Showing posts with label Dixon Hill mysteries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dixon Hill mysteries. Show all posts

12 February 2016

A Second Wind from Television

In The Man in the High Castle, the Axis won WWII,
partitioning the U.S. between Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
A certain "banned" media is circulating, however.  This provides a mystery
around which the book is centered. (This pic is used in intro to TV series.)
By Dixon Hill

On a recent trip to my local bookstore, I looked for a copy of Philip K. Dick's alternate history novel The Man in the High Castle, only to discover something that should have been obvious to me.

I couldn't find the book among his others, in the fiction section. Disappointed, I asked if they might be able to order a copy.  The answer surprised me. You see, they had the book in stock, but it wasn't located with the other P.K. Dicks.

It was on the bestsellers shelf!

When the bookstore employee handed me the book, I asked, "Isn't this a pretty old book to be on the bestsellers list?"

"Well, yes," she responded.  "But, then the TV series came out, and now everybody wants to read the book."

I nodded and eked out a chagrined smile.  You see, I like Philip K. Dick and I have for a long time. I've read a lot of his work, both novels and short stories.  While some of it may be a bit too metaphysical for my taste, I really do enjoy his science fiction elements -- particularly those that pose the question: Is this world we perceive around us really the world we inhabit?

Yet, here I was: a man who had schlepped down to my local bookstore to look for a book because I'd seen a television show that told me it existed -- just like the rest of the herd.

And, that herd was sizable.  This book, which won the 1963 Hugo Award for Best Novel, achieved the No. 4 spot among paperback fiction, on the December 13th, 2015 Los Angeles Times Best Sellers List.  And it stayed within the top ten for four weeks.  I'd say that's pretty good for a book more than 50 years old, which most readers probably hadn't heard of before the television show came out.



Which is what set me to thinking about the way TV shows can lend a second wind to author's sales, much in the same way movies do.


A friend of mine recently loaned me Wild Cards 1, a book of linked short stories by several different writers, edited by George R.R. Martin.

For those unaware: Martin is the author of the fantasy book series Game of Thrones, which HBO turned into a hit show.  Some readers may decry the fact that the series doesn't quite mirror the book series, but I don't think that's hurt Martin's bank account.

Though Wild Cards 1 has nothing to do with Game of Thrones, I think it has a lot to do with the manner in which the book came into my friend's (and then my own) hands -- even though Martin didn't write this book.  He edited it, and wrote one of the stories.

Originally released in 1987, however, the book is back on store shelves -- along with other installments in the series.  And, if you think the editors aren't trying to capitalize on Martin's HBO-associated fame, just take a look at the print size and fonts on the book cover in the pic to the right.

Not that I think this is a bad thing.

Which is actually my point.

I wanted to read The Man in the High Castle for several reasons:

  1. It's a Philip K. Dick novel, and I've learned that many consider it his best.  I wanted to read it, because I like much of his writing.
  2. The plotline intrigued me.
  3. In the TV series, the banned media is a collection of 16mm movies, which show the Allies winning WWII.  I had a feeling that this had been changed, because the medium had been changed: from print media (a book) to visual media (TV).  And, sure enough, in the book: the banned media is a book that describes how the Allies won the war.
  4. I get the idea that Philip K. Dick would have understood the idea and accompanying actions of paranoia.  And, paranoia is pretty close to what an underground organization has to practice, in order to stay alive.  I get a kick out of the lax security practiced by members of the Underground Unit in the television show, however, and suspected Dick would have handled it a bit better.  I wanted to find out. 
BUT:  If I hadn't seen that TV show, when would I have realized this book existed?  I'm not sure it was even in print, because I tend to haunt several specific parts of the fiction shelves when I visit the bookstore, and the PK Dick section is one of these.  I don't recall having seen the book in the past.  (On the other hand, it wasn't there this time either.)

I really enjoyed the book.  Yes, it was quite different from the television series, but in a good way I felt.  I'm not sure where the TV series is heading, but the book had a definite conclusion -- posing a question I particularly liked.  I've enjoyed mentally strolling among the juxtaposed possibilities suggested by that conclusion, ever since I finished the story.  If you've read The Man in the High Castle, I invite you to contact me (by email or comment) to discuss the ending's potential ramifications: for both/either the characters or for us "real" people.  If you haven't read it, you might think of doing so.

Meanwhile, here's to hoping some TV producer notices your book or short story and turns it into a hit.  Soon, avid fans might descend like locusts, buying up anything and everything you've ever produced.

It would be nice, wouldn't it?

See you in two weeks,
--Dixon


15 January 2016

The Murder of Reporter Don Bolles

by Dixon Hill

For about 14 years, reporter Don Bolles had worked at the Arizona Republic newspaper as an investigative journalist.  Those who knew him agree that he was cautious -- often placing a strip of Scotch tape between the hood of his car and the fender, to ensure no one had tampered with the engine compartment.  Given that he wrote investigative stories in which he, at one point, even listed 200 mafia members's names, however, he was neither seen as paranoid, nor deemed overly cautious.

Evidently disappointed that few people seemed to care about the corruption he unearthed, he began petitioning his editors for a different assignment around 1975.  By 1976 he was covering the state legislature instead.

But, perhaps his investigative skills just couldn't be resisted.

On June 2, 1976, he typed a note that he left behind in his office.  According to that note, he would be meeting an informant, then going to a luncheon meeting, with plans to return  around 1:30 that afternoon.  That evening, he and his wife were planning to see a movie as part of their wedding anniversary.

He never made it to his luncheon, however, nor did he ever return to his office or see that movie with his wife.

Police examining Bolles' car after the blast.
(Parking space is now part of covered parking)
That day, Bolles drove his 1976 Datsun 710 to the Hotel Clarendon (then also known as the Clarendon House, now called the Clarendon Hotel and Spa), located at 401 W. Clarendon Dr. in Phoenix.

After waiting in the lobby for several minutes, Bolles got a call at the front desk.  He reportedly spoke on the phone for only a minute or two, then left the lobby and returned to his car.  While backing his Datsun out of its parking space, he was gravely injured by a remotely detonated bomb hidden beneath the car under his seat area.  The bomb blew his car door open and left him hanging part-way out of the vehicle.  According to some reports, when found, he uttered, "They finally got me.  The Mafia.  Emprise.  Find John."

Though Bolles' left arm and both legs were amputated in the hospital, he died eleven days later.

At his funeral, local citizens turned out en-mass to participate in the procession, as a form of protest against the mafia, which was largely perceived to have perpetrated the killing.

Interior of his car.
Emprise, one of the names reportedly mentioned by Bolles after the blast, was a private company that operated several dog and horse race tracks, and was a major food vendor for sports arenas.  Emprise had been investigated for ties to organized crime in 1972, and six members were later convicted of concealing ownership of a Las Vegas casino.  No specific connection was found, however, between Bolles' death and the Emprise company.

Bolles had not only investigated mafia-related criminal actions around Arizona, he had also written investigative stories about land fraud that led the state legislature to open blind trusts to public scrutiny, a move that was not wholly welcomed by powerful high-rollers in the state.

The question was: Who actually killed him and why?

The then-newly formed organization Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), sent a group of volunteer investigative reporters from around the nation to dig into the case.  According to the IRE,  Bolles had gone to the Clarendon to meet John Adamson.  Adamson had called Bolles saying he had information that linked Barry Goldwater and at least one other prominent state GOP member to land fraud perpetrated by organized crime.  On June 2nd, on the desk phone at the Clarendon, Adamson told Bolles his informant couldn't make the meeting.

Thus, the "John" reportedly mentioned by Bolles may have been John Adamson.  Bolles may have been concerned for his informant's safety.

Unfortunately for Don Bolles, John Adamson was evidently not an informer, but was instead luring him into a trap.  Later trial testimony revealed that Adamson had purchased two sets of electronics, similar to those found in the bomb, while on vacation in San Diego.  Adamson, early on that fateful June 2nd, asked the parking garage attendant at the Arizona Republic which vehicle belonged to Bolles, and police later found only one set of electronics in his home.

In 1977 Adamson agreed to a plea bargain, accepting a sentence for 2nd Degree Murder for building and planting the bomb that killed Bolles, while accusing Max Dunlap, a Phoenix contractor associated with wealthy rancher and liquor wholesaler Kemper Marley, of ordering the hit.  (The idea here is that Dunlap targeted Bolles in retaliation for negative news stories he had written about Kemper Marley, which kept Kemper Marley from getting a seat on the Arizona Racing Commission.)

Adamson further accused James Robison, a plumber in Chandler, of triggering the explosive device that killed Bolles.

Adamson would eventually serve 20 years in prison.

Dunlap and Robison were both convicted of 1st Degree Murder in 1977, but their convictions were overturned a year later.

When Adamson refused to testify in the retrial of Dunlap and Robison, he was convicted of 1st Degree Murder and sentenced to death.  The Arizona Supreme Court later overturned this verdict.

In a lengthy procedure that evidently concluded in 1993, Robison was recharged and retried, but acquitted -- though he did plead guilty to soliciting an act of criminal violence against Adamson!  (Gee!  Maybe that's why Adamson refused to testify that second time!)

Dunlap was recharged, and retried, in 1990, when Adamson finally agreed to testify again.  Dunlap was found guilty of 1st Degree Murder.  He died in prison in 2009.

Adamson died in the witness protection program in 2002, after serving a 20-year sentence.

Hmmm.....

Let's see.  We have a reporter who dug up and printed secrets about organized crime and a company involved in dog and horse racing.  But, when it comes time for trial, we have one guy who is "associated" with someone possibly prevented from getting onto the Racing Commission by Bolles's stories.  Plus a plumber who admitted he threatened the witness who said he pulled the trigger.  And a guy who wound up in the witness protection program.

Nope!  No mafia connection with this crime, is there?

See you in two weeks!
— Dixon

18 December 2015

Why I Never Met Bob Crane

By Dixon Hill

On Thursday, June 29th, 1978, not long after my fifteenth birthday, my parents told me I would be getting a late present.

The night before, they had seen Bob Crane (perhaps best known for portraying "Col. Hogan" on Hogan's Heros) in the play Beginner's Luck at the Windmill Dinner Theater about five or ten miles north of our home.  After the play, Mr. Crane came out to meet the audience, shaking hands with those who had stuck around.

My parents -- habitually about the last to leave anywhere -- chatted with him for a short time, during which they mentioned my recent birthday.  Crane told them to bring me by the theater after the play on Friday night (July 1st), so he could shake my hand and give me an autographed photo as a late birthday gift.

No, I don't recall him offering any free tickets.  But that's okay; I thought the idea was kind of neat. My dad insisted it was Crane's idea, telling me, "He actually seemed to be a nice guy, son.  He says he's looking forward to meeting you, and he sounded as if he meant it."  Then he joked, "Of course, he could just be a good actor."

I enjoyed Hogan's Heros and looked forward to meeting him -- secretly hoping one of the women who played one of the bar maids on the show might somehow be there too.  (I was a fifteen-year-old boy, after all, and had no idea that he had married one of them.)


Such, however, was not to be.

That evening, the Phoenix Gazette carried a story: earlier that afternoon, Bob Crane had been found murdered in an apartment not far from where we lived.

He was murdered in the early morning hours, his skull crushed by a camera tripod as he lay sleeping in bed, and an electrical cord tied around his neck later -- all this, only hours after speaking with my parents.

His body was found by Victoria Berry, his costar in Beginner's Luck.  She went to find him around 2:00 pm.  When Crane didn't answer her knock on his door, she picked up his newspaper and entered his apartment.  The lights were off, with the drapes drawn, and she had just come in from the bright sun. Nonetheless, she says she closed the door after entering the apartment, then she looked around for him.

His body lay on the bed in apartment 132-A, at the Winfield Place Apartments.  Berry told police: "... At first, I thought it was a girl with long dark hair, because all the blood had turned real dark.  I thought, 'Oh, Bob's got a girl in there.  Now where's Bob?...'  I thought, 'Well, she's done something to herself.  Bob has gone to get help.'  At that time, I recognized blood ... "

Then she looked closer.

"The whole wall was covered from one end to the other with blood.  And I just sort of stood there and I was numb.  Bob was balled up into a fetal position, lying on his side.  He had a cord around his neck which was tied in a bow."

While Victoria Berry was giving her report to the police, inside the apartment, the telephone rang. Police asked her to answer it, but not to reveal that Crane had been murdered. The caller was a video production salesman named John Carpenter.

When Lt. Ron Dean of the Scottsdale Police Department took the phone, identifying himself, he told Carpenter there had been "an incident," but not that Crane was a dead. Carpenter called back, later, and spoke to Lt. Dean again.  The detective was surprised that Carpenter never asked what the "incident" was that police were investigating in Crane's apartment, or if he could speak with Crane.

In 1978 the Scottsdale Police Department did not have a Homicide Unit, something often overlooked in articles about this murder.  However, this fact was very shortly on the mind of everyone in Scottsdale, because the investigation didn't seem to be getting anywhere.  And, at least one piece of potential evidence -- an album of pornographic photographs that Berry had seen when she arrived -- had disappeared!

Surprising evidence also began to surface. Police found about 50 pornographic video tapes or films in the apartment, along with video cameras and film cameras.  A bathroom had been turned into a darkroom with an enlarger, and there were photos of a nude woman on negatives inside.

Reports soon circulated about Crane's fetish of filming himself having sex with multiple women. Police learned that he had obtained the equipment for this hobby from Carpenter, and that Crane had told family members that he planned to break off his friendship with Carpenter on the day of the murder.  The two men were last seen together at the coffee shop in the Safari resort around 2:30 that morning.


Several potential suspects also came to light: Crane's angry estranged wife, husbands angry about Crane bedding their wives, even a fellow actor who had threatened him in Texas.  But, police continued to focus on Carpenter.

Scottsdale's lack of a homicide unit may have made its mark, however, as Carpenter was not put on trial until 1994!  Carpenter was acquitted after a two-month trial, and died four years later, still maintaining his innocence.

The strange upshot?

Sleepy little Scottsdale, Arizona -- my home town -- finally established its own Homicide Department not long after Crane's murder.

As for myself: I never got to meet the guy, because he was murdered the day before I was supposed to.

See you in two weeks!
--Dixon



04 December 2015

The Dutchman Who Won't Die

by Dixon Hill

Those confused to find my two posts about the Legend of the Lost Dutchman, and the Superstition Mountains, on the SleuthSayers blog, may be glad to learn the reason.

As many of you know: this year, I am posting a series of articles about Arizona Crime Scenes. Though it may seem odd to list a mountain range or wilderness area as a crime scene, the fact is: the Superstition Mountains, and the Superstition Wilderness Area have been the unfortunate host for many crimes, including murder. And, the legend of the Lost Dutchman's mine was a major catalyst for many of them.

Even though you can see a picture of that "Lost Dutchman" tomb stone on the right – there may have been no Lost Dutchman at all! At least, not in the Superstitions.

In fact, according to some research, there are as many as 51 versions of the Lost Dutchman legend, many of them having nothing to do with the Superstitions, and some taking place in states other than Arizona.

So, why is this legend so prominent, here in The Valley, that folks die over it?

Lost Dutchman Mine Ride at Legend City Amusement Park
Park was located at border of Tempe and Phoenix in the 1970's.
The Lost Dutchman Mine Ride was the "haunted house" attraction.

'What is so "haunted" about a mine?' you may ask.

Other than the part of the ride where an outhouse door flew open to a startled miner's recorded cry of, "Gee, Miss Mary, ain't there NOWHERE a man cain get a little privacy 'round here?" – which is pretty scary when you think about it – the answer is: A mine can seem pretty spooky if its location is mysteriously unknown and the reason for this is interconnected with murder, mayhem, Apache curses, the ghosts of dead Conquistadors, ghosts of dead Spanish miners, and/or dead Apaches, as well as Apache spirit guardians (evidently not quite the same as the ghosts of dead Apaches) – all of whom are pledged to slay any living soul who sets foot inside the mine shaft.

But, Where Did All These Ghosts Come From?

Long before anyone, from some land that might lead others to say he was 'Dutch,' ever came to Arizona's Great Salt River Valley and perhaps got lost, the Spanish Conquistadors encountered a group of the Apache tribe living not far from the Superstition Mountains, which they (the Apaches) considered sacred.

The Spanish, after evidently deciding there was gold in the mountains, directed the Apaches to help them find it. (Don't ask me how they decided there was gold in the mountains, if they hadn't already found it. It's a Conquistador thing: you wouldn't understand.) The Apaches refused, supposedly saying the mountain was "The Devil's Playground" (whatever that was supposed to mean – I mean, who translated it from Apache into Spanish, and from Spanish into English? I have no idea!), and that this mountain was the home of their "Thunder God," causing the Apaches to warn the Spanish that they would be cursed if they set foot on the land.

So, see: In the beginning, came "The Curse" element. As many a reader will happily realize, we can lay this one firmly at the feet of those nasty Conquistadors – mascot of my children's high school (the Coronado High "Dons"). This Curse Element, imho, lends a sense of magic to the story.

And magic is important, when it comes to fueling dreams.

The Peraltas (or Paraltas, if you wish)

Another part of the reason this legend rests in the Superstitions may be due to the Peralta family – members of which supposedly claimed to have mined both silver and gold in the Superstition Mountain area during the mid-1800's – though they didn't find it easy.

After all, the Apaches still considered the place sacred. And, they weren't exactly willing to look the other way or turn the other cheek when they felt their beliefs were being violated. (Can't say I blame 'em!)

Another shot from Legend City. This is how I always imagined the mine.
Except without wood floor, or a bar. Maybe not even a piano.
At one point, the Peraltas supposedly had to hide their mine and run for their lives, because the Apaches had tumbled to their presence and were not happy about it. This work of hiding the mine didn't help the Peralta miners very much, however. The Apaches caught up with their heavily laden wagon train (gold and silver not being terribly light-weight) and killed most of them, scattering (or, according to some: caching) the gold and silver they had collected on this trip.

Finally, around 1864, after a 16-year hiatus, on the north-west slope of the Superstitions, in an area now known as "Massacre Ground," the last Peralta to lead an expedition here was killed on his way back into the mine area, along with about 400 of his party, by rather angry Apaches, who evidently objected to outsiders again trampling over ground they considered sacred.

So, here we have: (A) the introduction of a hidden gold mine, (B) an expansion of the Curse, and (C) the addition of mass death.

Please note: The above description of the Peralta family's activities is the one shared by a large portion of the Lost Dutchman legends. And, the Peraltas evidently did mine gold from within what is now Arizona. (Though there is a train of belief that says they mined their gold in California – just so you know.)

I should note here, however, that the Peralta family may have told folks they were digging in the Superstition Mountains just to throw people off the scent of where their real mine(s) were located. There is a strong belief that the Peraltas actually mined their ore from an area near, or around, the later-established Mammoth Mine or Black King mine, located roughly 4 miles north-east of where Apache Junction now sits. (This location is not literally within "shooting distance" of the Superstitions, but the mountains certainly do dominate the landscape here.) These mines pulled a lot of gold out of the ground during the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, which might support this theory.

This same belief holds that the Peralta Massacre took place there – not in the relatively near-by Superstition Mountains – while the miners were packing their ore for shipment back to Mexico.

And the Peraltas certainly continue to be deeply involved in many versions of the legend. The photo
on the right shows stones, supposedly discovered in the Superstition Mountains, which provide a map to the Lost Dutchman Mine (though, so far, nobody has successfully found the mine by using said map). These rocks are commonly known as the Peralta Stones, or the Peralta Rocks, or the Peralta Stone Map. Last week, as some of you may recall, I wrote that the Lost Dutchman supposedly created the marks on these stones.

And, in fact, many versions of the tale claim he did. In some, he was a friend of the Peraltas, and thus spoke Spanish (which explains why there is Spanish writing carved into the stones). In others, he carved the stones while working for the Peraltas, which is why he later knew the mine's location. In other versions – he just carved the darn things!

Be advised, however: There is NOT ANY EVIDENCE that the Peraltas ever dug in the Superstitions. Nor is there a single iota of evidence that ANY massacre of Peralta miners ever took place. Anywhere.

But, something else also occurred.

In the 1860's (remember, this is around the time that the Peraltas may have tried to reclaim their mines), people began spreading the rumor that two prospectors had found three dead pack mules somewhere in the desert around the Superstition area. The two supposedly claimed to have liberated $37,000 worth of "Spanish Gold" from the dead mules' saddle packs, which had still been intact. Popular opinion held that these mules must have been pack animals of the Peralta miner group killed when fleeing the mine in the mid-1800's.

After that, prospectors began combing the area for more spoils. They also started exploring the Superstitions, hoping to find the Peralta's mines. Hence: We now add prospectors to the mix, and the sense of magical mystery that has already begun.
From the lobby of Westward Ho hotel.
The peak in background is Weaver's Needle.


Enter the "Dutchman"!

Just who this Dutchman was, depends on who you ask.

One story holds that his name was Jacob Waltz, that he knew the Peraltas and had been told where their mine was. That's his tombstone, in that picture up higher, incidentally.

In another version, this same Jacob Waltz learned of the Peralta mine location from his young wife, an Apache woman he met while working at the Vulture Mine in Wickenburg.

In other versions, he's not Waltz at all, but a mysterious someone else.

What everybody DOES agree on is this:

  1. There may have been a man, who was a prospector, who was somehow involved in all this.
  2. That guy may have come from some place in Europe that caused the local yokels to call him a "Dutchman."
  3. This guy, who might actually have lived, and whom everybody supposedly called a Dutchman, died.
HOW he died (assuming he ever lived) remains in contention.

The folks who say Waltz was the Lost Dutchman, claim he brought several loads of high-grade gold ore out of the Peralta mine in the Superstitions over a period of several years. Before he could reveal his mine location, however, he was (A) killed, or (B) died of natural causes, at home, in bed (B-1) without revealing his mine's location, or (B-2) after whispering the location to someone who died without sharing this knowledge, or (B-3) he died after whispering cryptic clues about this mine's location to the woman nursing him on his death bed, who later was unable to locate the mine, or (B-4) he wandered off in a fever and told somebody else, who later told it to somebody else
just before dying, but that other person didn't quite understand what the dying man had told him. (And, while we're at it, don't forget those Peralta stones he may have been involved in, too.)

Another version of the story, is that a green-horn from Europe, whom local yokels called a "Dutchman" because they had a hard time understanding his poor English and thus lumped him in with those who were rather Germanic, stumbled into an assay office in Phoenix several months after anyone had last seen him around town. This "Dutchman" turned in a load of ore for assay, and was overjoyed to discover it was incredibly "pure." This "prospector" then lives it up all over town, getting folks fired-up to discover where he found his gold. But, he refuses to say, departing in the dead of night, to avoid being followed back to his mine – never to be seen again.

The real Weaver's Needle, plays significant role in the legend.
According to which legend you prefer, he disappeared because he was killed by (A) someone in town who followed him out to the desert, tortured him for the mine's location, and then cut his throat before realizing the "Dutchman" had left out important clues, or (B) by Apaches who were getting really tired of all these white guys digging holes in their sacred mountain, or (C) the ghosts of dead Apache braves who had been killed in the mine so their spirits could protect it from being plundered by others, or (D) by the ghosts of Conquistadors who were entombed with the gold they had abused the Apaches to find and now must guard for the Apache horde in the afterlife, in order to atone for their bad behavior, or (E) the ghosts of Peralta miners who are there for reasons similar to those in choice D, or (F) by Apache 'Spirit Guardians' who protect the mine from interlopers, or (G) by the desert itself, since he was a greenhorn – he might have just died of thirst and evaporated into a desiccated husk-like mummy.

Pure Gold

The "incredibly pure gold" part of the story might be important to note here. This is why some people – many of whom claim the Dutchman was Waltz – say he had discovered, not a vein of gold ore in the ground, but rather the site where the massacred Peralta miner's gold had been hidden (either by the miners, or the Apaches, depending on who's telling the story). The theory here is that the gold was "too pure" to have been simply mined from the earth, but must have already been processed somehow – hence the introduction of the Peralta miners, who must surely have had smelting equipment or something on hand, so the story goes.

At this point, I'm sure the reader has already noticed the easy way in which that rumor of two prospectors discovering dead mules with gold-laden saddle packs sort of fits right in, or perhaps morphs and entwines itself within the "Dutchman's" legend. Which illustrates another factor that I believe keeps this legend so alive: The Dutchman does not stand alone.

Instead, "his" story is combined and en-wrapped by many others, wrapping itself about these stories in return, serving to create a rather thick "cable of legend" created by myriad strands of other legends all twisting together to form a plot-line capable of bearing great weight over a long period of time.

This also helps account for why there are so many versions of the Legend of the Lost Dutchman: Person A is introduced to the legend through one strand, which the teller follows throughout the tale's recounting, while person B is introduced via another legendary strand, which puts a different slant on the main legend, and person C is introduced through a third strand, etc.

In fact, some versions of the story insist on specifying that the Dutchman discovered a vast sum of "Spanish gold." Among these versions, some fail to identify where this "Spanish gold" came from, while others claim it was Peralta gold, and still others claim it was gold mined by Apaches used as slaves by Conquistador overseers.

Enter the Fourth Estate

The best explanation I think I've read, concerning the origins of the Lost Dutchman's Mine legend, can be found HERE at the Apache Junction Public Library's website.

Evidently, Julia Thomas, a woman who claimed to have been at Waltz's bedside as he lay dying (with many valuable gold nuggets in a box beneath his bed) supposedly searched the Superstitions after his death, following the directions he had given her. She was unable to find the mine shaft, but did evidently mine some meager profits by selling the story to Peirpont C. Bicknell, who wrote an article that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1895. And, once the newspapers got hold of the story, it was "Drop the soap and Katy bar the door!"

Whatever the truth behind the "Lost Dutchman" and his "mine" there can be no denying the fact that its influence on some folks' imagination is responsible for many deaths, violent or otherwise. And most of those deaths occurred within the Superstition Mountain Wilderness Area.

The legend was also responsible for bringing a lot of money into The Valley, whether spent by tourists or contemporary treasure hunters. Many tourists enjoy a picnic at Lost Dutchman State Park, while others climb from the trail heads there to explore the inner wilderness area behind the jagged peaks in the foreground.

The Mountains themselves do not stand mute, in my opinion. Walk the trails through them, and I'm sure you'll discover what I mean.

Just watch out for the tourist traps that the Dutchman's legend helps spring up around the area. If you want to take the kiddies on an extremely safe ride into a "mine," see a "shootout," or maybe get a good steak, you might check out Goldfield Ghost Town.

Just be aware: The real Goldfield burned down in the 1940's. When I was a kid, the area looked like the photo on the right. Now, it looks like the one below.





















If you want to see something that really is, basically, a ghost town, however, the Superstition Wilderness holds some of the nicest American Indian Ruins I've ever encountered. Not only are they TRULY old and authentic, but you actually have the opportunity, in some of these ruins, to reach out a hand and lay your fingertips on the very spot on a wall, floor, or roof, where ancient peoples may once have touched their fingers to it.

This is a very powerful feeling, and may ... in the final calculation ... account for the real reason that the Lost Dutchman's story has such a strong hold more than a century later. Touching that ancient place touches a person's heart in return. There can be no denying the deep-seated call of the ancient past – which may well be the same call sounded by that Lost Dutchman.

See you in two weeks!
–Dixon

20 November 2015

Mystery In The Superstitions

By Dixon Hill

As may be plainly seen by looking at the photo below, the Superstition Mountains are quite inviting, and do not appear at all sinister. (He said with a wink.)


Why then, is this small range of jagged peaks, near Apache Junction, Arizona, so swathed in superstition and murder?

And, though lots of those murders are apocryphal, all too many were quite real!

Well ...

This is, after all, the spot on the map marked with a big X, if you're one of those folks looking for the Lost Dutchman's fabled gold mine.  (In fact, I took this photo while standing beside a picnic table at Arizona's Lost Dutchman State Park.)

And, that Dutchman figures pretty prominently in Valley lore around here.


Here is a look at just a few of the Valley businesses trading on the Lost Dutchman for the sake of name recognition.




I'm not sure I'd like to park my R.V. in this place.
I might return to find it missing, and not be able to locate it ever again!









There have been numerous books written on the subject, of course.

















Just as there are plenty of "Lost Dutchman's Mine" maps floating around.




Some with less detail than others.








This map (right) is based on some rocks supposedly found in the area.

Evidently, the idea here is that the
Lost Dutchman, adept at wielding pick and shovel, used them to etch his treasure map on a surface more durable than paper.





       





These are the rocks.









Now, I'm not saying there aren't any mines in the Superstitions.  In fact, there are a LOT of old mines
and defunct mine shafts in the Superstitions.  The place is, after all, a treasure trove of minerals.

HEY!  You can see something that might be the entrance to a mine, in this photo (right).  Of course, it might just be a cave.  But, is it the entrance to the Lost Dutchman's Mine?

I rather doubt it.

The problem is: The Lost Dutchman's Mine brings out tons of treasure hunters every year.


Some contemporary Lost Dutchman occurrences are funny.
But ... others aren't.
Most of the time, of course, they find nothing, and then go back home -- with a story of adventure, and maybe even a gold nugget they bought somewhere else.  (The Gold Field Ghost Town -- built while I was off in the army -- isn't far from the mountains.  And, they sell "gold" there, though the last time I saw it, what they were selling was iron pyrite, otherwise known as "fool's gold."  Perhaps that tells us what the owners think of their customers.)

Some contemporary additions to the tale are rather humorous, such as the one in this clip on the left.

Other would-be treasure hunters, however, wind up lost and out of water, in a desert terrain that does not suffer fools or the unprepared gladly.  Among these folks, the lucky ones get choppered out by the Sheriff's Posse.  The unlucky ones stick around, to add their ghosts, and stories of a good person gone missing, to the litany of the Miner's victims.


Around 2010, for instance, a Colorado man came out to hunt for the mine.  His remains were discovered three years later.  He had apparently become wedged in a vertical fissure while climbing one of the walls.  Thinking about his last days or hours on earth is not a pleasant past-time.

Occasionally, however, that old "Ghost Mine" causes REAL problems.

When I was in high school, folks in The Valley began to notice that a lot of people who had gone hiking or camping in the Superstitions were not coming back.  Search parties were sent out.  The Civil Air Patrol overflew the mountains for several days at a time.  But, no bodies were found.

Finally, one search patrol did find a body or two.  And, that body or two had been shot to death.

To make a long story short: A mother and her two grown sons thought they'd found the Lost Dutchman's Gold mine back up in these mountains.  And, perhaps they'd been back there all by themselves for a little too long.  Add in a strong dose of "gold fever" after they thought they'd found the mine -- which, unfortunately, sat not far from a rather popular trail -- and they found themselves having to fend off a formidable number of "claim jumpers."

The story might have been funny, if they hadn't killed so many hikers.

The fact is, however -- even though you can see a picture of that "Lost Dutchman's" tomb stone on the right -- there may have been no Lost Dutchman at all!  At least, not in the Superstitions.

In fact, according to some research, there are as many as 51 versions of the Lost Dutchman legend, many of them having nothing to do with the Superstitions, and some taking place in states other than Arizona.

So, why is this legend so prominent here in The Valley, that folks die over it?

Well, I'll write about that in my next installment.

Meanwhile, if you're coming out to The Valley, and you want to visit a nice picnic or camping area that has nice hiking trails, you might make the drive to the Lost Dutchman State Park.

Just watch out, if somebody starts shouting: "HEY!  HOLD IT, YOU CLAIM JUMPER!"

--Dixon

19 June 2015

Crime Tour of Phoenix Part 1

Uncle Sal's

By Dixon Hill

Left Coast Crime will be convening at the Hyatt Regency of Phoenix, Arizona February 26th - 28th,2016.

Knowing that LCC attendees lurk on this blog, and suspecting some of them might like to take their own self-guided tour of the Phoenix historical crime scene, I've decided to post some articles this year that would lend themselves to just that use.


Starbuck's Location
"Office Max Center"
Corner of Osborn and Hayden roads
in Scottsdale











Across the parking lot from this unassuming Starbuck's where my son and daughter worked in high school, and less than a quarter mile from the house I grew up in, sits this place:

Uncle Sal's Italian Ristorante
Uncle Sal's Location
About 23 mins. from the Hyatt
according to Google Maps










At first glance, the contemporary cookie-cutter strip mall location and hole-in-the-wall frontage might indicate Uncle Sal's is one of those Italian restaurants run by somebody about as Italian as my Polish grandmother.

In truth, however, this is the place once owned by the wife of Salvatore "Sammy The Bull" Gravano, who billed her restaurant as: "The best kept secret in Scottsdale," Sammy the Bull loved to eat here, and it was frequented not only by members of his family, but -- reputedly -- also by drug dealers, underworld figures and the like.  (On several occasions, my mom and I enjoyed the pizza there, when I was home on leave from the army.)

Gravano had been given plastic surgery to alter his appearance, then he and his family moved to The Valley in 1995, as part of the witness protection program following the John Gotti trial.  The former member of the New York based Gambino family was rechristened "Jimmy Moran."  He opened a construction company called Marathon Development at 45th Street and University drive in Phoenix, where he employed 15 people and earned nearly a million dollars a year.  He also did business as Creative Pools, a pool installation company.
Gravano's Phx. Mug Shot

All of this came to an end in 2000, when Sammy the Bull, as well as his wife, son and daughter were arrested as part of a sting on organized drug dealing in The Valley.

Salvatore (then living as Jimmy Moran) reportedly provided consultation and cash to the drug-dealing arm of the "Devil Dogs" a Phoenix gang known for barking as they beat people up.  It was further reported that pool company and restaurant employees were involved in the dealing, and that drugs were being sold out of Uncle Sal's.  Salvatore was eventually convicted, and sentenced to 19 years in prison.

The Bar






The Patio
Uncle Sal's is still there, of course. And, if you'd like to go get a bite
to eat and look around the place, I think you'll enjoy your meal.  The bar is nice, and so is the food.  You can even eat on the patio.

Outdoor temperatures should be quite comfortable during the LCC period in February.

While the pasta is good here, the steak is my favorite.  The green bean side is excellent!


Dress is casual during the day, and business casual in the evening.  If you want to pull out the stops and dress to the nines, they'll love you for it!


Pricing is not bad either.  A single person can enjoy the steak in the photo to the right and some beer or wine and still get out the door for under fifty bucks.


According to his daughter, Gravano ate at Uncle Sal's regularly, often sneaking in the back and sometimes taking his food to go.  There are those who suspect his practice provided the catalyst for the opening of this second eatery, which shares the same kitchen with Uncle Sal's, and is known as: The Side Door.


If your wallet doesn't tend to be over-stuffed, and your culinary tastes run toward good beer, burgers and dogs (And perhaps you'd secretly like to get a feel for what it was like for Sammy the Bull to sneak in the back for his chow while the Feds were closing in!) then I suggest you walk around the north end of the building that houses Uncle Sal's and eat here.  They sell Vienna Beef hot dogs for only $4.00 each -- or, Chicago style for six bucks!  There is also a large selection of beer on tap or in bottles, as well as a large wine selection, and some higher-end food -- even ice cream!

Overhead View of Strip Mall with Uncle Sal's and Side Door


This photo is taken looking west.

Osborn Rd. is on the right side of the photo, while Hayden Rd. runs across the bottom.  The building at the lower left is Starbucks.  The large main building is Office Max and Big Five sporting goods.

The small square building, which -- as you can see on the schematic below -- is not quite connected to the Office Max bldg., is where you'll find Uncle Sal's.  It's in the lower left (south-east) corner of that small square building.

If you walk around the north (photo-right) side of this building, you will find The Side Door at the west (photo-top) end of it, facing out to the north.

Do not be confused by the bank building (lower right).





Fastest way there from the Hyatt Regency Phoenix
  • Take Monroe to 4th Street
  • Turn LEFT to head NORTH on 4th Street, being sure to BEAR LEFT just past Garfield St.  
  • 4th Street will then become the north-bound lane of 3rd Street.  
  • STAY IN THE RIGHT LANE at this point.  
  • TURN RIGHT onto the HOV on-ramp for I-10 East (also known as 101 East).  
  • Follow the 101 East until you exit (off to right) onto 202 North.  
  • (Note: 202 Exit is to the right side of the 101, but you want the LEFT lane of the RIGHT-SIDE EXIT lanes -- 2nd or third lane from the right side of freeway.  If you bear all the way to the right, you will end up on the 202 South.  If this happens, exit ASAP and get back onto the 202 North)
  • Follow 202 North and take Indian School Rd. exit.  
  • At the base of the off-ramp, TURN LEFT onto Indian School.
  • TURN RIGHT onto Hayden Rd.  
  • Uncle Sal's is in Office Max strip mall on the corner of Hayden and Osborn, a half-mile ahead of you, on the left.


05 June 2015

One Hero's "Masque" May Be Another's Costume

By Dixon Hill

As well as being a writer, I'm also a husband and dad.  I spent this past weekend (May 28th through
31st) at Phoenix ComiCon with my 12-year-old son, and gained some very interesting insight there.

My youngest son, Quentin, likes to practice Cosplay.  Cosplay is a compound word created by the combination of Costume and Play (or player), and hence denotes a person who is play-acting that s/he is the character (sci/fi or anime usually) s/he is dressed as.

Cosplayers may spend hundreds of dollars on their costumes, and work diligently to achieve detailed accuracy (similar to a Civil War reenactor I once knew).  And, at conventions such as this, the prizes for best costume can run into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Believe it or not, there are Professional Cosplayers who earn big bucks by dressing as characters from video games, television shows, or even movies.  They earn this money not only by winning cosplay contests, but also by doing work for sponsors.  I suppose this shouldn't have come as a big surprise to me; after all there's a guy who frequents the cigar store, who earns a six-figure annual income by portraying Sean Connery at business conventions or on the radio.  Pro Cosplayers earn money in a very similar manner.

I once posted here about an activity my youngest son, Quentin and I engaged in, last summer, called ICon ("eye-con"). At that convention, Quentin cosplayed (dressed and acted) as Edward Elric, the title character of the anime TV series The Full Metal Alchemist.

ICon was not a particularly giant convention, recalling (in my mind) the gaming conventions my older son, Joe, had attended when he was in middle school.  There, Joe and his buddies played Dungeons and Dragons or other board games for several days straight.

But, ICon lasted only one full day.

The Phoenix Comicon, however, lasted four days and was held at the Phoenix Convention Center (very close to where Left Coast Crime will be held in 2016). Last year, over 15,000 people attended Comicon, and this year the numbers were believed to be even larger.  Having been there, I believe it!

The Venues Included Writers! 
Storm Troopers posed for free with folks.
Phoenix Comicon had multiple venues within the convention center, but the admission "membership" bought access to all of these venues for the given day(s) of the membership.

Quen being tossed into
Batman's Arkham Asylum
Venues included two film festivals, one of which permitted members to submit films in advance, in hopes of winning honors.  There were also extensive panels and classes on writing, headed-up by successful Sci-Fi, Fantasy or Romance writers, and myriad author signings, as well as classes on screenplay writing, comic book writing and even something detailing how to become a professional still camera photographer for Hollywood movies.

Writers and pros had booths in the underground area, where steampunk and cosplay items competed for sale against Star Trek, Star Wars and other Sci-Fi and Fantasy memorabilia.

There were also movie and TV stars galore, available for autographs (about $40 to $60 each, additional cost) or to pose in photos with you (that would set a person back a hundred or two hundred bucks each),  The local Dr.Who society was on the top floor (by the stars) with their Tardis, two life-sized Daleks (one of which moved and had a suspicious-looking "Sidekick" badge taped to the front!), and a remote-control K-9.  On this floor also, one could find the Delorean from Back to the
Q sits with "Greedo" on Star Wars "set"
Future
(photo prices supposedly donated to charity -- photos with the actor who played "Doc" in the film were even more expensive), several Star Wars "sets" created by local and distant Star Wars fan clubs, and even the Zombie Defense League and a local Pirate group.

Cosplay filled a lot of con space also, with classes and panels that ranged from how to buy and style wigs, how to sew costumes or make realistic-looking armor that wouldn't weight you down, to panels of professional cosplayers giving tips on the contests and how to make money at cosplaying.

Membership is NOT Cheap

An adult membership for all four days cost about $97.00 (a significant savings!), while a "sidekick" ticket for a kid 12-or-under cost $10.75 for the full four days.

Lunch for 2 = $45.00 LOL
By the time I finished work on Thursday, and we got downtown to the convention center, all of the full-time adult memberships were sold out.  I still managed to get a "Sidekick" membership for Quen -- though he initially didn't like it, feeling embarrassed I believe -- so he was set for all four days, as long as he was accompanied by a paid adult.

By the time it was all said and done, I purchased two adult memberships for Thursday ($30 each) so Q wouldn't have to wear his embarrassing Sidekick badge, two adult memberships for Friday (about $47 each) so my wife could go with him in the morning while I was at work, and my older son's girlfriend could join her until I relieved my wife, three adult memberships for Saturday ($57 each) so my older son, Joe, could attend with his girlfriend and myself, while Q used his Sidekick badge (and the older kids could go to the Steampunk ball or some other adult venue that night), and an adult membership for Sunday ($35) so I could go with Quen on my day off.

COSPLAY  (Hmmm.......)
A Family of Dr. Who's . . . Plus a Cyberman son ....
Talk about dysfunctional teen years! LOL


The main catalyst for our going, of course was that Quen wanted to participate in a Cosplay Contest. The problem was: Though we downloaded Comicon info from their website to our cell phones, months in advance, and that info kept updating over time, we NEVER saw anything labeled: "Cosplay Contest."

Instead, there was a "Cosplay Fasion Show" on Thursday morning, and a "Prejudging for Masquerade" at 4:00 pm on Saturday, and a "Masquerade" at a local Hotel, where the steampunk venues were being held, at 9:00 pm Saturday night.

Was the Cosplay Fashion Show a contest?  Evidently not.  Was "Masquerade" the contest, or was this a codeword for something dealing with steampunk?  We didn't know.  Nor could we find out ahead of time.

At one point, we ran into the evil "boss" from Kingdom Hearts.
You can't see it, but there is a crowd
jumping up and down and screaming behind me.
Quentin planned to dress as Sora, from Kingdom Hearts, a video game in which a young anime boy battles evil creatures with the help of Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Pluto -- though this game is not for toddlers imho.

To that end, for over a month, Quentin worked with my wife as she diligently followed his instructions, as well as online pics, to sew a Sora costume for him.  We bought a pair of too-large shoes at Goodwill, then he and I turned them into Sora's shoes using paint, tape and paper mache.  He and I constructed a "KeyBlade": Sora's primary weapon, using PVC pipe, cardboard, Styrofoam, paint, a small chain, etc.  My wife even styled his hair to match Sora's.

Thursday afternoon, Q and I entered the convention, neither of us in any costume.  Our plan was to orient ourselves to the premises, attend a few panels on cosplay or some other things, and form a strategy for the weekend.  Unfortunately, the maps in the program, cross-indexed with the buildings we were in, didn't make sense to me.  In fact, I'm embarrassed to admit that I -- an ex-SF Sergeant, known for finding my way for miles across empty and inhospitable terrain using only a map and compass -- never did quite manage to orient myself inside those buildings until the end our last day there.

It was not a stationary battle.  Q is waving his keyblade
as the "boss" waves his arms in attack.
I was able to navigate us to several panels . . . only to discover that Quen didn't want to attend most of them.  "I don't want to go to this.  It's like a class in school.  I just got out of school for the summer; I don't want to go to school for fun!"

I didn't blame him.  And, since he was the reason we were there, we did what he wanted to do -- while I scratched my head a lot and tried to figure out where we were on the myriad of seemingly unrelated maps inside my program.

By Thursday night, at last, I figured a few things out.  So, on Friday morning, my wife, Madeleine, and our son's girlfriend, Suzanne, knew where they had to take Q for the fashion show, while I was at work.  My daughter, Raven, wound up there to cheer him on, too.

Suzanne fixes Q's "Sora" hairstyle.
Q got a chance, there, to strut his stuff in his Sora costume, up on a stage in a huge hotel ballroom, in
front of hot lights and hundreds of people -- which I have no doubt was a good experience for him.  He encountered stage fright, but dealt with it on his own --HUWAH!!  I got there too late to see the show, but heard all about it from the kids.  My wife went back to work, while Suzanne, Raven and I took Q back into the con.  The younger folks decided to wander around together for awhile.

One panel I attended alone was called, "How to be the parent of a Comicon Nerd."  Quen had protested his attendance, saying the adults on the panel would make jokes about kids in cosplay.

He couldn't have been more wrong!

From the Mouths of Babes 

This panel was made up of a half-dozen kids ranging in age from about 14 to 17.  The theme of their panel was essentially: "What sort of Comicon Parent are you: Supportive, Disinterested, or Abhorrent?"  (Yes, they actually used the word "abhorrent." LOL)

First, each speaker explained a different facet of what a parent's comicon kid might be "into" and why it was usually "really nothing to be worried about."  They covered comic books, films, TV series, online comic books (webcomics, such as Homestuck), cosplay and other things.

They stressed the idea that "forbidding" a kid to play a game or watch a show wouldn't keep that kid from playing the game or watching the show at a friend's house.  Instead, they stressed open communication as the best way to address parental concerns.  Finally, each kid on the panel told us what her parents were like (supportive, disinterested, or abhorrent) so that we could compare ourselves to them, and adjust our actions if need be.

I was deeply moved when the girl with two supposedly "abhorrent" parents, wiped her eyes as she told us about her dad making fun of her cosplay outfit, and of how her mother refused to drive her to the con, making her take the bus, because "...that stuff is Devil worship -- you can burn in Hell alone!"  (Maybe her parents weren't really that bad, but her perception was that they were.  And, the really heart-rending part, was that I could hear how much she loved her parents and wanted to connect with them.)

Some feel EMPOWERED by cosplay.
The really eye-opening part of this program, however, was that I saw the impact of cosplay on some of these kids' lives.  Several of the panel members were dressed in cosplay outfits, which surprised me at first. Later, however, a couple specifically said words to the effect of, "I'm pretty shy, and I don't ever speak up at school or anything.  But, when I wear this cosplay, I can cosplay that I'm this strong character.  While I'm dressed like (this character), I act like (this character) and that's what gives me the ability to speak to you in front of this room, like this.  I could never do that, if I was just me."

It wasn't just what they said, either.  I could see it in their mannerism; their conviction was clearly evident, as was the importance of what they were doing, and why they wanted to speak to parents about their concerns.  Frankly, I wished that more than five or six parents had come to the panel. I also made sure to ask questions when it came time for Q & A: I wanted the kids to know I valued what they were doing.

And, I got to see one mother obtain relief when she asked, "Please tell me, what the heck is this Homestuck?  Why is my eleven-year-old daughter going to school with gray paint on her face and hands, and orange horns on her head!?!"

All the girls on the panel, along with a few kids sitting in the audience, screamed with joy, then laughed and sighed and comforted her, assuring her that it was alright, that they had all been into Homestuck and painted themselves gray at eleven and twelve.  At one point, one girl held up her arms and said, "See?  No more gray paint on my face or arms.  I outgrew it and she will too.  It's okay.  It won't hurt her.  Your daughter is fine and happy." Then, they gave the mom tips, such as: "The important thing is to keep her from getting in trouble at school, by getting paint on the walls if it rubs off her hands.  The way you do this is to seal with ...(I don't remember: something about baby powder and stuff -- but the mom took notes!)

I Realized:
Entrance to Cosplay Lounge.
Sign for Diversity Lounge in background.

Cosplay empowers people like this -- people who, for one reason or another, feel outcast or sidelined by life.  And, as these kids spoke, though they never addressed the issue, I finally began to understand why gender-bending is an important part of cosplay to many people; so much so that the "Diversity Lounge" was located next to the "Cosplay Lounge" at the con.

I also realized why taking photographs inside the Cosplay Lounge was so carefully forbidden -- because cosplayers take off their costumes in there; they are naked and themselves; they have lain their defensive bulwarks to one side and are vulnerable until they gird themselves, once more, in the armor of their character.

As the kids also pointed out: People (adults and children, both) engage in cosplay or other comicon activities for hundreds of different personal reasons.  Not every cosplayer is looking for a strength or defense that eludes him or her in real life.  Many, like my son, Quentin, just enjoy playing the part of fictional characters -- something I do, every day, when I write.  And I can understand this; I always have.

But, thanks to those brave kids, I now understand more about the genre, and the factors that may be at play in other practitioners lives.

But What About the Cosplay Contest???

Door to PreJudging Room
No Entrance W/O Permission
It finally wound up that the "Masquerade" WAS the cosplay contest.  Q and I camped out, in the hallway outside the prejudging, for several hours, but he did not get in.  The condensed answer is that we didn't understand how to apply online.  We've learned a lot, however, and next year -- WE'LL  BE  READY!

The hallway outside, 2.5 hours later.
In fact, with the help of a friendly "Sailor Venus" cosplayer, we learned of two cosplay contests he can enter in the interim, here in The Valley, so that he can get some more practice in front of a large audience.

A particularly humorous encounter I witnessed at the con occurred during lunch one day.  Q and I were eating, out on a sort of bench under shade, and there was a male-female couple in their late twenties not far from us.  The woman dressed as a Harry Potter character insisted (for some reason, I wasn't sure) on giving her husband/boyfriend a hard time about wanting to watch World Wrestling Federation on TV at home.  When the guy finally griped, "What's wrong with wrestling?" she responded, "It's completely
FAKE!"  At which point, he looked at her and mumbled, "Right.  And like you go to Hogwarts!"

For the Hill family, though, Phoenix Comicon and the lead-up -- gathering info, making the costume -- all of it, was a family activity.  And, in the end, our family really enjoyed it.  So, chalk-up a win this time!

See you in two weeks,
--Dixon