Archive for October 2012

Prescott   3 comments

On Saturday morning October 27, 2012 I got into my beautiful black Kia and took a ride up the Black Canyon Freeway–destination Prescott, Arizona.  I tried to get there once before this year, but wound up stopping at Arcosanti.  This time I successfully navigated the road construction–very confusing cloverleaf the state is building–imho, a big disimprovement to what was already there–made the crazy left turn and headed west from Cordes Junction to Prescott.

Prescott used to be a large town with an Old West atmosphere–a small city full of cheap motels, antique shops, art galleries, and trading posts.  It still has all those things, but is now totally surrounded by miles of suburbs and strip malls.  In addition to Prescott itself, there is also Prescott Valley and East Prescott.  Prescott was twice capitol of Arizona, once from 1864 to 1867 and again from 1877 to 1889.  Since 1889 Phoenix has been the capitol and most important city in the state.  The city is sometimes called the Mile High city (yeah, like Denver) because it is 5200 feet above sea level.  The city was named after William H. Prescott, an American historian who wrote some truly epic histories of the New World.  The 2010 census population was about 40,000 people, but it is the center of a metropolitan area that contains more than 200,000.  With a lot of traffic on the roads and suburbs sprawling in all directions, it feels like there are hundreds of thousands of people there.

I drove through town on what used to be the main drag, Gurley Street, and parked near the Sharlott Hall Museum.  Then, I disembarked, had some breakfast in a nearby cafe, and walked around town for a while.  This is not an organized tour of the city, but just things I saw as I ambled around.

My first stop was the Dinner Bell cafe–one of those old style Mom and Pop eating establishments that used to be the small restaurant scene in America. It had been in business since 1939 at the same location.

I left home without any breakfast, and so I was very hungry by the time I got to Prescott.  I also needed to use the facilities, so the cafe was a logical first stop.  Prices are a little higher in these places than they are in fast food joints like Wendy’s, but the food is much better.  I ordered a Denver omelette, a delicacy I haven’t had for several years, and coffee.  They were good–plenty of real food.  There went my calorie count for the day.

Inside, the place was cramped, but I got a booth. Clearly the place has a lot of regulars. Like many American diners, the walls were covered with memorabilia of all sorts. I’m sure every picture has a story, but I didn’t get any of them.

My waitress had sparkly pockets on her blue jeans. The place was heavily decorated for Halloween, and most of the people seemed to know each other.

Fortified with breakfast, I went out and immediately found the true cause of my visit to Prescott.  I remembered there was an old bookstore in this part of town, and I wanted to see if it was still there.  Yes, it was.

The pink shop across the street from the Dinner Bell is called The Book Nook. It is an old style bookstore crammed from floor to ceiling with used books–most of them in only fair condition. It is full of treasures, and most of them at reasonable prices.

While I was inside the shopkeeper asked me if I was looking for anything in particular.  I mentioned Edgar Rice Burroughs and Otis A. Kline, and was introduced to Marilyn, the shop owner, who told me that the better, rarer stuff was downstairs.  I talked her into letting me go downstairs with her and found a basement crammed with old treasures not really much different from the stuff upstairs.  She had a computer down there, and could look to see if she had anything that would tempt me.  I asked her about Talbot Mundy, and she came up with a thick novel called “Old Ugly Face”–a tale of mysticism and espionage on the India-Thibet border set in the 1930s–not in very good condition and she wanted $55 for it.  That was too much, but I might try to find it via inter-library loan.  I asked for various other authors, most of whom she didn’t have, but she did have one by Aleister Crowley.  This proved to be the find of the expedition, and for $35 I acquired an excellent magician’s manual.

Title page and frontispiece. The book is bound in black buckram with gold stamping on the spine, but nothing on the cover. It must have had a dust jacket once upon a time, but that is gone. The author is Aleister Crowley. The title is Magick. New York, Samuel Weiser, 1973, c.1934. illus., plates, index. 511 p.

I am such a dabbler.  After spending the money on it, I hope I can find time to read this book.  There is no chance in hell that I’ll ever be able to practice magick the way Crowley describes it.

I found a second book that I wanted in the Book Nook, PETER AND THE SHADOW THIEVES by Dave Barry and Riddley Pearson.  This Children’s novel is a continuation of the adventures of Peter Pan as imagined by modern authors Barry and Pearson.  Actually there are at least 3 or 4 books in this series and they are prequels to J. M. Barrie’s work.  Barry is notable for his humor, Pearson for his thrillers.  It seems like an odd team to do Peter Pan stories but they are surprisingly effective together.  I read the first one, PETER AND THE STARCATCHERS about a decade ago, and when I saw the second one I bought it on impulse.  Peter Pan has always been one of my heroes.

I spent more than half an hour in the bookstore, and it was very pleasant.  Such places are packed with treasures, and I’m sorry I can only afford to take maybe one or two pieces when I find them.

IMHO, this is what bookstores should look like. Not elegant! Not spacious, bright, and clean! A narrow place, crammed with wonders, by an old magic-worker who loves her treasures and shares them with those who are wise enough to find them.

Leaving the bookstore behind, I walked into the central touristy part of Prescott.  I also came to visit the antique stores, trading posts, and galleries.  I love that kind of stuff, though I have neither money to spend on it, nor places to display any such loot.  Oh well, a man can look and admire without buying.  I also planned to get my day’s exercise walking around downtown.

I kind of like it when artists do murals and bizarre gigantic paintings on the walls of buildings. This splash of color is hidden by foliage on the banks of a creek that runs through western Prescott and is close to the cafe.

I would like to eat dinner with this fellow some time.

I found another bookstore, this one on Whiskey Row in the heart of town. It is called The Sage, and it is the antitheses of the Book Nook. Here everything is immaculate and in excellent condition, and the prices are all double and triple what they are at the other place. I walked through this store and admired it very much, but I didn’t buy anything.

This shop is underground on Whiskey Row and specializes in western memorabilia–definitely a tourist trap, but a great place for those who might want some authentic old western costumes.

I found this wooden Indian inside another store on Whiskey Row where I stopped to admire the bolo ties, and wound up buying a couple of geodes.

Prescott was holding a Pumpkin Festival for charity in the park around the Yavapai County Courthouse. There has always been something going on here whenever I visited Prescott. There was an anti-Romney rally going on, with a bit of gentle satire involved.

Can you tell that it is almost Halloween?

There is nothing remarkable about this building. I took the picture just to prove I really was in Prescott that morning.

a pleasant day for a festival in the park. Pavilions all over the place. That massive building in the background is the Yavapai County Courthouse. One has to climb two flights of stairs just to get in through the front door.

Festival booths seen from behind.

Fry’s Wheel of Fortune. Spin it and win a bat, cat, pumpkin, or lunch at Fry’s food store. It is hard for me to pass up free stuff, but the line waiting for a chance to spin it was too long.

Life sized statue of horse and rider. I really admire these old bronze masterpieces.

The Shootist–this old gunslinger is watching a costume contest for kids under the age of 7.

The Over the Hill Gang, some old cowboys enjoying the fine weather. I spent a few minutes talking to them.

A pumpkin festival has to have a pumpkin patch. Neither Charley Brown nor the Great Pumpkin were in attendance, but one could buy a pumpkin for charity here.

Damn that fat woman in black blouse and blue jeans. She walked right in front of me as I was shooting a papparazzi picture of Spider-Man and Tinker Belle. Seems like an unlikely combination. Darth Vader was there too.

I finally left the festival behind and took a tour of the nearby antique stores. I admired some pretty trinkets, but didn’t buy anything else. Stopped to take a picture of a typical store though. I believe I’ve been here before. Deja vu!

Nothing else worth mentioning happened.  I walked back to my car, and drove home, getting confused again at the Cordes Junction turnaround, but quickly correcting and heading south.  The whole trip took about 7 hours.  I got my exercise for the day, two old books, and a pretty rock.  And I’m wondering where I can go next time the wanderlust overcomes me.

If you’ve ever been to Prescott, Arizona, or any other old town where you can find rundown bookstores and plenty of characters hanging out in the local diner, why not leave a comment?


Poetry   2 comments

Jabberwocky  by Lewis Carroll

Twas brillig and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimbal in the wabe;

All mimsy were the borogroves,

And the mome rath outgrabe.

* * *

I love poetry.  I get it from my father.  Scattered through my huge collection are a few books of poems.  When I go into used bookstores I search for small books of fantasy poetry, and sometimes buy them whether I’ve ever heard of the author or not.

My favorite authors are great storytellers, but also poets–often very whimsical poets.  Lewis Carroll, Omar Khayyam, Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft and others.

Another great thing about poetry is that it inspires wonderful art.  I love wonderful art, too.

I woke up early this morning, and was obsessed with the idea of telling you about the glory of poetry.  So here I am, before the sun comes up, ransacking my book collection, trying to find a few short poems to share with you.  I know I have dozens of books full of poetry, but they are mostly hiding pretty well this morning.  I did find these.

Wake! For the Sun who scatter’d into flight

The Stars before him from the Field of Night, 

Drives Night along with them from Heav’n and strikes

The Sultan’s Turret with a Shaft of Light.

This is the first quatrain from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam as rendered into English verse by Edward Fitzgerald and published by Donald McKay (a publisher) in Philadelphia in 1942 with illustrations by Willy  Pogany.

I have at least three different editions of the Rubaiyat around the house, and whenever I see one in a bookstore, I always pick it up and leaf through it.  The temptation to buy is always strong . . . but I already have at least three.  My favorite verse is one that shows me for the hedonist I really am.

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,

A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou

Beside me singing in the Wilderness–

Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!


 The greatest author of sword and sorcery fantasy in the English language was, in my humble opinion, Robert E. Howard, best known for his creation of Conan the Barbarian.  Howard committed suicide at the age of 30 in 1936.  What is not well known is that he was a poet of exceptional quality who wrote weird and morbid verse.  Here is his The Road of Azrael.

Towers reel as they burst asunder, 

Streets run red in the butchered town; 

Standards fall and the lines go under,

And the iron horsemen ride me down.

Out of the straggling dusts that blind me

Let me ride for my hour is nigh.

From the walls that stifle, the hoofs that grind me,

To the sun and the desert sand to die.

Another author of weird fiction from the beginning of the 20th century also wrote weird verse–in fact, I suspect that they all did.  It’s just that I was able to find my book of Hodgson’s poems when I went searching this morning.  Hodgson’s great mythos was the Sea, but he died on land as a soldier during World War I.

The Morning Lands

I saw the coasts off the unknown world

   (Showered with the morning dew)

   Rise from the sea of night,

With many a wonder-hue empearled,

   With many a gem of light;

And from that shore there grew

   A faint and distant cry,

   Like a wailing spirit’s sigh

   That floated through the dawn,

   The call of souls unborn,

   Waiting behind the dim array

   Of cliffs that gird the day. 


Well, let me stop for now.  I was going to give you poems by Donald S. Fryer and Tanith Lee, but too much poetry is just that–too much.  Perhaps I will fill another blog with weird poetry some time.  Perhaps I will share some of mine.

If you ever wrote a weird poem, or even a weird limerick, feel free to leave a comment.


Fragments are all we have   5 comments

The life of a man is too much to ever tell. It goes by, second by second, minute by minute, year by year, and any moment can be a high one or a low one. And in the end, we die, and we leave fragments behind us–memories, monuments, book collections, and all manner of debris. And yet I will ever maintain that those fragments have their own importance, and of such fragments, reality itself is constructed.

Here are a few fragments of my life–old photographs found in the accumulation of things I carry around with me, looking for somewhere else to lay them down.

Me about 1965, standing in the driveway of my home in the Maryvale area of West Phoenix. I combed my hair in a curl over my right eye in imitation of James Bond as he was described in the novels by Ian Fleming. I liked bold colors. Look at those red slacks. Although I was no athlete, there was no fat on my body..

My first paying job was washing trucks for City Delivery, a local delivery company that preceeded the appearance of United Parcel in Phoenix. My father, Richard Eugene St. Andre, was a supervisor and dispatcher for the company. After I got my driver’s license, he got me this job washing their trucks every Saturday morning. I used a garden hose, a bucket of soapy water, and a long-handled brush. My brother, Daniel who took this picture, helped me. This is summer 1965 or 1966. I believe this is the only picture of me that survives from my City Delivery days.

When I was a boy growing up in Phoenix, I spent my summers riding around in trucks with the drivers of City Delivery. I carried packages and toted all manner of things that needed moving from one location to another. I learned the city as truck drivers know it–every loading dock, every alley, every one way street. In due time I got a driver’s license and became a truck driver for the company. On Saturday mornings I washed those trucks, learning to drive big boxy-backed trucks as well as pickups and small vans.

My first car–a 1948 Dodge. My father bought it for me as an 18th birthday present. He found it on a back lot somewhere downtown and paid $75 for it. It was gray, and I called it the Torpedo. I drove this car to death in a little over a year–driving too fast–it had 8 cylinders, plenty of power. I used to drive it from Maryvale to Tempe where I attended Arizona State University every day as a freshman. One morning, a hose broke, and I did not know it, until sparks and clouds of steam came up through the floorboards and out from the under the hood, and I burned up the engine. That was exciting.

Graceful Ken–caught in the act of diving into a swimming pool at a girlfriends house in Maryvale. Splash!

Charlette Myers, summer 1965, afternoon spent at her house going swimming. Charlotte was probably as close as i came to having a girlfriend in my senior year of high school. I never dated the homecoming queens or class beauties. But Charlotte was nice and I liked her a lot. She went back east to college, and I never saw her again after the summer was over.

Charlotte dives in.

Charlotte in the water. I remember it only vaguely, but we were happy together that afternoon. The next day I had quite a sunburn, and didnt go swimming with her any more. Even then, when I was 18, I would rather take pictures of other people than of myself. I never liked the way I looked on film.

When I was 19 I bought a .22 single shot rifle. My friends and I would go out and shoot bottles and cans in the desert outside of Phoenix. I could shoot in those days. I never actually killed anything though.

My second car. After the Dodge died, I got a 1957 Ford Thunderbird. I called it Black Beauty. God! I felt like a king when I was driving this car. I got so many traffic tickets in it. I had it for about a year, and sold it to buy something more economical. Sigh! It was a great car.

Let me jump forward a couple of years and finish this blog with some pictures from my year with the Society for Creative Anachronism. In 1968 I was at the World Science Fiction Convention in Berkeley, California where I first encountered the Society doing demos on the hotel lawn. Rick Cook was also there, and he liked it so much that he decided to form a chapter of the SCA in Phoenix. I was one of the initial members, though I never held any offices or attained any fame within the group. I attended the very earliest organizational meetings and fighter practices and completely failed to distinguish myself. I am including the following pictures simply because they represent what was mostly a good time in my life. Atenveldt wasn’t a kingdom when these pictures were taken–simply a province of the Kingdom of the Mists that was centered in Berkeley. Who knows? Perhaps some of those people will recognize themselves from 50 years ago?

Taurus, a young gentleman of the Kingdom of Atenveldt–that is, Ken St. Andre in Society for Creative Anachronism circa 1969. Costume consists of blue jeans, a green tunic with a felt bullhead sewed on, and a gorgeous double-sided cloak. It looked like snake skin on one side and was rich pumpkin orange on the other. I usually wore it with the snake skin side outwards, but it was reversible and could be worn either way. I kept that cloak for decades after I left the S.C.A.

The lady on the right was Cynthia. She was a talented seamstress. She designed and made her own clothing, and it was she who made the costume for me in the previous picture. For a month or two she was my lady. She could dance, and she could kiss, and she was much wilder, freer, and smarter than me. I lost her because I simply was not able to keep up with or satisfy such a woman.

My best friend, Terry Ballard, was also there at the beginning with me in the Society. His costumes were even more minimal than mine. In those days all we had to do was put on a cape to be acceptable in feudal society. Terry was the smart one. I was the dashing one. 🙂 Considering how dashing I was not–that says a lot about where the two of us fit in.

Early royalty. I do not know who they are, although I knew them then.

In those days, about 1970, we held some great revels. I have no idea who these people are any more, but look at all the bottles. Wine and mead were plentiful.

And what better way to end a story than with a party? Our trip through time is over now–I hope you enjoyed seeing the young Ken who still wanted to be a writer, and had no idea where his life would take him.

If you ever had an old car, a flat stomach, or a significant other that got away from you, why not leave a comment? You should really leave one if you were ever a member of the Kingdom of Atenveldt.


RinCon 2012   2 comments

39 years ago I helped start LepreCon, the first sfnal Con in Arizona.  At least if anything else preceeded it, my friends and I had never heard of it, though we knew about cons in California and back east.  Since then the number of cons has increased tremendously, and it reached a point where cons weren’t just for science fiction any more–they spread out into all sorts of related fields, like Gaming.

It all blurs together after a while, but I don’t remember going to any gaming specific cons before the 1990s.  However, once the idea caught on, it became quite popular.  This year, I have attended three Gaming Cons here in Arizona–VulCon I, Conflagration 1, and RinCon 2012.  In addition, I have spent most of my con time gaming at DarkCon, LepreCon, ComiCon, and CopperCon.  And those were just the cons in Arizona, which I tend to attend because they are close and don’t cost me much money.  Out of state I went to Origins, OSRcon, and GenCon.   And I’m planning on LaughingMoonCon on Oct. 20.  That makes 8 weekends minimum spent at conventions, mostly gaming–slightly more than 1/5th of the year’s weekends up to my neck in cards and dice mostly.

Last week, Sept 28-30. I was in South Tucson for RinCon 2012.   This southern Arizona convention is about 5 years old now, and I have attended it once before.  This year the Con committee made me an offer I couldn’t refuse (a hotel room for my stay at the con–I’m easy, folks, you can have me for as little as a place to stay while at the con (grin)).  My son and I went to the Con.  I played Tunnels & Trolls twice, and a few other games.  I was on two interesting panels with John Wick and Mark Truman who were the other major frp people at the con.  We talked about such things as GM technique, things to keep in mind if you want to create your own frp game, and how the sport of role-playing has developed and is likely to continue developing.

I took my little camera along and took a few pictures, which I will now share with you.  They don’t really make a story this time, but it should give you an idea of what it was like.

There was plenty of function space at the Airport Holiday Inn in South Tucson. About half of the gaming took place in this large hall. The dealers have an area down at the far end.

I broke a rule, and actually played That Other Game. Jim McKenzie, the big guy on the left ran Pathfinder for most of the weekend, and I sat in on a game Friday afternoon as a wizard. Had to leave after about an hour of play, and I got back just in time for the grand finale. My wizard wasn’t missed, and got to throw one magic missile in the whole game.

Although you will find I prefer my own Tunnels and Trolls to all other frp systems, I am willing to play other games from time to time.  Really, it isn’t the system that matters.  It’s the role-playing that counts and having a good time with others.

That evening, Jamie, the cutie on the right taught my son James, the blurry fellow on the left, and me how to play the World of Warcraft CCG. James won–twice. I prefer Magic ™, but if one were a WoW player (and I’m not), I could see how one might grow fond of this game.

James Ernest was the Guest of Honor at RinCon. James is an amazingly smart game designer of mostly board games, but he could do anything. We know each other, but don’t mingle that much. Here he is having breakfast at the hotel buffet on Saturday morning. Bacon, eggs, and orange juice–yum!

The major Event of the convention was a GM conference on Saturday morning from 10 a.m. till 1 p.m.  5 game designers including me down front and 20 to 30 people in the audience at various times.

Audience, right side, Matthew Nielson down in front.

Audience, left side.

John Wick sat to the right of me. John pretty much dominates any panel he is on.

John said he had designed 10 rpgs this year already.  I said, big deal, designing them isn’t so hard.  Getting them published and out to the gamers in an attractive format is the hard thing.  John amended his statement to say he had published 10 rpgs already this year.

Mark Truman sat to the left of me on the panel. Mark is a game designer on the rise.

You won’t see any pictures of me at this Con, at least none that I own.  I was always pretty much at the center of the action and looking out admiring the great works of other people.

RinCon pays its GMs in RinCoins–tokens that dealers have agreed to take as part of the purchase price of games. Alas, I spent my RinCoins buying more Magic.

This BEN HVRT (clever play on Roman letters and a movie title) looked like a lot of fun. It represents all the great games I saw at RinCon but never got the actual chance to play.

After 2.5 days of gaming goodness, RinCon came to an end on Sunday afternoon.  While I was there I participated in a Pathfinder game, 2 Tunnels and Trolls sessions, a Settlers of Catan game, several rounds of Magic with my son, a WoW demo, a game of Gloom with my son, and a long session of Legacy the other t & t game (time travel and technology).  It was a good weekend for gaming.

If you were at RinCon, or some other gaming convention recently, why not leave a comment and mention your exploits there?