Day 23 – Thursday
I have bid all farewell. Again. Off to Mesa Cultural Center to drop off a resume. It is an impressive complex. The Shakespeare company does not keep an office here so I will send it through the mail. Off I go. Land in Scottsdale, find Trailside Gallery and it is very cool. Most exclusively Southwestern art and artists.
Walk around a corner and I hear an artist talking about a client wanting another one of these "stagecoach” paintings, ugh. As I continue around the corner, I see a guy sitting spread eagle on the floor trying to get something off the painting. “Looks like lint. And I thought Lint was a Sunday in April,” he says. Funny, though no one in the gallery really laughs. “I don’t know, maybe a knife.”
There is a very distinguished, white-haired gentleman – most probably the owner - standing near him watching. The artist now has out a huge pocket knife and is going at it trying to dislodge what seems to be lint from the framed painting, approximately 36 x72" in size. Big. Beautiful painting. By now I am close, though pretending to look at paintings on the opposite wall. I say, “wow, you let just anyone in here, with a knife, to check out the artwork?” Now the people in the gallery laugh. The owner says, “not everyone, but as it’s his work, I figure it is in good hands.” I nod, “so I presumed.”
He then conveys to me, professionally, “let me know if you have questions.” I ask about a couple of artists that I have met, see if he knows them, or even represents them. It leads to my being a painter, traveling and painting. Ah, there’s the trigger. Artists don’t buy paintings (which, of course, is not true), but I am dismissed, with a smile "Enjoy the gallery," he says and turns on his heels. Actually, he will be very generous in spirit and service in a few minutes, handing me brochures etc.
Okay, so a quick walk around Scottsdale, a call in to my mother so suggest that I am off to Jerome and Sedona and here we go. Onto Scottsdale Avenue, heading to Hwy 101. I will be in Jerome in two hours or so. Waiting for the lights to change I note that my engine temp gauge is heading for HOT. Shit. Very anxious. Waiting for one stop light, then another, the red gauge heads for danger zone. I spy a service place, Brake Masters, pull in.
Long story short, could be thermostat, could be hoses. Let’s fix the thermostat. Two hours. Guys takes it for a spin, sees the gauge climb again to danger, though not as quickly. Another hour. I get an estimate for new belts etc, could work on it tomorrow, and over $1,000. Double Shit. No Can Do. Plus I think these guys are winging it.
Get Diann on the phone, she finds a Kia dealership on Scottsdale Avenue, I make the call, set up appointment for 7am; surely the Kia guys will know the vehicle better, after all, well... it is a KIA. I exit the Brakes Experts and suggest that I have a friend in Mesa (keep this up, and soon I won’t have ANY friends left in Mesa, ugh) who will look at it and as he is a mechanic might be able to fix it. It's a good story. They actually are happy for me. So, $100 down, new thermostat. And I head for Mesa with flashers on. Did I mention, temperatures are exceeding 105 degrees today.
Cathy yet again extends her courtesy and suggests I continue to be welcome to stay at the house though she might have a date tonight. I really have over-stayed the welcome and want to get this done, so I can get out of their hair. Date falls through, we go to dinner, this will be my treat, no questions, no arguments. Finish dinner, Cathy begins singing to a song playing in the restaurant (it isn’t busy), guy hears her and comes to the table to buy a round of drinks, so impressed is he with her singing. I just want a shot of tequila. (I lie, I want many several shots of tequila, but one will suffice nicely, thank-you-very-much).
He joins us, brings a bottle of what turns about to be a surprisingly awesome Kentucky bourbon that apparently a friend just delivered to him at the restaurant, the friend has left. The bottle sports a sassy little red velvet jacket; I suspect in Kentucky, they might call this a Bourbon Condom, but I could be wrong. It is good, tastes expensive, we have a “finger” second-helping and the bottle then is whisked from the table out of reach. Cathy and our new friend trade business cards. End of evening. Tomorrow: Take Three for Jerome.
Day 22 – Wednesday
Coffee with Cathy as she leaves for work; I bid farewell. I start packing. Now, packing this car for this trip is an exercise in frustration and futility. Granted, I get side-tracked blogging the past few days anticipating that I may not have WiFi access the next few days. But, my oh my, it sure do take a long time. Of course, I continue trying to pack down, eliminate, certainly efficienate stuff (yes, of course it’s a word, just made it up). George Carlin: I got stuff. You got stuff. We get together, we got more stuff. Then get a storage unit for all the stuff.
Okay, it now is just before 3pm – so much for an early start. You might be anticipating where I am going with this – I am encouraged not to get to Jerome late in the day, but rather, go at it rested. Stay another night, if you like. My errands before leaving Mesa were to pop in to the Trailside Gallery in Scottsdale as well as to get over to the Mesa Cultural Center to drop a headshot & resume at Southwest Shakespeare for future consideration. Too late to get it all done. But the car is finally packed and more economical than ever (no, still no rear-view mirror clearance). I agree, and will stay in Mesa one more evening. It was hot packing the car, just under 100 degrees.
For dinner, I suggest we go on-the-cheap somewhere close; we visit Cornish Pasty in Mesa. This is my new favorite food of all time. A cooked pastry, not sweet, with untold delights of meat and potatoes and veggies. It is what the miners ate in Cornwall, England, turn-of-the-last-century. Bellied up to the bar, we are able to watch the preparations and the baking and I am making copious mental notes so as to open my own Cornish pastry shop (in every city in the USA that I ever have visited – the END, don't try to stop me!). It really was a fun meal, with a side of (steak) fries, baked with garlic and onion and herb. Yowza good.
Tomorrow: Take Two on the commencement for Jerome.
"On the Road Again..." The Mobile Studio
Day 21 – Tuesday
It turns out to be a day of art by the pool, I am able to do some drawing in the myriad sketchbooks that I have brought. I meant to bring one; I brought four. I am nothing if not consistent.
Have calls in to both the Arizona Theater Company and the Southwest Shakespeare Theater. Cathy and I are on floats in the pool and a lot of conversation about theater. As it happens, she used to date one of the founders of the Arizona Shakespeare, who then left and founded Southwest Shakespeare. As the conversation develops, I discover that the current artistic director, Jared Sakren, I had hired for the inaugural Shakespeare Festival in the western suburbs of Chicago, 1990, company that I founded. Again, six-degrees-of-separation.
Too short of notice to Jared, as he returns an email inquiry. He is leaving in the morning for NY and Boston, see you next time. I will drop off a headshot and resume on my way out of town to his attention. Apparently, Kevin Kline was in earlier this season to do some performance with Southwest Shakes.
Mid-afternoon and a jaunt to Camelback Mountain. Mercifully, there is no hike attached to our visit :) and we explore a drive through these incredibly affluent neighborhoods at the base. Cathleen has asked if she can treat me to a final night dinner; I demurely decline, but she is stubborn, and we are off to a most-impressive Hyatt resort for dinner.
Wonderful dinner and $60 bottle of red wine (it is excellent!) – fun conversations with manager and waiter. I learn that she worked here in this particular restaurant when first she had been in Arizona, while in school. The bill comes with information that the wine has been comped by management! Cathy’s charms and influences are seemingly far-reaching. What a terrific day! And suddenly less expensive for all. But the treat has been most appreciated, indeed; she is a terrific and gracious host. Tomorrow, it is Jerome for a few days, then Sedona for two or three days. Back to camping. For the warm bed in the air-conditioned guest room and for all the basketball time, I am extremely grateful. Salud!
Day 20 – Monday, Memorial Day
Yet another beautiful morning and as I have not as yet taken a jog while on the road, I head out early for the canal, that seemingly is the dividing line of Mesa and Chandler. I get in about four miles, easy running, try to work out the soreness from the hike. It has been hot! Midday is relaxation in the pool, which proves the great cooling-off factor. Late in the afternoon, more friends are over and it is a pool basketball game. It is the singular Indiana Hoosier against two Arizona 14-year olds; regrettably, Indiana gets taught a lesson or two. That night, outdoor barbeque and I aid the effort by playing chef-master to the marinated chicken on the grill, in concert with a terrific salad. Another team-effort, another success.
Day 19 – Sunday
Today will be a hike in the Superstition Mountains and I will take gear and try for a painting at the crest of “Weaver’s Needle” at approximately 3,800 elevation. We are joined by Cathy’s friend, Tracy, with whom she works, who leads us up and away from a starting elevation of 2,400. A two-plus mile trail, the Peralta Trail, takes over five hours there and back and I am thoroughly wiped-out.
While only moderate in its difficulty, I am burdened with too much gear, although I have shifted most everything simply to my French easel and carried an additional bag and my camera. The women are sympathetic and trying to help with the load; I let them about three-quarters of the way up and some of the way down.
Only paint for about an hour as the girls return from making a jaunt to the Lone Tree. Some almonds and a brief Heineken and we are set for descent. Truly spectacular in its beauty and sheer dramatic light, this has been most rewarding.
We bid farewell to Tracy; Cathy has put in a call to an artist friend of international importance and success, and the call is returned with an invitation to come see the house and studio. It isn’t fifteen minutes and not in the least out of the way. In fact, he is tucked into the base of the Superstitions and has an incredible property and home that he built.
I am introduced to Guenther Riess and will be enthralled for the next ninety minutes. He has just finished his day in the studio, which is an attached annex to the house, fully-equipped with every conceivable wood-working machine. The house is sprawling and sunlight-filled and is packed with artwork – some his, others executed by artist friends. Guenther has a fascinating life-story, and I am tremendously honored to visit with him and see his home and work space.
We snag Chinese food on the way home, and that concludes a very full and joyous day.
Artist working on crest of Superstition Mtns, AZ "Weaver's Needle"
"Weaver's Needle" and "Lone Tree" Superstitions, AZ
Day 18 – Saturday
Start the morning by clearing everything out of the car to re-organize it and I am grateful for the temporary space, into the garage it goes. I am able to get to an UPS store in Scottsdale to return to Amazon the canopy netting as the Velcro strips were ripping away as well as the propane lantern, the glass of which has shattered. Old Town Scottsdale and the gallery scene is impressive, indeed. I meet lots of gallery owners, very good conversations. I will look forward to visiting again. A trip to Trader Joe’s and a team effort of all the household yields a wonderful dinner of shrimp pasta and good kinship.
As Hamlet, 1995.... wait, or was it 1895?
Day 17 – Friday
“Got up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head, found my way downstairs and drank a cup, and looking up, I noticed I was late….”
To Starbucks by 6am so as to utilize the wireless and get caught up travel-blogging. Actually spent some four hours then hit the road for Phoenix. Took a brief moment to find a car wash, give the Kia a bit of a shine, get the dust off and leave the mountains behind for awhile.
As it is M’Day Weekend, will be difficult insofar as the camping situation, so I am grateful to have an offer of a guest room at the home of my friend, Cathleen, in Mesa for a few days, while I explore the region. Cath and I acted together on several occasions in Chicago, once playing Hamlet to her Ophelia in ’95. For nostalgic purposes, maybe she will find a dusty copy of the play one evening and we can read the scene together for her two roommates.
I land at her place of work at an assisted living facility at end of the business day, having placed a call to Arizona Theater Company, inquiring possibility of an audition this weekend or Tue/Wed. As it happens, I was looking up the contact info and learned that they were hosting annual general auditions, both union and non-union, today from 2-5pm. I have missed them. Not a big deal, as I would not have made those times anyway, but fun coincidence.
We are off for Mexican food in Mesa, sitting outside the weather is outstanding. Then back to the house, celebrate old times with couple of bottles of wine, regaling the roommates with stories. Exhausted, as it will be long few days ahead. We reminisce that it has been six years since we have seen each other; saw her briefly in Chicago in 2006 when she came in for some meeting, while she was living in Miller Beach, IN, and at least that long again since the time before. As Cathy works on Saturday, I shall take the entire day to explore the Scottsdale gallery district, see some of the art and she will not have to entertain.
View at sunset, Sequoias National Park. Wow! (photo)
Day 16 - Thurs
Yeah, camping in the mountains at 7,000 elevation – it’s cold!! I was bundled in a pair of long underwear, sweat pants, leg warmers (a throw-back to my University of Wyoming days, Theater & Dance, have had them since ‘83), two additional long underwear tops, wind-breaker and my Rocky towel around my neck and throat. I am a veritable Fashion Statement.
No electric, this campground, though modern facilities, so no space heater. Woke up middle of the night and my sinuses had liquefied, miserable and sneezing. Who was it once told me, you don’t catch cold from cold and damp, you catch cold from being exposed to germs. Well, either those germs were alive and well at 7,000 feet or, by Zeus, I caught cold from the cold and damp!
I break camp early, red-eyed and sneezing, fairly certain to have finally seen with my own eyes a Brown Recluse that was occupying the W.C. As I am packing, park ranger pulls up to me, inquires did I leave my camping fee? I say, got in late, the fellow at the gate told me, yeah, camping everywhere, use a designated spot. Misunderstanding. Still have to pay for a camping space I am told, here is an envelop, drop your fee in here and into the metal vault box on way out. Hm, another $18, bummer. But realize, of course, fees collected go toward maintenance of the park, so all good, of course.
Off I go back to Grant’s Tree to really see it this time and, heaven’s above, it is impressive! I take myriad photos. I begin heading out of the park, which will take me several hours, not something I anticipated. Winding and hairpin turns, but gosh, I am fairly blown away by the deep canyons and the towering sequoias. Never have I seen anything quite like it; it is big, it is vast, it is almost unfathomable in its reach. Unparalleled beauty, to be sure.
At one point, heading down the circuitous Hwy 198, I am spacing out a bit, and have a thought about seeing a black bear while on a fishing trip with my dad in Canada when I was twelve years old. Not ten minutes later, a big Black BEAR scampers in front of me, maybe thirty yards!! I reach for the camera but it is too quickly away. How incredibly cool is that! I also have seen many a deer (what is plural for deer?... um, deer), and wonder to myself if perhaps that might be my Animal Guide. I surmise that the deer (plural) might, too, be of the Water Sign as is my Aquarius-graced self. Musings.
Started into the park at approximately 1,000 feet elevation, camped at 6,000 feet and will climb to and descend from a summit of 7,000 feet. Now I get it that my Saline Solution bottle for my contacts is a squished mess in my Dopp Kit – the altitude. Same thing happened in the Rockies.
Have a bit of a concern. Stopping for a photo opportunity, the ignition does not fire right away. Might be the starter rather than battery, as everything else is working. This is the second time. Days earlier, while stopping in a remote town for fuel, same thing. I feel a need to perhaps have it checked when I get back to civilization, perhaps Phoenix. And the brakes have been given a thorough work-out in the mountains; check-brakes-light has flashed at me several times.
Have a thought that perhaps Chance and my Guardian Angel are grappling. Chance says, 'Time to make this a bit more interesting, maybe a car breakdown'; Guardian Angel says, 'Back off, Chance, or I will start throwing pennies at you! ' The reference is a personal one, inside joke. But I am guessing that the Guardian Angel is winning thus far.
Anyway, after what seems an eternity, albeit enjoyable, I exit the park and head for Visalia, then south through Bakersfield, and eastward toward Needles, hell-bent to reach Lake Havasu City by dark. Unsuccessful, I make it after 9pm, pitch black, and in search of the State Park there. But not before having passed through the Mojave Desert earlier. Man, that is a cool drive. I roll down my windows for a bit; I discover it to be HOT! Who would have thunk it; I truly need to get out of the house more often. Back on with the A/C.
I also find it infinitely interesting that I am now experiencing perhaps the best radio reception yet on the trip in the desolation of the Mojave Desert, figure that one out. Las Vegas influences, perhaps; far-reaching.
And here is a query for all of my karmically universal friends out there: how is it possible that the seemingly omni-present Historical Route 66 is forever the “Next Right”?! I have seen signs for it no less than a dozen times in the two hours’ drive on Hwy 40.
Arrive Lake Havasu City and set up tent like clock-work, a quick shower and abed by 10pm in order to attack a long day tomorrow.
Driving through Sequoia National Park, CA
Day 15 - Wed
Up at 6:15am. Quick shower included, took me no less than two and a half hours to continue to pack the car. Egads. Pull away about 8:45am, in quest for coffee, anticipating a four hour drive ahead of me to get to East Sonora in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, for an audition at Sierra Repertory Theater. The rural drive into Sonora, an hour this side as we get onto Hwy 180, is gorgeous! The Kia is less happy with me for all the ups and downs and rolling hills, but wait till she gets a taste of the Sequoia National Forest, she’s gonna love me then!
I get a voice mail from my brother, Denny, haven’t seen a blog entry couple of days, want to make sure all is well. I text him that I have not had WiFi access but will be in touch in day or so, in between destinations. A moment later, a return text, conveying to me that that’s good and Don’t Text and Drive! (see Day 1 blog for reference, ha).
Meet with Dennis Jones, co-founder of the theater and Producing Director; he shows me around the facilities, very impressive. The theater is situated in the same location, with lots of alterations, where it was founded more than thirty years ago. He has rehearsal soon, I have to get on the road, Kerouac-style, so we shake hands and he conveys to me, pumping my hand warmly, ‘nice to meet a true fellow artist, there aren’t many of us left in this country, keep the faith and happy trails!’
I push on towards Yosemite and the National Forest; need to switch gears as I need to make up some time, so while I drive through the region that is Yosemite - the terrain of which holds me spell-bound - I opt to head for the Sequoias, in order to get there before dark and identify some place to camp. I pay the entrance fee of $20 (yikes), and drive immediately to Grant Canyon to see and get photos of Grant’s Tree, one of the largest living i.e. tallest in the world; but it proves too dark and I am in search of a campground.
Can’t see anything so opt for an area where I see some tents, don’t want to get too isolated from everyone because I do not have my bearings, and settle into a spot near several tents and a blazing campfire. There I quickly learn that the tents are a singular family including small children who are playing rambunctiously rather late; but I am humored when I hear them settling into their tents (“nite John-Boy”) and one of the young boys asks the other one various questions soto voce including, “so who do you like better: Ali or MLK Jr?” “What are you talking about, MLK wasn’t a fighter!” The response, “In a way he was!”
Day 14 - Tuesday
An organization day before I need to leave Carmel, but I do manage to get after two paintings. I take off early to the Mission in order to catch the early morning glow (I shall post photos in a day or so). Two painters already are there ahead of me. I say hello to one near me, the other is in the courtyard, and turns out she is Delia Bradford, who, of course, participated in the Festival this weekend. She is a terrific painter and today is using acrylics for fast-dry and a large-scale 36 x 48” canvas-wrap support. She hints that sales of art were not necessarily brisk this weekend. I had heard from someone else that, indeed, the art market in the region has of late busted somewhat and several Carmel galleries have been shuttered in the past year and a half.
She and I discuss briefly some business aspects, purchase prices and sizes of artwork and canvases preferred. I rarely discuss financial issues with other artists, but it is refreshing to connect on a level of business, makes me feel less like I am creating work in a void. I joke to her that I will use the Oscar Wilde quote for today’s blog entry.
I return to camp and begin going through each and every box (“so that’s where that is, ah ha, look I have two of these, ah, and three of those”), and try to more economically pack each container. I return the canopy to the sporting goods as (1) it binds, I had problems setting it up by myself, needed an extra hand, and (2) no way will it fit atop the luggage rack. I buy a battery-operated lantern to replace the propane lantern that has shattered its glass for the second time – it will be returned to Amazon, for the second and last time, though Amazon has been very good to me thus far. Remember, economy of resources.
I have time enough to go back after the 20 x 16” at the Organic Farm. I go back in and re-define shapes and values and return some structure to the mountain shapes; I am liking the harmony. Two hours’ labor and it gets signed. Done and done. I place a bet with myself that this may sell before trip's end, but it isn't much because... well, I haven't any money, ha.
Have a nice conversation with the fellow and his wife camping next to me these past two days. He is a photographer and shares with me some samples of his work, which is impressive. Around 10pm I begin to freak out a bit, panicking that if I wait till morning to pack the car, I might make too much of a disturbance, so I quietly set to work then, for an hour and a half or so. Long day tomorrow, lots of driving, gots to get some sleep.
"The Mission II" Carmel, CA 9x12"