Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Arizona Justice League Rides Again - Bumble Bee Ghost Town

The second expedition of the Arizona Justice League of Photographers is now in the books.

We met early Saturday morning at a park in West Phoenix. The fun began when Clif the Lawyer rear ended Eric the Wedding Guy's van and they nearly got into a fistfight. OK, maybe they didn't almost get into a fist fight. Maybe Clif didn't rear end Eric. Maybe they were just deciding who was going to follow who. As far as I'm concerned, the fist fight story is a lot more interesting.

Our destination was Bumble Bee, an old stage coach post about half way between Phoenix and Prescott. The road was rough...

and treacherous.
I had the opportunity to be scared to death. Did I mention I'm terrified of heights?
The town was so minute we literally caravanned right through. Eric suggested we take a few desert shots before heading back to Bumble Bee.
Notice how the Palo Verde tree has wrapped itself arounf the Saguaro cactus in the above photo.
Not something you see every day.

Saguaros are a magestic site to behold. Every time I stand next to a Saguaro I'm reminded from a news story from a few years back. A couple of kids brought their shot guns out to the desert to do some shooting. They stood at the base of a Saguaro and blasted away. The cactus fell on them and they were killed instantly. Guess those Saguaros are heavy. Sometimes Mother Nature fights back.

Speaking of Mother Nature fighting back, check out the gorgeous Prickly Pear Cactus. They were everywhere.

I decided to slice one of the pears off the cactus with my handy Swiss Army knife. Then I asked Eric the Wedding Guy to hold it so I could take a picture. Eric and yours truly soon found out why they call it the Prickly Pear Cactus. The pear you see above is covered with hundreds, perhaps thousands of fine razor sharp barbs that are invisible to the eye. You don't feel them going in but once they're in they sting like nobody's business and they're really hard to remove. You learn something every day and I guess sometimes you got to learn the hard way. Thanks again for helping me out with the photo, Eric.

Old barbed wire fences were ubiquitous.
Darn, I love it when I get to use the ubiquitous in a sentence.
Here's Rick the I.T. guy and Clif the Lawyer snapping away. Did I mention it get's really hot in the desert?

Established in 1879, Bumble Bee was originally called Snyder's Station. Founded by a character by the name of W.W. Snyder, (no known relation to renounded blogger, W.Z. Snyder) the town was a stop on the Phoenix to Prescott stage coach line.

The town died out when a Phoenix to Prescott rail road put the stage coach line out of business.

Bumble Bee, Arizona rose from the dead in the 1930s.

Entrepreneurs built a ghost town and gift shop on the site.

The ghost town tourist attraction didn't last long and what remains is a ghost town of a ghost town.

A handfull of gritty Arizona still inhabit Bumble Bee.

The microscopic town actually has a modest functioning school house.

I guess Bumble Bee is the a great place for people who love the desert and don't care for crowds.

The Justice League finished up the day with a few pictures and lunch in Rock Springs. I'll do a posting on phase II of the adventure later this week. I'll also post some amazing shots by the league's legitimate photographers.
As far as the Justice League of Photographers go, I'm the novice of the group, but I suppose I'm picking things up as I go. Come to think of it, I'm learning not to pick up prickly things.

Friday, August 28, 2009


I've been keeping a teaching journal since 1987.
In October of 2001, I taught English and coached cross country runners at Canyon State Academy, a residential treatment center for boys in Queen Creek, Arizona.

Monday, October 15, 2001

My youngest girl, Barit has an ear infection. It’s a helpless feeling when your baby girl is in pain and you can’t do a darned thing to help.

I ran six miles Friday. According to my scale, I’m skinny.

The United States Air Force appears to be bombing the hell out of Afghanistan. Letters laced with anthrax have been sent to the headquarters of The National Enquirer in Florida, NBC Studios in New York, Microsoft in Reno, and today, to a congressman in DC. These are scary times.

They say the economy is headed to hell in a hand basket. Tens of thousands have lost their jobs since the September 11th attack. My neighbor, Dave lost his telecommunications job last week.

The other team didn’t show up to my daughter, Macaulay’s Saturday morning soccer game. Some knucklehead decided it would be a good idea for the parents to scrimmage against the kids. About midway through the game I decided it would be a good idea to attempt a bicycle kick. It didn’t quite work out; I just kind of crumpled to the ground in a heap. I think I hurt my back, shoulder, knee and ankle. But that’s not all; I also managed to embarrass Macaulay and my wife.

Last Wednesday, I took my runners to Safford for a cross country meet. I enjoyed the drive east through the mining towns of Superior, Globe and Miami as well as the trek across the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. There were ten schools at the meet and my boys did a good job behaving as gentlemen in front of the girl runners. They don’t see teenage girls at the residential facility they call home. Chase Sullivan placed 16th in a field of 67 runners. The low point of the day came when Joe Courtney walked off the course because he was in last place. The ride home through a rainstorm was downright hairy. I forgot my glasses and had real trouble seeing on the rain slicked mountain roads. To the chagrin of my boys, I stayed behind a truck, driving a safe 30 miles an hour. The truth is I have a serious case of acrophobia and I was pretty much scared to death until we got out of the mountains.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Steve McQueen, Curly Search and Scorpion Wars

THE EIGHT FINGERED CRIMINAL'S SON, a kooky collection of quirky stories based on true  events will be available for purchase at this site or at GELI Book Store in Bangkok, Thailand and Tempe Auto Repair in Tempe, Arizona in November. We'll be announcing two new venues this week and promotional video number three is in the works. Stay tuned for more information...

Watch the epic book promo for The Eight Fingered Criminal's Son here:

Jim Carrey has backed out of the role of Curly in The Three Stooges Movie. Benicio del Toro is set to play Moe while Paul Giamatti has replaced Sean Penn to play Larry.
My family and I have been waging all out war against the bark scorpions of Arizona for a little over a month. We’ve eviscerated upwards of 150 of the diabolical creatures. And still, they keep coming. My eight year-old was stung a couple of weeks ago. She took a stinger to the knee. It scared the macaroni and cheese out of her, but she was fine in half an hour.

And so the conflict rages on. Every night we head out to the perimeter of the house with a can of Raid, a hammer and a black light flashlight. The family that eradicates scorpions together stays together. Joe, the neighbor on the other side of the wall hunts scorpions too. He uses a blow torch to take the little bastards out. Joe seems to enjoy the process a little too much. Every time he makes a kill, the other side of the wall lights up and we hear Joe laughing diabolically. I accidentally squirted him with Raid last week. I suppose I’m lucky he didn’t lose his cool and let me have it with the blow torch.

This shot of the King of Cool is from the film, Le Mans and it's nothing short of epic. The finger gesture, known as “the two finger salute,” goes back to the Hundred Years’ War. Legend has it that prior to the Battle of Agincourt, the French knights bragged they would cut off the string pulling fingers of the heavily outnumbered English and Welsh bowmen. After soundly thrashing the French army with their longbows, the English and Welsh bowmen raised their intact bow fingers in celebration.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Big V

An exerpt from The Spirit Guide Bar
“The Big V"
by W.Z Snyder
© 2008 William Snyder

The daySophia was born - the day I held her in my arms the first time, I was so completely happy that I spoke Italian.

“My Baby Sophia, mi mada bambina gumbare y batta fuchina con mattta gufando con Manu Gianoble y Don Vito Corlioni de pasta fazool. Vesa me, mi Corazon de amore!”

OK, it wasn’t legitimate Italian; it was my own goofed up version of Italian, but believe when I tell you baby Sophia brought a priceless lode of happiness to our family.

The day we brought Sophia home, Gail made a second appointment with the doctor of slicology. Protocol called for an educational appointment attended by Gail and myself. Gail was babysitting four kids the day of the appointment. So we showed up to the doctor’s office with eight kids. The exam room was absolutely packed when the doctor walked in.

“Are these all yours?” he asked.

“Yes,” I lied as he pulled down his educational wall charts and handed us colorful pamphlets entitled Are You Sure You’re Sure?

Sophia started crying and one of the kids tipped over an aluminum trash can. Handing the pamphlet back to the doctor, I said, “Listen doc, I think we can save each other a little time here. Have you got something for us to sign?”

The doctor nervously handed me the clipboard and Gail and I both signed on the dotted line.

The day of the vasectomy was absolutely frightening. The appointment wasn’t until 1:30 in the afternoon so I went to work at Canyon State Academy for Boys that morning. But I wasn’t in any shape to do any teaching. All I could think about was the cutting that was to in store. From time to time I doubled over in anticipatory pain. Of course I told the whole story to the boys and they kept asking questions like, “So you’re goanna let the doctor slice you – down there?” and “Will they use a razor blade or a pair or really sharp scissors?”

I walked into the doctor’s office with Gail and the epic collection of our own and other people’s children. The receptionist rolled her eyes. The kids were a little loud and a lot rambunctious. Barit, my three year old asked a woman with blue hair to read her a magazine. The old woman didn’t answer.

“This is a doctor’s office.” The receptionist said bitterly.

“Yes, it is. That’s why I’m here – for a vasectomy.”

“There really isn’t room for all of these children in the waiting room.” she sneered.

“Are you saying you’d like them to leave? Is that it? I could have my wife take them away. Maybe you could give me a ride home.”

If she appreciated my use of sarcasm, she did a marvelous job of hiding it. By this time, the Tylenol with Codeine I had popped in the car was kicking in. Things were a little fuzzy. The next thing I knew I was laying on the cold sterile paper, undressed from the waist down. The nurse was a big hairy guy with tattoos of skeletons and naked women on his forearms. He told me to relax, that this procedure would be nothing to worry about. The door swung open and the doctor abruptly entered the tiny room. The first thing I noticed was she was a woman – and she looked a little pissed off. So there I was, naked from the waist down in front of scary looking biker and an angry woman.

“Hello doc” I said.

“We’re going to start by giving you injections of local anesthesia on both sides of your scrotum.”

She didn’t look me in the eye.

“With a needle?”

She didn’t answer. The biker produced a monstrous aluminum needle.

“Oh my God!” I said, “That looks painful.”

“Well, it’s not.” she said, shaking her head with condescension.

Closing my eyes, I tried to concentrate on my breathing. A gloved hand took hold and lifted my testicles and then - ZING; there it was - white hot pain on the left side. The needle remained in my scrotum for a few seconds. There was nothing painless about this. It hurt – a lot. Then the needle came out and I breathed a sigh of relief. But the white hot pain returned – to my right side. The breathing business was out the window. Now, I was grinding my teeth and groaning in pain. In retrospect, the pain was comparable to local anesthetic delivered to the mouth before dental procedures. There can be no doubt that the location of the penetrations had an added psychological effect. When the needle was removed from the right side I collapsed and groaned.

“It’ll be just a few minutes before the anesthetic takes full effect.” said Doctor Angry Pain Lady before hastily leaving the room.

I opened my eyes and biker nurse’s hairy face came into focus. He wore a paper surgical cap and his beard was covered too. This man had the bushiest eyebrows I had ever seen. The bristly eyebrow hairs jutted out two or three inches in every possible direction.

“Are you OK, man?” he asked.

“Anyone who says the big V doesn’t hurt is lying.” I whispered.

“Whoever said a vasectomy don’t hurt?”

The door flew open and she was back. This woman couldn’t have been older than thirty.

“OK Henry,” she said to her biker nurse, “let’s get started.”

“But wait,” I said “It hasn’t been a few minutes; shouldn’t we wait for the anesthesia to set in?”

“And where did you get your medical degree, Mr. Snyder?” she snapped, unadulterated man hating fire boring diresctly from her eyes into my soul.

Closing my eyes, I let my head fall back and hit the pillow. I felt her make the incision on the left. Anesthetic, my left molar! This hurt. I went back to the yoga breathing. I could feel her yanking on vessels, first in my scrotum, then in my gut and finally in my shoulder. I breathed hard, like a woman in labor.

“What are you doing?” she demanded.

“I’m trying to do yoga breathing – to control the pain.” I squeaked.

“That’s not yoga breathing. And you’re not in that much pain.”

Opening my vocal chords seemed to wrench my testicles, causing extra pain, so opted not to say anything.

Then I felt the slice on the other side – followed by a sharp jerk on some kind of testical vessel causing my arm to fly up in the air. This young woman truly was a man hating doctor. No doubt about it. I could only hope that my kids were out there absolutely trashing that waiting room.

At home, I lay on the couch with ice pack on my groin for two days. Yeah, the big V hurts, baby. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Last Prescott Posting: Prescott Alleys

Considering the Prescott Justice League trip was my first serious stab at photography since 1974, I think I did OK. Consider the symmetry, the style and the symbolism of the picture above.

I have a thing for the alleys of Prescott. There something about strolling along a desolate alleyway and letting my mind wander back in time. There's nothing in these pictures that says 2009. It might as well be 1909.

Richard Nixon spent his chilhood summers in Prescott. The odds are he wandered these alleys in the early 1900s.

And this is pretty much what he saw.

Sherrif Bucky O'Neil probably arrested somebody in one of these alleys.

Wyatt Earp must have loaded up his supply wagons behind one of these old structures when he was running the town saw mill.

Maybe Steve McQueen sweet-talked Barbra Leigh behind one of these buildings.

Yeah, I really dig these old back alleys. It's good to know there are places where a guy can let himself drift back and relive a little history.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Arizona Heat

Phoenix Arizona is an oppressively hot place to live. The temperature generally remains in the 100s from the end of May to the beginning of October. When newcomers ask me how long it takes to get used to the heat I tell them you never get used to it. NEVER!

The sun just hammers away at you day in and day out for four months. You burn your hand when you open your car door. An afternoon breeze feels like a blow dryer. I once left a pair of sunglasses on the dashboard of the car. Whithin a couple of hours they were a twisted mangled melted mess. Every summer my wife and I swear we're going to move.

This is what a six year-old kid looks like after walking from the car to the house when it's 115 degrees outside.

This June wasn't bad at all. In fact it was the mildest June in recorded history. The average temperature was in the low 90s. But it turned out to be a set up. Mother Nature proceeded to whallup the fair citizens of Phoenix with the hottest July in recorded history.

With the July heatwave came an massive bark scorpion invasion of my home. We've found scorpions in the house over the past six years or so. But this is whole new level.
I was minding my own business, reading a book and soaking my back in the tub when my wife informed me taht the scorpion you see above was about two inches from my neck.

Downstairs the kids sited another one on the living room wall.

Both scorpions met with the bottom of a size elven loafer. We've found no less than 20 scorpions in the house this year. My wife found one in our bed a couple of weeks ago. My eleven year-old and I have both been stung. We both got it on the hamstring while sitting on the floor and we agreed it wasn't all that painful. There was an initial prick and then about 15 minutes of Novocain style numbness. They say sting can be painful and linger for 24 hours. Guess we were lucky.

Word on the street is you can't get rid of scorpions. Neighbors have shelled out thousands to pest control companies and the scorpions are still there. Bark scorpions are tough to kill. They can hold their breath for days at a time. There are accounts of scorpions being frozen for stiff for days on end and surviving. Bark scorpions were found near ground zero at the Los Alamos test site.

My wife has met the scorpion challenge head on. She has taken to nocturnal scorpion hunting. Every night she patrols the garage, perimiter of the house, and back yard with a black light and a can of scorpion spray. Scorpions light up like a Vegas Casino under a black light. She has hunted down and killed upwards of 40 scorpions over the last two weeks. The woman swears she won't stop until she has rubbed out every last scorpion on our property. Looks like the scorpions ticked off the wrong mother.


On a final note, Blues Frau of Germany informed me that she can belch, break wind and scratch as good as any man and I dog gone it, I believe her.
With the power bestowed upon me by David C. of Lugubrious Drollery, I hereby award the Manly Blogger Guy Award to Blues Frau of Germany.
As far as I know Blues Frau is the first female recipient of the Manly Blogger Guy Award. Feel free to pass it on.
Congratulations, Blues.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Manly Blogger Guy Award

It had to happen sooner or later. I am the proud recipient of a blog award. David C. of Lugubrious Drollery and The Marx Brothers Blog has presented me with The Manly Blogger Guy Award. According to David , The qualifications for the award are as follows:

1. The blog receiving the award must demonstrate masculine qualities such as sloth, boorishness, urinary hesitancy, or flatulence. In the interest of equal opportunity, these criteria do not entirely exclude female nominees.

2. No blog which plays background music such as "Somewhere My Love" or "My Heart Will Go On" is eligible.

3. The award should be passed on to as many other blogs as possible, but watching televised sports or taking a nap should take precedence over passing out awards.

Click here to read the original Manly Blogger Guy Post:

I'm deeply touched - in a manly way.

David has asked that I pass the award on to deserving bloggers in my circle. After careful deliberation, I am forwarding the award to the following manly blogger guys:

Rick Rivers of Chicanizmo.
Rick came up in one of the roughest barrios in Northern California and went on to become a college professor. What's more macho than a smart tough guy?

Bullshee of A Monk in Hot Water
Pull up his blog and the first thing you'll see is beer, ice cold beer. Manly, very manly.

Guely of Guelyland
Guely has on more than one occasion expressed an appreciacion for the everlasting coolness of Steve McQueen. Need I say more?

Bryan Frank of BeFrank
Bear with me - I know a little something about this guy. Bryan and I did stand up comedy in the eighties. I once saw him give another comedian the scary stink eye after the guy stole one of his jokes. Bryan has read more Robert B. Parker, Joseph Wambaugh and Charles Bukowski than any blogger I know. He lugs a hundred pound video camera around the mean streets of L.A.. And what's more, I know for a fact the man can still crank a one armed Rocky Balboa style push up. Macho, muy macho.

Congratulations, men.

As per Richard C., feel free to pass the award along to deserving manly guys.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The 100th post: Clif the Lawyer's Prescott Photos

This is my 100th blog entry. I don't really know that it means anything; just thought I'd mention it.

The 2009-2010 school year is up and running and I've been busier than a one armed chicken plucker. That's right I wrote "busier than a one armed chicken plucker." This is my 100th blog and I can write whatever I like. Besides, I think it's a colorful simile. Anyhow, I've got lots of blogs piling up in my skull. If you check in from time to time, you'll eventually learn about about the Arizona heat wave, a scorpion invasion, the smartest ficus tree,in the world and The Manly Guy Blogger Award.

Here is a shot of the all too heroic Arizona Justice League of Photographers in Prescott, Arizona.

Clif the Lawyer developed this logo. There could be Arizona Justice League of Photograpers could be tee shirts in the future. Maybe we could get patches made and sew them onto the backs of leather jackets. Then we could buy Harleys. We could roll down the Americas highways and backroads protecting people in small towns from outlaw biker-photographers.
Guess we'll see how it goes.

Above is Bryan Frank and the original Justice League, the Los Angeles Justice League of Photographers.
The following photos were taken by Cliof the Lawyer.

The Hassayumpa sign has been there since 1927.

Here's a fantastic shot of the Bird Cage Saloon. The Bird Cage is a biker hang out. I have a personal connection with this joint. Did I mention my wife and I were married in Prescott? On the morning of the wedding I rodeto the church with old friends Pat Rodriguez, Danny Martinez and Steve Vanderwall. We some how lost the directions. It was eight a.m and the Birdcage was the only place open. So we ducked in for directions. There were a half dozen tough looking bikers bellied up to the bar. One of them gave us the directions and another bought us each a shot of Jack Daniels. We threw back our shots, thanked the bikers and got back in the car. We hadn't made it half a block when we realized that each of us thought one of the others had been paying attention to the directions. So we cranked a u-turn and piled back into the birdacage. Danny Martinez bought a round of shots for the house and Pat Rodriguez jotted the directions down on a bar napkin. The wedding went off as planned, thanks in no small part to the bikers at the Bird Cage Saloon

Here's a shot from the entrance of Matt's Saloon.

This is Gurley Street, Prescott's main drag. That's Thumb Butte in the background.

A little film called Nobody's Fool, starring Eric Roberts and Rosanna Arquette was shot in Prescott in 1986. Dig that mullett on Eric Roberts.
Well, that's all I have for today. Now that I've posted my 100th blog I somehow feel - like I need to burp.

If you're new to this blog, you probably didn't know I wrote THE EIGHT-FINGERED CRIMINAL'S SON, a quirky collection of mostly true stories about growing up in 1970s Southern California. And you can download the e-book for a measly 5 bucks by clicking here: