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My city hosts Super Bowl XLIX today. From star-studded private parties to the social media protests of #LaserTwitter, here’s what it feels like from the inside-out.

1 Feb

IMG_20150127_210231We are about six hours from the start of the single largest sporting event in the United States, as I type this. This year’s Super Bowl XLIX takes place in Glendale, Arizona, at University of Phoenix Stadium, which is about a 20-minute drive from my house near north Scottsdale.

The past week has seen an influx of hundreds of thousands of out-of-towners into Metro Phoenix, who are here for the Big Game and the countless big parties that come with it. Downtown Phoenix has been one big traffic jam – as the site of Super Bowl Central and the Bud Light House of Whatever, our urban core has been transformed into a giant playground of hype and unconscious consumerism, filled with massive roman numerals that double as digital displays of Grand Canyon panoramics, a building-size football sculpture, half a dozen stages filled with musical acts of every ilk, beer gardens galore (excuse me, BUD LIGHT beer gardens glore), and skyscrapers draped in banners trumpeting the Pepsi halftime show. Scottsdale is the current headquarters of ESPN, and party central as usual, with a glut of star-studded events going on all weekend, from lingerie bowls hosted by Victoria’s Secret supermodels to private parties with red carpets trampled by everybody from Man vs. Food star Adam Richman to actress Alyssa Milano. Glendale, which is typically a borderline-bankrupt ghost town every other week of the year, has even seen some Super Bowl action around the stadium, with body-painted Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots fans milling around the stadium-adjacent big-box bars. It’s estimated Arizona will make more than $500 million from hosting the Super Bowl this year, though the mayor of Glendale has said the city expects to lose about $2 million on the event (more on the saga of how sports are killing Glendale here.)

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Things That Remind Me of Indiana

10 Apr

The Fulton County Courthouse in Rochester, Indiana — a small town in the northwest part of the state, where I lived for a few years (Wikimedia Commons/Tisto).

“There’s more than corn in Indiana!” That’s the advertising slogan and jingle of a water park and “amusement resort” called Indiana Beach. I remember driving by the billboards on remote highways stretching through miles of cattle pastures and corn crops. I never visited the park/resort; maybe that’s why I still associate cornfields with Indiana more than bustling beaches.

I have lived in Phoenix, Arizona for most of my life, but I was born in Indianapolis and I spent most of my teenage years and early ’20s in Indiana, in both the capitol city and a small town near the Michigan border called Rochester (population: 2,000 — and that’s probably an exaggeration). There are things I really miss about the Midwest — vibrant autumn colors dappled through big, fluffy maple leaves; bouncing over country back roads and driving through covered bridges; some wonderful old friends. And occasionally, I’ll see or hear something that reminds me of Indiana — like today, when I heard  “Small Town” (by Seymour, Indiana native John Mellencamp) on the radio. Here are some other things that remind me of the Hoosier State. May I return to visit again sooner rather than later (and preferably not in the winter).

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Tea: My New Addiction

18 Dec

Partial tower of tea and tisanes in my kitchen.

December 18 marks one month since I quit smoking cigarettes. I went from smoking a pack a day to nothing, and people asked me what habit I was going to replace the smoking with – like chewing gum or working out. I do both those things, but my big new addiction is something I rarely even thought about before I quit smoking: hot tea.

Strangely, my fresh obsession is really an accidental side-effect of changing my drinking habits to support my smoking cessation. I immediately stopped consuming beverages I loved to pair with cigarettes (beer, coffee, energy drinks and soda), but I wanted to stave off headaches from caffeine withdrawal. So, I started drinking black tea. Then I started trying other teas, including decaf blends.

Here I am thirty days later, drinking too much tea. I consume a 16-ounce thermos of black tea every morning, and anywhere from three to five more standard-size mugs of various teas throughout the rest of the day. Some sources say that’s great for my health; other says the opposite. Whatever the case, I’ve got four different boxes of tea in front of me right now, and I want to tell you something interesting about each of them.

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Cold Jive Turkey: I quit smoking, and all I got was bitchy

22 Nov

Me enjoying a cigarette, circa 2006

Three days ago, I decided to stop smoking. Cold turkey. When someone asks me how I’m doing with the process, I try to give a glib, upbeat answer. But it’s a pretty complex issue for me. There have been tough moments for me, yes, but it’s still early in my withdrawal/detox and with the exception of a few side effects (which I’ll elaborate on shortly), I haven’t felt nearly as miserable as I thought I would.

I was a pretty heavy cigarette smoker. I usually went through more than a pack a day. Smoking was ingrained in almost every part of my life. I smoked: when I woke up, before eating, while cooking, after eating, every time I got into my car, while driving, before going inside any building, after emerging from any building, while talking on my cell, while walking anywhere, before bed, and countless other scenarios. For almost eight years, I worked at a place where I took smoke breaks with co-workers five to six times a day. I started smoking when I was 13, and there are many photos of me throughout the years in various places with cigarettes dangling from my mouth and fingertips. I loved to smoke. Some people who know me can’t picture me without a cigarette in one hand and an energy drink in the other.

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