Phoenix – Day 4

14 03 2012

I know, I know… you were just chomping on the bit wanting to know what we did on the fourth and final day of our Phoenix trip, weren’t you?

Well – we didn’t fly out until around 6pm, so we pretty much had the whole day to enjoy the suddenly much warmer weather. I reckoned it was about 28°C in new money. A marked hike in temperature from the rest of our trip. Just in the one day I got a touch of brown, so it was pretty warm. Of course – being in the desert with no hat and precious little hair didn’t help. In the end, we decided to head NW from Mesa and visited the Desert Botanical Garden, as already mentioned elsewhere.

Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix

I really was not prepared for just how green and varied the cacti were. The gardens are very well laid out with butterfly gardens and displays of First Nation shelters and things for the kids to do like making paintbrushes out of yucca leaves. The time flew by and we easily spent four hours there. There was some pretty tame wildlife around too, and I saw a ground squirrel as well as a wannabe gila monster. OK… it was really just a little gecko thing, but it had dreams, man, dreams! As in the logo, the flower spikes on the agave could be huge. Some were easily 10′ or 15′ tall. Some of the cacti had really interesting names like “octopus cactus” or “hedgehog cactus”, but some looked really creepy, like they were really animals that were just playing “statues” until the people went away and they could slither off again.

Phoenix – Day 3

8 03 2012

So we’re half way through the trip now. Day 3 we decided to hike the famous Camelback Mountain. We were totally unprepared for what we found though. Not the hike itself. It looked rugged, but pretty straightforward. What we weren’t prepared for was that the mountain rose straight up in the middle of a top-shelf housing estate. The kind of estate that has its own police force to enforce all those no parking signs. The area had been privately owned for a period, and during that time the lower reaches had become very expensive properties. The rest of it had been wrested back into the public realm, but there were no parking areas except those jealously guarded streets. It was heaving with people even at 9:30am. Most people looked like walking Lululemon adverts, which is why I suspect the hike was all about being seen there, rather than any great achievement.

Anyway – long story short – we drove around some very desirable streets, then gave it up as a bad job, and headed to Scottsdale to check out the shops. I was quite proud of this interior shop which “froze” the water curtain there.

Water curtain in Scottsdale mall

After lunch we headed out for a walk in one of the park areas in Mesa itself. This was basically an urban park on the banks of a water feature which I guess allowed for drainage during flash floods. The houses were well positioned, and many had little boats for pottering around the water on. Quite twee really. Orange trees were in much evidence, and Mrs Elephant was sorely tempted to acquire fruit from the overhanging trees. I pointed out that Arizona allowed people to protect their property with guns, and the temptation was thereafter short-lived.

Phoenix – Day 2

6 03 2012

So day two in Phoenix was a trip planned before we’d left BC. A trip to the Tonto National monument in the Tonto National Forest. Forest?! In a desert? Yup… though admittedly we didn’t see too many trees. A forest of cacti for sure. More than you could shake a stick at. The whole place was way more green and varied than I expected, though I guess there had been recent rains and this was the soak it up and flower season before everything hunkered down for the big sweat as summer approached.

We had three different highlights of the day. We specifically wanted to see the cave dwelling site. The “lower cave dwelling” is about a 10-15 minute walk from the car park. it’s only $3 to get into the park, and that’s good for a whole week. There are some more extensive “higher cave dwellings”, but you have to book ahead and space is very limited. Ironically the day before, there’d been a guided photography tour! The second highlight was the Roosevelt dam on the Roosevelt Lake reservoir. It was an awful lot smaller than I expected, given the size of the lake it was holding back.

Satellite image of Tonto National Monument and...

Finally, the road back was highlight number three. The Apache Trail. This is basically a packed earth road for 20-odd of its 40-odd miles. But we were in a hire car. Meh.

As promised previously, here’s a few snapshots of some of the sights along the way…

Phoenix – Day 1

5 03 2012

We recently had our 5th wedding anniversary, after 20 years. Yup – we got married on 29th February, back in 1992. Totally in line with my preference for doing things not quite the same way as everyone else. In due deference to her long suffering of said oddity, I felt it only fair that my wife pick where we went to celebrate the passing of another 4 years. That and the fact that she organised everything, and I didn’t get much say anyway!

She found a rather neat little package by Allegiant Air, flying out of Bellingham, WA, just over the line from our home in White Rock, BC. For about a grand for the pair of us, we got flights to Phoenix (yes… and back too), car hire, 3 nights in a hotel, with a fourth thrown in for free. Bargain!

We flew out on a rainy Wednesday (yes – the 29th of February), and landed around 9pm at Phoenix Mesa Gateway airport, about 20 minutes from the hotel in Mesa itself – just to the East of Phoenix proper. It was an MD-80 series plane, and the cheap tickets came at a hidden price… no seat allocation! If you’re familiar with this plane, it will come as no surprise that by the time we got to board, we ended up right at the back of the plane at the perfect audio focal point of the two screaming jet engines that keep the tin can in the air. My hearing has just about recovered now.

On arrival in Mesa, a mediocre meal at Red Lobster was ameliorated by a reasonable bottle of Merlot, and we were tucked up in bed well before the witching hour. The morning brought us an explanation for the industrial strength blackout roller blinds and mesh covers on the windows. By around 7:30am, the heat through the PVC blind was quite noticable in our East-facing room. One free breakfast later, and we were under way for our first adventure… sniffing out the locale. Despite the sunshine it was still a bit breezy, and we were quite obviously marked out as “damned tourists” in our shorts and T-shirts, in sharp contrast to the be-coated and be-hoodied locals shivering in the mid 20s (That’s °C!). The mall offered up some sweet beverage and gooey snacks at Cinnabon (hey – we were on holiday!), and Macey’s delivered a rather fetching tie to add to my collection. And some socks. And a brace of shirts. And some hankies.

So I don’t get out much. What’s your point?

Then we set off for a proper explore… to Taliesin West. This was about 15 minutes away to the North-East of Mesa, East of the popular Scottsdale. In fact it still is, probably! This was built by Frank Lloyd Wright as his winter camp, and basically a tax dodge. The tour wasn’t cheap, but I thoroughly recommend it, if you’re in the area. The tour guides are very knowledgeable, and though they seem to hold FLW as a near deity, they were honest enough to admit that he was an arrogant egocentric bigot. Such is genius…

The buildings were originally open to the elements (which were typically mild in the months of occupation) and had canvas screens to protect from the sun, and open areas for ventilation. FLW’s third and final wife insisted on glass and a more conventional approach, so the current incarnation is a little more enclosed. His arrogance is still visible in one area at least, where he insisted that a bowl on a shelf was “in the perfect position” and must not be moved, so that when the window was glazed, a hole was cut in the glass to accommodate the 30% of the bowl which lay on the outside of the new physical barrier in the window frame.

He built everything from local materials to allow for a more sympathetic blend with the surroundings. A genius to be sure, but I’m glad I never needed to do business with the guy.

He’s quoted as saying the following:

“Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose the former and have seen no reason to change.”

Can’t say fairer than that, I suppose!



Unaccustomed as I am…

2 10 2012

So I first got into this blogging lark at the tail end of 2011. I was in Belo Horizonte, Brazil at the time on business, and feeling a bit “meh”. A colleague suggested I start a blog to exorcise my demons, or maybe it was to exercise my deviance, I forget now. So here I am, almost a year later looking at things a little differently.

The planet’s spun itself around about 300 times since then. The music hasn’t stopped yet, thankfully. To my knowledge nobody’s been reported as having been thrown off or floated away, despite the fact that if they lived at the equator, they’ve been for a roundabout ride at roughly 1,600km/h! The third rock itself has almost done a complete lap of our little sun, travelling at around 107,300 km/h. Quite astonishing really… and we take it all for granted.

Lots of water has flowed under the bridge in that time. I’ve changed jobs, travelled to Europe, visited Salt Lake City and Phoenix, drunk an immeasurable quantity of Russian Caravan tea, experienced some incredible friendship, hiked both the Grouse and the Stawamus Chief every way imaginable, been eaten alive (by mosquitoes… what were you thinking?), discovered some new World Music, learned an awful lot about myself – some of it pretty uncomfortable, some of it surprising.

Where was I before I got distracted? Oh yes – Brazil. So anyway, as well as having travelled untold miles/kilometres* (*delete as applicable in your locale) going nowhere in galactic terms, I have also typed in and posted 490 blog entries, and had a few hundred comments on them in return. Feeling quite smug with myself really – despite still having just as many demons and deviances as before. At least they’re all neatly alphabetised and cross-indexed now. Well – the ones I’ve found so far.

So today I got a comment telling me I was now the recipient of a blogging award! Not had one of those for a while. Was a little taken aback really. Always nice to feel noticed, especially when you’re not particularly expecting it. Unless you’re a bank robber I suppose.

Anyway, sheriji over on Just Sayin’ offered me The Reader Appreciation Award. Aw shucks – thanks!! If you’ve not visited her blog yet, you’d best be working on a good excuse! She was kind enough to describe these humble pages as “a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, but all about life and our reactions to it. Plus I always want to know, quieter than what?” The answer to that of course is quite irrelevant. (Please don’t make me explain…)

Inevitably there’s some “rules” (self-imposed. Aren’t they always?) to follow.

1.  When I pass it on, I provide a link to the giver’s post, and thank the blogger who nominated me.

So thank-you sheriji – really. I’m glad you found a few crumbs of entertainment here.

2.  Answer 10 questions within my own blog.

My favourite colour

Hm… when I was a kid, it used to be red. I remember being over the moon when I was 8 and being in “red team” on sports day, and getting to wear a red sash for the egg and spoon race. Then as I got older this became associated in my mind with politics, so I decided I should like blue. These days, it depends what mood I’m in. I like ambiguity. Except when I crave certainty. Greenish-bluish makes me smile. Especially when it’s really grey with attitude, but nobody dare argue.

My favourite animal to include in a story?

Though I have yet to write the story, it’d have to be the echidna. Not an echidna, THE echidna. I did once write a story about a goldfish. But it wasn’t my favourite.

My favourite non-alcoholic drink while writing?

While doing anything: tea! Writing, talking, philosophising, or just floating in the moment.

Printed books or e-books?

Printed. I’m old-school with words. I write with an ink pen (which I refill every Friday to make sure I don’t run out of ink at a crucial moment). I love the texture of a well-made book – even if I can’t read its words. I also like the musty smell of old browning paperbacks. Weird? Who? Me?! I did win a Kobo eReader last Christmas, and I have used it. But, it’s just NOT the same… Like a text-message conversation is not the same as looking into the eyes of the person you’re sharing ideas with. It’s more than a means of representing the words. It’s part of the experience.

My favourite writer(s) now?

Terry Pratchett is always “up there” – he has such wit and breadth. I am sad for his failing health with Alzheimer’s – I liked the old him, and business and books being what they are, I’ll never know the new him.

I like Giles Milton too, for non-fiction.

As I turn to look at my bookcase for anyone else I might especially like, I am struck by the wide diversity of what I see there!

Jasper Fforde I guess should be there. The Eyre Affair was such a great concept.

My favourite writer(s) ten years ago?

Well Pratchett was still churning them out faster than I could read them back then, so he’s still on the list.

Philip K Dick. He couldn’t write for toffee, but boy did he have some great story ideas!

I read a lot of Ranulph Fiennes back then. What a life that guy has lived!

John Wyndham. What Dick could have been. Each book a great central idea, but much more well delivered with richer characters and human depth.

My favourite poet – Classic & Current?

I’m not really that well read in poetry.

I remember having to read a poem by e e cummings with my class when I was in Primary School, and being awestruck that he dared to break the rules of English, even when I barely knew them myself. Of course, now I’m more cynical and think his typewriter was just broken. I believe it was “hist whist“, if you’re interested. Yup – that’s right: I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I remember what poem I had to read in front of assembled parents 40 years ago!

I think of songs as poetry (some listen to the tune, I like the words). I love Fiona Apple‘s imagery, but John Lennon will always be the master for me, with Roger Waters a close second.

My favourite time of day to write?

When I have something to say! I think we make time to do the things that matter to us. We take risks and break rules to do what we think is “right” or “important”… whatever those words mean to us at any given moment. We justify not doing things by claiming there was no time or some rule prevented us. Really it was because we didn’t think it was important enough right there, right then.

What is your passion when it comes to your writing?

Passion is a strong word!

I like to be entertaining. Witty if possible. Educational possibly. Sometimes sneaky or wriggly.

[That’s only 9!! It’s the engineer in me… I notice things like that. Or maybe I’m just anally retentive.]

LATE EDIT: I traced the daisy chain back and found where the 10th question went. I was asked to offer a substitution, so here it is…

Which of the five senses do you value the most?

I think they’re all important obviously. We’ve evolved them as a “necessary and sufficient” set. However, we’re really good with this brain thing too, so we can adapt. I think I’d have the toughest time losing my sight. If I’d never seen at all, it might be different, but now, I think I’d struggle to not have those glimpses of other people living their lives. The changes of the colours in the trees. Glint of sun on water. I think the other senses would heighten, but I’d always mourn the loss of seeing a child smile when they see their parent. A lover’s glance over a dinner table. A raised eyebrow in signalled mischief.

3.  Nominate other blogs that I find a joy to read. (Ten is recommended)

I don’t think I regularly read that many, but let’s see how we do…

Photo . Lord Content – a daily photo competition that has some unbelievable images posted

Misfits’ Miscellany – Fostering poetry and writing that others might not. A good virtual friend to-boot. And believe me, if we ever meet, I’ll boot him!

Breathtaking Portraits – Wha’? It’s art… honest!

Scout Magazine – For what’s happening in Vancouver, my adopted home.

Howtodateboys – An insight into how women think. (I’m none the wiser, but it’s heart-felt and honest)

illustration & calligraphy – You’re joking right? What do you THINK it’s about?!

4.  Provide links to these nominated blogs and kindly let the recipients know that they have been nominated.

Photo . Lord Content

Misfits’ Miscellany

Breathtaking Portraits

Scout Magazine


illustration & calligraphy

5.  Include the award logo within your own blog post.

I can do that… thanks again sheriji!

Flutter by, butterfly

14 03 2012

We were lucky enough to visit the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix during its special presentation of the butterfly collection. It had only just opened and there weren’t too many varieties yet on show. However, I managed to get a few snaps of the zebra longwing butterflies and Julia butterflies (the ones that aren’t striped!)


More chairs

9 03 2012

A few people seemed to like the graphic imagery in the repeated patterns of the brushed aluminium chairs I’d captured in Phoenix. The photo’s here if you missed it the first time round. I didn’t think these images were quite as good, but I thought I’d share anyway. The bright sunlight near noon made for very strong patterned shadows.

The sparrow wanted to get in on the action too.

Chihuly… again!

9 03 2012

Bless you!

Frequent readers might recall a recent piece on Dale Chihuly. No? Try “Gesundheit“.

So imagine my surprise, on our fourth and final day in Phoenix, when I came across the unmistakeable style of Chihuly right there in the desert. The organic style merged very well with the real plants it represented and echoed there in the Desert Botanical Garden.

Patterns in a Window

8 03 2012

So it gets bloody hot in Phoenix. Sunny with it, too!

As well as PVC black-out roller blinds on the hotel windows, there were two layers of mesh to cut out some of the light without being totally black.

From across the room, these 2 layers of ~3mm black mesh (like bug screen I suppose) caused interference patterns, giving the impression of a wavey 3/4″ lower frequency mesh. I tried to capture the effect, but of course being an optical illusion, it was a bit hard to focus!

Take a seat

6 03 2012

Seen on my recent trip to Phoenix.

What caught my eye was the multiple layers of patterns.

The holes were like printing dots and even created the “rosettes” familiar to anyone used to CMYK screening.