Republic’s I Heart Bacon ice cream: Co-owners Jan Wichayanuparp and Helen Yung keep an illicit tub of their applewood-bacon-impregnated sweet cream creation in the freezer on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It tastes like a porky butter pecan. So nasty. So good. 9160 E. Shea Blvd., Scottsdale, 480-248-6979, sweetrepublic.com

MedFresh Grill’s Iskender kebap: Demonstrate your conceptual mastery of Turkish cuisine by ordering the non-menu Iskender kebap, a Middle Eastern symphony of thinly-cut grilled lamb, tomato sauce, melted garlic butter and yogurt over crispy pita bread ($14.95). Beats a ho-hum kebab any day. 414 S. Mill Ave., Tempe, 480-642-9709, medfreshgrill.com

Jimmy & Joe’s J-Nugs: Unless you’re a cast member of Jersey Shore, or a fan of this East Valley pizza chain, you probably never thought to put something called a “J-Nug” in your mouth. Somehow, these habit-forming deep-fried dough balls haven’t found their way to the Jimmy & Joe’s menu. Our theory: Jimmy and Joe can’t bring themselves to put a word like “J-Nugs” in print. Two locations. jimmyandjoes.com

Il Vinaio’s Hugh Jass burger: As a wry homage to former executive chef Patrick Boll – who swore an oath never to dabble in plus-sized haute burgers after slinging them for years at Roaring Fork – Il Vinaio owner Cameron Selogie commissioned the “Hugh Jass”: a half-pound Angus sirloin patty topped with a quarter-pound of lamb gyro, another quarter-pound of bacon, a fried egg and provolone, all slapped between a structurally-sound artisan bun. It’s $12, but you’ll find no written evidence of it at this Mesa fine-food haunt. 270 W. Main St., Mesa, 480-649-6476, ilvinaio.com
 

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BEST SECRET LATE-NIGHT EATS
By day, Renetto-Mario Etsitty is the mild-mannered sous chef at Phoenix Public Market. By night – or, one night every month – he transforms into his crusading alter ego: Chef Mario, feeder of the First Friday masses. Following the Downtown art walk, Etsitty hunkers down at his Garfield home and cooks – gourmet fry-bread and cayenne pork ribs are favorites. By 11 p.m., Etsitty’s front lawn is a full-blown culinary love-in. “We get anywhere from a dozen to 100 people,” the chef says of his free-of-charge feasts. “It feeds back to the spirit of community that First Fridays is known for.” (To get the addy, go to First Fridays and ask around. It wouldn’t be a secret if we just told you.)

BEST QUASI-SECRET UNDERGROUND DINING
The Hermosa Inn certainly has the feel of a secret-laden destination; if the tucked-away Paradise Valley resort isn’t haunted by cowboy-artist founder Lon Megargee, as many speculate, then surely one of the man’s seven wives must be spooking up the place. The resort’s signature restaurant, Lon’s at the Hermosa, is one of the Valley’s most respected fine eateries, but furtive foodies skip the main dining room and opt for Lon’s once-a-week tasting dinners down in the wine cellar. Besides being classy as heck, the cellar is a great way to beat the summer heat. After all, if it’s cool enough for Lon’s robust selection of fine wines, it’s cool enough for you. 5532 N. Palo Cristi Rd., Paradise Valley, 602-955-7878, hermosainn.com/lons/
 

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Cowboy College
Lori Bridwell’s late husband had a dream – a glorious, quixotic, manure-and-rope-burn-covered dream: To start a Cowboy College in the desert north of Dynamite Road in the far northeast Valley. More than 20 years later, the school is still going strong. “We get about six new students a month,” Bridwell says. “And we get ’em from everywhere: Ecuador, England, Brazil. You name it.” Under the tutelage of head instructor Rocco Wachman and master equestrian Elaine Pawlowski, students embark on a one-week curriculum of Horse Psychology 101, Advanced Roping Theory and other ranch-related training. Most students, who bunk together on-site, enroll simply for the experience, but some go on to work on real ranches, Bridwell says. Hey – employability-wise, it beats a liberal arts degree. $2,250 including room and board. 30208 N. 152nd St., Scottsdale, 480-471-3151, cowboycollege.com

AL FRESCO ART
 

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Sunnyslope Rock Garden
The Valley boasts exactly one place where you can see a shrunken replica of the Seattle Space Needle made out of broken pieces of Fiestaware – and it ain’t in Paradise Valley, baby. Built by epic visionary/kooky hobbyist Grover Cleveland Thompson, this odd menagerie of miniature buildings, bizarre busts and other concrete curios is quintessential Sunnyslope. Current owner Marion Blake allows visitors from 2-6 p.m. the first Friday of every month. 10023 N. 13th Place, Phoenix





 

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Cancer Survivors Park
Where memorials and art installations are concerned, noble intentions don’t always translate into excellent viewing. Exhibit A: this swirly, tile-inlaid obelisk at Cancer Survivors Park in Phoenix. Rising proudly above midtown Phoenix passersby, it suggests an Egyptian pharaoh tombstone as conceived by clerks at a New Age bookstore. Again, we applaud the nobility. 1428 N. First St., Phoenix, 602-262-6412







 

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Release The Fear
Made partially from four tons of melted weapons “used in violent acts collected throughout Arizona,” this striking sculpture by Valley artist Robert John Miley – who recruited high school students and chain gang convicts to help with its construction – is meant to resemble a man supplicating to the sky. We like to call it “Melted Weapons Gumby.” Located at the intersection of Central Avenue and Roosevelt Street near the Light Rail stop.






 

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Hobo Joe
Marvin Ransdell fashioned several Bob’s Big Boy-style statues for the Arizona-based Hobo Joe’s restaurant chain in the 1980s. Unfortunately, the chain’s mob-connected owner failed to pay Ransdell before the company went belly-up, leaving the businessman with more 25-foot fiberglass hobo mascots than any sane man would care to own in a lifetime. Eventually, one of these hobos made its way to a Buckeye slaughterhouse (where Phoenix’s The Meat Shop slaughters its pigs) owned by businessman Ramon Gillum, who turned the mascot into a memorial for his friend Ransdell when the artist passed away in 1989. And there Hobo Joe stands to this day – proud, possibly drunk, but not homeless.
1045 E. Monroe Ave., Buckeye


 

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Gary Parsel’s Lawn Art
Walking through Phoenix sculptor Gary Parsel’s front yard is like touring a Middle-America Easter Island: giant busts, stone-silent sunbathers and canines frozen in mid-bark – all of it loitering near his pleasant brick ranch home like mutant relatives on holiday. 538 E. Willetta St., Phoenix











 

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Mofles the Muffler God
Erected to promote the muffler-repair services at Charly’s Auto Services in Phoenix, Mofles (pronounced “MOFE-leys”) has transcended those humble roots. Quite unmistakably, the six-foot metal man – made from mufflers, natch – has become a Godzilla-style totem of Western “progress” run amok. Or something like that. 808 E. Broadway Rd., Phoenix, 602-268-2211









 

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Casa Carmel sculptures
Rental complexes typically advertise amenities like “loft space” and “first-month free rent.” Rarely do they trumpet “avant garde sculpture” and “totally effed-up lawn art.” But most rental complexes aren’t Tempe’s Casa Carmel, which commissioned outre landscape architect Bill Tonnesen to make over the exterior with headless donkeys and moribund-looking silver mime people. Perfect for your next wienie roast. 2222 S. Rural Rd., Tempe








Secret Gardens
Want to “go green” away from prying eyes? Park it at these secluded Valley gardens.
City of Glendale Xeriscape Botanical Garden: Think of this free, cactus-and-other-succulent-packed urban forest at the Glendale Main Library as a Mini-Me to the larger Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. 5959 W. Brown St., Glendale, 623-930-3535, glendaleaz.com
Boojum Tree: Set in a shady Spanish hacienda replete with fountains and hanging gardens, this North Phoenix aerie is a primo event space, but you can tour its botanical delights at your leisure during weekly “open house” nights (Tu 6-8 p.m.). 16026 N. 36th St., Phoenix, 602-867-8975, boojumtree.com 
ASU Secret Garden: Countless naps have been stolen in this grassy on-campus courtyard shaded serenely by Dixie Gammage Hall and West Hall. Take the ramp on the south side of Dixie Gammage. asu.edu/tour/tempe/360html/ghall.html
Idylwilde Park: Residents of the Idylwilde Park Historical District are proud of the three-acre park in the middle of their subdivision, ringed by towering tamarisk trees and equipped with a private pool. You need to know a resident to get in.
Between 11th and 12th streets north of Weldon Avenue.


 




SEXY BEASTS!
 

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The pet-able lemur at Phoenix Zoo
Have an animal-lover in your life? The Zookeeper for a Day program at the Phoenix Zoo ($350 per person or $600 per couple) makes for an unbeatable treat. And here’s a special inside tip: Ask Danielle the lemur-keeper to introduce you to one red-ruffed lemur in particular. We’ll call him “Elmo.” Unlike his skittish mates, Elmo is people-friendly and likes to be petted on his thick, luxurious pelt. It’s mind-blowing. Honestly. phoenixzoo.org






 

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Aged Rockstars
Alice Cooper is the Valley’s most famous and ubiquitous over-the-hill heavy metal legend, but he’s by no means an outlier - we’ve got oodles of them. At various points, Dave Mustaine (Megadeth), Kerry King (Slayer), Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Bret Michaels (Poison) and Wayne Static (Static-X) have all called Greater Phoenix home. It probably doesn’t need to be said, but... Gene Simmons, we’re saving a five-acre parcel in Chandler just for you, buddy.







 

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The Phoenix bug factory
The Arizona cotton industry is a $165 million annual enterprise. Its biggest threat? If you said “China,” you’re only half right. The pink bollworm moth is also a major bugaboo. Enter the pseudo-secret Pink Bollworm Rearing Facility in southwest Phoenix, where teams of USDA scientists churn out millions of irradiated, sterile moths annually. The barren bugs are released over Arizona cotton fields, where they futilely “breed” with able-bodied moths. Presto – a crop-saving mothocaust.





 

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The Phoenix Bat Cave
No superhero lair, this. Stretching from 24th to 40th streets just north of the Arizona Canal, an underground flood control ditch keeps east Phoenix dry and diptheria-free. It also happens to be the home of 5,000 Mexican free-tailed bats. Just before sunset, winged detachments of the furry, flying mammals sortie out of the culvert’s 40th Street terminus to feast on mosquitos and moths. You can watch them swoop and glide and gorge against a pastel sky from May to November – after which the migrant bug-eaters make their seasonal run back to Mexico. How to get there: Go north on 40th Street from Camelback Road to the Arizona Canal. Walk about a quarter mile west on the canal until you see the Arizona Game and Fish Department sign on your right. The cave is just beyond that.

SECRET SHOPS!
 

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Mercantile:
Where can you go to get an outstanding haircut and pick up a wicked-awesome suede blazer from the Carter era? It’s a short list. A list of one, in fact. Owned and operated by a pair of friendly Gen Xers named Amina and Shauna, this humming little salon/vintage-goods multi-use boutique tucked behind radio station KMLE near the Downtown arts district is still flying under the radar for most Valley scenesters. But not for long. 828 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-410-9475, phoenixmercantile.com

Well Suited:
Described by one devoted customer as the “slightly-graying bastard brother of My Sister’s Closet,” this high-end men’s shop – a lesser-known offshoot of the My Sister’s Closet/My Sister’s Attic resale empire – is similarly positioned for brand-minded bargain hunters. Whether it’s a half-off $150 Harley-Davidson riding helmet or a $900 Hugo Boss suit for a mere $145, Well Suited makes being “a gentleman of taste” a little more tasteful for your bottom line. Beware: Some of this stuff is on the resale rack for a reason – like, uh, that ruffled Versace button-down. Scary. 6208 N. Scottsdale Rd., Paradise Valley, 480-556-9750, shopwellsuited.com

Oils N Cense:
When you want oils and incense and nothing but oils and incense, might we suggest Oils N Cense? This North Phoenix olfaction superstore is just the thing when you want a whiff of something fragrant. “We’ve been around for 20 years, and I have 100 brands of incense,” says the owner, Rick. “And not the head shop stuff... We deal in spiritual incense, frankincense and myrrh, for Judeo-Christian and other spiritual traditions.” In other words, go somewhere else for your Pink Floyd posters, bub. 1237 E. Northern Ave., Phoenix, 602-864-5550

History by George:
Nazi war medals aren’t generally items you can find at, say, your neighborhood Crate and Barrel. Ditto for Crimean War-era British bayonets and Union cavalry saddles. For that kind of war-geek love, you need to fire up the panzer and head down to this Mesa war collectibles shop, unprepossessingly tucked into an old-timey strip mall on Main Street. When it comes to militaria, this place is the bomb. (Disclaimer: They don’t sell bombs.) 129 W. Main St., Mesa, 480-898-3878, historybygeorge.com