O. Henry was talking about New York City when he said, “It’ll be a great place if they ever finish it.” No word on if he ever visited Phoenix, but he sure could have been describing the Valley of the Sun. Between ripping up the city’s main drag for a light-rail system, the gentrifying of downtown, and university expansion, you have a place that’s struggling to grow up and gain some respect. Call it the Jan Brady of the Southwest.


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750 Northwest Grand Ave., Phoenix
This brightly colored building was once an automobile dealership, which explains the high ceilings and tall windows. Now it offers belly dancing, cult films, improv troupes, and indie bands. (602-262-2020) The Trunk Space (1506 Northwest Grand Ave., 602-256-6006) is tiny in comparison, though the mix of performance artists, live music, and gallery displays is intriguing, as is the image of Geronimo that hangs on the front door. Near the mammoth U.S. Airways Center is the Brickhouse Theater (1 East Jackson St., 602-258-7880), which attracts touring bands like Art Brut, +44, and Gatsbys American Dream. What looks to be a bullet hole in the front window only adds to the backstreet charm.
1502 Grand Ave., Phoenix
Find booze and Bukowskian ambience at this longtime haunt, which opened in 1947. Bamboo, tiki lights, a jukebox, and a kindly bartender that will reject your debit card with a weary smile: The place is cash only. (602-252-0472)

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