Thursday, June 30, 2011


Blackwell has become used to our evening cocktail hours on the patio.  He was a little early yesterday.  He came in to the den about 3:30, sat down and stared at me.  He should know by now that we don't go out until the heat is off the day, at about 6 p.m.  But he waited patiently, until I had made a drink and headed toward the door.  Then his usually flaccid state accelerated and he sped past me to the door.

So we went outside.  We had a quick little bit of adventure when Blackwell apparently flushed a young mourning dove
somewhere near the tomato plants. I was across the yard and suddenly this dove came, fluttering along the ground but not making any elevation. Another dove, probably his mother, was right with the young one, maybe six inches above him, shepherding him along. Blackwell was as surprised as I was and stayed back, then made a lunge for the birds, then stopped again as they headed up the passageway between our house and our neighbor's. Then he suddenly made a rapid dash toward them but I accomplished two things at once by slapping my hands together and yelling "Blackwell, no!" The two birds lifted into the air and Blackwell made a 180 and came running back. I'm not sure whether it was fear or inexperience that, for a time, caused the young bird to not be able to lift off the ground. But he overcame it. Later we saw the two doves sitting side by side on a tree branch for the longest time. I think the fledgling learned a lesson.

A little later, I went into the house to replenish my glass. When I came out, Blackwell had taken my chair for his own and stayed there, with a satisfied and kingly expression.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


It occurred to me today that my last three blog posts all had to do with water.  Two of them with way too much water.  I found that kind of interesting, considering that I live in one of the hottest, dryest states.

Yup!  Some people think of it as hell.  The rest of it call it Arizona.  I just checked the weather page and it says the current temperature is 95.6 degrees Fahrenheit.  'Course, that's over in Prescott, which is higher and cooler than where I live.  But in this range, what's a degree or two difference?  And we high desert dwellers do have one advantage.

Yes, the humidity is low here, only topping out at about 30 percent and dipping as low as single digits.  I have been to New York in the summer.  One time I was there in August and the temperature and the humidity were matching each other . . . in the high 90's for both.  As I was waiting on a curb for a light to change I was hit with a sudden cloudburst.  I just stood there getting soaking wet and enjoying it..

Nothing like that in the forecast for today but y'know what?  The longer range forecast says there's a "slight chance" of showers and thunderstorms starting on Saturday.  Maybe that monsoon prediction I was talking about awhile back will come true right on schedule.

We're ready for it.

Come to think of it, one of those Bud Lights wouldn't be bad right now either.

Monday, June 27, 2011

MAG 71

I know these are probably glass sculptures, most likely done by the artists at Dale Chihuly’s place up around Seattle. But, they look like undersea creatures to me. And that scares me.

I’ve done a wee bit of snorkeling and I loved when a school of fish would surround me and I could move my hand through them without ever touching any of them. They didn’t dart away but they somehow always avoided my hand.

But what panicked me were the gars, or needlefish, that streaked through beneath me, zig-zagging back and forth in a thrice. This picture kind of reminds me of those needlefish, long and narrow and deadly (?).

I never did enough snorkeling to be able to learn to go beneath the surface. I just paddled around up top, looking at what colorful spectacles were beneath me.

Once I went snorkeling with a friend down around Puerto Vallarta, in Mexico. My companion was more experienced than I was. He dove. I don’t know if he saw anything more than I did. But I do know that I lost sight of him and while I was dabbling around on the surface, he came up behind me and grabbed my foot. I nearly drowned! I was sure a Great White Shark had me in it’s jaws.

My pal (?) got a big laugh out of it. The bastard!

But he paid for our snorkeling expedition and for the beer so I guess it was okay in the end.

I do remember that we went out to this site in a boat and when we were done with our swimming we had to hoist ourselves up over the side into the boat. I couldn’t do it and he and the Mexican boat owner had to combine to drag me up over the side.

But, like I said, my pal paid for the beer. What our friends for?

However. I still shivver a bit when I look at this picture.

Magpie Tales is a little game played by participants each week.  Mistress Willow/Tess posts a picture and challenges any and all to write whatever based on it.  You can read more entries at Magpie Tales and even get into the game yourself.


To give you an idea of what has been capturing my interest for the past several days, here is a video of what Minot, North Dakota, looks like.

The boat ride and the video was provided by a crew from Minot Air Force Base.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


My working career started at the Minot Daily News in Minot, North Dakota, then moved to KCJB radio and KXMC-TV way back in the early 1960's.  I grew up only 55 miles away.  I have relatives living in Minot.  Now, the city is facing a catastrophic flood.  The last major flood was in 1969.  The spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers now says the city will face twice that amount of water in the next few days.  Much of the city, which lies in a valley formed by the Souris (Mouse) River will apparently be covered with water for about a week.  It sounds like the disaster that was New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina slammed into it.

My cousin, only a few months younger than I, has been evacuated from her home.  When I spoke to her, she was tearful when we talked about the force and scope of this flood.

It is a terrible, terrible flood and, as many of the news reporters are saying, Minot will be changed forever.

One of my former employers, KXMC-TV, has been broadcasting news reports live and continuously, 24 hours a day.  You can find them here.  I've been glued to it for most of the past couple of days.

I covered floods as a news reporter in North Dakota.  It's hard work and it's not a lot of fun.  If you're the type of person who prays, you might add the beleagured residents of Minot to your prayers.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Yes, it's the first day of summer.  The temperature where I live is supposed to soar into the 90's today and probably will hit 100 degrees tomorrow.  (World citizens, don't panic: that's Fahrenheit, not Celsius.)

The heat will be with us until the monsoon arrives with some cooling rain. 

So . . . what to do?  Well, here's a couple of guys with the perfect solution.

Monday, June 20, 2011

MAG 70

Once upon a time, long ago, I was watching some stupid program on television which featured interviews with "famous people."  The particular star being interviewed in her home this night was the actress Kirstie Alley.  As the interviewer walked around Ms. Alley's living room with her, she stopped at a mantel, covered in framed photos.

She pointed at one of them which showed a young couple dressed to the nines.  The interviewer said to Ms. Alley "Oh, this must be your parents on their wedding day."

Ms. Alley responded "No, the photo just came with the frame!"

I don't know why that television moment has stayed with me but it still amuses me and it was my first thought when I saw this photo put forth as impetus by Willow/Tess for this week's Magpie Tales.  You can read more of them by clicking here.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


My dad has been gone for over 30 years.  But I can remember a lot about him.  For example, his pride in this big fish he brought back from a successful trip to Canada.

Spending most of his life in North Dakota, he had plenty of experience with a snow shovel.

Late in his life, he began spending the winters in Arizona.  He had his own home, a house trailer he bought in a court not far from us.  But in his mind he was never far from his longtime home.

This is the way I like to remember him.  Smiling, enjoying a good joke.

Yes, even after all these years, I miss him.

Happy father's day, Dad.  You done good!

Friday, June 17, 2011


When the heat of the summer comes upon us, strange things happen in the minds of my loved ones.

SWMBO, for example, has created a new cocktail.  She hasn't named it, that I know of, but I tend to think of it as Mexican Mafia Tiger's Blood.  It is constructed of lemonade, an Italian sparkling fruit drink called Blood Orange, and tequila.  Served over ice in a wine glass with a salted rim. 

The BRD, on the other hand, was photographed recently in . . . well, let me just show you.

It appears I'm not the only oddball in this family.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


As I walked out to the mailbox this morning, I spied an unusual sight for my neighborhood.  It was a Century Plant. 

Now the Agave parryi, as the scientists like to call it, is common in Arizona but usually at lower altitudes.  I don't think I've ever seen one in bloom in my neighborhood, which is around 5,100 feet elevation.

The plant gets its name from the fact that it only blooms once in its life.  But rather than once every 100 years, it's more like around 25 years.  The flowering stalk, which can get up to about 15 feet tall, grows so fast it takes all the energy out of the plant, which then dies.  That means the flowering part will turn into a dry, wooden stalk.

So it takes awhile and then it doesn't last long and you will probably never get another bloom but the one time it's there, it is a sight to behold.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Take a look at my old, old, old buddy.  This is Steve Torbeck.

Steve has a birthday tomorrow, June 14th, 2011.   He will become 62!  It's his first Social Security birthday and he deserves it.

I got to know Steve back in 1972 (he claims) when he came up from the "minors" in Tucson to join we "professionals" at what was then KTAR-TV in Phoenix.  If Steve is correct, I beat him there only by months.  I was a reporter/producer, Steve was a photographer.  We hooked up and became great friends, probably due to the fact that we both liked to drink and be silly.  Lots of adventures ensued. 

Steve quit drinking more than a couple of decades ago and it probably saved his life.  I haven't and it probably hasn't.  But, amazingly, nearly 40 years later, we're both still alive.

Steve went on to become a "one man band" at Channel 12, originating "12 Country", where he not only photographed but reported stories from around Arizona.  I can remember arguing with him about doing a "stand-up" in his pieces.  He didn't want to, thinking (as many, many other reporters did in those naive days) that it just distracted from his story.  I told him those days were gone, he was now a "star" and it was necessary to do it and keep his job.  So, he finally agreed.

He left the t.v. station before I did and started his own company, which was known then and today as First Take Video.  The name was a kind of in-joke dating back to his days in Tucson, where he earned the nickname Five Take Torbeck.

During my days as a reporter, Steve did me well.  Later, during my days as a producer, he did me well with his reports from the backroads of Arizona.

And during the past few years, after Steve became a hardcore baseball fan, he's done me well by inviting me to join him at games in Phoenix.

Steve is one of my true, good friends.

Happy birthday, pal.  I love you.  (But for god's sake, don't ever tell anyone I said that!)

Sunday, June 12, 2011


SWMBO has been away for a few days.  The BRD has been gone for a few days so SWMBO has been house- and cat-sitting for her.  Which left me at home with our three cats.  We got along all right but Muggles is definitely SWMBO's cat and she let me know it the last two days.  She would come into my den and cry and cry.  I would tell her that her mistress would be home in a day, and then I'd tell her she'd be home tonight.

So tonight when she came home, she was suddenly surrounded by all three cats . . . all of whom seemed to be saying "YOU CAME BACK . . . YOU REALLY CAME BACK!"

But Muggles was the most happy and she lay as close as possible, draped over the end of the couch, happy again.

Meantime, the big black boy cat, Blackwell, has finally discovered a way to get out of the back yard.  He found he can leap up to the top of the wall up by the gate and mince along the top of the fence and achieve freedom.

So after two evenings of that, I refused to let him out of the house.  Does this picture (through a screen door) appear to show a cat trying to shame me into letting him out?

Well, he can just wait.  SWMBO says I have to get him a harness and one of those 20 foot leashes with a button that pulls him back.

He'll just LOVE that.

Friday, June 10, 2011


It's 85 degrees at 3:30 in the afternoon.  June 10th.  Less than a month until the monsoon is scheduled to start.

Oh yes we do!  (I heard those dubious snickers about a monsoon in Arizona.)

It's a regular season here, usually starting around the 4th of July and running until September.  If you were to check the description of a monsoon, you'd learn that it is a change in the direction of the wind.  Where normally our "breezes" (heh-heh) come in from the West Coast, during the monsoon season they blow up from the southeast.  Dust storms down in Southern Arizona first, sometimes bringing rain.  Up here the mountain tops apparently dig into those clouds, releasing more rain.  Not a lot, mind you, but enough to cool down the late afternoons and evenings.  After a few weeks of dry, sunny heat-filled days, the cooling monsoon rain is a relief.

I remember my first day in Phoenix, back in July of 1972.  I was in a little store when raindrops began coming down outside and everyone rushed outside to get wet.  I thought they were crazy but then I learned that it hadn't rained for something over 100 days.  I got used to it and became a little crazy myself, in time.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


We've taken to letting Blackwell join us for cocktails on the back patio.  It took awhile.  He was taken, initially, with jumping over into the neighbor's back yard and then, who knows where, until he got tired, or hungry, and came home.  Well.  I didn't like that, even though he wears a collar with a badge with his name and our telephone number.  I would get very nervous about where he had gone and I'd search and call his name and worry, worry, worry.

Ridiculous, eh?

But that's the life of a pet owner.

So I finally put up enough fencing and chicken wire and glass chunks that he was defeated in his escape plan.  So, now he is confined to our fenced-in backyard and he has only us to commune with.

Now if I could only break him of his habit of rolling in a patch of dirt immediately upon his escape from the house.

Monday, June 6, 2011


I accepted my friend Steve's invitation to go to Phoenix yesterday and attend the final game in the series between OUR Arizona Diamondbacks and the Washington Nationals at Chase Field.

The next photo shows an angry Justin Upton, just after being hit by a pitched ball for the fourth time in this series.  An umpire is trying to calm him down as Matt Williams moves into the center of the action.  The Washington pitcher has been tossed out of the game and their manager is about to be evicted.

Both managers and two pitchers were ejected and four players were hit by pitches.  Espinosa of Washington was hit twice by two different pitchers.  We kept waiting for a "donnybrook" to break out but it never did.

This young fellow was a hero in our section as he made a great one-handed grab of a high foul ball.  He got a standing ovation from the crowd.

Finally, here are the two old codgers - Steve on the left, me on the right - getting ready for a Diamondbacks victory.  Unfortunately it was not to be.  Our team made a gallant run in the 8th and 9th innings when they scored their only runs to tie the game at 4 apiece.  But they couldn't bring the winning run across and a grand slam home run in the 11th inning brought victory and a series split with the lowly Nationals.  Still, a great day in the park.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Prescott Valley advertised an arts and crafts fair for this weekend.  I stopped by briefly this morning.

Unfortunately what I saw was more crafts than arts.


Thursday, June 2, 2011


FACEBOOK, as some of you know, is one of those "social networking" sites.  I joined it awhile back, then got off it when a former colleague of many years ago got "pissy" with me, then got back on it with limited "friend"-ships.  Sometimes I post, sometimes I comment, but mostly I just read stuff that others have brought to the site.  One of my longtime bookseller pals, J. Godsey, seems to spend an unconsciounable amount of time turning up interesting items.  For example . . this bit of information.

Later, she turned up a great list of non-fiction articles which I suppose I could have found on my own if I read the Atlantic.  But I'm having enough trouble trying to keep up with my New Yorker subscription.  But there's some interesting reading on that list, like the article about Trader Joe's.

Then there's Turner Classic Movies, one of the few commercial sites to which I subscribe.  They send out tips on upcoming films they'll be showing on television.

Of course, I had to subscribe to my Arizona Diamondbacks site, which tells me lots about my favorite team.

Then there's my blogger pal, Joan Perry who keeps me up to date on restaurant news from Charleston, as well as a ton of other items about the city.

I could go on and on but I think I've given you enough information on what keeps me turning to FACEBOOK.  With all of that and blogging and e-mail and much more on the Internet, I'm having trouble getting through two books I recently brought home from the library.

Good thing I'm retired so I have all this spare time! 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Please forgive the use of the word "family" above but it seems that once you get to know someone really well through the blogosphere, they become part of your family.  One such person is Meggie, away down in Australia.  She has just recently lost her husband, Les, after 45 years of marriage.  He was known as GOM, for Grumpy Old Man, on her blog.  They had some rough times together, as he would pull up her plants, mistaking them for weeds, or rearrange the kitchen according to HIS wants so Meggie couldn't find things.

But they had many, many good times together, too.  Many of those good times Meggie related on her blog as well.  Now she has to slowly accustom Les/GOM's favorite dog, Leo, to the fact that his master is gone.  Time and the love of friends, family and "strangers" from all over the globe will help Meggie through the difficult days.

So, if you knew her from her blog, Life's Free Treats, or from anywhere else, be kind and send her a message or a comment on her blog.  She needs us now.