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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Arizona New Year's Wishes

Some words from the wise to help you get the New Year started right!

An old prospector shuffled into an Arizona mining town leading his tired pack mule behind him.  He headed straight for the saloon to soothe his parched throat, walked up to the bar steps and tied his old mule to the hitch rail.

As he stood there, brushing the dust from his clothes, a young gunslinger stepped out of the saloon with a gun in one hand and a half empty bottle of whiskey in the other.  He looked at the miner and said...

"Hey old man, have you ever danced?"

"No, I never did ", said the miner.  "Never really wanted to."

"Well, you're going to dance now", said the gunslinger and started shooting at the miner's feet.

The old man, not wanting to get a toe blown off, stared hopping around like a flea on a hot skillet.  The crowd was laughing and the young gunslinger, out of bullets, turned to go back into the saloon.
The old miner walked to his pack mule, pulled out a double barreled shotgun and cocked both hammers.  The loud clicks could be heard clearly in the desert air.  All the laughing stopped.  The gunslinger faced the miner and dropped the whiskey.
The silence was deafening.

The barrels of the shotgun never wavered in the old man's hands as he said,

"Son, have you ever wanted to kiss a mule's ass?"

The gunslinger swallowed hard and answered, "No sir....but I've always wanted to."

There are a few lessons here, that should serve everyone well in the New Year.

Never be arrogant.

Don't waste ammunition.

Whiskey makes you think you are smarter than you are.

Always, always make sure you know who has the power.

Don't mess with old folks.  They didn't get old by being stupid.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Tale of Two Bags (....purses, not women!)

We drove to Algodones, Mexico again, this time for eyeglasses.  We were lucky.  The right frames practically jumped out at us and even better, they could have the lenses in about three hours.  That meant we only needed to spend a day over the border and could do a fast turn around and be home before lunch the next day.

Having finished with the important business, we turned our attention to finding a purse for Susan.  She has had one bag for over five years.  Just the one.  A little black bag, worn and tired, needing replacement badly. 

But first, we could use a Margarita.

Oh yeah, there they are!  They come with diving boards.

On the way to dinner, Susan spots a handbag and wants a closer look.  Before she can get her hands on it, the peddler yells "Original POLO, only $120 U.S."  Well, it would have to be plated in gold before Susan was going to pay that price, but she sticks around for a few minutes shaking her head, looking unconvinced. The price dropped to $90, then $60.  Actually, at this point, Susan just wanted to leave to get something to eat and headed out the door. 
"For you $27.50 U.S! 
Sold!"  Now we can eat.
It wasn't a Polo, more like POGO, and it's not leather either, as advertised.  Unless there are mutant vinyl pigs rooting around Mexico.

Yep, looks like a Margarita to me.  Lots of salt.
We are discussing the purchases of the day, glad we found the glasses so quickly, and the handbag which seems to be staying in the shopping bag.  It is not being taken out and proudly examined.  Hmmmm?
What's up with that?

I pour my Corona and wonder why I'm not seeing the bag.  She is having trouble committing to it - a new bag phobia.  So, I'll just let it go for now.  Besides, the food is coming.

By the way, I'm not drinking and driving - I'm drinking and walking
back over the border.  No law against that.  I just won't breathe on the Border Patrol.
So, it's been a couple weeks and we still haven't seen the bag.  There is a dinner planned and I ask Susan to bring her bag.  She did.  She didn't actually use the bag, just brought it along.  Well, this required some discussion. 

Gwen (first on left) has more shoes and bags than anyone on the planet and just thinks this in a non issue.
Sandy (second from left) thinks we are all hysterical.
Pat (first on right) who buys bags four at a time, says, and I quote, "Listen, chick.  The bag needs to go - now."
Rita (second from right) is convinced that Susan should just hold the bag now and again to bond with it.  Move into it slowly.
And I (green top) think she has an unnatural attachment to the thing and possibly commitment issues.
Susan is standing her ground.
Of course, this is the night we all think there is a big weird, decorated egg in the wine cellar behind us and are wondering why.  When we get up, we see it is actually a Super Bowl football.  None of us see worth a damn.  So maybe the bag issue is redundant.
Even later and time to see "Straight, No Chaser".  More on that in the next post.  But, get ready!  The bag is making it's debut!
I immediately remark on it's good looks and am very complimentary.
Susan stands her ground.
She fiddles with it.  Snaps it open and shut and starts unzipping things and looking through pockets.  It won't hold her water bottle.  And the sunglasses case is too wide to fit properly. To use the built in organizer in front, the flap has to be snapped.  That's not easy.
Things begin to bulge.

We circle the wagons in support.  THE BAG support group.  We can get her through this separation anxiety.  But wait!  Look at the handle, she says.  Its worn after just a few hours use.  Susan instantly pronounces it crap.

And it is!  It has all the durability of cellophane.

At breakfast the next morning, a triumphant Susan holds "Barbara", the five year old purse she will never give up.  Something that cherished had to have a name, Barbara is as good as any other.

Inside Barbara is the black coin purse from the bag. 
Barbara ate the bag!!!

Susan thinks Barbara looks better with money fanned out.
I think Barbara looks smug.

Susan is just showing off.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hunter S. Thompson

This is not a guy who set good examples.  He had bad personal habits, abused drugs and alcohol, smoked like a chimney, amassed a far from sterling work ethic and couldn't play well with others.  Exasperating, fanciful, incredibly talented, free with opinions, light on facts.  He took a lot of babysitting.  The James Dean of journalism.  He did have.... ability and attitude.

Thompson hailed from Louisville, Kentucky, just an hour and a half from where I grew up in Indiana.  A southern gentleman.  His name was always familiar to me, more as an example of what not to do with my life.  And I was impressionable; just on my way to college.   But by then he was working at Rolling Stone and so he passed from being the transgressor to just plain cool.  Rolling Stone for crying out loud!  The arbiter of all things cool in the 60's and beyond.

His writing style was referred to as "Gonzo Journalism", a first person narrative that took a sharp left turn from objective reality into, well, not so factual entertainment.  It was a great read.  He wrote well and often.  The list of his accomplishments is truly impressive. Yet, the only steady commitment he maintained was an unrelenting hatred for Richard Nixon and George W. Bush.  Wow, what's a gal to do? I fell in love.

Life came careening to an end, suicide, in 2005 after health issues.    But throughout his life, in addition to his other writing duties, he wrote over 20,000 letters and kept carbons. These became the basis of "Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas"  a bible of the 60's counterculture, and "Fear and Loathing On The Campaign Trail '72".  The rest of the letters have been compiled and are due out in early 2011.  I'll be in line.

Bill Murray portrayed Thompson in "Where The Buffalos Roam".  It was a hit.  He may not have been the best idea of a journalist, or a writer, even with that amazing ability.  But there was no one like him.  I keep thinking the world we have now is just full of aluminum siding.  No real identity, no style, certainly no individuals are left.  Real characters are nearly extinct.  We all face a watered down life of something that was once authentic.  Another reason I loved Hunter S. Thompson.

Here is Thompson's job request to the Vancouver Sun.  The man was asking for a job, yet he hated authority figures.

"By the time you get this letter, I'll have gotten hold of some of the recent issues of The Sun.  Unless it looks totally worthless, I'll let my offer stand.  And don't think my arrogance is unintentional; it's just that I'd rather offend you now than after I started working for you.

I didn't make myself clear to the last man I worked for until after I took the job.  It was as if the Marquis de Sade had suddenly found himself working for Billy Graham.  The man despised me, of course, and I had nothing but contempt for him and everything he stood for.  If you asked him, he'd tell you that I'm "not very likable, hate people, just want to be alone and feel too superior to mingle with the average person".  (That's a direct quote from the memo he sent to the publisher.)

Nothing beats having good references"


Did he get the job?  Look it up.  Along the way, you're going to run into someone real.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bryce Thompson Arboretum

This is Paul.

Paul is the go to guy for all things Bryce.  There is nothing this man does not know about the Arboretum and he will make sure you have all the knowledge you need to make your visit memorable.  He has so much information stored in his head, I'm surprised his hat doesn't fly off!  And he is a really nice fellow.  Make sure you find him before you start a hike.

This was my first visit to the Arboretum.  I fell in love immediately.  Head over heels.  The desert is a real attention getter, but this place is drop dead gorgeous.

Come on, grab some coffee, and take a walk with me.

I left Phoenix before dawn.  To get a sunrise shot over the Superstitions, you have to get there before the sun is up.  I thought this was pretty spectacular.

Then I turned around and saw this!

Bryce Thompson Arboretum opens at 7:30 a.m and I wanted to make sure I was there when the sun was still low enough to cast nice shadows.

I have one of these in my front  yard.  Doesn't look this good though.

The is the front of the Smith Center on the upper trail.  In front of this is the Rose Garden.  To the right is a Children's Garden.  The Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden are to the left.  The main trail begins here and is a little over 1 1/2 miles around.  The upper portion is pretty sunny, so that is where you want to be in the morning, before the sun gets serious. 

Don't forget your water.  Let's go.

Yep, vultures.  I have no idea what this rock is named.  I call it "Hitchcock Point".  Seriously spooky birds, but I have no plans on falling down and being breakfast.

See what I mean?  Drop dead gorgeous.  The desert does demand respect though.  Watch were you step and stay hydrated, even here. 
Along the top portion of the trail, where this is, you can go into rougher terrain to the north and explore the Chihuahuan Exhibit, arranged on either side of the Silver King Wash. 

To the north of the trail here is the South American Exhibit.  In the far distance are the Superstitions.  Somewhere up there is the Lost Dutchman Mine.  If you want to try your hand at finding the gold, you had better know what you are doing.  People still disappear up there.

This is a Boojum Tree.  It's one of those really odd living things that you just know had to be around at the beginning of the world.  Arizona skies (where have I heard that before?) really do look like this.

This is Ayers Lake, one of the reasons I'm here.  There are dragonflies around.  Lots of them.  I was so drop jawed amazed by this place, a dragonfly could have easily flown into my mouth.  Sometimes, you just have to sit and be quiet.  This was one of those times. 

Here is a handsome guy.   

This is the former home of Bryce Thompson, who donated the property that became Bryce Thompson Arboretum.  I am almost half way around the trail here and it's getting hot.  I'm looking forward to the shady walk back.

But, the trail will go on for a while before I reach the cool spots beneath those green trees in the distance.

Ever onward.  I just came from the other side of that rock and am headed towards the little hole in the foliage to the left.  And I'm soaking wet.  You just have to love that sky.

I passed the Wing Herb Garden, but was too tired to stop.  Although I haven't hiked far, I've been stopping a lot to take pictures, so I've been at it a while. All along the south side of the trail here is a rougher hike called the High Trail.  At the bottom is Queen Creek, although it is actually a wash.

The old Drover's Wool Shed is here.  I imagine the truck is here to stay.  Nice.  It is very evocative, but it was a hard life.  All around here is the Australian Desert Exhibit.

The shade is lovely.  I have plenty of water and have almost finished 2 liters.  Do not skimp on water.  There are a few water stations on the trail, but it's much better to keep sipping as you go.  You don't want to wait until you actually feel thirsty.

How about an artsy fartsy black and white image!

Don't you just love the light? 

I'm done in for the day.  Time to go back to the Visitors Center and hit the gift shop.   OK, so I'm not that done in.

Here is another image of the Drover's Shed.  This lady is from the Mesa Arts League and was giving a demonstration at the Entrance.  Pretty good, isn't it! 

I came here with the Az. Photographers Club of which I am a member.  We had the best time here.  I'm coming back.  Often.

Bryce Thompson Arboretum
37615 E. Hwy. 60
Superior, AZ. 85273

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Theater Girls - Arizona Broadway Theater

What do you do when you want to see great Theater but don't have anyone to go with?

You start a group called Theater Girls, invite every single person you know, schedule some shows, buy some tickets, arrange some car pools and meet in the front rows.

Here is one of many venues we will visit this season. 
Arizona Broadway Theater

Don't even think about not tapping your feet when you see this high energy classic.  An excellent cast with great singing and dancing talent  provided a rousing performance.

(Photo, Arizona Broadway Theater)
By the time this scene happened, it was hard to stay in my seat.  I wanted to dance!!!  And at the end, we did!  The cast invited the audience to get up and move.  Oh, yeah.  This was great fun.

One of the many accomplishments of this acting company is the uniformly high level of talent.  This extends to the construction of wonderful, movable sets and staging. 

(Photo, Arizona Broadway Theater)
"He Called Me"

From the production of  "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change".  These four actors are constantly in motion, providing a really hilarious look at dating, marriage and aging.  Again, fabulous voices that effortlessly range over all the registers with crystal clear diction make it easy to understand every word. 

These different staging islands allowed for a flexible presentation with minimal changes and transition times.  Tiered table levels provide excellent views of the whole stage from anywhere in the theater.

Speaking of tables, the food is really, really good.  The ABT has a 3000 square foot kitchen and a committed chef.  The dinner choices are tied to the time period of the shows.  How clever is that!

Theater Girls, Pat and Susan, before the show.

Two more Theater Girls, myself and Gerri, looking over the children's program for grand kids.

Give Arizona Broadway Theater a call.
Box Office 623-776-8400
Peoria, Az.

Named "Best Playhouse" 2010
Phoenix Magazine

See you in the front row!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

God Save Arizona

"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards."
Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General
February, 2009
(speech in observation of Black History Month)

Thanks, Ray.
Governor Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Way to go.
Eric Holder has apparently dismissed the affront to the dignity of  thousands of Mexicans subjected to human trafficking across the Arizona border.   Or maybe their ethnicity isn't important to him.
Once more, Arizonans are only opposed to illegal immigration.
Get it?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Historic Guadalupe Cemetery

On three sides of an unpainted block wall stands an older working class neighborhood, it's houses dotted with swamp coolers and satellite dishes.  Cactus and scraggly ironwood trees have grown out of bounds, crossing property lines indiscriminately.  Aluminum chairs with torn webbing share the shaded carport spaces, shoulder to shoulder with faded vehicles sitting on balding tires.  

The fourth side of the wall forms the eastern boundary for a mobile home park. Trailer houses with patched window screens and dented tin siding slouch over rusted wheel wells.  Here they sit and here they will stay, any hint of mobility gone forever.  

Yet, there is no graffiti, trash does not litter the yards and no cars sit up on blocks.   It is very poor, but clean and probably safe.

Between these living arrangements, the gray walls enclose a dirt parking lot and a forest of white crosses that mark the final resting places of those who have given up living altogether.

This is Guadalupe Cemetery
Tempe, Arizona
(clicking on photos will bring them to screen size)

I came here on a white hot day a few weeks ago to see this cemetery reflecting Hispanic and Yaqui Indian cultures, established in 1904.  There were people around so I asked permission to photograph the area, being careful not to include any living person in my pictures.  Also, I was dressed appropriately and moved quietly.  Small gestures are important, I think.  Especially in these spaces. 

Someone thought about this soldier recently; the flag is not yet faded.  Surely his face was brought to mind when the primitive crucifix was made for him.

Even in the early morning hours, the unforgiving sun drove me towards the shady places.  I was heading for the folk art on the back wall.  It wasn't easy. 

There are few orderly rows, convenient right angles or discrete distances between markers.  I kept the backs of crosses immediately to my left, reasoning that I would be at the bottom edge of the grave to my right, only to find that I would end up at an intersection with a grave directly ahead.  So, I would walk the few inches between graves and turn where I thought they ended, refusing to walk over a grave not out of fear, but respect. 

Still I found myself apologizing to people long since dead and beyond caring for stepping on their toes.

When I finally arrived at the back wall, I saw this.

Isn't it wonderful!  So much life and joy.  It depicts El Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead).  Unlike Halloween and it's evil spirits with which it is wrongly associated, The Day of the Dead is a celebration of life.  Life and death are intermingled.  On this day, graves will be cleaned and decorated.  Food may be brought and shared.  Laughter and music will be in the air.

It may make it easier to bear this.

The child's grave is marked by two pots with white stones to hold flowers; one bouquet has blown away.  There are two white ceramic puppies and three Christmas trees here.  It's better not to speculate.

 A child's grave is sad enough.

A doll and a yellow plush kitten look over this grave covered with the  mementos of a young life.  On The Day of the Dead, November 1, the vases will hold fresh flowers and maybe another little gift will have been found to place here.

Not everyone has family to honor their lives, but neither are they forgotten.  The pieces of this cross have been carefully gathered and placed over the flag until The Day of the Dead when a new cross and flag will be erected.  I only saw three broken crosses; they all looked like this, waiting to be renewed.

The town of Guadalupe is named after Our Lady of Guadalupe or in Mexico, La Morenita, depicted here appearing to the Aztec Indian, Juan Diego in 1531.  From then on, Catholicism became an inextricable part of all Central American culture.

This newly placed cross was erected this past April.  The hand painted decoration and carefully filigreed wood is lovely.  The grave is in front of the cross.  The bricks behind it line another grave beginning just inches away.

Just a couple feet away, the same family used this cross fifteen years ago.  It seems to be holding up well.  The wood cutting and hand painting are sealed and the colors remain bright.

Nearby, the Virgin of San Juan overlooks the far eastern part of the cemetery.  Everywhere, the walls have been painted with religious representations.  Effort has been made to show that this is a sacred place and to surround the dead and their visitors with comforting symbols.

Some graves are fresh and tidy with historical information on the cross.

Others have intriguingly little information.
Known only by their given names, these three appear to belong together, possibly brother and sisters?  Among the many graves, some are barely remembered.

And some are forgotten.  My grandmother used to say that you are truly dead when the last person who remembers you dies.  You are then beyond living memory.  This grave will be attended to on The Day of the Dead.  Someone will show respect for an unknown one.  Like other graves, this one will be cleaned, the dirt will be swept up onto the mound and any broken monuments will be replaced or repaired. 

A small bench makes visiting easier.  The simple palm frond roof will provide shade from the western sun.  It is a place to gather and provide ease.  A grave is a sorrowful thing.  But here, death is not overwhelming.  Life is close by.

Some grave sites are newer and much more elaborate, providing ample comfortable seating, shade and more durable masonry monuments.  The deceased is still very much a part of the family.

Whatever the circumstances, all are equal now.  But there is a difference here from most cemetery sites.  This one is visited, routinely.  It is not a forlorn and forgotten place.
Death is part of life.  Traditional marigold wreaths are placed on the crosses to alert the deceased to the attention paid by the living.  A face is brought to mind, a gift is left with love.

Mostly, they remember

(Anyone interested in genealogy will have to apply to the Town Clerk of Guadalupe for information.
Although this cemetery is current, raised mounds do not always indicate recent burials.)