NEW YORK, PRINCETON… BUT MOSTLY “AIDA”

The main reason for this short trip is the performance of AIDA at the Metropolitan Opera. This is something I had been planning long before we left Maui. And now it is coming to fruition. We are finally going to see the “grandest of the grand operas” performed by one of the world’s top opera companies.

GREETINGS FROM NEW YORK!

Apr 18, 2017

Elizabeth and I arrived this evening at sunset at JFK after traveling all day from Arizona, with an 1.5 hr delay in Charlotte, North Carolina.

But all is well. And we finally got to wear some of our winter clothes. 🙂 Temperatures are in the 40s at night.

The main reason for this short trip is the performance of AIDA at the Metropolitan Opera. This is something I had been planning long before we left Maui. And now it is coming to fruition. We are finally going to see the “grandest of the grand operas” performed by one of the world’s top opera companies.

Meanwhile, we checked ourselves into a cute 1-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side. The neighborhood is full of great restaurants and shops. And is within a walking distance from the opera venue at Lincoln Center.

Bye for now…

 * * *

Apr 19, 2017

MANHATTAN ON FOOT

Our today’s walk through Midtown gave a new meaning to the expression “shop till you drop”

I told Elizabeth yesterday that on this trip, I have no agenda or plans for Manhattan except for us seeing AIDA at the Met tomorrow night.

“So what would you like to do tomorrow?” (meaning today)

“Shop.”

I smiled. Women. Or more specifically – this woman. She loves to shop. Not that she has not done it a number of times before in Manhattan. But like good sex, it’s always new when you do it right.

So this morning, off we went on our walking tour of Midtown Manhattan. Five hours later, our legs were ready to fall off. And I understood firsthand the meaning of the saying “shop till you drop.”

Elizabeth was grateful though. She thanked me several times for being patient and rushing her. She saw I could have taken a nap while she was shopping at her favorite store – Bloomingdale’s, for example (see the photo).

And I also had my reward – a delicious crepe, my favorite dessert, which I could not resists buying from a food truck in Central Park. 🙂

PS: PALO PRIEDA (photo – above)

Palo Prieda – stone tree in Spanish – like a tree Elizabeth and I discovered in McDowell Mtns 8 years ago, grew out of a stone.

Exhausted, we had a big nap once we got back to our apartment.

“Jet lag,” Elizabeth commented.

“Shop lag,” I thought. 🙂

Here are some scenes from Grand Central Station and Times Square…

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On our way back to our Upper West Side apartment, we also stopped by the Lincoln Center where tomorrow we are going to attend the performance of AIDA.

 * * *

WE TOOK A TURN OFF 7TH AVENUE AND ENDED UP IN IMPERIAL RUSSIA

It’s funny how strange things that happen when you let your Spirit guide you seem at first, yet end up perfectly normal in hindsight. What happened tonight in New York was another case in point. It was an unexpected time and space travel back to Imperial Russia.

Elizabeth has had her taste buds set for a pastrami sandwich dinner at Carnegie Deli since before we left Phoenix. Tonight was the night we decided to do it so we are not rushed before our opera attendance tomorrow.

We had been to Carnegie Deli a number of times before so should have had no trouble finding it. It was right across the street on 7th Ave from Carnegie Hall, New York’s premiere concert venue.

But not tonight. We could not find it.

“Maybe it’s gone out of business,” I speculated. “Though that’s unlikely for such a landmark establishment as Carnegie Deli,” I added.

We turned back, and this time, we started to pay attention to every nook and cranny on 7th Ave. Lo and behold, where once was the famous Carnegie Deli, now remained a hole in the wall, boarded up with a tiny notice pasted on the window from the owner. Indeed, the place had closed after 80 years in business.

“What do we do now?” Elizabeth said.

“We’ll figure something out,” I replied. And at that moment, like a flash, an inspiration came to me: The Russian Tea Room.

“It’s just around the corner,” I explained to Elizabeth. “But don’t get your hopes up. That’s a famous restaurant and we don’t have a reservation.”

As it turned out, our Spirit guides had already made a reservation for us. We were taken directly to a private booth.

What followed was a delicious dinner consisting of Borsht (beet) soup which we shared, followed by Chicken Kiev for Elizabeth, and for me Kulebiaka (breaded salmon with slow cooked onions, mushrooms and vegetables, wrapped in pastry, baby bok choy, baby corn, kohlrabi and turnips with a light ginger miso glaze. Yum!

I then told Elizabeth the story about the White Russian emigres whom the Bolshevik Revolution had scattered around the world like mice. And wherever they landed, they brought their memories and pieces of Imperial Russia with them. One of them was the Russian Team Room.

The Russian Tea Room opened in 1927 by former members of the Russian Imperial Ballet. It became a gathering place for Russian expatriates. It gradually became famous as a gathering place for stars in the entertainment industry. Which is why it has always been a popular, though expensive dining choice.

And that’s how we ended up time traveling to Imperial Russia after turning off 7th Ave at Carnegie Hall.

PS: So now I know why I chose to wear a red shirt today. 🙂 I was not aware how this day would end when I put it on this morning.

 * * *

Apr 20, 2017

A WALK THROUGH CENTRAL PARK

Spurning the Met Museum Zoo

Two days ago, the weather forecast was calling for a 90% chance of rain in New York. So I “got on the horn” with my spirit guides and asked them if they would at least spare us the rain in the evening, when we are supposed to attend the AIDA at the Metropolitan Opera. (We are planning to walk there from our apartment).

Well, they did more than that. There was no rain at all in Manhattan today. In fact, sun was trying to break through the clouds for the first time since we got here. So Elizabeth and I went out for another walk through and around Central Park.

We also thought tentatively we might stop for a visit at the Metropolitan Museum. But the throngs of people that were there, both outside and inside, made it look more like a human zoo.

“We don’t need that kind of hassle, especially on a nice day,” I said and Elizabeth agreed.

We did stay long enough to witness the hypocrisy of this institution. The signs at the ticket booths read, “SUGGESTED donation $25.” But when we tried to use a restroom, two guards stopped us.

“Your ticket, please,” one of them said.

“I don’t have one,” I replied, adding pointing to the ticket booth: “It says there SUGGESTED donation, not a mandatory ticket purchase.”

“I know,” the guard said sheepishly. “But you need to have a ticket to get through here.”

Even to the restroom.

Money, money, money… and shysterism and duplicity – thy name is New York.

Did I mention that our new president is a New Yorker? 🙂

We had been to the Museum before so giving it a miss this time was no great loss. We walked back out to the park and had an enjoyable time watching kids’ baseball and toddlers’ games next to many mothers’ stroller conventions around the park.

Oh, did I also mention that our apartment is on the same block where John Lennon used to live and was killed in 1981? Even today people are gathering there as if it were a memorial.

“AIDA” AT THE MET: A SPECTACULAR PERFORMANCE

There’s one word that sums up the performance of Verdi’s AIDA at the Metropolitan Opera in New York: SPECTACULAR.

That’s what Elizabeth also said after our 4-hour opera experience at the Lincoln Center. She now places the AIDA at the Met at the No. 1 spot among the operas we have seen around the world. “Madam Butterfly” at the Sydney Opera House (2015) comes second. “Valkyrie” by the Hawaii Opera Theater (2010) is in third place on her list of favorite opera experiences.

Here are some photos from last night’s performance. The best part – we ended up seated next to each other after all, despite buying two separate tickets three months apart.

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To put this in a proper context, here’s a story behind our story of AIDA at the Met.

“SYNCHRONICITY ON STEROIDS”

“This is synchronicity on steroids,” commented a shaman-friend of mine from Sedona upon hearing about what had preceded our trip to New York. And this is what happened…

“I bought my AZ ticket back in December when I had no idea about this deal from last night. But I have been praying every day since then for my spirit guides to release me from physical bondage to this land, and to have the property sold before my return on Mar 8. And lo and behold.,,,

In fact, my March trip was part of another “big deal” to see “Aida” opera in New York at the Met after Anne [my daughter who lives in Vienna] and her family leave AZ in April (I had never seen Aida live before). So I booked the flights Maui-Phoenix-New York-Phoenix. I never bought the portion from Phoenix to Maui, though, thereby subconsciously manifesting my intention to be finished with Maui by then.

Fast forward about a week later. I was able to get a seat for Elizabeth on the same flight back from Maui to Phoenix, and even right next to me.

Furthermore, I was able to get her on the same flights from Phoenix to New York in April (Apr 18-22) to see the opera AIDA. And again, right next to me. Alas, I only had one ticket for the Met Opera on Apr 20. So I put mine up for sale on eBay. After 3 weeks, it had still not sold.

So I changed my tack. I went back to the Met Opera website to see if I can get a single ticket for her. Lo and behold, I did. It was the last one available. And here’s the best part: It was also on Balcony an even the same row as mine which I bought back it December. Plus it was at about half price since I bought it directly from the Opera rather than a ticket agent.”

EPILOGUE

And now, the final touch of our Spirit guides… we ended up actually sitting next to each other at last night’s performance. That was our bit of MAGIC to go with a magical opera by Verdi at the Met.

Oh yes, one more thing… the weather stayed dry throughout our stay in New York despite a forecast for 90% chance of rain before we got here.

Thank you, God!

“AIDA” AT THE MET: UPDATE

Here are a few more shots from our attendance at last night’s performance of AIDA by the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Each of us walked away with a Met souvenir: Elizabeth – with a pretty inscribed bag, me – a musically adorned watch.

 * * *

Apr 21, 2017

VISIT TO PRINCETON: LAST STAGE OF OUR TRIP

On our last day on this trip we decided to rent a car in Manhattan and drive to Princeton University in New Jersey. We had been to Princeton once before (in 2008) on our first long distance “honeymoon” trip to New York.

We had a great time then, and we had a great time in Princeton today. We ended our visit to this Ivy League school with a delicious dinner at a creperie on Nassau St. (photo).

Getting out of Manhattan, however, was a different story. Between massive construction-related street blockages, and a resulting lack of signs, it took us forever to negotiate our way to the Lincoln Tunnel. The net result was a massive headache Elizabeth developed as a result of the stress.

Don’t worry, there is nothing that a Starbucks green tea frappuccino and a drive through the green countryside around Princeton would not cure. By the time we started walking through the campus, all was well with Elizabeth’s head and mood.

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NO INDIANS AMONG PRINCETON FRESHMEN!

While waiting for Elizabeth in one of the university buildings (School of Foreign Studies), I noticed an interesting poster on the wall. It was sort of “who’s who” among the Princeton freshmen from Asia (photo).

“What’s missing on this map?” I asked Elizabeth when she rejoined me.

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She could not figure it out.

“India,” I said. “There are no students here from India!”

Yet India is now virtually tied with China as the world’s most populous country (1.31 billion vs. 1.38 billion people).

Why are there no Indian freshmen at Princeton’s School of Foreign Studies?

I have no idea. So I asked a couple of students – one white blonde and one Asian with blonde hair.

They had no idea, either. In fact, they had not even noticed this anomaly.

“Well, that’s what happens when a Truth in Media editor arrives on a liberal university campus,” I told Elizabeth on our way out. “While most people notice what’s there, he notices the things that are missing.” 🙂

Some call it “reading between the lines.” I say that’s experience of decoding the New World Order’s lamestream media lies and deceptions for 27 years. This was merely another case in point.

Anyway, we are back at our Newark hotel and ready to fly back home to Phoenix tomorrow.

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 * * *

Apr 22, 2017

A feel-good human interest story

COMPASSION AND GRATITUDE ON AA FLIGHT 550

The American people still have goodness in their hearts, notwithstanding our evil governments

We are back home now. Our 5-day trip to New York was a “red carpet” sojourn all the way. With a few stains here and there we picked up in Manhattan (stand by for an editorial on that).

Elizabeth and I both agreed that the apex of the trip was actually its main purpose – our evening at the Metropolitan Opera to see AIDA.

The second best, again we both agreed, was our spur-of-the-moment dinner at the Russian Tea Room.

The third, at least for me, was our last crepe dinner at a Princeton University creperie. Also spontaneous and unplanned.

Late Start from Newark

But our spirit guides saved perhaps the best human interest story for our return trip. Even before we got to the airport in Newark, NJ, we had been advised by AA that our flight to Dallas would be delayed by about 30 mins.

Later, we found out that the reason was a delay in incoming flight’s departure from New York via Charlotte, NC, due to congestion at the JFK airport. Or soma other JFK hassle. The same thing happened on our incoming flight to JFK from Charlotte.

So it looks like a chronic New York problem. And JFK is an airport to avoid in your travel plans, if at all possible.

As it turned out, our departure from Newark was actually 1.5 hours late. Which was the length of our layover in Dallas. So it looked as if we were likely to miss our Phoenix connection there.

But airlines pad their estimated flight times. So by the time we landed in Dallas, we still had 45 mins to make it to our Phoenix flight gate. So no sweat, no problem.

Hassles at Dallas Airport

Alas, we were not as lucky as we thought. The flight 550 to Phoenix was fully boarded with about 5 mins to spare before scheduled departure time. The captain had announced that they were about to close the doors and get ready to depart.

That’s when two Dallas cops entered the cabin. We overheard one of them say to his buddy, “we don’t even know if he (or she or they) is the first class or the economy.”

The proceeded to about the middle of the main cabin, followed by several members of the AA crew. After awhile, they walked back out with a young woman in between. She looked well dressed and groomed.

“She sure doesn’t look like a typical criminal, does she?” I told Elizabeth. She agreed.

“Maybe it’s a white collar crime,” I speculated. “Or they wanted her as a witness in a drug bust.”

I found it strange that Dallas cops would be allowed to enter and either arrest or interrogate a passenger. “Aren’t the airports supposed to be under federal jurisdiction?” I said to Elizabeth.

No answer. She just shrugged.

More waiting.

After about 10 minutes, the young woman walked back to her seat. Alone.

After some action in the front cabin, I saw a member of the maintenance crew depart the cockpit.

“Uh-uh,” I said to Elizabeth. “That’s never a good sign.”

After a few minutes, the captain came back on the horn.

“Sorry about all this. We now have new problem. Our cockpit door won’t lock. So we have now asked for maintenance to fix it. Hopefully it won’t take long.”

To cut the long story short, we departed Dallas about 1 hour later than scheduled.

Tight Phoenix Connections Lead to Magnificent Display of Compassion and Gratitude

This, of course, was bad news for all passengers who had tight connections in Phoenix. So the cabin crew chief came on the blower twice to announce that there were a lot of people on board in this predicament. And she asked the rest of the passengers, whose final destination was Phoenix, or who had connections after 8:30 PM, to remain seated upon landing to give others a chance to deplane and try to make their connecting flights.

Lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened.

When the plane landed and arrived at the gate in Phoenix, it took, what must have seemed like an eternity for waiting passengers with tight connection. for the ground crew to connect the jetway.

“Everybody is cooperating except for the airline,” one of the passengers remarked.

When the doors finally opened, most people, even in first class, remained seated, to let a flood of some 60-80 people rush through the aisle. As they were many of them were expressing their appreciation and gratitude to the seated passengers.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you…” and “God bless you all…” kept echoing through the cabin.

From the other side, one could hear the shouts, “good luck to you!… hope you make your flight!”

Compassion and gratitude

THAT’s what makes America GREAT, not the bombastic statements by our latest two-faced Liar in Chief at the While House and his group of plutocrats. And that’s what has ALWAYS made America GREAT.

In times of need, the people of this country have always reached out to each other and to the rest of the world. Even when it wasn’t our fight (like in the two world wars).

THAT is something the foreigners, who don’t understand this nation, need to remember. WE ARE NOT OUR GOVERNMENTS. Most of the American people have pure and compassionate hearts.

The spirit of compassion and gratitude was on display ini spades last night on the AA flight 550.

Epilogue

It’s good to be home. For five days, Elizabeth and I have not seen the sun. And for people who live in the Valley of the Sun, that’s ecological starvation.

The daily highs in New York were in the low 50s (F). Today, the temps in Scottsdale are expected to reach 92F.

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No wonder the beautiful Palo Verde tree in our front yard, which we planted three years ago, greeted us with a big golden smile.

Welcome back to the desert,” its golden flowers, which look like hundreds of mini suns, seem to speak.

HAPPY SAINT GEORGE’S DAY!

 * * *

EPILOGUE II

NEW YORK, NEW YORK… WHAT WILL BECOME OF THIS MODERN-DAY SODOM AND GOMORRAH?

Our trip to New York this week reminded Elizabeth and me of just how fortunate we are NOT to live in a place like that. On our flight back to Phoenix, we ruminated about that.

After living for the last 8 years on a 7-acre Garden of Eden in Paradise on Earth (Maui, Hawaii), and for the last 3.5 decades in the Arizona desert (Scottsdale), our return to New York served as a rude wake-up call. About how “the other half” live.

I have been coming to New York regularly during the last four decades while I was active in business out of Phoenix, sometimes 2-3 times a month. I spent more times in New York during the last 30 years than in any other city other than my hometown – Phoenix/Scottsdale.

Yet while many other people reveled and worshipped the City’s alleged vibrancy, I have always hated it. Could not wait to get out and back to the Arizona desert.

Because New York made me feel like a hamster on a wheel. Or a rat in a rat race whose only objective was self-enrichment.

Money, money, money… everybody seems to be about chasing 24/7 the Almighty Dollar in this modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah.

Quality of life?

What’s that? The nightmare of just trying to leave the City and get to the Lincoln Tunnel in downtown Manhattan gave Elizabeth a massive headache.

POOR BIRD, POOR PEOPLE OF NEW YORK

The day before, while walking along Broadway on the Upper West Side, I spotted a small warbler perched on an iron fence.

“Poor bird,” I said to Elizabeth. “Having to live in a concrete jungle like this.”

“Yes, poor bird,” she agreed.

We also felt sorry for the people who have to live in a place like New York City. Yes, “have to.” Because very few of them have a chance to escape this prison of human spirit. They are confined to it either culturally or economically.

For those who have lived in this urban jungle all their lives chasing the Accursed Buck, this is “normal.”

“If they don’t know any better, perhaps they don’t miss the green fields and blue skies and oceans the way we do,” I told Elizabeth.

Bird, man, spirit… caged. That’s life in New York City.

THE ACCURSED BUCK RULES THE ROOST EVEN IN THE WORLD OF ARTS AND CULTURE

Of course, New York also has some appeals. The arts and culture scene is one of them. But even the artists come here in pursuit of fame and fortune. And we saw how greedy the Metropolitan Museum was when its “suggested donation” turned out to be a mandatory $25 ticket even just to use a restroom.

So back to money, money, money. And greed, greed, greed.

The Accursed Buck rules the roost in New York City. This became all too obvious to Elizabeth and me even during our short (4-day) stay in the City this week.

‘No wonder one of my IBM 1976 Atlanta, Georgia, sales school classmates said, when we were all asked to introduce ourselves and state where we were from, “my name is Hirsch Rosenberg [fictitious name], and I am from the Shitty.”

At the time, I had no idea what he meant, never having been to New York before 1976. But now, especially after this 4-day visit, I understand my old IBM pal all too well.

“Shitty” it is indeed.

“We are so blessed,” Elizabeth said upon our return home to Scottsdale last night.

Indeed we are.

We have the sunshine, the clean air, the  pools and spas, the freedom to roam the desert, no traffic nightmares, birds and bees on the golf courses, Arizona Opera, Phoenix Symphony, Hispanic cuisine and fiestas, western rodeos and horse races… so why would we want to go to Sodom and Gomorrah?

AIDA. That’s the only reason.

ECLECTIC FRIDAY: MEXICAN MERCADO, BIKE WEEK AND OPERA

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.

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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

artvscomm

“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.

 

 

DESERT IN BLOOM: BETTER LATE THAN NEVER

The Arizona desert is finally starting to show its beautiful springtime colors. They are late this year because of a lot of winter rains, we are told. Better late than never.

This morning Elizabeth and I decided to walk to our nearby grocery store instead of driving. And were rewarded with these gorgeous colors.

A little over years ago, I took a picture of this very same clump of Prickly Pear cacti with fuchsia-color bloom under a Palo Verde tree.  Elizabeth liked the scene so much she created a painting from it.

I just found that photo. It was taken on Mar 18, 2014. Look at how much more resplendent the flowers were – THREE WEEKS EARLIER into spring that year. That’s unequivocal proof of how late this year’s desert bloom is – lagging behind about a month.

MORNING GLORY ARIZONA STYLE

This morning, I noticed our first two springtime roses in full bloom. The golden-orange one came from the south side of our yard, the crimson-red one from the north side.

I don’t know what that means. Hope it does not portend Wars of the Roses in the desert. 🙂 I prefer to think of them as Morning Glory Arizona-style.

(see Wars of the Roses from British history – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wars_of_the_Roses)

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UPDATE APR 5, 2017

BEAUTIFUL CACTUS FLOWERS

Take a look at these two beautiful cactus flowers Elizabeth and I saw on our walk this morning around our neighborhood.

They almost look like sunflowers. Who would think that something so prickly could be so dainty?

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UPDATE APR 6, 2017

BACK ON CALVARY HILL ARIZONA

I just got back from a bike-hike-bike ride to and from the Calvary Hill Arizona – the name I gave four years ago to a special trail in the McDowell Mtns above Scottsdale.  I did not know until I got and looked at my “on this day” posts that I did the exactly the same thing three years ago on the same date.

On my way there, I stopped the bike at a home in our Scottsdale neighborhood to take this picture of another beautiful cactus in bloom.

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AIDA TRIUMPHAL MARCH

Apr 23, 2017

 

DISCOVERING “STANDING STONES” AT PINNACLE PEAK… AND MORE

Expect the unexpected. That has become a modus operandi for me during my Arizona desert hikes. Today, I discovered the “Standing Stones” at Pinnacle Peak, a Scottsdale mountain I have hiked dozens of times over the last 30 or so years.

MY SPRING EQUINOX HIKE LEADS ME TO A SACRED SITE FOR THE FIRST TIME; PLAYING A GOOD SAMARITAN TO A SUFFERING TOURIST AND MEETING “COLIN FIRTH?”

Expect the unexpected. That has become a modus operandi for me during my Arizona desert hikes. Today, I discovered the “Standing Stones” at Pinnacle Peak a Scottsdale mountain I have hiked dozens of times over the last 30 or so years.

I had no idea they existed when I was guided to revisit the Pinnacle Peak trail. I had intended to dedicate the hike to the Spring Equinox which will take place in a few hours.

OUR FAREWELL TO MAUI

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

Mar 4, 2017
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 scenes from our morning walk along Kamaole Sands beach.

OUR FAREWELL TO MAUI – Part 5

Mar 5, 2017
On Saturday (Mar 4), we went on a whale watching sunset sailing cruise on the Gemini catamaran off the coast of Kaanapali. Alas, due to a technical glitch with my waterproof camera card reader, those pictures are still trapped on my camera memory card. I may have to wait to get to AZ to retrieve them.
On Sunday (Mar 5), Elizabeth made her final purchase at Kaahumanu Mall – a pair of Hawaiian earrings – which she asked me to record on camera. There was also a Hula show going on in the background.

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

Mar 6, 2017
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 scenes from outside our condo and from our morning walk along the Kamaole Park shore. We discovered here what is probably Kihei’s best surfing spot, right next to the small boat harbor. It looked like a smaller version of Ho’okipa Point in our old neighborhood on the north shore of Maui.

OUR FAREWELL TO MAUI – Part 7

Mar 4, 2017
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.
On Saturday, Mar 4, we went whale-watching aboard the catamaran “Gemini,” which we boarded on Kaanapali Beach in West Maui. Here are some pictures from that wonderful outing.

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

Mar 7, 2017
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.
On Tuesday, Mar 7, Elizabeth and I drove up to the 10,000-ft Haleakala (volcano) summit for our final goodbye to Maui. We fly back to Arizona tomorrow (Mar 8).
The weather was perfect all the way up and during an hour or so we spent at the summit. And then just as we headed down the mountain, the clouds and rain moved it. They stayed with us all the way down till we got to lower Kula. We might as well have been driving through a soup, the fog was so thick.
We kept thanking God all the way down for this miracle – of holding off the bad weather until we had a chance to say our high level goodbyes.
By the way, Haleakala is the Fire vortex of Mother Earth and thus a very powerful masculine energy center. On Saturday, however, our wonderful sailing to see the whales and Watery goodbyes we received from them provided the counter balance – the feminine energy farewell.
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UPDATE MAR 8, 2017

OUR FINAL MAUI BEACH SHOT

 
I don’t know how we managed to do this, because it has been raining most of the day over most of Maui today, but if you look at our final farewell shot taken around noon at Kamaole beach in Kihei/Wailea, you would get the impression that there is nothing but sunshine and surf on this magical island.
 
Goodbye Maui! We love you.
Last Maui beach shot 3-8-17

AN EXCITING DRIVE AROUND WEST MAUI

AN EXCITING DRIVE AROUND WEST MAUI

Nail-biting return home

The trade winds have returned to Maui this morning. After more than a week of VOG (volcanic emissions), the sky was clear once again.

So I decided to try to kill two birds with one stone: Test the endurance and range of my Leaf (electric car) and enjoy some beautiful sights around the wild and woolly West Maui.

In the past, Elizabeth and I have driven around the West Maui mountains’ twisty single lane roads a number of times – in El Jeepo or some of our other gasoline-powered cars. But never in a Leaf.

Why not?

Because even if everything went according to plant, the round trip would be about 100 miles. Which equals the rated range of the Leaf under normal conditions.

Alas, conditions are never normal on a volcanic island like Maui. There are hills and valleys, headwinds and tailwinds, light and dark. So I realized I was taking a chance when I set out on this journey a little after noon today.

For, now let’s just say that the Leaf and I returned home around six this evening on a single charge. That’s 105 miles!

There was a bit of nail-biting toward the end, but we made it home on a single bar (there are 12 bars when the car is fully charged).

PHOTO ALBUM

Departure

It is rare that one can see so clearly the West Maui Mountains while driving from my home into Kahului. Normally, most Hawaiian volcano peaks are enveloped in clouds.

I took the first picture while driving past Ho’okipa Point, a famous surfing spot. The other two shots were taken from Kahului harbor. When the “Pride of America” cruise ship is in town (every Sunday and Monday), it instantly becomes the tallest structure in Kahului. 🙂

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Here’s also a view of it from across the Kahului harbor.

Maui’s “Rock of Gibraltar

Ever since we returned from our May 2014 trip to Europe, which included a visit to Gibraltar, I have been calling this rock on the northeast side of Maui as our “Rock of Gibraltar.”

The height of the overlook north of the “Rock of Gibraltar” offers wonderful views of the coastline to the north.

Blowhole Overlook

A few miles north of the “Rock of Gibraltar” is another popular tourist attraction – a Blowhole. I did not bother going down to the ocean to see it, but I did take in the wonderful ocean and coastline vista from the high overlook above the Blowhole.

img_0714View from the Blowhole overlook, northeast coast of West Maui

Enchanted forest at Honolua Bay

My next stop was Honolua Bay. I have never been here before today even though Honolua Bay is close to Kapalua, the first first spot on Maui where I landed for the first time in 1986.

Well today, I walked through this forest of huge trees and giant vines before reaching Honolua Bay. Take a look…

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Here are also some still shots from the enchanted forest and the Honolua Bay beach…

 D.T Fleming Beach Park

My next stop was another first – the D.T. Fleming Beach Park. The place is on the doorstep of Kapalua. Yet I have never been there before, either. The sign in the parking lot proudly announces it as “America’s Beast Beach of 2006.”

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Well, it is a nice beach. But America’s best beach? That sounds a bit too self-aggrandizing.

Who was D.T. Fleming? That’s what I was also wondering. So after some effort, I found out today that he was one of the early settlers here.  And he left behind a record of his experiences, “The Fleming Journals: West Maui Land Records and Family History 1905-1910”, which is now in Lahaina Library.

Kapalua Beach

Next was my longtime favorite – Kapalua Beach. That’s where I stayed when I first came to Maui in 1986.  The beach is still the same, and the views are beautiful. But there are a lot of condos now in place where there used to be just green lawns.

“Progress?” Not in my books.

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Kaanapali Beach

This is where I was hoping to recharge my Leaf’s battery. Alas, all charging stations were out of order. But I still had 6 out of 12 bars left in my battery.  So I was hoping I might make it back home on a single charge.

If so, that would be about 105 miles – 5 more than the rated range of my electric car. That’s because I had not charged the Leaf at home before I left this mornbbinbg. I did it the day before at Pukalani while I was doing laps in the swimming pool. So I figured, it would be touch-and-go driving home.

But, it is what it is. I figured God and my spirit guides know that they are doing.  So I shrugged and  I went to the Kaanapali Beach where I actually had my first and only swim of the day. It was already close to 4PM and the sun was getting low over the island of Lanai.

Visit to Lahaina

No trip around West Maui would be complete without a visit to Lahaina. So I parked at our usual spot in front of Starbucks, and then walked the length of Front Street all the way to the big Banyan tree and the Lahaina harbor. That’s where I took these pictures.

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By the time I headed back to my car, it was already almost 5PM.

“Ah, rush hour,” I thought.

There is only one road in and out of Lahaina. And at the end of the business day one is almost certain to end up in stop and go traffic. And so I did. We crawled all the way from Lahaina to Maalea Harbor where the road widens. Probably just as well as it helped save my car battery’s life.

I smiled when I realized that. “God knows indeed what He is doing.”‘

Drive Home: Winging It

When I got to about the Target store in Kahului, I was down to 3 bars in my car battery. That’s when I had to make a decision – do I go to Kaahumanu Mall and recharge, or risk it go for it – straight home.  I decided on the latter.

“God, now I need your help to get me home,” I said out loud.

I was thinking maybe those charging stations in Kaanapali were out for a reason – to test my faith and trust in spirit guidance.

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I got home comfortably with one bar in my car battery still left. Whew! 🙂

 

CANCELING THE “UNLUCKY” FRIDAY THE 13th, SUNSET FIRE CEREMONY FOLLOWED BY BLACKOUT

CANCELING THE “UNLUCKY” FRIDAY THE 13th

Today is Friday the 13th.

Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in Western superstition. It occurs at least once every year in the 2010s. In 2017 it is on January 13 and October 13.

When I did my morning meditations and incantations, I became aware of the fact that today is supposed to be such an unlucky day. So I set about to cancel this superstitious myth, first in my prayers than in deeds.

As the day unfolded, the three potentially unlucky matters turned in my favor. Like magic.

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ANNOYING NEIGHBOR BECOMES BENEVOLENT

First, with help from my spirit guides, an annoying neighbor turned into a benevolent one this morning. I’ll spare you the details. Let’s just say that what this neighbor did this morning reverses a 4.5 year trend.

FREE CAR WASH

Then as I drove into town, I thought I’d give my “Leaf” (electric car) a wash at the only car wash I know in Kahului. It’s one of those where you sit in the car the whole time and the machines just wash the outside. Meaning, you still have to clean the interior. But after weeks of rain and the last 12 days of dry weather, I thought that maybe it was time at least to get the dirt off the outside of the car.

Alas, I was not the only one with that idea on a sunny Friday with temperatures in the mid-80s. The line of cars waiting to get into the car wash parking lot stuck out all the way to the street.

So I turned around changed my tack. I drove to my Nissan dealer and asked them to check my tire pressure. And to wash the car while they were at it.

They did a super-duper job, inside and out. I could not have washed it better myself. And then when I offered the car jockey a tip for a job well done, he refused.

“That’s okay, Sir,” he said. “You don’t need to do it.

So it ended up a FREE car wash despite my efforts to pay for it.

FREE PANCAKES

Next, I decided to finally cash in on a free short stack coupon the IHOP had given me at some point last summer. I have been trying to cut back or eliminate the glutens. But since my weight this morning was lower than it had been in months, I decided it was time to try my luck with that, too, on Friday 13th.

And it all worked out perfectly. I just had to pay for a glass of milk. And leave a tip for the waitress. Who did not refuse it. 😃

So that was my way of debunking the myth and canceling the unlucky Friday the 13th.

Of course, there are still a few hours left in the day. So I’d better not gloat. 😊

PS: There is one more possible reversal of fortune that I set in motion today. But I won’t know if it will turn in my favor for another day or two. Meanwhile, I am keeping my fingers crosses. Superstition? Of course. But why not? Just for tun, 😁

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SUNSET FIRE CEREMONY: HONORING FULL MOON, VENUS’ ZENITH AND ORTHODOX NEW YEAR’S EVE

But it was all about GRATITUDE

This evening sunset I did a fire ceremony to honor the full moon, the zenith of planet Venus, and the Serbian (Orthodox) New Year’s Eve. It was a ceremony of gratitude – gratitude for two weeks of badly needed dry weather, gratitude for the new friends the spirit has brought into my life this week, gratitude for turning the unlucky Friday the 13th into a lucky day. Until MECO entered the scene… 🙂

VIDEO: SUNSET FIRE CEREMONY: HONORING FULL MOON, VENUS’ ZENITH AND ORTHODOX NEW YEAR’S EVE – a film by Bob Altzar Djurdjevic – Jan 13, 2017

Direct Youtube link: https://youtu.be/8DfPCmLIzRE

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PHOTO ALBUM FROM THE FIRE CEREMONY

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Unlucky Friday the 13th did rear its ugly head in the end

LONG POWER OUTAGE

working-by-candlelight

Eating and working by candlelight – 21st century! Welcome to Maui Electric Company “service”

Tonight, I had my dinner by candlelight.
I know, it sounds romantic. It was not. First, because I am alone. Second, because I was forced to light a candle by a long power outage.
I had just finished a nice sunset fire ceremony honoring the full moon, the zenith of planet Venus, and the Serbian (Orthodox) New Year’s Eve. It was a ceremony of gratitude – gratitude for two weeks of badly needed dry weather, gratitude for the new friends the spirit has brought into my life this week, gratitude for turning the unlucky Friday the 13th into a lucky day,
Until it became unlucky. When I cam back up to the house, I recorded a new version of AMAZING GRACE, a tune I also played on my flute during the fire ceremony. And then I was sat down to edit the video and write the story about how AMAZING GRACE MUSIC cause a lot of blue smoke to rise from fire, the power went out.
And it is still out – over 2 hours and counting. So I am writing this also by… I was tempted to say by candlelight, but actually it is by a battery-powered flashlight.
So Friday the 13th did rear its ugly head in the end. Good thing I said in my original post about canceling the Unlucky Friday that the day is till not over and that I had better not gloat. Sure enough…
By the way, there is no wind. There is no rain. There is no high surf. Nor volcanic explosion. No earthquake, either. Just MECO! (Maui Electric – our public utility).
What makes this outage even more abominable is that our solar system produces more electricity than we consume. Unlike other utilities, like with my Arizona solar system, MECO pays me nothing! They just take my CLEAN excess electricity, mix it with their dirty (coal and diesel powered) energy, and resell it at retail rates to their other customers. And to top it off – adding insult to injury – they force me to suffer from their power failures like everybody else.
MECO have the system figured out… to suit themselves and skin their customers. This is not new news. But this long and completely unnecessary power outage reminded me of it.
PS: The power came back right now – more than 2 hours after it had gone out. Want to know what I was doing at that moment? Meditating. Lying on the floor with my eyes closed in total darkness. I remembered that way back, when I was in Peru being taught by the Apus (mountain spirits or angels if you like) during my first ordination as a shaman, that they said that’s what we should do once in a while in order to access them. Lie still in total darkness for a long time.
Wonder if MECO have some connection to the Andean mountain spirits? 🙂

REKINDLING SACRED FIRE

About half an hour or so into a 2.5 hour power outage last night, I went back down to the gulch. By then, the fire was almost out. I piled up the remaining logs on top of each other and started blowing to rekindle the fire. It worked. A new fire emerged after a couple of minutes.
The moon had not yet risen so everything was pitch dark around me. I then spent the next 15-20 minutes in meditation and prayer sitting on the Haleakala “kulla” (big rock inside the sacred place) and facing the fire.
Later, I surmised that the spirits must have turned off the electricity for over 2 hours to make me do just that – and contemplate what life without modern technology would be like. I learned two things…
1. It was very peaceful. 2. But after 2 hours of darkness, I could not wait for the lights to come on so I can carry on my 21st century work.

Guess I still have ways to go before I reach the state of Nirvana – my New Year’s resolution.

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UPDATE JAN 14, 2017

TONIGHT’S SUNSET: AN EXAMPLE OF SOMETHING BAD AND BEAUTIFUL

Here’s an example of how something that most people thinks is a “bad” can become something that everybody will agree is beautiful.

This is tonight’s sunset as seen from my lanai. The close up provides a glimpse of the West Maui Mountains in the hazy background.

Beautiful, right?

Well, want to know what makes it possible?

Volcanic emissions. In other words, air pollution.

You see, we have been experiencing in the last week or so what we call here in Hawaii VOG. VOG is air pollution resulting from sulfur dioxide emitted by the Kilauea volcano on the Big Island. Kilauea emits 2,000–4,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) every day!

The so-called Kona winds (from the southwest) then spread the VOG across the other Hawaiian islands. Maui is the closest and the first to get it. This happens rarely, but when it does, it makes for spectacular air shows at sunset and sunrise.

Don’t worry. We are not in danger. By the time the VOG reaches other islands, the sulfur dioxide has largely dissipated, leaving behind ash, smoke, sulfates, and ammonia,

See how a BAD thing can also be BEAUTIFUL? 🙂

UPDATE JAN 15, 2017

“AMAZING GRACE” AT SUNSET FIRE CEREMONY [music video]

HONORING FULL MOON, VENUS’ ZENITH AND ORTHODOX NEW YEAR’S EVE – a film by Bob Altzar Djurdjevic – Jan 13, 2017 – with aerial views of the Rainbow Shower and the Anahata sacred place
 
Direct Youtube link: https://youtu.be/A-BatJjC6GA