Snowy Fishing

SnowySnowy Egret

Last week I went to Tempe Town Lake which is a reservoir that occupies a portion of the dry riverbed of the Salt River (Río Salado). It’s 2 miles long and covers 224 acres. There are many beaches and parks along its length.

Cliff Swallow 1Cliff Swallow

River Sign

This is one of 603 10-inch-by-10-inch granite tablets placed at 24-foot intervals in the wall along the lake, written by Alberto Ríos, Arizona’s first Poet Laureate, telling the story of the Rio Salado.

Rios 2


Back in February and March, the lake was drained to install a new dam on the west end. The City of Tempe replaced the inflatable rubber dam system with a new hydraulically-operated steel gate dam which is the country’s largest hydraulically-operated steel gate dam system. I was at the same little beach park back in March when the lake was almost empty (searching for a particular bird that I never found).

Lake Drained

GullsFranklin’s Gulls

However, in the almost empty lake, I did see about 10 of these gulls which, apparently, were quite rare to the area and, after I posted the above poor photo to my Facebook birding group, several other people went in search of those gulls over the next few days.

But the lake is full again now with nice clean water. When I was there the other day I also stopped by a little place close by on Arizona State University’s (my alma mater) main Tempe campus.


It’s a small park, only 2.5 acres, used for research.

DAP Bio Sign

I have a feeling that, at the right time of the year, this little park is pretty birdy given its close proximity to the lake as well as having some reedy ponds and streams of its own but it wasn’t real active when I was there.

Finch CactusHouse Finch

FlycatcherAsh-throated Flycatcher


But the best part of that little park was this beautiful metal gate at the entrance.

ASU Gate

ASU Gate 2

Fabricated from recycled steel piping, the botanic-themed gate Urban Forestry welcomes visitors and was donated to ASU by sculptors Joe Tyler and Scott Cisson. Here’s a photo of the gate closed from Joe Tyler’s website:


He’s got some beautiful pieces displayed on his website if you enjoy metal work.

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Another Lalo on RoRo

This new Lalo Cota mural is just a couple blocks down from the Lauren Lee mural in my last post. And, being in a busy downtown area, I have had the same problem catching it with no cars in front of it. So I gave up on that plan, wanting to capture it before it might change.

I wanted to make sure I photographed it, even with cars, because I’m wondering if this is one of those walls where the mural may change regularly. Until a few weeks ago, this wall looked like this:

Gold, Oil, Drugs also by Lalo Cota. I blogged about it then here. And it was a fairly recent mural, too, so maybe the current one will not be there long either. Maybe it’s a revolving Lalo wall…not a bad thing.

You can see Niba DelCastillo’s shot of it sans cars here.

Just a little down the street from this mural is a new, temporary park with a big community mural done in late February that I posted about here. Since then, other improvements have been made to make the park a nice gathering place for people in the neighborhood (when it finally cools down).

This piece was at Arizona State University until recently.

There are little benches and shaded areas inside.

The “ribs” were just painted red a few weeks ago.

You can see monOrchid in the background with the Isaac N. Caruso mural I wrote about here.

We have some awesome downtown community activists, artists, homeowners, and business owners who work very hard to turn a formerly blighted area into a dynamic, attractive, fun place to go.

History Detectives

Do you ever watch the PBS show, History Detectives? I love it! So here is my little mystery, one of them anyway. I bought this bracelet in 1972 or 1973 in an import shop in West Lafayette, IN (home of my first alma mater, Purdue University). Later, I ran into the owner in a restaurant while I was wearing it. He told me he had purchased it himself in Afghanistan and that it was an Afghan tribal bracelet. He said it was 75 years old which makes it well over 100 now.

I have always loved it and wear it often but I’ve always wondered if that’s what it really is. It’s very heavy and even has holes in some places in the silver that go all the way through. It has no maker marks or hallmarks. It was also cracked so after I moved to Arizona I took it to a Native American jeweler who reinforced it with a large piece of silver that you can see here (below).

So fast forward to a day in early 1999 when I got my weekly Time magazine in the mail. I remember staring at the cover for a few seconds; I wasn’t that interested in Hip Hop or Lauryn Hill, really, and then it dawned on me.

She was wearing a bracelet identical to mine! You have to look at it from the right angle to recognize it and the prong things are not visible in the shot of her (above).

Here’s another shot of her wearing it, although blurred…you can see the prongs here.

Over the years, I’ve tried to contact her a few times, through her website and Twitter, to see what she knows about her bracelet, where she got it, but I’ve never heard back. I’ve also tried, for years, to find another one online to see if it’s really Afghan but I have never found it and the Afghan tribal bracelets I have found don’t really look like it.

But…get this, I have searched for info about her bracelet and have found numerous references to it, most recently in a June 2012 article here. “Before she retired, she was photographed on the cover of Time magazine wearing a bracelet with the Illuminati pyramid with the Eye of Horus on it.” I never perceived my bracelet that way and just don’t believe it and would it be an Afghan tribal bracelet if that were true? I can see the pyramids, obviously, and I can see the 4 eyes on each end of the bracelet, although I never recognized them as eyes until I began reading about it. So…do you think my bracelet symbolizes the Illuminati???? Does the Illuminati even exist? Or is it a conspiracy theory? And since when is the Eye of Horus evil? The Eye of Horus is an ancient Egyptian symbol of protection, royal power and good health (Wikipedia).

A lot of mysteries and histories, huh? I was thinking of submitting it to History Detectives but their emphasis seems to be on things relevant to American history. Of course, I can try. And one of the History Detectives, Dr. Eduardo Pagán, is a history professor at Arizona State University, my real alma mater, right here in town, so I could email him also. Since I now wrote it up here, with pictures, I guess I will just send it off to them. What do you think?

I was going to show a couple of other pieces of jewelry today but this got too long so, if you’re into jewelry, stay tuned. Some of them have stories, too…


Best time to shoot the moon handheld? Daytime! I love when the moon is out in the day.

Best place to have a cup of coffee while you mural-watch?

White Sage Espresso on Calle 16! Plus one of the owners is a psychic and I heard they did a ritualistic burning of white sage upon moving into this quaint 1920’s bungalow. Too bad they’re not open on Sundays, though.

Best place to watch snacks on wings (which they rarely try to actually catch, fortunately)?

“In the shade of the silk oak tree,” says Grady, perfectly camouflaged.

Her sister, Stripey, concurs.

Best place (not) to take a nap when it’s over 100 out? Leave it to Google.

Best thing to accompany my Lalo Cota paintings?

Breeze’s Monarch, which is now mine! Since they collaborate so much, I felt I needed a piece by Thomas Breeze Marcus, too.

Best tequila bottles ever for someone who loves Day of the Dead stuff? Kah! They cost a bundle, though. Fun website, too.

One of America’s best colleges/universities?

Arizona State University, my alma mater! Also the biggest public university campus in the US? Arizona State University’s Tempe Campus with a 2011 fall enrollment of 59,794! And that is just one of 4 ASU campuses in the metro Phoenix area. Total 2011 ASU enrollment? 72,254…making it the largest public university in the US by enrollment. These photos were taken at the downtown Phoenix campus, which did not exist yet when I went to ASU decades ago.

Best app for making a mediocre photo kinda funky? Poladroid, as seen in the 2nd photo of this post.


Last weekend we went to one of our favorite recurring events, the Downtown Chamber Series, which is held 5 or 6 times a year. The series brings chamber music to distinctive art spaces in downtown Phoenix, showcasing professional musicians (many from the Phoenix Symphony) and the works of local artists. Additionally, wine and refreshments are served at intermission and this is all for the whopping price of 10 bucks! The series has been in existence since 2000 and we have been attending almost from the beginning.

Last week’s event was held at one of the more unusual and unique venues they frequent, the historic Icehouse, an original 1910 icehouse built along the railroad tracks formerly used to keep produce cold before shipping. The art displayed this evening was a special exhibit by some Arizona State University art students just for the two nights of the concert.

The most compelling works (in my opinion) were by ASU M.F.A. candidate Benjamin Phillips, already an award-winning sculptor, from Nova Scotia. The piece above is entitled American Oedipus. This is what Benjamin says about it: “The metaphorical implications of Sophocles’ tragic nobleman, fated to wander blind and begging seems fitting for representing the doubts and anxieties of a once great people; now seemingly doomed to a disparate future, lacking beauty and utterly vulnerable.”

The stark lighting and the shadows cast on the old brick walls and concrete floors added to the raw feeling of these almost life-sized figures.

This piece is called The Obsessive Man and is described by the artist: “T.O.M. merges the idea of obsessive compulsion with an implied peace of sleep, in the form of a sleepwalker. The conflicting signals enhance the psychological disturbance of a dream in compliment with the eccentricities of the form itself.”

This is Benjamin Phillips’ artist statement:

“The figures invoke anxieties about the body and flawed features that we tend to avoid looking and thinking about. Compiled from disparate components, sometimes in wrong scale or oddly joined, the figures project an abject discomfort and uncertainty. This unsettling representation calls upon the viewer’s willingness to empathize with another individual’s shame and/or discomfort.

My composite bodies suggest questions about how we define social status and its relationship to beauty and revulsion. These questions come to life in the physical interplay between the viewer and the sculpture. My freestanding sculptures are generally between four to five feet, to frame the object in the realm between child and elderly. This creates an expectation of frailty and subordination.”

Autumn (above) “explores aspects of uncertainty through wavering confidence, independence and grace. Autumn, the transitional season preceding winter, is portrayed off balance in mid-recline. It appears bleak, yet unresolved.”

There was another of his sculptures there, Effeme, but it was in a smaller area leading to the concert room so I didn’t photograph it but you can see it and more of his striking work on his website.

If you live in Phoenix and like music or art or downtown galleries or wine or all of the above, you should really try out the Downtown Chamber Series in March, which will be held at Modified Arts, another distinctive downtown art space.