Sedona, Arizona (not Schnebly)

How did the city of Sedona get its name?  T.C. Schnebly was a homesteader in the region who petitioned the Postmaster General to open a Post Office were his farm was located.  In order to do so, the town needed a name and, as the story is told,  he floated the idea of Oak Creek Crossing and then Schnebly Station, but both names were rejected because they were too long to fit into the postal cancel stamp at that time.  T.C.’s brother suggested naming the town after Mrs. Schnebly, whose name was Sedona, and the town and post office became official in 1902.  It was a good choice because Schnebly doesn’t roll off the tongue the way Sedona does (probably because Sedona rhymes with Arizona).    Sedona has become a home to seekers of spiritual healing, and its main commerce is tourism and artistry.  Today began with some early morning touring on The Pink Jeep, sharing the ride with a lovely cardiologist (Henry) and his wife (Claudia) from the Ft. Lauderdale FL area.  We did a blend of smooth roads and big rock viewing, together with some bumpy off-roading (what our guide Tom referred to as “jeep tissue massage”!







And then, back to the center of Sedona, for a lovely afternoon walking and browsing the galleries and shops.





























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The Tour-ing Test

Not the computer versus human Turing Test, but the test of how well a guided tour goes. And one always takes a chance!  For a trip such as the one we did yesterday to the Grand Canyon, you’re at the mercy of how good your guide is when you’re in a van with a driver for five hours of travel time round trip (pit stops included).  A driver or your fellow passengers can make or break the experience.


So let’s get the negative out of the way quickly, and emphasize the positive.  The company that we used, Great West Tours, recommended by the concierge at our Resort, needs a serious upgrade on their vehicles.  The van was old with uncomfortable seats and a finicky heat/AC system that matched the poor quality and placement of the overhead video screen.  But our driver/tour guide, David Davis (“Uncle Dave”) more than compensated for this with his knowledge and demeanor.


Uncle Dave navigated the tourist traps on the way to the Canyon nicely with timely stops while pointing out interesting tidbits including the kicks we got from traveling on Route 66.


The Grand Canyon viewing experience, about which I blogged yesterday, is majestic.  History shows that in January 1908, President Teddy Roosevelt exercised his right to make more than 800,000 acres of the Grand Canyon area into a national monument. “Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is,” he declared. “You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”

Uncle Dave gave accolades to Uncle Teddy as many times during the tour, and I couldn’t agree more.  Each year more than 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon, with its floor   accessible by foot, mule, or boat, but we were among those who choose to conserve our energies and simply indulged in the breathtaking views with short walks around the Canyon’s South Rim at 7,000 feet above sea level.  Our home base was the historic El Tovar Hotel.


And I must say that as responsible as many of the tourists are, it still mystifies me that there are those who tempt their safety on the cliffs.  The gusts of wind are much safer for the foliage that knows how to bend than it is for thrill-seeking humans.


But that is exactly the point for those who tempt fate, I suppose.


Personally I’ve become more of a fan of pensive poses and well-planned repose.


Although we prize the feeling of the earth beneath our feet, the flight of the condor over Grand Canyon is a perfect symbol of the majestic views on the South Rim.  The condors disappeared from the Canyon in the 1920s and were on the verge of extinction in the 1970s.  But biologists restored condors to the region in 1996, tagging them after making sure they remain free from lead poisoning.  They are the Canyon’s natural hang-gliders.

If the condor represents the upper limit of nature, and the rock carved by nature is its container, the majesty of its floor is formed by the Colorado River.  One cannot imagine the power of its rapids from our viewpoint on the South Rim at a height of 3.8 miles, but there is online video showing what its like to navigate.




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A Grand Time!

A lovely trip to the Grand Canyon today, enhanced by our tour guide who was a geologist/anthropologist.  Words cannot do it justice, so here is our photographic perspective.























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The Story of the Jews – Volume Two

“Schama Yisrael”.  Not the way you’d expect to see the Hebrew word for listen or hear transliterated, is it?  The reference is to the brilliant historian, Simon Schama, who taught at Cambridge, Oxford, and Harvard before coming to Columbia University and authoring The Story of the Jews.  Volume 1 of this presumed trilogy is subtitled “Finding the Words”, and covers the years 1000 BC – 1492 AD.  Volume 2 traverses 1492 – 1900, and I’m presuming there will be a volume 3 that will take us to the present.

Schama Vol 2Schama is compelling in the way he tells the story of “B’nai Yisrael”, shades of Longfellow inviting children to listen and enticing them with what they shall hear, the reverence here being the endurance of the Jewish people.  There will be many facts you’ll discover, the majority of which will be new to you or long forgotten.  It is Schama’s novelistic style that bring’s history to life, and I’ll entice you with a glimpse of Chapter 13, simply titled Americans.  It begins with the story of Uriah Phillips Levy, a nice Jewish boy from Philadelphia and arguably the most famous Jewish veteran of the United States Armed Forces before Elliot Bradley Press.


Attention has been heaped on Uriah because of his purchase in 1834 of the Monticello property of Thomas Jefferson.  When Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, fifty years to the day after the Declaration of Independence, his estate was in shambles, saddled with over one hundred thousand dollars of debt (and you can imagine what that was worth 200 years ago!).  But Uriah adored what Jefferson represented, particularly with regard to the principles of religious freedom, and was determined to restore the splendor of Monticello.  For, as Schama describes it, the retreat was a place where body and mind might work in measured harmony as befitted a retired president who was an educationalist-philosopher-horticulturalist-statesman.


The story behind The Story is related by Simon Schama as interviewed by Adam Hochschild which includes video clips from the five-part PBS documentary series that accompanies the book(s).

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Barnes & Noble Anthropology

Even though it’s a chain, each Barnes & Noble seems to have its own unique flavor evident particularly through its Cafe patrons.  But even within the Cafe, there are times of day when the composition of the clientele is distinctive.  Old clusters, young mothers, dating couples, and oddball others.  Our local Barnes & Noble in The District of the Desert Ridge Marketplace is no exception.

B&N Desert Ridge

I’m rarely in the store during afternoon hours, more likely to be at a ballgame or doing some sightseeing of places rather than people (though people never cease to fascinate me).  But yesterday afternoon I had the opportunity to scoot down the 101 to The District and there, in and around B & N, were a community of young teens and their tutors populating the Cafe.




This, I found out by asking, is a lovely afternoon ritual that theoretically merges the interests of booksellers with supplemental education.  But isn’t a very sustainable business model, because the foot traffic there is mostly light beverage consumption.  Not a single one of the 15 or 20 tables occupied by the tutored pairings had any food traffic and the probability is that none of them will look at books in the store.  The tutors were basically using the premises as zero overhead space to conduct business, in an environment conducive to education and conversation.

Add this to the stacks of games and tchotchkes increasingly displacing books in the store, and it remains miraculous that retail space of this nature can generate enough profit to keep its doors open.  In the interim, the young teens at the tables are getting a free unintended lesson in commerce.

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Wake Up and Smell the Cactus


Love the look of Prickly Pear Cactus, even more so than the smell.  But it isn’t just another pretty face (sorry I couldn’t find one in bloom – the flowers that grow from the pads are really are pretty).  This multi-colored gem outside of a new Starbucks location a rock’s throw from the Villa Mirgae captures the essence of the shading, and their medicinal properties are impressive.

Speaking of lovely landscapes among the arid deserts in Arizona, enjoy this mini-album of a day unfolding.









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Sacks Crossing Over

It’s like a literary Field of Dreams, this new anthology from the Oliver Sacks Foundation that I blogged about this morning on the professional side, and I’ve been admiring its cover as well as its contents all week.


Sacks Cover

You can’t really judge a book by its cover, particularly this book – because there is no indication anywhere that I can find as to why the image on the cover was selected.  The inside back cover credits the image as L’Eure a Pacy-sur-Eure, a 1924 painting by the artist Felix Vallotton, shown here in its full splendor.

L'Eure a Pacy-sur-Eure

Perhaps the cover image was selected because, among other reasons, Vallotton painted it a year before his death.  It may therefore be symbolic of an artist who kept on working productively up to the moment he could no longer hold his implements in hand, and certainly that could be said of Oliver Sacks whose already magnificent writing just kept getting better as he aged.

At the conclusion of the seventh of ten essays in River of Consciousness, titled The Creative Self, Sacks shares this candid self-reflection:  “At such times, when I am writing, thoughts seem to organize themselves in spontaneous succession and to cloth themselves instantly in appropriate words.  I feel I can bypass or transcend much of my own personality, my neuroses.  It is at once not me and the innermost part of me, certainly the best part of me.”

He had more to say about the act of writing:

And on the significance of his busy desktop:

All this topped off by a treasure trove of Sacks delights neatly catalogued on Brain Pickings.  One can only hope that there will be more goodies forthcoming from the Oliver Sacks Foundation.  It is a marvelous way to embrace and celebrate his legacy.


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