Monday, December 3, 2007

Time Keeps On Getting Away

I did it again ~ let a whole bunch of time fly by in between posts.

I even missed Thanksgiving, in more ways than one. Oh I was present to indulge in turkey and all the associated goodies. But I was feeling so out of it that it took all that I had to keep my face from falling in the plate in front of me.

That whole week was spent horizonally. I really wasn't good for anything but sleep.

Oh, there really are a lot of things to catch up on. But for the time being, we will all have to content ourselves with my being a "woman of mystery."

Now that Thanksgiving is out of the way, it's time to prepare for Christmas. And I am still trying to figure out a way to muster up some excitement for the holiday.

But right now, my most immediate thought centers on tomorrow's interview. Not only is it an interview, it is THE 2nd interview. With 1st interviews hard to come by as it is, a 2nd interview is really something to get excited about.

I'll be interviewing at a human services organization south of Boston for a Direct Care/Mental Health Assistant position.

And while human services job are notorious for poor pay, the May Institute does have an extremely great benefits package. My God! It even offers pet insurance!

But the perk that really caught my eye was its free training and education programs. I could even get a Master's Degree and have it paid for! For a perpetual student like me, that sounds like a dream come true.

So cross your fingers, everyone!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Operation Silver Fox

I read about Anne Kreamer's book Going Grey in either Time or Newsweek. Then 2 weeks before that, my local paper carried a story about the same book.

So I took that as a sign.

I had a hairdresser appointment scheduled on Halloween. My original intent had been to have my roots covered over with a color rinse.

But then, when the newspaper story came out, I took it as a sign that I should give in to the little niggling in the back of my brain and seriously consider going back to grey.

I had never been one to be swayed by the dictates of vanity or even current trends. Sure I colored my hair. But while many women were camouflaging their grey, I was off in other territories having my hair colored in ways that were immediately obvious that I was not interested in concealing my true age.

After all, what woman approaching 50 would be interesting in getting bright pink highlights in her hair?

I wasn't interested in obscuring from the world my real age. I could not care less. If anything, I wanted to flaunt the fact that not all women my age choose to stick to safe and normal colors and look as though they leaped out of an L.L. Bean catalogue.

There were some of us who didn't give a rat's patootie over age. There were some of us who wanted to have fun ~ 50 be damned. We did not believe that once we reached a "certain" age that we all of a sudden had to act in way that society expects of that age.

Whose society was that anyway? Certainly not mine!

But still, every few months I would hear these words, "Mom, you gotta do your roots."

Well, roots be damned as well!

As much as I loved my extreme hair color, getting those damn roots taken care of was a bitch. And even though I would let months go by in between hair appointments, it was still an expensive undertaking ~ especially to get the color that I was interested in having.

Let's face it. I'm an artist. One-dimensional color is oh-so-boring. It does not speak to my creative side.

So finally, I decided (thanks to Anne Kreamer) ~ once and for all ~ I was going to let it all hang out. I'm going to go grey.

And why not?

If I can pull off having bright pink hair, and if I can pull off having my hair buzzed to 1/2" length, I can most certainly pull of having grey hair.

So, on Wednesday ~ Halloween ~ the first phase of Operation Silver Fox began.

And who would have thought that that would have cost me far more than it would have cost to just have my roots covered over.

I suppose that I could have avoided all that cost had I simply decided to let my roots roots grow out and have Ariana buzz the rest of my hair with dog clippers. After all, it wasn't the first time that I had Ariana buzz my hair.

But no, I did not want to give up the length of the hair that I had. After all, my hair was getting close to my being able to have a "pob."

I did not want to set myself back several months from achieving that goal by buzzing my hair down to half an inch ~ that is not to say that I haven't done that before.

Despite my desire to keep the length of my hair, I had an even greater desire to get down to the "root" of the matter.

So just before I started my new job, I did indeed have my hair buzzed down to the roots.

Let the pob wait and unleash the silver fox!

Skinky, Stinky, Stinky

I had to have a plumber over today because there was this HUGE hole in the pipe under our kitchen sink. It was so large that I could actually put my finger through it. (Not that I wanted to.)

How could I have gone so long not knowing that there was this huge hole between the elbow joint and the garbage disposal? (At least that explains why I had so many fruit flies after I got back from Arizona.)

And the odd thing is that I would have not known about it. It was only when I was looking to grab the bottle of Sal Suds under the sink that I discovered that something was wrong.

I didn't grasp it right away.

I grabbed the bottle and noticed that the bottom was wet. Wet? Why would it be wet?

Then I looked under the sink and noticed that the basin in which I kept the Sal Suds had about 3 inches of water in it. Not just any water. But very stinky, gaggingly smelly water.

Greatly restraining the urge to gag, I pulled each sopping item out of the basin. Bottles. Jars. What have you.

There were even rubber gloves and a couple of sponges that had deteriorated. Can you imagine what it was like to reach in with naked hands and grab those things?

If there was a direct connection between my hands and my brain, I would have surely barfed.

But I didn't.

However, that doesn't mean that I did not experience my fair share of disgust and want to throw up. Believe me, I did. But I maintained great self restraint.

And the smell! Oh! The smell! For once there was something in the kitchen that stunk worse than the gigunda litter box underneath the parrot's cage.

It was Sunday. And there was no way in hell that I was going to pay premium price by calling the plumber on a Sunday. It wasn't an emergency like the time my pipes froze in the winter time on Super Bowl weekend.

So come first thing this morning, I gave Roger the plumber a call and left a message on his voice mail. (I would have been VERY surprised had he answered the phone himself.)

So many hours later, Roger called back and said that he would be at my house in 5 to 10 minutes.

What was interesting was that Roger did not even have to ask for my street address. That's the advantage of living in a small town and using a local guy.

(We knew Roger. In addition to his son having gone to the same school as Ariana, Roger was also the same plumber who came to our rescue when our pipes had burst in January.)

While waiting for Roger, I decided that it would be a good idea to clean out the litter box. Not because it stunk (not that you would noticed the smell over the standing water in the basin under the sink)~ because it did ~ but because it was rather full.

Roger came before I was finished with the cat box. And he was done just minutes after I finished. I was amazed how quickly it took for Roger to replace the rotted out fitting with a brand new brass fitting.

It took all of 15 minutes for Roger the plumber to take care of things. And it took much longer for me to bail the smelly water out from the basin under the sink.

I told him to send me the bill in the mail.

But at least now the kitchen doesn't stink any more.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Once again, my favorite holiday is here.

I have always loved Halloween, especially making my own costumes.

I only had one store bought costume; and that was shortly after we came to this country. It was this cheesy white skeleton silk screened on a flimsy black jumpsuit sort of costume. It had a glow-in-the-dark mask that made my face sweat while I was wearing it. My mother got from Woolworth's.

It's been awhile since I last wore a costume, even one of my own prize-winning creations.

For the past 2 years, my only Halloween accoutrement, other than plastic skeleton earrings, was Ariana's old Dr. Seuss hat.

I wore it this year, just like I did last year, to the Mattapoisett Halloween Parade, where I, along with the rest of the CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) team, helped pass out glow sticks and manage traffic control.

Yup, the Village is where the action is in Mattapoisett on Halloween. And unlike a lot of places, Halloween brings out the best in people in the Village. In fact it's like stepping back in time to a quintessential New England small town celebration.

Everyone is friendly and happy. Kids and parents are grateful for small gestures, such as being given glow sticks.

Even though all the Halloween action takes place in the Village, each year I still put out a plastic cauldron full of candy on the front porch.

Living where we do, I never had to worry about having the whole booty of treats disappear before the night was done. In fact, the plastic cauldron would still be full of candy by the time I shut off the porch and post lights and brought it in.

However tonight ~ for the first time in the 23 years that I lived here ~ more than half of the candy was gone!

Did I really have that many trick or treaters this year?

Or did someone get very greedy?

Either way, I brought the candy in by 9 o'clock just to make sure there was some left for us.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Now What? ~ Post Vacation Blues

Now that I have been back from Arizona for a month and finished documenting my adventures, what do I do next?

It's not been an easy thing adjusting back to the status quo on the East Coast. And the energy that I had in Arizona and hoped to bring back home must have accidentally been put on another flight and lost by Northwestern Airlines. Or maybe it decided to stay in Arizona.

I haven't resumed my grand studio renovation. The room is still littered with the empty cartons from my new computer.

The energy and motivation to work on my proposed home business is still playing hide-and-seek. So far, it's been doing a great job in hiding.

Of course, part of my time and energy were occupied by the many things that needed to get done.

For starters, I had tons of laundry ~ both my own from the trip and the 2 giant garbage bags of dirty clothes that Ariana collected when she and her friends cleaned the "chill room" upstairs.

There was this ever-growing glacier of dirty dishes that was inching its way across the kitchen floor.

And these dirty dishes gave way to an annoying colony of fruit flies that wasn't there before I left on my trip. That in itself took a while to rectify ~ especially since I could not use insecticides in an area where there were too many surfaces that came in contact with food.

Also, it would have been difficult to relocate the parrot, whose residence was the kitchen, because the goat paths in the rest of the house were too narrow for his ginormous cage.

So, I had to use a more passive method of fruit fly control by drowning them sweetly in a small plastic tub of wine.

And let us not forget those rats. They were smelling nice and fresh just before I left. And now, each of the 3 rat tanks were ripe and smelly.

Speaking of ripe and smelly ~ so were the litter boxes and the parrot papers.

Gee! It certainly sounds like I am doing a lot of whining. Perhaps I am.

But then again, going away on a trip and coming back to sing the Post Vacation Blues is a whole new experience for me.

Unlike most people, I have never taken regular vacations or trips. The last time I've been away for longer than a 3-day weekend was 26 years ago, when I was a senior in college. I never knew the immense benefits of R & R as a working adult.

I finally learned and experienced why going away on vacations and trips is such a bigh deal.

And what else I learned is that I do not want to wait another 26 years for my next rejuvenating escape from the status quo.

If I'm going to sing the Post Vacation Blues, then I am going to need lots of practice to get it right!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Day 7 - The Inevitable

With each day of my stay, the distance between that day and the inevitable was growing smaller and smaller.

Finally the gap closed on Tuesday, September 11th.

I was planning on getting up at 5:00 so that I could leave at 5:30. But I lingered a bit in bed and did not leave until 6:00 that morning.

Carolyn was up to wish me a safe journey and to offer some bacon and other goodies for me to take with me. But I had to decline because my stomach could not even think of food that early in the morning. Besides, I had my left-over nachos in case I got hungry.

Joggers and bicyclists were already out at this hour. I suppose that's the only time of the day that's cool enough for outdoor exercise.

So here I was, leaving the Spur Cross B & B, and heading towards Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Unlike the route I took to get to Cave Creek, I took the more direct route down Cave Creek Road right into Phoenix.

Reflecting back on the week, I thought of the things I wanted to do and experience but couldn't for one reason or another.

I never did get to go on a sunrise hot-air balloon ride. In fact those buggers never even returned my call.

I never got to eat rattlesnake. And the only rattlesnakes I saw were in the gift shops, permanently enshrined in blocks of Lucite.

And the javelinas thought it best to have me avoid seeing their snouty faces.

However, I am not one to complain. After all, I fulfilled a 20-year dream to visit Arizona and the Sonoran Desert. And I even got to see an owl in the wild. That in itself made my trip worthwhile.

I saw saguaro cacti, that I could not get enough of, and mountains all around me, including the mountain I nearly drove off.

I revelled in the sunny skies and temperatures in the low 100s, climbed tall hills, and explored the desert landscape.

I met new people and marvelled how friendly and polite everyone was. Even the drivers were courteous.

The church that I visited treated me like a celebrity.

I learned so many new things that I experienced brain-overload.

I shopped 'til I dropped and had the coolest stuff to bring home.

I had the best guacamole ever.

I took lots of pictures while learning how to use my awesome new camera.

For the first time in my life I felt normal, not a freak or oddball.

And for the first time in more years than I can count, I felt a peace and calm that I did not know was possible to experience.

And now I was leaving all that to head back home.

It was 6:30 by now. The traffic into Phoenix was getting heavy, even at this time. I couldn't believe the 12-lane highway ~ 6 lanes going in just one direction. Could you imagine such a beast here in Massachusetts?

Eventually I saw signs for the car rental drop off. Following them got me to where I needed to go.

And after initially going into the wrong lane that took me to the wrong car rental place, I finally managed to bid farewell to the Ford Focus that I was finally getting used to ~ except for that annoying rear spoiler that always blocked my visibility.

I returned the car keys and waited for the car rental employee to check the condition of the car before writing up the final bill. There were no extra fees to pay.

The shuttle took me to Terminal 3, where I would be catching the 9 o'clock Northwestern flight back to Detroit.

Not being an experienced traveller, I foolishly had my bags checked outside, not knowing that I could have had them checked inside and thus avoided the $2.00 handling fee and the $1.00 tip. (I'll know better next time.)

When Roma and I were returning home from Florida after our uncle's funeral, the Tampa airport had us check our luggage at an outside window. So I thought this was also the case at Phoenix.

Apparently it wasn't.

So, after I checked my bag, I received a slip for the do-it-yourself boarding pass kiosk.

How in the hell was I going to work this thing? I had never encountered such a thing. Fortunately an airline employee helped me with that confounding machine.

I got my pass and headed for the security check point.

I put my shoes and stuff in the bins that were to go through the x-ray machine, remembering that my laptop had to go into a separate bin. So how come nothing was moving?

That's when the TSA agent told me that I had to put the bins on the conveyor myself. Gee, the TSAs in Providence had me spoiled by doing it themselves.

This time I made it through without a beep, remembering to take off my watch and jewelry.

The fellow behind me had to open his carry-on for the TSAs to inspect. But I was free and clear to go. Yippie!

Before going to the gate of my departing flight, I hit a couple of gift shops on the way.

In one shop I bought myself a tee shirt (depicting a javelina having fallen off a bar stool) that said, "BEWARE: javelina dropping" and a big bottle of prickly pear syrup (so that some day I could make myself a dynamite, southwestern style margarita ~ minus the very pricey Patron Silver).

For Ariana I got that same javelina tee shirt (but in a different color and much smaller size) and a light green tank top that had the word "Phoenix" and a subtle floral design going up one side of the front.

In another shop I bought 4 magazines on digital photography so that I could have something to occupy my time for the several hours needed to bring me back home.

And I also stopped at a Starbucks and got myself a grande vanilla latte. There were a couple of people in line behind me who spoke Italian.

Approaching the departure gate, I sat down and called Roma. I could hear running water at her end of the phone, and I thought that Roma was at her sink. But no, that running water was from a downpour outside ~ the first rain Rhode Island got in over a month.

It was hard to imagine rain and the 62-degree weather back where Roma was when I was looking out the window at a sunny morning that was bound to be another 102-degree day.

Wow! I has returning to a 40-degree difference in weather.

Because it was 9-11 and the anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, an announcement came over the PA for all to observe a moment of silence.

Sometime after that, another announcement came to inform all passengers that the TSA was going to be conducting random security checks at all the boarding gates.

I suppose that wasn't all too surprising considering the day and the fact that the Phoenix airport is really tough on security.

After a 45-minute delay, boarding commenced ~ first class (and handicapped) passengers first, followed by the rest of us. I made a crack to anyone who would listen, "Yup, first class first, followed by no class." It actually got a chuckle from some of the nearby folks.

And while the line was moving, the TSAs were randomly selecting people from the line. Not only was luggage opened and the metal-detector wand passed over the selected passengers, there also pat-down checks.

Honestly! Were they expecting passengers to buy weapons and bomb-making supplies at any of the airport gift shops? And were there Origami experts who could fashion the ripped pages of magazines into deadly weapons?

There was a male TSA for the men, a female one for the women, and one or two rummaging through the carry-on luggage. And all of them wore those trade-mark blue latex gloves.

This was one lottery that I did not want to win. And fortunately, the gods were in my favor.

I boarded and took my seat by the window. Can you believe that I was to have window seats on both east-bound flights? Yay!

So here I was, all settled in my window seat and armed with 4 magazines to keep me occupied during the 4-hour flight to Detroit.

However, I wound up not needing those magazines to make the time fly by. Instead, I had 2 interesting seat mates.

One was a retired teacher who was returning home from having gone to her aunt's funeral in Phoenix. And the other was a former hippy who was as colorful as the bright red peppers splattered on the black Hawaiian shirt that she was wearing.

Not only was this lady an ex-hippy, she was also a rabbit breeder living on a remote 5-acre ranch outside of Phoenix. In addition, she was a 7th Day Adventist who served as a missionary in India, where she also had her breast-reduction surgery (from which she was still healing).

Oh! The fascinating stories she had to share!

With travelling companions such as these 2 interesting and chatty ladies, the 4 hour flight flew by in no time. And before you knew it, we were touching down in Detroit.

As with last time, there was about a one-mile hike between the arrival and departure gates at Detroit Metropolitan Airport's McNamara Terminal. However, this time I was smart and easily found the escalator leading to the monorail tram. 2 stops later, I was where I needed to be.

Because I had at least one hour to kill before my connecting flight, I figured that I better get something into my stomach, especially since I was planning on indulging in a glass of red wine on my flight back to Providence. Can't have a glass of wine without first taking care of the "absorption factor."

Somehow, the stale left-over nachos in my bag lost their appeal. (Was I really surprised?) Into the trash they went.

Instead, the chipotle steak sub at Charlie's Grilled Subs seemed more of what my stomach and taste buds were craving.

There was a bit of a wait before my food was ready. However, being entertained by people watching made the wait easier.

I don't know if it was the particular airport or the time of day that made the Detroit airport more active and colorful than the one in Phoenix.

For one thing, I was amused by watching an airport employee, who was also waiting for his food, flirt with another airport employee.

A suggestive glance and smooth line was not his style. This fellow, instead, flirted with his whole body as he danced to the hip hop beat playing on his cell phone, or whatever. Not only that, he was a pretty good dancer. So good that I felt like giving him a round of applause!

I never knew that I would get both dinner and a show at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

A little while later, after finishing my tasty sub, it was time to board. Unlike at Phoenix, there were no random TSA security checks at the boarding gate. Just as well. I didn't feel like playing the lottery twice that day.

Once again I got the window seat. Sitting next to me was a fellow from Foxboro, Massachusetts who wound up falling asleep before the plane took off.

I kept looking over to see if he was going to drop the paperback that he was holding open in his hands. But even in his sleep he held on tightly to the book.

This time, with the lack of interesting and chatty seating companions, I got to indulge in my digital photography magazines. I also got to indulge in one mini-bottle of Chilean red wine.

It was a quick and uneventful flight back to Providence.

As with the week before, the Jetway was still broken. We had to de-plane via the portable stairs that were rolled up to and docked at the airplane door.

It was a good 40 degrees cooler. And the ground was wet with the heavy rain fall earlier that day. There was still an occasional drizzle in the air. After spending a week in hot, sunny, and dry Arizona, this was not what I wanted to come home to.

Had it not been for my family, critters, and responsibilities back home, I would have cashed in my return ticket and remained in Arizona.

I found my driver, standing with the rest of the other waiting drivers, holding a sign bearing my name. (Gee! Just like they do in the movies!) This time the driver was Ronnie, the owner of Royal Coachman Transportation.

It took awhile to claim my luggage. Apparently the broken Jetway had also affected the operation of the luggage conveyor and carousel.

During the ride back home, I discovered that Ronnie's wife was very close friends with Krystyna, a former co-worker from many years ago. Small World Syndrome struck again!

Finally I got home. Ariana greeted me at the door and helped me with my luggage.

When I opened my suitcase I saw that the TSAs went through my luggage. They left their "Notice of Baggage Inspection" card in my suitcase.

I was please to see that they were neater in their rummaging (and far less rude) than the TSAs in Tampa, when Roma and I were returning from our uncle's funeral. However, my fancy-schmancy metal designer water bottle had a small dent that wasn't there when I originally packed it.

At least my bottles of Cave Creek Chili Hard Lemonade were still there.

I gave Ariana the tee shirts that I bought her and the prickly pear candy that I had in my suitcase. I don't know which excited her more, the tee shirts or the candy.

Seeing that it was already late, I changed into my jammies, grabbed my photo magazines, and went upstairs to bed.

The sun had long ago set on the sunrise side of the nation.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Wrapping Up the Day

After dinner and my mini photo safari at El Encanto, it was once again time to move on.

However, I was not quite ready to return to the Spur Cross.

First of all, I had to get gas for my rental. I sure as hell was not going pay an obscene $6.00 a gallon by returning a car with less than a full tank of gas. Better to gas up now and not owe the car rental place any more money than what I initially planned to pay.

While I was at the gas station, I forgot to check and see if it really did indeed sell booze.

Instead, I struck up a conversation with a fellow at the pump. We talked about tattoos.

I showed him my snake tattoo, and he showed me a design that he was going to have done in memory of his sister who recently died. Then he showed me a Native American style design that he had on his arm where each feather represented a member of his family.

Here was a fellow to whom family seemed very important.

Getting my change back from the clerk inside the mini-mart, I turned the car to head back towards the B & B.

But first I was going to stop at the Satisfied Frog to pick up a 6-pack of chili hard lemonade so that I could have one while packing and bring the rest home.

I also picked up one bottle of the Cave Creek South of the Border Porter. However, I drew the line at buying a can of
Billy Beer. And seeing the sign warning buyers not to drink this beer even more convinced me to stay away.

Why would I want to buy a beer and not drink it? And besides, there were extremely few canned beers that I would even consider buying. So Billy Beer remained at the Satisfied Frog, where it seemed to have been obviously gathering dust.

Now was time to return to the Spur Cross and make my daily call to Ariana.

The sun was starting to set, and I wanted to go out and take a few more pictures before it got too dark. I never did get around to taking pictures of the Spur Cross Bed & Breakfast.

However by now it was already too dark to get a decent picture unless I changed the camera settings, which I did not feel like doing. As a result, this picture of the entrance to the Spur Cross B & B came out way too dark.

But, let's see how much I can lighten up in the computer. Quite a big difference isn't it?

Seeing that is was too dark to get any decent pictures of the B & B, I decided to try my hand at taking pictures of the clouds at sunset.

The only clouds I could see were those over the mountain way yonder.

Here's a close-up of the cloud at the right hand of the picture.

And here's a close-up of the other cloud ~ the one on the left.

I kind of liked this shot of the cloud through the mesquite branches.

As the sun was sinking lower, it was time to go up to the patio so that I could get some better shots.

Carolyn was up on the patio, too, with her camera. She had the same idea in mind ~ taking pictures of the sunset.

Carolyn said that there was lightning coming out of the cloud and hitting the top of the mountain. I did see the lightning. But my finger was never fast enough on the shutter button to capture it.

I even tried shooting several frames one after another in order to capture that elusive lightning. No such luck.

The sun was already fast fading.

I mentioned to Carolyn that judging from the wind direction, it seemed as though the cloud with the lightning was heading our way.

(And I thought about how I would be able to get to the airport were it to rain and give rise to flash floods.)

But Carolyn said, "Don't bet on it." The weather that's up in the mountains doesn't necessarily get to the foot hills and valleys.

Sure enough, Carolyn was right. A short while later, the big cloud with the thunderhead had broken up and was scattering along the ridge of the mountains.

I took my shower so I would not have to take one the next morning.

And now it was time to crack open a cold one ~ the S.O.B. Porter in this case ~ and pack my bags.

That being done, I savored my left-over guacamole, wrote in my journal before popping it into the suit case, and went to bed.

Tomorrow was coming way too early.

El Encanto Revisited

All this shopping and hunting for just the right bracelet had left me hungry ~ and for good reason, too. It was now dinner time.

Wow! Where did the day go?

This time there was no struggle to determine where I wanted to eat. Because I had a hankering for some good guacamole, El Encanto was the no-brainer choice.

And besides, I thought it would be nice to take pictures of the critters around the koi pond at the restaurant.

El Encanto was the first restaurant that I dined at when I arrived at Cave Creek. Now it will be the last restaurant that I dined at during my stay. And just like the first time, I was to dine alone.

I chose a table by the window over-looking the koi pond ~ just like I did when I first dined at El Encanto. I forgot about the chairs that were on wheels and that would roll me away from the table at the slightest push against it.

Instead of Buster, my waiter this time was Jonathan, a young fellow who was one of Cave Creek's many transplants.

In addition to that sumptuous guacamole, which was seasoned with just the right amount of garlic and lime juice, I ordered a bowl of Mexican meatball soup and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. (This meal was going to be just a "one-wine-glass meal.")

The meatball soup was rather tasty. And it filled me up very well ~ so well that I had plenty of left-over guacamole to bring bring back to my room and enjoy later that night.

However, the true highlight of the meal was the guacamole that I was craving. You can't get guacamole this good on the East Coast unless you make it yourself.

After my meal, I went outside to take pictures of the koi pond in front of the restaurant.

It was a large pond that had a beautiful waterfall in the back.

Such a large body of water in the middle of the desert in Arizona was home to quite a few aquatic critters, including this Mallard that looked like it was doing yoga. And what do you suppose this pose would be called?

There were several varieties of ducks, like these nice brown ducks.

You can see the restaurant reflected in the water above the ducks.

This was one of the sweetest ducks I've seen.

And of course you have to see her other side. It was hard to decide which was this duck's best side.

This fellow hung out with the sweet speckled brown duck.

He looks a bit pleasingly pensive, doesn't he? Maybe he's glad that he didn't wind up on the menu!

Again you can see El Encanto reflected in the water. Those large dark squares are the windows ~ one of the windows that I sat at when I was dining.

Here's a duck party. It was really amazing to see the number of ducks at this pond.

Let us not forget about the geese. There weren't as many geese and there were ducks. But the geese commanded your attention, especially when they trumpeted and honked loud enough to wake the dead.

And let us not forget the turtles. They were everywhere.

Here's one just starting to poke his head out of the water.

Here are 2 turtle buddies swimming side-by-side.

Hey wait a minute! These turtles look like they're more than just buddies!

This fellow looks like he's catching his breath ~ or being in the middle of telling those 2 kissing turtles to "get a room!"

While I was busy taking all these pix of the koi pond critters, one of the waiters approached me.

"Follow me and I'll show something you'llwant to take a picture of."


The waiter led me to a tree and told me to look up. I didn't see anything at first.

"Look up there. There's an owl."

Oh my God! There was an owl! I had never seen an owl in the wild and had always wanted to.

"And that one's just the baby. The mother should be nearby. I'll see if I can find the mother."

And with that he started calling "Hoo! Hoo!" in his Spanish accent.

My God! If that was "just the baby" how big was the mother?

The mother never did show up. And the owl-calling waiter left to return to his post.

In the meantime, I kept watching the owl and taking as many pictures of it as I could.

All the while, the baby owl was following me with its eyes ~ even after I left the courtyard and stood at the other side of the wall where my car was parked.

Seeing that owl was the biggest rush of my day. In fact, it was the biggest rush of my entire trip!

Not only had I fulfilled a long-time dream of visiting Arizona, I also fulfilled another long-time dream of seeing an owl in the wild.

And how was I to know that my long-awaited trip was going to be this awesome "two-for-one" deal?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Day 6 - On a Mission

The critters were noisy last night.

There would be a nearby bark, followed by a responding bark somewhere in the far off distance.

The barking noises did not seem to belong to dogs. Yet, they did not have that shrieking, blood-orgy sound that I have heard coyotes make. But then again, coyotes have more than one type of vocalization.

And I was going to say those barks belonged to the coyotes until I read that javelinas also making barking noises.

Yes, javelinas bark. Their bark is a "togetherness call" when they are trying to find other herd members. And they "woof" in alarm when they are running away.

So maybe what I heard that night were javelinas. And that was the closest I was ever going to get experiencing javelinas on my trip out west.

Today was going to be my last full day in Arizona, and there were things that needed to get done today.

The first thing I had to do after breakfast was to drive down to the post office to mail some stuff back home so that I would not have to schlep a heavy suitcase.

There were those books that I packed ~ airplane reading and technical stuff that dealt with my original reason for coming to Cave Creek. The 2-pound portfolio could also be packed, along with all the real estate books that Carolyn got me. The same went for my notebook and information folder. I would not be needing them on my trip back home.

Then I had the gifts and goodies that I bought, the cowboy boots I wore only once, my bathing suit and a top that I never wore. They were to provide extra cushioning for the breakables.

I was originally intending on sending 2 packages ~ the reading material going as media mail, and the other stuff going priority.

But when I selected my mailer from the post office postal products stand, there was plenty of room left to pack everything into one box ~ even with the bubble wrap I bought to further cushion my breakables.

I had to wrestle to remove that damn cardboard hanger thingie from the packaging tape. And in retaliation, it bit me and drew blood. It got me good. But fortunately everything was under control by the time I reached the window. And I did not have to request the first aid kit.

The package was going to go "Priority."

"Do you want delivery confirmation with that?"

"I don't think so. I'll know when it gets there."

Upon saying that, the clerk realized that I was sending the package to myself. It was kind of hard not to notice since the return address was the same as the delivery address.

Having been a postal window clerk 10 years ago, I struck up a conversation with both of the window clerks. It was interesting comparing notes.

After paying for my postal products and postage, it cost me just slightly over $40 to save me from having to pay an additional $25 fee for an overweight suitcase. However, it also saved me the trouble of hauling around a suitcase that weighed a ton.

That mission accomplished, I was off on my next mission.

At first I was considering in going for a horseback ride. But I figured that I had enough of outdoor adventures. Besides, I needed to find a bracelet to replace the one I had to return after the stone fell out.

I planned my attack.

First of all, I was going to drive down to North Scottsdale and check out the gift shop at the Heard Museum. Their ad on the local map looked promising.

So, driving to Carefree, I took a right onto Tom Darlington Road. The museum was supposed to be at the corner of Scottsdale Road (which is what Tom Darlington turns into) and Carefree Highway.

I got there alright. But where was the museum? I drove into the mall-like area on my right, where I saw a Starbucks and some other shops with very familiar names. However, the museum was nowhere in sight.

Going a few miles down Carefree Highway did not meet with any success either.

OK. Let's turn around and go the other direction and see if that elusive museum is tucked somewhere inside El Pedregal, an up-scale, multi-level and open-air shopping plaza.

However, I didn't see too many signs of activity. Could it be because it was not quite 10 in the morning?

Oh well, all I could do was to head back to Cave Creek and hit every shop along the way.

I was first going to hit the shops in Carefee. But while driving through the shopping areas nothing caught my eye.

It was hard to spot any interesting shops among the plethora building supply stores, real estate offices, and nail salons. If there were any neat and interesting shops, they must have been Carefree's well-kept secrets.

Shortly upon entering Cave Creek I passed the Town Dump. No sense in stopping there, especially after I have done some serious damage to my wallet 4 days earlier.

The next shop, Indian Village, was a bust.

Big Bronco was interesting. There was even a really cool antler basket that I was almost tempted to buy. However, I was on a mission for a bracelet.

And besides, with all the disarray in my house from my stalled studio renovation project, where would I put the antler basket without Attila thinking it was another litter box alternative and the dogs thinking I brought home a new bone for them to chew on?

The fellow there was a nice chap ~ a Brit actually. He got a big kick out of the fact that I was born in Corby and that Roma had attended Our Lady's Convent School in Kettering.

"Oh. there aren't all that many convent schools anymore."

And there also wasn't that special bracelet that I was looking for either.

I could smell the Cave Creek Candles and Gifts from the outside. And even though I knew that I would not find my bracelet there, I still went in for a look and and a whiff.

Neat place! There were candles everywhere. Duh! And some of them had scents that I never encountered before in a candle, like leather.

In addition to candles, there were scented oils and incense, a hookah, interesting metal sculptures, and a few pieces of clothing.

I also poked my nose into a tiny art gallery next to the candle shop and had a pleasant conversation with the gallery keeper.

(Yeah, I've been having lots of pleasant conversations wherever I went. People were incredibly friendly where I was visiting.)

Further up the road, I stopped at the Shoppes At the Creek. Only 2 stores were open at the time, a western clothing store, which carried had no jewelry except for belt buckles, and Spirit of the West Boot Company, which was a lot more promising.

And boy was it promising!

Hey! Now we're talking!

There were tons of gorgeous jewelry there ~ even silver cuff bracelets with turquoise. The shop keeper was very friendly and patient, allowing me all the time in the world that I needed to try on all the bracelets that caught my eye.

After trying one countless bracelets, my eye kept coming back to this one cuff that was made out of multiple skinny bands of silver and had 2 good-sized stones set on top.

The stones weren't as beautiful as the pale green turquoise from the original bracelet. However, they were beautiful in a different way. The stones had greenish blue spots in a black matrix. And it was a shade of greenish blue that agreed with my complexion.

The store had more than just silver and turquoise jewelry.

There were ropes of tiny beads that were beaded in a spiral pattern so that they had a very serpentine appearance. Simply gorgeous.

I wanted to buy one for Roma, who I knew would appreciate such fine bead work. Unfortunately, I had to balk at the $400 price tag. If only Roma were there to see the bead work herself!

There was also a wall full of gorgeous western boots ~ some even custom-made, along with their custom-made price tags.

There were Tony Lama and Lucchese boots ~ the premier names in western boots.

Oh! The temptation was great ~ especially for a girl who loves her shoes! (And what girl doesn't love shoes?) In fact, I had even considered coming home with a pair of gen-you-ine cowboy boots. But I remained firm resisting all temptation.

And then there was the shop bird ~ an African Grey parrot. What a delightful character! And nowhere near the ornery bugger that our Double-Yellow Amazon was.

I liked that bracelet, but I decided on holding off until I explored my other other options.

I did mention to the shop keeper that I tried finding the Heard Museum, but that it was not where the map said it should be.

"Oh, that's because it just moved. Just go further down the road and you'll see it. But if you get to Ashler Hills, you've gone too far."

OK, I'll keep that in mind.

After leaving that fabuloso store I went to the very funky Lazy Lizard, a consignment shop that would have had Roma spending hours exploring every nook and cranny.

And guess what? There were quite a few used Tony Lama and Lucchese boots there ~ and at a fraction of the cost of those just a few stores down.

Unfortunately, none were in my size. I left the store telling the shop keepers, "There are no Tony Lamas or Luccheses in my size. I guess God doesn't want me to get a pair of boots just yet."

At this point, I continued further up the road, turning left onto Skyline Road to check out the Cave Creek Museum. I over-shot it and had to turn around in the Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall parking lot. However, when I got to the museum, I discovered that it was closed.

Keep on driving.

I was going to stop at the Blue Coyote Gallery, but I over-shot that, too, and did not feel like turning around. In retrospect, I wish I had turned around and stopped in for a visit. But at that time I was a woman on a mission.

The next stop was the various shops in Frontier Town, the same place where I bought my goodies 4 days ago. And while I did find some more wonderful conversation, there were no bracelets to distract me from the one I saw at the Spirit of the West Boot Company.

However, I did buy some more of that intriguing southwestern style candy and those very inexpensive rose-scented clay-like thingies (presumably for your lingerie drawer) that I forgot to buy earlier when I was there.

Time to move on.

Deciding to by-pass the Western Mercantile store that was near Carefree (mainly because I did not get the feeling that I would find what I was looking for), I made my way back to North Scottsdale to find the Heard Museum.

And find it I did, after driving to Ashler Heights and having to turn around.

It wasn't big for what I was expecting in a museum. But then, this location was the main museum's (which is in Phoenix) northern annex.

I paid my $5.00 admission and received a museum booklet, bookmark, and paper fan before I made my way to the single gallery room. It featured mainly contemporary Native art from the area. The jewelry was gorgeous. The other stuff was note-worthy too. But I had jewelry on the brain.

After spending sufficient time in the gallery, I exited through the side door to the much-anticipated gift shop. However, I did not rush to the jewelry counter right away. I first lingered over the books and folk art that was for sale.

The prices on many of the folk art pieces already gave me a foreshadowing of what to expect at the jewelry counter. But undaunted, that's where I proceeded to after I checked out all the other wares for sale.

As expected, the jewelry was stunning and the sales help extremely accommodating. (I had yet to meet someone who was not friendly and accommodating!)

The sales lady graciously got out every single piece that I was interested in trying on. I tried not to look at the price tags, but I couldn't help it.

These pieces were the costliest I've seen so far. But then, since the museum did not charge sales tax, I probably would have wound up paying close to the same amount elsewhere.

As with the other store, it was hard finding a bracelet that would fit me. I have very skinny wrists, which are perhaps the only parts of my body that are still skinny. So, I did not have as many choices as I would have liked.

And even the smaller bracelets would have still has to be taken to a jeweler to be properly sized to my skinny and bony wrist. (I was warned many times not to do the sizing myself.)

There was one bracelet that I absolutely adored and would have even considered purchasing over the one I saw in Cave Creek. It was gorgeous ~ the nicest bracelet ever.

But the sucker had no price tag. And why was that? Because it was part of a $3200 set! Ouch!

Why? Oh why does the most expensive bling catch my eyes? Why doesn't my eye find something far less expensive more pleasing?

Yeah, I did have the money to buy that set. But was I going to spend the amount of money that was more than a mortgage payment on a drool-worthy bracelet and a delectably gorgeous squash blossom necklace?

I don't think so.

And just for the heck of it, I decided to look at the other squash blossom necklaces. They, too, were off limits in price.

Just as God did not want me to get a pair of boots, He also did not want me to get a bracelet from the Heard Museum. So, I left empty handed,

but not without first stopping at the sculptural garden before making my way back to the car.

It wasn't an overly large sculptural garden, but there were some interesting things to look at.

Of course, I was more interested in the cacti than I was in the sculpture.

However, I wasn't the total cultureless Philistine. The sculptural garden did have some whimsical pieces.

And it also had some more traditional-style pieces.

Here's a closer look of the Native American woman with an umbrella. Check out the nice copper patina.

The Red Bird of Paradise was one of the desert plants that was still in bloom. People often speak about how gorgeous the desert looks in springtime when just about everything is in bloom. But there are also plenty of flowering plants whose blooming season falls later on in the year.

Here's a close-up of the Red Bird of Paradise flowers.

Anyhow, I was all done with the Heard Museum. Now it was time to venture back the way I came.

Seeing that it was around lunch time, I figured there would be more signs of life at El Pedregal than there were when I passed by earlier.

The many cars in the parking did make it look more promising.

The hills at El Pedregal were very different from the ones I saw at Cave Creek. These were very "bouldery." In fact, El Pedregal is located in the area of North Scottsdale that's known as "The Boulders."

Here's a closer view of the boulders.

And a bit further away was this rocky hill.

There were definitely signs of life inside El Pedregal. Not only were there people inside its many shops and restaurants, I saw a significant number of people wearing the type of ID tags one would find among conference-goers. Obviously whatever conference was going on broke for lunch at the time of my visit.

One of the most intriguing shops at El Pedregal was Adelante, a gallery that featured folk and devotional art, and jewelry.

It was obvious from the start that this was not the place for me to find that special bracelet that I was looking for. But that did not matter, because Adelante was quite the visual treat in itself. This gallery deserved a special visit on its own.

This is how El Pedregal's web site described Adelante:

Folk and devotional art and jewelry. A featured gallery on CNN International's program "Art Club", Adelante celebrated its 10th year at el Pedregal in September. Adelante showcases paintings, sculptures, and jewelry by local and international folk and fine artists, whose work runs the gamut from the devotional to the irreverent.

And this how Adelante was described by

Adelante features whimsical art, photographs, paintings, a few furniture pieces and objects that defy description. Check out the tower made of brightly colored paint cans and the giant pig sculpture. Owner Meg Witwer calls her shop "a singular vision . . . an interesting gallery for people who are interesting."

I must say that both descriptions were fitting.

One of the first things that I noticed was the proliferation of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) artifacts. My eyes could not get enough of all the many various Day of the Dead figures, altars, nichos, etc.

There was also a painting of St. George slaying the dragon, which was a fairly common motif in traditional religious folk art. However what was not common ~ nor typical ~ was seeing Michael Jackson's face on St. George!

There were frames, mirrors, and wall art made by this one artist using only found material.

Another artist cut bracelets out of tin cans that had the labels painted on, and then lined the inside with felt.

There was also an intriguing snake sculpture that was made by stringing loads of bottle caps on a thick, but flexible wire.

What was also intriguing was the story behind the couple of tiny Sculpy clay figures in the display case. They were made by a 9-year-old New England boy whose aunt lives locally.

Whenever the boy came to Arizona to visit his aunt, he would bring with him his tiny Sculpy figures to sell at Adelante.

To me, that spoke very highly of Adelante. Here was a gallery that welcomed and supported the work of even very young artists. No one could accuse Adelante of being a hoity-toity gallery that's too big for its britches.

The shop-keeper (who may have been Meg, the owner) was a nice and interesting person to talk to. She very eagerly showed me around the small gallery, even unlocking the glass case so that I could have a better look at the pieces inside.

On the sales counter were a pair of socks that Meg(?) was knitting in a complex Fair Isle type of pattern out of very lightweight wool. (Honestly! Who would be wearing socks in Arizona, let alone socks knit out of wool?)

In another glass case, there were some interesting silver rings where the top of the ring was fashioned in a graceful knuckle guard. Not only were these rings unusual and gorgeous, they were also quite comfortable.

And guess what? One of them was a size 6 ~ just perfect for my pointer finger. (Too bad there wasn't another one the same size, otherwise I would have bought a second ring to give to Ariana.)

After lingering a considerable time at Adelante, it was time to mosey on and check out the other shops in El Pedregal.

While there where other neat shops on both top and bottom levels, none had matched Adelante in the "Blow-Me-Away-and-Knock-My-Socks-Off" category. Adelante was by far the most interesting establishment in El Pedregal.

Seeing that none of the other shops at El Pedregal had what I was looking for, it was time for me to head back to Cave Creek. My destination? Spirit of the West Boot Company.

When I got to Spirit of the West Boot, I noticed that one of the shops in the building that was closed earlier was now open. And because it looked promising, I went in.

There were 2 people there, a burly fellow that I presumed was the owner, and a quiet Native shop girl. The guy was impressed with my most recent jewelry purchase.

After letting Mr. Burly know what I was looking for, he directed Miss Shy & Quiet to assist me. There were plenty of silver and turquoise bracelets to be seen.

But none were as pretty as the ones I saw in the Horny Toad gift shop and the Spirit of the West Boot Company. Also, none seemed to carry the aura and mystique that I was seeking in a bracelet.

And besides, while the folks in the store seemed pleasant enough, the vibes of the store did not quite sit right with me. Thus, I made my polite farewell and walked towards the Spirit of the West Boot Company.

The shop keeper I talked to earlier was outside, getting ready to smoke a cigarette ~ American Spirit, methol flavor. Even though it was a few days since I had a butt, and not missing it in the least, I asked her if I could have one too. She gladly obliged.

So we sat on the bench and talked for awhile. We talked about guacamole and sales tax.

That was when I found out that the Cave Creek city taxes went to buying up the land at the Spur Cross Ranch to save it from developers. Cool! I would not complain if my tax dollars went towards conservation efforts.

In the meantime, another shop girl came out with the phone in one hand and the African Grey parrot on the other arm. Shop girl #1 paused to take a call from a customer who was inquiring about posters for Cave Creek's Annual Wild West Days.

After the phone call was done, we all went in, where it was time to make my wallet scream.

But those screams fell on deaf ears as I admired the gorgeous new bracelet that was now sitting on my wrist.