Abrupt Change

IMG_3573In the space of one delay-ridden travel day, we went from the sunny, arid, and warm climate of Phoenix to cold, wet, and snowy conditions in Columbus.

IMG_3665From shorts to overcoats.  From sunglasses and the coconut-infused odor of suntan lotion to wool hats and a sharp breeze.

The weather change mirrors the change in factual context, too.  The mini-holiday is over, and it’s time to get back to work.  And because it’s the first snow of the season, you can be certain that the commute today is going to be brutal. And if the snow and the crappy commute alone aren’t enough to provide the cold slap of reality, the weather app is reporting that the temperature is supposed to drop steadily throughout the day until it reaches a frosty 10 degrees.

Bundle up!


Phoenix Sunset

The top of a mountain in Phoenix is a wonderful setting for a wedding, especially when a fire and a sunset are part of the mix. And a family wedding is something to be relished, whatever the setting. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to reconnect with far-flung nieces and nephews, in-laws, and family members to be at such a happy occasion.

The Rocket 88s

Last night it was back to Phoenix’s Rhythm Room to try catch some of its more traditional blues offerings — and we struck gold, because the Rocket 88s were playing.

Of course, any true R&B fan know that Rocket 88, recorded in 1951 by Jackie Brenton and his Delta Cats, is considered by many experts to be the first rock and roll record. Last night the Rocket 88s were true to their illustrious name, playing a kick-ass mixture of early rock and roll and R&B that got many people (myself included) out on the dance floor and boogeying. We knew they were going to be great from the first notes, but they really blew the doors off.

Why would a Columbus, Ohio guy write about a Phoenix band that he’ll (unfortunately) probably never get to see again? Because local music is important and should be supported, whether the locality is Columbus or Phoenix or New Orleans. And if a hard-working band gives you a great evening they deserve a shout-out even if no one reads it. The Rocket 88s were really good and earned the kudos. I bought one of their CDs, too.


On The Trail Of The Lonesome Cactus

This Midwestern boy can’t help but goggle at the desert plants and scenery — and of course the cactus plants are the most alien to the Midwest, and therefore the most interesting.

For most of my hike up North Mountain the sky was overcast. I appreciated that more and more as I huffed and puffed up the trail, and wondered what it would be like to do so with the sun beating down relentlessly. As I descended with the aid of gravity and passed this solitary cactus sentinel, however, a patch of blue sky appeared on the western horizon.

On Top Of North Mountain

One of the trails near our hotel leads you to the top of North Mountain — which must be tall,, because at the very peak you will find a cellular tower.

All around is the vastness of Phoenix, which stretches out into infinity until its contours are lost in a kind of smudgy haze. North Mountain is a welcome respite from the urban and suburban sprawl.

At The Rhythm Room

Last night we hung out at the Rhythm Room, a legendary Phoenix blues rock club. It is found in a somewhat marginal part of the sprawling Phoenix metroplex, just down the street from a funeral home and a Native American joint where you can get enormous fried bread tacos that position you nicely for the beers of the evening.

Rather than its normal offering of blues, last night the RR was featuring an eclectic mix of acts that ran the gamut from folk to abstract emo to these guys, who did a very credible job covering some power rock classics from Creedence, Hendrix, and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

It’s fun to experience a live music venue in a new city, even if not every act is to your liking.

C’mon, Democrats, Come To Columbus!

The Democratic National Committee is trying to decide where to hold the 2016 Democratic National Convention.  According to reports, the finalists are Brooklyn, New York, Birmingham, Alabama, Phoenix, Arizona, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — and Columbus, Ohio. 

A few days ago Columbus city officials and civic leaders hosted a delegation from the DNC, trying to convince them to come to the capital city of the Buckeye State.  The tried to use crowds, reasoning, friendly signs and t-shirts, and a blue carpet to sway the DNC decision.  Given the audience, I think an appeal to naked political self-interest is far more likely to be effective.  So I say:

Democrats, you owe us — and you’re going to be here, anyway. 

DSC04160Ohio is the battleground state.  You pester us with polls, bombard us with ads, stop traffic for rallies, and hassle us in more ways than we can count in every election.  We put up with this crap in 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012, and we’ve spent countless tax dollars on police protection and the other municipal services that the constant campaigning requires.  You owe us!  We’re entitled to have your delegates fly into our airport, book our hotel rooms, shop at our stores, eat at our restaurants, visit the bigger-than-life statue of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and — not incidentally — pay all of the taxes that such activity generates.  Fill our coffers, baby!  We’re entitled to it!

You’re going to be here, anyway, so you’ll all save on travel expenses if you start out here.  You may as well get to know the good new restaurants, and the excellent new bars, because you’ll be returning again, and again, and again as the election draws near.  Contrast that with Brooklyn or Philly, which are solid blue, or Birmingham, which is redder than Red Square.  Phoenix is red, too — red hot.  Those places are locked down, one way or the other.  In contrast, Ohio is so deep purple that its residents might as well hum the opening chords of Smoke on the Water with every step.  Wouldn’t you like to have some friendly, and early, firsthand exposure to the swing voters who inevitably will decide the election?

One other thing:  the Republicans are holding their 2016 National Convention just up I-71, in Cleveland.  They know they need to win Ohio, and they’re pulling out all the stops.  Are you really going to dis us and give the Rs a leg up on raking all of our crucial electoral votes?  It’s time for the Party of Jefferson and Jackson to make the pilgrimage and put its money where its mouth will be during the fall of 2016.  You want to win Ohio?  You’d better come to Columbus.


This afternoon Kish and I walked over to a mall adjacent to our hotel in Scottsdale. It was a cloudless, brilliantly sunny day, and after a few cooler days the temperature finally felt like it hit the 80s. I slathered on some suntan lotion, wore shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, and flip-flops, and sat on benches while Kish visited shops. The coconut oil in the suntan lotion had a summery smell, and the sun felt good on my face and embarrassingly white legs.

I like living where there are seasons, in part because I enjoy the transition from one season to the next. After a long, cold, wet winter, the warmth of spring and summer are welcome indeed.

Desert Flora

I’m out in the Phoenix area for a conference, and last night I attended an event at the Desert Botanical Garden. It was a fine function, and one of the highlights was a chance to just wander around the grounds, looking at the different kinds of cactus and other desert plants. I like the brown and stony desert scenery and I like the plants — they are tough and spiny, differently shaped than plants back east, with unusual silhouettes that are pleasing to my eye. On this particular occasion, the Botanical Garden has unusual glass sculptures placed among the plants, but as nice as those sculptures were they paled in comparison to the attractiveness of the plants themselves. Kudos to Mother Nature!

I think part of the appeal of these desert plants is that we don’t see them every day. Perhaps if we had a yard full of prickly pear cactus, I might not find them so interesting. It makes me wonder whether westerners who come to Ohio for a visit marvel at our trees, and flowers, and lush green grass, which they don’t find in their home towns.