Things I knew (or thought I knew) about Tempe, Arizona before being stranded at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport for seven hours on the way to Wolf Creek Colorado for Thanksgiving because it was too foggy to take off at home.
1. Tempe is in Arizona.
2. It is a suburb of Phoenix.
3. It is hot there a.k.a. the name Tempe is a shortened form of the word “temperature.”
Things I know about Tempe, Arizona having spent five hours wandering the Mill Avenue District on foot.
1. It will cost you at least $15 once you get in a cab at the airport even through they charge a dollar a mile and Tempe is only four miles away because there is a $15 “leaving the airport” fee that is automatic.
2. The Fiesta Bowl has an entire stand-alone office building dedicated to one football game.
3. Mill Avenue District has an Abercrombie & Fitch.
4. And a Urban Outfitters.
5. And a Boarders Books.
6. And a Starbucks.
7. The entire downtown area is under construction from all sides. And if you ask the cops directing traffic anything they will say, “Sorry. I don’t know. I’m not from this town.”
8. The girls working in the jean boutique next to A&F will draw a blank face and mumble, “Ummm, ahhhh” and giggle nervously when asked by strangers if there is “any place to get a good breakfast nearby.” Eventually, they will both agree that there is nothing “that you could walk to,” in a way that makes it sound like walking in Tempe is the dumbest thing you could do.
9. Ten-thirty AM is a bad time to wander the Mill Ave. District as the streets are empty of everyone aside from a small contingency of homeless and/or hippies banging on drums, begging, and/or juggling hacky sacks with their hands. That said, none of them are too busy to yell “good morning” or curse you to a long and painful death in everlasting hell fire.
10. Mill Avenue is filled with bars with names like Fat Tuesday’s, Margarita Rocks, Mamacita’s Cantina, and Coconut Club Bar & Grill. All of which are empty at 10:30 in the morning save a few hung over bar staff trying to dig out after what I’m guessing was another wild night on the town. Throw in a Margaritaville and you’ve got Duval Street in the desert.
11. There is no place on Mill Avenue to get a proper breakfast.
12. Rinaldi’s on Third stops serving breakfast at 10:30 every morning even though they have no reason to stop because it’s all on the same grill and there are only about 10 items on the menu.
13. As the guy at the Tempe Convention & Visitor Bureau (located right next to Rinaldi’s) said, “There’s really no place to eat breakfast that you can walk to. But if you wanted to you could go to Harlow’s Cafe. It’s quite a ways down University at Hardy.”
14. Cowtown Skateboards has four shops in the Phoenix area and the one on University just west of Mill Avenue is a well set up skateshop that has amazingly cool racking and moderately nice dudes behind the counter who will answer questions once asked, but who will not politely greet you when you walk in.
15. Arizona State University students are on average more attractive than students at the local junior college. Don’t know why, but it’s true.
16. Harlow’s Cafe is a great restaurant with friendly girls working the tables. Girls so friendly that if you mention that the reason you’re carrying backpacks, big puffy jackets, and oversized red Burton shopping bags down University Avenue in the blazing Arizona sun is because it is your first day homeless they will offer you “all their money” if you need it. And, the breakfasts are great. The perfect antidote to walking the streets of Tempe.
17. If you dial 480 200-2000 for a cab back to the airport the dispatcher will tell you a cab is on the way in about 20 minutes. When you call the second time, he will say the cab is “just down the street.” And when you finally run into the middle of oncoming traffic and pull a cab over (a chartreuse cab with the numbers 480-200-2000 on the side in bold letters), the driver will stop, but he’ll tell you that he’s probably not the cab you called.
18. And finally, I know that anything is better than rotting away for seven hours in an airport idiotically named a “sky harbor.” Especially if you’re with the one you love and in Tempe by fate.