Saturday, November 22, 2008

"She couldn't even knit!"

Said Gordon Wood's mother, speaking of Caroline Byrne in today's Herald.

Knitting is a fine art indeed, but one suspects that her inability to knit might not have been the only reason she was thrown headfirst off the Gap.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The manhole covers

There was no shortage of manhole covers on our travels. Here is the haul:




Desert Botanic Gardens - Phoenix (OK these aren't really manhole covers, but I think they can be included here)



Phoenix and the Heard Museum

We are home now, and it is too easy to let the trip record slide. There are a couple of days left though, and a couple of wrapup posts to make.

Our last day in Phoenix was a travel day, but that wasn't until the evening. We reviewed options, and decided on a visit to the Heard Museum. After packing and re-packing, and after breakfast (the Holiday Inn Express throws in a good free breakfast, but the coffee is the usual US execrable weak brown water) we set out. Michael suspected there might be beads, and indeed there were. There was a terrific exhibition called Home, which was all about home crafts of the Indians. Rug weaving, beads, jewellery, and magnificent basket weaving. Of course the beads always interest me, but I can see how the basket weaving could become a passion. Such fineness, detail, design. There was a magnificent display of Katsina dolls, too much to take in. I took issue with a display of some fine knitting - one completed legging and the other in progress. The sign said they were being knitted on sewing needles, but a) I did not see any eye for threading yarn, b) their points were not sharp enough to be sewing needles, unless for leather, and c) they looked exactly like my fine steel double-pointed needles. Hmmm.

There was another section which reminded us very much of the Smithsonian Indian Museum. Lots of very little, quite similar, and very wordy displays for each individual tribe. I can just see all the politics involved in these displays. The message is often one of harmony and love for the earth and the sense of solidarity with people, but this fragmentation into tribes is also a message of Us vs. Them.

We had a coffee, and Michael was terribly disappointed to find that there was only one variety of coffee - regular. No espresso. The usual pale weak brown water.

The shop was fantastic, but we are just retailed out. Not that we've bought much in the way of souvies, but we have learned from past experience that what looks good in the US southwest does not look good in a little terrace house in Sydney. The style just jangles. And because my mother is from New Mexico, I really do have enough in the way of silver/turquoise jewellery.

After the Heard Museum we set out in the car without a clear plan. We kind of had a mall in mind, with a food court for lunch, but didn't have any of our usual reference material. All the brochures had been packed or ditched. So we drove around and around, ending up in Glendale. It seemed utterly deserted. Although we found a kind of historic area with shops, there was not a soul to be seen. Could be because it was in the high nineties out there, with a merciless sun. A moment to note: we passed the Bead Museum, and I passed it without a flicker of interest. Yes, bead point has been passed.

We found a Visitor Centre, which was manned, and got some directions. We found ourselves at the Desert Sky Mall and had some lunch from the Mexican place. Tamales for me, my favourite.

We were now in travel mode, so took the rental car back to the airport and started the long process of getting home.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Phoenix, and the Desert Botanic Gardens

The sun shines brightly here in Phoenix, and it has been in the mid-90s (F) so an early start was in order. It is easy to understand why people from colder climates want to retire here. It wouldn't be for me. The constant hard bright sun would drive me berserk after a bit. The flat arid terrain, coupled with the total dominance of the car also does not appeal. There are no pedestrians, the place seems dead, apart from the cars on the roads. Looking at the suburbs it would be impossible to do anything without a car. Contrasting this with the arcology concept of close living, and the way we live in dense inner city Sydney, it seems sterile and terribly artificial. I guess if you went to one of the many churches you would have a social life!

The Desert Botanic Gardens were wonderful, and very different. I spent a lot of time fiddling with my camera settings, learning about RAW vs JPG and all the various options for aperture and speed. It was lots of fun, and I enjoyed taking closeups as well as vistas.

The suguaro cacti are enormous and varied. Here is Michael wearing his Arcosanti t-shirt to give perspective:

The morning light made for some nice views of spiny plants:

A little bird provided his silhouette:

and I enjoyed taking some closeups:

Naturally there were vistas, and I couldn't resist. Especially the one with the sign, where there was a very handy stand for your camera. The timer setting can be very useful!

Prescott to Phoenix, Tuesday 28th October.

A travel day, and a few odds and ends to deal with. We drove from Prescott to Phoenix, which didn't take very long. The zip on Michael's leather bag had sprung, so I'd found a luggage repair place on the web, and used our GST navigator (Uhura) to get us there. How did we manage before the web and navigators? The guys at Cobblestone said they could repair the bag by the next day, and were very affable. Across the street was a Dillard's, our favourite department store. We went over for some retail experience. I always buy bras at Dillards. The service from Jill and the range was terrific, so I bought four. Michael likes a particular brand of shirt, in a hard-to-find size, and found one there. The salesman had the most amazing comb-over hair I have ever seen.

One of the things on the Phoenix agenda was to visit Utopia Street and Utopia Estate. Uhura got us there. Utopia in Phoenix is trailer homes, an estate for the over 55s. We took photos, of course.

Returned to the hotel for another hot tub experience for me, followed by a review of possible activities for the next day. We contemplated a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West. This would have been interesting, particularly as Paolo Soleri had spent some time there and learned a lot from Wright, but it was an expensive and extensive tour for which we didn't quite have enough enthusiasm. We are completely vista-ed out, so I suggested perhaps some botanical interest with the Desert Botanic Gardens. That's the plan.