Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Grand Family Adventure

This past weekend, the Carreras took an unforgettable family trip from Santa Fe to Las Vegas and back.  Jackie had come to visit Nick and me in Santa Fe on her way to a 3-month Bikram Yoga instructor training course in Las Vegas.  Since neither Jaq nor Nick had ever seen the Grand Canyon, we drove together from Santa Fe to Flagstaff, and then circumnavigated the whole thing in a 750 mile counterclockwise loop that brought us to Las Vegas and eventually back to Flagstaff by way of Hoover Dam.  For the occasion, I sported my telegenic Jedediah-the-Amish look, as one can see from the photos and videos from this adventure.

View Grand Canyon in a larger map

Wow! what a trip!  I had forgotten just how sublime the whole experience can be.  I saw the Grand Canyon with Nonno, Nonna and Barbara in 1979, after graduating from Chicopee Comprehensive High School. Thirty years seem such a looooooooooong time ago, when measured by the yardstick of my personal timeline...  Yet, the bottom of the Grand Canyon, where the Colorado River is still carving its way through stratum after stratum of geological layers, is at least a couple of billion years old!  Humbling to say the least.  We are so insignificant in the bigger scheme of things...  All the more reason to dare, no?  If we carpe every diem for our entire existence, the whole thing will be less than a blink of an eye in geological time, even when measured with a creationist hourglass in lieu of carbon dating.

The Grand Canyon is so big that I could actually feel my brain wavering between extreme interpretations of its puzzling scale.  At one moment it felt immense, eternal and majestic, and the next minute my brain seemed to also entertain the paradoxical plausibility of its being actually very small and toy-like.  This mile-deep gash into the earth's crust is ten times longer than the Venice lagoon, and about 1000 times older.  It defies comprehension both spatially and temporally.  To paraphrase Ram Dass: "if you think you're so important, go spend a day on the Grand Canyon"... or a weekend in Las Vegas.
The whole drive was "epic" as Nick would say and, appropriately, he cued up some epic Ennio Morricone music at key moments of extreme landscape intensity.  I have never felt so engulfed by geological ambiance in my life.  I could really "feel time" as I drove on across the ever-changing, other-worldly landscapes of the Arizona Strip and on semi-abandoned stretches of the mythical Route 66, in hog-heaven (I think I will come back here on a Harley).  Many times, I felt I was driving along the bottom of an ancient ocean or cutting across a prehistoric riverbed, half-expecting a dinosaur or an alien spaceship to surprise me as I rounded the next corner...  Phenomenal!
Saturday was an extraordinary day.  We should have days like that more often... We woke up in Flagstaff, had breakfast at Macy's on Beaver Street, drove to the South Rim, stopped at many lookouts along the Kaibab trail  and on Desert View Drive, then crossed the Colorado river at Navajo Bridge to enter the Arizona Strip on our way to Vegas.  At the end of long day characterized by awe-inspiring natural beauty, we drove into the fakest city in the world (a veritable Futurama) at midnight on a Saturday and we went to sleep right in the heart of SinCity ... at the Venetian.  Of course.  I think I will ensconce into a separate blog entry my personal considerations about this unique piece of architectural  kitsch that may teach us something about the real city that we know and love.  It was all Nick's idea, and Jackie and I loved it (albeit reluctantly).  Nick skateboarded around the strip until 6am.  Whatever else happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas...
It was the perfect way to end a Grand day for our crazy family.
As Jackie said: "From Canyon Road, to the Grand Canyon to the Grand Canal, in the space of a day".

Grand indeed.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

James Brody - archipelago in the sky

On Sunday, James Brody, a Santa Fe composer, teacher and friend died in a car accident in Minnesota.  He was an active participant at the Santa Fe Complex where I had a chance to interact with him briefly, as we collaborated on a sonic tribute to Venice on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the Venice Project Center.  All I really did was to make available to James the Sounds of Venice recordings that a group of WPI students collected in Venice a few years back, which include over 100 characteristic sounds that are unique to Venice.  James quickly created a medley of the sounds and then proceeded to produce a more sophisticated set, that he named Archipelago Venice.

In case we needed another memento mori, James premature departure from this earth ought to remind us of our impermanence and instigate us to be bold to the point of recklessness in our self-expression...
What are we so afraid of?  What's holding us back?
Memento Audere Semper!

Thank you, James, for being insatiably creative...  We will miss you!