They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.
-James Earl Jones "Field of Dreams"
and don't go mistaking paradise for that home across the road
-Bob Dylan "Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest"
Thursday, December 20, 2007
A couple of blocks south, 44 Monroe, a new high rise condo development at First Avenue and Monroe, is about to open. Here is a video promoting 44 Monroe.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Phoenix's Willo District is a cottage industry
PHOENIX -- The ceiling beams were hewn by hand in 1922, and Jeff Cirulla points to the chisel marks as he stands in the living room of this Spanish colonial treasure. He appreciates the workmanship all the more, he says, now that the painstaking task of removing layers of purple latex paint has been completed.
Elsewhere in the neighborhood, residents proudly show off leaded-glass windows, murals on backyard walls and scored concrete floors. In a cozy California bungalow, Jeremy and Denise Staley indicate the newly installed hexagonal tile in the kitchen; a classic touch.
"We took out the granite countertops," Denise says.
These are the people of Phoenix's Willo Historic District, and this is their annual home tour. Held during the winter (the next one is Feb. 10), about 15 homeowners open up their storybook cottages, most built in the 1920s and '30s in such styles as English Cotswold, Spanish mission and French provincial.
The homes were designed long before the imperative for entertainment centers, walk-in closets and a separate bedroom for each and every child. But, for the sake of abundant charm, the residents make adjustments.
"A substantial majority have a storage facility somewhere, for the winter clothes," Bob Cannon, president of the neighborhood association, said with a chuckle. "The lack of storage and a garage is a challenge for some of the (newly arrived) suburbans to handle."
A historic district in Phoenix? Well, you have to stretch the concept a bit -- and New Englanders would split their sides with laughter -- but it is, after all, a young city. The Willo gained protection as a special conservation district in the 1980s, which spared it the distressing trend of so many of Southern California's quaint postwar neighborhoods; no mansionization is allowed here.
(Willo, by the way, is not a careless misspelling of the tree. It's a merger of two original voting precincts here, Wilshire and Los Olivos.)
The cultural sophistication of the neighborhood's residents has also spawned a number of similarly minded businesses. An embryonic antiques row has formed along the neighborhood's southern edge, on McDowell Road. Nearby, a tiny bakery is turning out marvelous breads and rolls, and is also affiliated with (and is supplying the baked goods for) a respectable adjacent cafe, housed in a former flower shop.
A funky women's-wear shop and a garden store are making a go of it in the northwest corner of the neighborhood. And a playful boutique hotel has opened nearby.
The Phoenix tourist is the beneficiary of all this. The neighborhood, directly west of Central Avenue in the midtown area, is also convenient to both the incomparable Heard Museum, home to an astonishing collection of historic Southwest Indian art and crafts, and the Phoenix Art Museum.
Visitors intrigued by the cottages may simply drive into the neighborhood, park, and stroll along the sidewalks. They'll likely find plenty of company. Unlike most of urban Arizona, where people huddle in walled housing developments and dash to air-conditioned vehicles, the Willo district has more the feel of "Father Knows Best."
The homes have benches, porch swings, Adirondack chairs and fire rings out front. Residents walk their dogs on sidewalks shaded by parkway trees. Kids ride their bikes in the streets. And Phoenix's notoriously manic surface-street traffic is cooled off by traffic circles, speed bumps and artificially created dead-end streets (steel gates installed on east-west streets prevent through traffic to Central).
Antique merchants who appreciate the sensibilities of the neighborhood are beginning to sprout along West McDowell Road at the neighborhood's southern extremity. The rents are cheap, because this business district is still a bit rough around the edges.
"It's not like Melrose Avenue or Santa Monica Boulevard yet," said Cannon, "but it's going to get there. We have a Jack-in-the-Box, which is an eyesore."
Indeed. Also, directly across from a funky little coffee place called Willow House (they didn't get the memo about the spelling), there is a huge pawn shop with a sign that advertises "jewelry, guns, music, tools, coins."
Sage is one of the better antique shops here. It specializes in European salvage -- iron gates that can be mounted on walls as decor, chandeliers and other weathered Old World finds. A clerk noted that owner Kendra Vermeer has a buyer based in Europe, and makes regular treks to the Port of Long Beach to meet the container ships.
Blue Crate Findings has some beautiful glassware, as well as distressed-wood furniture, and, from China, wooden gates, screens and painted boxes.
For furnishings of a much more recent vintage, there is D.A.'s Modern, carrying such midcentury indulgences as pole lamps, spindly dinette chairs and bright-colored dishware.
But it's evident that antique commerce is a chancy proposition along here. In February, Kismet was one of the more intriguing shops on McDowell, but when I swung by on a return visit in September, it was gone, replaced by Willo Antiques. Another big antique store up the street had gone out of business, its windows defenseless against graffiti vandals.
In another corner of the neighborhood, on North 15th Avenue, the Purple Lizard carries funky and flamboyant women's clothing, including what it describes as "wearable tie dye treasures." Also for sale are local art and body products -- perhaps a bottle of lemon thyme oatmeal and rice bath salts?
Sharing the same building is Southwest Gardener, with its metal garden sculptures, inlaid-tile tables and chairs, and large, ceramic-pot fountains that are positively musical when they're all running at once.
When it's time to restore your strength with a bite to eat, head no farther than the Willo Grocery, a neighborhood bakery and deli that is worth a visit if only to savor the rich scents emanating from the ovens. The fresh loaves of bread laid out on a display table might include -- as they did on my visit -- currant walnut, cranberry hazelnut, onion rye, raisin challah and apricot almond.
The grocery is affiliated with a restaurant next door, one that adheres to the neighborhood's spirit of preservation. The building was a flower shop back in the 1940s, and a classic neon sign on the roof reads "My Florist." Rather than tearing that down and making the place over, the owners kept it and simply called the place My Florist Cafe.
Inside, there are exposed steel beams and a concrete floor on which thousands of vases undoubtedly dripped over the years. The decor is otherwise stylish, with bands of purple lighting, green walls and potted palms. The picture windows, which once showcased the flower arrangements, now contribute to the sunny, airy interior.
My Florist Cafe is a very popular lunch spot. So popular that, well, they serve the same menu of salads and sandwiches at dinnertime. Fortunately, it's possible to make a substantial nighttime meal of the big salads and perhaps the daily soup. The effort is earnest, though the service and the kitchen seem to suffer occasional lapses.
On the plus side, all the baked goods are from the bakery next door, and the wine selection is respectable. If the heat of Phoenix provokes a thirst for beer, order up the Four Peaks Kilt Lifter, a Scottish-style ale from a microbrewery in nearby Tempe.
A neighborhood with an emerging sense of style can use a boutique hotel to match, and the Willo has one nearby in the Clarendon, which lies just off its northern edge.
The boxy building has been spiced up with white paint and bold, vertical blue stripes. The pool deck is also a shocking blue color. At night, a courtyard wall becomes an ever-changing light show of pink, blue and green floodlights.
The rooms have high-end beds, linens and toiletries, and also some clever design touches. There is a sun shade over each window, but on the wall next to it is a sheet of plywood painted with a watercolor image and mounted on rails. This can be slid across the window for greater privacy and total darkness -- yet with artsy flair rather than the sterility of a drapery.
The staff is very friendly, and the inclusive perks are free phone calls (local and long distance) and chauffeur service. Providing the latter might be something of a public service, given the Clarendon's popularity with young business travelers fond of the clubs.
Directly west of the Willo neighborhood is a real municipal treasure, 80-acre Encanto Park. Among its offerings are a golf course, a kids' amusement park with a 1948 carousel, and a lagoon where paddleboats can be rented for a gentle float among the ducks and geese. Fishing is even permitted, for trout, channel catfish, sunfish and grass carp.
It's a relaxing retreat in a city that seems to be in a perpetual rush. Don't be surprised if you encounter a few Willo residents here, too. After a few days in a cozy cottage, Encanto Park's wide-open spaces can be therapeutic for them, too.
IF YOU GO
WHERE: The Willo neighborhood is in Phoenix's midtown area, directly west of Central Avenue (which, be warned, has been a nightmare of construction for months). It is bordered on the south by McDowell Road, on the west by 15th Avenue, on the north by Thomas Road.
HOME TOUR: Next year's Historic Willo Home Tour will be held Feb. 10. Tickets cost $12.75 if purchased online in advance, $15 on the day of the event. Generally, about 15 homes are open on the tour. Information: www. willohistoricdistrict.com.
RETAIL: Blue Crate Findings, 137 W. McDowell Road, (602) 548-8280; D.A.'s Modern, 527-B W. McDowell Road, (602) 252-0001; Purple Lizard Boutique, 2827 N. 15th Ave., (602) 728-0980; Sage, 335 W. McDowell Road, (602) 258-3033; Southwest Gardener, 2809 N. 15th Ave., (602) 279-9510, www.swgardener.com; Willo Antiques, 133 W. McDowell Road, (602) 266-0939.
DINING: My Florist Cafe, 534 W. McDowell Road, (602) 254-0333, www.myfloristcafe.com; Willo Grocery, 530 W. McDowell Road, (602) 441-5450; Willow House, 149 W. McDowell Road, (602) 252-0272.
LODGING: Clarendon Hotel and Suites, 401 W. Clarendon Ave. Room rates from $99. www.theclarendon.net, (602) 252-7363.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Monday, October 08, 2007
From: Hall, Derrick [DHall@dbacks.com]
Sent: Monday, October 08, 2007 12:45 PM
Subject: RE: TBS-HD and Cox
I'll try. Thanks for the update. I have DirecTV and was unaware of Cox.
Derrick M. Hall
From: Paul Benjamin [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, October 08, 2007 12:43 PM US Mountain Standard Time
To: Hall, Derrick
Subject: TBS-HD and Cox
Congratulations on the latest success. This is a wonderful time to be a Diamondbacks fan.
Do you have any insight into what is keeping Cox from making the TBS-HD games available to its subscribers? They appear to have a national agreement in place as many other Cox markets have added it. They should not have any sort of bandwidth constraint as they recently added and then later removed the NFL Network HD when there were preseason games in HD.
With the Dbacks in the playoffs, Cox certainly has antagonized a lot of people (and DirecTV has added it). If you have any leverage with these folks....
Keep on winning,
From: Hall, Derrick [DHall@dbacks.com]
Sent: Monday, October 08, 2007 5:35 PM
To: Paul Benjamin
Subject: RE: TBS-HD and Cox
You and I get things done Paul!!!
From: Paul Benjamin [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, October 08, 2007 5:26 PM
To: Hall, Derrick
Subject: RE: TBS-HD and Cox
Wow, that's great, thanks.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Hall, Derrick [mailto:DHall@dbacks.com]
> Sent: Monday, October 08, 2007 4:33 PM
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: RE: TBS-HD and Cox
> They will now convert the Mojo Channel for these games. Just go to
> Channel 721. Way to go!
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Paul Benjamin [mailto:email@example.com]
> Sent: Monday, October 08, 2007 12:43 PM
> To: Hall, Derrick
> Subject: TBS-HD and Cox
> Congratulations on the latest success. This is a wonderful time to be
> a Diamondbacks fan.
> Do you have any insight into what is keeping Cox from making the
> TBS-HD games available to its subscribers? They appear to have a
> national agreement in place as many other Cox markets have added it.
> They should
> not have any sort of bandwidth constraint as they recently added and
> then later removed the NFL Network HD when there were preseason games
> in HD.
> With the Dbacks in the playoffs, Cox certainly has antagonized a lot
> of people (and DirecTV has added it). If you have any leverage with
> these folks....
> Keep on winning,
> Paul Benjamin
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
This was going to be Wrigley West, we were told. The Cubs fans would dominate and take over our house. Frankly I have seen both Dodgers and Red Sox fans be more vocal this year than the blue-clad morons in attendance at tonight's game. Every time they tried to start a "Let's go Cubbies" chant they were quickly drowned out. Usually I wish that this bunch would simply pack up and move back to Chicago if they liked it so well there. Tonight, though, it was kind of fun to have them around, to see them shouted down by the sea of Sedona Red fans and disappointed by the play on the field. I think that the big difference in tonight's game was the crowd. I have never seen, except in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, more cheering, more standing in key situations, more acting like actual baseball fans, than I saw from tonight's sellout crowd. When they do the Cheers and Jeers in tomorrow's paper, I think that we were the "player of the game".
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
between us and any other talk stations. I appreciate the email.
Director of News & Sports Programming
FM News/Talk 92.3 KTAR, Sports 620 KTAR
Bonneville International, Phoenix
> From: Paul Benjamin
> Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2007 15:30:57 -0700
> Subject: New format
> I tuned in to listen to the news yesterday during afternoon drive time and
> instead of Ted Simons I got right wing drivel. I had to check to make sure
> I had the right button. If I wanted KFYI I would listen to it. I have
> listened to your station since the 1970s. I will continue to listen in the
> morning but you have lost a long time listener in the afternoon. I want
> unbiased news, not far right "opinion".
> Paul Benjamin
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Friday, September 14, 2007
She is a great cat and despite the pain I am glad that we brought her home and that she spent all of this time with us.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Friday, August 31, 2007
Then I found this website, a great list of how to talk to a human being at a huge list of companies. Bookmark this thing, it is invaluable.
I think I got Amazon straight. The nice lady in India that I spoke to said that they were going to stop selling this book until they got it straight, that I should check back in 10 days and if it was back on the website it would be safe to order. Meanwhile, I will get a refund but will have to visit the post office once again.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
A press conference will be held at 1:30 p.m. today at Chase Field.
After the Diamondbacks offered a deal in the range of three years and $22.5 million, the sides announced they had broken off talks on July 19 while the club was in Milwaukee.
But the Diamondbacks reengaged talks sometime during last week’s series against Atlanta, and the sides quickly came to an agreement on a contract that will run through 2010.
The outfielder is in the midst of a career year, hitting .303 with 17 home runs and 28 stolen bases.
The extension almost certainly means outfielder Carlos Quentin’s days in Arizona are numbered. The club was shopping Quentin prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Friday, August 03, 2007
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Thursday, July 26, 2007
My family and I just returned from the June 22 sailing of Carnival’s M/S Fascination. This is a review of that trip. This was my (our) first cruise. My wife and I are in our 40s and we were traveling with our two sons, aged 16 and 13. We chose a cruise over other vacation options since our boys were not interested in a lot of sightseeing. We figured that they could be busy on the ship while we checked out the ports. We chose Carnival over other cruise lines because of the informality, the emphasis on youth activities, the price and the size of the cabins. We chose the Fascination because of the itinerary. We had investigated a European cruise and ruled it out due to cost. At least with the Fascination stopping in
We wanted two cabins, this we knew. We looked at various combinations and settled on a category 11 and a category 7, together on the Verandah deck. The Fascination (and all of its Fantasy-class sister ships) has 4 main passenger decks, below the public rooms (from the bottom:
Since we would be flying from
I did a lot of research, became fairly obsessed with the whole thing. I read all of the cruise tourbooks that I could find. I recommend, in particular, Fodor’s (which I bought) and Fielding’s (the 96 edition). I have little use for the Frommer’s book. I checked daily with rec.travel.cruises and America Online’s cruise boards. I would like to thank all of the people who contribute to these groups, in particular to the people who answered my questions.
One issue that I spent time on was the
Another issue was passports. Carnival said that you did not need them. However, since we were not planning the ship’s excursion in
When the tickets finally arrived, there was a surprise. The ship was to leave on Saturday 6/22 and we had 2 hotel rooms booked for the night of 6/21. I assumed that we would leave early on 6/21. When the tickets arrived we learned that we would leave at on the night of 6/20, change planes in
We got to the airport early so that we could get reasonable seats and we were successful. After they started calling rows for boarding they announced that there was an equipment change and that everyone would have to wait through an interminable line to get new boarding passes. Grumble. I rarely have good luck with Delta. It worked out though and the plane was only half full. No food, movie was ‘Just Like Dad’, just awful from what I could see. Tried to sleep, couldn’t, landed in
Got out at the Sands, got our rooms, they faced the street, not the ocean. The desk would fix this problem for $40 a room. Didn’t seem worth it. Disappointing though. The Sands was a nice place with beachfront, pool, swim up bar, fake waterfalls, etc. It was a little past its prime but it added to the charm. One curious item was that one of its restaurants was Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, which is a chain that has two locations in
There was a supermarket across the street, got some fruit and juice for breakfast. An English language
Got to our cabins, some bags already there. The cabins were as expected. The inside cabin (for the boys) was orange in decor. Our cabin was a combination of gray, dark wood/Formica and mirrors. While larger by 25 square feet, it was actually more cramped than the standard cabins. It had a queen-sized bed, a small couch, chair and coffee table, just a little more furniture than it could support. It also had a mini-bar which consisted of an array of glasses of different varieties, and a refrigerator. I was relieved to find the fridge empty, i.e. not full of stuff that they wanted to sell me. The cabinetry also included a TV and
The early seating changed the afternoon plans since we had planned on going out to see Old San Juan and to pick up some pops, beer and liquor for the cruise. There was now not enough time. Old
After dinner, the boys got back in their shorts and headed down to the orientation party in the Diamonds are Forever Disco. About 15 minutes later we strolled by to see the younger one sitting at a table of boys his own age, having a fine time. No sign of the older one. I went back to the cabins to find him there. He had stopped in, found only younger kids and bailed out. He was heading back to see if anything changed. We snooped again about 20 minutes later. The older boy was leaving the Disco in a group of teenagers of mixed gender. The younger one was busily telling the DJ what to play. Success! We would not worry about them having a good time for the rest of the trip. If you are a teenager, or have teenagers, be aware that the orientation party is the key to whole thing. Don’t miss it! It turned out that the Teen Disco being closed was probably a blessing. The facilities that they used were much larger, more accessible to nosy parents and without the video games that would have cost us a small fortune.
This may have been our favorite night on the ship. There was a creditable calypso/reggae band that played primarily in the daytime by the pool. But tonight they were doing a night-time poolside party. Being out in the night air on deck, dancing, drinking, etc. was a lot of fun. Unfortunately there was very little on-deck activity at night during the rest of the cruise. When it came time for the ship to leave
Before I go on I should explain that we live in
I didn’t have real high hopes for
This was definitely a trip to
At dinner we were led to a table for 8 by a window. Our table mates were a couple from
Food. The dinners in the dining room were excellent. There were a few things that were not perfect, e.g. the escargot were basic rubber with garlic butter, but most was excellent. The rest of the food on the cruise was not that memorable. The lunch in the Coconut Grove restaurant (or on deck) was the same every day. Burgers, some kind of pasta, mediocre cole slaw and potato salad, a salad bar, soft serve ice cream, iced tea, and that was about it. I would have enjoyed more variety. There was an open seating buffet in the dining rooms for lunch that I did not try, probably should have. Breakfast was the same drill, steam table scrambled eggs, undercooked hash browns, bacon, toast, pastries, juice, coffee. We did do breakfast in the dining room a couple of times and it was much better. The late night buffets were a joke. Interminably long lines for forgettable food. On a couple of occasions my wife sent me out from our cabin for something only to have fallen asleep by the time I got back.
Lines. One must resist the temptation to suggest that the next Fantasy class ship will be called the Regimentation. Most lines could be avoided however. There is absolutely no point in standing in line for dinner when you have an assigned table. Come 10 minutes later and there is no line. I already talked about the late night buffets, not worth the trouble in my estimation. Other lines are encountered in getting into the shows, and getting on and off the ship. The show lines can be dealt with. There are upper and lower entrances and also two instances of the shows. My older son got front row seats at the second seating show by entering (on the upper level) when the first seating was leaving. There always seem to be seats if you are not picky about location. Other than in
Shows. I did not have high hopes for the shows. I have never been to a show in
Seasickness. This ship moved a
Port/Starboard. If you have an outside cabin you might be wondering what the optimum side of the ship is in terms of where the ship faces when in port. In
Pressure to buy: There were a couple of areas where Carnival should lighten up a bit. The single worst thing was the constant pressure to buy drinks while on deck. It was damn near impossible to go for more than a minute or two in a deck chair without being accosted by someone trying to sell you an overpriced cocktail. If you are trying to nap or read a book or do anything else remotely relaxing this is downright irritating. Ironically, there are other times, like in the Cocoanut Grove restaurant for lunch, where you can’t find someone to sell you a drink. If you don’t want iced tea you have to go find someone to sell you a Coke or a beer. Another annoyance is the inevitable guy who DOES approach your lunch table and tries to do an advance sale on wine for your dinner. There was also some heavy-handedness in the sale of excursions. They nearly implied that you would not be allowed to leave the ship in
On to the remaining ports:
Summary of ports: Our favorite places were
Cabin note. We really liked the cabin arrangement. The only thing that we would change is to stay a couple of cabins farther back on the same side. We were directly below the edge of the exercise room which once or twice yielded some excess noise. V16 might just be perfect.
Disembarkation. This is by definition a bad thing. You don’t want it to end, you
have to waste time packing. You have to say goodbye to the people that you met. The first real hassle was a money hassle. I had used the ATM next to the casino with no problem midway through the cruise. When I went to it on Friday to extract my tip money it was not working. I had no money for tips. The purser would be glad to do a cash advance on my credit card for $13 on the first hundred and 10% after that. To get the $210 in tip money that the guidelines suggested, it was going to cost me $24. Fortunately, they would cash a check if you had an AmEx card. I located a check and did so. It cost me two trips through the purser’s line on a day that I would have rather spent by the pool, though. The rest went fairly smoothly, other than the part about getting the kids to pack, etc. You put your bags out in the hallway after or so on the night before you get there. Then you and your carry-ons must be out of your cabin by . We and our table-mates managed to grab one of the large circular couch thingies in the Palace Lounge and sat there and waited for our deck to be called. As we had hoped, after the folks doing ship-sponsored excursions in
Would I do this again? Absolutely. This was probably the only opportunity to cruise with the boys. The next time we go on a cruise it will be by ourselves and I think that I would try one of the more upscale lines. I AM hooked on having a cabin with a verandah. Was I satisfied with Carnival? For the most part, yes. This was pretty much what I signed up for. Without my kids, I might have wanted a quieter, more sophisticated, more genteel crowd, but with them it would have been a disaster.