Sunday, February 28, 2010

EMPS: Still Life with Steak

D'oh! As busy as I've been at this Doctor Who convention, I almost forgot to post my entry for Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #78: Still Life featuring Food.  This is my shot from Friday's dinner at the Champions sports bar inside the Marriott LAX. It's a steak salad. This seems to me a very odd concept for a menu item, and is also quite expensive ($17 or $18 I think), but I love it so much I've had it twice this weekend.  Those are the only two proper meals I've had since Thursday lunch, unless you count two fish tacos (with fries? really?) from Del Taco.


In haste,


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Round Robin: Bright Sky, Warm Water

When I packed up my laptop yesterday to post my entry for the newest Round Robin Photo Challenge from a Los Angeles hotel room, there were several difficulties I forgot to consider. I knew my Vaio was slowly dying, but I refused to think about what would happen if it didn't work at all. I knew the LAX Marriott had WiFi in the rooms (for a hefty fee), but didn't consider that it might not actually work, or that my computer wouldn't cooperate with their network. And even if the computer worked and the network worked, there were still two problems:

1. All the photos I've taken since October are on the other computer at home, except this week's photos still on the camera.

2. The laptop no longer has any photo editing software except the bare-bones Picasa 3.

I don't mind telling you that I had kind of a difficult day today, and computer problems were part of that. I first tried to get online in my hotel room, but my computer wouldn't stop trying to load some other page long enough to let me agree to terms with the Wi-Fi ISP. I took the computer down to the lobby, where the Wi-Fi is supposedly free, but it couldn't even find a network down there - well, maybe an unnamed, local-only one, but what's the good of that? So I hauled the computer back upstairs, found a little wireless access switch that had been turned off by accident, opened Explorer because Firefox was still stuck trying to open two useless, non-functioning tabs -- and voila! Success!

And as it happens, my camera did have some photos still on the memory card to fit the topic Round Robin Challenge: Blinded By the Light, as suggested by Vicki of the blog Maraca. On Tuesday afternoon, finished at last with a difficult and time-consuming project at St. Michael's, I took off with the dogs, hoping to take them someplace interesting. Our first stop was at PetSmart, for dog food and to trim Cayenne's nails. Then I drove north toward the snow-dusted mountains. Starting out from PetSmart instead of from home, I missed a turn and ended up on Houghton Road, miles from anywhere. But getting lost is one of my favorite ways of finding stuff, and Tuesday was a prime example of that. Entirely by accident I came across a sign for Agua Caliente Park, a place I hadn't visited in 20 years or more. So that's where we went!

It was late afternoon. The sun was shining through the trees and across the largest and wettest of the three ponds.

The sun was very much in my eyes, so when I took this photo I tried to cram the sun behind a tree. And it almost worked!

Look how lightstruck the old palms are, and the brightness of the ground in between the late afternoon shadows.

Agua Caliente Park has a long and interesting history. It was originally the site of two springs, one hot (100 degrees F) and one cold, and is thought to have been used by local inhabitants for thousands of years. There was an army encampment there by the late 1850s, and a few decades later became a ranch and health spa, where people could "take the waters." Possibly so that there would be more waters for people to be theoretically healed by, owners dynamited the place, combining the hot spring and the cold spring into one warm one. Nowadays it's a county park, known mostly for its birdwatching and nature programs. Nobody takes the waters anymore; no swimming, wading or drinking of the spring water is allowed. Traces of the past are very much in evidence, though, including the very old and very large non-native palm trees and the ruinous bridge in the photo above.

The water table around here has fallen quite a bit over the past century, leaving less water above ground than there once was. This large, vaguely mushy field is technically a pond. But even though it had rained heavily just a day or two before, little water remained in evidence on the day of my visit.

Now let's see how everyone else saw the light!

Linking List
as of 10:55 AM MST Saturday

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Carly - Posted!

maryt - Posted!
Mary Tomaselli's Photos

Jama - Posted!
Sweet Memories

Suzanne R - Posted!
SuzyQ421's Photo Blog


flashbulb100w *** Welcome new member***
mga gihuna-huna

Sherrie - Posted!
Sherrie's Stuff

Ladyhightower *** Welcome new member***
Ladyhightower's Meme Castle

Sandy - Posted!
From the Heart of Texas

Ruth - Posted!

Gattina - Posted!
Keyhole Pictures

Manang Kim - Posted!
My Photography in Focus

Peggy - Posted!
Holmespunfun Memes and Themes


Sunday, February 21, 2010

EMPS: Sammy Safety Cone and Friends

How did Carly know what would happen on Wilmot Road this week? For Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #77: The Cone Zone, she asked to see road construction - traffic cones, works crews or other inconvenient-but-necessary evidence of our highway safety dollars at work. A few days later, I reached the end of Calle Mumble and was greeted by this:

(If you lived in Tucson and were familiar with my part of town, this shot would be a dead giveaway of exactly where "Calle Mumble" is. But ah, well.)

This continued all week, slightly different stretches of the right lane closed off while crews tore up three patches of pavement and laid in three large metal plates, the kind that require an orange sign marked "BUMP."

But that's not what I wanted to talk about today.

It was probably close to ten years ago that John applied for a job as a graphic designer for the Pima County Highway Department. In order to show them what he could do, John created an animated GIF and other graphics featuring an original character he created, Sammy Safety Cone. He also made a fun animated GIF of toy Chevron cars driving down the street. He didn't get the job, but I thought he definitely should have. Although John doubts he even has a copy of those graphics files any more, they live on in my memory. And when I'm not too busy being annoyed and inconvenienced by the many road construction projects that impede my progress across town, the sight of a Sammy Safety Cone in the real world still makes me smile.

One of the reasons Tucson needs so much road work, aside from an ever-growing population driving over the same old streets, is the extremes of weather we get here. In the summer we get our famous "dry heat," followed by the summer monsoon rains that regularly flood the city streets. Then in the winter, if we're lucky, we get the milder "winter monsoon," with less thunder and lightning, but lots of rain, some flooding, and a good chance of snow in the mountains. The pavement expands in the summer heat and then cools and contracts, creating potholes and sinkholes and cracks for the flooding to fill and make worse.

Yesterday was a prime example of Tucson flooding. I had just worked around the clock - twice, almost - from early Friday afternoon to late Saturday morning with a half hour off for dinner before I returned to preparing all night long, despite significant computer issues, for two important meetings at church on Saturday morning. When I finally got home around 11 AM it was time to pick up my friend S. for our promised trip to the Animal Fair at Reid Park, there to find a new cat to replace the recently-departed Luna. And it was starting to rain.

We carried on anyway, got a neighbor to help life her mobility scooter into the trunk of my car, and headed over to Reid Park. When we arrived it was pouring down rain, and dozens of people and their dogs were starting to leave. After a week of 70 degree whether it was cold and windy, and S.'s umbrella quickly blew inside out. But we made it into the flimsy tent of one of the rescue groups, where we were immediately greeted by a very nice woman who was cuddling a black and white cat so similar to Luna that he could be her younger brother. Shamrock is a Turkish Van, according to the rescue group volunteer. When she let S. pet Shamrock, he snuggled into her and reached out to clutch her jacket with his front paws. We'll take him! She has to wait for several days while they get him neutered and chipped, but she'll have her year-and-a-half old, beautiful and affectionate new cat by the end of the week.

But I digress.

Coming back from the park, I drove through badly flooded streets as my trunk lid bumped up and down over S.'s scooter. My jacket and sweatshirt were soaked through and the driving was hairy. S. told me that many years ago, she saw a picture of people waterskiing on Alvernon Way, before they installed better drainage on that road. It still floods, but not quite that badly any more.

But there are compensations for weather like this. The ever-changing view of the Catalina Mountains in my rear view mirror can be dramatic and wonderful. And yesterday I saw a long orange pipe along the side of Wilmot, where Sammy and his friends were this week. Maybe they're working on the drainage.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Weekend Assignment #307: Eight Days a Week

This Weekend Assignment entry will be brief, for reasons that will become apparent.

Weekend Assignment #307: Common wisdom, these days, backed up by actual statistics if I had time to look them up, tells us that as a nation we've been working harder in recent years just to maintain the same level of financial solvency. Recession-related unemployment and u8nderemployment aside, do you find this is true for your family?

Extra Credit: Is overtime something you take on willingly? Why or why not?

I mention all this because this is the busy time of year for accountants, even underemployed ones like me. I've been working many more hours recently, and if I get the temp job I applied for today, I will be working a full time job and a part time one on top of that.

And I don't mind. Yes, I have to watch out that I get adequate sleep, but to be honest I kind of enjoy wrangling with numbers at 1 AM. And if I can make a decent income working two jobs after all these months of spotty employment, it should help our finances quite a bit!

Still, I believe that the underlying point is true. Maybe it's naive of me, but I suspect that there was a time when people worked from 9 to 5, went home, and aside from a little dinner discussion left their work behind until morning. Now I think we as a workforce are expected to work as many hours as possible for as little money as companies can get away with. In some cases, it's because the company itself is struggling, especially these days. In others, it seems to be more a case of the people at the top raking in the bonuses and letting the underlings struggle a bit. I've worked in both situations.

What do you think? You have until next Wednesday at 6 PM to give us your thoughts, either as a blog entry or in the comments below. If you do write a blog entry, please mention the Weekend Assignment, and leave a link to your entry in the comments thread. Here are last week's links. Click on the name to see the entry!

Last week's Weekend Assignment was:

Weekend Assignment #306: You're A Famous Author, What's The Name Of Your Book?

Karen (that's me!) said...
I'm famously allergic to cats, and almost as famously uninterested in cooking. My unlikely bestseller, therefore, is a cookbook for cats. I had a different title for it last night, but then I talked to John and had a better idea. Now the title is:
The Cats' Cookbook:
Fabulous Foods for Felines and Friends

Florinda said...
Here's my bestseller:
Southern Song: A Romance, by Elizabeth Penney (You don't think I'm writing a romance under my real name, do you? That's another part of the fiction!)

Mike said...
My book is a young adult romantic fantasy novel. I named it "We'll Meet Under the New Moon at Harry Potter's House." I figure this might draw some attention on the shelves at the bookstore. Not a bad idea, am I right.

 Next week's entry will by hosted by Carly. See you there!


Monday, February 15, 2010

The End of Lunacy

It is exceedingly rare for me to get a phone call after midnight, even through everyone knows I'm likely to be awake well past that hour. When a call comes in that late at night, it can't be good news.

Sunday morning, 3:45 AM. My cell phone rings.

I know what it's about. Just not the details.

"Hi, it's Karen."

"This is Dr. ___ from Valley Animal Hospital. I'm looking for S___, Luna's owner. Is she there?"

"No, this is her best friend." I verified that the other phone number they had was S's number, the only phone number she has. The vet explained that Luna wasn't breathing on her own, "so we're breathing for her." I offered to drive across town and wake my friend up, but the vet said she'd try the number again, and hung up.

At least Luna was still alive. For the moment.

I checked S's number on my cell phone, since I don't have it memorized, and called back to verify that they had it right. They did, but the call wasn't waking my friend up. Probably just as well. Luna was back to breathing on her own, so the immediate crisis was over. But it didn't look good.

Since Luna's cancer surgery on Wednesday, the cat had hardly eaten at all. When I took S. to visit her on Saturday afternoon, they had a heat lamp on her and were talking about putting in a feeding tube. The hope was that if she got some nutrition, she might grow stronger, possibly strong enough and well enough to eat something.

Luna hardly moved for the first few minutes of our visit, and didn't respond to S's attempts to cajole a meow from her. But she purred when gently petted, and raised her head a little, just before we left.

As S. spent these precious minutes with her beloved, dying cat, I visited a little with the few animals in the other cages. One cat, labeled as feral, meowed defiantly at me whenever I came into view. The other cat was curled up in the back of the cage, as was a dog labeled as "aggressive animal."

The other dog was named Magnum, a chocolate lab or Weimaraner or something along those lines.The card said he was brought in by FAIR (Foundation for Animals In Risk) with gunshot wounds. Somehow I doubt poor Magnum was named after the Tom Selleck character. When someone came to take Magnum away, I said,"Why would anyone shoot a sweet dog like that?"

"Why would they shoot anything?" she replied.


The rest of Sunday morning went by without further news. S. knows better, usually, than to call me during church. But in the afternoon she called. Luna died during the night.

The animal hospital had asked her about disposal of the body, and she didn't know which option to choose. I recommended cremation. Neither of us has an appropriate place to bury a pet, and digging more than a few inches into the ground here is exceedingly difficult. I went through that with Jenny Dog many years ago, and ultimately had to hire a handyman to dig. Never again. So I told S. about the nicely labeled white plastic boxes in which a local service delivers cremated remains to Tucson vets. "Tuffy and Noodle are on my desk right now," I said.

"That sounds nice," S. said.

So I went over to the animal hospital, about two miles from here, paid our share of the bill and told them to do the cremation. The portion of the bill that S. now owes to the animal welfare group is over a thousand dollars, twice what it would have been had Luna died on the operating table. I figure it will take S. about two years to pay that off out of her Social Security disability. The vet's office called S. again four or five hours after that, asking again about the body disposal. Tearfully but politely, S. again made her wishes known.

Next weekend is the Animal Fair at Reid Park, a giant adoptathon for practically every animal rescue group in Southern Arizona. S. will be looking for a year old cat this time, not an older cat like Luna. She cannot be alone, and she can't afford another week like this one, financially or emotionally.

But I don't regret that we went ahead with Luna's cancer operation. At least we tried. There was a legitimate chance of saving Luna's life, and S. would have been wracked with guilt had we denied her that chance. This way she knows she did what she could for her furry friend. She also had a week to prepare emotionally for Luna's death, something she didn't have when her previous cat died a year ago December. In my experience, when a loved one dies after a long illness, the grief is a little blunted with relief, that the long ordeal of worry and suffering is at an end.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

EMPS: Love on Any Corner

Every year, it seems, I end up photographing Valentine's Day merchandise at Safeway for one meme or another. I started to do that for the Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #76: Valentine's Day, and even came up with a great title for the entry: "Safeway Is For Lovers!"

But really, I've been there, done that. Yesterday I noticed something I'd rather write about instead, even if the photos aren't technically as good. So I started taking pictures like this one.

As you can see from the examples above, Tucson this weekend was inundated with street vendors, selling Valentine's Day junk on probably hundreds of street corners and empty lots all over town. There were so many of them, sometimes as many as three set-ups on a single block, that I despair of most of these folks even breaking even on their investments in this glut of Valentine's Day merchandise. It was hard to drive more than a mile or so on any major street and not run across somebody setting flowers or balloons or bears or... what?

Okay. Great sign. I was intrigued. "I don't see any big trees," my friend Kevin said.

But after I dropped Kevin off at The Good Egg, I circled back around for another look. Ah. That other sign explains everything.

Not only that, but that particular street vendor solved my personal Valentine's Day problem. The Museum of the Weird is full to bursting already, and doesn't need any pink balloons or perishable flowers (which I'm allergic to anyway) to fill it further. Diamonds and jewelry leave me cold, and John and I don't like to exchange candy because we shouldn't be eating the stuff.

But when I saw John's Valentine's Day card sitting on top of my purse this morning I knew I had to do something. So why not a Valentine's Day Bonsai?

I think that suits the MotW indoor garden very well. And John confessed that he'd always kind of wanted a bonsai. Success!


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Round Robin: Memories of Childhood, Not All of Them Mine

Hi ho! This week's Round Robin Challenge: Childhood Memories, comes to us from Monica of the blog Shutterly Happy. Many of the exhibits here at Casa Blocher, the Museum of the Weird, are kid-related, and over the years I've shown you lots of them: my battered plush dog Trophy, John's Handy Andy bulldozer, my Barbies along with all their friends and relatives, Chatty Baby in two different hair colors and many more. This time out, let's skip over all of those and focus on other vintage items in our collection.

From the Picasa album Museum of the Weird

John has spent much more time on eBay than I have over the years, so let's take a look at a few items from his collection. The toy soldier in box is from the Marx "Warriors of the World" collection. The colorful plastic frogmen are powered by baking soda, and originally came in Kellogg's cereal boxes. The yellow dinosaur, as far as I know, is just a yellow dinosaur. The autographed baseball he got as an adult. Can you tell what famous Japanese player signed it?

This one is probably more universal for children of the 1950s and 1960s. Display space is at a premium here at the Museum of the Weird, so these Lincoln Logs are "on display" in John's office closet! My exposure to Lincoln Logs was mostly at Pebble Hill School in DeWitt, NY, where I spent the second half of kindergarten. We also had Mr. Machine! I always wanted one of those.

From the Picasa album Museum of the Weird

Let's move on to some of my childhood mementos. Like John, I've repurchased some stuff I had as a kid, having managed to hang onto very few of my original childhood things. But the china dog on the left has been with me since 1964 or 1965, when he arrived on a planter someone gave my mom. A few years later I appropriated him for my china animal collection. He's named Heather, after a dog my friend Cindy R. had before I knew her. He's been broken and glued back together, but what of it? The memories evoked by this battered relic are intact.

The mother raccoon with her cub are a repurchase. I used to buy bone china animals in sets of three, little family groupings glued onto a white card for display in the few stores that sold them. Originally they cost $3.00 per set, but got as high as $3.75 or even $4.00 by the time I stopped buying them. It took me a while to save up for them at 50 cents a week in allowance! The day I bought one such set at a store in Shoppingtown (DeWitt, NY), I found a $10 bill. The store owner hung onto it for me, and if nobody claimed it in 30 days I would get to keep it. And I did! I almost certainly spent it on china animals, or possibly plastic ones in the Britain's Limited zoo and farm animal collections.

The raccoon bone china grouping, to which the figure above belongs, I remember especially. I used a file to separate the baby raccoon from the mother's mouth, so that I would have an extra toy animal and more versatility for our games about the animals' adventures. I came to regret this, but it kinda worked!

This Peanuts lunchbox dates back to about 1964, when my friend Joel used to bring his lunch to school in it. I always loved that lunchbox, and when I happened to mention it to him some years back he sent it to me. His late mother had later used it as a paintbox, and it's clearly quite battered. But I don't care. Joel also had a great collection of Hungerford Peanuts figures back in the day, and a great Viewmaster collection.

And here we have two boys with hats! Bunsen Bernie Kiddle is the only doll I'll be showing you today. The kid in the picture is Jacob, my godson. I've only seen him on two occasions since his family moved to Los Alamos when he was a little boy, but his parents send me photos. He's 13 now, I think. So my memories of Jacob as a child are somewhat limited, but still precious.

From Family photos

Here are photographic memories that are barely mine at all. My mom had a copy of this portrait of her younger self (right) on her vanity when I was a kid. When I was a teenager she gave me this double frame with two pictures, one of her sister and one of her mother. I think the shot on the left here is the one of Aunt Flora. Flora M Johnson was an engineer who helped to design the Interstate Highways along the eastern corridor. I don't know the details, but I like to think that Route 81, which we took many times to visit Grandmother and Aunt Flora in Fairfax VA and sometimes in Florida, was partly her accomplishment.

What of the other portrait, the one of my grandmother, Flora D Johnson, nee Dufour, at one time Flora D Ballantine? If I don't have the two portraits mixed up, here she is on the right. I've had that photo buried under the Aunt Flora one for the past eight years or so, because, well, my mom is far more important to me. But let's let little Flora out for a while, in front of Flora-on-the-floral-couch!

Now let's see everyone else's childhood memories!

Linking List
(as of 6:45 PM PST 02/13/10)

Monica - Posted!
Shutterly Happy

Carly - Posted!

Suzanne - Posted!
SuzyQ421's Photo Blog

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Hip Chick Photo

Mommy's Treasures

ellen b. - Posted!
The Happy Wonderer

Nancy - Posted!
Nancy Luvs Pics

Quiltworks - Posted!
World Through The Eyes Of A Fiber Artist

Sandy - Posted!
From the Heart of Texas

Gattina - Posted!
Keyhole Pictures

Jama - Posted!
Sweet Memories

Ruth - Posted!
Scrabble Queen

If you like the Round Robin Challenges, please check our other memes. Click the logos to be redirected to this week's assignments:

The Weekend Assignment
hosted by Karen and Carly

This week: Weekend Assignment #306: 
What's the Name of Your Book?

- and -

The Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot, hosted by Carly

This week: Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #77: The Cone Zone

See ya!


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Weekend Assignment #306: Karen's Cat Book?

Carly's hosting the Weekend Assignment for the first time, and it's a tricky one!

Weekend Assignment #306: You're A Famous Author, What's The Name Of Your Book?

Sounds easy, right? Oh, but hold on, there is a catch here folks! The book you are famous for writing must be from a genre that you aren't known for. As an example, if you really enjoy writing horror stories, make this assignment about a romance novel or a biography, or anything other then you usually relate to. If you don't dabble in writing very often, no worries, simply come up with a title for your fictional book from the genre you read the least.

Extra Credit: Write the opening paragraph of your best-seller!

Ack! So, since I've written a fair amount of fantasy, science fiction and science fantasy, those are off the table. I've also written lots of non-fiction about Arizona and my dogs, so we can't go there.

But I'm famously allergic to cats, and almost as famously uninterested in cooking. My unlikely bestseller, therefore, is a cookbook for cats. I had a different title for it last night, but then I talked to John and had a better idea. Now the title is:

The Cats' Cookbook:

Fabulous Foods for Felines and Friends

And here, just for the heck of it, is the book cover.

As for the Extra Credit, everything in the opening paragraph below is true:

On January 10th, 2010, a cat named Luna was taken to a Tucson animal hospital for surgery. An X-ray two days before had revealed a large tumor pressing on the abdomen. Luna had eaten little for the previous month, and the once-sleek American Longhair was reduced to skin and bones. Nevertheless, her bright eyes and continued energy helped to convince her beleaguered owner to take a chance on surgery to remove the unknown mass. At noon on Wednesday the news came: the veterinarian had removed the cancerous half of Luna's stomach. The prognosis was good, but a new question arose: what could the owner safely feed her?

Luna, two days before cancer surgery.

Yes, Luna is a real cat, just not my cat. (She's not the cat on the book cover, either.) Her owner, S., is living on Social Security disability and could not have afforded the surgery at all were it not for a small loan from a local animal rescue group. She'll probably be paying them back for the next year, but if Luna survives it will have been well worth it. As I wrote about at the time, S. got Luna when her previous cat died shortly before Christmas 2008. To lose Luna 14 months later would be devastating for my friend. It's too soon to be sure, but it seems that the surgery has saved Luna's life, at least for a while.

Be sure to check out Ellipsis for the full scoop on how to play along with this week's Weekend Assignment! Then next week I'll be back to to take my turn as host. Let's give Carly a warm welcome as the Weekend Assignment co-host!

And don't forget our other memes:

The Round Robin Photo Challenges - a new topic every two weeks


The Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot - hosted by Carly, with a new topic every Monday!


Sunday, February 07, 2010

EMPS: Fear and Peace on Sentinel Peak

This week for the Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot, Carly wanted to see peaceful places. Is it possible to be terrified and peaceful at the same time? I'm not sure, but I certainly experienced both last Sunday afternoon on Sentinel Peak, also called "A" Mountain.

From Sunset on Sentinel Peak

Sentinel Peak is on the western edge on Tucson, just west of downtown. Before the Spanish arrived, it was a lookout point for the native peoples who lived here. Nowadays it's a popular spot for looking out on the city. Here is a pre-sunset view of the Santa Catalinas and much of the city, looking north as the shadows fall.

Downtown Tucson.

The reason it's also called "A" Mountain is this big painted A, honoring the University of Arizona.

It's a very hairy drive up there, with no guard rails for most of it, bicycles and pedestrians about, and cars parked on what little shoulder there is between the car and a drop of hundreds of feet. Being a pedestrian with two dogs on leashes provided little more security than being behind the wheel of my Eagle Vision.

Some of the people were up there to fly model planes. One of these was custom-made, with a wingspan of five feet.

I was there with the dogs from just before sunset to shortly after. Then I had to rush home! But it was a  somewhat nervous walk I took with them along some of the narrow, one-way roads that spiral up and down Sentinel Peak and the adjoining mountain. At one point I had to scramble down a steep path through limestone rocks and desert scrub, camera and the two leashes in one hand. Well worth it, though.

We did eventually get back to the car without the dogs falling off the mountainside. Then I drove around to the parking lot on the next peak over. The sun disappeared behind yet another peak in the time it took me to get out of the car. Before leaving, I took the dogs to this gazebo, where...

...another  photo shoot was taking place. I never found out who the gentleman in uniform was, or whether he was a park ranger, Border Patrol agent or some other kind of government employee or serviceman.

A view through the stone pillars of the gazebo.

Sentinel Peak is in the Tucson Mountains, but provides a great view of the other mountain ranges in the area. At sunset the other mountains turn pink.


Saturday, February 06, 2010

Weekend Assignment #305: Suddenly the Senses

On Thursday night, just as I was leaving work, I heard bagpipes again. That's the inspiration for this week's topic.

Weekend Assignment #305: You're going about your day and then you sense something - a sight, a sound, a smell, perhaps even a texture or a taste. Whatever it is, it evokes a treasured memory of the past. What did you see, hear, touch, smell, or taste, and what did it remind you of?

Extra Credit: Are there any sounds, sights or smells you actually seek out because of the pleasant associations?

There are a few of them for me. The bagpipes I mentioned earlier always remind me of Epcot Center in Florida, a place I've run into bagpipers several times at least.

More evocative and emotional for me is a particular arrangement of Sleigh Ride, the one that Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops recorded many years ago. It was on at least one, and I think two, of the Christmas records I grew up with. I heard a band play this exact arrangement at a local mall once, and found myself in sudden tears.The choral arrangements on my beloved "green record," We Wish You a Merry Christmas by the Robert Rheims Choraliers, Organ and Chimes have a similar effect. It's less pronounced, though, because nobody else ever, as far as I know, recorded those classic arrangements accompanied by chimes, much less performed them live in my hearing.

Dad and me on vacation but not fishing on a non-rainy day, 1971.

And there's another, weirder one, not music-oriented and not at all Christmassy. When I was growing up in Manlius, NY, it rained a lot, and the worms would crawl out of the ground to escape the soaked and muddy earth. The smell of rain on days like that was at least partly the smell of drowned worms. That odd, not really unpleasant aroma would bring with it a memory of sitting on a dock in New Hampshire or Cape Cod or, more likely, outside Henderson Harbor, NY, up on Lake Ontario. It was the smell of fishing with my parents and brother.

Marshall Gulch
Marshall Gulch on a damp day

Equally evocative is the smell of wet wood on a rainy, chilly day, a smell I can find up on Mount Lemmon sometimes, up at the top of the road among the tall pines. That smell reminds of sitting in a cabin in the Adirondacks, playing solitaire and waiting for the rain to stop. For some reason wherever we went, most of our family vacations involved day after day of rain. But that's okay, because I had a good time anyway.  And I've got these great memories of 40-odd years ago, waiting for a worm or a damp log to come along and evoke them.

As for seeking out sensual memories, I still love that old "green record," although these days it's a CD John ripped for me years ago from the out of print record. And I suppose it's part of why I love Marshall Gulch, the pine-filled picnic area above Summerhaven. It reminds me of the Adirondacks, and those long-ago, chilly-rainy vacations in northern New York State.


Last week I asked you folks whether you were okay with my partnering up with Carly of Ellipsis for future Weekend Assignments. Everybody thought it was a good idea, and Carly has graciously agreed to do it. Next Thursday night, look for Carly's first official Weekend Assignment as host, over on Ellipsis.

Meanwhile, let's take a look at the results of later week's Assignment. For Weekend Assignment #304: Frazzled! How Do You De-Stress?, I asked what you do to relieve the tension when you're feeling frazzled. Click on the names below to read the full responses:

Florinda said...
I don't have a single, all-purposes stress-relief technique - does anyone? But I do have several things I might try, depending on the context - where I am at the time, and what seems to be triggering the majority of the stress (because if I'm truly frazzled and overwhelmed, it's probably not just due to one thing). One of my stress relievers is actually productive, while others are more about avoidance....

Julie said...
Well, I have several options. One is my weekly bowling. That's my big stress-buster. The other is to take off and do something else - which I'm about to do right now.

Mike said...
Short answer; I don't. I suck at getting rid of stress. Really. Just ask Jenn. I bottle everything up then get all pissy about stupid stuff. Don't I sound like a fun person to live with?

I do somethings that help once in a while. I will play video games to try and feel better, but if I have trouble in the game I get irritated again. How does that help?

Carly said...
My favorite way to de-stress is pretty simple actually, I like to take pictures!

But then I also have to give some de-stressing credits to my kitties, Dylan and Hendrix. They keep me laughing. Pets are so healthy to have around. I know I am as sane as I am because I have these little people to help keep me happy.

As for this week's topic, I realize I'm probably going out on a limb with this one. Maybe you don't remember anything like this, at least not off the top of your heard. But please think about it. I want to read what you come up with!

I've posted a page about the Weekend Assignments using Blogger's new "Pages" feature. Click the link above this entry for a very brief history of the Weekend Assignment, logos you can save to post on your own blog, and guidelines on how to play along. Guidelines like these, in fact:

1. Please post your entry no later than Wednesday, February 10th at 9 PM Eastern. This first week it's a shorter time frame than usual, but it will all work out in the end. (You can also post your response in the comments thread, but a blog entry is better.)
2. Please mention the Weekend Assignment in your blog post, and include a link back to this entry. Using the logo is encouraged but not mandatory.

3. Please come back here after you've posted, and leave a link to your entry in the comments below.

4. Visiting other participants' entries is strongly encouraged!

5. We're always looking for topic ideas. Please email me at mavarin2 on if there's a Weekend Assignment theme you'd like to see. If I use your idea, you will be credited as that week's "guest professor."

6. I haven't run into any unpleasantness with this meme, ever, but just in case it ever happens, know that I reserve the right to remove rude or unpleasant comments (not to mention comment spam), and to leave entries off the linking list if the person has been majorly unpleasant, or fails to mention the Weekend Assignment in the entry.

That's it for now! Please remember to play along this week, and be sure to check Ellipsis next Thursday night for the next Weekend Assignment. And don't forget our two photo memes:

The Round Robin Photo Challenges - a new topic every two weeks


The Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot - hosted by Carly, with a new topic every Monday!

We hope to hear from you soon.