COSMIC TRIP 2013

In Noveber 2013 I took a couple of weeks off to visit some local sights, some California sand, and northern Arizona. Saturday 11/9

The Heard Museum has a very extensive collection of native American artifacts and art, much of it beautiful and fascinating. They remind one visually of the dynamic civilizations, in which art and useful designs coexisted harmoniosly. What struck me most, though, was the reminder of one of the cruelest and most culturally devastating practices toward the Indian tribes: the Indian Schools.

It was devastating enough that Indians were defeated by the land-greed and superior technology of the European invaders, but then the proud nations were further insulted by attempts to deprive them of their past, and the way of life that had served them well for many centuries. The Indian Schools were intended to strip the children of their culture and religion, and "Americanize" and Christianize them. They were severely punished for even speaking their own language to one another. Many were no doubt eager to learn what their conquerors knew, and how they thought. Some already had, seeking the knowledge on their own, seeing the need to understand for the good of their people. But the price of the schools was far too high. Education should expand the mind, not brainwash it.

Talliesin West, whether one is interested in architecture or the unique, renagade personality of Frank Lloyd Wright himself, is enjoyable to tour. The guide was not one to idolize FLW. He clearly appreciated his creative achievements, while acknowledging the drawbacks to his designs, which tend to dominate the occupants in their own living space.

The ideal of a building belonging in its environment can be best understod by actually seeing one of his designs like Taliesin West and its surroundings.

Monte's La Casa Vieja, a restaurant in the oldest house in Tempe, serves history with its steak, and does both with good taste. Alas, it serves neither anymore; that historic place has been torn down. It was in the way of building something new. Imagine that.


Day 3, Monday 11/11
Rented a white Toyota and set off for the coast, during which transition I managed to leave my phone in my car, over 350 miles behind. I wasn't expecting any phone calls, but its camera function would have been handier than that of my tablet, which only photographs what faces the screen.

The Del Mar Inn has its good and bad points. I can't smoke in the room, but it has a balcony.. There is a bit of a walk to the beach, but the exercise is good .

Day 4: Tuesday 11/12
Fog and clouds dampened the beach experience, but the area has good restaurants, including a Peruvian one that serves a very nicely spiced raw halibut. Not all raw fish is Japanese, it seems.


Days 5-6: Nov. 13 -14
These two sunny days were perfect for walking on the beach, a fine, smooth sand, waves washing in to cool the feet and leave intricate patterns on the sand as they recede, sea birds searching for food and conversing among themselves, unafraid of the people walking by. The surf was tame, a good place for young beginners to practice. A beach-side restaurant has outdoor tables as well as indoor. While I munched my bagels and lox, we watched fowl behavior. Sea birds are very social. After all, one good tern deserves another. They seemed to be holding meetings or lectures. One would stand facing a group of others. Was it a school of fishing, or a political rally? It was hard to tell.

The Del Mar Inn advertises a bit deceptively when it claims to be "2 blocks from the beach", not mentioning that that distance is as the crow flies. One cannot walk to the beach as the crow flies, because there are buildings, a cliff, and a railroad track to cross, so a walking crow would travel 6 blocks north, then 2 blocks west to reach the beach. Perhaps it's all for the best, since the additional exercise is beneficial, especially because the walk takes one by several excellent restaurants. Vietnamese curry chicken is quite different from the Indian variety, but delicious in its own way.

This vacation has included a lot more restaurant eating than I might have chosen, but there's nothing wrong with good food. It does seem that all of them tend to serve more than most people need to eat at one sitting, probably for the psychological effect of giving good value for the price.

TV news seemed to be obsessed with a tale out of Toronto that started with a video of the mayor smoking crack. Other accusations, and his own responses only made the story even more interesting. The phony CNN talking heads like Blitz Wolfer pretend to be shocked at the mayor of Toronto when he denied having said to a female staffer "I'd like to eat your pussy", commenting that he'd never say that because "I have plenty to eat at home". We all know very well that they are far from shocked, and were probably mildly amused. It was a good comeback.

Who really cares if the Toronto mayor smokes crack? It's his business. If the people of Toronto don't like the way he runs the city, they can elect someone else next time. Criticism of public officials should be about the way they do their jobs, not their personal life. Meanwhile, there are real criminals in the US Congress doing real harm to real people. Call them Republicans. Call them sociopaths. Report that.


Day 7: Friday 11/15
has clouded on the California coast, chilly breezes blow. It might rain. We may explore up or down the coast in the car. The coast highway is no longer officially US 101, though it's designated as historic 101. It's now State 21. For some distance north from Del Mar, it stays in sight of the ocean as it meanders through the coastal towns. The wind, though chilly, brought more surfers out to try the bigger waves it stirred up. In some places, houses along the road are depressingly identical, stamped from the same developer's cookie-cutter. Where older ones predominate, though, houses are creatively designed individual expressions, many with beautiful designs.

Passing what was apparently Oceanside (though city name signs seem to be missing), one suddenly finds the road to be entering Camp Pendleton, complete with a military checkpoint. The one lane that looked to be a bypass was closed. I asked the Marine at the booth how to get on I-5 instead, and he said to take a right at one of 2 side-roads, with no signs. The first turned out to be the wrong one, and the second was taking me deeper into uncharted Marine base territory. One could only hope they weren't doing artillary practice in the area. Finally, heading back the way I'd come led to a road with an I-5 south entrance ramp. During this time no MP's seemed to take notice me driving into the facility without evident purpose. Traffic was too heavy to allow for much individual scrutiny..

Friday evening traffic on I-5 was a massive sea of lights, 6 to 8 lanes both ways, a bit congested but flowing just short of 65 on the average. I circled around the Del Mar horse track, just to see it, then returned to the hotel. Tomorrow will also be cloudy, so the plan is to head back to Phoenix, then, on Monday, Jerome and Sedona, staying in Cottonwood. Toyota Camry seems to make a decent car. I wonder if the motivation for eliminating the right front door keyhole, and the one in the trunk as well, is to save the cost. It seems petty to deprive the buyer of the flexibility just to save a few dollars.

There are, inside the trunk, levers to pull to flip the rear seats down, which would enable one trapped in the trunk to escape to the car. That is thoughtful. Waiting for my clothes to wash in the hotel's coin machine, I wandered to its oddly placed lobby, furnished nicely but unoccupied. Its library contained about 8 books. I didn't have that much time.


Day 8: Saturday 11/16
For a slightly different set of views on the way back, I headed north on I-5 to LA, there to catch I-10 to Phoenix. For a Saturday afternoon, Orange County and LA traffic was quite heavy, exacerbated by construction. If it had been a little lighter, I would have liked to revisit Santa Monica, Venice, Hollywood, just for the hell of it. But as it was, I made reasonably good time.


Day 9: Sunday, 11/17
I had never been in a mausoleum, so I visited one; a building of walls of compartments for bodies and urns of ashes, each neatly labeled with the names they bore. It seems al little odd that we warehouse dead bodies, underground or in vaults. Even religious believers don't think the actual body will resurrect. Perhaps it's just a matter of accounting for everyone. What is the figure on top of the AZ capitol building? Dinner in Cave Creek surrounded by screens of football.


Day 10: Monday, 11/18
After a pleasant scenic drive north, I arrived in Sedona, the hotel, originally thought to be in Cottonwood, is in Sedona. An internet search revealed that the best restaurant in all of Sedona, #1 of 143, is Simon's Hot Dogs. It is also a bit hard for the stranger to find, but worth the search. It is located inside the Oak Creek Brewery, and even when you drive up the road it's on, all you see is a dark side of an industrial style building. You enter the driveway leading to the front, where some colored light strings indicate something is going on. Simon is a friendly guy with a menu of about 8 different hot dog styles, and a choice of beef or vegetarian. Mine ("cowboy style", with chili), was delicious, though messy to eat, and the brewery's dark smooth ale went perfectly.


Day 11: Tuesday, 11/19
There is a chapel on a high rock overlooking Sedona and surrounded by more high red rocks. It has an interesting design, not by Frank L. Wright but two other architects, though it has some Wrightlike qualities. But the view from the area around it is worth the climb for the non-superstitious. It also affords a view of 503 chapel road, Ioan & Elena Comescu's house. An impressive dwelling, rumored by some to belong to Nicholas Cage and others, but actually the Comescus, Romanian owners of a Phoenix medical device company, IC Medical, own the 8000+ square foot, $29 million home.


Day 12: Wednesday, 11/20.
The last train from Clarkdale. (until the next one). The Verde Canyon Railroad is not a fast train, and though it travels 40 miles, you end up back where you started in 4 hours. But it was the most worthwhile trip I have taken in a long time. The track meanders along the Verde River next to towering red rocky canyon walls, rock formations, and riverside trees.

In this valley, great bald eagles live and breed. I strained my eyes at the cliff-tops, hoping to see one perching there, perhaps posing for a photo. None were quite so obliging, but once, directly over the train, an eagle flew, its huge wings working, accelerating purposefully, a few seconds in sight and then too far to see.

Through the dark curved tunnel and over the trestle, we soon arrived at Perkinsville. It is not a town, but an old station, no longer used, and a house, belonging to a ranch. There's a side-track enabling the engine to switch to the other end of the train for the trip back. The train has pleasant enclosed cars, alternating with open observation cars to enjoy and photograph the scenery. They were the place to be, despite a chilly rain, rather than trying to peer out of glass windows. Four hours traveling through natural beauty, with no roads and few dwellings in sight: it was a good trip.


Day 13: Thursday 11/21, Jerome.
This is the town that hippies rebuilt, better than before. Of course, a town would not have been built here, on the side of a mountain, if it were not ror the copper mines. But clinging to the mountainside on giant steps, its main street zigzagging ever upward, each zig and zag a higher level than the last, it cannot help being picturesque and fascinating. Yet, when the mine stopped being profitable, the town had declined nearly to ghost status, most of its buildings abandoned and falling into disrepair.

It was then that the greatest American subculture in history, born of the peace movement and the civil rights movement, coming of age in the 1960's and '70's, consisting of the brightest, most original and compassionate young thinkers of the age, came to the rescue.

Hippies were eager to create new and more natural lifestyles, often in places away from the ordinary routines of the cities, places that needed their creativity and challenged their ingenuity. Jerome was just such a place. Artists, craftspersons, builders, and nonconformists of all sort migrated to Jerome and re-created it. Its history and its natural architecture are preserved. The town seems to have an almost organic unity with the mountain itself.

Visitors can browse for hours in the shops, offering a combination of antique artifacts and original creations. The two taverns often feature live music, and there are a number of good restaurants. The Haunted Hamburger is one of them. The hamburger is especially good, but its menu offers a full variety of food. I ate there twice. It also serves Oak Creek Brewery's Nut Brown Ale. The first waitress had recently moved to Jerome from Kentucky. She seemed delighted to have done so; her smile was real, not one merely designed to enhance tips.


Day 14: Friday, 11/22.
Jerome again. It rained, a light but persistent drizzle, each day, and fog shrouded some of the magnificent view from the mountain overlooking the valley below. Ate Soup and home-made bread at The Grape. At a shop called Cleopatra's, I talked with the friendly young lady who worked there, learning more about the culture and life in present-day Jerome. She said she prefers not to leave the town, even to Clarkdale a few miles away for groceries.

Her friend, a builder by trade, is an enthusiastic hang-glider pilot, and there is aplace higher up the mountain that is often perfect for takeoffs He told us stories of extended flights, soaring on thermal updrafts. Once he landed at the Sedona airport some 20 miles away, startling its air traffic controller, who said he should have filed a flight plan. Helicopter pilots, who held back as he approached, did not mind at all. Often a glider will end up landing in the middle of nowhere, where it is often hard to find a ride. A friend of his, he said invented a method for such situations. He dresses in a clown outfit, complete with a rubber nose. People, even young women who seldom offer rides, pick him up out of amused curiosity.


Day 15: Saturday 11/23
I left Sedona, and visited Jerome again one last time. Instead of going back to Phoenix the way I came, I decided to go through the Prescott National forest. At the higher altitudes, snow covered the surrounding hills, trees, and mountainsides. The road was clear, though with its constant twists and turns, high speed was out of the question.

My GPS smartphone program kept saying "make the next legal U-turn", as if it could not understand why anyone would want to take the long and scenic way home. No matter. As I expected, I eventually passed through Wickenburg and then to Phoenix from the northwest, on Grand Avenue, the famous hypotenuse that proves the Pythagorean Theorum useful.