Belated Happy Valentines Day . . .

Seem to be a day and a dollar short these days. No excuse, but it rained yesterday and we spent the day goofing off. I went to one of my favorite music stores, The Mandolin Store which was a mistake as I spent a pile of money on a new octave mandolin. It has a guitar shaped body rather than the traditional tear drop shape an, to my ear, it sounds much better with a more balanced and richer voice.

My new toy

I’m including an excerpt from my book, The Awakening of Russell Henderson when Russell bought his mandolin . . .

. . . “The store smelled of wood. Guitars, banjos, violins, and mandolins hung all over the walls, and strings, accessories, books and CDs sat on racks around the room. 

I explained to the salesman—a guy about my age—what I was looking for. He asked me about my experience, and I replied that I had none.

He showed me several student models. I asked him the difference between those and more expensive ones, and he explained about the differences in woods (solid or laminated), manufacturing processes (how much hand work was involved), and price (solid wood being pricier). I asked if he could play some from the different price ranges. I found it easy to hear the differences: the student models were nice, but the more expensive ones definitely sounded much better, having a nice, woody sounding low end and less harshness on the higher strings. He played a number of different ones, and I asked Hanna what she thought. Interestingly, she liked the same one as I did, a Collings MT O Oval Hole A Style with a satin finish for $2970.00 including a quality hardshell case. The salesman recommended that I get a good humidifier for it.

Not understanding, I asked, “A humidifier? Why?”

“Where’re you from?”


“Well,” he said, “it’s pretty wet in Iowa, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it rains a lot, and it can be really humid, especially in summer.”

 “Our relative humidity out here can be really low, averaging maybe around thirty percent. Most wood instruments are now made in climate-controlled conditions around fifty percent. When the outside humidity is low, the wood dries out, warps, and can actually crack—usually the tops. Half our repairs are due to lack of proper humidity.”

I thought about our guitars and looked at Hanna. I could tell she was thinking the same thing I was. So, along with the mandolin humidifier, I got two guitar humidifiers, some mandolin picks of various thicknesses, a shoulder strap, and two extra sets of strings for the mandolin along with two sets each for our guitars. I browsed the book shelves and found three books, one for beginners, one on accompaniment, and one of folk songs for mandolin, all with videos and sound tracks. I also bought another electronic tuner. I then found three folk type CDs with mandolin. The guy showed me a few things about care for the instrument. He threw in all our strings along with a polishing cloth and some polish. We walked out into Montana sunshine, and I couldn’t wait to start playing.”

Til later . . .


Missed several days now . . . trooped back across the desert to our favorite winter respite with palm trees, a lovely pool and hot tub and nice people.

I committed myself to get some work done while hanging by the pool in the sun but all I’ve gotten done so far is to congratulate some of the folks who won a copy of “The Awakening of Russell Henderson” in a Goodreads giveaway. Still a few more to go as Goodreads kept increasingly wanting to know if I was a ‘robot’ and I was having to prove I was a human by trying to select all the stoplights or bicycles or storefronts, etc, in their fuzzy hard to decipher groups of poor quality fuzzy images. My eyes started crossing and I got frustrated and quit and haven’t triedagain . . . yet. I know I have to go back and keep on truckin’ along . . . much rather be writing . . . hell of a lot more fun.

Missed yesterday . . .

Too occupied running around to get anything written yesterday, but it was a great time exploring a place right over the border in Calfornia off of I-8 called Felicity, aka, The Official Center of the World. It was an amazing and wonderful experience. We only had a few hours, but I could have spent a whole day here.

Check out the sand dunes in the background.
The bronze sculptored hand modeled after God’s arm from Michaelangelo’s ‘Dawn of Creation’ painting in the Sistine Chapel which also acts as a sun dial. The twenty foot pyramid is in the background.
The plaque in the center of the pyramid.
Looking toward the chapel with the granite walls of history and memories.
The ‘History of Humanity’ wall. There is an incredible amount of text and many images skillfully etched into the wall by some amazingly precise and talented artists.
The chapel.
The inside of the chapel.
A view from the chapel towards the pyramid.

More can be found out about this serene magical place at <;. If you are ever on interstate 8 at the Arizona California border, make a point to stop by.

Flagstaff to Yuma . . .

Five degrees in Flagstaff this morning after a fresh snow yesterday morning. The San Francisco Peaks to the north were beautiful in the morning sun.

Driving south on I-17, we began dropping in elevation from 7000 ft., the snow disappearing as did the tall pines now being replaced by Cedar and Piñon. I forgot how beautiful this drive is, winding through mountainous terrain at 80 mph. What fun.

We saw smoke clouds and another few miles down the road we saw a slash burn, a planned burn of rubbish from forest thinning. The smell rememinded us of the two fires we expereinced in Durango, the acrid smoke of burning pine and brush is something you can never forget. Last year we had to leave town because of the smoke from the horrible fire north of town that permeated the air so it was truely hard to breath, especially with asthma like I have.

Then down into the Verde Valley and past the red magical mystical rocks of Sedona to the west. Farther on down we came to the elevaiton where the giant Suquaro cactus grow. The scenery was breathtaking. To north of Pheonix, we skirted the cith as we went west on the 303 avoiding the the heavy Phoenix traffic. Then to I-10 and south to Gila Bend, a sleepy little desert town by I-8 where we stopped for gas, a potty break, and ice cream.

From the time we left I-10 and headed south, the landscape turned into serious desert spotted here and there by low craggy desert mountains. As we drove along I-8, we knew Mexico was only a short distance to the south. The whole scene always reminds me of reading Carlos Castenada’s first book, ‘The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge’. When I read it some 30 odd years ago, I dreamed of this land, and it was as I always envisioned. Although I have driven this road many times, the mysticism of this land never escapes me.

And on to Yuma, a place where the snowbirds come to roost from their migration away from their northern winters, all huddled into compact RV Parks like some sort of a transient winter retreat amongst their own species, drinking beer, eating off BBQ grills, playing cards, and telling tall fables of a lost youth.

To our motel for some decompression and on to our wonderful friends for drinks, dinner, and telling our own tall fables.