Mill Avenue Vexations by Kyt Dotson
Vex Harrow
Posted: May 22, 2012 at 8:40 pm
Subject: Historic Hayden Flour Mill opens to the public as events venue

This is awesome!

Visitors may start touring the grounds now. A grassy area and walkway with trees was created. The area is set up to host concerts, outdoor movies, corporate picnics, and weddings for about 250 people.

Signs and lighting have been placed along the side of the building that faces Mill Avenue. Here, visitors can learn about the history of the mill and Tempe. 

Caged windows along the building allow visitors to peek into the mill which was originally built in 1874. The Hayden Flour Mill had been rebuilt twice after two separate explosions. The existing building has been unoccupied since 1998 and closed to the public for safety reasons.

Who wants to visit with me? I’m going to be there Thursday and Friday after work—I might even idle my cab on Mill Ave tomorrow just to look at what they’ve done.

After all, driving cab means that I can do what I want between fares.

Link, via Abc15.

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Vex Harrow
Posted: April 3, 2012 at 10:57 am
Subject: Suspicious Package Near ASU shuts down Mill Ave Last Night

A report that appeared this morning in MyFoxPhoenix.com relates the news that part of Mill was shut down by a “suspicious package” that local bomb squad detonated.

The report is extremely short,

Police responded to the intersection of 7th St and Mill Ave after reports of an unattended package near the statues, next to the parking garage.

They closed off the area and the package was detonated by the bomb squad.

After further investigation, it was determined that the package was not a threat.

Fortunately, it also means that there was no danger—however, it might be nice to know what they blew up. After all, once the bomb squad blew up someone’s luggage and shut down the light rail (smoldering underwear everywhere.)

myfoxnewscom-suspicious-package

At least we now know that Mil Ave is open again and ASU is safe.

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Vex Harrow
Posted: March 16, 2012 at 10:27 am
Subject: Fire at My Big Fat Greek Restaurant and Urban Outfitters

Thursday afternoon saw a crisis hit Mill Ave when fire broke out on the roof of Urban Outfitters and My Big Fat Greek Restaurant. The Tempe Fire Department shut down Mill around the intersection with 5th as the fire was fought.

According to an article in AZCentral, the fire is still under investigation,

My Big Fat Greek Restaurant in downtown Tempe caught fire Thursday afternoon, according to fire officials.

The clothing store Urban Outfitters was also briefly shut down because of its proximity to the restaurant. It has since been reopened.

Firefighters made a first alarm response to the scene around 4:30 p.m., according to Tempe Fire Department spokesman Deems Shepard. He said grease from the kitchen had caught fire in some ductwork.

No injuries are reported, but it looks like the restaurant will be closed indefinitely as repairs and investigation are underway.

Since the fire currently appears to have started at My Big Fat Greek Restaurant and spread to Urban Outfitters, chances are the retail clothing store will be reopening soon enough.

I’ll try to keep everyone updated on this. The last time Mill Ave saw a considerable fire was when the Andre building caught fire in August, 1999.

According to news reports, traffic was restored to Mill Avenue last night.

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Vex Harrow
Posted: January 8, 2012 at 8:04 pm
Subject: Change Put in Tempe Red Meters Aids Needy, but Supports Bigots

red-meter-mill-aveI’ve always been a little bit dubious of the red parking meters set up alongside many of the maps and signs along Mill Avenue. They come along with notices that point out that “a hand out is not a hand up,” and a lot of other slogans about the homeless population. It’s true, giving someone money when they’re spanging doesn’t do much to help their situation and tends to encourage them to stay on the street, but this didn’t seem to me to be the way to educate the public on the matter.

Now I know that feeding these meters also feeds the Salvation Army and that’s not an organization the public should be supporting.

According to an article in AZ Central, “The 11 bright-red meters were installed three years ago as the basis of the Change for Change program, the brainchild of Tempe Leadership Class XXIII.” They’re highly recognizable and you’ll probably know what I’m talking about the moment that you heard about them. Initially, I’ve been somewhat ambivalent about them. I enjoy that someone in Tempe actually wants to think of doing something good for the homeless population and comfort the Mill rats.

However, further reading of the article reveals that the proceeds from the meters go to Tempe Community Action Agency, Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development and HomeBase Youth Services—and the Salvation Army.

Right now, the Salvation Army promotes evil, bigoted views involving members of the LGBT community—a notable number of whom are represented within the homeless population in Tempe—and this organization also lauds themselves for spending some of their money on their bigoted behavior. A Facebook page popped up last year to make obvious that this behavior isn’t welcome in a free country like the United States and that they’re prejudiced against a segment of the very population they claim to seek to aid speaks volumes about the care we can expect them to give to the subject.

The homeless population is better off if you give your money to HomeBase, Tumbleweed, or many others who do not have a reputation of anti-civil rights policies. Your money is better spent actually promoting the welfare of homeless individuals and our community in general than it is supporting an organization that cannot bring itself to treat all its charges with fairness regardless of their sexual orientation. Worse, the Salvation Army’s high level leaders have gone as far as to request that they be exempt from antidiscrimination laws from when receiving money from the Federal government; and when faced with being forced not to discriminate, they threatened to stop work for the homeless in New York City.

Now, I’ve spent my share of time slumming it with the Mill rats for most of my life. I love these people. They are my people and I enjoy my time with them.

We can do better than to fund a bigoted organization when there are many others who don’t have a civil rights and discrimination issue that they’re fighting to keep (using the money we give them to aid the homeless to do it.)

Until the Change for Change program stops giving money to the Salvation Army or the Salvation Army cleans up its act I will not be putting money into those meters.

Neither should you.

[Image credit Deirdre Hamill/The Arizona Republic, via AZCentral.com]

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Vex Harrow
Posted: December 14, 2011 at 10:32 pm
Subject: The Stop Online Piracy Act instead stops speech

sopa-internet-censorship-bill

Tomorrow, the Stop Online Privacy Act heads to a vote in the House Judiciary Committee. This much-omened act places a multitude of cherished traditions of free discourse in the United States on the chopping block of corporate copyright with the law hovering overhead like the axe of Damocles.

Of course, numerous people who should know what censorship can do to the world have begun to rise up against this terrible legislation. Amid them are journalists, writers, and even the makers of the World of Warcaft.

In honor of this—and to spread awareness of it—writer Kyt Dotson has put up the short story Dragon Tamers censored. To uncensor it, you must send an e-mail to representatives about why they shouldn’t pass laws like this.

As a taxi cab driver, I listen to people speak every day. I have a strange glimpse into their lives and what makes them tick. Many on my beat have jobs that use the Internet on a regular basis and some of them spend most of the ride tapping away at their mobile phones on social media sites.

Instead of providing good and proper tools to fight what is seen as copyright infringement and piracy, the Stop Online Piracy Act will give tools of censorship to giant corporate copyright holders.

The United States does not need this tyranny of copyright; the law already provides a powerful resource for copyright holders both inside and outside of the US Internet.

Say no to censorship.

Link, via the EFF; and Dragon Tamers (censored) by Kyt Dotson.

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Vex Harrow
Posted: December 6, 2011 at 5:24 pm
Subject: Mill Avenue a Nighttime Haven of Delight

Every now and again, I look around YouTube to see how the community of the Internet feels about our red bricks.

This one seems to be made by a well-voiced narrator and some lovely editing using background sounds and static images. Take a gander.

Link, via YouTube.

Head over to YouTube and leave some comments too, let the producer know that Mill Ave has fans.

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Vex Harrow
Posted: October 21, 2011 at 4:07 pm
Subject: Hugh Hallman Endorses Michael Monti of Mill Ave for Tempe City Mayor

michael-montiSay what you will about Michael Monti—he’s been a big component of the ecology and politics of Mill Avenue. I often park in front of his establishment when I’m out on the town, checking out the people, but not so often when I’m trawling for fares. The establishment to which I speak is the restaurant that he owns and operates: Monti’s Steakhouse aka La Casa Vieja (trans. the old house.) A steakhouse built out of the Hayden residence when the family resided in Tempe—long back when it was still called Hayden’s Ferry.

Now, according to an article in The State Press, Michael Monti has added yet another accolade to his political belt: he’s been endorsed by now Tempe City Mayor Hugh Hallman as a candidate in the mayoral race for the city.

“Michael has ensured his family business on Mill Avenue has remained successful and vibrant while retaining its identity,” according to a press release Tuesday by Scottsdale public relations firm Rose + Moser + Allyn. “That is clearly the mission of the next Mayor of Tempe.”

Hallman, who has served as mayor since 2004, announced during the summer he would not seek re-election.

Monti said he was humbled to receive the mayor’s blessing.

Humbling to say the least—I didn’t even know that Monti was seeking the mayorship. I guess that shows how much attention I pay to most of Tempe politics; at least that which doesn’t directly affect Mill Avenue.

Looking at his opponents, I’d say he’s got quite a run in front of him. Two thorough politicians in the form of Tempe city councilwoman Linda Spears—serving from 1994 to 1998—and son of past Tempe City mayor and former U.S. congressman Harry Mitchell, Tempe councilman Mark Mitchell.

In a sort of way, it might be interesting to have an entrepreneur rather than a politician in the mayor’s seat for a while; but looking at the sort of path the city has made for Mill Avenue, I’m not sure anyone is going to be ideal for that seat. Truthfully, I’m going to be rooting for Monti because in a lot of ways he’s one of ours.

For good or ill, he’s been part of the Ave for a very long time and although this still divorces him from the day-to-day problems that have been heaped down by the city’s decisions; it also means that he knows some of their effects. It means also that he may have a better boots-on-the-ground strategy for fixing it.

If he wins, I’ll probably be one of the first to park my cab at La Casa Vieja to go in and congratulate him.

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Vex Harrow
Posted: October 14, 2011 at 8:34 pm
Subject: I’m with you, Occupy Phoenix

occupy-phoenix-banner

Tomorrow, Oct 15, Occupy Phoenix will be preparing their occupation of Cesar Chavez Plaza, 201 W. Washington St. I am offering a ride to several of my friends who will be joining you for the occupation event.

These protests have been changing lives for weeks now and it’s obvious that a mark is being made.

I won’t be able to occupy with you—except perhaps for a few hours at a time—but I’ll be with you in spirit.

Stand strong. From another one of the 99%.

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Vex Harrow
Posted: October 11, 2011 at 12:44 pm
Subject: Occupy Wall Street Visits Mill Avenue #OccupyPhoenix #OccupyTempe

occupy-mill-avenue

It looks like Occupy Wall Street has come all the way down to the Sonoran Desert and even visited the red bricks of Mill Ave. Saturday evening a few dozen protestors gathered right in front of P.F. Cheng’s restaurant—you might know it: the spot with all the weird block-shaped artwork sticking out of the ground.

MyFoxPhoenix.com ran a video addressing the protest (however, it cuts off right in the middle of some woman’s speech…) From the article accompanying the video,

A few dozen demonstrators showed up in Tempe Saturday afternoon for an Arizona version of “Occupy Wall Street” protests, and their message was the same as everyone else’s — they want our nation’s damaged economy fixed.

A cry of solidarity could be heard for miles as valley residents readied to “Occupy Tempe” and kick corporate America out.

The group gathered at the intersection of Mill Avenue and University Drive for a street action to raise awareness — a peaceful protest they hope will bring about change.

Occupy meme protests have spread across the entire United States. While the initial protest emerged in New York a few blocks away from Wall Street, I have seen reports of protests at Seattle, WA (#OccupySeattle), Portland, OR (#OccupyPortland), Boston, MA (#OccupyBoston), among many others. One is even planned for Phoenix, AZ (#OccupyPhoenix) that involves a march that will start next Friday, wind through downtown and then finally come to rest and occupy Ceasar Chavez Park.

As I haven’t been able to get down there this week (most of my fares have me driving through north Phoenix lately) I’m not sure if #OccupyTempe is still across from the newly built CVS.

Don’t bring your own chairs people: City of Tempe apparently has an ordinance against it

Recently, a few friends of mine decided to run a D&D session on Mill Avenue–last Friday in fact–according to their accounts, they were approached by three bicycle police officers. They were told that the City of Tempe does not allow people to sit on unaffixed chairs on public property. The officers then went on to also tell a nearby busker with a guitar that he could not use a chair either.

I am told they’d set up three chairs, a table, and some tabletop gaming paraphernalia in front of the US Post Office on Mill Ave and 5th St.

The game continued even after dismantling the chairs and table–although on the ground instead.

For the curious, I’m told that it’s a floating 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons game.

Questioned, one of the participants stated, “We just want to bring a little weirdness to Mill Avenue.” The spokesperson police officer nodded, then responded, “Oh, it certainly doesn’t need any more of that.”

As a fan of Mill Ave, I think the cop in question certainly shows little regard for what is good and proper weirdness.

Does anyone else believe that this police attention to chairs on Mill Avenue—which had not happened to previous D&D sessions with chairs on the Ave—might be part of a reaction to attempting to avoid an Occupy movement to appear in Tempe?

Perhaps the officers have received a memo to be on the lookout for people with chairs and shoo them away (or at least their chairs.)

The timing seems suspicious.

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Vex Harrow
Posted: October 7, 2011 at 10:48 am
Subject: Rain brings delight and prismatic reflections to Mill Ave

rain-on-mill-ave-videoal-570x342

We had a bit of a rain splash down on us this week (following a bit of a dust storm) on Oct 4, 2011. Flickr user videoal got a beautiful photograph of Mill Ave after the rain showing the slick shine on the road reflecting neon lights and headlamps alike.

Rain in the desert is a cleansing experience—it blows away the hard heat of the day, rattled on our windows, and brings a sudden bloom of green to otherwise empty lots and land.

It’s also a little bit dangerous. A multitude of car accidents happen in the first five minutes of a rain when the oil and the dirt pressed into the road makes it slick and slippery. Arizonans aren’t used to rain, they’re bad at driving in it. Increase your stopping distance when it’s raining, people.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been driving my cab and had someone tailgating me on the freeway while it’s raining because I wasn’t driving 10 miles over the speed limit. I know my tires will stop me in time on a wet road—I have a mechanic check them regularly because I’m constantly on the road and it’s a safety issue—and I still won’t drive too close to someone else when the road is wet.

Everyone else: enjoy the rain.

Deserts don’t get a lot of this.

Link, via Flickr.

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