April 13th, 2006


Man ... catching up is hard to do ...

I just hate it when I've been out of town and I'm trying to catch up on my FL ... I keep thinking I'm "almost done", only to find that I've missed 25 here or that what I thought was the last page was now 125 deep again, etc.! I think I'm going to be finished here before the sun comes up, but man ... it's a pain in the ass!

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OK ... caught up!

Now I still need to get the vacation snaps off the camera, write a post about the trip, write a review post for the books I read while on the road ... oh, and get some new leads for trying to find a fucking job!

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Three small books ...

While down in Phoenix this past weekend, I got in one activity that I (as opposed to the kids or the in-laws) wanted to do, which was go visit the Pueblo Grande archaeological site. This is pretty remarkable, being right downtown, just east of the airport. Of course, the whole greater Phoenix area had been home to the Hohokam a thousand years ago, so finding their remains is not unusual in that regards. The Pueblo Grande site has a large mound with various associated additional buildings (and several more acres not fully excavated), with a small museum attached. I picked up these three guidebooks in the museum gift shop.

As those reading these posts regularly know, I used to have a small publishing company, and I'm quite envious that the publisher of these has been able to "make a go of it" with these quarter-page format saddle-stitched books. I was also impressed that these were the first books I've seen that featured the new "ISBN-13" identification numbering (also indicating to me that these are in enough demand for frequent re-printing). As these are quite brief (32 pages each), I figured I'd cover them all in one review.

First, there is Elizabeth C. Welsh's Easy Field Guide to Southwestern Petroglyphs, a decent over-view of what petroglyphs are, how they were (variously) made, how they can or can't be dated, etc. There are tons of illustrations of assorted petroglyphs, with information about what "style" each is, and some conjecture as to what they might mean. This is an interesting discussion, as it brings in interpretations of current Southwest native tribal experts, as well as examples from our own culture (e.g. would somebody 300 years from now recognize Smokey The Bear as an icon for forest fire awareness?).

Next is James R. Cunkle's Easy Field Guide to Indian Art & Legends of the Southwest which looks at Southwestern native myths as they've "survived" in the pottery of the Mimbres people, part of the Mogollon culture of 1,000 years ago. The Mimbres burial customs involved placing a bowl over the face of the deceased, with a small hole punched through the bottom, and these bowls have been excavated in various locations over the years, and form the basis of this booklet. Thirty three bowls are pictured, with a brief explanation (or conjecture) of what the design represents. Some are easily recognizable (with variations of Kokopelli or Hopi "trickster" figures), while some are interpreted via other known Native American myths, and some are just described, with their significance guessed at. Again, hardly exhaustive (although a more extensive book by the same author is recommended in the intro), it is an interesting way of presenting the subject.

Finally, there's Rick Harris' Easy Field Guide to Rock Art Symbols of the Southwest, which is sort of thematically between the other two. This is primarily the description of nearly 200 symbols, ranging from clan icons to spirit and animal imagery, with outlines on how to "read" things like directional cues, and combination symbols (such as "trail leads to settlement beyond mountains"). I'm sure that the Von Danikens of this world will really appreciate the fact that all the "Spirits" pictured look exactly like the heads of classic pulp-era SciFi robots (except for the one that looks like that Popping Martian thing!), including what could easily have been the prototype for "Dr. Theopolis" from the cheesy Buck Rogers in the 25th Century TV show.

I'd normally point folks off to Amazon to pick up copies of these (were you so inclined), however, Amazon proper, while listing these, has a "sourcing fee" added on that's more than the cost of the ($1.50 list) book, and their used/new vendor area adds on $3.50 shipping per title! So, if you're looking to pick up these, I'd recommend going straight to the publisher, American Traveler Press, where you'd just end up spending $2.50 for shipping for all three.

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(sigh) ... so I went out of town ...

We flew out of Midway on Friday morning, picking up 2 hours due to Arizona's time-zone switch, and arrived in Phoenix early in the afternoon. My father-in-law and his wife picked us up at the airport and we headed off towards Peoria (a suburb on the north-west end of "greater Phoenix"). On the way there we stopped at an In-N-Out Burger so I could sample the much-ballyhooed fare. It was O.K., but not something that I'd make a special trip to get.

Most of the afternoon was just hanging out with the in-laws, and getting to see their new place (they'd moved out to AZ last year after "seeing one too many hurricanes" in Jacksonville, FL). We ended up going out to a place in a mall in Glendale called Mimi's for dinner. A lot of what we did out there was go to places in malls. I guess I've not spent enough time in the suburbs ... as the whole weekend seemed to focus on hours in the car to get to a mall ... it appears that's what suburban folks do ... the step-mother-in-law seemed to be very excited about the variety and convenience of the various cookie-cutter stores/restaurants in the nearly identical malls.

On Saturday we went over to the Desert Botanical Garden in time to have a guided tour by "Cactus Jack" ... it was interesting enough, especially the bit about the little bug that lives in the cactus and is ground up for the red coloring in a lot of foods and cosmetics! They also had a butterfly tent exhibit, but we're a bit spoiled for those because of the permanent one at the nature museum here ... I would have advised the in-laws against spending the extra money for it, but I guess they wanted to see it.

That evening we went to a pretty decent Mexican place called Macayo's which was in another mall somewhere (Glendale, again, if I'm not mistaken) ... they're part of a small family-owned chain down in Arizona. Their decor was a bit "Disneyesque" but stayed on the cute side of the cute/tacky line (which was well trampled when it came to their souvenir glassware!).

On Sunday morning we first went downtown to look at the Capitol (and the memorial mall in front of it), grabbed lunch over by the ballpark (at Steve's Greenhouse Grill), before eventually heading over to Pueblo Grande, as detailed in my previous post. I am never quite so happy as when I get to meander around archaeological sites ... and I'd not had a chance to do so in quite some time, so I was thrilled to check this one out, as limited in scope as it was. This is not to say it wasn't interesting, as the museum there did a very nice job of putting the ruins in context of the area and the historic timelines. I'd previously read that most of Phoenix's irrigation canals were simply the old Hohokam canals re-used in this century ... and they had some impressive maps of the extensive irrigation system the natives had created a thousand years back.

Sunday was probably our "busiest" day there, as we went from Pueblo Grande down to South Mountain, and drove up to the outlook up top there. The Girls wanted to do more "mountain climbing" than we really had time for, but I think this was their favorite part of the trip. The views from up there are pretty amazing, looking out over the whole Phoenix area (although the picture here is looking off towards the mountains south-west of the city). The Wife had made dinner reservations for us to take the in-laws out, and we had to hurry off of the mountain to drive the hour plus back to Peoria, get changed, and then drive another hour plus out towards Cave Creek, in the mountains north-west of Phoenix. We ate at a place called Cartwright's which was a fancy "Sonoran ranch house" serving a remarkably sophisticated menu for being where it was (I had a "Coffee & Cocoa Roasted Half Duck with Chokecherry Sauce, Sweet Potato Hash, Vegetable & Cotija Stuffed Ancho" where the ground coffee and cocoa had been rubbed into the skin before roasting, leaving an interesting smoky residual which tasted of neither in particular, but which was very tasty with the sauce).

On Monday we wanted to get as far out of town as possible (because the damned immigration protests were going to be tying everything up in Phoenix proper), so we headed out towards the Superstition Mountains (home of the legendary Lost Dutchman Mine and the rumored hidden treasures therefrom). This was another Very Long Drive, which took us up into the Tonto National Forest. After stopping for a few photo ops on the way, we ended up in Tortilla Flat (official population: 6), and had lunch at the very bizarre Superstition Saloon (where nearly every flat surface other than the tables was covered with $1 bills with messages on them!). From there we headed out a while further on the Apache Trail until we got to another view spot (where I took this shot), let The Girls hike along some trails, and then loaded into the van and drove back to Peoria.

On Tuesday, we basically just got packed and headed to the Airport ... we had to be there by around noon, so there wasn't much time to do anything other than to grab some breakfast at the in-law's subdivision's clubhouse. Southwest has got to be happy about the flights down there, both outbound and return flights were 100% booked ... making them a lot less comfortable than they might have been!

Anyway, that's what I was up to over the past few days ... as if anybody is bothering to read this shit ...

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