Those of us who feel inadequate should take heart to learn that even the Grand Canyon wasn't always so honkin' grand. Historian Stephen J. Pyne is scheduled to talk about his new book How the Canyon Became Grand: A Short History, which combines "environmental, social intellectual, political and economic history . . ." into "a chronicle of how the Canyon found its niche in the American psyche," at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, September 17, at the Barnes & Noble store at 10500 North 90th Street in Scottsdale. Admission is free. 391-0048.
Tree-huggers--or, thinking locally, saguaro-huggers--who are able to donate their time can learn about volunteer opportunities at The Nature Conservancy, at 6 p.m. Thursday, September 17, at the conservation organization's Phoenix office, 5308 North 12th Street, Suite 402. The Conservancy is seeking folks to participate in their elementary education and outreach program. Advance registration is required. 264-4665.
In conjunction with South Mountain High School, Phoenix Theatre opens its 1998-99 season with West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents' contemporary American musical retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Opening performances are at 8 p.m. Friday, September 18; 8 p.m. Saturday, September 19; and 2 p.m. Sunday, September 20, at 100 East McDowell. Tickets are $23 and $25. The run continues through Sunday, October 11. 254-2151 (PT), 503-5555.
The first name in chocolate, west of the Pecos? See's Candies. Oxytocin junkies rejoice, a new dealer is in town--the California-based confectioner is opening a new shop, next to the Nordstrom at Scottsdale Fashion Square, Scottsdale Road and Camelback. From Friday, September 18, through Sunday, September 20, the store will give away free single-piece sample boxes, "See's Happy Habit" hats, and lollipops. For more information, call 1-800-347-7337.
Sunday scrawlers can prepare the day before when Scottsdale Artists League local commercial artist Richard Nearing teaches a workshop in pen and ink from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, September 19, in Room AB 124 at Scottsdale Community College, 9000 East Chaparral in Scottsdale. The fee is $25, $15 for students and $20 for SAL members; to register, call 812-1076.
An improvisational troupe of kids between the ages of 11 and 16, The Creative Zone performs family-oriented "classic stories and improvisational comedy through acting, dancing and music" at 3 p.m. Saturday, September 19, at the Dobson Ranch Branch Library, 2425 South Dobson in Mesa. Admission is free; donations are appreciated. 644-2242.
Most places on the planet, it's a wistful farewell; here in Arizona, it's a relief: The town of Gilbert hosts the seventh annual So Long to Summer Fest from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday, September 19, at Crossroads Park, located at Greenfield and Knox roads (just north of Ray Road). The Trinidad Calypso Band provides the music. Other diversions include rides for smaller kids, interactive games for teens like Bungie Run, mondo boxing, orbitron and wall climbing, along with clowns, face painting, food and drink and more, concluding with a fireworks display. Admission is free. 503-6200.
Episcopal priest and recovering alcoholic Father Leo Booth--author of such books as When God Becomes a Drug: Breaking the Chains of Religious Addiction and Abuse--speaks on the topic "Spirituality--Not Religion" from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Sunday, September 20, at Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort, 7601 East Indian Bend in Scottsdale. This particular path to enhanced spirituality will set you back $20; for reservations, call 285-9145.
Stonecreek, the Golf Club, plays host to the 12 Friends Fighting Leukemia Golf Tournament. The four-man scramble, which includes in-hole prizes on all par 3s, is followed by a lunch and drawing for donated items. It kicks off with a shotgun start at 7 a.m. Sunday, September 20, at the course, 4435 East Paradise Village Parkway South in Paradise Valley. All proceeds benefit Leukemia Society of America. Registration, available through Friday, September 18, is $125; for an extra $5, golfers can participate in the national program "Golfers Against Leukemia," and get a commemorative ball and a chance at a golf weekend at Camelback Inn, including a round of golf with Tiger Woods' caddie Fluff Cowan. Imagine being on the course and hearing "Hey, here come Tiger and Fluff." For more information, call 788-8622.
Biggish sport Sunday: In the first home contest of the regular season, our NFL gridiron grapplers the Arizona Cardinals face the Philadelphia Eagles at 5:20 p.m. Sunday, September 20, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. Tickets are $40 and $50 for sideline seats, $20 for end-zone seats, available at Dillard's box offices. 379-0102. The Phoenix Coyotes are also in action that day; in preseason home play, the hockey team faces off against the Vancouver Canucks at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $18.50 to $200. America West Arena, 201 East Jefferson. 563-7825 (Coyotes), 379-7800 (AWA), 503-5555 (Dillard's).
White-water rafting, poisonous snakes, cave exploring--for the Indiana Jones in all of us, the City of Chandler hosts a weekly lecture/slide Outdoor Adventure Series that explores all of the above themes. The kickoff lecture, however, is on a milder theme: "Gardening for All Seasons." It's held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, September 21, at Chandler Senior Center, 202 East Boston; the subsequent lectures are held during the same hours each Monday (except Columbus Day on October 12), through October 26. The charge for the first week's event is $3; the remaining lectures cost a measly buck each. 786-2532.
Conceived in New York but currently recording in Austin, Texas, The Hot Club of Cowtown plays a style of hard swing equally informed by the Gypsy jazz of Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli and their great Quintet of the Hot Club du France, and by Western swingers Bob Wills and Tex Williams. Seeming schizophrenia aside--the duality is sorta like takin' a girl to a rodeo or a sandwich to a picnic--the combination works like a danged charm, to utilize the parlance of the latter pair of aces. The Revenants open for the roots trio, which is touring behind its Hightone CD Swingin' Stampede, at 9 p.m. Tuesday, September 22, at the Rhythm Room, 1019 East Indian School. The cover is $4. 265-4842.
Even if you catch Hot Club of Cowtown (see above) on Tuesday night, it may be worth heading back to Rhythm Room the following night for the Smokin' Joe Kubek Band featuring Bnois King; this rock-solid blues act can cook. Dual guitarists Kubek and King are the heart and soul, respectively, of the Dallas act, which has been on a steady rise since its 1991 debut for Bullseye/Rounder, Steppin' Out Texas Style. The group's terrific latest disc for Bullseye, Take Your Best Shot, continues to demonstrate its appeal: finger-lickin' lead work by Smokin' Joe and sumptuous, fall-off-the-bone vocals by the supercool Bnois. Showtime is 9 p.m. Wednesday, September 23, at the Room, 1019 East Indian School. The cover is $7. 265-4842.
The M. Walters novel Echo is the topic of discussion at the Mysterious Literature Group, a mystery nut's coffee klatsch. Regina Best facilitates the chat at 7 p.m. Wednesday, September 23, at Borders Books & Music at Biltmore Fashion Park, 24th Street and Camelback, Suite 200. Admission is free. 957-6660.