salon trips






Listen my friends to our tale most intriguing

Of salons that enlightened our minds and lent meaning

To topics as broad as divine intervention…

Dr. Hayes did transfix us with research based mention

Of Peter and Plato whose writings confirmed

That Origins matter where Divinity’s concerned.


Our senses were heightened at the law school at Yale

Enchanted by Ackerman’s constitutional tales.

Paul Bloom’s research notes a strong predilection

For moral decisions based on babies selections.

Yale’s ivy clad walls, architecture, and scholars


Set the tone for Big Apple salons and late hours!

We discovered quaint restaurants for our petite dejeuner

Mangia, so inviting, Bryant Park, Maison de K!


The Science House speakers shared incredible evidence

Transfixing our minds on Neurology/Artificial Intelligence

Who knew our Thomas and Patty had designed

Futuristic avatars to enhance their shrewd minds!

Their recommendation of Trattoria d’el Arte

Tempted our palates for antipasti so hearty

Hen of the forest sauteed mushrooms to die for

And delectable wine kept us asking for more..

But we kept our composure, took a walk on the High Line


Ate at Chelsea market, farm to table, so sublime.

Then on to Will Cotton’s through Chelsea we strode

Observed gentrified warehouses, and pristine roads.

Dr. Firestein enhanced our perceptions of the world

While in our mind’s eyes Will’s sweet paintings did swirl.

We were shaken by visions of Blackbird’s dark themes

A play of obsession and haunting extremes.

Christie’s objets des artes blew our minds when we toured

Being hyperaware of the scope of the absurd.

There were classics on view, artists famous for works

Which we strove to regard, being mindful and alert;


But the Hitlerian pose threw us over a landing

When intrigued, we regarded with thought, understanding.

Nancy continued with her kids to explore

A sober reminder at NY’s bedrock floor


The museum keeps the memory of those who were fallen

With compassion, respect; a tribute most solemn.

The awareness we gleaned on this voyage thru dimensions

Exhilarates, excites, invites humble comprehension

Of how wisdom and knowledge, when it’s shared among friends

Is a Noble Design, letting all souls transcend….

So fond thanks to a couple who open new doors

To topics we might have not pondered before.

These trips set new paths for those willing to dare

Now, here’s to the future, we’ll see you all there!






Colin Stokes and cartoon editor Bob Mankoff of The New Yorker with Thomas Houlon of Spirit of the Senses

The weather was sunny and in the 70’s.  Three days of visits have become life long memories.

A group of sixteen people, members of Spirit of the Senses, traveled to New York City for three days to be inspired by ideas.   A thirst for intellectual adventure was the thread that wove their tapestry.   Surprises, new ideas, charismatic people, intellectual highs, laughter, lively discussions, dramatic architecture,  special access, and exploring neighborhoods were all part of this adventure.   The quest did not disappoint.


Bob Mankoff, editor of cartoons for The New Yorker magazine, and author of his memoir ‘How About Never, Is Never Good For You?’ welcomed the group for a unique glimpse into his world.  There was  much curiosity in advance to meet the person who created and chose The New Yorker cartoons, and also a curiosity to visit The New Yorker offices high up at the new One World Trade Center.   Looking out the window, the Hudson River and city traffic could be seen below with the horizon being a maze of buildings created by the Manhattan skyline.  Bob Mankoff’s lightning quick wit and candid observations had the group laughing while discussing his insights into the art of cartoons and psychology of humor. After the conversation, Bob’s assistant Colin Stokes gave a walking tour around The New Yorker offices noting people and places where The New Yorker was stitched together into a magazine.

For eighteen years Spirit of the Senses has created trips together to New York City and elsewhere.  Each trip has  been unique and has folded together the imaginative aspirations of tremendous talents and  thinkers onto a colorful ever changing pallet.  Friendships with New Yorkers have developed and have provided a sense of place. 

Adding color to the experiences, several artists provided the backdrop of their home / studios for discussions.  These artists value the intellectual excitement of the conversations with writers, scientists, and philosophers.   The tapestry of visits on this trip began at the home and studio of Ena Swansea, a painter of large realistic / abstract paintings hosted literature scholar Eric Rabkin’s conversation about ‘Fantasy, The Human Mind, and The Modern World’.  Dr. Rabkin threaded ancient myths, folktales, literature and modern psychology into a conversation of how people interpret the world in which they live. 

Another evening, Will Cotton, a painter of muses and temptations that include portraits of Katy Perry, hosted a conversation and music performance with Joseph Ledoux.    Dr. LeDoux, a leading researcher of the brain and emotions, and author of the forthcoming book ‘Anxiety’. He  is also a songwriter and sang and played guitars with Colin Demsey, singing songs with lyrics that reflect his scientific and psychological research.

On one of the mornings of the three day visit to New York City, the intellectual adventurers from Phoenix gathered at Penn Station and rode a train to Princeton.   Leaving the city behind thru a tunnel brought the group into New Jersey and away from the big city.   The meeting with Princeton University neuroscientist Michael Graziano had been anticipated for over a year.   Dr. Graziano’s lab  researches a new way to look at consciousness.  He used a puppet orangutan to illustrate his points.   His book ‘Consciousness and the Social Brain’ inspired this trip.   After several hours of lively conversation, the discussion continued in an informal lunch room at the University under a wooden canopy designed by Frank Gehry.   Afterwards wandering back to the train station the travelers past through the historic Princeton University campus.

A cab ride up the west side of Central Park past the spectacular cathedral St. John the Divine, to Columbia University was the destination for a visit with theoretical physicist, author, television host, founder of The World Science Festival, and celebrity scientist Brian Greene.   In a comfortable lounge setting an engaging conversation unfolded about the nature of the universe, time, reality, quantum and experiencing wonder.

A visit to Christies Auction House at Rockefeller Center, with specialist Therese Stark to preview the upcoming  contemporary and post war auction sale illuminated the auction process.  A follow up revealed several art pieces sold for world record prices.  By chance, walking through the exhibit and stopping to say hello was art critic Jerry Saltz, who had several times met Spirit of the Senses groups in New York City.   

Capping a wonderful visit a few from the group enjoyed  ‘An American in Paris’ nominated for many Tony  Awards. Standing ovation worthy!

Spirit of the Senses brings different perspectives together in conversations and thru performance.  Spirit of the Senses invites many of the leading thinkers and talents in the arts, architecture, science, medicine, law and philosophy to have conversations and performances that enlighten awareness of the world and stimulate ideas. 

In addition to the salons hosted in the Phoenix area, Spirit of the Senses plans salon trips to New York City, California, and Boston.  If you would like to become a part of the conversation you can find information about Spirit of the Senses at or by calling (602) 906-0091.



Beethoven and the Human Imagination / Mapping Brain Connections / Quantum Beauty / Original Papers of John and Abigail Adams / Dreams, Consciousness, Self /Hidden Biases / Human Origins / Memory.    These were the subjects of a recent three day visit to Boston that mixed the future with the past, to help understand the present.


During the first week of May, when the trees of Boston were flowering and days were sunny, seventeen travelers from Spirit of the Senses visited Boston and Cambridge to learn, imagine, taste, and become inspired.  The group met with some of the leading researchers and thinkers with visits to MIT, Harvard, The Massachusetts Historical Society, and a hillside home.


The first visit was along the Charles River in Killian Hall at MIT.   The group met with pianist, composer, Boston Globe music critic, and author Matthew Guerrieri.   Matthew spoke about his book ‘The First Four Notes:  Beethoven’s Fifth and the Human Imagination’ that compiles his enormous research on what might have influenced Beethoven to create his Fifth Symphony, how diverse influences in Europe and America spread this musical idea, and how this cultural memory evolves through time and generations.


After a visit to a great Cambridge pastry and lunch spot, members visited with Amy Robinson, a crowd sourcing expert and creative director at EyeWire in the Seung Lab of MIT, who through an online game, involves 60,000 people around the world in mapping neurons in a brain.  Amy spoke about how this project propels scientific research by involving many people.   Already after only six months from the start of her project there were new discoveries of how neurons connected.


Following the visit, we walked to the hallowed halls of The Center for Theoretical Physics at MIT.   Inside among blackboards, walls filled with contemporary art, and a sign that inspired the title of this article, we met 2004 Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek, PhD,  the Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics, and author of ‘The Lightness of Being’.   Frank spoke about the scientific process and discoveries of theoretical physics that has cleared a path towards understanding the complexities of nature and the universe.




The next morning the group traveled across the Charles River to the historic Massachusetts Historical Society.    C. James Taylor, editor – in – chief of the Adams Papers, displayed original letters and documents of John, Abigail, and Quincy Adams. James Taylor and four of his research assistants spoke to the group from Phoenix about how the lives of John Adams, Abigail Adams, and son Quincy Adams profoundly impacted the beginnings of the country and how their letters created a record of the American revolution and infancy of the United States.


After lunch, the group traveled to the hillside home of Allan Hobson, MD, a professor emeritus at Harvard Medical School, who is one of the world’s leading sleep and dream researchers, and is author of a new autobiography ‘Dream Life’.   Dr. Hobson discussed his scientific evolution in understanding consciousness, dreams, and the self.


In the early evening, the group traveled back to Cambridge and met Mahzarin Banaji, PhD, the Richard Clark Cabot Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard University.   Mahzarin discussed the subject of her new book ‘Blind Spot:  Hidden Biases of Good People’ and co-directs the website ‘Project Implicit’.


On the third day of the Spirit of the Senses visit, the group met at the historic Peabody Museum to meet Richard Wrangham, the Ruth Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University, who co-directs the Kibale Chimpanzee Project.  Richard, who is one of the world’s leading researchers on the relationship of primates and human evolution, discussed his book ‘Catching Fire:  How Cooking Made Us Human’.   Afterward the group wandered the Peabody Museum and the Harvard Museum of Natural History which includes the unique collection of glass replications of  more than 830 plant species made beginning in 1886 by artisans Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka.


In the afternoon, the group concluded the three day visit on the fifteenth floor of a building at Harvard overlooking the Boston and Cambridge skyline.  There the group met to discuss memory with Daniel Schacter, PhD, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Psychology, who just that week had be elected to the National Academy of Sciences.   Daniel spoke about the subject of his book ‘The Seven Sins of Memory’.    His book had been the inspiration for a Spirit of the Senses discussion in Phoenix in 2006 on eye witness testimony.



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