Sunday, July 12, 2009 2 comments

Viva La Revolución

"You're not going to have a revolution if most people feel they're making out pretty well." [Quinn, My Ishmael, 1997]

Last week, I suggested that being forced to give up some luxuries may actually make us happier, healthier (and dare I say...well-adjusted and popular) people. Up til now, though the economy was based on projection - not reality - it worked out reasonably well for most of us. Now the tide has changed, the revolution of healthy frugality has begun, and we are able to demand more of ourselves and world - and find ways to enjoy life and connect with one another in places not punctuated by money and possessions.

Yesterday, I visited Liberty Market in Gilbert - home of a $2 plate of the best roasted sweet potato and curry salad this side of my kitchen. The relaxed, urban atmosphere of the market, restaurant, and bar (JP should add this place to her list of "slashy" local businesses) boasts of delicious eats - most of which are under $8 - and a healthy selection of espresso beverages and a beer and wine list that could reek of pretentiousness but surprisingly does not.

It is places like this and events like CreateLive AZ (hosted here - sorry I missed it!) that exemplify the connection we are hungering for. Inexpensive, unique experiences that feed our stomachs and souls -

Thankfully, if you are willing to look, these opportunities do exist in our community and are growing daily: From Twitter @PhoenixNewTimes: What Laura Says (local band featured on NPR last year!) And Free Ice Cream At Heard Museum Friday. See? Art, Music, and Food - what more do you need?

Along with AZ Central and The New Times, there are lots of great sites featuring free and inexpensive events. A few standouts I found:

- Free Breakfast Weekend at Ikea July 18, 19. Swedish pancakes, anyone?
- A personal favorite from my go-to expert on good music, EastonAshe performs Friday at O'Donoghue's Irish Pub in honor of St. Practice Day: a not-so-dry run of the pub's St. Paddy's festivities.
- Check out the Michael Easterday Band at San Tan Flat, where the opportunity to roast marshmallows under the stars is almost worth the drive itself. Almost.
- For celebrity sightings, Trader Vic's in Scottsdale is celebrating their anniversary this month - and guess what? It's free to get in.
- July has a jazz jamboree, and a cribbage tournament and way too many other options to mention here. Just mouse-around: maybe you'll find a new favorite cheap and easy Bingo-and-Open Mic-and-Wine Tasting- Night Hike. Or something.

The Roommate and I recently investigated the how-to's of The Culture Pass, the Piper Trust's gift of art and culture to Valley residents. A fact I didn't know: picking up one pass at the library does not grant access to all participating venues for two weeks. Instead, after visiting two separate area libraries we were able to scrape the bottom of the barrel (which turned out not to be the bottom after all!) for a one-time use pass to Mesa Contemporary Arts. We also learned of the venues offering discounts at various times throughout the summer without a pass. All frustrations with the lack of selection at our chosen libraries aside - we had lots of fun!

A few other of my favorite cheap dates include seeing not-yet-on-dvd movies at the Tempe Cinemas, First Friday Art Walk in Phoenix, Fourth Friday Art Walk in Mesa and taking the light rail to meet friends for one of the many happy hours and freebies featured here, here, and here.

Use your imagination, and let the revolution begin.

P.S. For my non-AZ readers: I encourage you to seek out your community's own free gifts. Try local and alternative newspapers... and know that you might have to go outside your city limits for an adventure; take Sedalia, Missouri and the Wheel Inn, home of the $3.50 Guberburger meal for example (Thanks Adam - I'll never forget my first Guberburger).
Friday, July 3, 2009 3 comments

Cheap and Proud of It

Just what will the impact of The Recession on our generation be? Experts predict an end to our financial woes sometime this year. This is good news right? This means job security, the stabilization of the housing market, lower gas prices, and no more stay-at-home-vacations! I for one cannot wait for the day when I don't pray that my card won't be declined every time I hand it over to a waiter who knows without asking that "no, I won't be ordering dessert tonight."

We all hate sacrifice. And why shouldn't we? Sacrifice and compromise are things that the majority of our baby boomer parents have made sure we haven't had to consider. We're the tee-ball generation where everybody wins, enough is never enough, and keeping up with the Jones'? Please! They keep up with us!

And yet...I have more than one friend who swoons over Dennis Haysbert in recent AllState commercials when he intones what we have learned this year - namely, (to paraphrase) meatloaf and Jenga can be as good as steak and a set of box seats. Target follows suit with their Brand New Day spot where consumers happily replace their cars with bicycles, their gym memberships with exercise balls, and hold off on family room remodels, opting instead for backyard tents. Likewise, anyone who has been to Starbucks recently will confirm: lines are longer than ever. Interestingly, sales are down. Why? The $4 iced latte has become a $2 iced coffee with milk. I was in Kansas City recently and couldn't help but notice in the bathroom of an old roommate who, although he makes plenty of money, has switched from salon shampoo to a drugstore brand. Hmmm. Wonder if he notices a difference.

So what will happen on this vague day in the future when the cloud of corporate corruption finally lifts, earned raises actually get given, and expendable income begins to live up to its name again? Maybe our newfound frugality will ebb like the intense patriotism that was prevalent in the days following September 11, 2001. Maybe we'll all reinstate our standing appointments at the nail salons, trade in our sensible vehicles for the newest hybrid hummers, and once again congregate with our fabulous friends in rooftop bars sipping $12 cocktails.

Maybe. Or maybe not. I've found that I actually LIKE iced coffee with milk, that my nails don't actually look that bad when I do them myself, and as for the rooftop bar? My friends tend to rave for days about the fun we have when we stay in for "bring your own beer" game nights. Is it possible that the recession might actually be (godforbid) good for the health of our generation, and not just our pocketbooks?

"Your Ad Here" ... and Here ... and Here ... and Here." Driving through Missouri last week, I was accosted with blank billboard after blank billboard advertising... well, advertising. Clearly marketing dollars are being spent elsewhere. Bad for the the billboard business, but good for... the view? Instead of reading about casino buffets and new checking options, I got to concentrate on conversation with my traveling companion and the gorgeous green rolling hills around us. It got me thinking - could this recession actually weed out industries that clutter our landscape and pollute our senses? What would our country (and world) look like if we put more emphasis on "I got it at a thrift shop!" than "He went to Jared." Some places, like Kansas City International Airport are embracing a culture of cheap. Could we come out of this economic landslide and actually live better, fuller, more meaningful lives? Is it possible? Is it likely? Lets say Yes - and make it happen.