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.


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.


Scottsdale, Arizona is my home town. Well, as much as any place on this planet is, I suppose. I have traveled millions of miles around the world and have lived in so many places and countries that I feel I have earned the right to choose my “home town.” And I choose Scottsdale.
How can I be sure?
Well, my kids grew up in the desert. And because I have always returned to it.
I have tried to leave Arizona several times. First, in 1996 when I bought a beautiful 10-acre property in Western Australia (see the Bolt Hole – ( It was pure magic that lasted 9 years. But I eventually sold the property in 2005 and returned HOME to Scottsdale.
The day after 9/11, when there was no air travel in this country, I hit the road in my 1992 Infiniti in search of a new home. I drove through 10 western states, and even looked in Alberta, Canada. But on my way back, when I turned off the I-40 at Flagstaff and heading down toward the desert, my heart fluttered. I was coming back home.
And so I stayed. Until 2009. That’s when Elizabeth and I moved to Maui – another Garden of Eden in Paradise on Earth. That adventure lasted 8 years. And only a few days ago – March 9 to be exact – we returned HOME to Scottsdale.
So you see… that’s why Scottsdale is my home town of my heart’s desire.


Now, it is always interesting to see how other see us. Like the winter visitors to Scottsdale, for example, the veritable “snow birds.”
As if reading my thoughts on the subject, my longtime Canadian friend from Ontario sent me a link to this travel story:author-pic
Ten Reasons Why Snowbirds Need to Fly to Scottsdale, Arizona – (by Amandalina Letterio)
To which I want to add the 11th – HEAVENLY SCENTS. But only during the month of March.
Citrus blossoms at this time of the year give Scottsdale a heavenly scent. There is nothing quite like it. You just have to experience it to fall in love with it, especially in the districts like Arcadia, where the citrus trees abound. And I guarantee you will want to keep coming back, year after year.
Cactus League? (which also takes place in March).
Nah. That’s for the baseball jocks. I used to like it decades ago when you can lounge around on the grass at the old Scottsdale stadium on Osborn St, and watch the likes of Barry Bonds do their magic only a few feet away from you.
But now, with the Talking Stick Ballpark that looks like a smaller version of a major league stadium, forget it. Elizabeth and I only go there when somebody buys us a ticket and a meal. Like my AZ bank did last year.
Anyway, Scottsdale is the place to be in the United States during the month of March. There is nothing quite like it.


Elizabeth and I did not waste any time getting re-immersed into the Arizona desert cultural life. Last night, we attended a performance of Beethoven’s 3rd symphony, the “Eroica,” by the Phoenix Symphony orchestra. It was another wonderful performance which the conductor, Tito Munoz, led without referring to any sheet music over the entire 48-minutes of its length.

But first, we had to endure – and I underscore ENDURE – you might even say suffer through György Ligeti’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra.


Who is Ligeti? (1923-206). Exactly. Based on what we heard last night, you didn’t miss much if you have never heard of him. His music was a cacophony of disconsonant sounds. Kind of like a bunch of mice in a drunken rage partying while cat’s away. Awful.

If that’s what passes as “contemporary” or “modern” music, I’d even take rap over it.

Anyway, here’s the official bio summary for this mice music composer: György Sándor Ligeti was a Hungarian composer of contemporary classical music. He has been described as “one of the most important avant-garde composers in the latter half of the twentieth century”.


And now, back to Beethoven’s “Eroica” symphony. Completed in 1804 and first performed in 1805, Beethoven originally dedicated the third symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte. Beethoven believed Napoleon embodied the democratic and anti-monarchical ideals of the French Revolution.


In autumn of 1804, however, Beethoven withdrew his dedication of the third symphony to Napoleon, lest it cost the composer’s fee paid him by a royal patron. So, Beethoven re-dedicated his third symphony to Prince Joseph Franz Maximilian Lobkowitz – nonetheless, despite such a bread-and-butter consideration, the politically idealistic Beethoven titled the work “Buonaparte”.  Later, about the composer’s response to Napoleon having proclaimed himself Emperor of the French (14 May 1804), Beethoven’s secretary, Ferdinand Ries wrote:.

“In writing this symphony, Beethoven had been thinking of Buonaparte, but Buonaparte while he was First Consul. At that time Beethoven had the highest esteem for him, and compared him to the greatest consuls of Ancient Rome. Not only I, but many of Beethoven’s closer friends, saw this symphony on his table, beautifully copied in manuscript, with the word “Buonaparte” inscribed at the very top of the title-page and “Ludwig van Beethoven” at the very bottom …

I was the first to tell him the news that Buonaparte had declared himself Emperor, whereupon he broke into a rage and exclaimed, “So he is no more than a common mortal! Now, too, he will tread under foot all the rights of Man, indulge only his ambition; now he will think himself superior to all men, become a tyrant!” Beethoven went to the table, seized the top of the title-page, tore it in half and threw it on the floor. The page had to be recopied, and it was only now that the symphony received the title Sinfonia eroica.”


UPDATE March 24, 2017


Last night, Elizabeth and I attended a wonderful performance of the “Mozart Requiem” by the Phoenix Symphony and Chorus.

* * *


“March Madness” Phoenix-style on April Fools’ Day


Our first “park and ride” experience on Phoenix light rail system

We expected this Saturday night to be a madhouse in downtown Phoenix.  The greedy city fathers – or morons, take your pick – managed to schedule at least three major events on the same day at about the same time in an already crowded city center of a major metropolitan area that’s home to nearly 5 million people.

First, and the biggest madness of them all was the culmination of NCAA’s “March Madness” basketball tournament – the Final Four.  Both semifinal games were played on Saturday, April 1.  (Never mind that “March Madness” has now spilled over into April). 🙂

Second, there was a related Music Festival featuring major rock bands.

And then there was Beethoven’s 9th and the most majestic symphony being performed on Saturday evening by the Phoenix Symphony and Chorus. Beethoven would have felt rather small in comparison to the crowds that the other two New World Order crowd opiates attracted. But what Beethoven and the Phoenix Symphony lacked in numbers they more than made up in class.

It was a magnificent performance. What made it so special for Elizabeth and me was that only a week ago we had a chance to see and hear Mozart’s magnificent Requiem at the same venue performed by the same orchestral and choral ensembles.

As we were walking out after last night’s performance, I asked Elizabeth, “which one did you like better?”

“Both,” was her answer.

Indeed. They are both so very different and yet so fabulous.


As a result of all the warnings about possible overcrowding in downtown Phoenix, Elizabeth and I decided to take the Leaf on its first desert outing and park it at the Camelback Rd light rail station. We took the light rail train, which is really a tram, from there to downtown Phoenix. And back, of course, after the concert.

It was an interesting experience. Certainly a lot cheaper than driving. With gas and parking, out trips to the Phoenix Symphony Hall probably cost about $35. Last night, we spent $4 on two return tickets. And left ZERO carbon footprint for the night since we used the Leaf (our electric car) to get to the train station.

But, of course, there was also waiting and crowding in the tram car on the way back. Still, it was a good experience.

Phoenix rail






This is the first day of my post-Hawaiian life. And something quite unexpected happened at a most unlikely place.

Did you ever think you would see a $150,000-product on sale at Costco?

Never in a million years, right?

Well, today I did. And not just saw one. I actually played it.

In the world of music, the Bösendorfer pianos are what the Rolls Royce cars are in the auto industry. Top-of-the-line products in all respects, including the highest prices.

When we lived in Hawaii, before I bought my Steinway concert grand, we had traveled to Honolulu just for a chance to play a Bösendorfer (see the two shots). You can see below an excerpt from that story which – amazingly (!) – unfolded actually exactly 7 years ago (Mar 11, 2010).

Back to Scottsdale Costco this afternoon, I was stunned to see 5 of the Bösendorfers on display, ranging in prices from $110,000 to $150,000. A nice Japanese gentleman you can see in my photo also happens to be a pianist. So he invited me to try one.

I played two of them – the $140,000 and the $150,000-models. As soon as I started Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca (Turkish March), a crowd gathered around me. (But I did not know that until I finished playing and heard the applause).

I then played Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” including my own improvisations. The same thing happened… crowd, applause.

When I got up to leave, two ladies asked for an encore. This time, I played two variations from Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Paganini Theme.” An even louder and longer applause followed.

So don’t let anybody tell you that Costco shoppers are not culturally enlightened. One gentleman came over and said, “Bösendorfer should hire you to sell their pianos.”

“You are very kind,” I replied. “Thank you. But I don’t play to make money.”

Music is a passion for me which I am happy to share it for free with any audience that appreciates it. Like Kokopelli. Or Liszt.


“Elizabeth also surprised me when she took a picture of me playing on a true gem – a white 175-anniversary Bosendorfer piano adorned with 9,000 crystals (right). There are only three such instruments in the world. You don’t want to know the price.

But that was not the best piano I played. The best one was the black one which Ashkenazy also played (display model). Its keyboard had an incredible feathery touch, making you feel as if the fingers were playing themselves. And its sound brought tears to my eyes. Long notes seemed to reverberate forever. Soft tones soaked in deep inside the soul. The music seemed to come straight from the heavens. I felt as if God were speaking to me directly through this magnificent piano. In all the decades of playing various pianos, I have never experienced anything like it. Every time I would try out another instrument, I would be drawn back to that “black monster.” (see


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

UPDATE MAR 8, 2017


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



UPDATE FEB 26, 2017


Dear Martha,

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).

EXPLANATIONThere 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)


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.

On the way out, I noticed this cute food truck – EL TACO BORACHO or EL DRUNKEN TACO in English. The second match had just been suspended, so everybody was still in the stadium. Buy El Drunken Taco was doing roaring business during the intermission between the matches. 🙂
I should be back at my volunteer post again tomorrow, weather permitting, of course.

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



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.

 * * *