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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

STRICTLY MENTAL

I spent 30 years working as a broadcast journalist. That's a fancy term for a news reporter on radio and/or television. I started out as a disc jockey in my college days, then worked for a newspaper for about 6 months, then went back to radio in the same town: Minot, North Dakota. A couple of years later I found a job at a television station in Aberdeen, South Dakota. I did everything there - news, weather, sports, MC'ed the weekly Polka Party, and broadcast our live coverage of a bowling tournament. I had bowled a bit in my youth but I was extremely bad at identifying the splits in this tournament. I'd say "well, it looks like a 4-8 split for him," and a spectator sitting right next to me would murmur "no, that's a 7-10," and I'd make a correction on air. Mortifying.

When the Fischer quintuplets were born soon after I had taken over the one-man news department, I was awakened by a call from UPI in Chicago asking me for news about them. It was the first I had heard about the multiple births. Later, NBC called wanting film of the new kids and I had to confess that our television station didn't have a movie camera! Regardless of all that I managed to parlay the massive (for Aberdeen, South Dakota) news onslaught into a job back in my home state in Bismarck, North Dakota.

I spent six years there and became news director when the guy who had hired me found a new job in San Francisco. Nice advancement I thought: Bismarck, North Dakota to San Francisco, California. But my turn came later, when a disc jockey friend of mine from the radio part of the radio and television combine I was working for got a new job in Indianapolis, Indiana. A few months later he called me and said his new station was looking for a newsman and I should apply. I was concerned about the move to a 50,000 watt radio station in a market of a million or more from my job in a market of maybe 50,000 souls. Would I be good enough? What if I couldn't cut it? My friend assured me that if I didn't I could always go back to a station in North Dakota or Minnesota with the Indy experience on my resume. I thought about it for awhile but finally sent off a tape and resume and forgot about it. Several weeks later I received a call and a job offer. With some trepidation I said yes.

When I arrived, I quickly learned that I was the only person on the staff who could write a complete sentence. And quickly. So I stayed for three years, had a great time, met the lady who became SWMBO, and also made a friend I've hung onto for 45 years.

Later I moved to Phoenix and worked for a television station there for 13 years before taking a break of 16 years before winding up with several years at a tiny AM radio station in Prescott, Arizona.

Well. I've bored you all with that lengthy story in order to explain something about yesterday's blog post. I was checking Facebook in the morning and saw that it was the birthday of a former news director of mine, Jim Willi, and also the 70th birthday of Eric Clapton. Somehow, in my first-cup-of-coffee-of-the-day mental meanderings, I reasoned that BOTH men were turning 70. Oops! I later learned from the somewhat outraged Mr. Willi that he was only 67!

One of the first rules of news gathering is: get it fast and get it right. The old reporter had failed that rule. "They" say: once a reporter, always a reporter. What they don't say is: everyone makes a mistake occasionally. But needless to say, I was embarrassed.




I've been wondering for some time how to use this photo. I think this is the time and place.

"...This is Bruce Taylor, reporting from oblivion."

Monday, March 30, 2015

WE'RE ALL GETTING OLD . . .

The sands in the hourglass keep drifting slowly downward. Actually it seems like the older I get the faster that darned stuff runs through. Today marks the 70th birthdays of a former news director of mine, Jim Willi,* and one of the greatest guitar players of all time, Eric Clapton.

Here's a victorious picture of Jim on a lake near Dallas, Texas where he now lives.



Jim had black hair when I worked for him.

That other guy celebrating 70 today has had a remarkable career. Here is a list of some of the bands he played with.

The Yardbirds
John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers
Cream
Blind Faith
Delaney and Bonnie and Friends
The Plastic Ono Band
Derek and the Dominos

He has played guitar with virtually everybody, from B.B. King to Bob Dylan to the Allman Brothers to John Lennon and George Harrison.

We wish him and Jim happy 70th birthdays with this performance by Clapton of one of his hit songs, Layla.


* Now I don't know where I got that but Jim Willi tells me that he's only 67. And he's continuing his "remarkable career" in broadcasting. Sorry, boss.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

HIGH DESERT FLORA

Some plants I found on a short hike recently.




I have no idea what this stuff is but it's pretty. I'll bet one or more of my commenters can identify it.


These leaves look very defensive.




Speaking of defensive. One of the first things one learns on moving to Arizona: keep a distance from the cacti.

These are called prickly pear in the Estados Unidos. Down south of the border the pads are harvested, de-thorned, cooked and eaten. They're known as Nopales there and, when pickled, are quite tasty.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE . . . HILL

As you enter the development where we live you come to a stop sign where you can either go straight ahead or turn left or right. Straight and left are homes in StoneRidge. To the right is a gravel road which leads to some scattered homes outside the development.

The other day I was driving around, exploring, and decided to try that rough road to see what I could see. I was amazed to find it turn back into pavement a mile or so in and then to see what I saw.


The road turned out to be the Old Black Canyon Highway which before the Interstate Highway System came to Arizona was the way one drove to Phoenix. The land, as does StoneRidge further south and east, backs up to the Bradshaw Mountains.


But what really got me was the immense size of many of the houses in this "back of the beyond".





Notice that one second from the left even has its own planetarium.

This next one, sitting high atop a hill, was my favorite.


It's hard to believe that is a home. It looks more like a mountain chalet or a country club of some sort. It must have a massive fireplace, judging by the size of that chimney.

One can often be surprised by what one finds by just a little looking around.

Friday, March 27, 2015

FRIDAY FUNNIES

T.G.I.F.

Thank God It's Franklin.

Er, wait, that's not right.

Oh, never mind. Rev up your chuckle cortex.






Yup, Spring has definitely arrived. The temperature is forecast to hit 94 in Phoenix this weekend. And it's still March!


Still, there remain a few science deniers out there.


I'll just ignore the "flat earthers" and pet my cats. 

Maybe.


Have a great weekend, folks. Thanks to my contributors and always remember . . . (what was it????) . . . oh, yeah, keep laughing!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

ThrowBack Thursday

From 1996 to 2003 Judy and I owned and operated a new and used bookstore called BOOKENDS in Prescott Valley. This first picture was taken near the beginning.



The next picture was taken some time later. The stress is beginning to show.


It was fun but also incredibly frustrating. Bookselling sounds like an easy way to make a living. 

It isn't.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

TRAILS

After talking to one of my neighbors recently I learned about the existence of a series of trails in the development in which I live. I had scoped out a trailhead last week and yesterday I decided to go try the trail out from there. It covers a wide area and a large part of it is a broad sidewalk that parallels the golf course that is the center of StoneRidge.


It's very scenic. There are many people who use the trail daily, like the dogwalker in the above picture. As I watched, she actually ran a short distance, pushing a pram in which her little dog royally rode.


It's hard to make out in this heavily cropped version of the photo above it but take my word for it. I had never before seen these little carriages designed for small dogs but apparently they've become quite de rigueur as this is not the first one I've seen.


This nearby McMansion has an unparalleled view of the golf course but with all the scrubland surrounding it I think I'd be wary of snake invasions when the weather heats up.

But back to the trails. I found one asphalt trail that wound through some of the same scrub- and boulder-covered land and I took it only to find some rather steep elevations. I struggled a bit as my days of hiking rugged trails have disappeared along with my sense of balance. At the end (and beginning) of the trail loop I found the very best part of it.


A nice covered bench on which to sit, recover and watch the passing parade.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

IT'S TUESDAY: CHASE THE BLUES-DAY!

Let's see, we moved from Prescott Valley to Phoenix two years ago yesterday.

We moved from Phoenix back to Prescott Valley a little over 14 months ago.

In that time we have never had any electricity to the outlets on our front porch or back patio. We've asked people about it from time to time but yesterday SWMBO got serious.  She asked her daughter.

The BRD (Beautiful Rich Daughter) took some electrical training and worked with an electrician for about two years way back when she lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She quit one day when she was told to dig a ditch to lay cable in. She claims she said something like "Hey! I'm an electrician, I'm not a ditch digger! I quit!"

Knowing the dear, gentle girl as I do I would guess there were some other words included but those details shall be lost in the mists of history.

Anyway, the BRD told SWMBO that local electrical code requires a GFI outlet to be located in the garage for those outdoor outlets.

I swore there wasn't one but SWMBO went in search and found it. Behind a 7 foot tall storage cabinet. So we moved it out to where we could reach the GFI and began pushing buttons.

Behold! The back patio outdoor outlet worked! Then she went to try the front porch outlet. It worked for about a second then went dead. No pushing on the buttons did any good. And the one in the rear also was dead again.

SWMBO called the BRD again. She said the GFI had probably gone bad and would need to be replaced. That, she said, was above our pay grade and we should call an electrician.

We did and this morning Joe the electrician (who bears a resemblance to Billy Joel) came out. We told him about the GFI. He looked at it and said there was a scorch mark on it so that probably was the cause of the problem. But he insisted on checking for other GFI's throughout the house and looking at the circuit breaker box and so on. Finally he decided it must indeed be the GFI and opened it up. He said there was a loose ground wire, which he tightened and, Wunderbar!, everything now works.

During all of this we learned what GFI stands for: Ground Fault Interruptor. Actually he said the full name is GFIC with the C standing for Circuit. Suddenly it all makes sense.

All is well in the Taylor household. The BRD is a genius. Joe is a genius. We are fully powered up.

It just makes me want to kick my heels in the air.



But that's way above my pay grade.

Monday, March 23, 2015

CATTLE CALL

Uh-oh. Invaders on the Savannah.


Savannah. That's what SWMBO named the huge plot of vacant land just to the east of where we live, between us and the town and the mountains. Never mind that this is what most people think of when the term "savannah" comes up.


I must admit that there is a similarity, though the wildlife is a "tad" different.

But getting back to the subject at hand, some cattle fained to intrude on our landscape recently.


Actually that archaic term "fained" is punningly accurate. All of the land on which Prescott Valley now sits was once rangeland owned by the Fain family. They still run cattle in and around the town on undeveloped land.

This one seems to think he's the boss.


I wasn't about to argue the point.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

SPRING IS IN THE AIR

Spring arrived Friday evening and we were celebrating it with a cocktail party on the patio over at the StoneRidge Grill. It began with short sleeve weather. My drink of choice is a Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon.



But it still got chilly once the sun went down. Down toward Phoenix there was what looked like a rain cloud.



We had a little rain earlier in the week and spring blossoms are bursting out all over.



Two different angles at our Redbud tree. The finches love it.


Another tree budding into leaves in the front yard.


A close-up of the trunk reveals a somewhat erotic sign of growth.


Some type of shrubbery is loaded with buds and bright yellow blooms.





While another nearby bush is covered with delicate little lavender blossoms.



Spring has definitely arrived in my part of the world.

(By the way, as always, all pictures can be "embiggened" by clicking on them.)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

MARIO!

Mario Andretti was in town this weekend. I, and a lot of other auto racing fans, went to Sun Valley Tire yesterday morning to get a look at the champ, who was making an appearance for his longtime employer Firestone.



Andretti looked good at age 75 though the thickness of his mid-section might prevent him from climbing into an Indy Car these days. He courteously was posing for photographs and signing autographs for a continuous line of fans who seemed thrilled to meet him.


I was lucky enough to meet Mario back in 1969. I had just gone to work at a radio station in Indianapolis and met Andretti, his team owner at the time Andy Granatelli, and a couple of astronauts at a cocktail reception in a hotel suite a short while before race day. Another news reporter and I got the bright idea to get everyone's autograph on a check blank. I had that check with the four autographs for some time before it disappeared. (SWMBO said when I reminded her of the story yesterday, "Oh! I was just thinking of Antiques Roadshow!)

It might have been a collectors' item because Andretti won the Indy 500 that year. Granatelli planted a kiss on his driver's cheek in the winners' circle.


Neither Mario nor any of the many members of his racing family have ever won the Indy 500 since that day and rumors say it is because of this kiss, now known informally as the Andretti Curse.


As Mario was being interviewed by Prescott Daily Courier reporter Doug Cook yesterday, I caught a glimpse of Andretti's socks.


After the interview, I got his attention saying "Nice socks, Mario!"

He grinned and then he laughed as I pulled up my pants leg to show him MY colorful Funky Socks. 

Mario Andretti - nice guy.

You can read my friend Cook's article here.

Friday, March 20, 2015

THE FRIDAY FUNNIES

I just had a couple of words with Mario Andretti. But that's a story for another day. Tomorrow maybe.

Today is Friday. (Isn't it? I've been a little confused this week. Yeah, it's Friday.)

So let's get on with the hilarity that makes this day one you all wait for, week after week, year after year. 

Oh, by the way, did you hear Microsoft is finally dumping Internet Explorer for a new browsing system?


Thanks, Mr. Gates.












O.K. folks, that's all. (Who said thankfully??!!!)

Thanks to all my contributors (you know who you are), have a great weekend, and keep laughing! You'll live longer.