Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West Home

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I had the opportunity last night to go see Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home in the desert.  Apparently he had bought 160 acres for about $12.50 an acre way back when.  This was still true desert area and Phoenix wasn’t nearly as built up as it is
today.  He had apprentices (read: free manual labor) who helped clear the land (yikes!), make a road and then build structures which included places they lived (they were actually in tents) as well as the home itself.

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Although we didn’t venture out into the desert area, the landscaping looked really nice and the footprint that the house sat on was huge.  They had found petroglyphs on the land which they preserved and used near the entrances. They had used only one concrete mixer to build all of the walls!  They would make wooden forms, put rocks in them and pour concrete inside. (Part of the wall can be seen in the first photo.)  The maker of the concrete mixers found out about this, gave him a new one and took the old one to put in a museum. Frank wanted the house to look like it was part of the landscape, so even though the walls weren’t exactly pretty or perfect, they were unique and did their job!

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This was his (and his wife’s) winter home so at first, there was no glass installed.  She eventually got tired of cleaning the place and windows were finally put in.  They had used canvas for shading and protection from the rain in spots, but that doesn’t hold up well in the desert.  There had also been no air conditioning but it was installed later.  They used the house for entertaining and it was very apparent by the looks of the rooms.  Huge spaces with a lot of seating and one building was even a theater!

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The bedrooms (his and hers were separate…very smart!) were quite small and basic.  He loved the feel of the outdoors and would often move their beds outside so they could sleep under the stars.  In his room, there were two single beds in a corner, separated by a wooden half height wall.  On the nicer evenings, he would sleep in the outer facing bed.  When it was windy, rainy or chilly, he would sleep on the other side of the wall where he was more protected from the elements.  His bathroom was quite sterile looking, with metal shower walls and fixtures.

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He also had a small amphitheater with an interesting angle to the seating.  He liked to sit with his left knee over his right and his arm behind his wife, so the couches were angled so that your head faced forward when sitting in that position!  Talk about custom fitting!  It made sense and it really did work.  Our guide showed that one could be standing at the front of the room, back facing the guests and you could still hear him speaking as clearly as if he was facing you.  The Wright’s allegedly liked to sit at a table in the back of the room so they could hear their guests whispering to each other!

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Frank also had a movie room which doubled as the safe room for storing their things when they left for the season.  His wife kidded that there wasn’t a movie bad enough he wouldn’t sit through twice.  His son worked on sets in Hollywood and would send first run movies his way.  Frank would take notes and send them back to his son, asking him to share with the directors what they could have done better!

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He believed that light made people feel good and toyed with it in his designs.  He had a lot of lights in corners to open up the room and not make it feel so boxed in.  The lighting outside was lovely as well, with triangular shapes along sidewalks and even a fire breathing dragon!  He also liked to make you feel compressed in doorway entrances then open it up to a vast expanse.  He was only 5’7 and didn’t think that ceilings should be higher than six feet tall.  This was for doorways and outside structures mostly.

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Although the designs were timeless and aesthetically pleasing, I didn’t feel that it was homey or comfortable for everyday living.   I have never seen any of his other homes, but believe that isn’t how the rest of them are.  This was obviously a ‘party home’ for lack of a better term but the detail and customization were quite amazing.

Unfortunately, he was a bit of a swindler and spent money frivolously on luxury items, leaving his wife in debt after he died.  He would buy Steinway pianos, over 80 luxury automobiles (all had to be custom painted a certain shade of red) and other non-essential items.  There were a few car dealers who got burned after the fact because he wouldn’t pay off his loans!  In addition to that, the IRS caught up with him after his death by claiming those ‘apprentices’ weren’t really that at all and he owed back taxes for all of those years he took write-off’s on them. His wife had to end up selling many homes and items to repay his debt.

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The story about his apprentices were interesting.  They were all expected to entertain the guests he had over which meant planning the menus, cooking, cleaning as well as conversing, dancing, playing the piano or putting on shows for them.  They also learned how to sew and make costumes.  Frank’s wife wanted them to be well rounded when they left Taliesin.  Today they still accept apprentices who pay about $40,000 a year to live on site and they too must cook and clean.  He also made it a point that no families would be broken up.  So if you were married or had children, they all had to come live there while you went through your schooling.   This rule is still followed today.  We believe he had a guilty conscience since he had a mistress and three wives.

In regard to the Biltmore Hotel I blogged about earlier, he apparently never wanted his name associated with it at all.  He would have hated the fact that the bar was called “The Wright Bar”.   It was a great tour and if you’re ever in the vicinity, go check it out!

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It Was SO Hot In Arizona…

HOW HOT WAS IT???

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It’s so hot, even BUILDINGS catch on fire!  I drove past this Kia dealership earlier today where one apparently broke out (having a fire sale maybe??? sorry…) earlier that morning.  The workers were sitting outside under a tree while the fire department wrapped up their job.  Yikes!!

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I took a drive into Old Town Scottsdale to do some trinket shopping and treat myself to lunch at Tommy V’s which was awesome, by the way.   I was pretty impressed once I got off of the main drag and into the courtyards where there was actually WATER.  I was wondering if they even had any of that here!

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I managed to buy small things to remind me I had actually been here.   Yes, I even bought a magnet with a thermometer on it that says, ‘But it’s a DRY heat!”.  I guess I can manage to find the good in every place I go, even if it’s not my idea of paradise.  You should stop and smell the roses (as I did today, literally) no matter where you are and appreciate the things around you…even if it IS only cactus and roses.  Colors, structures, sculptures and animals all included.

When I lived in Texas, one of the things I really wanted to do was get a photo of all the cowboy boots but I never did.  This was my chance!  They weren’t as colorful as the ones in Texas, but I got permission to take some shots in the store.  They didn’t come out like I wanted, but got them nonetheless.

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There was another shop that had these neat cow skulls adorned in turquoise:

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I couldn’t remember the last time I saw a Zoltar machine, so had to grab that one too!  When I saw it only took bills, I passed it up.

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Here are some other photos from around town:

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Don’t Say, “But it’s a dry heat!”

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Forecast: Hot.  Damn hot.IMG_0771

Tempe, Arizona in June.  106+ everyday.  No sign of letting up.  I feel like I’m living inside of a 1500 watt hairdryer.  I didn’t think I could even find a reason to do a blog entry until I went out on a bike ride and saw all of the fruit trees here!  I would never have guessed.  Cactus, yes.  Orange, grapefruit, pomegranate and kumquats?  No.
Yeah, it’s still in the hundreds at 7, but at least the sun isn’t burning holes through my body, so that’s the only logical time to go.  I’m pretty sure I’m not a vampire, but the jury is still out on that one.

In addition to that, my dad came to visit for a couple of days and got me out of the house and into my element:  Animals!!  Ahhhh, what a nice break to see ‘my people’ at the Butterfly Wonderland and the Wildlife World Zoo.  They got their own personalized tour through one of the largest butterfly houses in the U.S. with me as their guide.  There was a nice 3D movie about the monarchs and then we saw all of the chrysalis hanging in the windows (there were a TON of different species) then a walk through the large enclosure.

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Huge moth the size of your hands with a lizard face on the wing!

There were the ones I knew of…postmen, julia’s, morphos and caligos in addition to others I hadn’t seen during my stint in Panama.  The one thing that WAS missing were the munch marks on all of the foliage.  I was looking for signs of eggs, baby caterpillars, etc.  I was SUPER impressed by the fact that I found NONE which meant one of two things:  1) people collected eggs constantly (although I didn’t see anyone doing it) or 2) there were NO host plants there at all!?  I didn’t even see many butterflies mating which was unusual.  I also didn’t see any of the plants that I knew to be hosts to the morphos, caligos and julia’s so that led me to believe that maybe there WERE no host plants there, so I asked.  Assumption correct.  This means that they were not raising butterflies at all, instead just buying the chrysalis, waiting for them to hatch and then releasing them into the house.  None mated, no egg laying and this was their final destination.  Sad for me to see that life did not go on here.  A new concept to me, but understandable, nonetheless.  They did a good job there keeping it neat and humid, but I felt a lack of ‘living’ to put it bluntly.  I guess it really is too much work, as I had found during my time of raising them.  For the price they were charging for admission, they could easily afford new pupae and the salaries for the workers.  I felt good about what I had done in Panama and it was sort of an emotional day for me being around the butterflies. IMG_0814

After that, we went to the Arizona Biltmore hotel which was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, one of my favorite architects.  I just found out we share the same birth date and happened to be there ON that day!

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It was a beautiful place with outstanding visual impact.  You can’t help but feel at ease when you are looking at the structures and design.  It obviously wasn’t one of these places where they lower the walls and floors in with cranes, complete with the bible in the desk drawer.  This was someplace special and I wanted to linger as long as possible.  We sat near the bar and celebrated my birthday with a lovely lemon/lavender martini.

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Some VERY cute bunnies hopped around outside enjoying the green grass and I just wanted to scoop them up and hug them for hours, but they were faster than me, so a picture had to suffice.

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The next day we headed out to the wildlife park which I was a bit hesitant about visiting at first.  I’m typically quite upset about visiting a place that has animals in cages, but left without remorse.  I felt the area was  large for most of the animals and the workers did a good job of keeping the cages clean and the animals fed.  Rarely did I feel the enclosures could have been improved upon.  I will admit, however I felt some of the animals were stressed and unhappy.

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There were some nice aquarium setups with fish I caught in Guyana (and some I wasn’t able to see there like the arapaima).  These were small compared to what they can get to.   There were a lot of reptiles, primates and birds as well.  Luckily we went on a Monday so there weren’t many people there.  We also ate at Dillon’s which sported a huge aquarium where sharks swam while you enjoyed some BBQ.  So without further ado, I will load the pictures below.

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Sloppy wet kisses all over your fat cheeks!
Sloppy wet kisses all over your fat cheeks!
Admit it, you can love this face!
Admit it, you can love this face!
Huh?
Huh?
What?
What?
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“Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut!”

 

Baby spider monkey clinging onto mom
Baby spider monkey clinging onto mom

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White tiger eye
White tiger eye

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Baby munching on grass
Baby munching on grass

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Wollongong shark
Wollongong shark

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It's official: stingrays are squishy!
It’s official: stingrays are squishy!
Red belly piranhas
Red belly piranhas

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Moray eels at least 4' long
Moray eels at least 4′ long
Ahhh so comfy!!
Ahhh so comfy!!

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Cuddling sharks are SO cute!!
Cuddling sharks are SO cute!!
NOT photoshopped! Humid aquarium with poison dart frogs
NOT photoshopped! Humid aquarium with poison dart frogs
This is a fish...I can't make this stuff up, folks!
This is a fish…I can’t make this stuff up, folks!
Nautilus floating effortlessly
Nautilus floating effortlessly
"Did ya hear the one about the priest that walked into a bar?"
“Did ya hear the one about the priest who walked into a bar?”
Penguins ALWAYS have fun!
Penguins ALWAYS have fun!

Finally, to round out the socializing, my friend Dahnelle is in the final stretch of moving across the country and stopped in to see me for a couple of hours.  We went to The Watershed for an early happy hour and caught up over some drinks.

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I’m here for another month and will get my fill of cactus before heading back down south to be where I feel I really belong!

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