The problem with Arizona is most of the people who live here are from somewhere else. They don’t feel connected to the place and compare what we have to what they had “back home.” They try to make Arizona more like the Midwest, New England or California. Then two thirds of them move out, leaving a mess the rest of us have to clean up.
My grandmother always told me, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” That’s why I sometimes equivocate, and other times I just ignore her advice.
The best Western ever made in Arizona was How the West Was Won. Not the 1970s miniseries, but the epic flick of 1962. It had an incredible all-star cast and three directors. The best part of the movie is the last segment with the train robbers. It also has a scene where my grandfather plays the train engineer. The second-best Western ever made in Arizona was Neon Empire. Okay, the movie was mediocre at best, but I’m in it, so it can’t be that bad.
When I was a kid, I went to Madison Square Garden, the one in Phoenix. It was an arena that focused on boxing and wrestling, but it was also the center of Arizona’s music scene for a short time in the 1950s. It hosted talent such as Wayne Newton, Marty Robbins, Roy Clark and Jerry Lee Lewis. Duane Eddy started his career there as a teenager. People were really upset when it was demolished, but the building had long ceased being the Garden, living the last third of its life as a warehouse.
The best road trip is the one that travels the back roads of Arizona, seeing the scenery that has yet to be shown in Arizona Highways magazine. Barry Goldwater once said that he never saw all of Arizona. That’s understandable; it’s a big place. Then again, I don’t plan on moving to Washington, D.C., so I think I’m better equipped for the challenge.
When it comes to developers, they need to pay in advance for the impact they have on the existing infrastructure. The deals made between government and developer currently require the existing property owners to pay for the freeway access of the new community on the fringes. If we’re lucky, the developer might pick up the tab for an on-ramp. Then the rest of us shell out tens of millions in a belated attempt to unclog the freeway.
I consider myself a dude in the realest sense of the word. While researching dude ranches a few years ago, I spent a week on a ranch. Prior to that, I wasn’t what you’d call much of a cowboy, but I became relatively good at riding, rounding up cattle, all the while looking very spiffy in my new wide brimmed hat and silk, paisley-patterned neckerchief.
I’m a very spiritual person and, while I think Sedona is incredibly beautiful, I don’t buy into the whole energy vortex thing. The only vortices in Arizona are whirlpools, dust devils, the very rare tornado and closed budget discussions at the State Legislature. I also think dowsing is a lot of horse apples, especially dowsing for graves. It’s basically a form of vandalism creating historic graves where there are none.
I’m an Enlightened Republican. If you don’t know what that is, then you probably aren’t one.
History has taught me that everyone likes history. People who say they don’t are in denial. If you reminisce with a friend or family member, talk about a favorite book or movie, examine the wrinkles on your face or the changing height of your children, you’re practicing history. If you keep photographs and ephemera, you’re also an archivist. If you cut up historic photos and other documents and glue them in a scrapbook, there’s something seriously wrong with you.
Vince Murray, Historian
A historian and cultural resource advocate, Vince Murray is an Arizona native from a pioneer family. He has a master’s degree in Public History from Arizona State University. He is the former president of the Friends of Arizona Archives and the Arizona Preservation Foundation, and he is now involved in the True West Preservation Society. In 2004, he started Arizona Historical Research, a consulting firm in Phoenix.