The Rule: When to Shut Up

This is how I happened to find myself at a political meet ‘n greet on a Thursday morning.

The tree cutters had been buzzing all morning, cutting up the remains of the 40-foot fallen pine. It’s a necessary nuisance…and much preferable to neighbors who can’t manage their barking dogs. But makes it hard to work on technical writing projects.

So I decided to bike down the street to see a mid-morning candidate meet ‘n greet, hosted by a neighbor, featuring the local state senator who lives in Phoenix’s Sunnyslope district. I knew I could pop in and out if needed—and they had promised food and refreshments.

Now, I’ve run across this senator a number of times for the neighborhood clean-ups that she organizes and I find her a credible politician, albeit Republican. As expected, the refreshments table was loaded with excellent fruit and pastries of all kinds. There were about 30 people in the big house.

Eventually, the hostess introduced our guest speaker who gave a 20-minute presentation. Granted, she’s running for office, but her preso was very party-neutral and she focused mainly on state education issues. She also brought up the methadone clinic issues that are causing major headaches and conversations on the Next Door discussion boards. It’s really complicated because methadone is related to addiction is related to homelessness is related to neighborhood crime. It’s all one hot mess, but needs to be addressed.

And now to the point.

I brought up my two issues: the massive bicycle theft industry problem in Sunnyslope, and the possibility of reviving the Art Walk to it’s former glory. My questions took about 40 seconds, after which I shut up. As the guest speaker started responding, I could see an elderly lady in red off to the side raising her hand, presumably to comment on one of my points. The candidate gave a 3-5 minute response. The lady in red raised her hand again.

But then, an older guy, sitting comfortably back in a giant TV chair toward the front, asked a question (or rather, gave a talk) for about five minutes on the subject of education. Naturally he didn’t look around to see who else was raising a hand. (One is tempted to call this a man-thing, but I’ve witnessed the same behavior from women.) Now, as I said, the candidate had already addressed education in her opening remarks, ad nauseam, so I wasn’t sure what the guy was getting at, but she went ahead and spent another five minutes on the topic.

At this point, the thing that always happens at these events did happen.

The guy in the comfy chair decided to ask another question! Except it wasn’t a question: it was an 8-10-minute something…I’m not even sure what…about education in Arizona. The guest speaker eventually tried to respond, saying “Well, it sounds like you’ve actually got about 10 questions in there…” and proceeded to address the guest with a 3-point response. As she finished her third point and was seemingly winding down, the man in the chair wanted to follow up again.

I couldn’t take it any more.

I politely interrupted from the back, “I think the young woman in red over there has been trying to ask something…”

And that’s how the nice elderly woman in a bright red dress got to speak.

I started noticing and writing about this phenomenon a few years ago after a Phoenix public library science presentation  and then again at a Tempe historical museum performance* where I noticed that:

(1) people in the front of a group never seem to consider that there may be people behind them;

(2) some people think they can keep asking questions no matter how many other people are in the room.

The Rule: You get one question and the question (or statement) must be less than 1 minute. Then you get to shut up.



Apparently some folks weren’t paying attention when I authorized this rule last October.



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.

(update: this ASLA link no longer works but I have the original Word doc describing the project)

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

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:


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


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.


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.


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.

All photos by the author