Archive for April 2013

Birthday Bash   1 comment

Some people really know how to throw a great party.  I’m not one of those people, but when I get a chance to go to such an affair, I take it.  My brother-in-law, Jim Marsella, is such a person.  Jim is a very high-powered guy, and he married my sister Julie, and once in a while he does something that I can tag along for.  So, actually, this isn’t my story today, it’s part of Jim’s story, and I’m just one of the extras in this part of the movie.  To follow this party, and see much better pictures of it than I was able to take, find my page on Facebook and scroll down.  I’d post some of those pictures here, but Facebook has done something to make stuff posted there not re-usable elsewhere–just another reason I really don’t like Facebook.  I use it as a necessary evil, but I don’t like it.

Jim and Julie are really the stars of this party, and they got to enjoy one special dance together with all eyes on them.

Jim and Julie are really the stars of this party, and they got to enjoy one special dance together with all eyes on them. (Picture taken by Brian St. Andre, & he wasn’t using his best camera.)

The party took place at the Elk’s Hall in Tempe, Arizona between 5 p.m. and midnight on Saturday, April 20, 2013 to celebrate Jim turning 60.  Ironically, his actual birthday is about a month earlier, but he picked this date for a public celebration in order to give people time to come from all over the country.  It is also the exact birthday of his daughter, Lisa, who came in from Florida to be there.

The external setting was bizarre.  I didn't even know that Tempe had an industrial district, much less any buildings this futuristic and bizarre, but what would one expect of a place located on Industrial Park Road?

The external setting was bizarre. I didn’t even know that Tempe had an industrial district, much less any buildings this futuristic and bizarre, but what would one expect of a place located on Industrial Park Road?

I'd be willing to bet that of the dozens of cameras at this event, no one else took a picture of tghe front door.  I don't remember ever actually going into one of these places before, so I wanted some proof.  It's a flat, southwestern style building with a big parking lot.  You wouldn't guess what's inside unless you've been there before.

I’d be willing to bet that of the dozens of cameras at this event, no one else took a picture of the front door. I don’t remember ever actually going into one of these places before, so I wanted some proof. It’s a flat, southwestern style building with a big parking lot. You wouldn’t guess what’s inside unless you’ve been there before.

My mother, Evelyn St. Andre had a place of honor at the St. Andre table.  At 86, she is the oldest living member of the St. Andre clan that I'm aware of.  The scary thing is, I'm second oldest.

My mother, Evelyn St. Andre had a place of honor at the St. Andre table. At 86, she is the oldest living member of the St. Andre clan that I’m aware of. The scary thing is, I’m second oldest.

The man in the black shirt in the center is our host and also Guest of Honor, Jim Marsella.  The man in the gray shirt in the foreground is Matt Marsella, one of his sons.

The man in the black shirt in the center is our host and also Guest of Honor, Jim Marsella. The man in the gray shirt in the foreground is Matt Marsella, one of his sons.  The woman in Lavendar is Lisa, Jim’s daughter, and birthday girl for the night. I don’t know the woman in polka dots, though I did get to dance with her briefly later in the party.

These are Jim's birthday cakes.  At least one was chocolate.  I'm watching my weight, and didn't get to eat any of them. Well, I was already full when the cakes were cut, and I passed them by.

These are Jim’s birthday cakes. At least one was chocolate. I’m watching my weight, and didn’t get to eat any of them. Well, I was already full when the cakes were cut, and I passed them by.

Here is Jim showing off one of his presents.  Jim works for Volkswagen, and his life sort of revolves around cars.  He has some of the most beautiful, hot, sexy cars in the city of Phoenix.  The Garage sign is a bit of a joke, but has a basis in fact.

Here is Jim showing off one of his presents. Jim works for Volkswagen, and his life sort of revolves around cars. He has some of the most beautiful, hot, sexy cars in the city of Phoenix. The Garage sign is a bit of a joke, but has a basis in fact.

This was a party where dancing was a big attraction.  My brother, Brian--he of the desert hikes--and his wife Donna were among the first on the dancefloor, where they always look very good.  Unlike me, Brian can really dance--he studies it, and practices every week at local dance halls.

This was a party where dancing was a big attraction. My brother, Brian–he of the desert hikes–and his wife Donna were among the first on the dancefloor, where they always look very good. Unlike me, Brian can really dance–he studies it, and practices every week at local dance halls.

My sister Julie is the blonde.  I think she looks like a biker babe in sparkly sleeveless blouse and blue jeans.  She was the hostess with the mostest.  The other woman is one of her Cruise friends, and I don't know her, and didn't meet her.

My sister Julie is the blonde. I think she looks like a biker babe in sparkly sleeveless blouse and blue jeans. She was the hostess with the mostest. The other woman is one of her Cruise friends, and I don’t know her, and didn’t meet her.  Brian is either watching the back wall, or wondering what I’m taking a picture of.

The first entertainer of the night was none other than Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll.  Actually, it was  Bret Kaiser, the best Elvis tribute artist in Arizona, and he put on a very fine show.

The first entertainer of the night was none other than Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll. Actually, it was Bret Kaiser, the best Elvis tribute artist in Arizona, and he put on a very fine show.

I think this is the only picture of me you get in this blog. To prove I was really there, I had Brian take this shot of me with "Elvis" in the background.  It's hard to judge exactly how much to smile for a posed shot.

I think this is the only picture of me you get in this blog. To prove I was really there, I had Brian take this shot of me with “Elvis” in the background. It’s hard to judge exactly how much to smile for a posed shot.

The next few shots are of "Elvis".  He was the big star of the evening--other than Jim.  Among the songs he did were "Fools Rush In" and "Heartbreak Hotel."

The next few shots are of “Elvis”. He was the big star of the evening–other than Jim. Among the songs he did were “Fools Rush In” and “Heartbreak Hotel.”

Donna St. Andre got the Elvis treatment with some flirting and a silk scarf to keep.  So did Julie and my mom, and quite a few of the women in the audience.  I got a handshake, but I could photograph that.  Jim ran around providing "Elvis" with fresh scarves as he wooed one woman after another in the audience.

Donna St. Andre got a silk scarf from "Elvis".  So did my mom, Julie, and about half the women in the room.  Men got a handshake.

Donna St. Andre got a silk scarf from “Elvis”. So did my mom, Julie, and about half the women in the room. Men got a handshake.

"Elvis" is singing to my Mom.

“Elvis” is singing to my Mom.

This is my sister Neloa and her husband Jerome Beeler.  They came down for the party from Payson, more than 100 miles, but nothing compared to people on Jim's side of the family, some of whom came from Detroit, Boston, and Florida.

This is my sister Neloa and her husband Jerome Beeler. They came down for the party from Payson, more than 100 miles, but nothing compared to people on Jim’s side of the family, some of whom came from Detroit, Boston, and Florida.

I'm just taking pictures of the pretty women at the party.  These two are Kerina St. Andre Fitzgeral (my niece) on the left, and Jennifer Embody on the right.

I’m just taking pictures of the pretty women at the party. These two are Kerina St. Andre Fitzgeral (my niece) on the left, and Jennifer Embody on the right.

Party games.  This one is called "Stuff It" and this is winner Jim Marsala with 81 ballons in his shirt.

Party games. This one is called “Stuff It” and this is winner Jim Marsala with 81 ballons in his shirt.

Tom Garrett, lead singer for the band the Classics IV during the band's later stages of its existence.  He is a very good singer.

Tom Garrett, lead singer for the band the Classics IV during the band’s later stages of its existence. He is a very good singer.

At 9 p.m. the final band for the evening came on, a local group called "Come back, Buddy."  They are  a tribute band that peform in the style of the late great Buddy Holly, though they also like to do Elvis material.

At 9 p.m. the final band for the evening came on, a local group called “Come back, Buddy.” They are a tribute band that peform in the style of the late great Buddy Holly, though they also like to do Elvis material.

My last picture shows the lovely Kerina rocking and rolling.  The two children in the center are Zack and Haley.  They belong to my niece, Kris, and I guess they're grand nephew and niece.

The Belles of the Ball: from left to right: Donna St. Andre, Kris Eckert, Lisa Marsella, Haley Eckert (child), and Kerina St. Andre Fitzgerld.

Come back Buddy was still belting out the rock and roll with Jim Marsella on the drums when I decided to go home at 10:30 p.m.  It was a fine party that I enjoyed very much.  Happy birthday to Jim and Lisa and also another guest named Charley Parker whose birthday was also that Saturday.  I ate, I sang, I danced, and I talked to family and friends.  It was a very successful, very fun party, and I’m glad I went.

If you’ve been to a good party lately, why not leave a comment and tell what made it good?

–end

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Maverick   Leave a comment

Who is the tall dark stranger there?

Maverick is the name.

Riding the trail to who knows where,

Luck is his companion;

Gambling is his game.

James Garner as Bret Maverick, my favorite western character ever.

James Garner as Bret Maverick, my favorite western character ever.

I don’t have a television set–gave it up when I separated from my wife Cathy (now divorced) in 2011, and without a tv set, there’s no reason to get cable tv.  When I want to watch some television to relax, I put a dvd into the computer.  A couple of weeks ago I was browsing at my local library, and I saw a fat box called Maverick, the first season.  With fond memories of my childhood dancing through my head, I checked it out, and took it home. . . .

And I’ve been watching it ever since.  . . . 🙂

You know what?  The show is just as good, or maybe even better than I remember.

Maverick made his first appearance on television in September of 1957.  I had forgotten exactly when I was watching that show, but it had to be between 1957 and 1960, because Garner quit after the third season.  Back in those days tv was black and white only.  I don’t think my family had color until the seventies.  Although color shots of Garner as Maverick exist, I’m not putting them in.  I want you to get the same feeling I got when watching this series.

Maverick is a good guy.  He only cheats the cheaters.  He knows all the poker tricks but doesn’t use them against the people he plays with.  He likes high stakes games, and usually winds up winning them.  He goes out of his way to shut crooks down in various episodes.  He’s good with a gun, but he’s not a gunslinger.  He’s rugged enough, but he likes to dress up as a dandy.  The picture above shows him in his typical working outfit–lace shirt, bow tie, and all.  He’s funny and self deprecating.  And he hands out good advice from time to time, mostly as quotes from his “pappy”.

As Pappy always said, “Never draw to an inside straight, or hold a kicker.”  I remembered the inside straight part, but forgot about not holding a kicker.  Who knows how many poker hands that has cost me over the years?

In episode number 8, Bret Maverick gets a brother named Bart.  Bart is also a gambler, and is a lot like Bret, not quite as amiable, but as played by Jack Kelly, a guy with more “cool” than Bret.  And Bret has a lot of cool so that’s hard to do.  Bret Maverick is a joker and kind of a funny guy.  I may have subconsciously modeled my own character after his when I was younger.  Bart’s humor is dryer and wryer.  Bart is more sophisticated and comes across as smarter than Bret, though neither of them is at all stupid.

Do Bret and Bart really look like brothers?

Do Bret and Bart really look like brothers?

There are 28 episodes in the first season of Maverick.  I’ve watched 10 or 12 of them, and am enjoying them greatly.  I’m not giving the dvd set back to the library until I finish with it.

The original Maverick show lasted for 5 years.  It made various comebacks with the last tv series filmed in 1981-82 which shows Bret settling down in an Arizona town with his own saloon. I remember watching that.  The show really hadn’t lost any of its charm even 25 years after its first appearance.

In 1994 Mel Gibson starred as Bret Maverick in a very funny movie.  I’ve watched it twice, and would watch it again any time it crossed my path.  That was kind of a hoot because it had a cameo appearance in it for James Garner as Maverick’s pappy Beau.  By that time Garner was much too old to play Bret, but Mel Gibson did a good job with it.

High stakes poker in the old west--the Maverick movie got everything right including an encore performance for James Garner as the Maverick pappy.

High stakes poker in the old west–the Maverick movie got everything right including an encore performance for James Garner as the Maverick pappy.

There were some other Mavericks in the family.  When Garner left the role in 1960, Warner Brothers brought in Roger Moore to play cousin Beau Maverick.  Robert Colbert, who looks a great deal like James Garner, also made a few episodes as cousin Brent Maverick in 1961.  He wasn’t popular and didn’t last long.  I don’t think that’s a knock on Colbert’s talent–just that the whole Maverick schtick was getting old by then.

When I was a kid, I never wondered about the Maverick series.  I just took it episode by episode and enjoyed it, looking forward to the next week’s show.  Looking back at it as an adult, a few things nag at me.  The adventures that the Mavericks get into vary widely, and are set all over the map.  How could one man move around so much, get shot so often (Yes, Bret gets shot more than once in the series, but it never kills him.), get knocked out so often without suffering permanent brain damage, and get stuck in jail so often without being on the lookout-for-this-guy list of every lawman west of the Mississippi? I just watched one called “The Wreckers” that is an adaptation of a sea story by Robert Louis Stevenson.  If there was ever an unlikely setup for riverboat gamblers like the Maverick brothers Bret and Bart, it’s the middle of the Pacific Ocean in a story about personal redemption.

Now that I’m old and jaded, I wonder about one other thing.  All the Mavericks have the initials B.M.  Did the script writers back in the fifties know what BM stands for?  Were they having some kind of joke with us?

I credit a big part of my interest in knowing how to play poker to the Maverick tv series when I was a kid.  I’m gonna remember that “never hold a kicker” rule from now on.

If you remember the Mavericks or enjoy playing poker that isn’t Texas Hold ‘Em, why not leave a comment?

–end

Getting my Wish   1 comment

I called my brother last night and suggested Sunday morning would be a good day for a desert hike.  Being as persuasive as I am, I talked hiim into it, and I reached his home in Avondale by 7:30 in the morning.  By 8 a.m. we had reached the desert park, and were planning our trip.  Brian commented that we should be careful–this was perfect snake weather.  I said I hoped we saw one.  For all the times I’ve gone walking in the desert, I’ve never actually encountered a rattlesnake.

This rock tower was our target.  Didn't know if we could walk that far, but it gave us a landmark to aim at.

This rock tower was our target. Didn’t know if we could walk that far, but it gave us a landmark to aim at.

We had already walked about a mile before I took my first picture.  That granite tower in the distance is not as near as it looks–my camera isn’t very fancy, but it does have a built-in telescopic lens that makes things look about 3 times as large as they are to the naked eye.

I am a fool to dress this way for a desert walk.  Black is not the color one should wear for an Arizona desert walk, but it isn't too hot yet--mid 80s, and I like black, so I wear it even though I know better.

I am a fool to dress this way for a desert walk. Black is not the color one should wear for an Arizona desert walk, but it isn’t too hot yet–mid 80s, and I like black, so I wear it even though I know better.

This is living. I'm about as happy as I ever get when I'm out in the desert or any wilderness, just enjoying nature and exploring.

This is living. I’m about as happy as I ever get when I’m out in the desert or any wilderness, just enjoying nature and exploring. I am vain so I try to get my pictures taken without my glasses on, but Brian took a second shot I wasn’t expecting. I had put my eyes back on and was pulling the water bottle out of my pocket for the first drink on the walk.

Desert view, looking uphill.

Desert view, looking uphill.  Brian is leading the way up the trail.  Most of the time, you hike single file.  This is a good trail for hiking, but there isn’t room to walk side by side.

Desert.

The granite tower is a lot closer now.  It looks like it might almost be reachable.

I stop and look back the way we've come.  We have been climbing steadily.  That haziness in the far distance is the city of Phoenix.

I stop and look back the way we’ve come. We have been climbing steadily. That haziness in the far distance is the city of Phoenix.

It's a good ridge line off to the left.  One almost expects to see a group of Apache warriors sitting up there on their ponies.

It’s a good ridge line off to the left. One almost expects to see a group of Apache warriors sitting up there on their ponies.

Suddenly, I hear Brian say, “Snake, watch out!” It wasn’t exactly a yell, but his voice did get louder.  He was in the lead, and walked right past the snake and heard it rattle.  He stopped me from walking into its path.  Probably the fact that he walks pretty fast got him past the reptile before it could strike.  He heard it rattle–the noise isn’t exactly the clicking of a castanet, more like a whirring noise, turned and saw it.  He’s very good at spotting desert wildlife.  I had a hard time seeing the snake.  I was very cautious, walked way around the snake on the left side of the trail, even climbing on top of some boulders to keep me well beyond its strike range.

The rattlesnake is coiled in the shade of a little bush by the side of the trail.

The rattlesnake is coiled in the shade of a little bush by the side of the trail.  It’s a diamondback–the same animal that is the motto of our Phoenix big league baseball team.  The diamondback rattler is one of the deadliest animals in the desert.  Its poison can kill a grown man in an hour or two and is extremely painful.

We carefully worked our way around the snake, and made a note of where it was for our journey back.  We met another hiker coming down from the other direction, and warned him.  We probably  spent about ten minutes with the snake.  He wasn’t very happy to see us, but he never struck.  I got my wish.  I saw a snake in the desert.  I would see it again on the way back down the trail.

We ran out of time.  The plan was to walk in for an hour and then out for an hour.  At our

We ran out of time. The plan was to walk in for an hour and then out for an hour. At our turnaround point I saw this exuberant patch of desert daisies–the camera doesn’t really capture the brilliance of the hundreds of yellow wildflowers growing at this point on the hillside.

The Arizona desert is famous for its Saguaro cacti.  This is a fine healthy specimen.

The Arizona desert is famous for its Saguaro cacti. This is a fine healthy specimen.

In the center of all the green and yellow is one passionate splash of pink.  That is probably a cactus bloom, but I couldn't get close enough to tell for sure.  I liked that contrast.

In the center of all the green and yellow is one passionate splash of pink. That is probably a cactus bloom, but I couldn’t get close enough to tell for sure. I liked that contrast.

Coming

This picture is an accident. Camera in hand, I accidentally clicked while it was pointing down.

By this time we've been hiking for about 90 minutes.  I'm getting tired and the bottoms of my feet are getting sore. I wear tennis shoes, but they're not really perfect for desert walking.  Brian is getting pretty far ahead of me.

By this time we’ve been hiking for about 90 minutes. I’m getting tired and the bottoms of my feet are getting sore. I wear tennis shoes, but they’re not really perfect for desert walking. Brian is getting pretty far ahead of me.  The trail is at its roughest here, and one wants to step very carefully.

As we get back to the lower elevations, Brian pointed out two vultures circling above the hills to our left.  No chance of getting them on film with my little camera.  They move too fast and are too easily lost in the immensity of the sky.  I took this shot of the biggest saguaro in this corner of the desert instead.  Saguaros stand still. :)

As we get back to the lower elevations, Brian pointed out two vultures circling above the hills to our left. No chance of getting them on film with my little camera. They move too fast and are too easily lost in the immensity of the sky. I took this shot of the biggest saguaro in this corner of the desert instead. Saguaros stand still. 🙂

A

We are back at the snake’s bush.  The shadow is Brian’s, and he’s watching the snake and talking me past it.  I’m aiming my camera at the bush and hoping to get another shot of the diamondback.  I think you can spot it just past the black rock in the center of the picture.  Its camouflage is excellent.

Looking back, I'm past the snake now, but would like to get one more picture of it. You can see the shadow of my hat.

Looking back, I’m past the snake now, but would like to get one more picture of it. You can see the shadow of my hat, better than you can see the snake, but it is in the top right part of the picture.

The snake is far behind us now. The most interesting things in the desert are the saguaros.  This is a very tall one.

The snake is far behind us now. The most interesting things in the desert are the saguaros. This is a very tall one.

This is a veritable forest of saguaro cacti. The one on the right has grown strangely to form the letter U.

This is a veritable forest of saguaro cacti. The one on the right has grown strangely to form the letter U.

Just the right angle to see the cactus in front splitting the U of that weird saguaro.

Just the right angle to see the cactus in front splitting the U of that weird saguaro.

White_Tanks_Hiking 021

Back at the parking lot, the hike is over.  My black Kia is covered with dust spots from the shower we had about 3 days earlier.  When it rains in Phoenix, it brings dust out of the atmosphere.  Rain doesn’t make you clean in Phoenix, it makes things dirty.

And so we say goodbye to the great saguaro forest of the White Tanks mountains.

And so we say goodbye to the great saguaro forest of the White Tanks mountains.

My hike is over.  We walked somewhere between 3 and 4 miles.  Looking back at town, you can see Camelback Mountain in the far distance–it is the highest peak in this part of the state.  The white triangle you see is the domed roof of the football stadium for the Arizona Cardinals, located west of the small city of Glendale, which is northwest of the city of Phoenix.  It’s a massive structure–more than ten miles away in this picture and still easily visible.

I’m tired and satisfied.  You’ve just done another desert hike with me, Ken St. Andre.

If you’ve ever been face to face with a rattlesnake, or any other scary reptile, why not leave a comment?

–end