Jul 182011

A dust storm, also known as a Haboob, arrives from the south to blanket Phoenix, Arizona in dust

If it’s a haboob, it must be monsoon season in Phoenix. From out of the south, sand, dust, and dirt are kicked up and dragged north to blanket the desert with a sun and lung choking blanket of fine particulates that used to be known as a dust storm. Of late, these storms are being called haboob, can you guess why? My idea is that it gives weathermen and men in general, the chance to use the word boob without referring to breasts but all the while they get to enjoy having said boob, satisfying a guys need to be thinking of boobs, talking about boobs, and imagining boobs, even if it is under the guise of a haboob.

Dec 122010

Hotel Congress in Tucson, Arizona

Hotel Congress is the place to be.
Criminal livin’ is the life for me.
Jail spreadin’ out so far and wide.
Keep that freedom, just give me John Dillinger.

So it doesn’t much rhyme, so what. It was the first jingle that came to mind and I’m not about to give any considerable time to writing the opening to a blog entry that really just needs to tell you that we stayed at Hotel Congress where John Dillinger was arrested along with his gang and sent back to Indiana. Eventually he broke out of jail there and continued his crime spree never to return to Tucson.

Cup of Coffee

The day started with coffee, from the same cup John Dillinger drank coffee from back in 1934. We sat at the same table Dillinger ate breakfast at before shooting the place up. I had my eggs, bacon, and toast the same way Dillinger had them fixed, and then I took a much needed leak in the same toilet Dillinger did before he shot it too. I went back for more coffee and decided to shoot up the place myself then left for a bank and robbed it – Dillinger style. After returning to the hotel it caught fire, I leapt from the window but the coppers nabbed me and sent me back to Indiana where I escaped from jail to grab a coffee at a local coffee shop at a nearby hotel before shooting my cup of coffee while eating breakfast, pissing, shooting, and robbing in a cycle that had the feeling of a déjà vu. Then I had a coffee.

Tattooed man on 4th Avenue in Tucson, Arizona

Lenny…..a guy who should inspire us in our dumber moments to not make characterizations of people we have no idea of who exactly they are.

Scene from the 4th Avenue Winter Street Fair in Tucson, Arizona

Free hugs, now there’s something we need more of. Suppose I wouldn’t have had to turn to a life of bank robbery hanging out with people like Pete had I known more hugs but today is not a day for hugs. I’m fueled up on coffee and ready to look into the eye of mankind and tackle issues larger than the petty emotional needs of love and acceptance. I’m on a quest to answer questions that take things to the next level.

Angry cigar smoking Santa Claus in Tucson, Arizona

I’m in alternative-ville Tucson and this is Biker Claus chilling while his stable of Harleys get outfitted with his sleigh before delivering spark plugs to all the good bikers on his naughty list.

A blur of people

Back to my quest. I have been looking for that thing, that essence, that characteristic of non-conformity called real character. It’s apperance is fleeting and rarely found. The 1980’s gave way to generic Wal-Mart and Republican defined total-conformity. The majority of people around me are little more than reflections of some popular TV show, their favorite sports team, and the vernacular of idiots created by media to be used by morons little equipped to find their own voice. Defining one’s style is out. Finding your mind, the meaning of life, or exploring new frontiers is the domain of 60’s sci-fi reruns but not of any interest to the current age. I often find myself lamenting the American people’s rapid trajectory to nowhere and ask, “what happened to individuality?” But today I figured it out, it is dead and that’s really no problem. Months ago I may have found this troubling, turns out that my trip to the Grand Canyon helped provide sense to the tragedy. You see, what was wrong with my search for signs of the individual looking for unique self expression is that this was a nostalgic desire from a guy who has never had much patience for all that nostalgic stuff. I was looking for the inspiration that I felt when I was much younger; today it just does not exist for me anymore. Here’s where the Grand Canyon comes into play, people are like individual grains of sand and instead of these folks growing and evolving to form new sand castles, they have in a sense – been extincted. They are becoming part of a new layer of sandstone, a part of a fossilizing conglomerate where an individual grain is of no real interest. Each grain is part of the bigger object needing to be seen as a whole that is being eroded, weathered, aged, stained, and reformed as a monolithic representation of a time past, lost in the historic record. So I am now left with the task of changing my focus to learn how to see anew, to not search for life in stone, or to expect the petrified remains of what was, to find reanimation.

Caroline Wise eating on the street in Tucson, Arizona

As I shared my new found vision with Caroline she doubled over nauseous that I should see my self so elevated above the mass of humanity. Retching uncontrollably my wife stuck her fingers down her throat and like a priest of a whacky backwoods religion who reaches into the body to remove a tumor, she began to pull out god-knows-what from her mouth. WTF! Oh wait, this might be the picture of her eating a burrito, my bad.

Joe Cunningham and Rainy Heath in Tucson, Arizona

This is Joe Cunningham who was smart enough to not be shoving food into his mouth when I’m hovering with the camera just inches from his face. The same cannot be said for Ms. Rainy Heath who knows how to slurp and gobble like a surly wench – as she’s doing in the background. Of course these three had like totally different experiences than my much cooler adventures. They did things like shop for stuff, browsed the arts and crafts from the vendors of the 4th Avenue Winter Street Fair, talked with the sellers, and drank Whoopass while I had all the fun.

Sunset on Interstate Ten between Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona

And then there was sunset. We drove home. Night came. Rainy and Joe retired to their respective homes that are not ours. Caroline and I then teleported to a galaxy where we sought out alien life, explored and traveled where no man had gone before. It was the final frontier and Caroline’s 43rd birthday.

Aug 242010

Sunset in Phoenix, Arizona

My camera is with me often. I look far and wide for that scene that will demand my attention and stand out against all others. Maybe age has brought cynicism and I am no longer able to appreciate simple beauty. Or maybe a city of cinder block walls punctuated with strip malls leaves the imagination in deficit. Phoenix has become a wasteland to my eyes. I want to see the city I live in with a new perspective but over and over again I look on with mindless disinterest. For beauty I must look up and out. With too narrow a view and in close up, Phoenix is a blight on a desert paved over for the masses to find their beauty in a three-bedroom two-car-garage track home on the corner of Nameless Street and Faceless Road. At least we still have the sky.

Jul 112010

Sunrise in Phoenix, Arizona

It’s the right time of year for the monsoons. There are clouds on the horizon, they even move into the valley, but the rains are not materializing. Well at least we are having some clouds dot the sky which make for great sunrises and sunsets. After months of nothing but blue skies it is a thrill to once again see cumuli in the late day. This morning had low thin clouds aloft but even they are welcome. Funny how some people dream of moving to Florida, California, Nevada, and Arizona to escape the grey days while many of us Phoenicians long for a cold, rainy day with a hot chocolate and the patter of rain drops on our windows. Instead all we get is another perfect day – drats.

Jun 202010

Sign directing us to the Ken Patrick and the Uncle Jim trails on the north rim of the Grand Canyon National Park

Last day of our trip up north and we indulge ourselves by sleeping in to 5:30. Since today is Sunday we are assuming that others will be even slower than us and that by the time we arrive at today’s trailhead after driving south from Jacob Lake we’ll still be early enough to beat the crowds. Our destination parking lot combines the launch point for those hiking the North Kaibab trail into the canyon with our trail that starts on the Ken Patrick Trail and continues on the Uncle Jim Trail. We are expecting a five mile round trip. What we hadn’t bargained for nor came prepared for were the clouds of mosquitos that nearly turned me back more than once.

Caroline sitting ring side watching the canyon form while adding to the river that cuts through it

This picture should tell you why we chose the Uncle Jim Trail, we had heard about the best view from a toilet in the southwest with this pit toilet facing the rim just feet from the precipice. Not while sitting there, Caroline got busy finishing the work required for her Grand Canyon Discovery patch, at least out here on the rim with the wind blowing the mosquitos were kept at bay. After nearly an hour of inspecting plants and bugs and reveling in the view we began the hike back. The back side of the loop trail was halfway decent in regards to the mosquitos but when we reached the point where the trail had forked they were waiting for us. We ran the gauntlet and almost escaped unscathed.

Sitting on the patio at the edge of the Grand Canyon on the north rim

With some essay work waiting to be completed we sat at rim’s edge at the lodge while Caroline finished the details and we awaited the opening of the dining room for lunch. Over lunch we met Joe Evans of New York City who divides his time between traveling America and volunteering on the Thai / Burmese border helping refugees learn self-sustainability. It often happens that we meet some of the more interesting people when we ourselves are traveling. After lunch we went back over to the visitor center, Caroline collected her Discovery patch and the car was pointed towards home.

The Schultz fire in Flagstaff, Arizona as seen from Cameron, Arizona on the road to the south rim of the Grand Canyon National Park

Back through Jacob Lake, the windy roads, past Vermillion Cliffs, and over the Colorado River via the Navajo Bridge. Going south on the 89 we can see the smoke off in the distance and are desperately trying to figure out where its coming from. We scan the radio stations looking for a clue, no signs are posted about detours, we continue going south. Then just minutes before reaching Cameron a station starts to tune in from Flagstaff, the 89 is closed near Sunset Crater north of Flagstaff. We ask ourselves once, what is the likelihood that we will be detoured right back up here? We decide on a Rim-to-Rim.

Caroline and John Wise standing in front of the Grand Canyon National Park sign

We turn west on the 64 and are soon entering the south rim of the Grand Canyon – this is the first time we have visited both the north and south rim of the canyon in a single day. While some people take the easy route and simply hike across, we took the long way and drove the 210 miles from rim to rim. At the entry station the rangers hadn’t heard about the closure yet but by the time we arrived at the Tusayan entry station it was obvious from the mass of cars in line on a late Sunday afternoon with many pulling boats who probably were on their way to Lake Powell that they had been turned away from the road closure on the 89 and detoured through the canyon. Relieved, we felt like we had made the right decision.

The view in to the Grand Canyon from Desert View near the Watch Tower

While we are excited to be at the south rim we also want to get home and this two hour detour isn’t helping us get there any quicker. But we can’t just drive through so we decide to stop at the Desert View Watch Tower. The view of the Colorado river below is a favorite and the tower, designed by Mary Colter 78 years ago is as amazing today as it must have been back then. Of the building Mary Colter designed we have been to Hermit’s Rest, the Hopi House, and the Watch Tower, we have stayed at the Bright Angel Lodge and in October we will visit Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Strange enough we have never stayed at La Posada, the luxury hotel she designed in Winslow, Arizona.

Sunset near Sedona, Arizona

We continued south through Tusayan and connected with Interstate 40 in Williams. On the other side of Flagstaff we got a great view of the thunderously large billowy clouds rising from the fire. But just wanted to find the 17 freeway so we could go home, no time for forest fire tourism. The sky was bright orange as we drove past the red rock country of Sedona to our west, it would be full of stars by the time we got home. Starbucks in Cottonwood is a great midpoint pit-stop to find a pick-me-up cup of coffee. The rest of the drive was one of those long boring hauls through Black Canyon in the dark we have made once too often.