Wayne Michael Reich

Writing ∙ Photography ∙ Art

Yuma and Back Again PT.1 (An Artist’s Tale)

“The critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic.” – Oscar Wilde

Hello Blogiteers!

From the quote above, I guess it’s obvious that we’ve taken a slight detour from my ongoing series regarding the Phoenix Art Scene, wherein I have been offering gentle and kindly advice for the three subgroups that comprise our so called culture: Patrons, Galleries, and the Artists.

Now,  this blog was supposed to contain some temperate suggestions for my fellow tribesmen the Artists, but due to a promise that I made several months ago, that particular slice of snark will have to wait to be served.

Don’t worry, kids.I will get back to picking apart the fairly obvious as soon as possible, but I have a few things I need to get off my chest first, and for a change- they’re gonna have a positive spin. Very positive, in fact. I know…  I shock even myself sometimes.

Some time ago, I wrote a blog called “On the Road with Amy & Claire. (With apologies to Bing and Bob)” as a reaction to yet another steaming pile of elitist condescension that was published online as well as in the print edition of our local Pennysaver with Porn, AKA: the Phoenix New Times.

Co-written by PNT’s Managing Editorzilla Amy Silverman, and her preferred pet Claire Lawton, it was a so-called travel review of the City of Yuma, and if one was to diplomatically affix a description to their narrative, they might be tempted to label it as extremely one sided.

Other adjectives I might use to describe this review could be: unwarranted, vicious, xenophobic, ageist, and deceitful, but I think the worst sin of all is that it just seems so obviously pre-written to many of those who’ve read it. Read the link below, and then make up your own mind. Go ahead… I’ll wait.
[NT Link: http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/jackalope/2011/03/a_sense_of_yuma.php]

As I noted in my “Character Study Part Deux” blog, this article generated close to 100 comments when it appeared in the “print” version of New Times, but when previously available on the “web” only, it garnered over 300.I t also created an uproar in Yuma, where shockingly, the community didn’t appreciate some of the elitist and ignorant generalities stated about their hometown.

Of course, this prompted New Times to do what they do best- double down on the controversy. So they reprinted the whole slander in the weekly print version, preceded by this statement:

 “Editor’s note: A March 11 post on our culture blog, Jackalope Ranch, got so much attention in Yuma- a front page story in the Yuma Daily Sun, airtime on the NBC television affiliate, talk of a billboard in downtown Phoenix- we decided to share it this week in print.”

They decided to “share” it… ain’t they just the sweetest? Naturally, I just had to respond on the PNT forums by posting the following: “Close to 300 comments blasting New Times on the original post wasn’t enough of a “hint” for Editorzilla and her loyal pet- they needed to do it one more time.

Not a statement or an apology, this reprint is nothing more than an arrogant stand against an increasingly dissatisfied readership base who has been complaining vehemently as of late, due to the lack of quality writing, inaccurate reporting, and unprovoked attacks on the people, communities and culture of Arizona.”

So as you can imagine, some major heat came New Time’s way, and how did our terrible twosome explain themselves? In a statement to KSAZ FOX News TV 10, they explained their arrogance with this craven backpedal: “Our issue is with Sunset Magazine, not Yuma. Yuma is what it is. While it might be a nice place to live, we haven’t ever viewed it as a tourist destination and after visiting last week, we still don’t.” – Claire Lawton and Amy Silverman, Phoenix New Times”

Hmmm. Something rings false here… what could it be… I know- other than the fact that Amy Silverman uncharacteristically gives Claire top billing, shades of her thrown under the bus future perhaps, maybe it’s the small fact that the article only seems to directly insult Yuma, and NOT Sunset Magazine?

Go ahead. Read the article again, and see what I mean. Some days it’s like shooting moose in a barrel with these people- just when I think that Amy and her flying monkeys couldn’t possibly do anything more asinine, it’s like she drives up in her bedazzled wannabe wagon and unloads a whole bunch of beautifully wrapped gifts at my doorstep.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say she just really wants me to do well, which is more than I can say for New Times’ recent overall health. Recently, Village Voice Media [NT’s Parent Company] issued layoffs across the board, resulting in the firing of one of my favorite reporters and the virtual hamstringing of another in regards to what and how much they could write.

But there are even more intrinsic problems within the unhappiest Queendom on Earth…

The tablet size is getting smaller, the ads are getting more numerous, and the writing keeps getting exponentially worse, as the writing staff now only has three full time reporters [there used to be twelve] and the balance is comprised of a mixture of inexperienced interns, somewhat practiced freelancers, and totally green bloggers.

Did I mention that the print edition of NT is also starting to read like a blog? Not like this one of course, since the majority of my readers are capable of reading beyond a paragraph or two, and as an aside- when I write something funny, I don’t have to subtitle it as “humor” under the byline, like NT has to do in regards to their website.

That can’t speak well of the quality of your content when you have to tell your readers the nature of what they’re about to read. To be fair however, sometimes that’s the only way you can differentiate between the articles. One might tend to think that all those Arizona Press Club Awards that NT likes to brag about so much aren’t really helping, since overall- principled journalism is seemingly dying on the vine.

Hastened by the erosion of corporate ethics, most newspapers these days pander to the lowest common denominator in favor of profits over substance. Case in point: Amy and Claire’s road trip to Yuma, fueled by acidic spite and undeserved elitism.

As a rule, I tend to see things in black & white- it’s just the way I’m wired, and taken as a whole, it keeps my life fairly uncomplicated, which is just the way I like it. But after visiting Yuma, it would seem I owe Amy Silverman a very sincere apology.

Sure, in the past I’ve referred to her as “Editorzilla” and stated that she a was a “c**k juggling thunderc**t”, along with saying that she might possibly own a Dalmatian farm just so she’d have puppies on hand to eat, but I might have been a tad bit hasty in my assessment of her character.

To be brutally honest… I was just dead wrong about Amy. If truth be told, I think I may have completely underestimated her, and missed the proverbial mark by miles. After spending three days and two nights in Yuma, and using my own experiences as a baseline for comparison, I can only conclude the following:


Boy… is there egg on my face or what? More often than not, yours truly is really good at pegging people correctly, so you can just imagine how embarrassed I’m feeling right now. It’s downright mortifying, let me tell you. After all, while it’s one thing to suspect that someone might have a few issues, it’s quite another to know for certain that you’ve been dealing with a fully stocked magazine stand right from the start.

Writing about a meeting I endured with her once, I described the ending of my unfortunate encounter with the tongue in cheek description of: “when you’re that close to crazy”, but this off the cuff depiction is somewhat inaccurate, I’m afraid. It would be more apt to claim that  rather than having a few screws loose, all of Amy’s are seemingly fastened way too tight. As regular readers of the ol’ PNT know by now, there’s a consistent tone leveled at the city of Phoenix, and it isn’t one of friendliness.

The Pennysaver with Porn that Amy is slowly death-spiraling into the ground is blatantly hostile towards the community it conducts business in, and it all stems from the personal sense of failure and self loathing that she carries, and then dumps on us. But like most craven bullies, one victim wasn’t enough to satiate her Ego, and she needed a new one to go bitch slap.

Scottsdale? Too rich to pick on. Tempe? Nope- that’s a good chunk of their advertising base, so they’re hands off… for now. Mesa? No one would care, and she needs that controversy to drive up ad revenue. Flagstaff? Too pretty and popular, in my opinion. Tucson? Possibly the same reason as Mesa, or maybe she just hasn’t gotten around to it yet.

So what major city was left that could stir up the controversy she required, and yet be far enough away so as not to negatively impact their ad revenue? The answer for Amy’s dilemma came courtesy of Sunset Magazine in the form of a travel article about Yuma.

And thus begins our tale. During the initial firestorm over NT’s article, I received the following E-mail from Ann Walker, Media Director of the Yuma Tourism Board:

“Hello dear Artbitch,

I know that Our Fair City has come late to the party — dragged kicking and screaming courtesy of the so-called “review” of Yuma by Amy and Claire — but I just wanted to let you know that we are, in fact, in attendance.

The local paper is writing a story about this little dustup tomorrow … we’ll see where that leads.

In the meantime, be sure to let me know if you plan a visit.  I’ll be happy to take you out for warm beer, cold food and lousy art.

Ann A. Walker
Media Relations Specialist

Now with an invite like that, how could I resist? And thus, a three day vacation was planned, to which of course, Editorzilla was invited. Thrice. Shockingly, she didn’t take me up on it, despite my generous offer that she could stick her head out the window the whole way. To add insult to injury, she also posted on NT’s FaceBook page that I “really wouldn’t go”, which I find rather hypocritical, for reasons I’ll get into later.

So, um… Amy? Nee. Nee. Nar. Nar.   😛

I went, I stayed, I enjoyed, I relaxed by a crystal clear pool, the same one that Amy depicted as being green in her article. And as an homage, I walked the path of my favorite hack Editor, retracing her steps that were laid down in the NT article. Along with my pilgrimage, I also made a point to go off the beaten trail and see what Yuma was really like. In other words, unlike Amy and Claire- I actually made a conscious effort to see what was outside the comfort of my air conditioned rental car.

Because while I may be caustic, I believe in being fairly honest, and that particular quality gets me into more trouble than anything else, since at the end of the day, I’d rather be right than liked. My belief has always been that the only thing that people will truly remember you for is your depth of character, so you’d better make yours a good and solid one. Three guesses as to what I think Amy’s just might be.

In the interest of full disclosure, when I was invited to visit Yuma by Ann Walker, the only thing I knew of the city was what I had seen in Westerns playing on late night TV. There may be a chance that some of that information might be a tad bit incorrect.

However, I didn’t know that several of my favorite films had segments filmed there, among them Stargate, Spaceballs, Tank Girl, and of course… Return of the Jedi, which brings up a special aside to George Lucas: if I ever meet you, you’re getting punched in the face for that whole Ewok subplot…

While I was armed with all that obviously relevant information, my GF Ashley and I still had no idea what to expect as we picked up our rented Nissan Versa (s’ok) packed with all the luggage, snacks, and sandwiches the back seat could hold (lots) and headed out on our three and a half hour drive. So for the sake of clarity, I’m going to compare the NT article against our experiences in Yuma, and let’s start with the first thing we did: checking out the local lodging.

In the NT article, Amy and Claire wrote the following: “Now, if someone would rehab the Hotel del Sol on Third Street, just a couple blocks off Main, that would be something special.  The place, built in the 1920s in a Spanish Colonial Revival style looks like it put Tucson’s Hotel Congress to shame back in the day. It’s been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, but it’s also boarded up and abandoned, leaving the Best Western as pretty much the only choice for lodging. “

While I agree with the sentiment about the Hotel del Sol, as it is an amazing building; I have to call bulls**t on the rest, due to a few glaring omissions. The Best Western was the only choice for lodging? Hardly.

Other than the fact that a 28 room Hotel is less than ½ a block away and it’s sign and facade are CLEARLY visible from the Hotel del Sol, Amy and Claire somehow missed it. Originally, built to service the railroad engineers working in Yuma, it has been owned by the same family for over 75 years, and it’s caretaker is named “Red” a very nice man who filled me in on it’s history.

But there’s one more fact the NT article doesn’t tell you- as of 10/15/2011, Tripadvisor.com lists 35 hotels in the Yuma area, many of which are National Chains, such as Hilton, Motel 6, Clarion, Radisson, etc., five of which had signage that was highly visible from the Interstate.

Seriously- I discovered six just walking around, so the obvious question would have to be: how much research did our dimwitted duo actually attempt before they left Phoenix, or was this just a convenient omission of facts? I’ll let you be the judge of that, I think. Ask questions, you learn stuff. Guess that was never taught in the journalism class both these faux news-gals took.

I don’t buy the description of the Best Western, either: “Even if Bob Hope did slumber there once upon a time, we never will. We couldn’t get past the green pool.

Since I’ve already pointed out one falsehood, let me move on to another possible one. Yes, Bob Hope DID stay at the Best Western Coronado, even NT can get one actual fact right every now and then, but if that pool was green, then I’m a tiny ballerina. We stayed at the Coronado for the duration of our visit, and from the rooms to the parking lot- that place was clean with a capital “C”. A personal insight: I happen to be a neat freak, and I couldn’t find anything wrong with this hotel. At all.

Co-owned by the delightful Yvonne Peach, the Coronado boasts an excellent and informative staff, fluffy towels, free internet, super comfy king size bed, well appointed room with kitchenette, amazing bathroom with a waterfall shower head attachment, and much to the delight of my Historian GF, an onsite Museum featuring the history of the BWC (very cool) and as I said earlier- a crystal clear swimming pool.

[Info- http://www.bwcoronado.comor call: (928) 7834453, you’ll be glad you did.]

Considering the source, I’m gonna grant this one a pass based on the question of integrity alone. Given Amy’s travel sensitivity, I’m starting to think that she would go to Disneyland and complain that there’s a six foot tall rat just walking around the park with seven freakishly tiny men. Now, after checking into our suite, Ashley and I took some time to catch a quick nap before heading out to have dinner at yet another place that Amy and Claire panned, The River City Grill.

Located less than two blocks from the BWC, Amy and Claire summed it up as thus: “we drove around town in search of the River City Grill, another Sunset recommendation. When we finally found it (we don’t think this is a neighborhood Sunset’s readers would want to venture in after dark, or even in the light) the place was manicured and cute enough, by Yuma standards.
The food – described in the magazine as “eclectic with the spices” – was edible. But barely worth driving a few blocks, let alone a few hundred miles. The River Wrap, the “owner’s favorite,” was huge and well-plated, but bland.

And the promised curry flavor in the chiken dish we ordered was just okay. Blame the place’s clean, yet very Pier One atmosphere for its reputation as the City’s “cool” restaurant.”

Once again, there are a few observations that I need to correct. Hey Dimwits… ever heard of Google Maps? Despite the fact that the RCG is less than TWO BLOCKS away from the BWC, our wretched “Tourons” had to drive all over town to find it. Ashley and I took all of three minutes to zero in on the location by doing this wacky thing called “asking somebody”. I know. Sometimes we’re just too damn clever for our own good. It’s a curse.

Granted, I know that being from NYC might give me a slight edge in surviving your average urban jungle, but there was NOTHING remotely unsafe in regards to the community that surrounds the RCG. Overall, it was no different than walking down Roosevelt Row on an average Saturday night, begging my curiosity at what exactly freaked out Amy and Claire that bad- the surrounding area was quiet, clean, and completely devoid of any skeezy atmosphere.  

If there was a problem, Ashley and I didn’t notice it, and I would surmise that neither did they. I’m not calling them liars, I’m just suggesting that they make stuff up. Perhaps it was the mind numbing fear of the imaginary that drove them over the edge that night. When it comes to eating out, I am one picky Artbitch. God help you if I’m disappointed, because I will complain a great deal, if I think it’s justified.

To be completely fair, I do understand that restaurants can go off the rails every now and then, but when Ashley and I dined at the RCG, they were hitting nothing but grand slams that night.

From the appetizers to our main course, every note was perfect. Excellent quality, first-rate presentation, and remarkably reasonable prices, and the wait staff was outstanding, to boot.

Asking rather disingenuously whether it was worth driving a few hundred miles to eat there is not really a fair question, in my humble opinion. No reasonable person would drive 3 ½ hours for a meal that they could possibly get in their hometown, nor would they be expected to.

Having said that however, I think the RCG is an exceptional first choice for dining when one is vacationing in Yuma, and it comes with the Artbitch stamp of approval. When I return, it will definitely be on the menu again. And speaking of which, it’s spelled “chicken”, not “chiken”, and I know I’m splitting gnat hairs, but does anyone at NT actually bother to proof read the articles before they’re published? I’m sorry- I know it’s just the OCD talking, but this kind of causal sloppiness just aggravates the hell out of me.

With all due respect, in reference to their assessment of the decor, would Amy and her hipster pet Claire ever allow themselves to be caught dead inside a Pier One? I seriously doubt it. If one were to be honest, the apt description of RCG’s interior would fall more under the description of funky, rather than the corporate blandness that has been ascribed to Pier One.I for one, thought it was pretty cool.

But then again, I have a sense of style. It came as a package deal with my intelligence.

Sadly, I didn’t get to check out the other two restaurants named in the article, Das Bratwurst Haus and Lute’s Casino. Not because I couldn’t find them, but because when I did, I was stuffed full to the gills from eating everywhere else. While I was exceedingly curious about trying the hot dog/hamburger sandwich served at Lute’s, when it came right down to it- I choked like one of our local sports teams. Next time when I go, I  promise to put on my big boy Underoos and just wolf that sucker down.

But not until I get the all clear from my cardiologist, of course. Moving on… so, after some fine dining, Ashley and I took a brief stroll around the downtown area noting various things to check out the next day. Rising early, we had breakfast at The Landing, a cool airplane themed local restaurant, and then went and checked out the main tourist attraction, the Yuma Territorial Prison.

Seated on a commanding bluff overlooking the broad Colorado, the prison was nicknamed “Hell on Earth” by it’s inmates, but dubbed the wryly sarcastic “Country Club of the Colorado” by the local townspeople for the fact it had one of the early electrical generating plants in the West which furnished power for lights and ran a ventilation system in the cellblock.

Schooling was available for convicts, as well as a hospital, and it housed one of the first “public” libraries in the territory- the fee charged to visitors for a tour of the institution was used to purchase books. Usually, I’m not real big on doing History type stuff, but I have to admit that it was very interesting, especially when you get to go check out the native stone and Iron barred cells for yourself.

From the perspective of someone who suffers from claustrophobia, I’m amazed more people didn’t go mad. Two minutes was about all I could take in the infamous Dark Cell, and the reality of a prisoner once spending 141 days inside is just amazing to me, especially when the cell would house as many as the jailers could shoe horn into it’s suffocating interior.

Educational fun for the whole family, and all in all- a rather enjoyable way to spend an early morning, considering I’ve spent my entire life trying to stay out of prison.Since we are escaping,  this seems like the best place to take a break for now.

And when we come back…a walk to remember, ice cream, artsy stuff, historical stuff, and a choo-choo train

Yes, I said a choo-choo train. How’s that for a cliff hanger?

“Reporters no longer ask for verification, thus they print charges no matter how outlandish they may seem, and once having done that, when the truth comes out, it’s buried in the back page or never makes it on the air at all.” – Dixie Lee Ray