A few more

   
    
    
    
   

5 days filled with a lot of driving, visits, fika, new places and experiences and meeting new people, and it’s time to return home. I’m so happy for this time with Zane and my dad. And happy Zane gets two more weeks of even more! 

Silent Picture Show

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
 

Mad dash to Hot Springs

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The morning started early and we stopped at the coffee shop across from the hotel. The coffee was okay but the man who served us was fabulous.  when he asked where we were from (was it that obvious we weren’t locals?) and we said we were in town to renew passports, he wanted to know where we were traveling.  And when he found out it was Sweden, he let loose.  In a good way!  He looked at Zane in the eyes, and stated with a declarative tone no hint of sarcasm, “Oh, those Europeans.  You will find out that the Europeans and especially the Scandinavians, they are…. educated.  They see the world with a wide open mind.  You’ll see.  They know about the world.  Not like a lot of Americans.”

We hung out near the counter and continued our conversation with this man. His knowledge of the world of countries and of people was full and rich.  He was from a small town in East Texas, he said, and he’d left and spent 7 years as an International flight attendant.  He shared stories and tips for traveling and was so genuinely excited that Zane was going to get to spend three weeks in Sweden.

If you are ever in Hot Springs, go have a cup of coffee at Coffee Love, on Central Avenue near Lake Hamilton.

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After coffee and talking we made our way to the passport office. The security was intense.  Lots of security guards and lots of security doors and a very controlled process.  No electronic devices were allowed inside.

And they were super friendly and helpful and expedient.  (They said we’d have the passports in 4 days, and they were in our mailbox at home the very next day!  They totally ruined the government’s reputation for being inefficient and whatever.)

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After passports we decided to stop for breakfast.  A late breakfast.  Since we’d only had coffee earlier.  This place looked legit.

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I like eating in local joints when I’m out of town.  These guys served up a decent breakfast.

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After breakfast we drove out the Garvan Woodland Gardens.  Until Weylin mentioned this place, I’d never heard of it.

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It was amazing.  We started with the Japanese Garden walk.  The meandering trails, rocks, bridges, steps, water falls, trees and shrubs and flowers…. everywhere I turned there was another lovely feature.

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The Full Moon Bridge.  I want to build one of these in my yard.

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On top of the bridge.

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One of the waterfalls.  Look at the rock (boulder) bridge Weylin is standing on.  You have to step across that gap in the middle, over the water flowing under it.

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This awesome cypress.  It’s like there are these little nooks and crannies with their very own views.

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Another lovely waterfall.  None of these photos come close to the real thing.  Not even.

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Imagine twittering birds, a slight breeze over your skin covered with a sheen of perspiration, and the filling of your lungs with freshly oxygenated air.

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And then there were these.  Adorable “mushroom” topiary “sculptures” created by landscape architecture students at the University of Arkansas.

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A little bit of whimsy never hurts!

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It looks like Zane is about to be beamed up.

This is inside the pavilion designed by architect E. Fay Jones.  And that looks like a Chihuly glass sculpture hanging there but I can’t confirm that…

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And here is Weylin, getting the perfect shot.

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Sunlight and shadows and large flat paving stones.

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There were stairs and passageways like this everywhere.

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And randomly placed seating areas.  Where someone might sit.

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And this “canopy bridge”  High up in the trees.

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Of course, there were shrubbery eggs in a big branchy nest.   I know I can’t be the only one who wants to know what will hatch from those eggs.

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The park has miles and miles of trails.  I think we walked about four of them.  Before we left we checked out Anthony Chapel.

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A glass and wood church structure.

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I love the green from the pines and the woods surrounding the sanctuary.

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After a few hours of walking around the trails of Garvan Gardens we were hungry so we stopped here at the Cafe 1217 before we got on the road to drive home.

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The back wall of their establishment was painted black like a chalk board with white painted quotes and illustrations.

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I have always had a thing for windows – they are like a kind of framed artwork.

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We shared this Key Lime Pie – it was baked and delivered straight from Heaven.  This pie right here is worth another trip to Hot Springs even if I don’t do anything else while I’m there.

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I Love this artwork.

Text massage

The other day I wrote “text massage” and didn’t catch the typo. When I saw the typo I was tempted to leave it. Because Text Massage had such a nice sound to it. Do you ever play the What If game? What if text massages were a thing. Maybe there is such a thing. Have you ever gotten a text, and its like a quick “squeeze-squeeze” on the shoulders, you know, somehow the text, the words, the message/massage, just eases the stress a little bit.

Because massages are nice. Real ones, especially. Real hands on shoulders, squeeze squeeze. Last night W asked me if I would massage his shoulders. He has been working this summer for a landscaping company, doing lots of landscaping. As a future landscape architect, this is a great summer job experience, learning about the nature of the work that is a result of the designing. He’s learning about plants, flowers, trees, shrubs, grasses, rocks, mulch and the list goes on. And at the end of the day, he can be pretty tired and sore. So I tried my best giving him a short shoulder massage, which he said felt really good. Then he asked me if going to get a “real” massage was expensive… so, I think I will surprise him with a gift certificate to get a real massage at a massage spa. He deserves it.

Letters and television

I still write real letters to a couple of my friends.  Not as often as I want to – and I have a cart full of excuses.  (Most of the have to do with Time.)  What used to end up in letters is sometimes now tucked away for later and or forgotten… or maybe sent in a text message. And texts are fun, too – they are instant pictures and conversations with friends that live states away.

Yesterday I mentioned to Zane that he could watch a few online episodes of “Welcome to Sweden” and get a sense of what it might be like to visit.  Even though the show is a comedy and not a documentary… there is still a hint of the Swedish culture that comes through.  Things like sitting naked in a sauna.  And the summer cottages by a lake.  And fermented fish.

But he scoffed.  He asked, “what if people in other countries looked at American TV comedies to see what life is really like in America?”

People in other countries probably do that… so I see his point, I suppose.Real life isn’t exactly like a television comedy.  Not every day anyway!

Wright angles…. (Installment 3, Arizona)

By the way, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that this was my first time to the state of Arizona.  I’ve wanted to visit for years.  (And now I can’t wait to return… I mean, The Grand Canyon… Sedona… and of course Needles, because of The Grapes of Wrath.)

I had heard stories.  “It’s hot in Arizona.” “Phoenix is in this kind of crater surrounded by mountains.”  “You should go to Sedona.”

Well. I loved our stay – just northeast of Phoenix.  We had a gorgeous view of Camelback Mountain from our little patio. The sky was perpetually blue and cloud free.

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(Meanwhile, back at home, record rainfall and flooding was causing all kinds of havoc and tragedy.  Dichotomy is everywhere.  If something is This Way then something else is That Way.)

The landscaping was elemental.  Simple.  Colors in the desert are desaturated.  Minimalism is the dominant theme.   I guess, in the desert, there is just so much you can work with.

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Everything was so exotic to me.  AZ is nothing like AR.

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— In grocery store parking lots… there might be covered parking to provide shade from the hot sun.
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–In the desert, there may be rows of palm trees along city streets.
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–In the desert, when you are looking for a bookshop, you might be led to something like this, with confederate flags and (if you look closely in the shade) dummies (manequins?) dressed in confederate uniforms…  We kept driving.
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–We did find this little bookshop in a strip mall.  A small used book store.  Cozy and inviting.
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–I found a small coffee table book about Frank Lloyd Wright.  We browsed in here for a long time.


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— In the desert… there are ancient petroglyphs.  Some of them might be found at Taliesin – where they were brought by ‘some architect’ back in 1950’s.

On Sunday afternoon we had reservations to tour Taliesin West.  After our delicious lunch at Culinary Dropout, we made it just in the nick of time!  We joined the tour group, already in progress, right as the tour guide was wrapping up the bit about the “rules”.  In other words, perfect timing!

Taliesin West is the “winter” retreat that Frank Lloyd Wright built.  He didn’t even begin this work until he was 70!  I learned a lot about this iconic American architect during the tour.  And I know it only scratched the surface…. I have been in a kind of FLLW research mode since the trip – fascinated by his work, creative vision, and even his world view.

Once thing the tour guide explained was Wright’s sense of creating small cramped entrances to rooms.  He used the phrase, “Compress Progress Release.”  The idea was to encourage guests to enter rooms through a small cramped space (compress) that encouraged them to keep moving keep proceeding (progress) until they were through, and rewarded (release) then with the large open space of the main room.
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— This is the entrance to one of Wright’s work rooms/offices.  The ceiling is very low in the entrance, per his philosophy of “compress, progress, release” but he was also known to just pragmatically state that it was a ‘waste of materials’ to make the walls any taller.  Which makes sense with this desert abode in particular – constructed of solid rock and cement walls.  (Really, the construction process is an interesting read on its own.)
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—  The tour guide was great!  He reminded me of a little bit more cleaned up version of “The Dude” from The Great Lebowski.
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— “You have to use your IMAGINATION.”
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— In the Garden Room.  Frank Lloyd Wright played the piano by ear – loved to play Beethoven.  He and his 3rd wife Olga entertained lots of people here.
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— The ceiling/roof was (is) plain stretched canvas in order to brighten the room and diffuse the strong light of the desert sun.   Open windows between the ceiling and walls – they did not install glass until many years later.
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—  On the wall – a mixed media collage by one of Wright’s friends, but I can’t recall the name…
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—  When they installed the windows, his apprentices asked, “what shall we do with the clay pots – they won’t fit when the windows are installed.”   To this wright allegedly replied, “Figure it out.” and it looks like they did.
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— “Compress…”  A narrow passageway from one side of the building to another.
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—  This is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s beds.  This is the one by the window.  The tour guide explained that this is where Wright napped – short little sleeps – and if anyone needed him, they could peer in the window and were allowed to disturb him if necessary.  If he didn’t want to be bothered, he slept in a different bed where no one could see him.

By the way, we learned that his name was originally Frank Lincoln Wright.  Lincoln was his birth father’s name.  But one day his father decided to become a full time preacher and left his wife and kids.  SO Frank decided to remove Lincoln, and replace it with Lloyd, which was his mother’s maiden name.
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— This was Olga’s room, and her desk.
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— The view into the garden area from Olga’s desk.
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—  This dragon was cool – on Friday’s they turn onthe gas and it “breathes fire” as a weekly homage to Wright.  Or something like that.  If I got the story right.
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—  Low ceilings…. no wasting of materials here.

There is more from the Taliesin West tour. I recommend seeing it person, though.  When are we going?

And two more pictures before I wrap up this Arizona trip.  First, back to me being mesmerized by the exotic…. For example:  Piped in air humidity.  Because, that’s something we don’t need in AR!
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—  In the desert, humidity is a luxury.
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And finally.  On our way to the airport on the last day we drove through Tempe.  There’s the Arizona State University Sun Devil stadium

Robin told me U2 played there during the Joshua Tree tour, and parts of it are in the movie Rattle and Hum.

We Ate the Food, We Drank the Wine (Installment 2 from my weekend in Arizona)

We spent most of our time in Scottsdale.  And in a town called Paradise Valley. Our location was prime.  Prime for being in what we were later told was a “safe” area, and also prime because we were so close to good food!  And good food is not an afterthought for two people who enjoy good food.  Robin is a true foodie, a fellow cheese lover, and knows about culinary trends more than any one else I know.

Before arriving, Robin had received some great tips about where to eat. First:  From an episode of Diners, Dives and Drive-Ins, was The Paradise Valley Burger Company.

I ordered the Brûlée Burger.   [Fried egg, bacon, onion, burnt sugar, havarti]

Zero regrets.   This thing was super tasty.  Do you see that brownish crust on inside of the bun lid?  That would be brown sugar heated with the torch to make a crunchy sweet coating inside the bun.  It was like, dessert and main course all in one.

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I can’t wait to try making this burger myself – or some inspired version of it anyway.

On Saturday morning we opted for the restaurant on site.  We enjoyed supurb coffee.  At least three refills.  (There is no shame in having a few cups of coffee when you’re in the mood.) And since it was more like “brunchtime” we chose to share a dish and eat “light” so we could enjoy the next miracle of culinary delights at The Mission later that afternoon.

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Here we are with our fantastic coffee at Sprouts, the lovely outdoor patio restaurant at the resort.

Let’s move along to the afternoon.  The good people at PV burger Co recommended The Mission in the old town part of Scottsdale, and it was no disappointment.  We started with cocktails.  I had the Aguacate (avocado) margarita.  Because I like to try new things when I can!  Avocado margarita?  [cruz del sol tequila, avocado, triple sec & pressed lime]  It was delicious.

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— The restaurant reminded me a little of the long narrow seating set ups in so many Parisian restaurants, with the long seat agains the wall,and the smaller tables with chairs all in a row.  And I absolutely love a restaurant where the tables are already set with glasses and silverware when you arrive.
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—  The appetizer was the guacamole they prepared from fresh ingredients right there at the table.
I have a picture of this:

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I might have eaten more than my fair share…..

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— The main course for me was this taco art.  Look at it.  It’s art. [Roasted organic butternut squash, Spicy black bean soffits, cumin, coriander, poblano, pickled jalapeño & cotija] These flavor combinations have never been near my lips before this day. A little heat. Lots of guacamole. Zero complaints.

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The three inch corn tortillas are made from scratch and placed on a hot sea salt brick. I’ve never seen anything like it. Brilliant.

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The Mission, in Scottsdale.  We even snuck a peek into the actual church (foreground) to see the inside. (There were lots of candles and saint statues and pews.)

On Sunday for an early lunch, before our Taliesin West Tour, we ventured to an area of Scottsdale I will call “fancy” because there are no such “fancy” areas here in the town where I live.  Robin found a highly rated foodie restaurant called Culinary Dropout.   We started with an appetizer of cheeses (who doesn’t love cheese?!) and some Italian cured meats.

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We could have stopped right there because it was so good. But nope. We had a main course too. I chose to have a big salad with salmon. Salmon in the desert? What? Don’t look at me that way. ;-)

The big finale… this one will blow your pants off.

So, because Robin is the queen of organization and planning, she also got a good recommendation for a great place for dinner. She booked reservations at Elements, the award winning restaurant at the Camelback resort Sanctuary, with a menu of artisrty by celebrity Chef Beau MacMillan.  (Note to self:  Return someday to this desert resort called Sanctuary, if for no other reason than the name.)

The seats were aligned perfectly so we could view the sun setting over the mountains in the west. So cool.
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—  Started with cocktails.  This is the lip-lickingly good Corpse Reviver.  [Arizona Distilling Desert Dry Gin + Cocchi Americano + Cointreau + Fresh Pressed Lemon Juice + Absinthe + Star Anise]  Because I have a thing for licorice flavors.  It was a little on the mild side – and whatever anyone says about absinthe, it did not happen to me.  (Maybe I should’ve asked for a double?)

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— There was crunchy chewy sourdough bread and rippled butter flaked with sea salt.  (Exactly this beautiful can bread and butter be.)

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— Squash blossoms. Another new to me thing. These were filled with something, I think it was cream cheese and maybe lobster?  No matter, it was sooo good.   I loved it.  Could have eaten just squash blossoms the whole night and been satisfied.

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— Another appetizer.  Beet salad.  [fennel | arugula | goat cheese | honey | hazelnut]  Another perfect combination of flavors.

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And the main event.  The grand finale.  This is a rib eye steak, with long skinny green beans, mushrooms, and a sauce that was liquid magic.

I think I am still full from this meal.  It was more food than I had ever eaten at one setting, ever, including Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners!  Man.  And so good.

So, I tried to bring you along with us as we dined and enjoyed culinary adventures, and I hope you are now either laughing at my many food photos, and/or have a hankering to go out and try some good food at a new place near your neck of the woods.

Next up:  Taliesin West!

Oh!  I almost forgot!  The dessert.  We managed just a bite or two, but this Key Lime Tart with meringue and raspberry gelato was our accompaniment to the after dinner coffee.  Coffee and key lime tart and conversation.  There’s a trio that bears repeating.

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In God’s Country… (Installment 1 of Sharing Bits From My Weekend In Phoenix)

There may have been a few other references to U2 lyrics over the weekend, a weekend spent under the Desert Sky...

How Long do good friends have to wait until they get to spend a weekend together again?  And there is something magical about seeing an old friend after many years and picking up right where you left off – even if there is a lot of catching up.

I arrived at the airport a little before Robin.  Since my bag had to be checked in Houston (the plane had filled all the overhead bins by the time it was my turn to board) I had to leave the main terminal area to go get my bag from the baggage claim carrousel.  That meant I couldn’t go back to Robin’s gate to wait for her.  So I waited in the main lobby, my eyes peeled on the ramp waiting for her.  I was hyper focused!  Then a dude with arms marked up from wrists to shoulders in elaborate tattoos came down the ramp and I was distracted, fixated on those images on his skin.  Suddenly, Bam!  There she was!!

There were hugs and kisses on cheeks and smiles and for some reason I grabbed her purse to help her carry and we chatted non stop from the terminal to the bus to the car rental place to the car, into the car, all the way down the road and finally we stopped momentarily when we ordered burgers at Paradise Valley Burger Company.


The Concerts

We had a few hours before the concert so we got settled into the hotel and made a quick run to the nice grocery store down the road for after concert snacks and flowers for the hotel room.

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View from the hotel room. Desert landscaping.

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Artistically arranged produce at the grocery store.

The concerts were “awesome.”  (The first night Bono mentioned the way Americans overuse the word Awesome, but he conceded that when you are in Arizona the word is completely appropriate.)

And I’ve started and stopped my attempt at describing the concert a dozen times now.  Each time I become frustrated with myself because I start to sound like I’m writing an article for a magazine…. and if that’s what you want you can read and see plenty about the concerts in those terms here here and here.

So,  I am just going to start from the beginning, and bring you along so maybe it will seem like you were right there with us.

We arrived a little early. Robin’s generosity has no limit, and she spoiled me rotten. At the concert she treated me to a souvenir bag, and a beer and we sat in our seats watching while the arena filled and talked over the pre-show playlist. The Ramones. The Kinks. The Clash.  Siri figured out a couple of the songs for me.
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First night – May 22. Seats were close to the main stage. 10th row up…I’m telling you…. Robin has seat buying down to a science! She is a pro!  She totally rocks the ticket getting. (Geordi effect unintentional!)


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The crowd may have been full of moms and dads and grandparents, grey hair and bi-focals, but I only spotted one old school lighter in the air when they played Bad.


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I liked the disco balls!


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Panorama from our seats right before the concert started the second night, May 23. We were 11th row, on the side of the arena where the smaller “e” stage is set up. This is right about the time Patti Smith’s ‘People Have the Power’ started played very loudly – and all eyes and cameras are pointed to the e stage where Bono made his entrance.

He invited people up onto the stage several times the first night in Phoenix.
There was  a young boy (2:44 mark) who was in the front by the main stage. The Red Zone, Robin explained. So young and it was a little awkward… and my heart broke for his obvious stage reluctance. Bono asked him “how old are you” but the boy answered, “Adam.” I guess it was just so loud he couldn’t hear…  Bono asked, “What. Is Your. Age?” and I think he still  said ‘Adam’, before finally hearing the question and answering ‘eight’…bless his heart… Then the boy stood there not really knowing exactly what to do while this strange man sang very loudly to him ‘Your eyes… make a circle…’  I can’t imagine the memory it created for that young boy.

Later, they brought up “three sisters” who danced with the band during Mysterious Ways. They also livestreamed part of the song Desire with the Meerkat app. (When I looked for that youtube clip I found another one where apparently these same three sisters were brought up on stage with them a few years ago in Salt Lake City.) And then there was the jumping bean of a man they brought up to play In God’s Country. Man, that guy was all hugs and jumps and full of excitement.

The sound was crazy loud, the whole time. I mean, the sound was intense. And I know I am at a rock concert and it’s supposed to be loud, but a few times I put my fingers to my ears, and then I could hear the music a little better, the voice, the guitars. Maybe I’m old, haha!

I may or may not have patted my knees to the rhythm at one point.

The first night after the May 22 concert when we returned to the hotel (which was Awesome) we snacked on our indulgent snacks and then I sunk into the fluffy comfy covers and I slept like a baby in one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in.  One of the best days EVER.

The second night after the May 23 concert when we came back to the hotel (still AWESOME) we walked over to the pool area and sat on the edge of the hot tub with our feel in the hot water.  It was nearly midnight and we were the only ones by the dark shadowy pool, or so we thought.  We could hear this growling sound, and we couldn’t figure out what it was at first.  Then we spotted a figure laying on one of the poolside lounge chairs…. it was some dude, zonked out, and snoring very loudly!  After we had relaxed a while with our feet in the hot tub, we returned to the room and then I sunk into the fluffy comfy covers and I slept like a baby in one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in, again.  Another Best Day Ever.

We did have some time during the days to do a little relaxing and touristing, too.

That, will be coming up in “Installment 2″ of my Weekend in Phoenix with Robin!  (Be ready for some food photos!)