A bird in hand

bird in handMy friend, the ringed-neck turtle dove, has been getting more and more brazen. When she is hungry, she is persistent, buzzing my head and making a general nuisance of herself. Today in her excitement and impatience, she flew over to my hand and landed on my finger in her haste to grab the snack.

arizona skyThat is all that it took, and now she doesn’t hesitate to land on my finger to eat.  She even stayed long enough to pose for a photograph.

Thanksgiving was quiet; Liz and I spent the afternoon at Mike’s, had a great dinner, brought home leftovers, and didn’t have to do any kitchen chores!

We had an awesome sunset that evening, ominous one might be inclined to say.

I took some time off from work, to extend my holiday. This is actually the first time off this year that I took for myself, due to circumstances. The weather is quite balmy for the end of November – perfect for enjoying the fresh air while relaxing. The only chore I have planned for today is to wash Liz’s car.


There’s trouble at the mill

20-Stamp Ore Mill
20-Stamp Ore Mill

The Superstition Museum held a mining exposition today. Vendors included rock hounds, a local mining supply store with top-notch metal detectors on display, among others. The museum is raffling off a 1/4 ounce gold nugget from a local claim.  On display (for one day only) for only the third time ever is a solid gold matchbox crafted from gold that was stored under the Lost Dutchman’s bed. The matchbox is valued at more than a million dollars, so security was tight and plentiful.

The gold matchbox
The gold matchbox

The owner of the matchbox is anonymous, and wishes to remain so for obvious reasons.  It is the only proof that Jacob Waltz actually had gold.  Whether it came from the fabled lost gold mine, was pilfered, found or otherwise remains a mystery. Continue reading »

The Gallery in the Sun

Mosaic by Ted DeGraziaWhile in Tucson, AZ for the weekend, we made a point of visiting Ted DeGrazia’s Gallery in the Sun. DeGrazia is an Arizona icon – an artist that mastered every media he attempted, and who left behind a legacy.

The Mission in the Sun
The Mission in the Sun in memory of Padre Kino

DeGrazia made history in 1976 when he rode into the Superstition Mountains on horseback, carrying with him 100 of his paintings which he burned in protest of IRS tax laws that he deemed were unfair to artists and their heirs. DeGrazia died at age 72 of cancer, in 1982.

DeGrazia was born in a mining camp, he spent time in Apache Junction, but he made his home in Tucson. After a chance meeting with Deigo Rivera, he interned with Rivera and Orozco. After returning to Tucson, no gallery was interested in displaying hi art. So he did what any enterprising artist would do, he built his own gallery.

In 1947, DeGrazia and his wife, Marion Sheret purchased 10 acres in the foothills of Tucson, and built his Gallery in the Sun. The site is actually a complex of adobe buildings built by DeGrazia. I didn’t include any photos of the gallery itself because they could not do justice to the artwork or the atmosphere, all of which are interrelated.

DeGrazia's house
One of the rooms in DeGrazia’s house

The first building built on the grounds was the Mission in the Sun, in memory fo Padre Kino, a Jesuit priest.  The mission is dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Next to the mission he built his house which also housed the original gallery. All of the buildings were made of adobe, mixed on site, but the straw and soil were hauled up to the site with his Model T.

The gallery is amazing – the entrance is modeled after the gate to a Yuma territorial prison. Inside the gates, it is reminiscent of the entrance to one of the mines that he worked as a young man. once you are through this formidable  passageway, you are in a spacious and airy gallery. All of the galleries are bright with natural light, and in some of the spaces the artificial lights are redundant.

DeGrazia's kitchen
No electrical appliances in this kitchen

The gallery is a network of rooms, each featuring a series of paintings representing a unique southwestern theme. From the plight of the indigenous people to landscapes, to Padre Kino, to Indian legends – DeGrazia captures events with a respect that grew from his upbringing among the various cultures.

I wish we had had more time to explore the grounds. The Studio in the Sun has a very cool vibe, with the spectacular backdrop of the Santa Catalina Mountains.  Even though the gallery is off the beaten track, there were plenty of visitors, many of them relaxing on the grounds. This is definitely a “must” if you are ever in the Tucson area. I have only tapped the first few ounces of the keg; DeGrazia was a very complex man with a story that cannot be told in a few paragraphs. He was an accomplished trumpeter, playing in a big band. He spent some of his childhood in Italy, before returning to Arizona. He worked not only with oils, but with enamel on copper, sculpture and mosaic. And his buildings are works of art in themselves.



All Saints’ Procession in Tucson

20151108_171833This summer has been a tough one for us. The last week of October was a hallmark week in many respects. My divorce papers from the birth-hole are official.  That was a slow train coming, to quote a Bob Dylan song. So an overnight in Tucson was a welcome respite for both Liz and I.

IMG_8485Tucson hosts an All Saints’ procession, a twenty-five year tradition similar to the Day of the Dead festivals.  Liz and I booked a room at the historic Hotel Congress last May.  Located in downtown Tucson, the hotel is just blocks away from the procession route.

Built in 1919, the hotel was three stories tall until a fire in 1934 reduced its capacity significantly, and also resulted in the capture of John Dillinger and his gang.

The accommodations are not what one would call luxurious – there is no elevator, and the hotel still uses the original telephone switchboards that were installed in 1919.  The phones are rotary dial. The beds and furnishings are period for the most part. There is one television set for the entire floor, so viewing is up to a democratic vote.

20151108_220046The walls of the hotel are all hand-painted – no wallpaper. Original artwork graced the walls. The doors tot he rooms are original, with actual keys, no fancy cards. The rooms are laid out in a square, with the center being an open air patio on the second floor.  The hotel is LOUD – they have live bands and the rooms on one side face the patio below. They have complimentary soap, shampoo, and earplugs!

20151108_190212We arrived around 3PM, and asked the girl at the desk if she could recommend a good Mexican restaurant. She gave us detailed directions to a place that she said didn’t have a name, or if it did, “they hide it well.” We found it, and she was correct.  The name is on the window glass in a small font about 2 feet up from sidewalk level. Penca is upscale, serving what they call Central Mexican cuisine and offering more mescals than I knew existed. If you are looking for traditional Mexican, this is not for you. I would call this more of an American-Mexican fare – although the price for a dinner for two was in the affordable range.

After dinner, we returned to the hotel patio, and enjoyed a few drinks and live music. People were dressed in Day of the Dead costume. We found a table that was occupied by three men, and they kindly allowed us to join them. We talked politics until it became uncomfortable, and then made our way to the parade route. They say that 100,000 people attend the procession, but the city is big enough that the crowds never felt oppressive.  Next year we will likely join the 2 1/2 mile procession, but medical issues prevented it this time.

IMG_8496The procession is a free for all, and anyone is allowed to join in. There was a bagpipe band, New Orleans style jazz musicians, people marching for causes, and just those in it for the party.

When we retired back to the room, we both fell asleep within minutes. Even on the quiet side of the hotel, we could hear the music – I am sure those on the other side cold feel the music. But the bed, even though it was a 1920’s size bed – bigger than a twin but not quite a queen, was comfortable.

We had breakfast at the hotel’s Cup Cafe. I was happy that the drink prices were not obscene, and breakfast was reasonable. Liz had bagels and lox, I had biscuits and gravy with two eggs, Anduoille sausage and potatoes.  I could barely finish my meal.

If you are like me, and prefer esoteric vacations, and shun big chain motels and generic eateries, then I highly recommend Hotel Congress.  The rooms are on the expensive side, but the experience is priceless. The staff are all top notch. But be forewarned – the place is loud, and since they have a liquor license, under Arizona state law you are not allowed to BYOB to your room. Liquor purchased off the premises must stay off the premises. But, they do not gouge you on drink prices. You can get your drink on, leave a healthy tip, and still leave with a wad of bills in your pocket.

On our drive home, we made a side trip to the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun. But that is fodder for another post.


Installing a window

new window installedI still have a wall of shelves to install in the ongoing shed project. Before I could install the shelves, I had to install the window.

The first problem is that all of the windows I found were 24 inches wide.  This is a real issue when you have a shed with studs set on 24-inch centers.

This is where my Ryobi cordless reciprocating saw came in handy.  I gut out a section of the stud, and then braced the stud with another on the outside, so that I had a 24″ wide opening.

new window for the shedThat process took me longer than actually cutting the opening and installing the window.

I need to trim the window with some 1×3 pine, and we will be good to go. Now I have light on the inside, at least during daylight hours.

Next step is to complete the shelves.