Absurdly high rents in North Dakota, feral chihuahuas, and "meth" candy in Albuquerque.
THE HOUSING MARKET
If you're paying $4,500 per month in apartment rent, you'd expect to have a great view, wouldn't you? Perhaps the red towers of Golden Gate Bridge rising majestically from the fog? Or joggers in beautiful Central Park, far below your penthouse suite? These days, however, a high-priced apartment is just as likely to overlook rows of doublewides on the wind-blown prairie, with the towers of distant drilling rigs looming through the snow.
Williston, N.D., now has some of the nation's highest rents, rivaling even San Francisco and Manhattan. And not because Aspen's bored amenity migrants are flocking to some hot new artisan toast purveyor in the hinterlands of the Peace Garden State. Rather, the Roughrider Country has high-paying jobs for roughnecks, causing the laws of supply and demand to twitch as if they were jacked up on oilfield methamphetamines.
"$$$Tired of Wasting Money? Want out of the man camps?" one Craigslist ad asks. A mere two grand will rent you a sprawling 250-square-foot apartment. Or try a "Luxury Cabin" – all 480 prefabbed square feet of it plopped down in an RV park – for $2,850. One ad promises the North Dakota Housing Solution, which is a sort of pop-up house: "If your job requires you to move on down the pipeline, simply fold it back up and move it." Of course, you'll still need a place to put it, and RV lot rent isn't peanuts, either: $795 per month.
A meander around Craigslist reveals other Williston-area cultural nuggets. The "casual encounters" section is as raunchy as anywhere, and there appear to be far more men looking for men than seeking a heterosexual hookup. And in the "rants and raves" section, one exchange seems to be on a repeating loop. Someone from, say, Kansas City, asks: Are there really a lot of jobs up there in the oil fields? And a local chirps: Yup, and you'll rake it in, but then you'll lose all your money to landlords, local retailers and car repairmen, and "you will be stuck here and probably as broke as you were at home. Oh, and bring a woman with you."
Oh, Arizona, where does a columnist of quirk even start, given the bounty within your borders? There are the state legislators, of course, who passed an anti-gay bill last month, prompting a massive backlash from activists and business leaders. Even the National Football League threatened to yank next year's Super Bowl out of a Phoenix suburb, making it the second NFL championship lost to Arizona bigotry; the first was in 1993, when the state refused to recognize Martin Luther King Day. One pizzeria posted a sign: "We reserve the right to refuse service to Arizona legislators." But Gov. Jan Brewer ultimately vetoed the bill. Undaunted, lawmakers immediately took up an anti-abortion bill, along with a bill to quash wolf recovery in the state.
Despite their energy, though, legislators somehow overlooked their state's notorious feral chihuahuas. When word broke that herds of the tiny, slavering, bug-eyed dogs were roaming Phoenix's Maryvale neighborhood, the media pounced on it like a bacon-scented chew toy. The story snowballed, and websites – some with stock photos of teeth-baring pups – reported that chihuahua packs, 12-strong, were "terrorizing" children – even recruiting larger dogs to join. (We can imagine the kind of gang sign involved.) A curious Phoenix New Times reporter investigated; alas, he found just one chihuahua in the 'hood, and it was confined in a yard.
Actually, Phoenix is grappling with another kind of dog problem: Turns out its law enforcement canines are just a little too nice. The Arizona Republic reports that local cops have had to transfer dogs because they're too polite to bite bad guys.
Popular parts of Zion National Park were closed recently during a "helipoo operation" in which waste from portable toilets was airlifted to a disposal facility. … The National Park Service rejected a request by pop-group Daft Punk to play a concert next to Devils Tower in Wyoming. … A trout farm in rural Utah is shipping its high-end caviar as far as Great Britain. … And even though the meth-themed television series Breaking Bad is over, the boost it brought to Albuquerque, N.M., where it was filmed, endures. A visitor can take a BaD Tour of filming locations, buy "meth" candy in little bags from the Candy Lady – who sells erotic candy, too – and even "cook" Bathing Bad bath salts at a local spa.
Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write firstname.lastname@example.org.