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


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. 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


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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Vex Harrow
Posted: September 2, 2011 at 2:51 pm
Subject: Vandalism and Funding Dim Yule Lights Prospects for Mill Ave

mill-avenue-night-lightsMill Avenue is a collision of multiple cultures and a forum for both fun and exchange. We see lots of people gathering who want to visit the bars, stand on street corners, or simply carouse and hang out with their friends. As a result of this mixing of locals and tourists from both Phoenix and the rest of the United States, we see our own share of crime.

Some of that crime, of course, takes the fashion of vandalism.

This happens to be the problem Mill Ave is facing this year regarding the lights that get hung over the Yule season to make the trees look like they’ve been dusted with snow. According to an article in the State Press, Nancy Hormann, president and executive director of Downtown Tempe Community, Inc., spoke in front of a city quality of life council meeting to address the problems vandalism has brought to the red bricks,

“For some reason this past year, we had an amazing amount of vandalism downtown,” said Hormann, referring to the holiday lights on Mill Avenue.

“It was an everyday occurrence with our contractor to fix the lights that went around the tree trunks, and we said we need to do something in order to change the design,” she said. “We had a tremendous amount of trouble when the bars closed … (Vandals) would pull (the lights) out, cut them, (and) take lights out of the sockets.”

Hormann said it cost $3,000 to $4,000 last year just to maintain the lights from vandalism damage.

I like driving down Mill Ave during the winter holiday and seeing those lights on the trees, it reminds me of distant days in the northern US when I experienced fog and light. Arizona isn’t for wont of fog, so much, so instead I use my imagination.

It strikes me that vandalism will happen. It saddens me that it was possible for $4,000 to happen from people just yanking down the lights and fixtures. Yes, most of the population has a tendency to act like toddlers and hang off everything they can—including the lampposts—but there’s no reason to rip down strings of lights wrapped around trees or take a swing at an unlit snowflake.

I am not a fan of The Festival Of Lights.

It’s a gigantic waste of electricity, even if it is essentially a marketing gimmick for APS. Yes, it’s pretty and interesting and brings interest to Mill Ave; however, we could do it much better with other things. In fact, the lights on Mill Ave are themselves expensive to operate and we might want to look into alternatives that use less electrical power for a similar effect.

The General Manager of Blondie’s Sports Bar and Grill on Fifth Street and Mill Avenue, Kevin Rodgers, weighed in on how drunk people behave on Mill Ave. “These people were ripping the decorations down, for no other reason but to be destructive,” he said.

As a result, the city will focus on decorations that are harder to damage.

Problems with vandalism have led Hormann and the DTC to focus clusters of star and snowflake-shaped lighting in the sidewalk tree canopies alone from Rio Salado Parkway to Third Street and Seventh Street to University Drive this year. Swooping lights will hang between Fourth Street and Seventh Street.

“We’re not going to put anything in the trees low enough to reach without a ladder,” Hormann said.

With luck, we’ll see the lights along Mill Ave return on the Saturday after Thanksgiving until they’re extinguished again after December 31. This has been a tradition for Tempe and Mill for the last 20 years.

I’ll see you then.

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Vex Harrow
Posted: August 13, 2011 at 4:22 pm
Subject: “Twilight” werewolf actor Kiowa Gordon arrested in Tempe

embry-call-twilight-sagaI don’t even know why this is news for anyone, but I suppose it’s part of the cult of celebrity that our culture is so tied up in. I tell you what, I have my own celebrities—most of them are dead—but many of them actually sit in my cab time to time and I get to talk to them. As for Mr. Kiowa Gordon, he apparently should have dealt with his DUI rap before running around the state.

According to MTV News, there’s enough truth to the matter of his arrest to comment on it,

“Twilight Saga” actor Kiowa Gordon was arrested in Arizona earlier this week. The 21-year-old was taken into custody by Mesa-area police on the morning of August 8 because of two outstanding warrants, MTV News has confirmed.

Gordon was a passenger in a car registered to him when was apprehended by the Tempe Police Department. Upon discovery of the outstanding misdemeanor warrants, the actor was taken into custody to to the Mesa City holding facility. Contrary to original reports, no new DUI charges were filed against him.

Today I learned that there are misdemeanor DUI charges. I must say, although as a cabdriver I take a lot of drunk people home late at night and end up driving with people still sloshed and on the road, and I’m surprised that there is any DUI charge ever that can be considered a misdemeanor. My understanding of the law is such that I cannot comment on this…but what?

Last I heard, he bailed out of a Tempe jail and received another order to appear.

We also learn that Gordon grew up in Arizona, he’s a Native American actor belonging to the Hualapai tribe, and he’s also a Mormon. He belongs to the same chapter as Twilight author Stephanie Meyer, who deputized him into his role.

He plays a werewolf named “Embry Call”.

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Vex Harrow
Posted: August 3, 2011 at 6:51 pm
Subject: Will We Finally See an End to the Hayden Flour Mill Saga?

It’s been a long low legend for Mill Avenue, the way that the Hayden Flour Mill has lurked on the periphery outside of the scintillating lights of the Ave itself. As a result, it’s something that I have been watching with heavy eyes from through my windscreen for some time now. It’ll be an interesting fact to put this one in the rearview, but first I’m going to have to see where this goes.

The flour mill is our best and brightest historic structure right off Mill Ave between the main drag and the Tempe Town Lake. Constructed in the 1870s, it’s been a strange edifice that has soaked up every sight, sound, and smell of Mill culture—so much in fact, the street itself is named after it. As a historic structure, it’s been defended from the certainty of being crushed beneath the wheels of the Backhoe-of-Progress and has stood there abandoned and derelict for many years.

In fact, when I started taking fares on Mill Ave in my cab, it’s one of the first landmarks I recall using to orient myself.

According to Benjamin Leatherman over at the Phoenix New Times blog, we may be seeing some dramatic changes coming to the old mill within weeks. Decisions that will affect the future of the structure have finally come to fruition and even Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman is talking about it. As such, we can expect a renovation by Valley architect Bill Tonnesen who intends to transmogrify the old mill into a space for events and a Tempe history museum.

Something that I’ve been arguing for since I first put foot on the red bricks.

As one of the oldest and most iconic structures in Tempe, the Hayden Mill has undergone a number of changes in its lengthy lifetime. Constructed in 1874 by legendary Arizonan Charles Trumbull Hayden, the mill ground wheat into flour for generations. It was rebuilt twice in the late 1800s after being destroyed by fire, and functioned as an operating mill until it was closed down in 1998.

Ritzy redevelopment projects utilizing the property were announced in 2001 and 2008, only to be sabotaged both times when the economy tanked.

Besides giving a new lease on life to Hayden Mill, the renovation will also eliminate a blighted and abandoned property along the city’s main thoroughfare. Furthermore, Hallman says it will fix a “dead zone” and help better connect Tempe Beach Park with the rest of downtown.

Amid the attractions that should attach themselves to the newly reconstructed mill, we can expect the Tempe Urban Garden. The garden will move itself from its current location on Forest Avenue and will even include some picnic tables and benches. Perhaps the mill will become a romantic sweet spot for people to pause while moving between the Tempe Town Lake and the Ave proper.

As the place is being turned into a museum, the city expects to leave some of the ancient machinery in place as well as other fixtures as part of the display.

“The goal is to turn it into an operating museum,” Hallman says. “Opening these windows to allow visitors to view inside the building and the historic equipment to show people what’s been going on inside the mill for more than a century.”

There have been numerous attempts to do this to the Hayden Mill in the past, and yet we’ve seen them all fall by the wayside due to politics, economic recessions, and just bad planning. It’s been over a decade since anyone did anything with the structure and it’s about time that we actually set about preserving it.

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Vex Harrow
Posted: July 17, 2011 at 3:39 pm
Subject: What happened to the All Saints Catholic Newman Center?

old-st-marys-churchPeople who frequent the ASU campus and the surrounding area may have noticed that there have been a certain number of changes to our fair city. One of the most striking is that the church on prominent display on the corner of Forest and University suddenly stands alone amidst a dusty hole. The fuming crater is all that’s left of the All Saints Catholic Newman Center—a religious community center and a small church, which has stood there for years.

The church on the corner is a historic building, referred to by Newman Center staff as the “Old Church.” The chapel itself is claimed to be the oldest of its kind in the valley and doesn’t seem to have its own name—actually, it does have a name, “Old St. Mary’s Church” but the name is never used and so it fell out of common usage—thus why it’s referred to as the Old Church. In a way, it’s rather endearing that Tempe has the culture to support a nameless church in our midst, rising from the riven landscape.

According to sources briefly available at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center website the heavy demolition began March 8, 2011 and completed March 18. Early estimates put the expectation that construction would begin March 21—obviously this has not happened as it is already mid-July 2011 and no motion has been made on the site.

It’s hard to tell exactly what’s holding up the construction efforts. Looking through their bulletins and constant calls for donations and charity it seems that perhaps there’s been stagnancy in fundraising. Not that fundraising has stopped, but it certainly has not been able to keep up with expenses piling up as the planning and demolition progressed. In fact, during the demolition plans the discovery of asbestos in the original materials that needed to be removed safely (an expensive prospect.)

The run up to the intended construction project has seen a strange history that has been chipping away at the original funds and left the coffers somewhat bare. Include in this the housing crash of 2007—and the loss of potential investors for the church—that lead to the loss of a huge pledge from a company who wanted to build a dormitory to the tune of $250k. Also, a significant percentage of the original fundraising had come through as pledges from the community and in the wake of the crash people lost jobs or found themselves unable to keep to their pledges.

Further, a political shake up with church management changing the staffing of the Newman Center from Dominican leadership to a different faction has caused a certain amount of animosity from the community. As a result, people familiarly connected with Dominican leadership backed out.

Between the economy and internal politics, and the beginning of the construction, this has thoroughly exhausted their finances and serves as a roadblock to starting as immediately as they hoped.

[Pictured above is the “Old Church” the only remaining structure still standing in the lot that once harbored the All Saints Catholic Newman Center.  As a structure, the Old St. Mary’s Church has been in Tempe for over 100 years. The new chapel and community center are expected to be built up around it without affecting the old city architecture.]

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Vex Harrow
Posted: July 9, 2011 at 4:49 pm
Subject: MADCAP Theaters’ Stay Cool Campaign

madcap-theatersAs of July 3rd, the MADCAP (Mill Avenue District Community Art Project) Theaters have closed up shop for the summer. The reason? They need to upgrade their air-conditioning system. This venue has done an amazing job for Mill Ave in introducing a lot of new and upcoming artists to the street and I’d like to see it stay.

You can help out. Here’s some information about the campaign and what you can do as a resident of Tempe (or anywhere else) to be part of this:

MADCAP Theaters is a nonprofit organization located in downtown Tempe, AZ and opened in 2009. MADCAP was created to give smaller up and coming artists an opportunity to showcase their talents at a fraction of the cost of larger production spaces.

However, being located in a hot, desert, climate, we have run into an obstacle.  The 16 year old building has over 50,000 square feet, 6 auditoriums, two lobbies and two service floors that require air conditioning. Currently the A/C units are not functioning properly which means we cannot create a comfortable environment for our artists and patrons.

This is our 3rd summer duct taping our air-conditioning units together, and with so much potential, we must reach out for community help or MADCAP will need to close indefinitely. In order for MADCAP to operate, we need working A/C, and ask for your help to reach our financial goal.

I’ve been participating on and off in MADCAP since it appeared in 2009. I’m not a huge player, but I’ev enjoyed what they’ve been doing for Mill. However, with them having trouble with the A/C—and I can attest that’s a huge problem with my cab sometimes—this means that we won’t have them until we can get that fixed up again.

They need to raise about $40,000 for replacement parts for their lobby A/C units (about $15,000) each and the large auditorium unit (about $10,000). There are multiple tiers of donations in the “stay cool” campaign that you can take part in—see the web page for details. Some of them amuse me greatly, such as having your name on the THANK YOU posters at the venue.

So far, only $500 has be raised and there’s 62 days remaining.

Link, via IndieGogo; link to

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Vex Harrow
Posted: July 1, 2011 at 2:03 pm
Subject: Snatch and Grab or How Brother Jed Met Vex Harrow


Officially announcing the most recent semi-comical work added to the Vexations arsenal: Snatch and Grab (or How Brother Jed Met Vex Harrow.)

This story continues on immediately after the events of Hadaly’s Day Out from Black Hat Magick (although the site is still offline.) It also shows some of the differences between the storytelling across both of these properties; while they cross universes, Elaine Mercer and Vex Harrow have fundamentally diametric approaches to problems.

People probably recognize Brother Jed as a vituperative Christian mall preacher who visits campuses who uses insults, false shame, sexist remarks, and generally bald-faced hateful opinions to gather crowds and preach his message. Of course, in Vex Harrow’s universe activities such as this come with consequences and those can sometimes be quite damming and damaging.

This from the woman who discovered a portal to Hell in the middle of a lane at a local bowling alley.

Read: Snatch and Grab! and while you’re at it check out “Hello Cory” and No, I Do Not Want Fries With That.

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Vex Harrow
Posted: June 18, 2011 at 6:53 pm
Subject: Black Hat Magick: Tango Down

Black Hat Magick's server let the magic smoke out so the website is down.

I was just informed by Elaine Mercer from the Black Hat Magick Detective Agency that their website has gone down. As told, the problem seems to be one that her server crashed. From what I understand, servers are very important to geeks; I imagine she feels like one of her arms has been cut off at the moment.

I know how I feel when my ride is in the shop—or, as Gary calls them, my “chariot.” currently works, but you’ll find a landing page informing you that the story is gone at the moment (and why.) I’m told you should try reloading the page a few times and see what happens.

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Vex Harrow
Posted: May 9, 2011 at 12:00 pm
Subject: Hadaly’s Day Out feat. Brother Jed (Part I) on Black Hat magick

If you didn’t notice, today is the first day of the Black Hat Magick and Mill Avenue Vexations crossover fiction.

You can catch the very first part right now, go ahead, check it out and leave a comment.

Tell us who your favorite character is.

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