Final Concert of the 2016/17 Season


The final concert of the Phoenix Symphony 2016/17 season that Elizabeth and I will be able to attend (we will be away from the country starting in late May) was a great success. Two-thirds of it anyway.

The most successful part was Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1. It was greeted by a thunderous applause and a standing ovation the crowd gave the Korean-born pianist Sung Chang after his performance.

Make that two standing ovations. After the second one, he played an encore – Mozart’s “Rondo alla Turca” – yes, the very first piece I played the other day on my Steinway to welcome it to its new desert home. Only Chang changed it in parts to make it sound like Gershwin music. So you could say we heard Mozart’s “Rondo alla Turca alla Gershwin” last night. 🙂

This magnificent piano piece, which tests the mettle of even the most accomplished pianists, was originally conceived in 1830 when Liszt was only 19. Lest we forget, Liszt was regarded as the greatest pianist of his time, some think possibly the best in history of music.

Liszt seems to have completed the his first piano concerto in 1849, yet made further adjustments in 1853. It was first performed at Weimar (Germany) in 1855, with the composer at the piano and Hector Berlioz conducting. Right from the start, it was a smashing success as it was last night.

Liszt’s concerto was sandwiched in last night’s program between the two Russian composers – Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky.

The concert opened with another a orchestral piece by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy. The orchestration and nuisances of this music are so rich that they have been used in many movies. Here are just some of them:

Columbo, Kim Possible, The Jazz Singer (1927), Wayne’s World, Animaniacs, Freakazoid, Pinky and the Brain, Road Rovers, Taz-Mania, Tiny Toons, Scrubs, Seeing Double, The Ren and Stimpy Show, South Park, Clueless, A Christmas Story, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Moonraker, SpongeBob SquarePants, Pushing Daisies, Sesame Street, El Chavo, The Three Musketeers, among others.

The third piece on last night’s program was Stravinsky’s “Petrushka.” Like most of the 20th century music, it did not do anything for me, even though it was a very difficult and intricate piece for an orchestra to perform. After the performance, Elizabeth told me she felt the same way.

Which is why I said that last night’s concert was a great success 2/3 of the way.

PS: Elizabeth is wearing a dress she bought at Bloomingdale’s in New York last week.

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UPDATE APR 30, 2017


Last night, Elizabeth and I attended a wonderful performance of the Phoenix Symphony at the downtown Symphony Hall.

Today, around noon, we did something we rarely do. We treated ourselves to a delicious brunch at the newly opened Eg N’ Joe breakfast-lunch restaurant in our neighborhood (

Elizabeth had something I have never seen her eat before – a “German pancake.” It is an oven-roasted creation in the shape of a big bowl with various fruity treats inside (strawberries in her case). I had blackberry crepes, which were also delicious.

Well, after that, we needed to do something aggressive to try to work off the extra calories. So we hit the Tom’s Thumb trail on the north side of the McDowell Mtns. It was only the second time Elizabeth has attempted that steep and slippery hike. And she did great. She made it to the 3,100 ft elevation. And back to the trailhead, of course.



Today, I did my annual Good Friday pilgrimage on Calvary Hill Arizona.  It is a 6-mile hike with an elevation difference of 1,600 feet, plus another 6-mile bike ride (see the map).

It took me 3 hours to do this bike-hike–bike round trip pilgrimage from my Scottsdale home.  The temperatures were in the upper 80s, which is normal for this time of the year.  But for some reason I felt quite tired at the end.  It must be that darn desert pollen this year and the allergies that it is causing.

Anyway, I paid my respects to Yeshua as I do on every Good Friday.

“This is my church service,” I explained later on to my son-in-law who is visiting here from Vienna, Austria, with my daughter and their four children this Easter week.

Four years ago on Good Friday, Master Sananda (Yeshua, Jesus) took me to a place in the McDowell Mountains above Scottsdale that resembled the Calvary Hill in Jerusalem on which he was crucified two millennia ago.  And he left for me to find there some very special sacraments (see my 2013 Desert Quest (PDF))

Ever since that Good Friday 2013, I have been returning to this holy place in the Arizona desert whenever I needed Yeshua’s counsel and guidance. Over time, I identified on this rough mountain trail the 14 stations of the cross. In the fall 2013, I even created the music I play while on this pilgrimage.  It is timed to coincide thematically and geographically with each Station of the Cross.


On my way down, I also stopped and prayed at this beautiful Pachamama rock that resembles a Native American shaman with a buffalo spirit inside. I discovered it originally in 2008, just under the Calvary Hill summit.

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Elizabeth and I just got back from a drive to the west side of Phoenix where we got a Cinco de Mayo cake at the Rancho Mercado, a wonderful Mexican store. (no, this is not our actual cake but it gives you an idea).

The main event, however, happened when we got back in the I-17 to drive back home. The temperature gauge on our car read 111F. Yes, I kid you not – 111F (44C) in early May!

Even for an old desert rat like myself, this is some kind of a record. I have never seen temperatures this high in the Phoenix area for Cinco de Mayo. Even back home in North Scottsdale, the temperature was 107F (42C).

By the way, Cinco De Mayo is a Mexican holiday which commemorates the Mexican Army’s surprising victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla, which took place on May 5, 1862. But here in the southwestern United States, it is yet another excuse to party, drink and sing and be merry.

So Happy Cinco de Mayo!



Yeah! I have finally returned to my favorite trails in the McDowell Mountains above Scottsdale – the Calvary Hill Arizona.

This is a 6-mile hike with an elevation difference of 1,600 feet that emulates the Calvary Hill in Jerusalem, including the 14 stations of the cross. The summit is at the exact same elevation – 2,500 feet. All this was revealed to me by Master Yeshua at Easter 2013 during my 2013 Desert Quest (bob-bike-5-12-133check out my 2013 Desert Quest (PDF) and Calvary Hill Arizona-Sept 2013). Here’s also a map of my that trail.

When I reached the summit, I played two tunes on my flute for the Mountain Spirits and the Santa Tierras (land fairies): Amazing Grace and El Condor Pasa. Here are my earlier recordings of these famous tunes:

Amazing Grace by ALTZAR – Calvary Hill Arizona –

El Condor Pasa in Boynton Canyon, Sedona, Arizona –

And then I sent my love to the Santa Tierras at the Rainbow Shower who I know have been missing my music and attention.

So what took me so long to return? (I have been in Arizona over a month now).

Well, during my last days of working at the Rainbow Shower in Maui, I sustained an injury to my right knee tendons that hampered my walking. And the only thing you can do with tendon injuries is give them time to heal. So instead of hiking, during the last month I have been swimming laps every morning, gong on bike rides 2-3 times a week, and taking short walks around our neighborhood.

So today was the first serious “road test” for me knee. And knock on wood, I am still walking on it. 🙂

The temperature was in the mid 80s and the vistas beautiful. So I brought some home with me so I can share them also with you all.

On my way down, I also stopped and prayed at this beautiful Pachamama rock that resembles a Native American shaman with a buffalo spirit inside. I discovered it originally in 2008, just under the Calvary Hill summit.

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UPDATE NOV 11, 2016


How was your Veterans Day? (Remembrance Day in Europe and elsewhere – the end of World War I in 1918).


Mine started in dreamtime during the night. I had a dream in which people wearing a camouflage hat I have had for years (at least 8, maybe 10). In my dream, the hat symbolized a “peaceful warrior.” It was part of the outfit members of the new Trump Army wore. The hat features a stylized star with a diamond inset, symbolizing the sun.

You can see here at sunset this evening, along with a view of the American flags at my Eagle’s Nest home in Scottsdale.


Earlier in the day, I drove in my El Jeepo to Cave Creek to try to buy some cheap household items I need now that Elizabeth has moved all of her kitchen stuff out. The lady at the counter of the Kiwanis second hand store looked at me and asked, “are you military?” I was wearing my “peaceful warrior hat and an American flag scarf around my neck.

“No,” I replied smiling.

“Not in this lifetime,” I whispered to myself. I was pretty much finished with my warrior lifetimes by the start of 19th century. But that’s not something I would want to share at the checkout counter of a second hand store in Cave Creek, Arizona.

“Not unless you count working for 10 years as a war correspondent?” I wanted to say. But I didn’t. The items I was buying were cheap enough as it is.

“Just out of curiosity,” I said, “why did you ask me if I was military. Are you offering some special discounts to veterans on this day?”

“Yes, 50% off,” the lady replied.

“That’s great,” I said. “It’s a nice special tribute to our military.” An older man behind me was also smiling approvingly.


By the time I got back home, I already had my own special tribute planned out. I was going to hike the Pinnacle Peak for the first time since coming back to Arizona a month and a half ago. And to do that, I was going to take my El Jeepo to the trailhead for the first time.

The hike itself was easy and uneventful. I have done it a number of times before in various temperatures ranging from freezing to 110F.  Most people I had met smiled at me and said something nice. As I did to them.

Along the way, I also said my prayers. Including the pledge that I dedicate this hike to all the veterans around the world who fought in all noble causes and were willing to sacrifice their lives for them.

Here are some picture I brought back from the trail:


When I got back down to the parking lot where I had left El Jeepo before starting my hike, I saw a young man sort of hovering around it. He was snapping pictures of El Jeepo with his camera.

“Isn’t this a cool car?” he said when he noticed me watching him.

“Glad you think so,” I said. “It’s mine.”

“Would mind now taking a picture of me, too, with my Jeep?”

And so he did.


“I call it El Jeepo,” I explained.

The man cracked up. “That is so cool,” he said, laughing out loud.

It turns out he was the owner of that red motorcycle you can see in the above picture to the left of the two Saguaros.


 * * *

UPDATE NOV 19, 2016


One reason this 4,000-ft peak on the McDowell Mountains above Scottsdale is called Tom’s Thumb is – you guessed it – it sticks out like a sore thumb over this mountain skyline. 🙂 Take a look.

I don’t know why, but today I felt compelled to go back to this trail. Maybe it’s because they are calling for a rare rain here in the Arizona desert tomorrow and the next few days.

Anyway, Tom’s Thumb is the hardest of all the hikes in my North Scottsdale neighborhood. The trail itself is actually quite nice, fine gravel, almost sand in places. – by contrast to the Calvary Hill Arizona trail, for example,  which is very rough, big rocks and stones everywhere.

But is is quite steep. Which means, your heart and lungs work overtime on the way up, and your feet, thighs and joints on the way down.  Often slipping and sliding. Ergo, my baseball shoes with cleats.

My baseball shoes with cleats and bright orange socks attracted a lot of attention on the trail, “like traffic signs,” I used to joke when people would comment about them. 🙂

It was a beautiful afternoon and a great hike with wonderful panoramic views, especially to the north and to the east. Take a look…











March 12, 2016

The morning in Phoenix at Saint Patrick’s Day parade, the evening in Tucson at a Shakespeare’s play


Since this year’s Saint Patrick’s Day (March 17) falls on a weekday, celebrations of this uniquely Irish holiday started early.  The parades were held in Phoenix on Saturday and in Tucson on Sunday.

Elizabeth and I joined the fun in both Arizona cities. Plus, on Saturday night in Tucson, we attended a wonderful performance of Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors” play at the University of Arizona.

The following day – Sunday – we did an 8-mile hike up and down the Sabino Canyon – our favorite hiking spot in the Tucson area.  By the time we were done, the Tucson Saint Patrick’s Day parade was already over. So we skipped it and drove straight back home to Scottsdale – for a long and well-deserved nap and a Mexican dinner. 🙂

I’ve seen green shamrocks. I’ve seen green tea. I’ve seen green beer. But have you ever seen a green horse before? I have not. Yet here it is…

There were also Irish Wolfhounds (as if from the Cù-chulain legend), lots of jig-dancers and other entertainers.

St pat 2016 jig dancers

Here’s a video potpourri from the Phoenix parade:


 * * *
 Here’s now a photo album from the Phoenix parade…


For those of you who are not familiar with my “Irish Roots,” here’s the story…

Here is also a link to last year’s St Patrick’s Day festivities in Maui... –


After up for a bit at our Tucson hotel, Elizabeth and I attended a wonderful performance of Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors” at the University of Arizona.

We started the second day of this exciting weekend with an 8-mile hike up and down the Sabino Canyon. Since I had left my camera in the car, here some photos from our previous hikes through the same canyon.

It took about 1:45 hrs to get up to the top of the canyon – elev 3,313 ft, and another 1:15 hrs to get back.


Bob Eliz St Pat Shakespeare


Monday, Feb 22 was the day on which we had been planning since several weeks ago we would go to Sedona, do a couple of hikes, reconnect with some of our local friends, and eat a pizza dinner at the Oak Creek Brewery.

In other words, continue our Sedona traditions.

And so it turned out for the most part. Unfortunately one of our Sedona friends who has become a sort of our local trail guide had to have dental surgery on that very day. So we had to take a raincheck. But we did a hike to which she introduced us last year anyway on our own – the Hiline Trail. It’s about a 4-mile hike at an elevation of up to 4,700 ft.

Here are some photo memories we brought back…

One of the first things that got our attention was the Gibraltar Rock. I have been coming to Sedona now for over 35 years, and must have seen it dozens of times, but I never knew until Feb 22, 2016 what its name was.

And Gibraltar has a very special meaning for Elizabeth and me. It was her favorite spot on our entire tour of Spain in May 2014 (seeSPAIN 2014 – 18 CITIES IN 7 DAYS – IN 100 SECONDS). For reasons that are quite humorous, we had an exciting time just finding this huge rock, hard as that may be to believe (see above photo and THE ELUSIVE GIBRALTAR –

And now, here are some shots from the end of the Hiline Trail which offers a beautiful view of the Cathedral Rock (background).

After the hike, and before we went out to a pizza dinner with two of our Sedona friends, I took this picture of beautiful cherry blossom, with the Coffee Pot (rock) in the background.



Feb 23, 2016

The following day, we had intended to do another hike in Sedona before driving back home to Scottsdale. But when we saw the temperature was 47F with blustery winds, we just kept on driving south and did a hike a Pinnacle Peak instead (which is only 8 miles away from our home). It was a great day to be playing tourists in our own neighborhood. 🙂

You can also see the Four Peaks mountain, which is featured on Arizona license plates, in the background of Elizabeth’s solo shot.



We finished this mini-weekend (Mon-Tue) with a wonderful evening at the Arizona Musicfest 25th Anniversary Concert. It was the opening event of Musicfest 2016. And it was sold out. We had to park in the boonies. The organizers at the Pima Presbyterian Church evidently weren’t prepared for this size crowd.

Anyway, on the menu tonight, i.e., on the program, were the two Austrian M&M’s – Mozart and Mahler – Mozart’s 25rh Symphony and Mah;er’s “Titan” Symphony. Great performances!

And some wonderful photo memories for us, too…

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Update Feb 26, 2016


Back on Calvary hill trail for the first time since returning to Arizona. This is where Yeshua showed himself to me (in spirit) on Good Friday 2013 and gifted me a magic coin.

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Master Yeshua, or Sananda if you prefer, has been helping guide me with this magic coin ever since.

It was a 3-hour bike-hike-hike during which I lost 5 pounds. And the temperature was “only” 84F. I am looking forward to doing it when it get back up into the triple digits. 🙂

I also prayed at a great rock which revealed its name to me today – Piedra de Madre (Mother Rock). In the past, I had felt its energies as that of a Buffalo and Eagle Spirit Shaman (see, Sep 2013).

I also had good company all the way on today’s hike… listening to beautiful music on my iPod.




I have lived in this beautiful Sonoran desert now for over three decades. And I have never ever seen a thunderstorm come to visit us here in Scottsdale in December, just before Christmas. probability_of_precipitation_at_some_point_in_the_day_in_december_percent_pctThere is only 1% chance of that happening based on historical weather records.

Yet that’s what happened late this afternoon.  I was returning home from my 2.5 hour-hike up and down Calvary Hill Arizona in the McDowell Mtns over Scottsdale, when I noticed ominously dark clouds approaching from the northwest.

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It was like a black wall of darkness was coming our way to turn off the sunlight which was still shining on me at the time. I thought we were going to get a tornado. Instead, I heard a thunderclap. And then another. And another…

When I came home, I looked up on the radar map and saw where the lightening strikes were hitting. It was a bit northeast of Eagle’s Nest.

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An hour or so earlier, as I stood atop of Calvary Hill AZ, the sky to the west was quite clear.  So this storm front snuck in a hurry.  I was wondering what happened with those two women on horseback who were just heading up the mountain as I was descending. The horses can get quite spooked by lightening and thunder.

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Anyway, back home, I decided to go to the pool and warm up in the spa (Jacuzzi). Half way there, the skies opened up. It rained so hard that the downpour reminded me of our typical summer monsoon storms. Except that this rain was freezing cold. BRRRR… I could not wait to get into the spa.

Then the heavenly music started all over again.  It sounded as if thunder was rolling all around.

In the end, the storm also left in its wake a beautiful fiery sunset.

I shall remember this day – Dec 13, 2014 – the day of my first Arizona winter thunderstorm. Quite exciting and completely unexpected.




runtastic-altimeter-1 runtastic-altimeter-2 (all thumbs up)



On Thursday, I decided to do something I have never done before: climb Tom’s Thumb. That’s one of the peaks in the McDowell Mountains in North Scottsdale where Eagle’s Nest is. But I experienced something I never expected: Discovered that Tom’s Thumb should really be called Eagle’s Nest. And the Eagle’s Nest should be called Bob’s Thumb. 🙂 IMG_0778

Just look at the evidence on the right. That’s a shot of the massive rock that dominates the north end of the McDowell Mtns which is now known as Tom’s Thumb. I am standing at 3,800 ft elevation right under it. (By the way, that’s the highest I have ever climbed in the McDowells). And when you look up Tom’s Thumb from that point, what do you see? You see three eagles’ nests! (actually small caves in the rock).

How do I know they are eagles’ nests? Look at the equally massive white “murals” the eagle’s had painted on the rock over the centuries. They are between 6 and 10 feet high.

Alright. That was the end, the destination. Let’s start at the beginning… as most stories do…

Forecasters were calling for rain around here on Friday. (Yeah! We have not had any to speak of in months).  I also was also facing a possible medical procedure on Friday on my left big toe, “Bob’s Lower Thumb,” if you will. 🙂 So to preempt both events putting a crimp into my hiking, I jumped into my car and headed out toward Tom’s Thumbs.

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 3.30.01 PM  188_toms-thumb-pro-1368215808 188_toms-thumb-map-1368215808  IMG_0804

As I said, I have never done that before although I have lived here in the Valley of the Sun for over 30 years. So even the 11-mile drive to the trailhead was quite exciting. I was delighted to discover that there are patches of beautiful unspoiled Sonoran desert still left. That not all of it has been ‘raped’ by real estate developers.

As to the trail itself, it was the hardest hike I have ever done in the McDowells and the easiest at the same time. The hardest, because it is pretty much an unrelenting 1,000 ft vertical climb till you get to the saddle. And then another couple of hundred feet or so through some pretty rough terrain to reach Tom’s Thumb.  The easiest, because most of the trail is loose gravel. Which makes it easy on the knees, although also more dangerous when you go down.

IMG_0763 runtastic-altimeter-4

It was also relatively easy because the temperature was only 63F (17C). For someone used to hiking in the 110F+ heat, this was a real reprieve. I felt I still had at least half a tank left in me by the time I reached the saddle of the McDowell Mtns, elevation about 3,600 ft.  Here are some shots I took from there…

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This is where I almost got fooled. As I said, this was my first hike to here. So when I got to the saddle, and saw a big rock to the north from there, I thought that was Tom’s Thumb. And that I had actually arrived at my destination.

Then I noticed another trail going up from there.  I decided to follow it. It turns out, it did lead to the actual Tom’s Thumb. Which was another half a mile away through some pretty rough terrain. I saw more rocky “thumbs” along the way.

So I decided to name that first rock that fooled me Harry’s Thumb, and the next one Dick’s Thumb, to complete the Tom, Dick and Harry rocky trilogy. 🙂

IMG_0764 IMG_0772  IMG_0770 IMG_0771

On the way to Tom’s Thumb, I also saw many other interesting rock formations. The two pairs of rocks above right reminded me of that famous 1969 movie BOB AND CAROL AND TED AND ALICE. So that’s what I named them. :-

IMG_0768 IMG_0791Also check out some other interesting rock formations. Do you see a face in the one on the left?  What do you see in the ones on the right?

Toms Thumb closeup composite

Anyway, above is now a composite close up of Tom’s Thumb taken from right under this massive rock. It consists of four frames.

Toms Thumb_Panorama1 Toms Thumb_Panorama2 Toms Thumb_Panorama3

Each of the above panorama shots consists of 4-6 frames.

And now, here are some other interesting shots from this fascinating hike…

IMG_0776 runtastic-altimeter IMG_0796 IMG_0795 IMG_0777 IMG_0792 IMG_0793  runtastic-altimeter-3 IMG_0794 runtastic-altimeter-5   runtastic-altimeter-6 IMG_0778

Finally, for those of you who are interested in geological history of the formation of these amazing rocks, which were once at the bottom of an ocean, here’s a story a hiker can read at the Tom’s Thumb trailhead. As you can see, it all started some 1.8 billion years ago.

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My hat’s off to the Scottsdale city fathers for this trail’s enablement and care. It is a great example of how to educate and bring man to nature without harming the natural habitat.