Every once in awhile, a little change of pace is welcomed and needed. It was sometime in the Fall when our friends Jess and Deb suggested the idea of a little get-together in the Arizona desert. It was the birthday weekend of Deb's husband Rob, and being in mid-February, a great time for several of our friends who live in cold weather states to enjoy some southwestern sunshine. I, having just wrapped up my busiest time of year work-wise, was completely onboard with the idea. The way we thought about the event was something akin to a Second Life Jam but much, much smaller, and placed in a more intimate setting than the typical hotel-based SL Jam environment.
Folks started looking around for an appropriate venue, checking out rental properties in the Phoenix area. The first place that was selected fell through, but after a brief scramble, Kat stumbled on what seemed to be the perfect spot. It was a large and beautiful home in Scottsdale that was attached to an Arabian horse ranch, and it was available on the dates we required. The size of the place dictated how many people we could accommodate, and while it would have been fun to open it up to anyone who wanted to come, we were limited to about 10-12 folks in terms of bedrooms on the property. Not wanting to disappoint potential attendees, we kept the event on the down-low, and discreetly asked around with folks who we thought might be into the idea.
LAX --> PHO
Before we knew it the date arrived, and on Thursday February 15, Kat and I boarded a short flight from LA to Phoenix. Jess picked us up at Sky Harbor Airport, and drove us up to Scottsdale where we got to view the place in person for the first time. It was, in a word, magnificent. Some of the attendees had already arrived, and we were greeted warmly by everyone as we settled in. In addition to me, Kat, Jess, Deb, and Rob (I will be using real names and SL names interchangeably here, so hopefully it won't get more confusing than necessary), guests for this Arizona mini-Jam included Krell and his lovely lady Vette, Jon and his wife Alecia, Leni, Lita, and the wonderful woman who manages the live SL performances of myself and Deb, Maali. The original plan also had Lyndon Heart joining us, but illness sidelined him at the last moment, so his spot was filled by Rob's sister Brigitte.
We got settled in and took a look around the place. First, I guess I hadn't realized that the horses would be right there on the property. There were dozens of amazing Arabian thoroughbreds romping around in various stables and rings. The decor of the interior and exterior was tasteful and beautiful. The surrounding environment was the classic Arizona desert, with large saguaro cacti silhouetted in the red sunset. It was exactly what I'd hoped it would be and more. In the mornings and evenings, groups of rabbits and quail would meander through the back yard. Each day when I awoke and lazily strolled outside, the only sound was a symphony of mostly unfamiliar bird calls from every direction combined with the occasional whinny of a happy horse.
R&R in 'Zona
One evening, I actually managed to work out a new song with Jon Larson, aka Mulder Watts in SL, who is very adept at being improvisational and the song came out in mere minutes, as most good ones do. We captured a quick demo on my iPad, and I look forward to fleshing out the track with him (something that's quite possible to do remotely these days by sending audio files back and forth as we create and record new parts from our respective homes).
I won't give you a play-by-play of the entire weekend. On a general basis, when people felt like picking up instruments and playing music, we did. When we were hungry, we ate. When we were tired, we slept. I know this is starting to sound like Forrest Gump describing his run across America, but it really was that casual, and it was perfect in that way. We did have one event planned that most of us attended, which was Friday night's dinner at Fabio on Fire, an outstanding Italian restaurant in Peoria owned by a friend of Jess. I had the lobster ravioli, if you're interested in that level of detail.
We also had a number of guests stop by during the weekend, including fellow SL musician Art Martin who came and jammed with us on Friday, Deb's elderly dad Harold who was an extremely nice guy, and Jon's nephew and his girlfriend, who live locally to the area. Maali's husband joined us for dinner on Friday night, and it was nice to meet him as well.
While the event actually ran through today (Monday February 19) with some of the people able to take advantage of the Presidents Day holiday, Kat and I had to split on Sunday evening. It was a terrific four days, and was exactly what I'd been hoping it would be... a fun time hanging out with great people and making good music.
Here are some pics. I took some, others took others, and some are screen captures from various videos streams.
The venue was about as peaceful and relaxing as could be... a perfect spot to chill and have fun with friends.
Friday night's dinner at Fabio on Fire. Maali, Kat, me, Lita, Brigitte, Krell, Vette, Leni, Art, Rob, Deb, Jess, and John.
I'd met Jon Larson at the Twin Cities Jam in 2016, but this was the first time we had a chance to really hang out. He and his wife Alecia are lovely people.