Sunday, July 30, 2006

Lively Streets 1: Signs

As one who walks, I find the liveliness of the street is an essential part of life in a city, even a small one. I'm a partisan of a lady named Jane Jacobs, who wrote The Death and Life of Great American Cities way back in the late 60s. She was the scourge of grand urban redevelopment schemes, planners, many architects, and most city officials. Her point of view was that:

The city is like a living being that is born, grows, matures, decays and can revive. The elements of the city, "the people, streets, parks, neighborhoods, the government, the economy," cannot exist without one another and are, like the organs of the human body, connected with each other.

In this evolutionary approach streets play an important role: they are the lifeblood where urban dwellers meet each other and where trade and commercial activities take place. The street is the scene a "sidewalk ballet," according to Jacobs, which determines the security, social cohesion and economic development of cities. From this perspective, even taking out the garbage or having a talk with a passer-by is a deed of dramatic expression. These every day acts make a city into a vital city.

Frankly, she wouldn't have had any truck with city officials who get uptight about signs hung on light poles, looking for lost cats & dogs or announcing the discovery of same. Or promoting a rock concert. Or a civic meeting. Or a book. Whatever.

I love these signs. I read them. I wonder if the cat was ever found. I am tempted to visit the yard sale or the open house. Buy the book. The signs announce that Things Are Happening in the neighborhood, that it isn't dead yet.

Similarly, street signs in front of businesses (usually on tourist weekends only) give you a taste of what you might find inside -- without having to make a commitment.

(Sometimes they even match the yellow SUV parked in front! I'm having a great run of colorful vehicles, as you may have noticed.)

I certainly agree that signs on the streets are neither tidy nor orderly. That's the point, according to Jacobs, who says you can't plan a wonderful street-scape, but must let it grow. Let's face it -- we're damned lucky here in Prescott to have a downtown -- though we have to thank the tourists and merchants, not the developers.

(I suspect she would have questioned the wisdom of banning smoking in bars in a tourist town, by the way. I wonder if those local folk who voted for the ban were secret tidiers voting to destroy downtown -- they certainly aren't out in their numbers to patronize Whiskey Row saloons. Anybody out there got current numbers?)

Yes, things tend to be a little messy in a proper city. But then uptight tidy and orderly is for cemeteries.

Note: the comments about Jane Jacobs were from an article by Gert-Jan Hospers at the Preservenet site.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

R. E. D. -- RED!

Red -- Nancy Regan's trademark suit -- you couldn't miss her. Red -- 10% of cars sold last year. But serious, downtown-type buildings usually aren't red.

Firehouse Square is a sure-fire exception to that rule! It is R.E.D. RED, seen here from the city parking garage on Granite Street. (Now about that gizmo looking like an intertwined pair of old fashioned bicycles: is it a scupture, a utilitarian object or what? You tell me.)

But I digress. Let's get back to the red outbreak. Catch that matching SUV, which, you'll note is a two-toner, per my recent commentary on car colors.

What more can I say? Never have I ever seen such a wonderful blaze of redness in any city, any downtown! It's a grand change from the same old same old.

More redness, this time out in the forest. Specifically, this beautiful stand of penstemon barbatus (scarlet bugler) was blooming up in Ponderosa Park a couple of weeks ago. Probably thanks to the monsoon rains we've been having -- my barbatus bloomed a month ago.

Another of our bright red summer wildflowers: scarlet gilia, known as skyrocket or firecracker. This specimen is growing on Gurley Street, in the block west of Park Avenue -- a favorite little spot for city wildflowers. The gilia is just starting to bloom.

Skyrocket made the cover of Science magazine a number of years ago. Inside was a NAU study of early and late season pollinators and their impact on flower color. The scarlet gilia tends toward white blossoms as summer comes to an end. Apparently, the late season visitors to high country gilia are primarily hawk moths and other night callers which usually pick white flowers.

While we have scattered patches of scarlet gilia here and there in the Prescott area, the embankments of I-40 between Williams and Flagstaff turn red with the blossoms in late summer. If you need a good red fix, take a spin on I-40 in August -- after you've spent an afternoon admiring the Firehouse Square paint job.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Picture Drought

The place: the old dam at Sullivan Lake. It's the point on the map where the Verde River officially begins. On the upside of the dam, the water course is called Big Chino Wash. It's one and the same, the Verde and the Big Chino -- I've always suspected that the fast change of names has something to do with old-time Arizona water politics: ranchers vs. the Salt River Project (which owns the Verde but not the Big Chino.)

Currently, that's beside the point. The photos with this post were taken a week ago, before a couple of big storms up north. I doubt if the storms have changed the picture much. I've never seen it so dry at this dam! Sullivan Lake is absolutely sere. The Little Chino Wash which also flows into Sullivan Lake was devoid of any vegetation; in recent years, it usually supported cattails.

Try to visualize the picture above as one taken from well above the canyon wall. At the right rear is the bottom of the dam. In past years, no matter how dry Sullivan Lake, there's always been a pool of water at the foot of the dam, complete with fish and frogs. Not in our current drought state. The only sign that this is a water course is the grape vine.

Lower Lake Mary up near Flagstaff isn't nearly as sere as Sullivan. However, the actual "lake" consists of a mere ribbon of water that traces the original route of the creek that feeds the lake. Last year, not only were those fence rails under water, thanks to our wet late winter, but water was actually pouring over the dam.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Update: The Fates Made Me Look Foolish

Nothing like finding out that you were wrong or wrong- headed or that the Fates had singled you out to make you look foolish. (I prefer the latter explanation.)

Take the playground at Lincoln School. One week I walked by everyday and the gates were locked. I reported this and whined. Some time later (about two weeks ago) I pass by -- lo and behold, folks are frolicking in what had been forbidden territory. Ditto this evening when I went out for my walk. Some of the gates were still locked -- but the main entrances were open to the public. Bravo!

The same Fates whispered in the ears of auto stylists in Detroit and Tokyo at about the time I complained about the dull plumage of modern cars. "Do something to make GrannyJ look dumb and unobservant," they said.

Guess what -- suddenly the streets are full of all shades of yellow plus an occasional bright orange vehicle for good measure. A few pastel blue and green cars are now showing up, too. Not only that, but I have seen a handful of assertively two-toned SUVs, just like in the good old days.

And imagine my real embarassment when I looked more closely at the daughter's Subaru -- it, too, is a two-toner.

There are times you can't win!

Later Update: I finally did what I should always do -- consult the Google. And found: 24.1% of cars sold in the past year were silver, 16.7% black, 12.7% blue. Gold was only 2.6%. As to what's ahead:

Others believe that greys -- deeper, darker metallics -- will eclipse the lighter silvery shades. "Grey offers more dimensions, from warm to cool," says Leighton. "It's a fresh look and an alternative to silver."

And blue is gaining fast. "There is a whole trend in blue and purple," says Webb. Of the 21 new shades his company is currently developing, "at least half are blue or have some evidence of blue in them."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Rhapsody on Rhubarb

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Why did the baker first put strawberries and rhubarb together in a pie -- to stretch the (expensive) strawberries or to make a strange ingredient (rhubarb) palatable to millions who are unaquainted with old fashioned pie plant?

Both my father and my late husband disliked rhubarb anything. And they certainly were not alone; rhubarb may be an aquired taste. For example, I regularly make a small batch of rhubarb sauce for myself and my mother who lives at a local assisted living facility, where once in a great while strawberry-rhubarb pie is served. I made some today, hence the picture above. Mom grooves on anything that's, as she says, "tarty".

Turns out that rhubarb is well represented on-line. is sort of the Rhubarb Central for everything you wanted to know about this highly acidic vegetable used in lieu of fruit. (The slender pink stalks come into season much earlier than any of the favorite pie fruits, hence the traditional use and name.)

Then there's an entry at an organic food site from Alaska which reminds us about the other use of the word "rhubarb", usually in connection with baseball season:

The use of the word "rhubarb" dates back to the early days of Shakespearean theater, a use that carried forward to present day. Dictionaries first define rhubarb as the lovable, edible plant that it is. Then the slang definition follows. To prepare you, let's get the feeling behind it. Say RHU-barb with attitude. Now you can see how the word became synonymous with a heated argument or squabble. One dictionary even went so far as to link rhubarb to baseball, where a rhubarb meant sparks were flying between the umpire and the pitcher.

Also at this site -- a wild variety of recipes featuring rhubarb. Including the criminal offense of diluting it with strawberries in a pie.

If you are ever in need of a Real Rhubarb Pie fix, may I recommend two local sources: Berry's, over at 7840 East SR 69 (actually, Frontage Road) in Prescott Valley, and Young's Farm, still in Dewey (but not for much longer.) You'll be pleased.

One Huge Storm!

Once in a while I receive an e-mail that I will post because it's so interesting and/or important. Since you'll have to wait until tomorrow morning to read about last night's storm in the Courier, I'm passing along the Embry-Riddle Meteorology Department weather MetMail commentary by C. James. He reports that:

Yesterday evening, a squall line formed over the Mogollon Rim and propagated towards the south-southwest and covered nearly all of Yavapai County (above image, depicting the radar reflectivity pattern produced by the squall line. Sorry about the wee image , thanks to Blogger. To orient yourself, catch the red line in the upper half which is I40, look for Flagstaff and then move south and west for Prescott).

The thunderstorms were fueled by a low-atmospheric moisture surge from off the Gulf of California that combined with hot and unstable air over Arizona. Behind the squall line, light to moderate rain persisted much of the night, with a few isolated thunderstorms around the area.
Most of Yavapai County received over a half inch of rain, with some places receiving up to 4”. (Take a look at the storm total image above, which depicts radar-derived precipitation totals). Prescott Airport received 0.63” and the Embry-Riddle campus received 0.55”.

The squall line continued southward into the Phoenix area, where heavy rain and damaging winds were observed in many areas. Up to 2” of rain fell around the Phoenix area.

The squall line later joined with other storms moving out of Southeastern Arizona to produce a large cluster called a Mesoscale Convective Complex (MCC). The infrared satellite image above depicts the combined anvil cloud from the storms, which spanned from San Diego to the Four Corners (colder colors on the image indicate higher cloud tops).

This was definitely an impressive storm event!

Today through at least this weekend, a very moist airmass will remain over Arizona and fuel widespread thunderstorm activity. Although the atmosphere is more stable now in the wake of yesterday’s storms, we may still see some strong thunderstorms mainly in the afternoon or evening hours these next couple of days, moving south-southwestward at about 10 mph. The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch for Yavapai County for noon today through this evening due to the possibility of heavy rainfall on already saturated soils.

For the record, ERAU offers an undergraduate bachelor-of-science degree program in applied meteorology. They ask that you spread the word to all potential qualified candidates! For more information on the degree program, refer here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Food and Old Farm Equipment Go Together

Actually, the Iron Horse Restaurant in Chino Valley preceded the current, huge wave of family farm nostalgia. I'm told that it served more than a generation of CV movers and shakers -- not to mention just plain Good Old Boys. The Iron Horse is definitely a place for classic biscuits & gravy -- and lots of it.

Incidentally, that tractor looks a lot older than the ones I recall from my grandfather's orange "ranch" down on Baseline Road in Phoenix in the ought-30s.

OK, I'm ignorant, farm-wise. Don't have any idea of just what this machine did. What it does today is sit by the roadside to advertise fresh produce, come right in and pick it out.

That more streamlined piece of equipment at the left looks like it might have been used to sort oranges or grapefruit or melons by size. It's also alongside the same roadway down in Camp Verde, where the big draw this weekend was....

...fresh corn. And it was good! I discovered how to microwave corn in the husk last night.

Before heading on to Prescott to deliver me home, daughter and SIL eye yet another piece of machinery. He's an aggie -- so understands what all this equipment was used for in its day.

I have to admit that we're living in a strange world when farms near big cities find it necessary to become bucolic disneylands serving city folk to survive. And, yes, I am one of those slickers who got a kick out of the festivals at Young's Farm -- I will miss it.

Footnote: I received an email from a reader explaining the farm equipment.
He said, "If I am looking at the right ones, one is a road grader, and the other ia a corn picker. I believe both are horse drawn. I come from mid- western farm stock in Minnesota. I claim to know a lot about a little, and a little about a lot."

Thanks for the info, Greg!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Further Flagstaff Adventures

I don't think I've introduced you to my younger granddaughter, the one who lives in Flagstaff. Here she is, as the purple princess, casting a spell...


And showing off the new kitten.

On last Saturday, the daughter, granddaughter and I drove around the high country -- as far south as Mormon Lake, where I missed getting a picture of the sign that proclaimed, "Too broke for Sturgis" -- an explanation for the huge number of bikers we saw on the Lake Mary Road.

After lunch, I finally got to see the Museum of Northern Arizona, which I'd passed by many times on the Fort Valley Road -- but never stopped to visit. Note the structural stone -- the same sandstone and basalt colors as in the previous post.

The little one got a good look at the museum's saurian critter, punched a bunch of buttons -- and was carefully kept from entering the portion of the museum store where the fine Indian pottery is sold.

Climbing a flag pole platform was just as exciting for her, while I puzzled over the sculpt in the background, across the Rio de Flag ravine.

It appears to be a Spanish conquistador and mount -- as seen through the drizzle, using the zoom of my little point-and-shoot camera. If anybody has any further info about this colorful character, do include it in the comments below.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

In the High Country

As I promised, I am truly BACKSON. The youngsters dropped me off this afternoon, after first indulging my photographic impulse in downtown Flagstaff and later stopping for fresh veggies down in the Verde Valley.

The funny thing is that I had never noticed the immense cow on the front of this building on previous visits to the capital of the high country -- and I'm told it's been there for years! Right on Milton. I guess my eye for detail and differences has changed since I started in on this blog project!

Also on Milton: this emporium where the idea appears to be to catch 'em getting ready for the first date -- and for the final date! By the way, if you are in the market for a Flagstaff business, here's your big chance -- check the leftmost window.

There's more than 13,000 students and 2000 feet elevation difference between Prescott and Flagstaff. Old building materials, to give an example. The building above is made from basalt stones, in contrast to Prescott's granite and river cobbles.

Old Main on the NAU campus provides a classic example of the other Flagstaff building stone: large bricks of Supai limestone -- quarried about three miles east of the center of town, says the son-in-law. (BTW, when my Aunt Iola attended NAU in the 20s, then the state normal school, those huge trees were not yet born.)

A Flagstaff sign that has gone missing since we first came to Arizona in the 80s -- the one fronting the one-time drive-in ammo and liquor store! The business is still there; it's a little more sedate now.

Arizona's rough edges are being gradually whittled away. A pity.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Temporarily Out of Town

Sorry to have missed you all -- but I have been out of town visiting my daughter & family in cool Flagstaff. As Pooh always wrote when he was away,


Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Arizona Monsoon

One friend insists that I simply call them the summer rains. Monsoons, phooey, is his attitude. Pretentions. Whatever. The fact is that our world changes once the wind direction changes and Arizona is blessed with moisture from the south. Granite Creek (above) turns lush and runs fast muddy waters. Sometimes the gate is closed at the Lincoln Street ford to keep cars from being swept downstream.

The sycamore boles start swelling -- and it's necessary to shed bark. The result is that wonderfully varigated coloring of the trunks.

Those black crumbly growths on rocks turn out to be thick patches of deep green moss. (And it takes the water from the sky to turn the trick. I had mosses on granites in my yard that turned up their toes when I tried watering them with city water. Must be the chlorine they can't take.)

Mud puddles abound. Perfect for kids in their bare feet; nothing like squishing mud through the toes.

And a new suite of plants emerges from the ground; here's a good example, a large plant I choose to call a Five O'Clock, because 1) it is a mirabilis and 2) the flowers open at about 5 in the afternoon. These four o'clocks are large perennial plants which don't do their year's growth until the rains come. Their late afternoon blossoming and the long throats suggest that hawk moths are the target pollinator.

A wild annual that waits for the summer rains -- and then races to produce flowers and seeds -- is the morning glory, here just coming up. Growing in thick patches, the local morning glories come in blue and small red varieties.

(It's curious but I even find it difficult to force domesticated morning glory seeds to come up in well watered pots before the monsoons set in!)

And, of course, the grand finale of the monsoon: the myriad DYCs (damned yellow composites) which wait out the heat to sprout once the rains come and give us golden hillsides in the autumn.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Critters Suitable for Lawns, Living Rooms

You may recall that I stopped by at the arts/crafts show on the Square this past Sunday. I did take a few pictures at the show, primarily of assorted critters that caught my eye in the midst of all those Kokopellis and decorative suns.

I'm always interested to see what's in and what's out. Considering all the recent talk about toads, it's only fitting that I lead off with a Mexican ceramic toad. Painted clay creatures were popular this year.

In the bird department: a rather neat, swooping eagle made from saguaro cactus bones. Note also the crayfish in the upper left hand corner. The cactus ribs were an unusual material in the midst of ceramic, wire and sheet metal sculpts.

The sheet metal buzzard family -- and the javelina in the upper right hand corner -- border on being too cute (almost as cutesy as the Kokopelli with the golf club.) Nonetheless, it's nice that Arizona's vulture is getting his day in the sun.

However, the star of this show, critter-wise, was the gecko. Geckos here, geckos there, everywhere geckos!

I still will settle for one of those junkyard horses below for my lawn or living room. (Or maybe that rhino-saur I recently saw out Iron Springs Road.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Junkyard Horses

Move back a couple of feet from the screen and take another look at that pastoral scene below. Those horses look pretty doggone real, don't they.

Then move in for a closer look -- the three horses grazing in front of the Phippen Museum are sculpted from junkyard materials. Author: Gene Galazan.

His horses are also planted along McCormick Street as you come down the bend from Sheldon. Three of 'em. Here are two:

Not much more to say except that I wouldn't mind having one of my own.
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