By David Leibowitz
Let us speak openly and honestly for a minute about a time-honored Valley conflict, one that stirs 5 million residents’ deepest emotions. It’s a fight not often discussed and yet we all have our preferences.
I’m talking about Ahwatukee and the East Valley vs. West Valley. I’m talking about the suburban comforts of Ahwatukee, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler and Gilbert versus the “we built this 11 minutes ago” feeling of Buckeye, Goodyear, El Mirage and Tolleson.
I’m talking about that horrific moment when you, dweller of points east, realize you must sojourn beyond Central Avenue in Phoenix and into the hinterlands—the avenues!—to what feels like the outskirts of Los Angeles.
I’m talking about the journey I made recently to a golf course in Verrado to play 18 holes with some buddies. The only thing longer than my round full of badly aimed 6-irons and ill-judged putts? The amount of time it took to drive there and back.
This wasn’t a “stuck in traffic on I-10” thing, incidentally. This was a “did you know Verrado is from the Latin word meaning, ‘So far you need to pack a lunch?’” thing.
Along the way, there was plenty of time to muse about why we choose the east side as opposed to the west side.
My working hypothesis, based on 21 years living here? East siders seem to prefer the known and the solid, the name brand over the “next new thing.” West siders seem to like bang for their buck, more square feet for fewer dollars, and the appeal of getting in on the ground floor of a growing movement.
Yes, these are gross generalizations. Yes, I realize the East Valley has new homes going up all the time. And yes, I realize the west side has older, established neighborhoods like Arrowhead Ranch. Again, it’s just a theory.
And yet it has some statistical backing in the form of a study released recently by the finance website Wallethub. They ranked 515 American cities based on “14 key indicators of rapid economic growth.”
The fastest-growing city in Arizona and the fifth-fastest-growing city in all America? Surprise.
I assume the city’s name sprung from the feeling the original settlers got when they caravanned out there and realized Surprise is so far northwest, Lewis and Clark may have discovered the place.
I mean, we’re talking out past Sun City, to a land where people use golf carts not as the Good Lord intended—to carry two angry adults and a cooler full of cold beer—but as a form of public transportation.
My buddy Barrett, a confirmed west sider who recently abandoned life in Surprise for the relative civilization of living near 59th Avenue, for the last five years of our friendship began every phone conversation by saying, “Hey, hang on a sec,” followed by profane screaming at a fellow driver.
His explanation: “Yeah, I’m stuck in traffic again. Why can no out here &%$#ing merge properly? Is that too much to ask, to merge? Just merge, people!”
We who prefer the east side seem unwilling to suffer such aggravation on a daily basis. Generally speaking, Team East Valley members live closer to the region’s center and seem less apt to head to downtown Phoenix for anything but a sporting event or concert. The East Valley has more well-developed amenities, a more mature freeway system and, to this observer, communities that feel more like communities.
Still, the study says more folks are moving to Surprise than ever before.
My thought? Horace Greeley, the guy who said “Go west, young man,” never killed two hours driving out to 200-something avenue and back.
– David Leibowitz has called the Valley home since 1995. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.