Tomorrow, I am getting on a plane at Sky Harbor International Airport and saying goodbye to Phoenix.
This time, it’s for good.
After four years, it’s finally time to grow up a little bit and move on with my life.
And why shouldn’t I? After graduating in May, many others in my class have already packed up their bags and found new adventures in cities and states near and far. Some couldn’t have gotten out of here sooner. Now it’s time for me, too, to rid myself of this concrete desert.
And yet, four years later, I have just one thing to say before I leave: I’m going to miss you, Phoenix.
It was easy to be skeptical at first. When I first flew in during a mid-August scorcher in 2008, I couldn’t shake thinking that I’d made a terrible mistake. I decided to forgo all my East Coast comforts — family, four seasons and trees — for this? It was my first time in Arizona, and Phoenix felt more like a melting ghost town than one of the biggest cities in the country.
At the time, the $71 million building housing the Walter Cronkite School hadn’t opened its doors yet. I remember watching construction workers as they placed the finishing touches on the building’s exterior, thinking I might have felt more at home studying at any one of the centuries-old Gothic-style college campuses in Pennsylvania. Taylor Place, which would become my home base over the next four years, likewise was far from full completion.
There was no light rail yet. No Civic Space. No CityScape, Crescent Ballroom or much of anything at all.
But this place grew on me. I can’t say when exactly it happened. Maybe it was my first time feasting on Short Leash at Food Truck Fridays, or when I watched the symphony beautifully perform Beethoven’s Ninth, exposing me to the hidden reality that a place like Phoenix can have some class, too.
Maybe it was getting scooped up by Ollie the Trolley not a moment too soon on a Saturday night, recklessly jamming out to Kanye West’s hit before safely being deposited at my front doorstep.
It could have been one of the countless times I played pool at Rose & Crown, attempting to take a scratch in stride as onlooking friends — and Sir Winston Churchill — guffawed.
Maybe it was when Black Carl blew me away with soulful anthems at Crescent Ballroom. Or when I discovered how unusually beautiful the city is from the rooftop of the Clarendon Hotel. Maybe it was when a friend taught me how to guess a wine bottle’s age at Cibo, or when Pizzeria Bianco began serving lunch, making the wait for its world-famous pizza not so tortuous anymore. (Many of my fondest memories of Phoenix are tied to food.)
Maybe it was the people. What’s a city without those who call it home?
Whatever it was, you were persistent, Phoenix. You kept going even when the going got tough — and boy, did it — and you won me over, bit by bit.
And when other cities surely would have scoffed at the idea of a bunch of naive journalism students forming a hyperlocal news outlet for the community they called home, you gave us a chance. You embraced our plucky upstart, and though we’ve made our share of mistakes over the years you never stopped supporting us. Thanks for that.
As we grew and changed, so, too, did you.
College is a time of exploration and discovery. But our four years of college in downtown Phoenix coincided with a renewed sense of exploration and discovery for the entire city. Maybe I’m being romantic, but I’d like to think we helped each other along in that process. We had our differences, to be sure, and the campus has a long way to go before it’s truly enmeshed in the community. But it’s a work in progress, no different in that way than us newly minted college graduates or this emerging city.
So thanks again, Phoenix, for helping us explore and discover who we are and who we want to become. Hopefully, we students helped you do the same.
Our time in college is finite, and, for many of us, so was our time in Phoenix’s downtown core. But memories endure, and we’ll take them with us wherever we go.
We gussied up for theater shows here, celebrated business openings here and mourned as local restaurants closed up shop here. (Pasta Bar, Verde, Sens, Public Market, Local Breeze and others — we hardly knew you.)
We strolled First Fridays here, became inspired by incredible people here, endured an unyielding recession here, met NBA and MLB All-Stars here, fell in and out of love here and learned how to fail (a lot) here.
And to the Cronkite School: We studied for finals, wrote stories and edited videos here. We spent far too many sleepless nights here, saw Sheriff Joe Arpaio get drowned out by singing protesters here, watched the first black president get elected here and found our passions here.
Simply put, we grew up here.
Thanks for the memories, Phoenix. So long, Arizona.
Until next time.
Contact the writer at email@example.com
Dustin Volz is a publisher of Downtown Devil.