Tag Archives: Phoenix

(Guest Post) Why Phoenix?

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Today’s guest post was written by an old friend of mine who currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

It’s November 1st and finally, I believe the summer has left us. Don’t get me wrong. We will still have days with temperatures in the 80s but the evenings and the mornings are so cool and comfortable and finally wearing long pants is an acceptable dress code.

This summer has been especially hard on this perimenopausal woman in her late 40s. The temperatures have been no higher than other years and the fact that the hundred degrees last until October is normal. But my ability to cope with the warm temperatures is not what it was 20 years ago.

When I moved to Phoenix, many friends asked “Why Phoenix?” “What’s in Phoenix?” And honestly for years I had no answer for them. It’s flat, it’s brown and it’s very new and modern compared to other cities in the United States.

Tovrea Castle

Tovrea Castle

The history here only goes back to the 1940s. Convincing the city council that we need to keep those buildings from the 40s and 50s has been a challenge. Hence why everything is so new and modern. So when I find a building that is unique/different/older I get super excited and I must go inside and explore! That’s the case with the Tovrea Castle. The Ellis Shakelford House. The Security Building downtown. Luhrs Tower.

When I moved here 20 years ago, Phoenix was only supposed to be a temporary layover to my next destination somewhere on the west coast. I never intended to stay this long but good jobs, a great husband and my beautiful daughter all led to me becoming an Arizonan. I’ve not forgotten my roots. I will forever and always be a Louisiana girl. Nolagirl at heart. For that is where I found my true spirit, my true self. But now when people ask me what’s in Arizona, why Phoenix, Arizona, I can say: the Grand Canyon, street corn, fresh homemade tortillas, a sunset and

Phoenix Sunset

Phoenix Sunset

sunrise every morning and night that can take your breath away. Sonoran hotdogs. The Superstition Mountains. Home of Miranda Rights. Witnessing the evolution of a grass roots art and historic preservation community. My family. My community.

The photos were taken by the author.

A Few Things I Know About Cacti

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I took this photo on the BLM land near Saddle Mountain in Arizona.

I didn’t grow up in the desert, but after two guided tours at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and a couple of hours at the Desert Botanical Garden, I’ve learned a few things about cacti and other desert plants.

For example, what makes a plant a cactus? I first contemplated this question when Ranger Mark told me during a restroom break on the Ajo Mountain Drive tour that the ocatillo is not a cactus. When I asked him what makes a plant a cactus, he admitted he didn’t know. Low and behold, at the Desert Botanical Garden, I found the answer. All cacti have areoles. If there’s no areole, the plant is not a cactus.

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All cacti have areoles. If there’s no areole, the plant is not a cactus. This photo was taken at the Desert Botanical Garden.

 

So just what is the areole of a cactus? According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica (http://www.britannica.com/science/areole),

Cacti can be distinguished from other succulent plants by the presence of areoles, small cushionlike structures with hairs and, in almost all species, spines or barbed bristles (glochids). Areoles are modified branches, from which flowers, more branches, and leaves (when present) may grow.

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It is easy to see the areoles on the Straight-spined Barrel Cactus in this photo. The areoles are the dark areas from which the spines are growing. Notice that several spines grow from each areole. I took this photo at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix

The Encyclopaedia Britannica (http://www.britannica.com/plant/Caryophyllales#ref594853) elaborates,

 Areoles are universal in the cactus family (at least in the juvenile phase)…Almost all species of cactus have tufts of spines that develop from the areoles. These spines are of two basic types, stiff central spines located in the middle of the areole or radial spines that grow out laterally from the edges of the areole; the former are probably protective or when brightly coloured attract pollinators, while the latter are often white and reflect sunlight, providing shade and protecting the plant body from solar radiation. In addition, these spines may be variously modified, depending on the species; for example, they may be curved, hooked, feathery, bristly, flattened, sheathed, or needlelike.

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I took this photo of an ocatillo on BLM land adjacent to the Ajo Scenic Loop in Arizona . While I was visiting, I saw no ocatillo with leaves or flowers.

So if an ocatillo isn’t a cactus, what is it?  According to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum plant fact sheet (https://www.desertmuseum.org/kids/oz/long-fact-sheets/Ocotillo.php),

Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens)…are…large shrub[s] with long cane-like unbranched spiny stems that grow from a short trunk.

I’ve recently learned many things about the saguaro cactus, most importantly, it is found only in the Sonoran Desert. Although the saguaro may be the cactus that really represents the desert for for a lot of people, if you see a saguaro representing the desert in New Mexico or Utah, or Nevada, well, that’s just wrong. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saguaro,

[The saguaro] is native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, the Mexican State of Sonora, and the Whipple Mountains and Imperial County areas of California.

I also learned saguaros often grow with the help of a nurse plant. According to a brochure I got at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument,

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This photo shows a saguaro cactus growing within the protection of its nurse plant. I took this photo on the Red Tanks Tinaja hike in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

[a]lmost any plant can become a nurse plant. Shade from the nurse plant protects the delicate cactus seedling from temperature extremes and sunburn. Shaded soil holds moisture longer. Slowly decaying leaf litter adds nutrients. Leaf litter hides the tender young plant from hungry birds or animals…

A nurse plant is not mandatory for the growth and health of a saguaro, but as the brochure says,

The saguaro cactus seedling grows best in this protected, humid environment and enriched soil beneath its nurse plant.

Finally, I learned that saguaro cacti grow very slowly. It takes about 10 years for saguaros to grow one inch! Saguaros will have grown about one foot tall after 30 years and about three feet tall after 50 years. Saguaros get their first flowers after about 70 years, when they are approximately 6 and 1/2 fee tall. They get their first arm at 15 to 16 feet tall, after about 95 to 100 years, and they reach their full height of about 43 feet when they are around 200 years old. (All of the information in the preceding paragraph is from the brochure mentioned earlier.)

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I took this photo of an organ pipe cactus on the BLM land adjacent to the Ajo Scenic Loop in Arizona.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stenocereus_thurberi,

Stenocereus thurberi, the organpipe [sic] cactus…is found mostly in Mexico, mainly in Sonora and southern Baja California. It is also known to the United States, but is much rarer, with the notable exception of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The plant is predominantly found on rocky hillsides up to 3,000 feet (910 m) in elevation. It is sensitive to frost, so the species is rare in low desert areas, which can be more susceptible to frost.

Unlike saguaros organ pipe cactus don’t rely on nurse plants for early help. The brochure says,

Most organ pipe cactus grow out in the open in totally unprotected settings.

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This photo of a cholla cactus was taken on the BLM land adjacent to the Ajo Scenic Loop in Arizona.

And then there’s cholla cactus. According to the Desert USA website (http://www.desertusa.com/cactus/cholla-cactus.html),

Cholla cactus represent more than 20 species of the Opuntia genus (Family Cactacea) in the North American deserts. Cholla is a term applied to various shrubby cacti of this genus with cylindrical stems composed of segmented joints. These stems are actually modified branches that serve several functions — water storage, photosynthesis and flower production.

[C]hollas are the only cactus with papery sheaths covering their spines. These sheaths are often bright and colorful, providing the cactus with its distinctive appearance.

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I took this photo of a chain fruit cholla cactus on the Red Tanks Tinaja Trail.

Opuntia are unique because of their clusters of fine, tiny, barbed spines called glochids. Found just above the cluster of regular spines, glochids are yellow or red in color and detach easily from…stems. Glochids are often difficult to see and more difficult to remove, once lodged in the skin.

Before this year, I’d never given much thought to cactus and had no idea how varied and fascinating they are. Now I’m excited to learn more about them.

 

 

 

 

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Seguaro and the moon. I took this photo from my camping spot on the BLM land adjacent to the Ajo Scenic Loop.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Desert Botanical Garden

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The Desert Botanical Garden is located at 1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desert_Botanical_Garden, it

is a 140 acres…botanical garden located in Papago Park

Founded by the Arizona Cactus and Native Flora Society in 1937[1] and established at this site in 1939, the garden now has more than 21,000 plants, in more than 4000 taxa, one-third of which are native to the area, including 139 species which are rare, threatened or endangered.

…It focuses on plants adapted to desert conditions, including an Australian collection, a Baja California collection and a South American collection. Several ecosystems are represented: a mesquite bosque, semidesert grassland, and upland chaparral.

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This 20 foot tall saguaro sculpture on display at the Desert Botanical Garden was created by Jeff Hebets in honor of his cousin, Phil. The saguaro is made from pick heads used to salvage native plants.

Admission to the Desert Botanical Garden is a bit pricey: $22 for adults 18-59, with only a $2 discount to seniors. I am fortunate to have a friend with a membership to the Garden. Not only does she get in for free, but one guest can get in for free with her. My friend treated me to a morning in the Garden.

According to http://www.dbg.org/trails-exhibitions there are five trails in the Garden: the Desert Discovery Loop Trail, the Plants & People of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail, the Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail, the Center for Desert Living Trail, and the Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Loop Trail.

This overview map of the Desert Botanical Garden is from http://www.dbg.org/trails-exhibitions.

My friend and I were only at the Botanical Garden for a couple of hours, so by no means did we see it all. My favorite part of the visit was seeing cacti that were new to me, ones that I hadn’t already seen hundreds of times in far south Arizona.

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The cactus on the far left of this photo is an old man of the Andes (scientific name: Oreocereus celsianus).

One new variety I saw was the Old Man of the Andes (scientific name: Oreocereus celsianus). According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oreocereus_celsianus,

Oreocereus celsianus, or the “old man of the mountain” is a member of the family Cactaceae native to the high lands of the Andes in South America, and is named for its fluffy white hair, which may protect it from intense sunlight and extreme temperatures.

The Learn 2 Grow website (http://www.learn2grow.com/plants/oreocereus-celsianus/) says,

Old Man of the Andes is a striking cylindrical cactus due to its coat of dirty blond coarse hairs that covers its entire length. These hairs help protect and shade its green skin from both intense high altitude sunlight and the occasional cold snap. The species is native to Bolivia, Peru and northern Argentina where it is found on rocky cliffs at high elevations of the Andes and other mountain ranges.

While the Old Man of the Andes looks rather fluffy and huggable (at least to me), Learn 2 Grow warns,

This cactus is well armed. Spines are stout, thick, and dirty yellow to reddish brown in color. They occur in groups from one to four heavier spines surrounded by 7 to 9 very sharp radial spines. These sit nestled deeply into the hairy cloak.

No hugs for you, Old Man!

Another new variety I saw was the Bishop’s Hat (scientific name: Astrophytum myriostigma). This cactus looks as if it were made from cloth!

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This photo shows a Bishop’s Hat cactus (scientific name: Astrophytum myriostigma).

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrophytum_myriostigma,

Astrophytum myriostigma (common names: Bishop’s Cap Cactus, Bishop’s Hat or Bishop’s Miter Cactus) is a species of cactus native to the highlands of northeastern and central Mexico.

The Plants Rescue website (http://www.plantsrescue.com/tag/bishops-cap-cactus/) says,

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More Bishop’s Hat cacti.

The basically green stem has no spine but is covered with tiny tufts of silvery hair (appearing like scales or spots). These give the plant a greyish cast.

It wasn’t quite spring when I went on this visit, so there weren’t many cacti in bloom. The few early bloomers I did see were quite lovely.

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I bet hummingbirds are attracted to these vivid purple flowers.

I had a nice time at the Desert Botanical Garden. Since my friend and I went early in the day, we didn’t have to fight any crowds. Thankfully, there were no groups of screaming school kids. Being near these various plants seemed very tranquil to me. However, as I write this post, I realize I didn’t take nearly enough photos. (What about the boojum trees? Why didn’t I get any pictures of the boojum trees?) Maybe my friend will treat me to another visit.

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I took all of the photographs in this post. I did not supply the map in this post.

Today is National Panda Day

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IMG_2629According to http://nationalpandaday.blogspot.com/, today is National Panda Day. And that, friends, is just about all the website says.

(Apparently International Red Panda Day is in September. I think today must be about regular black and white pandas.)

In honor of National Panda Day, I am sharing with you photos I took of a bronze statue in Phoenix, AZ called Maternal Love. According to http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMNDD5_Maternal_Love_Phoenix_AZ, the statue

was presented in September 1996 from Chendgu Municipal Government, P.R. China, and Mayor Wang Rong Xuan to the city of Phoenix, Arizona.

IMG_2631I hope your National Panda Day is a great one!

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Little-Known Painting by Ted DeGrazia

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I took this photo of a little-known painting by Ted DeGrazia in a building in Phoenix that was soon to be demolished.

Don’t know who Ted DeGrazia is? I didn’t either until Nolagirl took me to the building (which was open to the public for the weekend) to see this work and another long piece that covered an entire side wall. (I didn’t think I could get a good shot of that piece, so I didn’t even try. I couldn’t get the entirety of the piece in one shot, and the lighting was poor.)

According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ettore_DeGrazia,

Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia (June 14, 1909 – September 17, 1982) was an American impressionist, painter, sculptor, composer, actor, director, designer, architect, jeweler, and lithographer. Described as “the world’s most reproduced artist”, DeGrazia is known for his colorful images of Native American children of the American Southwest and other Western scenes. DeGrazia also painted several series of exhibitions like the Papago Legends, Padre Kino, Cabeza de Vaca.

According to http://degrazia.org/about-degrazia/bio/,

The son of Italian immigrants, Ettore DeGrazia was born June 14, 1909, in the Morenci mining camp of Territorial Arizona. His early childhood experiences in the ethnically diverse community evolved into a lifelong appreciation of native cultures in the Sonoran Desert and a passion to create art depicting their lives and lore.

DeGrazia’s paintings, ceramics and other artwork steadily attracted media attention including the NBC newsreel “Watch the World” and a profile in the 1953 National Geographic article “From Tucson to Tombstone.”

From 1960 to the mid-1970s DeGrazia became wildly successful and the gallery flourished with hundreds of thousands of yearly visitors. To protest inheritance taxes on works of art, DeGrazia hauled about 100 of his paintings on horseback into the Superstition Mountains near Phoenix and set them ablaze in 1976. This infamous event was reported in such publications as The Wall Street Journal and People magazine, becoming part of DeGrazia’s legend before his death in 1982. By this time, the artist had established the DeGrazia Foundation to ensure the permanent preservation of his art and architecture for future generations.

As for the murals in the now demolished building?

According to http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/arts/say-goodbye-to-ted-degrazia-and-lauren-lees-roosevelt-row-murals-6573461,

Despite public outcry, including a protest and an online petition, only the smaller of two Ted DeGrazia murals, the one portraying a dancer[photo above], inside the 222 building will be salvaged.

DeGrazia painted the murals, the larger of which depicts the history of alcohol, more than a half-century ago.

According to http://www.azcentral.com/story/entertainment/arts/2015/03/05/degrazia-murals-open-to-public-at-green-haus-in-phoenix-during-art-detour/24402531/,

DeGrazia painted the 47-foot mural of cancan girls, alcohol distillation and flying women with chalices 65 years ago to pay off — legend has it — a bar tab at a Phoenix lounge. Experts estimated it would cost at least $250,000 to save. Although there was a public outcry, no one stepped forward with funding or a concrete plan to preserve and re-install the mural elsewhere.

The Observer reported in January 2015,

The larger mural has been protected by a wall since the building became a working studio. The smaller one is painted on drywall that apparently could be moved to a new location, but the big mural is drywall-on-brick and probably can’t be moved. (http://www.observerweekly.com/content/historic-phoenix-bar%E2%80%99s-ted-degrazia-murals-facing-bulldozer)

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This photo by Catherine Slye shows part of DeGrazia’s larger mural that was demolished along with the building.

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Another photo by Catherine Slye shows a different section of DeGrazia’s larger mural.

I was glad to have the opportunity to see these murals before they were demolished along with the building to make room for more housing for rich people in Phoenix. I guess that’s progress.

The Walls of Phoenix

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I was going to sell jewelry and shiny rocks in a parking lot craft market near Roosevelt Row during First Friday. I arrived early, so I walked around a bit and took some photos of the murals painted in the area.

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This mural is on the wall of a very small parking area. If a car had been parked in this spot, I’d have never seen this mural, much less gotten a photo of it.

The paintings in the next several photos are on a building on 4th Street, almost on the corner of Roosevelt. The actual corner of 4th Street and Roosevelt is a vacant lot, so this mural is visible from Roosevelt Street.

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This is about one-third of the full mural.

 

This is a detail of the detail.

This is a detail of the detail. I really like the Day of the Dead-meets-flapper look, although I’m not sure how a skull could possibly have lips and eyelashes.

 

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And how could a skull have eyeballs? I do like this dapper skull guy.

The other two thirds of the mural has a different vibe, more ethereal and dreamy.

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I found out online that this portion of the mural was painted by Tato Caraveo. http://www.thelostleaf.org/Murals.aspx

 

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This portion of the mural is also by Tato Caraveo. To see him working on it, go to http://www.thelostleaf.org/Murals.aspx and scroll down.

 

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I especially like this cat and its shadow.

The next piece has more of a graffiti vibe to it. It was painted just under the rafters of what seems to be an abandoned house.

I believe I took this photo between 4th and 5th streets on Garfield, but maybe it was between 5th and 6th Streets.

I believe I took this photo of cow graffiti between 4th and 5th Streets on Garfield, but maybe it was between 5th and 6th Streets…definitely on Garfield though.

The last piece is at 3rd Street and Roosevelt, and I took the photo the next afternoon when I was out and about with Nolagirl.

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This mural was painted by Lauren Lee, and it’s called Three Birds.

The building this mural is on is scheduled for demolition. By the time you read this post, this mural will probably be forever gone.

(I took all the photos in this post.)

Los Olivos Park

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In February 2015, I had a house/dog/cat sitting gig at a home across the street from Los Olivos Park in Phoenix, Arizona. On the first morning I was there, I took photos while the dog and I were out for our morning walk.

IMG_1744  This was the sunrise we saw as we started our walk.

Los Olivos Park was originally an olive grove.  IMG_1785      Hence the name. Hence the olive trees growing in rows.

The park has a really nice, big, covered playground for kids. IMG_1773     IMG_1772     IMG_1758

There are many picnic tables scattered throughout the park and even some barbecue pits. Unfortunately, only two of the picnic tables are under a shelter. (That’s two tables under one shelter.) So in the long, hot Phoenix summer, if you and your friends want to sit at a picnic table, you might get some shade from a nearby tree, but you’re mostly going to be in the sun. The woman I was house sitting for told me that on weekends she sees one person stake out the covered shelter territory early in the morning in preparation for a party later in the day.

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The park also boasts a disc golf course. On Friday afternoon, there were several groups playing disc golf.

A concrete jogging/walking path winds through the park. Along the path, there are exercise stations where folks can stop and do a specific workout.
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There are two sand volleyball courts too. It’s hard to get a good photo of a net, so I didn’t even try.

Even with the big playground, picnic tables, a walking/jogging path, and disc golf and volleyball courts, there’s still plenty of room in the park to toss a Frisbee, kick a soccer ball, play catch, or just run around and spin in circles. Los Olivos is a huge park.

If you have to use the facilities while in Los Olivos park, there are facilities to use. This is the restroom building.IMG_1754

It kind of looks like a jail. I didn’t actually have to use the facilities, but I peeked in, just to see what it looked like. It wasn’t horrid or terribly dirty. It was better than park restrooms I’ve seen in New York City and Richmond, Virginia. As the dog and I were wandering around the park before 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning, a city truck pulled up to the restroom building. Workers were cleaning the restrooms.

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Along with the olive trees in the park, there are some palm trees. Palm trees are not native to Phoenix. Well, neither are olive trees, for that matter. Learn more about the palm trees in Phoenix here: http://www.examiner.com/article/the-palm-tree-story-of-phoenix and the olive trees in Phoenix here: http://www.garden.org/regional/report/arch/inmygarden/3656.

Dogs are allowed in the park (obviously, or I would not have been walking the dog there). There are signs in the park stating that all dogs have to be leashed at all times. Not everyone follows this rule, so anyone visiting with a dog companion should be cautious and alert.

The park is open from 6am until 10pm. There is plenty of parking on the streets on both sides of the park, but there are signs saying it is illegal to park in those spots from 10pm until 6am. Parking is also allowed in the two good sized lots behind and on the side of the senior center. The entrance to the back lot is off of Devonshire and the entrance to the side lot if off of Glenrosa.

On Friday evening, an older, brown Dodge van that had been retrofitted with the proper accessories to be an ice cream truck stopped on the street alongside the park. While it was parked, the song it played was the instrumental version of “Union Maid” by Woody Guthrie, particularly the part that goes

Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union,
I’m sticking to the union, I’m sticking to the union.
Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union,
I’m sticking to the union ’til the day I die.

I thought that was a little bit weird, but it made me happy too.

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Self-portrait with dog.

I took all of the photos in this post.