and I mean that in a good way. Once upon a time there was a small town called Sunnyslope. It existed just north of the city of Phoenix. And I lived there when I was in the 7th grade. In 1959 the community was annexed by Phoenix, because it had not yet managed to incorporate itself as a town. I was living there and attending 7th grade when it happened.
On Sunday afternoon, March 15, 2015, I went back to take my afternoon walk through the heart of old Sunnyslope. It doesn’t look much like it did when I was a kid riding my bicycle all over the place. I went back because I remember there being some strange statues up there. So, for the sheer heck of it, I took my camera and went hunting. This is what I found.
Both sides of the Dunlap Avenue have these weird flat iron sculptures lining the sidewalks. There are several different “people” shown here, but the same figure is repeated at least four times in different locations.
They all have the same general form and size, but the holes cut into them are different, and the head shapes and objects they hold can be different. They look a lot like tribal African figures.
The sidewalk in front of John C. Lincoln Hospital has some large, rather strange murals (for lack of a better word) set into it. The first one I noticed was the word Sunnyslope stretched out over about 60 feet. I could not get the whole word into a single photo.
A long shot of John C. Lincoln Hospital–one of the nicest hospitals in the city. I was a patient there back in 1968 when I rolled a City Delivery van down a mountain slope on 19th Avenue. It was a rather amazing high speed accident, and I was very lucky to survive. When they pulled my battered and bleeding body from the wreck, the ambulance took me to this hospital–it was the closest at the time–located at about 2nd Street and Dunlap.
As I walked east along the sidewalk, I found this man lying there casually connected by this stream of breath or smoke to . . .
. . . a pair of disembodied lungs, and that is connected to . . .
this other man–a mirror image of the first, but facing the opposite direction. You have to admit it is strange to find disembodied lungs on the sidewalk in front of a hospital.
This flatman appears to be female.
This one is holding a wizard’s staff. You can tell that it’s magical because it has a large gem or orb of some type at the top.
And then I found footprints in the rock.
walking east some more My shadow got into the picture here. Do you think this flatman is a doctor with a stethoscope? It is in front of a hospital.
what’s this? A brewery in the heart of Sunnyslope? I never knew this place was here. I saw some people sitting on a small patio, drinking beer. I asked a couple if it was very good, and they assured me it was.
So I went inside. The Diamondbacks were on television, playing a Spring training game with the Giants.
There were many tables inside, but I sat down at the bar and asked for their least expensive brew. The bartender, Lisa, asked if I wanted dark or light. I said I didn’t care–give me something good. So she gave me these two samples.
They were both good, but I chose the dark. She told me it was Scottish ale.
I struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to me. It occurred to me that I should get a picture of me in this place–evidence he called it.
He took two, using my camera, of me standing beside the brewery logo on the wall. This became my picture of the day for March 15, 2015. I’m not really all that wildly happy, but I thought a laughing, gesturing Ken would be more interesting than me just standing there. Another coincidence? I wind up inside a bar on the day when I’m wearing the only t-shirt I own that has anything alcoholic/drinkable on it. This green stuff in the bottle on my shirt is probably absinthe, and of course, Cthulhu is a strange and weird god.
After about an hour in the bar, I paid my bill and continued my walk. As I reached the corner of 5-points where Dunlap intersects with 7th Street, and Cave Creek Road angles off to the northeast, I found a flagpole with two flags. The Stars and Stripes flag is on top, and the tricolor below it is that of the Italian Republic circa 1946. That makes sense because the flagpole was in front of a big Italian restaurant, that I did not photograph, but I did not know what flag it was at the time.
The restaurant was on the end of a little strip mall running perpendicular to the street. There were two rather bizarre businesses here–this bony barber shop . . .
and a “House of Fashion” where the ladies of Sunnyslope can acquire elegant and sexy dresses.
There are two fiveway intersections in the city of Phoenix. This one is at 7th Street and Dunlap with Cave Creek Road running off to the northeast. The other is at 7th Avenue and Van Buren with Grand Avenue running off to the northwest. This one is on the north side of the city. The other is like a mirror image 9 miles south and 2 miles west of it.
Another view looking toward the hills east of town–hills with sunny slopes for which the place may have been named.
I crossed Dunlap and started back to where I had left my car, about 3/4 of a mile away, and immediately found this very strange garage. I mean, who names a garage after a character from Alice in Wonderland? This struck me as weird because I fancy myself as a bit of a Mad Hatter, and have created my own Mad Hatter costume.
Walking west, I found this cowboy on the sidewalk, or perhaps he was a miner. The hills around Sunnyslope were once full of old mines dug by prospectors in the 19th century.
A glowing rock next to a pickaxe? Definitely a symbol of mining.
Another one of our flat friends. He must not have liked me taking his picture without permission, because at this point my right calf began to hurt, and I went lame. I would limp back to the car from here.
Reaching Central Avenue, I found this remindrance of today’s namesake. The Ides of March is famous for the assassination of Julius Caesar. Little Caesar is here located next to another location famous for blades in use.
On the corner of Dunlap and Central there is a small grocery that apparently features some rather exotic booze. Perhaps I should have gone in and purchased some Devil ale, but I resisted temptation.
From here I crossed the street, got back into my car, and returned to my home, having finished my tour of everything worth seeing in downtown Sunnyslope.
If you’ve ever found weird stuff in a small town, or even just a small section of the city, why not leave a comment?
Friday evening, February 20, 2015, I accepted an invitation from my artist friend Gilead to come to an art show at a local Phoenix brewery. I did not go for the booze, but just to see my friend and admire whatever art might be present. I found the place at 30th Street and Washington and went inside, where I talked to my friend, and chatted with other artists and craftsmen. I stayed about an hour, and tried to take at least once picture of everything worth seeing.
Brewery front door at 30th Street and Washington in Phoenix.
Gilead and his wife Stellar. Gilead does the best goblins and monsters.
Gilead’s painting: Swordsman meets big lizard.
Artist in early stages of painting.
I’m fond of pretty rocks. This shows me something I could do with them.
Rings and things, originals for ladies. Royal purple–a great color.
More hand-crafted jewelry. Husband and wife artist team–I have seen them before at local sci-fi conventions.
I think it’s going to be Batman.
Just plain strange. I have no idea where this painting is going.
The musician thinks everyone came to listen to him. He wasn’t bad, but nobody came to listen to him.
Breweries seem to be about big aluminum tanks. Who knew?
No idea what is inside them. The tanks are not labeled.
Art on the wall in the back room–1.
Art on the wall–2
Art on the wall–3
Art on the wall–4
Art on the wall–5
Art on the wall–6.
Art on the wall–7.
The cafe/pub side of the brewery. It’s a small room, smaller than my living room at home.
Another artist at work. He works small, but it’s fantasy.
Tanks for the memories.
Best in show–imho. It took me a day to get it. This is a picture of Fox and Mulder in an alien encounter of the worst kind.
The pictures are displayed in the order in which I took them. After a little less than an hour of walking around looking at things and talking to artists, I took my leave.
If you’ve ever gone to an art show that was a bit underwhelming, why not leave a comment?
This morning I went out with a friend to go bargain hunting at thrift shops around Phoenix. There are a lot of these stores in town. People give their unwanted STUFF to the thrift store which turns around and resells it for about 1/10 of its current retail value as a new item. While you can’t always find what you want, you can usually find interesting stuff, and frankly, I don’t know why anyone would ever buy clothing new from a department store again. It is kind of like treasure hunting, only I’m not using a x-marked map or a metal detector, just my own keen instinct for a good deal when I see one.
So . . . we visited 3 stores–it took about 3 hours. My friend bought stuff in two stores, and I bought about $9 worth in the third. Her purchases weren’t very exciting to me, and I don’t think she was thrilled with the stuff I picked up, but that’s what makes it fun. Different strokes for different folks, and so on and so on and shooby dooby doo-beeee!
Anyway, I got a few pictures of the expedition, and thought I’d show you what passes for treasure when I go out hunting.
I like to take selfies that are unusual reflections of me. I really liked this faux metallic goblet, but have absolutely no use for it in my house, so I didn’t buy it. Can you see my distorted image in it?
The next bunch of pictures is all knick-knackery that I thought was cool–just not quite cool enough to actually buy and take home to an apartment already full of way too much junk. This is kitschy stuff–I am such a lowbrow.
This store in Glendale had all kinds of stuff that tickled my fancy, but didn’t quite get me to break open my wallet.
Porcelain bobble-head Uncle Sam. He reminds me of old pictures of President Andrew jackson.
Buccaneer with pet monkey carrying off a lot of treasure.
Painted porcelain snail. The other side of his shell features flowers and butterflies.
Princess Ariel in human form and the kitty. Only, this kitty is for collecting coins–a kitty bank instead of a piggy bank.
Cute stuff, don’t you think? But none of it has any place in a manly man’s house. (ha!)
So what did I buy? A dozen plastic shirt-hangers for $1, a new light-weight belt to hold my pants up, and the three items shown in the picture below.
Here I am with my trasure finds of the day–none of which cost over $3.
I have been playing Risk for more than 40 years now, but I’ve never owned the game. Got this one for $1.99. My 23 year-old son has never played Risk. Gonna teach him the game before the day is over.
I have never been a fan of twinkly vampires and I did not read the Twilight series when it was popular, but this media tie-in game comes in a tin box worth the $2.50 price by itself. If all else fails, I can wash it out and use it as a cookie container. The game board design shown on the back also looks interesting.
And lastly, another baseball cap, but not just any cap. This one has Jack from Jack-in-the-Box on it. I have never seen a Jack baseball cap before, and it is like new. Worth $1 for it? You bet! As an unregenerate fan of junk food, how could I pass up to show my allegiance to jaunty Jack? I couldn’t.
If you’ve ever gone Goodwill hunting, why not leave a comment?
Oops, the negative side of my personality is coming out, but Mr. Marx is so persuasive. I just want to join his little song and dance, usually several times a day, and definitely more than once a week. (If you listen to the song, you’ll notice that Groucho really has a very good voice.)
Groucho sang this in a movie called Horsefeathers back in 1932, I don’t think I ever saw that whole movie. Just one more thing for the bucket list: watch all the Groucho movies before I die.
Song: I’m Against It
I don’t know what they have to say
it makes no difference anyway
Whatever it is, I’m against it
No matter what it is or who commenced it
I’m against it
Your proposition may be good
but let’s have one thing understood
Whatever it is, I’m against it
And even when you’ve changed it or condensed it
I’m against it
I’m opposed to it
on general principle
I’m opposed to it
He’s opposed to it
In fact, indeed that he’s opposed to it!
For months before my son was born
I used to yell from night to morn
Whatever it is, I’m against it
And I’ve been yelling since I first commenced it
I’m against it
If you’ve ever been against anything, why not leave a comment?
I have written before about the painted walls of Phoenix. Artists, especially Chicano artists, but I suspect all artists have this trait, just love to find large open spaces they can fill with their pictures. Phoenix has a lot of murals and larger than life paintings done on sides of buildings, fences, and stone walls. I knew there was some art on Roosevelt–the half mile street between McDowell and Van Buren, but I never knew how much there was until I went down there yesterday, parked, and looked around. I found more stuff than I can show you in a single blog.
My curiosity was aroused by this piece of art as I drove past it last week in an attempt to get across town during rush hour. The freeway and the mile roads were bumper to bumper, so I tried to make better time on the half mile road. And as I neared 3rd Street going west, I saw this:
I saw all the tentacles, and my first thought was Cthulhu.
Yeah, there’s a fence in the way, so I couldn’t get a really good picture of it, but you have to admit that this is a pretty bizarre thing to find on a wall in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. When I first saw it, I knew I had to come back and look more carefully.
One of the great myths of pre-Columbian Mexico is the story of Aztlan, the primordial homeland of the Aztec people (and several related tribes as well). Themes drawn from pre-Conquest Mexico often show up in Chicano art–it is part of the heritage of Mexico and the Mexican people. I found a lot of that in the Roosevelt district.
These six panels covered a fence just east of 3rd Street. The top two are the most clearly Aztec in inspiration. The first one is a very good representation of the Quetzalcoatl figures carved into Mexican stonework, especially in Teotihuacan (technically Toltec, but it is a precursor to the Aztecs who arrived on the scene some 500 years after the City of the Gods was abandoned). The second one down shows a woman in the native costume of the natives of Central Mexico. The artist is Gennaro Garcia, an immigrant from Mexico. The man is prolific and has several pages on the internet, including Facebook. I may track him down and ask him to explain this series. I’m sure there are stories behind each picture.
Another distinctive Mexican theme is to represent people as skeletons. This is related to the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday (actually a 3 day holiday from October 31 to November 2). That ties it into Halloween and All Souls Day from the Catholic religion. Mexico is a very Catholic country, but the older native mythology has persisted and underlies some of the Catholic celebrations.
The watery theme may be a reference to Venice, or to Tenochtitlan, now known as Mexico City, a city built on a the big lake that was the center of the Valley of Mexico before the Spaniards arrived.
As you can see, the art is very colorful, fantastic and amazing. There is a great deal more in that part of town to see, but I’m not going to try and cram it all into one blog. I close this with one final picture. I don’t know whether this represents the Phoenix bird (this is Phoenix, Arizona), the Mexican Eagle, the American Eagle, or even the Thunderbird of the Southwestern tribes. Perhaps it can stand for all of them. That’s the glory of symbolism.
If you have seen this art, or great wall art in your own city, why not leave a comment?
I like and enjoy a lot of things in life, but when I try to figure out what is my favorite, I think it has to be books and reading (including comics). I knew there was a graphic novel waiting for me at the library, and comics waiting for me at Samurai Comics. I had books by the door I’ve been wanting to unload for weeks now. With those incentives I set off on a Saturday afternoon book expedition.
What I started with . . . everything on the car seat needs to go away.
First stop: Yucca Branch Library. This is my local branch and where i pick up and drop off most of the things i get from the Phoenix Library system.
This was my prize. Nightwing graphic novel #5–a retelling of Nightwing’s (Dick Grayson) origin story in the new 52 continuity.
Where the Good Stuff is–the graphic novels/manga section in the Teen area of Yucca Branch Library.
What was in the car after coming out of the library.
Second stop: Samurai Comics at 11th Street and Cameback in uptown Phoenix.
Front door of the shop. This store is just jammed with Too Much Good Stuff.
What was waiting for me inside . . . my ship came in and I had $17 worth of comics waiting. Conan/Red Sonja crossover, new Groo series starting, 2 issues of John Carter of Mars that I had missed, and there were freebies including a huge book advertising all the New 52 graphic novels currently available from D.C. comics. It was quite a haul.
Where the Good Stuff is: the back wall of the shop has the rack of all the new comics for the week.
Where the bargains are: rack after rack of comics for $1 each–mostly old Silver Age stuff.
Where the Weird Stuff is: independents and toys and comic related items like clothing and mugs are on free-standing racks in the middle of the store.
There is a huge rack of back issues still on sale at cover price along the west wall of the store. The trick is to wait for a sale and then go cherry pick that wall of stuff you just didn’t quite buy the first time you saw it.
Third stop on the trip: Half Price Books at 22nd Street and Camelback.
This is all the stuff I traded in, about 10 items. The store was busy and I had to wait more than half an hour for my appraisal. They gave me $2.50 for the whole lot. Any single item in the batch cost more than that retail, but it beats throwing the books away or donating to the library, who would then throw them away.
The science fiction/fantasy section of Half Price Books. Back in the Day I would have gone through every rack, looked at every title, and bought every sword and sorcery/heroic fantasy title i found. Now, I just walk by, glance at the ones turned cover out, and feel nostalgic. Buying all the fantasy would cost hundreds of dollars even at half price. Reading it would take more time than I ever expect to have again.
J.R.R. Tolkien still inspires ciriticism and explanation. I think I will see if the library bought this book.
Where the Good Stuff Is: this locked bookcase has the used and half price tarot and other cool card sets. I collect tarot decks, and I can read the cards when I want to.
Where the Wizards go. The store has 2 tall bookcases full of books on magic and the occult arts. Since I am a wizard I always check this are to see what’s new.
The store has a small section for Gaming also. There’s a deal here with a Monstrous Compendium for players of That Other Game. I was kind of tempted by the Risk set for $15.00.
The games are right next to the grajphic novel section.
I made one purchase at Half Price Books. The Zombie Tarot deck was a bizarre addition to my already bizarre collection of strange tarot decks. This is what was in the car when I left Half Price. As you can see, the seat never really got any emptier.
Fourth and final stop of the afternoon: Changing Hands Bookstore at 3rd Ave. and Camelback. Now I am on the homeward leg of the journey.
Changing Hands is an upscale independent bookstore. It is a beautiful place and very friendly to bibliophiles.
Where the Good Stuff Is: the bar. In addition to books and knick-knackery, Changing Hands has a bar where one can get drinks and snacks.
The most interesting book I saw in Changing Hands–a massive annotated collection of the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I would like to have it, but it’s $39.99 and I don’t want to spend that kind of money on it.
A closeup of the science fiction/fantasy section in the store.
And here I am enjoying a really good cup of coffee and a blueberry muffin at the bar. I didn’t buy any books here today–the place is really too upscale for a poor man like me, but what a great place to hang out. My thanks to the beautiful bartender who took my picture.
So, if you’ve ever visited any of these locations, or devoted a good part of a day to just going where the books are, then why not leave a comment?
For such a sedentary fellow (librarian for 40 years), it’s hard to explain why I like action fiction so much, but the truth is my heroes have always been Tarzan and Conan and Lancelot–fighting men who left a trail of dead foes behind them and never gave them a second thought. Perhaps it is the old rule that opposites attract. I don’t have the muscle or the blind courage to be Tarzan or Conan, but in my dreams . . .
In spite of the fact that Robert E. Howard is one of my favorite writers, I have not managed to read everything that the man wrote during his all too brief lifetime. (1906-1936). Yes, I have read all of Conan and Kull, and I think I’ve read all of Solomon Kane as well, but Howard had other heroes. A couple of weeks ago, I got a chance to acquire a book that was new to me. The title is BLOOD OF THE GODS. Paul Herman edited the book and Girasol Collectables published it in a limited trade papaerback edition of 1000 copies. Neil and Leigh Mechem own that business and seem to be devoted to keeping the Pulp Era alive with reprints of stories and magazines from that golden age of American fiction–a time when stories were king, and there were lots of them.
For the most part the pulp authors were not a particularly successful or talented bunch. The names of all but a few of them have faded into obscurity. Even those who succeeded, men and women like R. E. Howard, and H. P. Lovecraft, Henry Kuttner, and Leigh Brackett barely earned enough from their writing to stay alive. The only pulp writer ever known to have gotten wealthy from such writing was L. Ron Hubbard, and he did it by starting a science fiction religion. He wrote some great stories, but they are mostly forgotten today.
Some of the best writers started in the pulps and managed to escape from them. Ray Bradbury comes to mind. Raymond Chandler is another. Edgar Rice Burroughs and Otis A. Kline wrote pulp, but managed to transcend the medium. They all did it by getting their fiction published in books–books that would outlast the flimsy, gaudy magazines where the stories originally appeared.
Howard never made it to books during his lifetime. It remained for people like Martin Greenberg, who started Gnome Press, and August Derleth who started Arkham House to start collecting pulp fiction and immortalizing it in book form. Since Greenberg published the first collection of Conan stories in 1950 in book form, publishers have been making a killing by collecting and re-issuing Howard’s stories ever since.
BLOOD OF THE GODS contains four El Borak novelettes about an American adventurer named Francis Xavier Gordon in turn-of-the-century Afghanistan (and other parts of the mid-east). It also contains one Kirby O’Donnell story. Both men are very similar–black-haired Americans who can disguise themselves as Moslems of one form or another. I bought the book because I had read about El Borak, but had never seen the stories. El Borak was apparently a big deal for Howard. He had five stories about him published during his lifetime,and several others in manuscript. El Borak means the Swift, and he shares a lot with Conan. General appearance, titanic strength and vitality, and the ability to move like lightning. I wonder why Howard bothered with Kirby O’Donnell. The setting is the same as for the El Borak stories. The characters are very similar–so similar that it’s hard to believe two such men could have co-existed in the time and place that Howard gave them. In fact, that was Howard’s entire mythos–all of his heroes were fighters. Not stupid by any means, but more likely to fight their way out of trouble than to think their way out of it. I bought the book because I thought I might be getting all the El Borak stories in one place. I acted on impulse, and did not do my homework before purchasing it. I can’t help thinking that someone should collect all of the El Borak stories including the fragments and the stuff that appeared in fanzines and edit it together into an epic that makes sense. I wonder why it hasn’t been done already–there are many better Howard fans than me who could create such a work.
Objectively, the stories aren’t all that good. There is no character development. Howard’s Afghanistan is as imaginary as his Hyborean Age, but the barbarians have guns. He re-uses names and themes with little attempt to create a coherent tapestry of stories. Each story stands alone. Each story begins with the hero getting into some sort of jam, and each one ends with him fighting his way out of it. Along the way there is hardship, travel, friendship, furious action, and death to the bad guys. It’s all about as deep and real as the butter you spread on your toast. And yet, I love this stuff. No other American writer ever had a better sense of pace for headlong action that just picks the reader up and carries him along to the finish like being caught in the rapids of the Colorado river.
There is no magic in most of Howard’s non Hyborean fiction. Conan, Kull, Bran Mac Morn, and Solomon Kane deal with magic. El Borak, Breckinridge Elkins, Fighting Steve Costigan, and several others don’t go supernatural at all. But it is all fantasy–action fantasy, fighting fantasy. And Crom help me, I still love the stuff, long after I got old enough to know better.
If you’ve ever read an El Borak story, or if you are a fan of Robert E. Howard, why not leave a comment?