Archive for May 2013

Urban Wilderness Revisited   4 comments

We’ve been here before.  Rio Salado Park is an effort by the City of Phoenix to turn a dry riverbed into a park.  The city pumps in water between 7th Street and 15th Avenue which turns the area into a wetland.  It is quite a good habitat for small wildlife, and I like to go there just to see what animals I can spot.  There are four different quadrants, and I have now explored them all.  Yesterday’s walk covered the northwest side of the river between 7th Avenue and 19th Avenue.

I parked my car in the area provided on the northeast side of 7th Ave. and made my  way down toward the river.

First view of the river--a green and pleasant place, but you can't walk there because it's all water below the surface.

First view of the river–a green and pleasant place, but you can’t walk there because it’s all water below the surface.

Looking southeast toward the 7th Ave. bridge.

Looking southwest toward the 7th Ave. bridge.

My hike begins. My goal is the bridge at 19th Ave. The sign lies. It might be 1.2 miles as the crow flies,but it is farther and harder walking on the cobbles down beside the river.

My hike begins. My goal is the bridge at 19th Ave. The sign lies. It might be 1.2 miles as the crow flies,but it is farther and harder walking on the cobbles down beside the river.

What can I say? I'm a troll at heart, and I just like to be under bridges. Wilderness and civilization side by side.

What can I say? I’m a troll at heart, and I just like to be under bridges. Wilderness and civilization side by side.

Looking southwest at the greenest part of the river.

Looking southwest at the greenest part of the river.

It looks easy, but this is rough terrain. Every little rock wants to stab your foot or turn and spill you on the ground.

It looks easy, but this is rough terrain. Every little rock wants to stab your foot or turn and spill you on the ground.

What a jungle!

What a jungle!

Almost everything growing here is green, but this tree is purple.

Almost everything growing here is green, but this tree is purple.

About 1/3 of the way to my goal, I reached a gully entering the river.  This iron bridge crosses it, but, of course, I'm down by the river, and can't reach the bridge without going a long way back which I don't want to do.

About 1/3 of the way to my goal, I reached a gully entering the river. This iron bridge crosses it, but, of course, I’m down by the river, and can’t reach the bridge without going a long way back which I don’t want to do.

Trying to cross the ravine. The picture doesn't really show it, but this is vertical distance I must cross.

Trying to cross the ravine. The picture doesn’t really show it, but this is vertical distance I must cross.

As I walked I was surrounded by the flutter of wings and the sound of bird calls, some of them very strange calls, but it was hard to take pictures of them. This bird held still long enough for me to capture him after I climbed up out of the gully I had just crossed.

As I walked I was surrounded by the flutter of wings and the sound of bird calls, some of them very strange calls, but it was hard to take pictures of them. This bird held still long enough for me to capture him after I climbed up out of the gully I had just crossed.

You know how there is this stereotype of wandering through the desert and finding a sun-bleached skull.  Well, I found one.  I'm guessing this is a dog or cat skull, but it could be a fox or coyote.  Your guess is as good as mine. It is bizarre to find a skull. I didn't touch it--left it for the viewing pleasure of anyone else daring to walk this rough terrain.

You know how there is this stereotype of wandering through the desert and finding a sun-bleached skull. Well, I found one. I’m guessing this is a dog or cat skull, but it could be a fox or coyote. Your guess is as good as mine. It is bizarre to find a skull. I didn’t touch it–left it for the viewing pleasure of anyone else daring to walk this rough terrain.

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Tunnels.  I'd like to explore these tunnels below the city and the desert, but there is no access for someone like me.

Tunnels. I’d like to explore these tunnels below the city and the desert, but there is no access for someone like me.

I have passed most of the greenery now, and am looking toward my goal.

I have passed most of the greenery now, and am looking toward my goal.

The 19th Ave. bridge is in sight.  This kind of rocky streambed is rough walking--you have to be very careful where you put your feet.

The 19th Ave. bridge is in sight. This kind of rocky streambed is rough walking–you have to be very careful where you put your feet.

I am close to my goal.  I have walked a mile and a half, and it is about 9 a.m. with a temperature in the 90s.

I am close to my goal. I have walked a mile and a half, and it is about 9 a.m. with a temperature in the 90s.

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Ah, shade! Now I am below the 19th Ave. bridge.  It has been a rough walk.  My feet are starting to hurt, even though I'm wearing my best new hiking shoes. I am going to see if I can't climb out of the river, and find an easier way back to my car.

Ah, shade! Now I am below the 19th Ave. bridge. It has been a rough walk. My feet are starting to hurt, even though I’m wearing my best new hiking shoes. I am going to see if I can’t climb out of the river, and find an easier way back to my car.

The last pool in this part of the river.

The last pool in this part of the river.

Wild oleander flowers.

Wild oleander flowers.

I climbed out of the riverbed below the bridge.  From the amount of trash on the ground, this is obviously the place where other people had climbed down into it.

I climbed out of the riverbed below the bridge. From the amount of trash on the ground, this is obviously the place where other people had climbed down into it.

Resting under the bridge . . . this is a kind of tunnel, not high enough for me to stand up in.  Will I have to crawl through it to head back?

Resting under the bridge . . . this is a kind of tunnel, not high enough for me to stand up in. Will I have to crawl through it to head back?

No. I found a better spot where I could walk through.  My plan is to follow the road back atop the reinforced riverbank.

No. I found a better spot where I could walk through. My plan is to follow the road back atop the reinforced riverbank.

I got a good shot of the skyline of central Phoenix.  The city core is only about 2 to 3 miles away.

I got a good shot of the skyline of central Phoenix. The city core is only about 2 to 3 miles away.

This is an access path through a sand and gravel company's private property.  There is no one around to ask me what I'm doing here on Sunday morning.

This is an access path through a sand and gravel company’s private property. There is no one around to ask me what I’m doing here on Sunday morning.

Walking eastward now, I am cut off from the river by this chainlink fence.  It looks flat, but that is a 60 degree slope down to the riverbed, and not much room to walk on the other side of the fence.  No cliff-walking for me on this trip.

Walking eastward now, I am cut off from the river by this chainlink fence. It looks flat, but that is a 60 degree slope down to the riverbed, and not much room to walk on the other side of the fence. No cliff-walking for me on this trip.

A glance back at the 19th Ave. bridge.  I was down there just a little while ago.

A glance back at the 19th Ave. bridge. I was down there just a little while ago.

There is a long hot dry road in front of me, but it's better than trying to walk along the stony riverbottom.

There is a long hot dry road in front of me, but it’s better than trying to walk along the stony riverbottom.

I made this walk hoping to see some wildlife, and not in a zoo. All I saw were birds, bunnies, and bugs--a couple of rabbits at the very beginning of my walk, but hundreds of these birds along the trail.

I made this walk hoping to see some wildlife, and not in a zoo. All I saw were birds, bunnies, and bugs–a couple of rabbits at the very beginning of my walk, but hundreds of these birds along the trail.

Birds on a fence.  Mostly the birds flew away before I could photograph them, but this fraction of the flock let me get close enough to catch them on film.

Birds on a fence. Mostly the birds flew away before I could photograph them, but this fraction of the flock let me get close enough to catch them on film.

More birds. I believe these are desert doves, related to pigeons, but not as annoying.

More birds. I believe these are desert doves, related to pigeons, but not as annoying.

I can see the greenery again.  This is an island, and on that island lives some really large white bird.  I saw it fly on the trip out, but couldn't tell wht it was--perhaps a swan or an egret.  I think that little white spot on the right middle edge of the photo is the bird.

I can see the greenery again. This is an island, and on that island lives some really large white bird. I saw it fly on the trip out, but couldn’t tell wht it was–perhaps a swan or an egret. I think that little white spot on the right middle edge of the photo is the bird.

.

No reason to take this picture. I just love looking at green.

I found another sign.  I still have a mile to walk.  It's 10 a.m. and 100  degrees on the ground, and the bottom of my feet are really sore and tender.

I found another sign. I still have a mile to walk. It’s 10 a.m. and 100 degrees on the ground, and the bottom of my feet are really sore and tender.

This shot of downtown Phoenix makes it look like it's built on a slag heap.  There was this amazing hole in the ground full of rocks.

This shot of downtown Phoenix makes it look like it’s built on a slag heap. There was this amazing hole in the ground full of rocks.

The end is in sight.  The 7th Ave. bridge is about 1/4 of a mile away.

The end is in sight. The 7th Ave. bridge is about 1/4 of a mile away.

I am finally going to see that iron bridge up close.

I am finally going to see that iron bridge up close.

This is the gully the bridge crosses--a kind of a hidden wound leading back toward the city.

This is the gully the bridge crosses–a kind of a hidden wound leading back toward the city.

You get to see the top of a bridge for once.  I guess bridges are the fourth B of this trip. Bunnies, Birds, Bugs, and Bridges.

You get to see the top of a bridge for once. I guess bridges are the fourth B of this trip. Bunnies, Birds, Bugs, and Bridges.

The black car is mine. By this time it is the most welcome sight of the entire trip.

The black car is mine. By this time it is the most welcome sight of the entire trip.

That completed my latest walk through this urban wilderness.  I covered about 3 miles in mid morning on May 19.  I took water along with me, and ate a grapefruit at the beginning of my hike.  I wore the Trollgod’s hat to keep the sun off my head, and kept myself hydrated.  I saw 2 rabbits, hundreds of birds, hundreds of bugs, many of them a kind of black desert dragonfly that live in the swampy part of the river.  There was no one with me to take my picture on this trip.

I wish you had been there to hike with me, since it’s always great to have some companionship when trudging through the wilderness, but even if you can’t be with me, I’m still going to go out and walk about from time to time.

If you know anything about the birds I photographed, leave a comment.  🙂

–end

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Free Comic Book Day 2013: Phoenix, Arizona   3 comments

Inside All About Books and Comics was a busy place.

Inside All About Books and Comics was a busy place.

Free Comic Book Day is the first Saturday in May.  It has become a major Geek/Nerd holiday in America.  We put on our super suits, or our make-up if that’s the way you play, and get out to our favorite comic store, and get something for free, or we entertain, say hi to our friends, party, or . . .

The idea is to share the joy of comics with the mundane world, but that’s just a rationalization.  True mundanes are never going to be comic fans or anime fans or any kind of pop culture fans at all.  True mundanes are hung up on politics, sports, business and money–the ordinary American dream.

The good news is that there are more of us geeks and nerds all the time, and less of those true mundanes I’m talking about.  So, it won’t be much of a surprise to you that what I saw on FCBD was crowds, Crowds, and more CROWDS.  Well, actually, there were less crowds at the third place I went to, and that was good, because I was actually able to get a couple of free comic books there without standing in a helluva line.  And I hate standing in lines.

Alan Giroux, co-owner and founder of All About Books and Comics, started the first pure comic book shop in Phoenix back in the 70s,  I was there at the beginning, though I didn't take any pictures back then.  I'm proud to say Alan is a friend of mine.

Alan Giroux, co-owner and founder of All About Books and Comics, started the first pure comic book shop in Phoenix back in the 70s, I was there at the beginning, though I didn’t take any pictures back then. I’m proud to say Alan is a friend of mine.

I told Alan I wanted a shirt like his, but he just laughed it off.  Well, that will be a minor quest for me.  To get that shirt . . .

Dimly visible beyond all the shoulders is the rack where AABC put out the free comics this year.  I couldn't spend any time up close to it this year--the crowd was too thick.

Dimly visible beyond all the shoulders is the rack where AABC put out the free comics this year. I couldn’t spend any time up close to it this year–the crowd was too thick.

One thing you will see in these pictures.  Comics aren’t for kids any more–not really.  All of us kids grew up, kept our love for comics, but wanted more adult stories, and that’s what the comics world has become.  Picture books for grown-ups, who haven’t really grown all the way up and out of such things.  And why should we?

Smile, Eddie!  There is a cash register at both ends of the store. This one is run by Eddie Armendariz, who as assistant manager has the job I always wanted, but never got.

Smile, Eddie! There is a cash register at both ends of the store. This one is run by Eddie Armendariz, who as assistant manager has the job I always wanted, but never got.

That wall of stuff in the background is all graphic novels and comics-related STUFF.  There is so much comics-related STUFF to be had these days, and it’s all damn cool.  So much good stuff, so little money, and worse, no place to put it all in a house that has a lifetime accumulation of great STUFF.

This is the front of the store.  It should have been the first picture I put up, but I do everything bass-ackwards, it seems, so I came in the back and went out the front, and went around the store to get back to my car and on to my next stop.

This is the front of the store. It should have been the first picture I put up, but I do everything bass-ackwards, it seems, so I came in the back and went out the front, and went around the store to get back to my car and on to my next stop.

After half an hour at All About I left and went a mile east to Alan’s main competition in town.  Samurai Comics is run by Mike and Moriya Banks.

Is this a great sign, or what?  If you look carefully, you might see some super-types lurking on the sidewalkl.

Is this a great sign, or what? If you look carefully, you might see some super-types lurking on the sidewalkl.

It’s a truck full of food–there was one at All About also.  It’s an all day party, and people get hungry.  Great idea, actually.

Samurai has more room on the inside than All About.  Not more comics--just more open space.  That makes it a good place for gaming, with collectible cards being a large part of the business, and also a great place for artists to come and show their work.  For people just getting into the comics scene this is a great place to come and meet creators--some who have already made names for themselves, and others who are still on the rise.

Samurai has more room on the inside than All About. Not more comics–just more open space. That makes it a good place for gaming, with collectible cards being a large part of the business, and also a great place for artists to come and show their work. For people just getting into the comics scene this is a great place to come and meet creators–some who have already made names for themselves, and others who are still on the rise.

The free comics here were piled on tables inside a side room usually reserved for gaming.  The line to get at them was so long and so thick that I had a hard time getting this picture.  Not being willing to stand in line for an hour, I didn't even get to see what they were offering.

The free comics here were piled on tables inside a side room usually reserved for gaming. The line to get at them was so long and so thick that I had a hard time getting this picture. Not being willing to stand in line for an hour, I didn’t even get to see what they were offering.

Remember what I was saying about crowds, crowds and more crowds.  The people inside the Samurai store were so thickly packed that it reminded me of the San Diego ComiCon–a vast sea of people milling about in teeny little shuffle steps, because that’s the only way you can move at all.  Phoenix ComiCon may be like that at the end of this month, but it won’t be so bad for me.  I’ll hang mostly in the gaming area in a different hotel where it will merely be busy–not sardine-like.

The middle of the line waiting to get at the free books. It continues to the left, around the corner, and out the front door.  Considering that everybody is likely to buy stuff as well as get a few free comics, this is, I would guess, the biggest sale day of the year for the local comics shops.

The middle of the line waiting to get at the free books. It continues to the left, around the corner, and out the front door. Considering that everybody is likely to buy stuff as well as get a few free comics, this is, I would guess, the biggest sale day of the year for the local comics shops.

Spider-Man is just a mannequin.

Behind the cash register view of life in a comic book store.

Behind the cash register view of life in a comic book store.

They had all the staff there, and some I don’t even know, and I know everybody at this store.  The girl in black is Yvette–she’s an artist when she’s not selling comics, and  (I wish) she’s my sweetie.  I saw Chris and Ray and Shannon and Moriya, and I don’t even know the girl in the super suit.  It’s kind of cool that there are kids here, but you see what they’re looking at?  Cards, not comics. Heh!  Diversify if you want to survive.

Goodbye for now, Samurai.  I’ll return when I can take two steps without having to beg pardon to get around someone.

The sign says Collector's Marketplace, but it's really a branch office of Pop Culture Classics, whose main store is in Tempe and too far out of my way to visit.

The sign says Collector’s Marketplace, but it’s really a branch office of Pop Culture Classics, whose main store is in Tempe and too far out of my way to visit.

Pop Culture Classics is like the Warehouse 13 of KEWL.  Comics is only a sideline here, and you have to be willing to pay collector prices to get them, but there sure is a lot of primo collectibles to be had.  Still, they were participating in FCBD, and they were in range, so this became my last stop for the day.

Great gobs of goodies in all directions.

Great gobs of goodies in all directions.

I didn’t know this store was here until today.  I must return when I have more time.  They buy things.  I wonder if I could unload some of the cool stuff I have that I don’t really have room for, or interest in anymore. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  Problem is, selling your stuff to stores like this, is like giving it away.  You never get as much as you paid for it, unless you’re unloading a gift, and then somebody else lost money.  Heh!

By comparison, PCC didn't have much to offer in the way of free comics.  Judging by the empty places on the table, much of the good stuff was gone before I got there.  But, at least, I was finally able to get something here.  My choice was the Tick--the quintessential Super Heroes are Dumb, but in a good way funny book.  A comic that is actually comical.

By comparison, PCC didn’t have much to offer in the way of free comics. Judging by the empty places on the table, much of the good stuff was gone before I got there. But, at least, I was finally able to get something here. My choice was the Tick–the quintessential Super Heroes are Dumb, but in a good way funny book. A comic that is actually comical.

I spent more time here than in either of my other two favorite places, and that’s because I could walk and breathe at the same time here.

Get-em, Spidey!

Get-em, Spidey!

I love wall paintings, and there are a lot of them in Phoenix, but most of them are outside the buildings, not inside. I’m impressed that they gave up all this potential display space to show Spidey flashing his buns at us.  You can’t see the Spider-Man wildly swinging from one precarious perch to the next without smiling–at least I can’t.

And on that note, I swung for home.  Wasn’t feeling all that good yesterday, but coughing my lungs out wasn’t going to make me miss FCBD.  In retrospect, I would say it wasn’t the greatest ever, but it must have been a good day for the shopkeepers, and a fine day for Gerds and Neeks everywhere.  Long may FCBD continue.  Hey, howza bout a Free Graphic Novels Day? Muwahahahaha!

If you got out for Free Comic Books Day and came home with loot, how about leaving a comment?  If you missed it, are you gonna try harder to be there for next year’s celebration?

The next big nerd holiday will be Free RPG Day on June 15, 2013.  I’ll be more of a participant in that as there will be a great giveaway for Tunnels and Trolls with new material from me inside it.  That’s also right in the middle of the Origins National Gaming Convention in Columbus, Ohio.  Guess where I’ll be?  Grin!  If you can make it, come game with me!

–end

Phoenix ComiCon Picnic   Leave a comment

In the middle of April, the volunteers who will staff and put on the Phoenix ComiCon convention coming at the end of May got together at South Mountain for a picnic.  It was a potluck affair.  About half the attendees each brought enough food to feed 10 people.  Talk about diversity and plenty!  What a feast!  I was there.  Here are some shots and brief comments that I took with my little camera.

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I don’t know who this guy is.  I took his pic because he was wearing the Phoenix ComiCon t-shirt from last year, and I figure it makes a cover shot.  In fact, I did not know about 95% of the people who showed up for this.  I was at the center of Phoenx fandom when it started back in the seventies.  I am so on the fringes now.

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The Convention organizers provided the basic food–hamburgers, hot dogs, and soft drinks.  They prepared enough for at least 200 people.  I don’t think that many came.  This guy is a great volunteer.  It was 90 degrees in the shade that afternoon, and this guy spent more than an hour cooking meat on this very hot grill.  I walked close to it, and it was 20 degrees hotter in its vicinity.  The hamburgers were a little overdone, but good tho.  I had one.

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They took a picture of all the volunteers standing in one huge group.  I took this picture of them taking their picture.  I’ll be in the second row of that picture holding my camera up above the throng if they ever publish it.

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The goofy looking guy in the Tunnels & Trolls t-shirt and the battered hat is me, Ken St. Andre, Atroll.  The beautiful woman next to me is my niece, Kerina St. Andre Fitzgerald.  She and her friend, Gary, crashed the party at my invitation.  It was a great party.  About half the people brought extra food–salads, desserts, drinks.  I ate way too much.  My stomach hurt, and there was tons of stuff I didn’t try.  I was good, though, and avoided desserts and sugary things.

Coming up for the last weekend of May 2013 will be Phoenix ComiCon.  I’ll be there running games on all four days, some Tunnels & Trolls, some Shadowfist, some Settlers of Catan St. Andre style.  Come game with me!

If you were at the picnic, or will be attending Phoenix ComiCon, why not leave a comment?

–end