Archive for April 2014

Troll Country–Easter Morning Desert Walk   1 comment

On Sunday, April 20, Easter mornng, I managed to get myself out the door and headed off for a walk in the desert. Unlike most of the people I saw out there on the trails, I was not hiking just to get in a nice hike in pleasant surroundings. No. I was lost in my own imagination and exploring the wilderness. Walter Mitty, I am your brother.


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Not that way.
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Not that way either.2014-04-19 20.24.16

This way. Right up the middle.

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Not planning to climb a mountain. Another hiker told me it was exactly 5 miles to the other parking lot and back. Well, that’s not my plan either, but I take the low road at the beginning.

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Optical illusion. Those people in the distance are above me, not below me.

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I turned off the main trail, then looked back.

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In explorer mode now.

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Down, then up, except . . .

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I turned into the gully. I like to walk in these desert washes.

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Good place to look for rocks.

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I was going to photograph my shadow, but thought why not take a selfie? Holding camera out with both hands in front of me and laughing at myself and the situation.

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Onward, into the unknown.

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An on.

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And on.

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Through tunnels of wood.

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Into the golden forest. The mesquite trees were in bloom and covered with tiny yellow flowers.

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The landscape is mostly igneous. Quite a bit of quartz, and this was a huge lump of rusted quartz in the middle of the stream.

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Getting into rock troll country now. Caves are appearing in the creek banks.

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This was a big one. In my imagination, it leads to underground realms.

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The further I go, the wilder it gets.

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I have my hiking stick with me. It is very useful in rough terrain like this.

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Am I blocked? Not yet.

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And on.

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And on.

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And on.

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Where the wild things are, or should be.

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Another obstacle. I climb around it.

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Troll country, part 2

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Troll country, part 32014-04-19 20.59.26

Find the lizard!

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Troll country part 4

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Back door to Trollhalla. End of the trail.

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Looking down. I climbed out of the gully here.2014-04-19 21.01.59 2014-04-19 21.05.13 2014-04-19 21.11.43

The edge of the elven forest beyond the desert.

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Another explorer.

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I am heading back now. Exploring another gully, I find this natural staircase of desert cement.2014-04-19 21.17.56 2014-04-19 21.24.10

Looking back at Phoenix

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The body of a fallen giant.

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Two roads.

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The walk is almost over.

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After a good walk, I’m always glad to get back to my car.

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Another self portrait.

2014-04-19 22.10.01Of course a few rocks followed me home. Three quartz, one tufa, one hematite. I picked up this little red rock because it was so out of place. Lots of basalt, tufa, quartz and other volcanic ejecta, and this guy. How did he get into this landscape?

Sometimes I identify with rocks. I mean, really, we are all just pebbles in a huge stone field.

Posted April 22, 2014 by atroll in Arizona, Arizona Desert, Ken St. Andre, Uncategorized

The Ancient Alien Question   3 comments

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I kinda love the crazy stuff, including, but not limited to cryptozoology (monsters), aliens, Atlantis (and other lost civilizations), the Bermuda Triangle, ESP, mutants, the supernatural in all its many forms.  I went to the main library a few weeks ago, and while I was wandering around in non-fiction, I went by the number assigned to the unexplained–001.9 and got 5 different books. Heh! It took me a month, but I finished one of them.


The subtitle is: A New Inquiry into the Existence, Evidence, and Influence of Ancient Visitors.  Coppens re-opens the question: are aliens from somewhere else–somewhere that is not Earth–visiting this planet, or did they do so in the past. He pretty much hits the question from every angle he can think of.

Coppens does his best to cover everything worth mentioning. He is a big fan of Von Daniken, but mostly of the questions Von Daniken asked and not the conclusions that the man reached. He debunks Zechariah Sitchin and David Icke.   He addresses the basic questions that conventional science pretty much ignores. What I like about the book is its tone. At no time does Coppens begin to sound like a conspiracy nut with a particular theory to prove. He always sounds like an open-minded investigator looking for the facts, mam, nothing but the facts.

I’ve been reading these books for decades, ever since Von Daniken started the topic, but Coppen managed to teach me some things I didn’t know. Contrary to popular believe, giant Egyptian pyramids like the ones at Gizeh were not the tombs of ancient Pharaohs. Turns out they were more for communicating with the gods through special ceremonies. The pharaohs were actually buried in underground vaults, very much like the tombs of Europe. However, he does mention the possibility that gods of myth may have actually been aliens instead. Well, shoot, that theory is obvious to anyone who ever read science fiction. I came up with it on my own when I was a teen, and I’ve seen it offered as a possibility time and again.  Here it is again.

There are some remarkably strange places in the world: places that don’t make sense by any conventional logic. Tiahuanaco is one. The Great Temple of Baalbek is another. The standing stones of Carnac in France is a third.  Humans lived at every one of these places, but why on Earth would humans have wanted to make them in the first place?  Why does every culture on Earth have tales of gods who came down and lived among them and taught them the arts of civilization?  Parallel evolution, maybe? Alien intervention–another possibility.

Coppens works his way through all the physical enigmas, but at the end of the book he turns mystical. Shamans, spiritualists, mystics have all claimed that they open their minds (often with the use of drugs) and contact alien presences. I don’t want to give away his conclusion, but it has something to do with DNA, Von Neumann probes, and the panspermia theory stating that life on earth was seeded here from outer space.

If you like this sort of speculation, I’d advise you to find the book and read it. Keep an open mind, like the investigator. Possibilities are explored; explanations suggested, but the jury is still out on the question of whether there is any intelligent alien life in the galaxy, and whether it has contacted or controlled human societies in the past.


If you’ve ever been abducted by aliens, or lured into reading the strange stuff, why not leave a comment?


Posted April 20, 2014 by atroll in alien life, aliens stranded on Earth, Uncategorized

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The Most Boring Blog of All Time   1 comment

Maybe I should start a Geology blog! Boy would that be boring on a regular basis.

Sunday I walked 3 miles in the Salt River Wetlands city park, and brought back some striped rocks that I found.

Last year, a friend (Ellen)  clued me in on the relative rarity of rocks with stripes in them.  This year I have been questing for them. I have looked at millions of rocks, uncountable numbers, and found less than 30. Although my eyes are always open for them  now, sometimes weeks go by without spotting one.

But, I found a few on Sunday while walking through the river.  Most of these stripes are inclusions of one kind of rock that should not be there, but some are just a richer vein of the mineral giving the rock it’s color. I’d love to get a real geologist’s comments on these little fellows.


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These guys are posing on a brick wall beneath my balcony. I don’t know what kind of stone this is, but the black streak is unusual, and it was the first one I found on Sunday.

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This guy looks kinda like a clam.

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Not just one stripe here, but a whole network of lines going off in all directions.

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One streak of quartz zigs and zags through this stone.

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This rock has its stripes on the inside. You can’t really see any from the outside surface.

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Wash the rocks with water to make the streaks more vivid said my friend. The black streak on this little guy is subtle until you get it wet.

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There is a thin white stripe of quartz in this little red rock.

2014-04-14 03.56.58Red rock with orange stripe. Guessing that some form of iron is involved here, but this kind of coloration is very rare. All the other stripes were black or white.

And that’s all, folks. Two hours of hiking netted just this many stripers I could bring home with me. There were a couple of really big ones too heavy to carry.  These guys have been introduced to each other and now they all have a new home, and their very own cactus to guard.

If you’ve ever gone hunting for rocks of a particular nature, why not leave a comment?


Posted April 16, 2014 by atroll in Arizona, Arizona Desert, Ken St. Andre, Uncategorized

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Salt River Morning Walk   3 comments

Greetings, Friends, and welcome to another ramble through the Arizona desert with me. Today, Sunday, April 13, 2014, I have returned to the urban wilderness of the Salt River greenbelt about 2 miles south of downtown Phoenix. This is literally a couple of miles of what the Salt River would have been like before 6 dams got built on it upstream that diverted every bit of water into irrigation canals and city water supplies.  It has water now because the City of Phoenix pumps some waste water back into it, thus creating a number of pools and a little bit of running water.  We have been walking in this park before, and will probably go again. It is one of my favorite places around Phoenix. I had two motives for visiting it today. 1. I need a 2 or 3 mile walk every day for my health, and it sure would be nice to get some of those walks somewhere other than around my slummy neighborhood.  2. Lately, I’ve been questing for striped stones. I’ll tell you more about that in tomorrow’s blog, but riverbeds are a good place to look for them. The river cuts through many different sorts of terrain and has carried many different types of rocks downstream with it, mixing them all up in the process.  A place that is all the same kind of rock is not a very good hunting ground when you want a variety of rocks

This is actually a good deal for you, dear Reader, as you get to see the best of what I saw on what was about 3 miles of meandering without the actual negative effects of getting sore feet along with being hot and sweaty.  Ready? Let’s go!

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I entered the park at the northeast entrance on 7th Avenue. Once beyond the parking lot, I found a sign that gave me my choices. I decided to go east toward Central.

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I am looking sort of southwest from here. The nearer range of hills is part of South Mountain Park, and the farther range is called the Estrellas. (Estrellas is Spanish for stars.) There’s a bridge. I’m a troll. Trolls love bridges, so you’ll see a lot of bridge photos when I go walking. 🙂

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There is an asphalt access road here for the use of park rangers. I decide to make the walking easier for myself by staying on the paved area, at least at the beginning. The hill in the distance marks the western edge of Tempe.

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Looking down at the river. I’m staring at it to see if I can locate the source of a strange honking noise coming from somewhere down there.  Might be a goose, or a bullfrog, or a river monster. I’m not that great at identifying animal noises.

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Still hearing the honking. Sometime I would like to come out here with a tape recorder and just collect weird noises.

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I stopped here because of the rock field. I collected my first striper here, a hefty fellow that probably weighs about 5 pounds. Then I got distracted by the pretty flowers. This is desert spring–when the cacti flower. The broad-leafed cactus you see is a prickly pear. It has an edible fruit, and some lovely orange and gold flowers.

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A closer look at the flowers from right above them on a different cactus. Yikes! There are bees in some of these flowers. Stay calm. Don’t bother them, and they won’t bother me. You will be happy to know that I did not get stung.

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I really am not very far from downtown Phoenix.  This is a telefoto shot, but the high-rises are probably less than 2 miles away.

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Here’s another shot toward town. The double arches you see are the east and west ends of Chase Field where the Arizona Diamondbacks play baseball. The roof is open The tall peak you see in the distance is Piestawa Peak, renamed about 10 or 15 years ago (time flies when you’re not paying attention) for an Arizona Native American woman who was killed while serving with our armed forces during the Iraq war. Before the Arizona Legislature changed its name, this big hill was called Squaw Peak.

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A better shot of Phoenix without the iron fence in the way. I kind of love to take pictures of my hometown city, so you will probably see a lot of them if  you keep reading this blog.

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Woo hoo! Arizona sky and a jet heading for Skyharbor airport. I don’t have a really great camera, so I’m kind of surprised I was able to get this good a picture of it.

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I came to a fork in the road. The bridge up ahead is on Central Avenue which divides Phoenix into an eastern and a western half. I took the low road . . .

2014-04-12 21.05.09and found a bridge leading to a bridge!
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The small bridge crosses this channel and waterfall bringing water from the city into the river.

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Who knew? Walking under the Central Bridge, I found art.  This art has a message. Recycle and don’t pollute.

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Looking south there’s art in the other direction too.

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The next span over has more art. Looking toward the city we see the city. That dates the art as sometime after 1998 when the D-backs and Chase Field both got their start.

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Another message: Every Drop Counts was a slogan for water conservation in the desert about 20 years ago.

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I like the foreground with all the different kinds of animals you might encounter down here in the river park. Look! There is that prickly pear cactus in bloom that I showed you.

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The state flag of Arizona.

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What the hey? What are these four broken pillars doing out here?

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Here’s another park sign, but with an error. 7th Street might be relatively close, but it’s not four one-hundredths of a mile to the east–more like four tenths of a mile. I had only planned to walk to Central, but with the next bridge only .4 miles away, what the heck? Walk on, Ken!

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This path crosses the river. 100 yards to the west is water and a wetland forest. Here it is dry as a bone. I walked across, found a couple more rocks for my collection.

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It didn’t take long to reach the 7th Street bridge.

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There is an oasis here too, but no art under the bridge.

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Ever wonder what the bottom of a bridge looks like? Now you know. When you are down here, the cars passing above you sound like thunder.

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I am walking back to the car now. I already have at least 10 pounds of striped stones. I have probably seen a million rocks, and found about ten worth picking up. The camera says the batteries are low. I find this little stream and in my imagination it becomes a wild river leading into an unknown wilderness.

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As long as my imagination is running away with me, this iron door becomes the sally port of a castle. This wall looks a bit like the base of a castle tower.

2014-04-12 22.00.07And the last picture my camera would take is of this beautiful trash can. I tell you, art is everywhere in Phoenix.

The distance between 7th Ave. and 7th Street is 1.2 miles according to the signs. I actually wandered off the straight line several times, so I figure I walked at least 1.5 miles each way, thus making a 3 mile hike.

I took pictures a little while ago of the rocks I found on this expedition. I’ll show them to you in a really dull geology blog tomorrow or sometime soon. Or maybe I’ll just post them on Facebook.

If you would go walking thru urban wilderness with me, why not leave a comment?


Painted Wall in South Phoenix   1 comment

While riding with my sister last week, I saw this painted wall in the distance. On Sunday April 12, 2014 at about 8 a.m. I came back to it, to photograph the whole thing. This is a long wall, and weeks or months of work to get this all done, but it is a perfect example of the vigorous artistic spirit of the hispanic people of Phoenix. While this is not great art by any stretch of the imagination, I happen to think it’s pretty cool.

2014-04-12 20.33.33The wall belongs to Morales Auto Repair, a South Phoenix garage that opened in 1972. It is on the east side of 7th Avenue behind a big empty lot with a lot of trash in it about half a mile south of the Salt River bed.

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Looks like a green chameleon. We don’t have lizards that look like this in Phoenix.
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Maybe this blue jaggy stuff is meant to be poison.2014-04-12 20.34.55 2014-04-12 20.35.06

Next comes a viper of some sort. Green and gold are not typical colors for an Arizona snake.

2014-04-12 20.35.17 2014-04-12 20.35.29The snake appears to be breathing fire.

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American bald eagle

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The world2014-04-12 20.36.07

Mexican brown or golden eagle

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Happiness is Mickey Mouse.

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Mickey’s machinery?
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Unknown red bird.

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The winds?

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. . .

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Flowering cactus and honey bee.

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Artist signature?

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And wrapping it all up

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is Felix the Cat

2014-04-12 20.38.15the wonderful, wonderful cat.

Whenever he gets in a fix

He reaches into his bag of tricks.

The place looks like a junkyard or a dump, but in the midst of all the dead tires, broken rocks, and paper trash, there is an amazing wall full of brightly colored animals, both real and mythic exercising their symbolic powers to protect the world and bring joy to the people. I love it.

If  you’ve ever found any great Mexican wall art, why not leave a comment?


Journey to the Film Bar   3 comments

I have been aware of an independent movie theater for a couple of years now called the Film Bar, but I had never visited it. I found out last week that this fantastic Chinese film called JOURNEY TO THE WEST was being shown there all this week, and decided that I had to see it. Sunday afternoon, April 6, 2014, Corencio and I headed off to check out this fabulous place.  I took the camera along, and this is what I found.


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The time is about 6 p.m. There is still plenty of daylight. The wires visible above the building suggested something to the downtown painter and this wall has been turned into this rather bizarre scene. i got this picture because I wound up parked across the street from it, and it is too strange to ignore.

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I am parked in front of this building. Mr. Piano Teeth is also watching the poles.

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My desintation is across the street. I think I’ll walk around and check out the neighborhood.

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Looking towards the center of town on 2nd Street.

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Hotel Westward Ho, a survival from early Phoenix, is about 2 blocks away.

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The area is protected by an angel. She also serves drinks.

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Perhaps she is the owner of the Angels Trumpet. She adorns the south wall of it.

2014-04-06 06.15.52Front door to the Film Bar. No external box office here.

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Another view.

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Some people inside were singing and dancing.

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The walls are full of art, and also hung with art.

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The sports lounge in the bar. Buy a drink, walk around a corner, and watch soccer.

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Yep! It’s a real bar.

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Art for sale. Meant to appeal to a Bohemian crowd, but the painters want real money for this work. I don’t see anything here that I would pay 2 or 3 hundred dollars for, but what do I know? These originals may be worth fortunes some day.

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More art. The naked blonde is somebody’s muse. She appears in more than one picture on the walls.

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Bathroom doors.  I love it when artists get creative around the bathroom.

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The Grinch plays chess!  Who knew? See the blonde. She doesn’t seem like a happy muse.

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Entrance to the theater. I bought our tickets at the bar, got admitted here. They only staff it when a movie is about to start.

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Blue screen and theater seats. Cameras aren’t allowed, but I’m not trying to photo their movie.

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 There is a back way out. We didn’t use it. The movie was very enjoyable, and I find the Film Bar a pretty cool place, but at $9 a ticket, I won’t be going there often. However the film opened my eyes to a whole world of Chinese fantasy I only vaguely knew about before, and thanks to youtube, I will be watching a lot of it in the future.


If  you’ve ever gone to an independent or art theater, or if you’ve seen Journey to the West, or would like to, why not leave a comment?


Tabletop Games Day 2014   5 comments

Saturday, April 5, 2014 was National Tabletop Games Day, an occasion for people to get together face to face and play board games, card games, role-playing games, miniatures. Savvy game store owners all over America promoted this event by making space available for people to come in and game. I say it proudly. I’m a gamer. I would not miss it. What follows is my record of the day. I hope the rest of you had as much fun as I did.

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Here I am at the front door of Imperial Outpost Games at 49th Avenue and Thunderbird in Glendale, Arizona, ready for action.

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Darrenn is owner/manager of the Imperial Outpost. Hard to find a friendlier, nicer guy. He has done more to promote the cause of face to face gaming in Phoenix than anyone else I know, and in the process has built the best game store and hangout for gamers in the city.

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It’s a room full of gamers having fun.

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Yes, it’s true. Gamers are mostly male, but look there’s a woman in the mix enjoying herself, and also an elf.

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Shelves full of games . . .

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Elf playing Firefly, a science fiction game based on a Joss Whedon television program and movie. Is that Family Guy sitting next to her?

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Finally, some people I know. Starting with the purple t-shirt and going clockwise: Jessie Foster, Unknown Gamer Guy, Will, Devon, Heather. (I admit that I am terrible with names. I’ve never met Unknown Gamer Guy, and it’s only thru years of friendship that I know Jessie’s last name.)

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A second room full of gamers.

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The first game I played–Ticket to Ride, USA. I took second (out of five) in this game.

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The second game I played. Sushi Go. I learned more about sushi in one game than I had ever known before. Came in tied for last out of five players.

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Bwa ha ha ha ha! I am a terrible photographer. My plan was just to get the t-shirts without heads because I wanted to focus on t-shirt messages, but the camera’s field of view was a little higher than I knew, and so I caught the excellent gamer beards of James St. Andre on the left and Jessie Foster on the right. It’s kind of weird how they both assumed the same stance for having their pix taken. I did not notice it at the time.

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My friend, Vic, stops by to say hello to Jessie during our game of Bohnanza. Believe it or not, this is a German game about being a bean farmer. Supply side economics meets Diplomacy and the Wall Street Stock Exchange. The real action is in bean trading.

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Munchkin was there.  It was kind of hard to get Devon away from computer games on her Kindle.

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I don’t know this woman, but she has bright green hair. That comes straight out of Japanese anime.

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Jason Youngdale and Vic are playing Qwirkle. Something like a non-numeric form of dominoes. I don’t know the game, but it looks like fun.

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I don’t know this game either, but it’s impressive in its complexity and graphics.

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Starting with the guy in the red shirt, Rob, James, Nathaniel and the empty seat is mine. The game is Seafarers of Catan, and I won by a single point. This was the last game I played at the Outpost. I had been there for over 7 hours, and was getting very hungry.

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I saw this great miniatures setup on the way out. Look at those dice pyramids in the background!

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John Wick (black t-shirt), his wife Ro (in purple), Gillian and two guys I don’t know were having supper near the front door as I exited. This was the last shot I got, but it shows gamers still having fun even when I was calling it enough for the day.

The gaming party probably continued until midnight or later. I had a great time. I saw some friends. I got some laughs. I exercised my brain (yeah, gaming makes you think.) I pronounce Tabletop Gaming Day in the Phoenix area a great success.


If you did some face to face gaming on Gaming Day, why not leave a comment? This is the perfect opportunity to boast about your victories or moan about your defeats and mention the games you played. We’re gamers. We’ve all been there, and we know how you feel. As Wil Wheaton says, “PLAY MORE GAMES!”


The Roadrunner Cafe   1 comment

Sunday, March 30, 2014, I jumped in the car, and drove up the freeway to the desert town of New River. The plan was to hike the desert and look for striped stones, and take some pictures. Didn’t find any striped stones, but I did take some pix, and the plan sort of changed into getting breakfast about halfway through . . . (grin).

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I found a way off the main roads and a little trail leading into the Arizona brush. The desert north of Phoenix and at a higher elevation is a great place to find the saguaro cactus.

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At this point I parked the car and continued on foot. All I really want to find are a few good sedimentary or metamorphic rocks with stripes built in.

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Typical rock field. No luck. Proof I’m there. My shadow with Trollgod’s hat.

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Desert wildflowers in the spring, predominantly yellow. I saw a rabbit hop into this thicket but the camera is way too slow to catch the rabbit.

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Suddenly I heard a strange whirring noise not far from my feet. Hello, Mr. Rattlesnake! This picture is actually taken after I took about 3 large steps backwards. 
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And back a little more. He did not seem inclined to relax while I was anywhere near. This is a brown diamondback rattlesnake. If you look closely you can see the distinctive diamond patterns on its body.

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I headed back toward the car and into a wash, thinking there might be some better stones there.

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I really like walking in desert washes. The scenery is so variable.

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I left the undergrowth and headed into New River. There were some bikers enjoying the early morning sun and breeze.

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I decided to stop for breakfast at the Roadrunner Cafe.

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This is THAT desert bar for bikers you see in all the road movies.

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Beer, especially cold beer, is very important in the desert.

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Little rodeos still thrive out here away from the big city.

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Here’s the corral where the bucking broncos show their stuff.

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No seating discrimination at the New River rodeo. They all cost the same, and they all feel the same and everyone is close to the action.

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What good entertainment facility doesn’t have a space for musicians? Here’s a western stage.

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The main business is the restaurant. In nice weather the good seats are outside on the patio.

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Here’s a look at the bar. Look at that assortment of beers! Some time when I’m not driving, I’d like to come up here and try some of those flavors in the second and third columns.

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Bartender, boss, manager is slicing lemons for the day. I don’t know for sure that she’s the boss, but she was telling the other waitresses what to do.

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I ordered black coffee. It came in a styrofoam cup. Things are basic in the desert. Why waste time, water, and money washing coffee cups when styrofoam is cheap.

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I wondered about the picture and the crosses, so I asked. Not Willy Nelson–just a regular long-time customer who died a few years back. The crosses have no real connection to the picture. They are made by a local who leaves them at the bar and sometimes sells a few to tourists who see them.  (Amazing what you can find out if you just talk to people and ask questions, isn’t it?)

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I kinda like the neon bullhead used as a Bud Light sign. This bar has all the modern conveniences, too.  Big screen tv for those who want to watch sports. Just inside is a pool hall with 3 tables. Dang! Made me want to play pool and drink beer.

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Breakfast finally came. Two fried eggs, hamburger patty, hash browns, and the largest fluffiest biscuit I’ve ever had.  So good!  Worth driving 20 miles and paying $10 just to have it.

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Country bathrooms remain politically incorrect.  These babes are on the door of the Men’s Room–I had to visit it before hitting the road again.  The Ladies Room door was decorated with hunks–at least the outside was–I didn’t see the inside.

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The mirror is a little chipped up, or someone went to a lot of trouble to give it that ragged outline.

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This lovely lady makes and sells rhinestone jewelry. I didn’t buy any. What’s the point? I have no one to give it to, though if a lady admired it in my presence I might get her one. It’s cheap and flashy, but I like it.

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Rhinestone rattlesnakes and crosses.

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I stopped to admire this motorcycle. Beautiful black–what a great ride. The guy is named Soto, rode up from Buckeye with some friends.

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I was ready to return to Phoenix, but with that heavy breakfast inside me, decided to go for one more walk. I decided to walk up to that green sign you can see about 1/4 of a mile up the road. I was searching the roadside for stripy rocks. 🙂

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I found some big beautiful yellow flowers.

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I saw desert dune buggies out for a ride. Looked like fun. Got a thumbs up from the passenger in the second vehicle.

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I think it might be safer being a flower photographer than a desert wildlife hunter.

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The closest thing I found to a striped rock. I decided not to bring it home with me. Also some tiny yellow desert wildflowers.

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Not all desert wildflowers are bright yellow. These little desert buttercups are golden orange.

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A piece of twine, a flat rock, and a chewing tobacco tin. These were my roadside finds for the day, and the photo is taken on the trunk of my Kia. I kept the twine and the rock, washed the tin, and then decided to throw it away. I have no use for chewing tobacco, and it had a strong odor, not unpleasant, minty actually. The tin says: Warning: this product can cause mouth cancer. Even though I don’t like tobacco, I thought the package was rather elegant.

And that was my big adventure for Saturday. It may not seem like much, but I just really like to get out of the house and see places that I’ve never seen before.  It’s not so much seeing–it’s being there that satisfies me emotionally and makes me feel good about life in general.

If you like to wander out into the countryside and see how other people live and have breakfast, or if you’ve ever been up close and personal with a rattlesnake, why not leave a comment?


Mystery Castle   Leave a comment

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 I went, on a whim (and in my car), to the south end of 7th Street. Some day I need to do an end to end trip on 7th Street and show all the significant things that are located on that one vital thoroughfare in Phoenix, but not today. Today I found something else, and since I had my camera with me, I took pictures, and mainly for those of you who might actually enjoy vicariously strolling through the Arizona desert with me, I have this record of the day’s adventure. With the right attitude, every day is an adventure–do you agree?


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South Mountain Park is, I believe, the largest city park in the world. It contains an entire mountain range and is about 20 miles long and  ten miles wide. There are numerous ways into the park, only one goes by the park ranger station. In a lifetime in Phoenix, this is the first time I have ever seen this entrance.  There is a nice trail, and I want to walk a mile or more every day, so I decided to enter. The time is near 11 a.m.

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There is an unnatural depression/valley/crater near the entrance. It might just be the end of a gully that has widened out a lot, but perhaps it is the remains of an open pit mine that is so old that the desert has reclaimed it. You can’t tell from the photo, but the bottom of this depression is a good 50 feet below where I am standing, and is quite flat.

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Do you see the far walls on the other side of the pit. These are typical of gravel pits and other big open mines in Arizona. The houses over there are very nice, upper middle class dwellings, and all this flatness is not typical of the bottom of a mountain range. Everything should be sloping downward toward Phoenix in the north. It’s a mystery, and I don’t suppose I’ll ever know how this place came to exist, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t natural.

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Once I got past the dirt trail I started on I found a paved road. That seemed kind of strange because there is no way for a vehicle to reach that road.  The entrance I used is a foot trail barely wide enough for a car at the beginning and too narrow for one a little further on, and it is blocked off by thousand pound boulders placed across the entrance. Perhaps there is a way in through the fenced-off water tanks at the ends of the trail, but I don’t know how the city made this nicely-maintained stretch of asphalt.

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Broken rock landslide area. Desert scenery. I just like to look at and discover such places.

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Looking back the way I came in. The huge tank is probably storing water for South Phoenix. It’s not like any explanation is posted for it.

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Another view of the depression. Some time I may return and climb down into it.

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Mountain slopes and mesquite trees.

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A view across the pit. The eroded slope in the foreground is more typical of an Arizona gully.

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This is the southern end of the pit. The mountain slopes become very steep here, and a true gully appears.

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My walk has taken me to the end of the big pit where a real desert wash empties into it. The tumbled rocks and the undercut caves on the far side are typical of such watercourses. The caves provide shelter for all manner of desert wildlife.

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This area is well explored (by others). Here is a trail leading across the wash.

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Back on the road. Such scenes always make me think of Tolkien’s song: The Road Goes Ever On. I want to see where this one will take me. And also it’s easier than climbing through gullies. 🙂

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The road climbs to this other big tank nestled between two hills and fenced off from the world.

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Looking uphill. This desert is not real good country for saguaro cactus, but there are a few, and here is one that has found a home.

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A trail on the ground.

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A trail in the sky.

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Looking back down the road. I had to climb a bit to get here. I think the climbing should be worth extra credit in the big scorebook in the sky. (I’m so obsessive. I have to count and score everything I do these days.)

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That desert trail I’ve been talking about apparently has a name. I will wind up on this trail that leads to the summit some 2.5 miles away, but I’m not prepared to climb any mountains today.

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As I was looking at the signpost, this woman came down the trail. I said good morning, and asked her where the trail led. This developed into a short conversation. I told her my name (Ken), found out her name is Barb.  She hikes in the desert two or three times a week and goes many different places including the Superstition Mountains and Prescott. I offered to walk her back to her car, just to continue the conversation. We stayed on the lowest reaches of the Holbert trail for another quarter mile, just chatting about the desert, and hiking and such. I probably should have asked her to get a picture of me, but, oh well, didn’t think of it.

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I have seen petroglyphs at South Mountain before, but wasn’t really expecting any. This is clearly a lizard.

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This is more likely to be a man, or perhaps a horse or coyote.  If that is a tail, then it’s an animal.

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Barb had taken a guided walk with a ranger on this trail before. She told me that the ranger said these petroglyphs are relatively modern, and not made by the Amerindians who lived in this part of the country.

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But these petroglyphs are authentic. You can see a solar symbol, a desert tortoise, and a snake. The rangers have erected a small fence to keep people away from these glyphs.

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Near the end of the trail I noticed these glyphs. I think they look like camels because of the humpy back and curving necks. The U.S. Army did import some camels into the Arizona desert after the Civil War, although the experiment was not a great success. Or they might be horses, though I like my camel hypothesis better.  A wonderful thing about such scratches on the rock–they make one think, wonder, and dream, but there is really no way for me to ever know the truth.

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Back at the parking lot, I take one last look back up the hill. I wonder what caused that big scar up on the mountainside. I think I’m about done here, but my adventure isn’t quite over yet.

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Barb gave me a lift in her van back to my car some 7 blocks to the east. Looking around I see some signs I hadn’t noticed before. I have found the location of Mystery Castle. There is quite a story about this place. I visited it once as a teenager 50 years ago. I tell Barb what I remember about it, though I haven’t given the place a thought in decades.  It looks kind of sealed off and forgotten, doesn’t it?

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Raising my sight, I see the castle itself. Someone is living here.

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This sign is so worn out. I wonder if they still give tours of the place.

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By walking off the road I find a better angle to photograph the house.

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This is how I know someone is living here. They have a guard dog. He barked at me once, even though I didn’t approach the fence or make any effort to get inside. Just being friendly, I guess. He didn’t get up and come over to the fence to see me.

And that is my last photo from Tuesday morning. Although I did not find a striped stone, it turned out to be a morning well spent. I got a good walk of a couple of miles, made a friend, rediscovered a fabulous place that I had visited once 50 years ago.

If you’ve ever hiked around the desert, admired petroglyphs, or visited strange architecture, why not leave a comment?