What an eclectic day we had yesterday! (Friday)
First, Elizabeth took me to a wonderful Mexican market on the west side of Phoenix. The “Los Altos Rancho Mercado” was everything its title promised. And more. It was like being in Mexico. Quite an international experience.
Of course, we sampled some things and also ordered a custom-made cake for a double birthday party we will be having this coming week as my eldest daughter, her husband and my four grandchildren will be coming to visit us from Vienna, Austria.
Second, we then drove all the way up to Cave Creek to look for something quite innocuous – a particular lamp shade Elizabeth wanted. Instead, we landed smack in the middle of a huge motorcycle crowd. It was the annual Bike Week in Cave Creek.
There were thousands of bikes and probably several thousand bikers who clogged up the main drag of this western town that still looks like it is just leaving the 19th century.
Third, in the evening, we attended the Arizona Opera performance of Rossini’s “Cinderella” at the Phoenix Symphony Hall. And what a zoo it was! The traffic, congestion and the crowds were WORSE than last weekend during the Final Four tournament in Phoenix.
As it turns out, the city morons once again overbooked overlapping events. Last night, the AZ Diamondbacks were swinging in Major League Baseball. The Phoenix Suns were saying goodbye to their NBA season. And there was also some kind of a dance event at the Herberger Theater. All at basically the same time and withing a few hundred yards of year other. Insanity!
It took us forever to get there and park. We just made it as the opera was opening. And it took us also forever to leave even though it was nearly 11 PM.
As for the opera, Rossini’s “Cinderella” opened exactly 200 years ago (in 1817).
Stand by for more for an interesting story on the history of this opera, and Rossini’s relationship with Beethoven.
Great Art vs. Popular Music
ROSSINI AND BEETHOVEN: HOW GREAT GERMAN MUSIC MASTER KILLED ROSSINI’S ZEAL TO COMPOSE
“Since hearing Beethoven’s Third Symphony, Eroica, Rossini had been moved to meet Beethoven and had tried several times through a few people to meet the composer. It seems most likely that Antonio Salieri was the culprit (so to speak 😉 of setting up the meeting, since he had played violin at the 1813 premiere of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, and was a friend and former teacher of Beethoven.”
The most popular composer in Beethoven’s final years, even in Vienna where he lived, was not Beethoven himself but Gioachino Rossini, whose light-as-a-feather smash-hit comic operas, such as The Barber of Seville (1816) – all laughs, saucy farce and hummable tunes – were arguably closer to the general public’s idea of an ‘Ode to Joy’.
When Rossini arrived at Beethoven’s tiny flat in Vienna, he traveled with his complete entourage of hanger-oner (like the groupies in today’s rock bands), servants and admirers. Rossini clambered up the rickety stairs to Beethoven’s tiny flat. Her was stunned at the poverty and squalor in which the greatest living composer at the time was living.
Moved by compassion, he offered to help Beethoven financially. And paid a compliment to Rossini that wounded the Italian composer to the core. Here’s an excerpt about that conversation:
“38-year-old Rossini succeeded in meeting Ludwig van Beethoven, who was then aged 51, deaf, cantankerous and in failing health. Communicating in writing, Beethoven noted: “Ah, Rossini. So you’re the composer of The Barber of Seville. I congratulate you. I love your operatic comedies. Your music will be played as long as Italian opera exists. Never try to write anything else but your operatic comedies. Serious music would do violence to your soul.”
Great Art vs. Popular Music
it was probably easier for Rossini to gain a larger following, because his Barber of Seville and other light comic operas were easily digestible, easy on the ears kinds of works. The public could “get” them in one setting, hum them on the way home, and then easily forget them as they went upon their daily lives – much like pop music “ditties,” as Irving Berlin and Cole Porter called them a century later.
When Rossini reached the age of 38, he had already written 38 operas. He was a big star akin to the most popular rock musicians today. Yet he suddenly quit composing. It is unclear whether or not Beethoven’s remark played a part in this decision. But it is a fact Rossini lived out the rest of his life without writing a single operatic score.
So maybe Great Art won over commercial successes of Popular Music in the end.
Four new citrus trees planted
For over seven years, “El Jeepo” has been my work horse at our Rainbow Shower ranch in Maui. Last September, I had him shipped to Arizona for a well-earned retirement. Since that time, I have only used him for occasional joy rides through the desert. Until yesterday.
A part of my backyard looked pretty bare for someone who has been used to taking care of a 7-acre jungle property spread around a Hawaiian gulch. So I decided to add some more greenery to it. I mounted El Jeepo, and we went to a local store to get four new citrus tree saplings – two kinds of oranges, one lime and one lemon.
Now here’s a difference between El Jeepo’s and my work in Hawaii vs. here in Arizona. I hired someone to plant the saplings. I Maui, I would have done the whole thing myself. Over the years, I had planted literally hundreds of trees of various kinds and sizes. But now that El Jeepo and I are officially in retirement from farming, I decided to be like Martha Stewart and point instead of digging myself. 🙂
Donald Trump would be pleased. One more American job saved. Or created, if you wish. 🙂
UPDATE MAR 28, 2017
A SPECTACULAR OCOTILLO IN FULL BLOOM
Two Majestic Arizona Desert Dwellers
But don’t be fooled by these benign looking green branches. Like so many desert plants, they are actually full of vicious thorns. Let’s just say you would not want to pick one up with your bare hands.
By the way, Ocotillos have been used for centuries by the natives in the American Southwest for a variety of medicinal and non-medicinal purposes.
The photo on the right is that of another magnificent specimen of the Arizona desert – the world famous Saguaro. My caption for this sunset shot would be ARIZONA CHURCH. 🙂
UPDATE APR 1, 2017
OUR MOVE FROM HAWAII IS NOW COMPLETE
On Thursday March 30 at 9 PM (yes, PM, no mistake there), a trucker delivered our Nissan Leaf after a long trans-oceanic journey from Hawaii. And today, I took it to a car wash to give it a fresh gleaming start at its new desert home.
The shipment of some our Rainbow Shower house contents also arrived the next day (March 31). We had sold most of our possessions in Maui and have kept only some personal effects, artifacts and some antiques. Still the movers managed to break a few valuable pieces.
Like a 200-or-so-year old antique chair, or Elizabeth’s late Mom’s Don Quixote sculpture, or this Czech crystal bowl.
Oh well, that’s life, I suppose. You lose some, you create some. And you move on…
UPDATE APR 3, 2017
EAGLE’S NEST ART GALLERY – REINSTATED
I made a feeble attempt this weekend at hanging some tapestries and other artifacts that arrived last week here from our Rainbow Shower home in Maui. After I had made a mess of just one of them in our dining room drywall – the easiest and the smallest of our tapestries – handyman I am not! 🙂 – I summoned a real handyman to complete the job today. In fact, you can still see his ladder and tools in some of the pictures.
And what a job he did. Perfection all around. And what a job he did. Perfection all around. It took him 3 hours of laser-precision measurements (literally, he used a laser). And it was worth it.
Take a look at the newly reassembled Eagle’s Nest Art Gallery… (some of these tapestries had already hung on these very walls in the past – before our move to Maui in 2009).
We moved out of the Rainbow Shower on Wed March 1. For the last week on Maui, we moved into our new home away from home, a condo in the Kihei/Wailea area. Here are some shots of both…
First, my morning walk from our condo to the beach…
Our “final walkthrough” of the Rainbow shower taken midday…
And our late afternoon back at our Kamaole Sands beach.
UPDATE MAR 4, 2017
OUR FAREWELL TO MAUI – Part 4
OUR FAREWELL TO MAUI – Part 5
And in the evening, we went to a lovely dinner party by our friend Rada Kovilic who has a condo in the same resort where we are now staying – Kamaole Sands. Her balcony provided a perfect vantage point for another beautiful Maui sunset.
OUR FAREWELL TO MAUI – Part 6
OUR FAREWELL TO MAUI – Part 7
Elizabeth and I have gone sailing and whale watching many times before, but never, ever have we seen to many full breaches by these 20-ton (40,000-pound) giants as on Saturday afternoon. It felt as they the whales were waving their watery goodbyes to us.
Just to give you an idea of how bit the Humpback whales are, some of these guys you are seeing in the above pictures are as long as 7 African elephants standing next to each other.
OUR FAREWELL TO MAUI – Part 8
UPDATE MAR 8, 2017
OUR FINAL MAUI BEACH SHOT
UPDATE FEB 26, 2017
ALL HOME REPAIRS COMPLETED AT 894 E KUIAHA RD
Here’s an email invoice I received from my contractors for the home repairs completed at 894 E Kuiaha Rd – per our Feb 21, 2017 J-1 General Inspection of Property Notice. You can also see a separate invoice from the plumber who replaced the old water pressure regulator with a new one.
You should note that the Items 5. and 10. in the above contractor’s invoice (left) were NOT required per our Feb 21, 2017 agreement. I did these repairs voluntarily as a favor to Greg and Sophia even though their home inspector had evidently missed these problems. I have also repaired an additional spot on the deck close to the spa that inspector had also missed (see the photos below).
PHOTOS OF COMPLETED REPAIRS (in order of appearance in the Feb 21, 2017 J-1 General Inspection of Property Notice).
- New Master Bedroom sliding screen door installed (Home Depot box and spare frame stored in shed). Screen door lock also replaced.
- Garage door repaired inside and out
- Missing or damaged rooftop shingles replaced, 15 leftover new shingles left in garage for new owners
- Gutters and downspout cleaned and flushed, leaky joints repaired
- Minor dry rot on the deck repaired, additional areas touched up and painted
- Exterior GFCI switch under kitchen window replaced
- Masking tape removed from one of the wall switches in the office (“right bedroom” per the report).
EXPLANATION: There is nothing wrong with this switch. I put this tape on many years ago because the switch turns on and off the wall outlets to which our computers are plugged it. I was tired of turning them off accidentally when I came into this room at night and then having to reboot them. I had completely forgotten about it until I saw the inspector’s report.
- Water pressure regulator replaced, pressure turned down to 50-60 PSI
- Kitchen and vanity sinks “voids” sealed with foam spray
- Bottom portions of the master bedroom door pressboard casings replaced and repainted on both sides
ADDITIONAL REPAIRS DONE WHICH WERE NOT PART OF J-1 General Inspection of Property Notice
- Chipped wall in garage wall filled in with plaster and repainted (this was something we inherited the original owners)
- Two interior electrical switches replaced in the family room (below left)
- Minor dry rot spot repaired at the end of the deck next to the spa (above right)
PERSONAL NOTE TO BUYERS
Dear Greg and Sophia,
Hope enjoy your new home! I am turning over the care-taking duties of the Rainbow Shower to you with love and blessings.
May the Santa Tierras (land spirits, the fairies) be as kind and helpful to you in this enviable job as they were to me. It has been my honor and privilege to serve them and work with them for the past 8 years.
* * *
Federation Cup – USA vs. Germany – Day 1 – Feb 11, 2017
“I thought it was the epitome of ignorance, and I’ve never felt more disrespected in my whole life, let alone in Fed Cup and I’ve played Fed Cup for 13 years now… it is the worst thing that has ever happened to me,” said Andrea Petkovic, who plays for Germany.
When I signed up to work as a volunteer during the Federation Cup match between USA and Germany in Maui this weekend, I had no idea I would be witnessing an inadvertent resurrection of history. And a historic blunder.
The tournament organizers mistakenly played the Nazi WW II stanza during the opening ceremonies instead of the current German national anthem.
Technically, I was not an eyewitness. I was actually in the tournament office picking up my credentials (badge) during the opening ceremonies when I heard a ruckus from the stadium. After the first match and my duty was over, this is what read in Maui News about the incident.
“In match (rubber) No. 1 Alison RISKE (USA) met Andrea PETKOVIC (GER) at the Royal Lahaina Resort’s center court.
Unfortunately, during the opening ceremonies, a defunct stanza of Germany’s national anthem was played, which did not set a great atmosphere for the German contingent, or Petkovic. The stanza is reflective of a former (Nazi) regime during WWII.
“I thought it was the epitome of ignorance, and I’ve never felt more disrespected in my whole life, let alone in Fed Cup and I’ve played Fed Cup for 13 years now… it is the worst thing that has ever happened to me,” she said.
Nevertheless, German fans with drums, bells and vuvuzela chanted “Petko, Petko” in support of Petkovic.”
It was actually a minor miracle that the first rubber of this Federation Cup was played and completed. USA won 7-6, 6-2 with two rain delays adding to a nearly 3-hour match. The forecast today was for 100% chance of rain in Kaanapali on West Maui where the tournament is being played. Another powerful southwestern surge is bringing strong winds and occasional heavy rain this weekend.
You can see on the top radar map the threat of rain 2 hours or so before the start of the match, and on the bottom one what it looked like an hour after it was over. A deluge! Back home at the Rainbow Shower, where that photo was taken in the middle of the passing storm, I even heard thunder. Which is extremely rare in Hawaii.
Anyway, I did not wait to find out what happened with the second match. I left right after the first rain delay in the first set. I knew what was coming. So I figured it makes no sense to get drenched for nothing.
Till then… ALOHA!
* * *
Federation Cup – USA vs Germany – Day 2 – Feb 12, 2017
CoCo Vandeweghe Seals Victory for USA in Comeback after Losing First Set
What a difference a day makes. Yesterday’s southwestern storm has now passed into the northeastern oblivion and bright sunshine illuminated the center court at the Royal Lahaina Tennis Center where this weekend’s match between USA and Germany is being held. At 80F, it felt actually hot in the sun.
The eventual winner of today’s first match – CoCo Vandeweghe – can attest to that. After losing the first set to Andrea Petkovic of Germany, CoCo took a medical time out in the second set to recover from heat exhaustion. When she came back, she staged a heroic comeback that put the U.S. into the semifinals of the Federation Cup for the first time since 2010.
Here are some pictures from today’s event.
I took the rainbow shot at home this morning before heading out to the tournament venue. That’s how my day started today – with a heavenly smile spread across the western sky.
* * *
Sports as a healing aid and character builder
SPORTS AND ME
HOW TENNIS HEALED ME: HELPED ME OVERCOME GRIEF, BREAK OUT OF PROTECTIVE CORPORATE SHELL
I am sure that it may come as a surprise to some of my FB friends to see me involved in organized sports, like the Federation Cup this weekend. Because you know me as a writer, musician, shaman, filmmaker, war correspondent, business analyst, etc. And since I have said publicly that I despise organized gladiator sports like football, baseball etc., you might get the impression that I am against sports in general.
Nothing can be further from the truth. In my lifetime, I have actually played, at one time or another, just about every sport known to man – summer or winter. But never for money.
So let me fill in some blanks for you on the topic of Sports and Me.
CHUBBY AND UNCOORDINATED
In my youth, and by that I mean during my preteen years, I used to be quite chubby and uncoordinated. Stank at gymnastics. And hated it, too.
My main extracurricular activities were music (piano) and soccer. I was pretty good at the former, not so much at the latter. But when I got a REAL football from my elder cousin when I was 10, that made me instantly the most popular guy on my street.
Back then, in the post WW II years, we used to play soccer with “krpenjača” (rag ball) footballs. It was a ball made out of rags tied together with a string. Kind or like a roll of yarn. So having a REAL leather football that can actually bounce (!) was an utter delight for kids in a neighborhood like mine.
SOCCER, BASKETBALL, DIVING AND SWIMMING
By the time I was in junior high, I started a tryout for a local youth soccer team. Once again, I was not very good at it. But I loved the sport. So the coach tolerated me.
Then one day an “older” man (who was actually in his mid 20s 🙂 – but that was “old” to me) approached me on the beach and said, “how would you like to try out for basketball?”
Basketball? I had never thought of it. By that stage, I was a freshman in high school and was beginning to realize that the most popular guys with the girls were not the pianists but the star athletes. So I set out to become one.
Lo and behold, by my senior year in high school, I was the captain of the varsity team. I even played basketball in college during my freshman year before a shoulder injury put me out of commission. Much to the dismay and shock of my teammates, I decided that academics was more important than sports and dropped out of basketball.
During my high school years, I also skied and skated in winter, and swam and did some high cliff diving in the summer.
TENNIS: LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
It was not until 1970, two years after I had graduated from the university, that I picked a tennis racquet for the first time. It was a love at first sight. That’s how I also met my first wife – on a tennis court.
When she was gone (brain tumor, age 25), I would work 8 to 5 or 6 in a downtown corporate office (IBM), and then spend the rest of each evening on the court. And all weekends.
The reason I look like an emaciated stick insect in this picture is that I had been existing basically on one tuna can per day, trying to save money for our first apartment.
HOW TENNIS HELPED ME OVERCOME GRIEF
For a number of years that was my life basically – work and tennis. There was nothing else. My first wife had died after only 6 months of marriage. And I was not interested in dating or anything else besides tennis. So tennis became my tranquilizer. It helped me deal with grief and heal eventually.
For most of the rest of my life, my love affair with tennis continued. Maybe not as intensely as in the early years. But I continued playing it for 35 years. I finally hung up my racquets in 1995 because of recurring back injuries. I have played maybe once or twice since then, only with my nephew, the son of that cousin who gave me my first football when I was 10. But I have not played tournaments or been on tennis teams since 1995.
Still every chance I got, I would watch at least the majors – the Australian, French and US Open, and, of course, the Wimbledon, the granddaddy of all tennis events.
HOW TENNIS HELPED ME BREAK OUT OF PROTECTIVE CORPORATE SHELL
It was in May 1978 that Rothman’s, then the title sponsor of the Canadian Open, organized an exhibition match in downtown Toronto to promote the upcoming tournament. They had set up a makeshift tennis court in between the Royal Trust and the Toronto Dominion skyscrapers.
It was an ideal place for a promotional event. At lunchtime, that area teems with people – office workers trying to catch some sun rays.
Well, I was one of them back then, working for IBM, but longing to spread my wings and fly solo. But I had a 2-year old at home, and another on on the way. I also had a mortgage and only about $3,000 in savings. So I was scared to break out of the warmth of the IBM protective corporate shell.
When I took my lunch break on that warm and sunny May day, I never expected to see a tennis court in the middle of the downtown business district. But when I heard the announcer calling for volunteers to play in an exhibition doubles match against the two tennis stars who were on hand, I jumped at the chance.
Back then, it was so UNLIKE me to do something like that – act spontaneously and take risks. Which in this case meant taking my jacket off, tucking my tie into my shirt, before I picking up the racquet and stepping on the “court” wearing my business shoes.
I do not remember anymore who the two tennis stars were that I and another volunteer played during that lunch hour. All I know is that they were famous, like Jimmy Connors or John McEnroe at the time. Which is why the match attracted a big crowd. I had never played before any crowd of any size before. Especially not in the business attire. But that warm May day in 1978, that’s exactly what I did.
Want to know how I felt? I felt stark naked. Protective shell built up over years of inhibitions – shattered! In an instant.
I was so nervous and excited that I thought my heart would jump right out when my turn came to serve for the first time. But it was not hear; it was exhilaration that made me feel that way.
A few days later I quit IBM to start my own business. “Damn the torpedoes… full speed ahead”(famous order issued by Admiral David Farragut during the Battle of Mobile Bay, 1864).
FEDERATION CUP FELT LIKE HOMECOMING
So that’s why I felt so much at home today at the Federation Cup matches in Monday. I was reminiscing about the years in the mid-1970s when I would plan my annual vacations around major tennis tournaments.
And then, as I was trying to find some photos for this story, I realized something pretty amazing: I do not have a single picture of me playing tennis, the sport I had been practicing almost daily for 35 years!
Guess that’s okay. It means playing was more important than posing.
* * *
A whale of a day! Or at least the start of it…
RUN/WALK FOR WHALES
Just got back from a fundraising event – Run/Walk for Whales – at Maalaea Harbor. The start of the race, or walk – one’s choice – was at predawn. Yet probably more than a thousand people were already at the starting line.
I am not a morning person. So the hardest part for me was getting up before dawn and then driving half an hour to Maalaea. But it was worth it. Not just to help the whales. It was magnificent watching the sun break through the mist and rise over the Haleakala volcano during the event. I could not take my eyes off it.
No wonder the ancient Hawaiians named this volcano Home of the Sun (that’s what Haleakala means in Hawaiian).
Here are just some shots for now to whet your appetite.
I got to the START line at 7:20. Which is when my race/walk category was supposed to start. But most of the runners and walkers had already left. It was cold by Maui standards in the predawn hour. Only 58F. So I supposed people were anxious to get going.
But the cold did not discourage the youngest runners with whom I also started this race/walk – as a “caboose” in the adult category. 🙂
But it did not take me long to catch up. Stopping to take these pictures set me back again. And so it went, back and forth.
SCENES FROM THE COURSE
What was really neat about this event was seeing the people of all different ages and sizes hoofing around the course to help the whales. At the same time, they were helping themselves.
In the end, everybody got on the same page – back where we started.
Sun rising over its home
Notice the green orb hovering under my right hand?
SPLASH IN THE OCEAN
The organizers offered the participants a free breakfast. I did not bother checking to see what it was. The crowd was just too big for me. Instead, I jumped in my car and drove to the nearest beach for a splash in the ocean.
It was another first for me. I don’t think I ever got to the beach and into the ocean so early in the morning. But the place was bustling with activities – fishing, big (Hawaiian) canoe paddling, sailing … an entirely different lifestyle from ours at the Rainbow Shower in Haiku.
I also came home with this T-shirt which all participants in this event received from the Pacific Whale Foundation as a memento.
Also, while on the beach, I saw a bunch of shells discarded near the wooden guardrail. It reminded me of the many times Elizabeth had been hunting for shells in Hawaii, mostly unsuccessfully. So I took a picture of it for her.
UPDATE FEB 5, 2017
RETURN TO MAALAEA: A YIN-YANG EXPERIENCE
After finished some errands in town this afternoon, I was guided to go back to Maalaea, where yesterday we held the Maui Run/Walk for Whales fundraiser in the predawn hours. Perhaps it was the strong winds we’ve been experiencing today.
Normally, we get trade winds from the northeast. Today, however, we are experiencing strong “anti-trade” winds from the southwest.
In any event, Maalaea is on the west side of Maui, opposite from the north shore ocean scenery I normally share with you. Which means that today, these strong winds would be coming off there straight off the ocean with nothing in between.
So while millions in America were watching a gladiator sport event, this is what I kept my eyes peeled on.
I think that maybe that’s what I wanted to feel – the ocean spray hitting my face by these almost gale-force winds. And I got that. But what I did no bargain for are some beautiful ocean beach scenes.
It was the same beach on which I took a splash yesterday morning after the Whale event. It was a calm, serene, almost dreamy scene with the mist rising from the ocean. A true YIN.
Today, the ocean was wild and woolly. And the strong wind made it feel like a real YANG experience, especially in parts where it was blowing the sand across the road like like gales off the Sahara dunes.
Here are some pictures so you can judge it for yourself.