Trippin’ along the Arizona Canal

In previous posts (July 13 and Nov. 2015) I’ve mentioned a number of oddities along the Arizona Canal that runs past my house. As I’ve said, my early morning bike ride down the canal often reveals surprises, sometimes in the form of amusing graffiti but just as often in the form of abandoned or otherwise unheralded public art—such as the rather mysterious sandstone sculpture below.

There’s no sign or other indication of why or how it appeared on the raised berm between the paved pathway and gravel path adjoining the canal itself.

I decided to get to the bottom of this and found more than I expected.

The primary reference that Google turned up was a brief essay titled, Arizona Canal Demonstration Project Sunnyslope Community” crediting M. Paul Friedberg – Landscape Architecture and Jackie Ferrara – Artist.

This is apparently part of a “multi-room” landscape art project from 2001 and the sandstone design turned out to be the fourth “room.” Each room supposedly illuminates one or more of the environmental characteristics that contribute to the uniqueness of this area.

I gather the sculpture above is an artistic interpretation of either the Salt River or an ancient Hohokam tribe drawing of the 2,000 year old canal system. The Hohokam flourished in the Phoenix valley from 300-1450 CE.

A close look at the sculpture reveals two sets of openings, one of which appears to be a dual nozzle which may have been intended to create a water/stream effect. Or it could simply be an alien!

The canals are operated by the Salt River Project (SRP) and while the canals are technically a utility corridor, meant to deliver water to this desert metropolis, they’ve historically been associated with recreation.

 

 

Recently, a longtime Sunnyslope resident told me that maintenance of the various artwork installations—the sequence of five outdoor “rooms” at intervals of approximately 500 to 700 yards carved into the berm—was abandoned for budgetary reasons when a different authority took over management of the berms and paths.

Now, here’s a rundown of the various “rooms,” in sequence starting from the Central Ave and heading southeast toward 7th St. It’s not entirely clear which rooms are which from the write-up but I think my guesses are reasonably on target.

First room: the “circle room”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, here’s an amazing little peculiarity of the Circle Room: if you stand dead center, you can create a strange auditory “echo” effect — much like those so-called “whispering galleries” where your voice is amplified beneath a dome or a vault. Except that here, a person standing outside the very limited circle, more than 2 or 3 feet, just hears your normal voice. But you hear your voice as though it’s being piped into a microphone. Everyone who has seen this acts blasé at first, like, “OK what’s the big deal?” But when they step into the small circle and try it out, it’s “Whoa! What just happened?”

I have no idea whether the designers intended to create this effect or if it’s just an unintended artifact of the circle. You’d really have no idea to even try it unless you came upon it by chance or someone told you about it…like I just did.

Second room: the “water room”

Third Room: the “time room” —  yes…it’s an actual sun dial!

The fourth room, seen at the top of this posting, is called the “map room”

Fifth room: the “grass room”?

This is described as a rectangular space outlined on three sides by a stone seating wall. “A planting bed of tall exotic desert grass creates a spatial frame around the sitting area, thus focusing the visitor’s view toward the top of the grass and the canal.”

Obviously the “planting bed” was a budget victim. And, oddly, one can only wonder what force of nature caused part of this very solid-looking wall to break away in two places (one shown here).

 

I’m putting my money on ancient aliens as seen from these artifacts, with characteristic beady eyes, metallic, hook-ended legs and strangely bicycle-like form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


All photos, except Hohokam illustration and canal map are copyright (c) 2017 Jim Veihdeffer.
In case you’re interested in exploring this mile-long stretch, you can start at Central Ave. just south of Dunlap and head southeast along the left side of the canal. The first room is about 2/10ths of a mile from the overpass, with subsequent rooms at more or less regular intervals. Most bikers are not even aware of the installations, but they’re pretty obvious if you take a moment to just observe.The nine canals that make up the Valley’s canal system were developed over the past 100 years. Each canal has a unique history and service area. Work on the Arizona Canal that runs past my house began in May 1883
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Early Morning Canal Oddities

My early morning Arizona Canal ride from Central Ave. to Maryland Ave. in north central Phoenix yielded several interesting oddities.

First up, a sea monster alert!

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a closer look (along with possible monsters) …

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next: I have to say I have no idea what this is. As I first wheeled past I thought it might be hamburger patties being left out by a homeowner for feral dogs or cats. When I came back on my return trip, it looked more like the leavings of a dog or horse…but, no, much too neat. I did poke one of the items with a stick. It has roughly the consistency of hamburger but clearly it isn’t. Maybe it’s some sort of protective non-conductive goop for the electrical installation. I didn’t lift up the goop to see what the white, cuplike containers were up to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grapes anyone?* Yep, here’s about a dozen, presumably spilled earlier by someone coming in or out of the tunnel in a hurry this morning. Tasty.

This colorful wall fresco displaying eight different national flags has been there for a while. I haven’t been able to figure out if there’s a connection among the various nations (Japan, UK, Germany, France, USA, Canada, Ireland?/Italy?** Australia)

This guy, one of two different giant pottery items, has also been in place for a while. I’m guessing it appeared about the same time as the State Route 51 wall potteries that appeared in the early 1990s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking a closer look at the top reveals a romantic message by some pavement graffitista. I’m certainly not condoning defacing public artworks, but I’m willing to give a hall pass on this one because it’s both sweet and unobtrusive.

Here’s a view from the other side.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering who’s in charge of all this, it’s the good ol’ USA…oh, and SRP (the power company)…oh, and uncredited here, the city of Phoenix which, I was told by a cleanup guy before he got to the grapes, is responsible for maintaining the actual pathway.


*one correspondent suggests they might actually be cherries (on sale for $0.87 at Safeway)
**another loyal correspondent wonders if the flags could represent the G8 group of industrialized nations. A close look at the actual wall painting is inconclusive since it could be “Italy-red” or “Ireland-orange.” An Italian flag would fit the G8 theory, but…the next flag is Australia, not a G8 country.
Here’s the flag in question. The photo has not been retouched for color.
And if you’re thinking there isn’t enough signage along the canal, here’s a bunch from a small municipal maintenance facility just off the canal near Granada Park.

Eerie shadows and light

I thought I’d take a break from peering into the eerie creepy shadows of current politics to offer some recent shadow and light images from my own humble abode. Except for a bit of contrast control and minor cropping, these are straight out of the camera. (You can click on the images to get an enlarged view.)

Some of these are imbued with inherent mystery…

1) …such as this unusual configuration shining through an upper window, illumined by moonlight only, no camera tricks.

2) …and this bizarre light show that simply appeared one night

3) This Mickey Mouse cactus on my back patio is lit only by a porch light.

4) Can you guess this one. Hint: looking downward.

5) This small pink ball appeared on my front walkway one morning. No note. Only those odd shadows know.

6) Not much mystery here, other than the fact that the hummer was up pretty dang late for dinner.

7) Full moon across the street, along The Arizona Canal.

8) I’m a fan of this serendipitous image from my kitchen table

9) OK, this Cowboy Hydrant just outside the humble abode is admittedly not a shadow figure, per se but it seems to gain some credibility from the play of early morning light.


  1. Shadows of miniature cacti and empty vase and a small Don Quixote figure are refracted through an upper window onto my upper living room wall by the loft staircase. This is straight out of the camera with just a bit of contrast control.

  2. Turns out, the weird other-worldly display comes from from small, shiny, colored peace symbols that I had casually tossed onto the cabinet.

  3. Paddle cactus

  4.  This is a downward look into a glass jar containing sugar water and a two drops of red dye for the hummingbird feeder

  5.  This fun, colorful ball was deposited by a neighbor in thanks for a small favor I had done. When you bounce the ball, it lights up.

  6.  Not clear where the orange-ish light on the hummingbird fluid is coming from, possibly just a porch light

  7.  The Arizona Canal crosses Central Ave by my house. The 50-mile canal actually starts out in northeast Mesa, flows across the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, jaunts through upscale downtown Scottsdale and continues northwesterly through Phoenix, Glendale, Peoria before ending at New River, near Arrowhead Towne Center. (What…they couldn’t spell it “Centre”?)

  8.  I had just bought a small oscillating fan and discovered that I had to assemble it. The fan blade was enclosed in this cool, resealable plastic bag which apparently is irresistible to children.

  9. Cowboy Hydrant. Not sure where the hat came from…presumably a workman in the parking area.

Ruh roh…SRP at the door!

Nationstar-check-corner(086)-CR

 

As Dave Barry says regarding the biblical figure of Abram, “With all due respect to God, when He appears to people in the Old Testament, it generally is not a lighthearted occasion.”

So too when you hear the doorbell and see an electric company truck in front.

In this case it was an SRP truck, which is a bit odd since my neighborhood in Phoenix uses APS for our electrical needs.

However, I know that the Arizona Canal, which runs past my house, is managed by SRP (Salt River Project).Canal sign-cell(150)

So it was with some trepidation that I saw the man with an SRP uniform standing there holding a slip of paper.

Was it a summons of some kind? A bill? Did someone catch me exceeding the bike speed limit on the canal path (not bloody likely considering how the guys wearing Spiderman outfits whiz past me on a regular basis).

The guy said “hello” and asked my name. He held forth the slip of paper, a check for $35 as it turned out, which I immediately recognized as the check I had planned to deposit at the ATM that morning during my return trip on my regular early morning canal ride.  I had blown off the bank detour in favor of…well in favor of trying to hit a time goal…and, frankly, completely forgot about the check in my shorts.

The SRP guy said that some man on the canal who had left his phone there found the check. When SRP tracked down the phone-forgetter, he told them about the endorsed check he had found.

Since my name and address were on the check, SRP took the trouble to drive over to my humble abode.

I would have liked to call the phone forgetter but the SRP guy either didn’t have it or wasn’t authorized to give it out.

Nationstar check(087)-CR-FX4

So, the phone-forgetter got his phone back, I got my check back and the canal ducks can get back to quacking themselves up at the heedless humans in their habitat.

Just give me some kind of sign

A week ago, I posted a photo on Facebook of a gent (though as you’ll see below, “gent” is a generous characterization) who was tooling down the Arizona Canal near my house on a motor scooter, which he insisted was legally a “bicycle.”

As you’ll see from the sign, the canal pathway rules don’t say anything about bicycles but specifically forbid “motor vehicles”

Canal sign-cell(150)Canal biker-cellcam(150)dpi)

“Take a picture of this!” he said.

But one of the things I like about the Sunnyslope neighborhood of north-central Phoenix is the wide diversity of people and things you can see from a real bicycle. For example, right after busting the motorbike guy, I found this clever bit of sign shenanigans (which I’d like to think is a tribute to the “V for Vendetta” mask) next to a canal underpass:

Canal yield sign-cell(150)About a half a mile in the other direction, there’s a cul de sac with this street name:

WhyWorryLane(16)

Then, close to the corner of Why Worry and 7th Ave. is this notification of a house for sale.

ImGorgeousInside(31)

And, in what has to be the most monumentally ill-begotten instance of a misplaced “For Lease” banner, I found the following triumph of inadvertent smut peddling in the middle of a strip mall:

Kum On European Hoes-CR2(806)Despite being in the middle of a very mixed ethnic population in a major metropolitan area with no pretense to countryside ambiance, one can also find several properties apparently “grandfathered” for raising livestock during the winter.

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Llamas(413)But lest you think this is really a property bordering on a rural desert ranch, note the emus checking out the traffic along a major urban thoroughfare, Dunlap St.

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Back by the canal, just off Granada Park, you can find this cast bronze figure, partially submerged, pulling a boat through a dry river bed towards a lagoon. (“Tracker” by David Phelps)Granada boat sculpture-rev

There used to be a nice placard telling about the sculpture (mostly the names of all the civic leaders and aldermen who sponsored it) but it’s gone now.

And halfway between a CVS store and a hospital is this bizarre representation of a sort of burning man — actually a cast bronze abstract relief image literally embedded in the concrete sidewalk. This one is called “Tuberculosis,” part of  the Sunnyslope Sidewalk Project, representing the dry desert air used in treatment of the disease back in the day when the area was settled by tuberculants who spent their last money traveling west for the drier climate and cleaner air.

Street art-125-rev

All you need is a camera and a bike…a real bicycle, not a motorbike, you moroon.

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All photos by the author