|This is not the beer culture we were looking for .|
Car favoritism influences our disconnected beer culture in subtle yet profound ways too. We used to have dozens of warehouses in the sports districts that now are home to US Airways Center and the Chase Ballpark. Phoenix was a way station for the fruits and vegetables that made their way from California's Imperial Valley and Yuma's Lettuce Belt on their journey east. With the gradual move from rail cars to trucks as the preferred means of moving produce and with the mistaken belief that the sports complexes needed more car parking, warehouses gave way to parking lots.
There's famously no parking at Wrigley, Fenway or Madison Square Garden and that doesn't seem to stop fans. There is certainly much more before and after game nightlife at those places then there is outside of Chase Ballpark. A downtown Phoenix property owner can turn over a great deal of cash in the short term on a parking lot at the expense of perhaps incubating some mixed use businesses in a funky warehouse. Restaurants, bars, breweries, retail all put a high value on such spaces, but we have too few of them here. Have you noticed the extreme efficiency the city undertakes to whisk you and your car out of downtown after a game?
There are people here in the Valley that are devoted to resisting such things. They know about walkable distances, curbscape, and the effect parking lots have on disrupting the connective tissue of a community. While it may be obvious that they understand buildings and their uses, they are as interested in the spaces in between buildings. They have an eye for detail and they understand the subtle and nuanced things that make our lives better and our experiences richer.
I was struck by a post by Taz Loomins on Blooming Rock called The Life Thats' Passing Phoenix By As We Sit In Our Cars. I've met Taz. She does not drink alcohol, let alone craft beer (and I hope that she won't be offended by the context) but she so vividly describes the deficit driving in the city creates when compared to walking.
I sought beer culture because I felt that same experiential deficit. You are reading this because you know of the richer experience that I am talking about and you sometimes feel for people that have yet to even understand what they are missing. If you are a lover of good beer you have to be a fan of walking a city and engaging all of your senses. If you are one of my urban friends, think about walking into a bustling vibrant pub and selecting the least objectionable beer they offer. You've just selected the automobile of beers and you are driving away from the full sensory engagement that beer can offer you.
In contrast to the exciting energy of walking in the city, I noticed this morning how isolated I felt in my car. I was in the very same spot as when I was walking, but my experience of the city was completley different. In fact, I hardly experienced the city at all, other than the necessary awareness of my surroundings required to drive safely. The sounds of the city were completely silenced within my sealed, air-conditioned vehicle. I could not smell the city smells or hear the sounds of cars outside. It felt as if I were in a bubble, as if I were by myself, when in fact I was sharing the road with many other people, who I’m sure, also felt as if they were alone.This is the kind of experiential deficit that happens in Phoenix because we are such a car-centric city. The visceral experience of walking in the city is a world that seems unavailable to us Phoenicians as we’ve become so addicted to the convenience of cars. Today, such a hot summer day, may not be the best day for a post like this. But the heat is just an excuse that we use to forgo the connective experience of city walking in order to lead convenient, easy, anonymous lives in our cars.
Please read what Taz has to say. She asks that you perform an exercise in walking in the city. You could easily take one of her points into consideration when thinking about beer or urban living, "Take note of what’s missing."
Here are just a few blogs that I read that inform my opinions on Phoenix life. There are many others. I hope that some of them will chime in and correct any mistakes I've made.
If you're coming at this blog from the beer side, I hope you take the time to check some of them out. If you're an urban enthusiast, please take some time to introduce yourself to us, let us know who to read and I'll be happy to tip a beer with you.