queen-victoria-2-1514478998

A SALUTE TO QUEEN VICTORIA

Happy Victoria Day weekend! How many of us really understand the relevance of this national holiday other than marking the time to open the cottage, stock up on beer and gather the family for a giant BBQ? Thanks to Reader’s Digest and OCanada.com, here are a few facts about Her Maj and why we celebrate her.

Despite being dead since 1901, Britain’s second-longest-reigning monarch is more popular than ever with a hit TV series (Victoria) and a recent major film about her life (Victoria & Abdul). The woman who became queen at 18 years of age, and ruled for 63 years, has never really been forgotten. In the 118 years since her death, she has cropped up as a central character in dozens of films and as a minor character in everything from episodes of Monty Python to Dr. Who. The seemingly endless fascination with Victoria may even have planted the seeds for today’s worldwide obsession with the Royal Family.queen-victoria-1-1514485068Canadians are particularly well acquainted with Victoria. We’ve been celebrating her birthday since 1845. The Victoria Day holiday – called everything from May Two-Four Weekend to Firecracker Day – is the unofficial kick-off to summer in Canada. It’s a federal holiday in this country, and a provincial one in six provinces and all three territories. Despite her enduring fame, Victoria’s birthday is not a holiday in Britain. Except for a small part of Scotland, where Victoria Day is often combined with another holiday, Canada is the only country that marks the event on a grand scale.victoria-4-1514486528Schools, parks, counties, roads, everywhere you look in our country, you’ll find variations of her name or royal title. Not one, but two provincial capitals, Regina and Victoria (pictured below), can thank the Queen for their names, and there are hundreds of Queen Streets dotted all around the country. Even her family got in on the name game: the province of Alberta is named after the Queen’s daughter Princess Louise Alberta, and Prince Edward Island was a tribute to Victoria’s late father. thQueen Victoria may have been one of the longest reigning monarchs, but she was also one of the luckiest. On at least eight occasions, most of them while riding in her open carriage, would-be assassins tried to kill her. She also had a stalker. A man by the name of Edward Jones broke into the royal residence at Buckingham Palace several times, and was eventually caught—but not before he sat on her throne and stole her underwear!th (1)So get out there, enjoy whatever sunshine you can find and thank Her Majesty Queen Victoria for the welcome time off…and hang on to your knickers!!th (2)

ALI_2710

AUSSIE CHANTEUSE ALI HUGHES to unveil “TEA AND ORANGES” EP @ LEONARD COHEN KOANS CONCERT SUNDAY JUNE 2, HUGH’S ROOM

Just in time for her upcoming concert at Hugh’s Room in Toronto, ALI HUGHES will be bringing her live recording of 4 songs from her highly successful 90 minute tribute concert LEONARD COHEN KOANS  with her so Toronto audiences will be able to enjoy her voice and arrangements of Cohen’s legendary ballads long after she returns home Down Under. I spoke with her last week and asked about the recordings….

You’ve just completed recording your new EP, TEA AND ORANGES, containing 4 tracks from your Leonard Cohen Koans project – tell us about the experience of working in-studio on your own project? It was wonderful – the musicians on the album have been playing this show with us for a long time. Bassist Michael Galeazzi has played with Daryl and me since the inception of the show, backing vocalist Gerard Carroll joined in 2011, and Michael Quigley (Quigs) started playing drums and percussion with us in 2016. There’s a kind of shorthand when you play with people for a long time and we recorded the entire EP in 5 hours!

recordings are done!

recordings are done!

I wanted the recording to carry the vibe of our live show, and so we recorded live in one room together with Sean Carey at Church Street Studios in Camperdown, Sydney. That’s the way it used to be back in the day – big bands, everything….I LOVE that, and Sean helped make that happen. I hope you’ll come see & hear for yourselves at Hugh’s Room in Toronto on June 2nd

Sean Carey

Sean Carey

Our arrangements are quite dynamic which made for a few obstacles, but everyone was on their A-game. I had a quick listen with Sean in the booth after the recording session – he’d just given a quick general mix and I couldn’t believe how he made it work so beautifully. And I must give a huge shout out to Sean Carey and the team at Church Street Studios for their recent Emmy Award win – they won in the category of outstanding sound mixing on a preschool animation on Beat Bugs.

Engineer Sean Carey and assistant Matt getting the bass mic'd for Michael Galeazzi

Engineer Sean Carey and assistant Matt getting the bass mic’d for Michael Galeazzi

The musicians who recorded with you – have you worked with them before and what did they bring to the recording sessions?   Yes, we’ve played together for a long time; they’re all incredible musicians with many other beautiful projects. I love playing with them, and I’m so lucky they always say yes when I call :>)  Every time we play Leonard Cohen Koans we find a new depth, especially in Suzanne where we open out into quite a free rave in the second half. This recording was no different – the sensitivity and the boldness of these musicians is extraordinary.
Michael Galeazzi is a member of the ARIA* award winning Karma County and played on Indigenous Australian legend Jimmy Little’s ARIA award winning album, Messenger. He and Michael Quigley have a super long history together playing in APRA nominated jazz outfit Java Quartet and Quigs is involved with Australian/Japanese experimental project Enough to Escape; Gerard Carroll is a highly talented vocalist and actor with a long theatre credit list including on the Australian cast of Once directed by Tony Award winning director John Tiffany, as well as recording and touring with Keegan Joyce on Snow on Higher Ground; and the spectacular Daryl Wallis‘ vastly varied career includes playing piano for Barrie Kosky’s Women of Troy as well as being an integral player in CIRCA’s regional Australian piano based verbatim storytelling show, Reclaimed Pianos.
*Australian Recording Industry Association music awards

Michael Galeazzi

Michael Galeazzi

Gerard Carroll

Gerard Carroll

Michael Quigley

Michael Quigley

Did you have a personal hand in the production process or did you relinquish full control to your producer/engineer?   Daryl and I had a very strong vision for the recording, and Sean’s sensitivity and clarity helped to enhance it beyond what I thought was possible.

Ali's long-time collaborator Daryl Willis

Ali’s long-time collaborator Daryl Wallis

Why “Tea and Oranges” – where did that title come from?   The reference to ‘tea & oranges’ is from the first verse of SUZANNE – he’s observing and feeling at the same time, and his description of her feeding him tea & oranges is one of the divine in the ordinary….exquisite.

Will “Tea and Oranges” be available for sale at your Toronto performance, June 2nd?    Yes! CDs will be on sale for $15 and I’ll be around after the show to say hi and autograph copies.cd coverLEONARD COHEN KOANS – presented by Jane Siberry
Sunday June 2 @ 8:30pm
HUGH’S ROOM, 2261 Dundas St West, Toronto
www.hughsroomlive.com
Tkts: $40 advance / $45 at the doorToronto poster

Toronto poster

LEONARD COHEN KOANS – 1 night only with Australia’s ALI HUGHES, presented by JANE SIBERRY

I’m thrilled to announce that Australian vocalist/recording artist ALI HUGHES is bringing her inspiring celebration of the spirit, music and poetry of one of the greatest songwriters of the modern age to Toronto for a 1-night only performance:  LEONARD COHEN KOANS, presented by Jane Siberry, takes the stage at Hugh’s Room, 2261 Dundas St West, Toronto, on Sunday June 2nd (8:30pm)

This passionate, sensuous vocalist “more than embodies the energy that one expects from an evening celebrating Cohen”, her startling range and remarkable ability to hold the stage meeting this exceptionally well-crafted curation of Cohen’s poetry, prose and song – Avalanche, Chelsea Hotel #2, and the beloved Suzanne – to offer a stirring meditation on the legend and his legacy.AliHughes-Triad1128181(42)__.jpgPart-concert and part-homage, these exciting and original interpretations explore Cohen’s music through jazz, gospel and rock genres, cracking wide open the incredible musicality in his work. Intertwined with excerpts of poetry and prose, and delivered through the lens of his Zen Buddhist spirituality LEONARD COHEN KOANS weaves a new pathway into your experience of this glorious Poet of the Holy Sinners. Accompanied by masterful Toronto pianist ADREAN FARRUGIA, this electrifying, vigorous 90min narrative concert is Cohen like you’ve never heard before. Inspiring, passionate, intimate and sincere, Leonard Cohen Koans gives you another chance to savour the creative spirit with which he so exquisitely courted the world.

I recently spoke with Ali back home in Sydney, Australia, about the show and her career highlights as she prepares her 4-track EP featuring songs from the show (available for purchase on show night)…..

What is your musical background or training – were you a singer/performer during childhood or teens? I don’t have formal music training, as such – I learnt to sing via my parents’ record collection!  The Andrews Sisters taught me how to harmonize, Tina Turner taught me rhythm, Bette Midler taught me emotional range, Annie Lennox taught me vibrato control and Aretha taught me to sing out!!arethaI went to drama school in my mid-20s and in my graduating year met my creative collaborator, Daryl Wallis – he is an incredible musician and artistic mind – when we started playing shows together, I was always surrounded by highly skilled, older musicians. That environment really allowed my intuitive musicality to develop.
You’ve performed in Canada before – when/where might we have seen you?  You might have seen me singing backing vocals on tour with Jane Siberry sometime over the last few years; or at Ori Dragan’s lovely 120Diner with my collaborator Daryl Wallis and Toronto locals John Alcorn, Bucky Berger and Terry Wilkins. Daryl and I also played an awesome house concert in The Annexe (hoping to do it again!!) and were super lucky to play in Northern Ontario on the magical Manitoulin Island.ALI_2710So why Leonard Cohen? What was the inspiration for this amazing project?  Actually, this show was built for a project-based unit of university study.  A theatre director friend of mine had suggested I do an interpretation of Suzanne. I sat on it for a long time… waiting for the way in.  In January 2010, I did a creative intensive as part of some further theatre training at university. It was a super intense, incredibly challenging course, held in a remote area, led by a small older woman who had the energy of a dragon and the presence of a Zen master. Every day pushed the students closer to breaking through our self imposed artistic limitations, and every evening ended in an exhilarated exhaustion and deep sleep. One night when I was super exhausted and almost asleep, I started hearing beautiful chords in my mind and realized they were the way into an arrangement of Suzanne! I made notes, called Daryl straight away and we started working on the arrangement as soon as I returned to Sydney. We played the arrangement at a show the following week and I knew something else was coming.LeonardI had the opportunity to do another unit of study with that same teacher. I made the proposal to create a show using only the words and works of one artist (none of my own personal patter, so to speak) and started devouring Cohen’s work. Researching his Zen Buddhist spiritual practice offered an entirely new way for us to conceptualize celebrating his work. The result is a unique experience of Cohen’s work which is accessible to Cohen devotees and newcomers, practitioners and non-practitioners of meditation, and people who just want to hear some really great music.
You’ve sung back-up with some pretty amazing artists (k.d. lang, Suzanne Vega, Rufus Wainwright) so why step into the spotlight now? What was the push that propelled you to take charge up front?  Being up front isn’t really new to me, I’ve always sung lead on projects at the same time as doing backing vocals on others. I love doing both. I love blending with another voice as a backing vocalist. When you’re really connecting energetically and vocally with someone, you feel you’re moving together like a murmuration of starlings.  And leading a room is an altogether different feeling – but has a similar sensibility to it in that, for me, its about opening oneself in order for the music resonate with the audience in all the ways it needs to.
A previous musical collaborator and Canadian icon, Jane Siberry, is presenting your concert – how cool is that? Did she approach you or visa versa?  Ah, my gosh, it’s the coolest. Jane is extraordinary – she is a close friend and such a huge supporter of this show; she saw an opportunity for us to work together in Toronto and she made it happen.Jane-SiberryOf all Cohen’s songs, are there one or two that you can relate to on an emotional level or that inspire you intellectually?  One or two?? Ha! Ok, I’ll try to keep it at one or two. Suzanne – I have a deep resonance with that song. My favourite line, ‘you know that she’s half crazy – that’s why you want to be there’. and, of course, Dance Me to the End of Love – there’s nothing I can say.
What can Toronto audiences expect to see/hear at the Leonard Cohen Koans show?  Audiences can expect to see a tall Australian woman singing some beautifully and dynamically arranged interpretations of Cohen favourites, including Chelsea Hotel #2, Sisters of Mercy, Suzanne and Famous Blue Raincoat, and some less well known tunes like The Guests and The Butcher, interwoven with a little spoken word and some story telling.  Jane Siberry will be performing as our very special guest opening act, and will also be moderating an artist Q&A session with me at the end of the show so make sure you stay for that.on stageAnything you’d like to share with those Leonard Cohen fans considering buying a ticket?  I am so happy you’re thinking of joining us at Hugh’s Room, and I really hope you decide to come along. We are excited to be just moments from releasing a 4 track EP, titled ‘TEA & ORANGES’. It’s our first recording of tunes from the show – you can find information about the EP, Leonard Cohen Koans, and also about Daryl and myself at www.bigsbabs.com or by connecting with us via our Facebook band page, Ali & the Thieves.

Inspiring, passionate, intimate and sincere, LEONARD COHEN KOANS gives you another chance to savour the creative spirit with which he so exquisitely courted the world.

WHAT THE CRITICS ARE SAYING:
Heart-stopping” (www.theatermania.com)
Spine-tingling” (SX Magazine)
“… Hands down the best I’ve ever heard!” (nytheater.com).
“…  Sensual, enigmatic… intense warmth, startling range.”  -Veronica Hanlon, SX Magazine
“… Exceptionally well-crafted…3 1/2 stars out of 4 “ – Michael Giltz, Huffington Post NYC

Get your tickets now for Sunday June 2nd from www.HughsRoomLive.com  $40 Advance/$45 at doorposter

HUANG Fukushima No 1 Okuma 2017

URBAN GALLERY PRESENTS PHOTOGRAPHER PENG-KUEI (BEN) HUANG – SCOTIABANK CONTACT PHOTOGRAPHY FESTIVAL

After yesterday’s successful launch to the annual Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, Urban Gallery invites lovers of photography and art to visit BEN HUANG‘s haunting solo exhibition “SOLEMN PINES, FADING THINGS” running throughout the month of May.20190504_140133

 

In the beginning there was an earthquake, then a massive wave took everything.  But just as things couldn’t get any worse, an explosion at Fukushima coast released dangerous amounts of radiation. Survival instinct took over: residents left behind things that were precious to them as they escaped. And the trauma remains, like ghosts of the dead lingering upon the land. Over time, as debris is cleared and towns are being rebuilt, the sorrow persists. HUANG Relics Okuma 2016HUANG Rikuzentakata 2013 HUANG Rikuzentakata 2017Ben Huang began visiting Tohoku coast in Northeastern Japan in 2012 with an idea of documenting the transformation in the aftermath of the disaster. Throughout his numerous journeys since then, he learnt how a supposed recovery effort has had a profound impact on the environment and the people living there. These photographs are a testament to such a change; they tell a story of hope and uncertainty of the future, as well as grieving for the lost. It is hopeful yet somber, fragile yet strong, and vulnerable but determined as the region and its inhabitants come to terms with the tragedy.HUANG Okirai Port Ofunato 2018 20190504_130746 20190504_130813 20190504_130831ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Native of Taiwan, Peng-Kuei “Ben” Huang first moved to Indonesia in 1990 and later to Los Angeles, California in 1993. In 1997, he attended Pitzer College where he studied international politics. He began to take an interest in photography in 2001 and left for San Francisco where he earned a BFA degree in 2004. In 2008, he attended the Magnum Workshop Toronto under the guidance of renowned photographer Larry Towell and was selected as one of the finalists for the Scotia Bank Prize.  Ben has been living in Canada since 2005 and splits his time between Canada and East Asia. www.benhuangphotos.com

Ben was thrilled to welcome family and friends to Urban Gallery which was soon packed and buzzing!20190504_141335 20190504_141451 20190504_141509Toronto arts journalist, Mark Hasan, interviewed Ben (below) who was happy to share his thoughts on the current state of the environment, esp. around the Fukushima reactor that released dangerous amounts of radiation and is still impacting the world’s oceans.20190504_134532You have another opportunity to meet Ben in person – Saturday May 25th (2-4pm) – the gallery looks forward to welcoming those interested in the art of photography and learning from Ben’s first-hand accounts of how Japan is recovering from the earthquake & tsunami. All photographs are available for purchase – the archival pigment prints are 16″ x 24″ (framed or unframed) and are in limited editions of 20.  Further details: www.urbangallery.ca20190504_130715

20190410_124647

MY ARIZONA ADVENTURE (Pt. VI) – Dances with Butterflies

On my last full day in Arizona, my friend AJ took me to meet the tiny winged creatures living in Butterfly Wonderland located in Scottsdale. What a lovely way to spend a couple of hours walking through the gardens while thousands of tiny (and not so tiny) butterflies flitted around us.

It took a while for me to focus my phone camera – so many flutterbies to follow. There were a number of cute kids who were fascinated with them, too, so I just focused on one family….

I managed to capture some great shots of them as they sat in the sunlight, resting their wings…20190410_132718 20190410_134253 20190410_132647 20190410_134248I even picked up a hitchhiker…..the great butterfly escape of 2019!20190410_134055The park keeps chickens to eat up all the nasty bugs who are dangerous to the butterflies…this cute one kept clucking at me as I tried to snap a pic.20190410_132906Lunchtime….everyone in the fruit bowl!20190410_132358AJ had several butterflies use him as a resting spot…

And unbeknownst to me, I had been walking around for some time with this gorgeous wee beastie riding on my back.20190410_134342

 

AJ took lots of great shots I’d like to share with you…just look at these beauties:IMG_7648IMG_7697IMG_7729IMG_7731IMG_7750We were starting to get pretty hot and clammy thanks to the temperature and humidity of the “wonderland” so AJ and I went thru to the adjacent reptile rooms and found some pretty cool critters (in a much cooler environment…LOL). Check these out…20190410_135737 20190410_140109 20190410_140118What a blast!  Time for something to eat so we departed Butterfly Wonderland and headed out into the “mall” where we located a rather interesting restaurant….20190410_154125 20190410_145930 20190410_145959Yes, a dino-bistro complete with crazy ass dinosaur models! Food was pretty good – mostly Mediterranean style, and afterwards we walked around both levels of the compound…the sun shone thru the wrought iron railings creating some lovely shadow designs.20190410_154123If you plan on visiting Scottsdale/Phoenix, I highly recommend spending an afternoon here – lots to see and do, not just butterflies. And the souvenir shops are fabulous – lots of nifty things and very inexpensive.  For directions and details, visit their website: www.butterflywonderland.com

Back home to Camp Joy Ranch, enjoying the beautiful countryside for the last time….20190410_161841 20190407_172512 20190410_120828The following day, I had to fly back to Toronto, via Calgary, so this night, AJ and I had our “last supper” at one of the local steak houses…yummmm.IMG_7812I’ll be back for sure…even if it’s just for the amazing steaks!!

20190409_122342

My Arizona Adventure (Pt. V) – visiting Cave Creek & fab gemstone store

A little closer to Camp Joy Ranch, AJ took me to Cave Creek, another beautiful town with a distinct wild west atmosphere and lots of touristy stores and restaurants. The drive into the town was thru vast “forests” of saguaro cactus..I was half-expecting to see cattle rustlers or stage coaches along the way.20190409_122213Knowing that I wanted to purchase some genuine, quality turquoise and native American silver, AJ knew exactly where to take me: Rare Earth Gallery, a very special (and very large) store with just about every gemstone and earthly treasure from around the world.Mar400920190409_130847 20190409_132058 20190409_132226Out front of the store were several carved marble pieces, like this magnificent rearing horse….20190409_130252 20190409_130313…and AJ took an instant liking to this HUGE chunk of crystal (above).  They also had a wide selection of Tibetan salt lamps (below)20190409_132330And behind the cash registers were two beautiful back-lit artworks  (below) made with marble and precious and semi-precious gems mined in the surrounding Phoenix hills. You should see the outstanding amethysts and tourmalines that come from this region. 20190409_132353 20190409_132400I made a bee-line for the jewellery counters and found two stunning rings behind locked display case doors – please sir, may I try them on? Done…they fit perfectly…the rings are mine. One is a green-hued chunk of turquoise for my right hand and the larger one is made of blue turquoise and spiny oyster inlays, both silver. 20190420_162506 Mar4008Obviously a favourite shop of his, AJ purchased a couple more stones to add to his and Tom’s basket of stones in their front lobby (below) – very tactile home decor and each stone carries mystical powers to heal or energize.20190409_091157Once we stored our purchases into the car, we wandered across to where the “frontier town” was – today there were only a few tourists and it seemed a bit sad. We dropped in to the candlemaker (fragrances were a bit too strong for me to remain there), then a couple of the souvenir stores but I just couldn’t “get it up” to enjoy the silly crap on sale there. They had a great loo, tho. I wish I’d taken a few pics – lots of old photos of 30’s and 40’s Hollywood movie cowgirls as well as old rodeo ladies lined the walls so I was able to enjoy a tinkle under the gaze of those vintage wild west gals. 20190409_134936Next blog will cover my final full day in Arizona: we visit the incredible butterfly conservatory and reptile museum, and AJ and I enjoy our deelish “last supper” – more steak for me…LOL!IMG_7739

20190408_124930

MY ARIZONA ADVENTURE (Pt. IV) – Sedona, the “New Age” centre of America

Monday dawned bright and filled with birdsong, as usual at Camp Joy Ranch – today AJ was taking me to Sedona  where I was going to experience “new age” mysticism in the hippy-dippy heart of Arizona. Hurry, hurry, let’s get going – I was like a little kid off to see Santa!

First, we needed to fuel up at the local Starbucks – here their stores are all adobe-clad, and so clean and spacious.20190408_094154 20190408_092931AJ then pointed the car north and off we went on the 90 minute journey….after about 40 minutes, the terrain changed and we were climbing in altitude, passing some pretty bad-ass towns and roads (see below)20190408_111459I turned round to catch this amazing view of a far-off snow-capped peak – wow!20190408_113741Then suddenly…we had arrived!

First stop…AJ insisted I attempt to climb up Bell rock which is one of the 8 vortices (thought to be swirling centers of energy that are conducive to healing, meditation and self-exploration. These are places where the earth seems especially alive with energy) – are you kidding me? Oh well, let’s see how this vortex thing works, see what the universe is gonna fling at me. Perhaps a palpable body buzz, maybe a spiritual shift in my soul – who knows. So I stayed open to whatever would happen and we trekked on up the massive rock. I got a little way up then turned around…OMG! The view was spectacular…IMG_7610…we passed some of the legendary twisted juniper trees…20190408_125312…then I reached the point where I thought my lungs would explode – whew! Can’t…go…on…any…further. So here are a few pics taken during my vortex encounter:20190408_124636 IMG_7614AJ pointed out the vortex “power lines” flowing into me in this picture he took (above) but perhaps they may just be rays streaming down from the sun. Personally, I’m stickin’ with his theory.  More incredible views….20190408_125354 20190408_130239 20190408_131246(0) 20190408_130249Time for a cool drink and some lunch so AJ took me to his favourite vegetarian restaurant, Chocola Tree, where we enjoyed healthy organic treats. Lovely peaceful environment and a nice way to “come down” from the vortex thingy.IMG_7615

Now for some serious retail therapy: I promised myself I would buy a really good piece of turquoise so the ever-patient AJ escorted me into and out of numerous touristy souvenir stores until we came upon one particular fine jewellers and there I found several pieces that made their way back to Toronto with me. Who needs rent money when you can buy genuine native American silver and turquoise, right? Haa haa. IMG_7620We then drove a little further into the real town of Sedona (away from the tourist traps) to a mission-style arts & shopping village called Tlaquepaque. What a beautiful place with all sorts of luxury boutiques surrounded by hanging gardens, balconies, flowers and stunning architecture…20190408_162758 20190408_162147 20190408_162151 20190408_162606 20190408_162156By now, the sun was getting low so time to head home to Camp Joy Ranch and as we drove out of town I looked up and saw some amazing cloud formations that resembled UFOs following us…yikes!20190408_171502The theme from Close Encounters started playing my head…LOL.  Tomorrow, we’re off to Cave Creek, a modern “wild west” town (pretty close to our ranch) that had played host to thousands of bikers from across the country the weekend before. Wonder what we’ll find there….stay tuned.20190409_134936

20190407_115310

MY ARIZONA ADVENTURE (Pt. III) – a western ghost town & a cowboy shoot ’em up!

Just like in the movies, the real wild west has plenty of ghost towns and my hosts, AJ and Tom, took me to the Goldfields ghost town north of Phoenix.  It used to be a real working gold mine town back in the late 1800’s complete with mines, a saloon, general store, a prairie apothecary and bordello (a genuine whorehouse). We arrived in time to enjoy a train ride around the town, play in the shootin’ gallery and witness a noisy shoot-out with the local Sheriff and bad guys. So much fun and the views of the spectacular Superstitions rocks/mountains were breathtaking. 20190407_113004 20190407_124038 20190407_121441 IMG_7518I dropped in to the Siphon Draw Apothecary where lovely pharmacist/medicine woman Colleen (pictured below) created a beautiful refreshing & healing body spray for me using natural aloe and geranium oils.  www.siphondraw.com 20190407_132057AJ took some great pics of the saloon, the bordello and other buildings (below)…IMG_7529 IMG_7534 IMG_7563 IMG_7558…as I saved seats for the big showdown at the OK (for now) corral!

What a hoot! After this, we decided we needed to try our own hands at shootin’ so we headed to the shack out back and took up laser rifles…20190407_122435Didn’t feel much like the real thing but for 2 bucks, I ain’t complaining. Bang…bang bang. Gotcha, ya vermit!  AJ & Tom took a time-out at the big saloon and posed for me in front of the horses and the big mountains in the background.20190407_124152Next, we rode the choo choo train that circled the town, giving us a great view of all the buildings and mining activities.20190407_133136 20190407_135505

If you want to visit Goldfield ghost town for yourself and experience the excitement of the wild west, here’s all the info your need:  www.goldfieldghosttown.comIMG_7593Tomorrow…join me in Sedona (below) the new age capital of Arizona, where I experience a “vortex” and marvel at the rock formations and mesas, and the stunning beauty of the desert during the rare “super bloom”.20190408_121116

20180406_104507

My Arizona Adventure (Pt.II) – I visit Old Town & Western Heritage Museum

Saturday April 6th dawned bright and early for me…the sun streamed in my bedroom window (pictured below) by 6:30am and the birds were in full chorus! 20180406_165843Today was the day AJ was taking me shopping in Old Town, Scottsdale’s touristy section with all the souvenir shops and boutiques complete with wild west themed exteriors. Our first stop was the weekly farmers’ market – not your usual ramshackle clutch of stalls and tents, but a well laid out, clean and welcoming market with free samples, deelish healthy breakfast treats and tons of local produce. Everywhere you looked, there were flowers and happy smiling shoppers. 20180406_090834After indulging in a home-made quiche with honey drizzled over it (wow, so yummy) and downing cups of hot local coffee, we headed off to stroll the Old Town streets.  There’s a fabulous art gallery, home decor/accessories and artifacts called Bischoff’s Gallery that AJ wanted to show me so off we went, passing several stunning western sculptures…20180406_092133 20180406_092348 20180406_092455I found so many wonderful treasures inside Bischoff’s including this painted deerskin plus numerous kachina dolls20180406_094017 20180406_094026…and I picked up a couple of modestly priced carved wooden figurines – a coyote in full howl and a bunny rabbit, plus a string of tiny red glass chili peppers that are now hanging on my front door.  www.bischoffsgallery.com

More wanderings in and out of souvenir stores, picking up fridge magnets for friends as requested.20180406_092510 20180406_103518We came upon a stunning fountain with several galloping horses…20180406_110009It was getting just a wee bit hot so we ducked into the fab Berdena’s cafe where the staff prepared fresh squeezed orange juice for me and a tea for AJ. Friendly & welcoming staff made for a pleasant visit. www.berdenas.com20180406_111007 20180406_110704More schlepping around the streets before heading to the incredible Museum of the West where I was to find treasures from cowboy history, native American culture and some samples of the great western artist, Charles Russell.  I’ll let the photos do the talking…20180406_114636 20180406_115545 20180406_115615This next one is AJ’s favourite, as if you couldn’t tell!20180406_115641And these are two of mine….20180406_115655 20180406_115707They’re also heavy into pot…clay pots, that is…20180406_115738 20180406_115751 20180406_115811Lots of wild west memorabilia was on display…
20180406_120631 20180406_120656 20180406_12074820180406_121639 20180406_121730 20180406_121833 20180406_121928I was particularly drawn to the Charles Russell exhibition of his paintings and stories about the women in his life…20180406_120043 20180406_120027 20180406_115936And there were so many amazing bronzes of native Americans…just look at these regal warriors:20180406_120120 20180406_120152And of course I found my very own buffalo…Dances with Glenda!20180406_121022The museum has an outdoor courtyard filled with sculptures…20180406_121108 20180406_121147 …then back inside I discovered a tribute to John Wayne by his artist friend Harry Jackson near the gift shop:20180406_121409 20180406_121416The museum also had a “secret garden” of sculptures around back – look what I found there…20180406_123304 20180406_123441 20180406_123640Big thank you to Jeffrey in the gift store who pointed out some great western books to bring home as well as some cool cowboy fridge magnets (these ones are for me!). Learn more about Scottsdale’s Museum of the West by visiting their website: www.scottsdalemuseumwest.org

More Arizona Adventure stories coming from this lone ranger so stay tuned!20180406_133437

20190406_103138

MY ARIZONA ADVENTURE (Pt.I) – welcome to Camp Joy Ranch

It’s been 22 years since I took a vacation – working for one’s self means if you don’t work, you don’t make money so after all that nose-to-the-grindstone living, I finally accepted an invitation from old pal Anthony (AJ) Cavanagh with whom I worked at a local Toronto TV station back in 1999/2000, to visit him and his husband Tom on their ranch in Phoenix, AZ. If there is a heaven here on earth, Camp Joy Ranch must be it…or at least heaven-adjacent!

After coming in for the landing and seeing such a bleak landscape (below)…20190405_205210…I was surprised to learn that Arizona had recently experienced an unusual amount of rain and the desert was in “super bloom”  i.e. all the wildflowers and cacti were blossoming, bursting with colour and fragrance. After AJ picked me up it was pretty dark and as we drove thru the night about an hour or so out of the city, he explained that they have a law requiring street lights and commercial/retail lighting be turned off or down low in order to see the night sky. OMG…I have never seen such bright stars, the moon, all the constellations! But even more beautiful was the surroundings of Camp Joy Ranch when I woke up the next morning with the sun streaming through my bedroom window…20190407_07061220190406_10320520190406_10294420190406_102710The first thing I noticed, apart from the stunning vistas, was the sound of birds singing. Mourning doves coo’d, desert quails with their funny feathered top-knots warbled and the crows cawed high above as they rode the wind high above. I saw all sorts of birds including red cardinals, honeysuckers and humming birds (try taking a pic of them – impossible…LOL) as well as eagles and hawks, plus the bunnies came out to play every morning (below)20190409_091022After a great Aussie breakfast of toast & Vegemite, AJ saddled up the Prius and we headed out to Scottsdale for some serious shopping and touristy sight-seeing. I was so excited just like a little kid, knowing I was gonna be amazed and enthralled. My next blog post will show you what we saw so stay tuned.20190406_102808