Arizona · Illustration

Hanging out with the full moon

The neighbors oleanders rise like kelp into the ocean of night sky behind over our back yard.

Full Moon - an Illustration

 

Last night, at the end of a very long day that began with a five and a half mile hike around the neighborhood and ended with replacing the bumpers on my car, after I got the dogs kenneled for the night and the house cleaned up, I decided that it was one of those rare nights when it was cool enough to sit outside and enjoy the night.

The fact is, it wasn’t.

It was still in the high nineties, and because this is our monsoon season, the humidity was at an uncomfortable level. But if I sat just right, and the breeze hit our yard at just the right angle, it was tolerable.

Lighting up the last cigar I have at home, left over from the fishing trip my father and I took in July, I sat in the Adirondack chair on the back patio with my feet in the grass, watching the not-quite-supermoon-yet full moon float by over the neighbors oleander trees. The way they swayed together in the breeze it was easy to imagine they were kelp, dancing in unison to the silent music of an ocean current, reaching for the surface.

I sat there for a long time, just sitting alone in the quiet darkness, thinking about life and work and some friends I hadn’t thought about in years; letting my mind wander isn’t something I give it much opportunity to do. That’s one of the things I really enjoy about cigars: I’m not much of a smoker, so I can’t multitask very easily. A friend once told me that cigars weren’t built for productivity, they were designed for rest. Having a cigar forces me to just sit and be still for the duration, otherwise I end up coughing or turning green.

Eventually, my more logical mind took over again, suggesting that I could surely be doing something else while I sit there, maybe catching up on my reading list, or returning email, or getting some billing done.

Rather than consume and potentially get stressed out about what might be lurking in my inbox, I decided to draw and stay as in the present as much as possible. Staying present is also not one of my strong suits. I thought a good way to do that would be to capture the scene in front of me as best I could with my iPad.


And since they seem to be popular, here’s the behind the scenes creation video:

Arizona · Illustration · Life

Phoenix DinoCon

Today I’m volunteering at the 2014 Phoenix DinoCon, a fan convention for folks who like dinosaurs, and yeah…I’m a little bit excited.

 

PhoenixDinoCon

 

Having never really been into ComiCon or any of the other myriad of conventions out there, this will be my first time into that arena. I’ll be working the registration table, so I’ll get a chance to see everyone who comes through the door face-to-face, which should be fun. I suppose people will be there in costume, so that will be something to see, although with the temperature upwards of 100° and humid, and not to mention the chance of the seasonal monsoon storm, I doubt there will be many people dressed up. Either way, I’m looking forward to it.

I may post the behind the scenes video of the “today” image above but it would be pretty short, and not to mention dark, so it might not make for a great clip. 

Sunday edit – I was right…this doesn’t make for very compelling footage. But since it’s available, why not. You can see at the end where I experimented with getting more text on the image before finally deciding to leave it alone. No sense overcomplicating an image that was only going into a tweet, anyway.

Arizona

Sedona, the long way

Going through some photos the other day, I found some from a few years ago that I had always been meaning to write about. This weekend I finally found the time.

In October 2012, an old friend who had moved out of Arizona came back for a visit. On his list of “have-to-dos” was visiting Sedona. He used to hike Sedona frequently when he lived here, and because there’s nothing like it in southwestern Ohio where he moved, he needed to get his fix.

Eric, a classic Ohioan. Note the pasty complexion.

Most travelers coming from Phoenix will drive up Interstate 17, traipse through the congested but picturesque Village of Oak Creek, and hit Sedona from the south side, but we decided to take a more scenic route, a road called Schnebly Hill Road.

Sedona Map
Schnebly Hill Road, a thin vein through the northern Arizona landscape.

All along the first couple of miles, there are signs stating that the road isn’t maintained, but besides a few larger rocks we had to steer around, the road was relatively smooth and made for a pleasant drive. Our ride for the day was my 1983 BMW 533, jokingly referred to as “The Panzer.” Although sturdy, its hardly an all-terrain vehicle. Goaded by the views, however, we pushed forward.

BMW with a view.
These kinds of views made it all worthwhile. Temporarily.

Having multiple “should we turn around?” moments at every wide spot in the road, all ending with “let’s try one more section,” eventually, as usually happens, we ran out of spaces to turn around. With little more space than a single-lane road, we began our descent down worse terrain than I’ve driven in a very long time.

And never in a thirty-year-old sedan.

Grinding downhill in first gear, passing the only other traffic on the road, all coming the other direction, Pink Jeep Tour after Pink Jeep Tour bouncing up the hill. At that speed, it was easy to hear the commentary from the tour guides from their windowless perches. “Your GPS tell you to go this way?” was a frequent quip. With one eye on the ever-climbing oil temperature gauge and one on the oil pan-demolishing boulders, we powered on. I didn’t get to see much of the scenery of that part of the trip; I could tell when we were close to the edge of a substantial drop-off by the varying degrees of white Eric’s knuckles turned as he gripped the “Oh shit” handle for dear life.

Schnebly Hill Road, Sedona
Not my photo, but you can tell, these Jeeps are oozing with sarcasm.

Long story short, we survived, and didn’t have to be towed off the mountain, which was always a concern. By the time we made through to the other side, besides my shoulders pounding from the steering wheel being whipped back and forth as the front wheels were manipulated by the boulders in the road, the only casualties of the three-hour snails-pace trip to the car were a punctured catalytic converter, which was damaged when the the car slammed down on a big rock sticking too high out of the center of the road; and a small bend in an oil line that got pinched at some point over the mountain.

Getting out to stretch our legs, we spent a couple of hours on a victory hike around the Huckaby trail, mostly to let the poor car cool down, before we meandering into town for a burger and a brew at the Oak Creek Brewery & Grill, one of my favorite places not just for their food, but the views. What is it about food tasting that much better after a day like that, or while you’re camping, or on an epic road trip? This same burger, even though great at any other time, was phenomenal that night.

The perfect end to a terrific, if not harrowing, day.

Arizona · Design · Life

Arizona Backyard Brew & Boil

I recently had the opportunity to design a logo for and then attend an awesome event that I never even knew existed…the annual Arizona Backyard Brew & Boil. For a first-timer, this event is a little difficult to describe, other than to say it’s one big yard party.

Given a collection of previous years’ logos and a “go nuts” directive, the only real constraints were that it needed to fit in a 3-inch square and work in one color, as it will be used on the beer glasses.

AZBBB_logo_FINAL

Incorporating as many of the cajun party elements I could from previous designs, it seemed like wrapping them in the outline of the state of Arizona (which is almost a square anyway) was the way to go. Varying sizes of custom type contributed to the free-for-all attitude I was going for. Even though the logo design was out of the way, I still had no idea what the event was really about.

What it is: a back yard in a swanky suburb in downtown Phoenix, transformed for a day into a cajun food and music fest, complete with a real crawfish boil. A giant cauldron of live crawfish are boiled with corn on the cob, garlic, sausage, potatoes, and who knows what else, then strained and poured onto tables set up around the yard. Attendees jump in, elbow to elbow, vying for position, suckin’ dem heads and pinching’ dem tails, with juices and butter and sometimes the less-than-appetizing insides of the crawfish dribbling down chins and forearms, while another batch of ingredients are loaded into the cauldron. This is done without changing the water, intensifying the flavor with each round, filling the air with the sweet peppery scent. Washing it all down with a home-made strawberry beer, then when that runs out, whatever beverages attendees bring, this traditional cajun feast borders on hedonistic.

crawfish
Crawfish, new potatoes, corn on the cob, garlic, mushrooms and sausage: the colors of the big easy.

And it’s fantastic.

azbbb_table
“Can you eat this part?”

Live music is played, Cornhole challenges are issued and accepted, food and beverages are spilled, shoulders and faces are sunburned. A stage in the corner of the yard becomes an open invitation, and when the official musician breaks for food, anyone who brought an instrument can get up provide entertainment. At the end of the night an impromptu group is formed, and the open jam session becomes the backdrop against which conversations are had and laughs are shouted.

Beanbag
Cornhole Shark Adam putting the smack down.

At some point, after dark, large trays of traditional Beignets are brought out, deep fried and handed off to any attendee brave enough to grab the hot dough as it comes out of the fryer. Wait too long though, and someone more brave will snatch it up.

All in all, it’s a great experience, I sincerely hope I get invited to attend the next one and work on the official “logo” as well.

AZBBBglass