Saturday, March 31, 2012

My Grandfather is 84 Tomorrow

"Or 85, I can't remember," according to my mom.  He is very private.

He, my mom, my uncle and grandmother in Rocky Point in the early 60s. 

He's fussy, as many old people are, and he likes to talk shit.  Except he laughs before he gives you his zinger and then just ends up kind of mumbling it.  He and my uncle were talking about Goodwill at Christmas and he poked me in the arm and said, "You look like you shop at Goodwill, too! heh heh." Listen, buddy.  It's Salvation Army.

He does well on his own.  He built a little machine shop for his house and has customized the entire place.  The hall light is on a motion sensor for when he has to use the bathroom at night, and every electronic device has its own recess in the wall.  The tv, dvd and vhs players each have their own.  So does the microwave in the kitchen.  Yes, it looks ridiculous, but I love it.  He has the most mannish bathroom I've ever seen, which contains absolutely nothing but a sliver of bar soap on the sink and a molded plastic hairbrush from the 1970s.  "Where's all your stuff?!"  "What stuff?"

When we went there for Christmas, I was amazed to see that he had strung garland around and put up a small tree.  All of this decor was obviously from the 70s or early 80s.  He doesn't seem to have purchased anything but real estate since then, which curiously coincides with the end of his second marriage.  He's driven the same car for about 35 years, which is a red El Camino that he purchased new.  As far as a consumerist society goes, he lives off the grid.

It's strange to navigate the deafening generation(s) gap between us.  He's curious about everything, but doesn't have a computer or a cell phone.  When he asks about the functions of these things, I don't know where to begin.  It's uncomfortable to see the incomprehension, mostly because he's uncomfortable with it.  He's not used to not knowing how something works. 

I, on the other hand, am quite familiar with it and am content to believe that iphone = black magic.

Monday, March 26, 2012

I attended a cemetery walk at the Pioneer Cemetery downtown.  I'm not sure how often they have these, but I think it's pretty rare  That's why I had to go, even though I knew they'd be having costumed docents playing the parts of various factual dead persons.

You would think that knowing in advance would mitigate the anger I felt at their obnoxious and cheesy little playacts, but it didn't.  The cemetery association did some research on various graves, then wrote scripts for the docents to read.  "Hi. My name is Mary Malloy. I moved to Phoenix in 1880, but oops, I died of consumption two years later. Thanks for visiting me today, I get lonely here!"  Don't know why, Mary, there's lots to see.  You live between three homeless shelters and the State Capital.  Each docent nattered on about "their" lives and deaths, inserting false observations ("shure is lonely out hur in my grave!") in a strange way that, much as I am not terribly sensitive to these things, seemed disrespectful.  Particularly considering they're standing there with one foot on the grave of the person who really did die of diphtheria, or whatever.  Two of the docents were children made up to look like corpses, with Halloween wounds of fake gore.  The event was...really shit.  I felt second-hand embarrassment, kind of like when I watch Kate Bush's Babushka video. 

But the cemeteries were very interesting and are very old, Phoenix-wise.  1880s to 1910ish.  That's old here!  Most of the headstones are missing, but there are some large and cool ones around.  The tour didn't really involve relevant or famous Phoenicians and instead curiously focused on dead kids.  Like, we learned about a toddler who died when an oil lamp fell on her.  That's pretty sad, but why would this be part of the paid tour?  Was the toddler on the territorial legislature?  Did it name Phoenix, or hide gold in the Superstitions?  Because the people who did that shit were not part of the tour even though they are there.  Sometimes all-volunteer organizations suck because having your heart in the right place doesn't mean you're doing a good job, dudes. 

Not that I want to go around dissing on non-profit volunteer groups, but this is why a lot of small museums shut down forever.  Because they are doing it wrong. 

Some of the cemeteries go by a couple of different names. Loosely is one of them. 

This cemetery is full, but doesn't look like it due to all of the missing stones.  Many were broken or stolen, and some were just wood to begin with.  Some were carved of sandstone, which by now has been eroded into unrecognizable chunks of rock. 

Some of the graves pre-date the cemetery, because they were moved.  I don't remember where from.  Some families then moved their dead from the Pioneer to other places, because it was beginning to look fucked up in there from lack of caretaking.

There were a few of these plain looking vaults.  Unusual for here.

Jacob Waltz's grave.  He's the famous "Lost Dutchman" who allegedly hid gold in the Superstitions.  He's also one of my dad's personal favs.  The stone seems to be a later addition.  The head (or foot?) of the grave has a chunk of granite which at one time was painted gold.  There's a dirty shot glass next to it.

Kind of interesting to note the differences between this place and Cemetery Lindo.  Lindo is not closed to the public even though it's part of the "complex" of historic cemeteries.  Also, people still visit the graves at Lindo even though it seems that the youngest graves are 60+ years old.  I saw recently wilted flowers, pennies and small offerings of food on the stones there. 

After the tour, my dad regaled the staff with stories of Jacob Waltz and then offered to pick up the headstones that had fallen or been kicked off their pedestals by delinquents.  They were horrified by this proposition and insisted that only a machine could hoist such a heavy stone.  He laughed contemptuously, then said, "Eh, I'll get a buddy to help me. No problem."  They actually took his contact info for this.  I guess I'll be curious to hear if they call.  They said the City had decided not to address the toppled stones, which is another example of why we can't have nice things in Phoenix.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Break 2012 was so crazy

The sash cord in the double-hung windows at the Rosson House offices broke yesterday, creating a terrific crash inside the wall.  I didn't know double-hung windows functioned by way of counterweights inside the sills.  The maintenance guy came and removed the panel, revealing four hanging lead weights covered in the furry dust of almost a century.

A director, docent and myself watched the whole thing with great interest. I don't think this guy is used to ripping panels off of windows to a room full of women saying, "Ooooh!"

Monday, March 19, 2012

More Historic Phoenix

Here are some pretty good shots of houses in Phoenix that live on the historic register.  Most of them I've never seen before.  The Victorians!!!  Oh my god!  I'm so shocked at them.  This is what happens when you never get into the avenues.  I've been telling people that we have two and a half Victorians left in the whole city, super wrong.  It seems like we have...five or six!  Big news here.

The ones in extreme disrepair make me want to weep and lament openly.  As Little Edie Beale would say, each case is the worst thing to happen in the history of America.  I don't know what it is about Victorian and Edwardian structures but they make me want to JUST DIE I love them so much.  Seriously, I'm like one step away from moving to Detroit and buying a block of empty Victorians for $10,000.  Worth it!  I'll live in the best one like a little troll that no one sees/believes is there, and folktales will evolve about me.  "If you listen hard on a cold evening when the moon is can hear her yelling at her cat."

I'll just stop there.

If you scroll down halfway, you'll see the Osborn house on 12th Ave & Pierce.  He has an early shot and a contemporary shot.  There are 11 people in the old photo, I wonder how large the house is.  Looks pretty big for being so olde in Phoenix.

I will be skulking these houses on a tour, as I am also trying to figure out which dilapidated, burned-out crack house on Van Buren is the old Tovrea home from before they bought the castle.  Exciting.


Something good going down in preservation!

Is the Knipe house being restored?  This pic is from the Arizona Preservation Foundation's Facebook, but there's no information there or on the website. The side of that truck says "AZ Shoring Bracing".

See here for a July 2010 post in which I flip out about the house's unstable future.  There seems to have been lots of debate about whether to bother with it as it is so deteriorated, and Leighton G. Knipe is not famous in spite of having left an architectural legacy in Phoenix.  The Downtown Phoenix Journal (link below) lists some of his works, but there are/were lots of private residences on that list, too.

So what's going on!  Why are they fixing it!  What's going to happen??  I can't find any information on the internet.  The last reference is something about La Grande Orange looking for a downtown Phoenix location.  Will I someday buy a latte and a $3 cookie at the spot where I used to hang my fingers through a chain link fence, wondering if it was worth the risk of potential homeless attack to enter?

Architect Bob Graham talks about why he thinks the house should be restored here.  It's obvious that no one has actually researched L.G. Knipe beyond basic information about his Phoenix contributions.  HLAME.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


For years,
"What's that thing?"
"A rabbit ambulance."
end of conversation.


Elizabeth I

by Lisa Falzon.  I love it.

I am also enjoying this excellent history (& stuff) blog.  She's very well-written and just my style. 

What was I going to do today?  Oh, right, loll around on a couch at Lux and read all the "Anne Boleyn" tags on this blog.  DONE.

I'm trying to stay focused on being a winner at life, which basically involves staying on task and getting things done.  Results have been "ok" so far.  I feel like a martyr because I made an obnoxiously complex cake for my mother's birthday and helped run the kid's craft thing at the museum in the same day.  Any time I positively interact with strangers, particularly strange children, I expect a medal.  Also, I was hit on by a girl today after I showed her how to weave a rag rug out of strips of t-shirt material using a hula hoop as a loom.

Free tip: just because someone tells you they're into history (or whatever), don't assume that means they hang out at the ren faire, because I don't.  And DON'T LOOK SURPRISED when I say so.  It makes me worried that I'm exuding a vibe. 

A ren faire vibe.

Friday, March 9, 2012

There's always one weird thing that stands out in memory to demonstrate a particular moment in time.  A random thought or night or object.  I have no idea what will ever remind me of right now.  I don't think I'm paying attention to anything except that tiny place in the back of my brain where everything is private and mine and I don't have to deal with complex interactions.  Lots of stuff going on, not too interested in any of it.