Civilizations New Pony Ride

If you haven’t driven an electric car, you are missing out on civilizations latest pony ride. The end of the internal combustion engine is near at hand, the greasy mess is headed into the history books before it triggers the mother of all mass extinction events─ you know like wiping all of life from the face of the earth. Sorry to be so cheery.

Freight trains are pulled with diesel powered engines that spin huge alternators that power electric turbine motors, it is how these beasts put the power down on the rails to move the cargo. Bean counters, scientists and engineers from Lawrence Livermore Labs have penciled out spinning the locomotives turbine motors by replacing the alternators power and instead using lithium batteries. The retrofit doesn’t require the diesel motors or alternators to be removed, then one way or another the locomotives can move the freight regardless of whether the sun shines or the wind blows.

Locomotive pulling coal from Wyoming to Pueblo, Colorado

The Port of Long Beach and Los Angeles ship over 12,000 cargo containers to downtown LA every day. The dedicated railway is known as the Alameda Corridor. Running non-diesel trains is going to be a huge win for the LA air basin. When the entire fleet of locomotives is retrofitted with lithium batteries and recharged off-peak hours the savings enjoyed by not having to purchase diesel comes close to offsetting the entire price of the retrofit. This is huge!

Leave it to the Livermore Lab bean counters they calculate there is even more they can do with battery powered locomotives. Let’s say there is an earthquake or wildfire, and power is knocked out, Santa Barbara has gone dark, long distance power lines have failed, there is an emergency, and as we have all been realizing we live in the era of emergencies. Battery powered locomotives could be deployed to the region hook into the nearby switching yard and instead of using the charging station to add more electricity to their batteries they could discharge their stored energy and supply electricity to the stricken community. Locomotives are no longer one trick pony’s, instead they are strategic assets, cleaning the air, their mobility in an emergency, their enormous storage capacity able to back up the grid, distribution of assets such as this are the stuff of dreams.

What I’m talking about here isn’t pie in the sky or an imitation alligator wallet sold on the boulevards by some sidewalk showman with a fake Rolex you just have to see to believe. This is the real deal, and you know how I like the Isley Brothers.

Not Much Has Changed in the Last 100 years

Just over the horizon, just beyond what you can see from where you sit right now are a host of energy opportunities that are going to revolutionize how we distribute electricity. On my block I count maybe 50 vehicles, four are Tesla’s. My charger isn’t a dumb lump of coal, it is a communication hub, the charger mediates between the grid and the car. Setting the time, I charge my batteries for off-peak hours charging saves money, in the near future we’ll be able to opt in and allow the power company to discharge the car’s batteries (for a fee or credit) with the promise to fill them back up in time for the vehicles next scheduled trip. That feature is near at hand. A fleet of electric vehicles is a fully distributed storage system that is spread across our residential neighborhoods. Every 60-kWh battery pack is an opportunity, this will revolutionize the design and functionality of our energy system.  

Driving a Big Boat with Fins

Thirty-six months from now this one street will see 10-15 electric cars parked on this block, that would be a whopping 750-1000 kWh (kilowatt hours) available for the grid operator to deploy as is needed. You add another 100 to 1000 blocks with similar potential power and you are talking about some serious stored energy reserves.

I drove into San Francisco yesterday. Dave, my lifelong wild and wonderful man of a thousand clowns and one drop dead serious sailboat racer friend had a few parts to give me and a Ducati to show. Roundtrip there and back I did 60 miles. The 2003 Volvo burning regular unleaded fuel used about 3 gallons plus. Rounding up the trip it cost about $20.00. Same trip in the electric vehicle works out like this…

 We average about $52 per month for electricity for both our home and car here in Northern California. Charging the electric vehicle at night has been averaging not even $1.00, more like .83 cents per day, or about half our monthly electricity bill… figure $25.

Sweet Dreams until they’re Not

Locomotives are a different kind of beast but figure the same trip to the City would have cost $350 using diesel, but if the train had made the run on its batteries that same distance would have cost $20-$30. That kind of savings is impossible to ignore.  

All the smart meters on the sides of our home are also two-way communication devices, grid operators can identify an electric car and the state of charge of its batteries once it is plugged in. Using software grid operators can borrow or store energy from the batteries, flow is everything, they might use the power to run another home, then return the borrowed power back to the EV in time for the owner’s next scheduled trip. This will add resiliency to our energy system and lower costs.

Gas powered vehicles are a pay as you go operation. I’ve been running about 18,000 miles per year. The Volvo takes about $3000-$4000 in gas to go that far. The electric vehicle if plugged in from home will run somewhere between $300-$400 per…

Monthly Bill

Do your homework. In 2022 there is going to be more money available from the government to subsidize electric vehicle purchases. A $12,500 subsidy will make a great many models affordable, figure you could pick one up for less than $30,000. Without a fat gas bill on your credit card, it might just pencil out, and like that you’ve liberated yourself from the tyranny of fluctuating gas prices.

If you are a carpenter, plumber or electrician and drive a truck the new electric Ford pickup truck could be a gamechanger. Plus, besides the subsidy you might also write off your business expenses, besides getting rid of high fuel bills, and plus if you get to a job site and there hasn’t been power lines hooked up, you’ve got a ready to use source of electricity in your truck that you can use for your power tools.

A Day in the Life

If we can get a few million work trucks on the road, electrify locomotives, school buses, United States Postal Service delivery vehicles, everything UPS, FedEx and Amazon use we will be able to turn our attention to pieces of our energy system that are going to be more difficult to resolve as we fight to hold down the rising temperatures. OPEC knows this all too well, this tipping point is just ahead, it’s here now.

This is the fight we are in, some of it is hard, operating an electric vehicle, it isn’t hard, it is easy, its fun, and as they say the biggest no-brainer in the history of mankind. Let’s go

Gila River of Changes

Over the last twenty thousand years ancient man─ North America’s first people─ established settlements across the desert Southwest. They were the Yuma, Pima, Papago, Zuni, the Pueblo, the Navajo, and Apache. There are over 570 distinct tribes across the United States. More recently in the last 2000 years one such group, the Hohokam farmed the Gila River Valley. Marcos de Niza, an ambitious Franciscan friar in 1529 boldly claimed these territories for Spain. Arizona was a remote and difficult terrain to travel through. Before 1850 few pioneers had attempted to settle this region, by 1912 Arizona was granted statehood, there were 217,000 hot and thirsty new US citizens.

Raod crossing Aravaipa Creek

Water rights were grandfathered in, stakeholders divvied up the resources, in the earliest years water rights were granted in an odd first right of use method, even if the use made no sense. In 1902 at John Wesley Powell’s urging the Bureau of Reclamation was formed in Washington and to be followed in 1980 by the Arizona Department of Water Resources. At present the agencies are struggling to keep up with the fast-moving global atmospheric changes. Even today given how hot tempers can run, to book a face-to-face appointment with an official from the Department of Water Resources you’ll need to state your business and identify who you are before being let into the building.

Then came this new century and with it this relentless twenty-year drought, drought, and more drought. Here we are in the midst of a climate emergency, with it come significant changes in precipitation patterns, hotter and dryer weather, add to all of that a swelling population, and the prospect of untangling this steaming hot mess of water shortages in court, this collision between the water have’s and the have-nots has brought us to the mother of all showdowns.

Arizona farmhouse

When you are in climate chaos, where water cutbacks are ordered, and you can’t─ you won’t comply, you’ve got seeds in the ground and your last dollar is at risk, your last shred of hope is hanging by a sunbeam, even with all that, sorry to say trouble is going to come find you.

Until now it has seemed reasonable here in the Gila River Valley to punch an extra well or two, maybe divert some water running in a channel, nobody is going to notice a little runoff, even if it is common knowledge an unauthorized diversion is straight up considered thieving and stealing. Some handful have a legal right to draw a certain amount of water, hardly anyone has an unrestricted right.

Farms and ranches are in a corner. Trouble will soon find the water grabbers, the trouble makers will find they’ve attracted a sheriff and the officer will come and padlock the gates to the irrigation canals shut, power company will cut electricity to the offending well pumps, one way or another if you cannot prove a right to the water you are going to be shutdown. You cut the lock, you hook a generator up to a well pump and a judge will be hold you in contempt, throw you in jail, and send your youngest born off to be educated at a local liberal university.

The Gila turns to the north and continues west where it enters the San Carlos Apache Reservation. The sovereign territory measures 1.8 million acres. It encompasses parts of three different Arizona counties and these sovereign lands as all other tribal lands were established by congressionally ratified treaties and at the time of their signing in 1868, were deemed irrevocable, and eternal. The Supreme Court has found that neither a President nor Congress can terminate these treaties. What comes to mind is the internment of the Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims by the Chinese. Whatever other awful conduct we might witness here in the United States abrogating a treaty with our sovereign tribes would be viewed by the world as a crime against humanity.

Sabino Creek

By 1935 the San Carlos Apache had to go to court over a dispute with the Gila River Irrigation District. “Despite the construction of Coolidge Dam and the attempt to use the storage capability of San Carlos Reservoir to satisfy all parties, the flow of the Gila River is nowhere near sufficient to fulfill all the rights adjudicated in the Globe Equity Decree. The Federal Court found that the Apache have the senior most rights that extend from Coolidge Reservoir and then east 140 miles to the headwaters of the Gila River in New Mexico. Farmers and ranchers’ members of the Gila River Irrigation District were overusing their water allotments leaving the Apache insufficient resources for their homeland. And there’s the rub, this isn’t just codified in law, it is as Al Gore might say, “this is the inconvenient truth.”

Recent action, in 2019, the tribe has been back in Federal Court fighting against with the excessive upriver water users. Water rights are nothing if not enforced.

To understand the problem let’s link the Department of Agriculture’s cotton subsidies to the water shortage. The Federal farm cotton subsidies line the pockets of a select lucky few farmers, the surplus cotton then brings all kinds of dislocation to foreign markets, fuel trade conflicts and cause every kind of economic, environmental and political problems. There are about 8100 cotton farmers in the United States, Arizona accounts for about 1000 producers. The only reason they are growing cotton is because it is subsidized, without this incentive the producers would immediately shutdown, USA grown cotton is not competitive on the global market.

Central Arizona Project delivers Colorado River water to cotton field

Between 1995 and 2020 the Department of Agriculture disbursed $40 billion to US cotton growers with a significant share of those funds ending up in the pockets of Gila River Valley producers in and around Safford, Arizona. The subsidy among other things incentivizes producers to plant on marginal land, and then grow the subsidized cotton with subsidized water, even in the midst of a megadrought, even though everyone knows that the crop isn’t even destined for domestic markets but instead will be sold to foreign markets. In other words, seven million Arizona citizens are involuntarily having their states water, water that belongs to all the citizens, that piece of the commons is being sucked out from under them by about 1000 producers that grow an unprofitable crop that the producers ship overseas knowing full well there is not a sufficient demand for cotton on the world market, or enough water to meet the needs of a growing state population.

In Arizona the water scarcity problem is severe, it is an emergency, it is threatening the collapse of key sectors of the economy. But agriculture isn’t just powerful, it is invincible, tends to vote to the right of the political spectrum but will vaporize any politician no matter the stripes that dares to untangle this out-of-control program. One point of view has it that to keep a lid on the peace it is better to go along than get in the way of this irrational farm program. Another point of view worries about the chaos mismanaging the water resources could have on the entire project called civilization. Everyone knows this is an incendiary issue, that the rural communities could not just lose their economic base, but they could become so radicalized that the agricultural regions of the state could be virtually ungovernable, that the circumstances could foment a collapse of what we know as regular order, that both the state and nation could be threatened. It really is that dire.

There are no profiles in courage in Arizona. Governor Doug Ducey has nothing to say, all the office holders know better and stay the hell back and let the courts take the heat.

Hay, alfalfa and cotton growers need a good dose of water scarcity regulation. None of the farms would make any kind of sense without the Bureau of Reclamations surrendering cheap to almost free water to the growers. The near free irrevocable access to water has only made matters worse, and not the least of it because the water is revocable, and a day of reckoning is near.

Department of Agriculture could facilitate selling and shipping out cotton farm equipment to more water abundant regions like east to Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi for starters. Immigration reform would include increasing the number of farmworkers allowed into the country to handle the new food production.

Plant based meatless meat products like Impossible Burgers and Beyond Meat are scaling up to meet demand and depend on soy, corn and other crops to manufacture their products. Emerging from research and development is another new industry that is producing real meat in the laboratory─ it’s called lab meat. Competitive production costs are approaching par with conventional meat and within a few years you’ll begin to see beef, pork and salmon products in our grocery stores and restaurants synthesized by this remarkable advanced technology. Salmon and chicken grown in the lab will begin distribution in Northern California in early 2022.

Ajo sunrise…

The future is now, and it is arriving just as this megadrought is about to force its reckoning upon the stubborn lucky few water users. Scaling lab meat up in Arizona to meet consumer demand would be the smartest thing a community like Safford, Arizona could do. Add to this the benefit that this type of meat uses 90% less water and 90% less land and you’ve got opportunity running smack dab into feasibility. Remember factory farming livestock risks triggering the release of dangerous pathogens some that can become a threat to all of humanity such as has happened with Swine flu and Covid-19. Lab meat will require no antibiotics and so far, is proving to be one of the safest most efficient methods of production. I know, I know─ but does it taste good? Will consumers eat laboratory meat? So far so good. Most who have sampled Upside Foods based in Emeryville, California describe the product as delicious and indistinguishable from any conventional chicken they’ve tasted. There is no time or water to waste.

In the months ahead, they will scale their production facilities and go from 50,000 lbs. to 500,000 lbs. Fortunately laboratory meat eliminates the need to slaughter animals. Arizona’s cotton addicted farmers could convert fields to grains that laboratory meat uses and then set up Gila River Valley laboratory meat growing facilities to create jobs and opportunities for the state’s citizens. That’s how you respond to a global climate emergency, that’s how we introduce new products, safer, cleaner, more efficient products to a thriving nation of consumers.

There is every sign that we have the technology and know how to fix a broken climate system. Like it or not our coal fired power plants will be shuttered. The day of the internal combustion engine is ending. Natural gas furnaces are going to be replaced with electric powered heat pumps. If you’ve been on the free lunch, subsidy and price support bandwagon it isn’t like we are going to ditch you, we need you, and we can build a better new food production, transportation, and electric power system to meet the challenges we face in this exciting new century with the farmers and ranchers cooperation.

Sanford, Arizona citizens need our help, change is never easy, even when it is necessary. Witness the revolution taking place in transportation sector. Just three new automobile companies—Tesla, Rivian and Lucid are worth more than all the other auto manufacturers in the world combined. We’re at a critical tipping point, revamping our food system, reallocating water resources, all of these changes are part of our efforts to transition away from fossil fuels and to build a more resilient energy and food system. Time to stop building walls and it is time to start building a technological bridge to this new century.

Clifton Copper Civilization Savers

East of Tucson in high desert 175 miles by road is the copper mine in Morenci, Arizona. This fifty-thousand-acre beast is North America’s largest. Water from Gila River passes through here, then there is the San Francisco River, and Eagle Creek too. The copper mine is by tonnage the world’s third largest. The electrification of our transportation system is going to lean hard on this source of copper.

Clifton is near the Morenci mine, then there is Three Way and Rattlesnake Canyon too. Between Willow Creek and Cold Creek, you’ll find some folks growing hay, not much, but there’s some. The pair of creeks are tributaries to the San Francisco River, the two are intermittent streams and they flow near and next to never. Pioneers gave them names all in the good hope of praying for rain.

Work at the mine pays $25.00 an hour, maybe up to $31.00. That’s a good wage for rural Arizona. If you are an outdoorsman there is plenty to do here. Drive out to Gila Box Canyon for fishing, hunting and whiskey drinking. If you are inclined to continue east to the New Mexico border, you’ll have to drive 93 miles on mountain road until you find Silver City where something like 9000 citizens celebrate an off the beaten path life.

If you go west of Clifton instead of east, you’ll find Safford, Arizona, a town of about the same size as Silver City. The agricultural community is as frisky as a cowboys’ fingers tugging on the latches of a bustle fit snug on a girl that this rodeo roping expert just has to have. There is free love, there is paid love, and then there is love you cannot have at any price. Any unrequited lover knows that hard truth and heartbreak.

Now the mine in Morenci is properly named Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold. Nearby Clifton claims 3900 people have come here to live out their hopes and dreams. Like most lunch bucket towns, where men and women work more by physical labor than by toiling at a desk there is a problem with controlled substances. We know booze is popular, opioids come next then methamphetamines.

Trying to make a good life in Clifton is not impossible, but an unmarried buck working at the mine will tend to run their four-wheel drive hard and do as he damn well please. Smuggled drugs cross the Mexican border are disbursed by gangs working in collusion with the Sinaloa crime syndicate─ this is a brutal and murderous gang. So called drug mules cross on foot in the dark of night with pieces of carpet tied to their feet so that their tracks can’t be traced back to their shoes. Most are captured but not before their contraband has been dumped for pickup by couriers working on the American side.

Churches are plentiful and if a man can find a wife and then start a family, he’s on the road to a better fate. Men that keep to themselves are more at risk. Without the salutary influence of a woman in their lives a feral male tends to go find mischief and temptation at the local taverns.

There is a Dollar Store, Clifton Bakery and the Lone Eagle Gun Works in town. In the case of guns, here their purpose is for hunting, sometimes shooting, but this ain’t Tombstone and Wyatt is dead and gone but the deer and elk remain. Filling out your meat locker is found at the end of a barrel. What I mean to say is that Greenlee County is purpose built for sportsmen and long guns.

County courthouse is here along with the city library. Then there is the Hard Hat Bar and Grill, The Miner’s Diner and Bar, and Clifton Hotel and Bar. As best I can tell you cannot find saloons or brew pubs anywhere nearby. Clifton is not putting on no fancy airs, you come here you’ll know you’ve hit plain and simple with no excuses.

What is here in my view is a vital piece of the whole project we refer to as Arizona. The Gila River and her tributaries converge then continue clear across the state until the river meets up with the Colorado River in Yuma. The Morenci Mine has a 50-year lease agreement with the San Carlos Apache Tribe pursuant to the San Carlos Apache Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act of 1992, as amended in 1997, “to lease up to 14,000 acre-feet per annum of its allocation of Central Arizona Project water by means of an exchange at the Black River.” In addition to the surface water, they pump Gila River basin groundwater too. Come January 2022 the Colorado River water allocations are going to be cut due to the ongoing drought. Bureau of Reclamation officials will have to cut water off to a variety of farms and ranches across the entire state, but the strategic importance of keeping Morenci Mine operating is on a list of highest priority water users.

Life for citizens in Clifton could not be more different than the lives people shape for themselves in Scottsdale. Both Arizonan’s dodge the occasional rattlesnake, both know it gets hot and water is scarce, but from there not much is the same. Total population of Greenlee County isn’t even 10,000 where if you live in Scottdale you share this one town with a quarter of a million people. But you just hold your horses because Greenlee County’s mean income is $63,497 compared to Scottsdale’s $47,290. Copper mining has been good to folk making their lives here.

Geronimo was born in Clifton. I’d bet he wasn’t pulling down some great big fat salary back in his day and age. Best as I can tell unless you are working at the Morenci mine you are likely to be living hand to mouth, life is likely touch and go, you might wish to reconsider and put an application in at the mine for steady wages and half a chance.

Heading north from Clifton out Highway 191 is devil of a twister with two lanes and a blacktop. You’ll go a good long slog north toward Apache County while gaining elevation until the high desert gives way to forest and woodland. Ponderosa pine dominates, next most is Douglas fir, then alligator juniper and then best of all the delectable two-needle pinion pine. I’d reckon Clifton isn’t a cup of tea in paradise for everyone, where the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest is a sight that steals the heart of near every last dang one of us. This is a mashup of ecosystems, partly desert partly forest, then it’s all thick with the plausible—- if you can’t imagine wanting to live here, you can’t imagine wanting to be alive anywhere. Coyotes could care less where I’d reckon the non-coyote eye of the beholder would see into the glory that I am trying to tell you to drive out to see for yourself.

Returning to the banks of the Gila River there is something vital to explain, a piece of what Arizona claims to be is all tangled up in this fated first place where the river enters the state. One colossal fact is I lived on the Verde River, ultimately a tributary that feeds the Gila. Next most important is that the Gila River defines Arizona’s watersheds, this is her bank account, this is without any fancy engineering a primary source of the state’s water inventory.

Clifton is nearest to where this waterway begins its journey. The river cuts like a jagged lightning bolt east to west, from New Mexico to California, where all along the river has grown up a thousand and another thousand more interests that use what allotment they have been able to secure.

Lucid Motors the new electric car company manufactures near Casa Grande, then there is the Morenci copper mine, both fundamental building blocks to our world’s future energy system.

I would add one more advanced technology, a disruptive technology, and that would be the development of laboratory meat. What we know so far is that it is real, that researchers are racing full steam ahead, in fact a San Francisco startup has won approval to sell sushi grade laboratory grown salmon beginning early next year. There are many intricacies involved in the development of lab meat but there is every reason to believe it can be scaled and provide a commercially viable product to consumers.

All along the Gila River farms and ranches are going to be forced out of business, water allotments and groundwater will dry up. Where there is opportunity, this is in my mind a near perfect idea, is to build out facilities that will produce laboratory meat. It uses 95% less water than conventional meat producers use. Laboratory meat uses a fraction of the land too. There are no pesticides, no antibiotics, and no animals to face slaughter. Laboratory grown meat does use electricity and with plenty of sunshine solar would pencil out as competitors worked to bring down costs. Like anything that is living lab meat uses grains grown on farms and happens to convert the grain to meat at a much higher efficiency than cattle, pigs or chickens. Researchers are still working to artificially synthesize various pieces of the process, that’s a longer conversation, and they are not tampering with the genetics of the various meats they are growing. What this emerging industry is trying to do is grow the same tissue cells all of us have been eating at the dinner table since the beginning of time. In 2010 the electric car was regarded as a long shot, that it had limited appeal, and in 2021 it is all the rage. Laboratory meat is in the same spot, but I’m betting it can scale and play a role in our world’s race to fix the climate emergency we find ourselves being overwhelmed by.

Our climate emergency continues to worsen. This week British Columbia was hit with record floods. Climate events touch us all. Millions of us on the west coast have lived for months in smoke choked air. Heatwaves have been relentless. Still, we can see the outline of the new technologies that the world is going to use to fight back. Renewable energy, battery storage, non-carbon-based aviation fuel, residential heat pumps, non-carbon-based manufacturing of concrete and steel, regenerative farming, laser leveled row crops and digitized drip irrigation. The list is long, and hope is too. Doom, doom, and more doom won’t get the job done, and proponents of using more coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear power count on people being discouraged, people just throwing in the towel, people giving up.

My advice to you─ support the change you can believe in, face each obstacle with good cheer, buy an electric car, trick out your outdoor lighting with LED’s, vote for leadership that supports the deployment of a new energy system for a new century. We can do this

Arizona River Cheat Sheet

The era of blasting billionaires by rocket ship into orbit is only the latest wrinkle in our jam-packed events calendar. This summer’s Southwestern monsoons were much less stingy than the previous below average years, but even still it wasn’t enough. Billionaires I wouldn’t describe so much as tightwads as finicky and prone to developing an aversion to taxes. The billionaire’s suffer mood swings, too much attention from honey-pots and an overinflated sense of entitlement. Maybe that’s just me, or have I missed those duty to country jumbo tax payments? I don’t think so.

Home along the Verde River

If you didn’t know that China burns half of all the coal in the world well now you do. Getting our Asian economic powerhouse to stop releasing these heat trapping greenhouse gases isn’t going to be a walk in the park or a night on the town. I mention this for a reason I will come back to. Before heading off might as well mention Fukushima and the stinking pile of rubble that mess continues to threaten all of humanity with and how just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. This is a no brainer. Put the stinking Genii back in the bottle.

I hiked along the San Francisco River in New Mexico. Outside Glenwood after a mile and a half on a dusty trail you’ll discover the San Francisco Hot Spring beckoning you to remove you clothes and hop on in for a good long soak. The 157-mile river is the largest tributary to the Gila River. You wanted to know this right?

The mighty 648-mile Gila River cuts a path right through the heart of Arizona ending west in Yuma. Wait, you mean Arizona has a heart? Plenty and a big one too. What water remains at its confluence with the Colorado River, this gets a little complicated due to salting from irrigation, but what is left flows into the Colorado then meanders south into Mexico before emptying into the Sea of Cortez.

North of Silver City, in this other newfangled New Mexico the headwaters are fed from runoff from the Pinos Altos Range. We are talking Continental Divide alpine peak stuff here people; some water is destined for the Pacific, some travels east joins up with the Rio Grande emptying into the Gulf of Mexico on the Atlantic Ocean.

Wayfarers running the Verde

Let’s do some mansplaining about this river. On the brighter side of life is the glory of civilization that has grown up along the river’s banks. There are cowboys and cowboy hats, there are barrel racers and barrel racing loving cowboy hatted skirt chasers. All along the Gila River, up and down her banks there is a thriving farm and ranch culture. If you didn’t know and why should you, this important riparian habitat is in stress brought on by drought and under threat by changing times.

Our climate emergency has put most all of this ecosystem into hardship, and like I said or didn’t say, and I am saying now the revolution will not be televised because who in the hell is going to drive all the way out to this dusty corner of nowhere and report on a few thousand disaffected souls finding out that there is not a drop of water remaining to farm by. By the way─ that is one hell of a long sentence.

What I know about Arizona’s waterways comes from my living two years on the banks of the Verde River. In 1993-1994 with my wife and then 2-year-old daughter we moved from San Francisco to live along this watercourse. Our property was covered in mesquite, cottonwood and sycamore trees. Coyote, bobcat and javelina were common sights. Bald eagles, great horned owls and scarlet tanagers were regular visitors. Wolf spiders the size of raven’s hunt for supper here. You’ll discover you are sharing a very sentient world with the black shiny Arizona carpenter bees. At dusk you’ll see wood duck chicks follow mom up to nest safe from predators in the hollow of the tree trunk. You can pretty much get stung, stuck or made miserable by every form of thorn and sticker known to creation. Wild pig can be trouble and mountain lion once the first shot of a rifle goes off will be long gone soon thereafter.

Verde peekaboo view from deck

Verde Valley in Yavapai County cultivates hay and alfalfa. The Sinagua─ ancient’s first people, having lived here for thousands of years have been switching to growing Malt barley for beer brewers. Local corn is cultivated here. You’ll find some pecan orchards too. Over near Cornville there are enterprising winemakers making rustic Italian reds from grapes grown out of rock.

The river can go up and down, more down than up, and still the river does persist. I was living there when a 500-year flood came within an inch of our front door sill. We’d been warned to move our cars to high ground. We lollygagged imagining we’d have time, then all hell broke loose and after moving our cars we ran door to door to help neighbors who same as everyone was caught asleep at the switch. Not a soul alive could ever remember the river ever getting so high. On average the river flows at fifty feet wide maybe at best measures 600 cubic feet per second, what we saw was the granddaddy of gully washers, a river nearly one quarter mile wide river flow measured at 100,000 cubic feet per second, and well to a soul everyone felt that they were lucky just to be alive to tell what there is to tell about such an impactful flash flood. Unless you are a good audience these stories and photographs mostly illicit a shrug. Fine.

Native Agave also known as a Century Plant

My wife’s family has lived in the Verde Valley since 1969 when they pulled up stakes in Fairfax, California and struck out for a new rural high desert life. Hard to explain what kind of economy you’d find here. My brother-in-law made his living as a land surveyor. I worked events in Phoenix, got hired on at the Arizona Renaissance Festival, and traveled to Laughlin to work at the Flamingo as an opening act.

Being so close to the river our water well was not drilled deep. To avoid kidney stones, it was advisable to filter your water to remove the dissolved limestone. Casey my mother-in-law thought that was nonsense and took her chances. I was instructed in how to build a proper mesquite coal fire to use for barbecuing. In 1993 AT&T still had consumers by the throat and a call routed just 15 miles away cost $1.75 for a mere 3 minutes. Walmart had come to Cottonwood and most ordinary native citizens point to that event as the beginning of the end of a small business owner having even half a chance at scraping up a living.

The wife bought a thoroughbred named Maggie. I liked Maggie just fine, but this was not any ordinary kind of horse. Maggie knocked down fences as a regular reaction to her jumpy moods she’d fall into. Made the mistake of tying her up to a fence rail while saddling her up. Jerked the rail right off the posts and fell over backwards and made a mess of the saddle that had just been synched tight.

My mesquite wood fire cooking instructor

Sunday’s my mother-in-law and I would watch football from the colossal satellite dish array that had been setup between the mesquites. We both liked Joe Montana and football was fun in this era with all the winning all the time. Casey complained about cooking but most of all she believed it important to keep the men in her life fed. She had two sons, two sons-in-law, and one ex-husband who lived one block away, and they were maybe some kinds of best friends by now, hard to know what to call them, there existed a fondness for sure, but it was not any kind of endearment most people would understand.

By my reckoning the same quirky fated culture along the Verde River is much the same for the Arizonan’s living along the Gila River. There are more curmudgeons than most other places. Every kind of pickup truck known to mankind has come here. Paint fades, upholstery rots from the beating given  by the sun, but trucks here live-in suspended animation and hardly any rust out, there isn’t enough humidity, hardly any water at all. Turns out an arid climate is rust’s mortal enemy.

People build Earthships here. You’ll find adobe and strawbale construction. There are a lot of off grid types here. With this crowd you’ll find solar and wind turbines with battery storage. Slow pumps are used with solar panels to pump well water up for residential purposes. Satellite television remains common out here, but jumbo dishes are now gone and in their place, there are these demure setups. Four-wheel-driving is practically the only real fun you’ll find to do out here. Half the nutjobs arrive as birders the other half as militia members of one kind of fraternal order or another. Arizona’s rural farms and ranches are in for one hell of a drought beating. Just as everything else has changed, if you haven’t noticed things are changing plenty fast now, and a lot of the people living out in the furthest reaches of the Arizona desert are struggling to keep up with all that’s getting thrown at them. Electronic-computer controlled internal combustion engine powered pickup trucks are one thing but a fully electric powered work truck is almost unbearably odd. Chewing tobacco is still popular and now everyone is pumping on these personal computing devices they got stuffed in their shirt pocket. Pornography and titty bars are mortal sin and the high desert house of worship.

I’m plenty worried about these fragile riparian ecosystems. Worried what fate awaits this drought ravaged region. When it gets much hotter out here you won’t have to worry about growing crops, because crops won’t grow in such high heat. Maybe Miami, Florida will be overrun by the rising waters of the Atlantic Ocean, maybe some of us will see that day come, but by my mind and best estimate the climate emergency has already arrived full steam ahead in Arizona. Wildfires, drought and heatwaves have already provided all the evidence anyone needs to know that a very difficult set of decisions are ahead, unavoidable hard choices will need to be made, and how it was when your grandmother or grandfather first arrived here in the Southwest is nothing at all like is now. We just have to start reacting, put two and two together and come up with a plan. So far nobody has been thinking there was much to do.

The Verde River

Come January 2022 Arizona’s relationship with water is going to change. Water from the Colorado River will be shut down. That’s going to be the shock of this new century. I’m worried for folk down here, worried by a lot. I care about these parts. I do not wish to see the hard-working stiffs going bankrupt. The end of the line isn’t where the passengers get off, not in a pandemic, not in a mega-drought, not in the last chapter of a family’s hold on land they’ve worked for near a century or more. This is what a climate emergency means. It means you can’t keep doing what you’ve been doing, you have to come up with a plan that no longer includes using all this water that no longer exists.

Mop Up of the Odd Item or Two

Boosted with Moderna Monday. I spent Tuesday in bed. I dragged myself out to pay my respects to Dusty Baker who now manages the Astros. Once upon a time he was the skipper for the San Francisco Giants, he had played for the Dodgers, I like him because he’s so old. I know him most by what I’ve read in the Sporting Green of the San Francisco Chronicle and then when I’d go out to Candlestick Park to watch a baseball game.

Writer’s Shed

Our 2003 BMW isn’t particularly old unless you try to keep one alive. Paying the repair bills is very old, and German part prices are eyewatering high. I could fix my Chevy’s water pump for less than $50, the same repair on the BMW feels like it is at least $1500, and when you don’t have that kind of money laying around it feels like the world is trying to tell you something. The advice is priceless.

We’ve pushed the German sedan along until we can’t. Today a delivery company because of the pandemic delivered a Tesla to our door at a price and in a color, we thought we could live with. A test drive later the Model 3 was purchased, paperwork was finished in the driveway.

The bowtie is really a camera-really

Sunday’s atmospheric river that hit here in Northern California was a force of nature. It rained hard, it was windy, the streets flooded. Once upon a time a Californian could figure on receiving rain in dribs and drabs, not too little and not too much. In this new razzle dazzle century, everything has become an event, what we got was a sharp slap in the kisser. Most of us don’t like how things are turning out between wildfires and atmospheric rivers whatever you used to be able to count on no longer adds up.

This past spring we’d had a crew install a french drain along our property line. Worked as advertised. Instead of being soggy and flooded water drained off and sank into gravel where perforated pipe sent it off away from our building. Recent rain chain installation worked too. I have a few tweaks to do to the gutters, but who knows when I’ll get around to fixing things like gutters, rain has been so rare here and motivation has been at an ebb to near vanished altogether.

In our backyard we’ve been fashioning a place where one or the other of us might retreat to work. Writers are drawn to working in solitary confinement. Notifications will break the stream of consciousness. Ideas go lost in distraction. There are more things I imagined I would never forget that have been forgotten than I could have ever believed possible. More than once, perhaps a few tens of thousands of times I’ve improvised a funny line I’ve never been able to say a second time for a laugh.

A small wooden desk will go into the writing studio. A wall will be dedicated to our books. We will build shelves for each size. To be useful books must be at your fingertips, you must be able to refer to what you can’t remember, time is of the essence, any friction will only spoil the moment. I’ve known a few minds that recall every single word they’ve ever read and can recite chapter and verse every single sentence. I can’t even remember where I put my car keys.

The grace of a good yard is here to help. Grapevines, oak trees and blueberry bushes are planted here. Quarried stones have been set by talented workers. I’m charged to build gates and arbors, these come natural to me, and I may take extra effort to craft each to our preference.

Somewhere in the last two decades I’ve come to see little difference between words and wood. Each can be hewn by hand and mind closer to what is intended by what sight the imagination has cast in the mind.

The devil is in the details, the angels hover near the generalities. This is how most of us trip up and get all twisted about in a binary world, even though everyone knows we live here in the infinite.

I miss improvising in front of an audience. While popping off in an extemporaneous manner, as the mood or lack of impulse control strikes, I find these blurting outs can be less comical and more triggering. I know my peers in show business understand. Show people know an audience, we are less familiar with the sole point of view of the singular, we can roam at large and bound across the landscape, where often the precious few want to call into question each and every detail of the comic lark we have taken off on.

Everything and everyone is suffering from the incurable condition of being misinformed and prone to making regrettable comments. Just about the time I’d finally got the knack for speaking without taint of judgement about my homosexual friends I’ve now got a whole new challenge of figuring how to speak about my transexual grand kid. More than a few circuit breakers have popped in the thoughts and words of the family, not due to any judgements, we just are having a bit of difficulty performing the gender jujitsu of the thing. Give it a little more time I figure we’ll all be error free experts.

Another Kind of Hypersonic Loop

Hypersonic rockets are all the latest fashion. Russia and China have them and according to what someone from Raytheon has to say on the subject the United States is lagging in the race to build one of these Mach 5 flying machines. Then if you switch it around there are pieces of our world that appear to not move at all. Take our legal system for example. You can get sued, you can be deposed, there might or might not be a conviction, maybe an appeal, if that doesn’t work you might try taking your problem to another court, all this can go on and on for years and years.

In this newfangled digital age sordid unproven facts might whistle on by at near lightspeed velocities with regard to all manner of conduct. Before the FBI can investigate, before an indictment can be handed down, there are another whole boatload of violations, by the end of the week a good soul is hard pressed to know if anything can be done to bring one iota of justice to the gallery of rogues grifting across the headlines.

Liz Taylor hopping into the sack with Richard Burton seems as I recall having been a topic of watercooler gossip for most of a whole decade. There are simply no comparable celebrity tryst grabbing headlines in this post Guys and Dolls age of everyone knows everything about everyone.

Accurate depiction of what mind looks like

I have some recollection in the fog of memory that certain legislatures in particular states had made even consensual sodomy illegal. As a practical matter I was always a little confused about how that law could ever be enforced. Most of these kinds of behaviors are happening behind closed doors with the lights turned off. Must have had private detectives mount infrared cameras or sound recording equipment that when played back experts in such matters could discern a guilty kind of cry of ecstasy from an altogether more innocent kind of crying.

Between fighting off the demon Covid-19 virus with a booster shot, drying out after the lashing we took from this last storm, and now as usual improvising right up to the edge of catastrophe I’m going to land this posting wishing you all inexpensive water pumps and quiet contemplative moments spent in silence listening to your as ever chatty mind­—

Talent’s Lending Library

We say good morning from Sonoita, Arizona. I was overnight 15 miles west in Patagonia. Dinner hour was shared with an 88 year old poet, a modern day vaudevillian, the showman’s stalwart wife and pair of Golden retrievers.

Creative personalities are not rare. I’ve a broader definition now, the club isn’t so exclusive, a great many belong, many unaware how and where their special talent fits in.

I know painters, potters, jugglers and writers all producing good work and a living wage. They are explicit and their role has been perfected.

Picasso’s work is singular, there is not a second painter of his kind. Martha Graham is a one-off without any other choreographers influencing the world of dance with the same force. Frank Lloyd Wright set down a remarkable body of work through the buildings he imagined then had built.

Martha Graham lived to 97. Picasso and Wright died at 95. I would argue Wright’s work remained vital and only got better. Picasso did not shatter convention in the latter part of his career. Graham too possessed an intensity but had choreographed her most important work in the first half of her life.

The young and untested Burt Bacharach caught his first break playing piano, scoring arrangements for Marlene Dietrich. Then after he began writing music for Hal David’s lyrics. Then, they found Dionne Warwick in 1961. The talented trio produced some of the best popular music of the last century.

Elvis Costello teamed up with Bacharach and released Painted from Memory in 1998. The landmark album advanced Costello’s songwriting craft. What is worth noting is both Costello’s songs and lyrics benefited from Bacharach’s editing and revising. The collaboration passed the test, each made the other better, together the work verges on the best either has ever done.

Creative people are not rare, a great many fit the description. Fred Astaire, Charlie Chaplin, and Frank Sinatra were forceful performing artists of their generation. Sinatra, once he began recording in high fidelity seems to have left the world with the more durable body of work. Chaplin’s films are brilliant but unlike a Sinatra’s music the cinematic style of Chaplin is from another time. The best of Astaire’s work is there to see, but again you have to take the time.

Some of William Shakespeare’s work requires no special training to enjoy. Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Nights Dream and Othello are quite accessible. The breadth and depth of the plotting, characters and dialogue of all 36 of his plays is the best writing ever composed for theater. The productions Shakespeare mounted at the Globe Theatre on the Thames in London for the Royal Court is an intoxicating display of creative genius.

Creativity happens in the foreground, the present moment, and the creative types that are self aware know that in the background there is the body of work left for posterity by this pantheon of brilliant artists. Sondheim, Steinbeck and Coltrane all scaled the heights leaving the world singularly brilliant work.

The talented Carrie Schnepf with Lacey my Performing Dog

In 2000 I embarked upon a decade of shows, each October I would play the month at Schnepf Farms. Five days a week, five shows a day, performances ran 30-40 minutes. I worked for Carrie Schnepf. Carrie had a background in music and theater, she knew she wanted to produce something like what I had come up with, and together we took much time and effort figuring out how to make what I was doing work for her audiences at her farm.

Carrie’s husband Mark possessed less show business skills, he was after all a farmer, but Mark was supportive of our introducing the particular experience my show provided.

Much of my background was pure street theater. I’d come off a 20 year run in San Francisco. I was rebuilding the act. My target audience remained the same as ever, anyone of any age should be able to watch my show and enjoy. But, to fit into the family festival market in Arizona I needed to dial down the urban edge, bring a more open heart to the work, allow for the audiences to have a less bang-bang inner city show.

By now I had become a father, my daughter was 7 years old. She had retaught me how to see the world through a child’s eyes, something I’d promised myself I would never forget but by dent of time had slipped from my grasp.

Most of my work on the streets was aimed at the adults, not that children didn’t enjoy the show, but they were not my focus until now. Understanding the children and making more of an effort to be attuned to this faction in my audience changed everything. The changes I made were met with fresh bookings, new clients, a great many venues were suddenly eager for what I was doing.

From the start I had the pleasure of becoming a favorite with the Schnepf’s youngest son. Between shows I let the 6 year old play with my juggling equipment. The kid gravitated toward playing with the Chinese yo-yo. He picked up a few moves by accident as he interacted with the juggling equipment less as a student and more as if he was a mere child lost in a flight of fancy, he had no goals or plans, he just wanted to play.

All these years later I know Grayson as a grown man. He remembers the Chinese yo-yo, can still do a few moves, and has watched enough shows to have enough savvy to be sure to sell his moves with clever patter when he fools around with the juggling equipment.

I’m still swinging for the fences, trying to knock the ball out of the park. Whether it is writing a new show or finishing the next novel I remain in the hunt of expressing myself hoping that what I’ve come up with will resonate with my audiences.

Then, I saw a 27 year old Grayson Schnepf last weekend. It was a fine reunion. I had come out to the farm to walk around there in my old digs. In 2000 when I had come out to Queen Creek to perform on the farm it hadn’t been in my mind that I would have the opportunity to influence a young budding child’s imagination. That my creative process, also in some sense a spiritual process, an interpersonal process of call and response, where if I was to succeed I would need to connect to everyone and every opportunity.

What the young Grayson imagined was that my itinerate life of traveling town to town working with people, spreading laughter and intrigue, sharing my particular knack for pulling people in and how this happiness was authentic, infused my life through and through, that the young son to a farmer recognized close up how even a less celebrated, less famous, less acclaimed performer could forge a viable creative life.

I’d imagined I’d created memories for a thousand audiences, that essentially what we call a show was an experience that can be many things, good or bad, easily dismissed, forgotten or remembered, or perhaps even something singularly formative, something that may change the course of another person’s life.

I’ve spent the week thinking about Grayson, how my being simple, uncomplicated and open to the young man while he was still in his earliest chapters of his childhood I had provided an unguarded glimpse into the creative process, that I was content, that my work had made for a fulfilling life, that not anything else on the farm, not the petting zoo, the carousel ride or the fire roasted corn could duplicate the experience I was providing for the farm’s audiences.

Grayson I know as an extraordinary talent. Whatever he does with his life a good portion of his success will come from his creativity, his imagination, his playfulness and in part because I had by accident given him a firsthand glimpse of a performer in pursuit of a life of authentic self expression. Last weekend I struck creative pay dirt, I got to see how I nudged one young man a little further down the road to living his best (creative) life.

Glen Canyon Dam Meets Strangelove

Not so ancient foot

In New Mexico ancient human footprints have been discovered at White Sands National Park. Scientists have identified adolescent sized prints to 23,000 years before present. Our first people moved along the coastline netting fish for food while drifting south by sea craft. Insight into this migration is likely rendered impenetrable by the expanding ice sheet of 26,000 years ago that scrubbed away evidence of our first ancestors’ migration patterns.

Second route of the ancients was taken by traveling inland. Prior to the last glacial maximum, I’m speculating here, was likely about 30,000 years before present. This was a warmer and wetter American West. Massive lakes some hundreds of miles in length in Nevada, Utah and New Mexico created habitat for safe travel along the shore in floating vessels while hunting and gathering.

The Winnemucca Rock Art near Nevada’s Pyramid Lake dates back to 14,800 years before present. This is the earliest example of human created artistic behavior in North America. Much further north and dating back 23,000 years before present in the Yukon’s Bluefish Caves there is evidence of the first people having settled in this region of North America.

Mexico’s Chiquihuite Cave hints at human activity dating back 30,000 years before present.

Riparian of Arizona Santa Cruz River

Sixty miles southeast of Albuquerque there is dry lake bed and then further south is White Sands National Park. We haven’t any evidence of whether these first people arrived from the north or the south. What we do know is that it was warmer and wetter that the lakes were a source of fresh water and food. The Pueblo People are the descendants of these first immigrants.

Most intriguing is that these first people may have arrived, but it would be tens of thousands of years before they transitioned from hunter-gatherer’s and built permanent settlements.

Early man began to experiment with cultivating plants, corn or maize is the most well-known crop, but there was also potato, squash, beans, and sunflower.

Diné Homeland

The people named the Anasazi suddenly vanished from this region about 800 years before present. These first people had developed the pueblo and their abandoning the dwellings was thought to be the result of climate change and drought. New theories speculate that there is evidence of tension between tribes and potential of mass killings, enslavement, and cannibalism. The lack of water may have set in motion a more predatory behavior between the various groups settled in this region.  

Perching as they did on the cliffs appears to be designed as a fortress structure. The cliff dwellings were not built to withstand water scarcity. After the end of the last ice age, while the climate shifted from wetter to drier conditions no longer favored a people living in this region. The vast system of freshwater lakes begin evaporating and are gone in just a few thousand years.

A wave of immigrants then swept across the continent introducing Old World technology to a New World. Coal was burned to power the steam engine, then oil was refined to power the piston engine. There were sewers and water wells. By 1895 hydroelectric power stations began making electricity available to the masses.

A straight line connects the carbon based energy system of the Industrial Revolution to the climate emergency.

Traveling across the Navajo Nation in Northern Arizona and New Mexico the evidence of our first people is scattered across a vast landscape. Genetic markers identify the Korean peninsula as the origin of these people. Navajo prefer the name Diné to identify the people of their nation.

The ancestors of the Diné have been in North America for tens of thousands of years. The new human inhabitants evolved with a climate that grew warmer and drier, at this same time period animals such as camel and mastodon vanished into extinction.

These first people began to fabricate cliff dwellings and whole villages, fields were cultivated and farmed diverting water from the adjacent rivers. The Diné describe water as a living spirit, that the rivers, lakes, sun and earth are key to unlocking the miracle of life.  

Waterways

As the Department of the Interior rolls out the non-carbon based renewable energy system for this new century Biden’s Build Back Better plans is to enlist the wisdom of our indigenous people in our effort to reimagine our economy.

The Industrial Revolution was powered by and is still dominated by use of fossil fuels. We’ve altered our climate and it is now clear that mankind has unleashed all manner of trouble upon itself. It is the culture of our first people who have lived here longer than any other people, that it is the Diné who have sought out a means of being here in harmony with the earth. For our world to survive we would be wise to enlist the talents of all our tribes, each part of our many people can contribute to this transformational journey.

Embracing a multicultural path to fixing our energy system is only one of many existential challenges confronting the American West. Wildfire, heatwaves, and drought are the tip of the spear to the changes bearing down upon this region.

Most urgent is the persistent loss of water flowing into the Colorado River. Constructing both the Glen Canyon and Hoover Dam’s occurred during an era that was unusually wetter than at present.

Appointed by Bill Clinton former Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation Daniel P Beard in 2015 concluded that the time had come to remove the Glen Canyon Dam. What prevents this right decision from being taken? A set of interlocking stakeholders that receive subsidized water. The unfettered flow of the Colorado River water to western landholders is about to be shattered.

Beard dubbed this group of lucky water rights holders the water nobility. The senior most water rights holders have been allotted subsidized water worth thousands and thousands of dollars that they would then use to grow hay crops worth hundreds and hundreds of dollars.

Water law is complicated but the problem it has created is not. Too much water is being wasted growing too many crops unsuited to this region’s climate. Members of the Water Nobility have outsized wealth created by receiving an irrationally bestowed entitlement. This is the people’s water, it is for all of us, not just the lucky few. But the current stakeholders will fight to keep what they’ve mistakenly come to believe is their water.

Diné farmland

What we’ll see play out over the next years are negotiations between Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, and our international neighbor to the south Mexico. Every stakeholder is going to demand more, and all will come away with less, some will lose access altogether.

The Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Agriculture will attempt to bring an end to subsidizing crops grown with subsidized water. The firestorm these changes setoff are going to be monumental. But the climate emergency is now upon us and with its arrival the American West finds itself struggling to divide up less and less to the point where there is no more water to divide up.  

Knowing full well that they will fight to the last drop, surrendering nothing, arguing over everything, never agreeing to anything, holding out as the American West is brought to the brink. This is the tragedy of the commons playing out before our very eyes. The pending negotiations over how to share what water remains in the Colorado River does not yet dominate the headlines, but this crisis even if it rains this next season is going to pit state against state all too soon.  

Postscript… I’m preparing a new plot to a comedy. Some pieces of the water crisis will be folded into this struggle. I see this as Little Big Man and Dr. Strangelove doing battle with the Monkey Wrench Gang. I remind myself while trying to plot this story that Hayduke and Mandrake are both still very much alive!

The Golden Gate Garbage Company

Mike Stroud and Dana Smith circa 80’s

The burn rate was high, and the hits were few. Most of the routines washout even before tested in front of an audience. Still the new material offers clues. You’ll take this add that and try it out.

My two dogs always are at the top of the mind of people who have seen my act. Because so much of the material was an odd mashup of various elements it was often difficult to explain what might have caught the attention of someone.

Songwriter on road in Homer, Alaska 2005

For some years I opened with ball spinning and fire juggling and then finished with the dog. Unpacking the details isn’t often much help when prodding the memories of audience members.

Someone would offer— He did something with the dog— Fair enough. So, there was a dog in the act? Yeah, the dog was good—

Vancouver British Columbia 1990

I’ve written lyrics and music for ukulele throughout my years drifting town to town doing shows. The ukulele was quite the constant companion. Sometimes I admired a particular piece of music and would put my own farcical lyrics to the tune. My originals where I did both song and lyrics are hardly jewels, but a few turned out, they’re not too bad.

I was influenced by Tin Pan Alley, Cole Porter, Sammy Cahn, Rodgers and Hart, Ira Gershwin, Frank Loesser and so many others. Chord changes to a tune like My Funny Valentine twist and turn at a quicker pace. When you only have four strings the chord change tempo helps.

Lacey Christmas Show San Francisco 2003

Both dogs provided the on-cue barks to How Much is that Doggie in the Window. The tune provided a sentimental touch to my act, softening my personality, helping to add another dimension. I’ve played this tune in performance well over 10,000 times. You can see one version with Sunshine on my posted videos at this site.

Sunshine Miami, Florida 1987

The Golden Gate Garbage Company never got much attention. Both Mike Stroud and I had more polished solo shows, but we banged out more than a few sets in front of audiences. While working dates in Montana in 1988-1989 we got a chance to play this material atop a flatbed truck trailer to an enthusiastic remote and isolated wheat growing community along the border of Canada and North Dakota.

That was then and this is now. Here for your pleasure the shows signature tune…

Garbage Man…

Boat as Soul Repair

Vessel Sweet Seas parading in the boatyard

To enter a boatyard is to step into a world dominated by men. There are reasons for this, none that will get to the truth of how this has happened, but it is here a workplace where men are packed cheek to jowl. The men come as fathers, bachelors, husbands, brothers, and braggards. Religious beliefs vary, most no longer drink, all have lived hard lives, none raise as much hell as the hell that landed them here. Lessons have been learned, that’s why they’ve been hired on, fool youth has been completed and their most productive years are before them.

Boats are stood on the hard and secured with boat stands. This first step is done by skilled veterans. Hauling a boat out of the water requires precision, there is no room for error. One team haul the boats out of the water, power washes the bottom and then sets the vessel on the hard where the work will be done.

If you need rigging fixed, carpentry repaired, or electronics debugged there is a specific skilled man that will do the job. Boats from all corners of the globe arrive for services provided here at KKMI in Richmond.

Bob Hennessy will oversee the work done on my boat. I’d come in distraught about the shaft seal failure and it was Bob coming down below seeing for himself the failing prop shaft seal and then intoning in a soothing mellifluous steady voice how to best fix this rascal. I had about 10 ideas how I might do the repair and Bob swatted all those away but one, the surest one, the one his yard recommended, and the one I would use. This is why they pay Bob the big bucks.

Propeller Shaft Seal is the black rubber boot

The man coordinating the services to a boat is something like the conversation you might have with your doctor, or if it is serious, you know if it is life or death, these are the kind of conversations you might have with your surgeon. Bob will explain how they’re going to cut the thing out, in this instance the propeller shaft seal, so I may regain my sanity and boats seaworthiness. I am fond of the part where I get to go sailing off over the horizon to live and love another day. There is no hand holding, there’s no show boating, no taunting or teasing. There are no crybabies. My job is to shut up and follow along learn as much as I can so I might know more about how my brain and my boat are put together. I appreciate Bob’s skillful means. The reason I don’t have to have all the answers is because of men like Bob who do.

Furthest left in image is the Camper Nicholson 35

The boatyard was crowded. Two boats down from mine was perched on the hard a 35’ Camper and Nicholson sailboat. The sloop rigged boat is a Lloyd’s Register of Shipping certified vessel built to the highest standards. The boat is one tough go anywhere take on anything Swiss Army knife of a tool that gives a mariner a snowballs chance of making it through the eye of a tropical depression then not sinking so the skipper and crew may then live long enough to tell. I don’t understand how they’ve figured out how to ensure such feats of daring (reasonable minds may disagree but this could also be considered an act of sheer stupidity) but someone located along the River Thames has quantified the loads on hull and masts and forces of nature and put the name Lloyd’s on the odds of someone making it through with this particular vessel under what can only be considered as a storm-tossed nightmare at sea.

Jesus is the technician handling my prop seal replacement

Sailboats of this kind are here being prepared for long ocean passages. One of the yards senior most experienced technicians was working at the stern installing a Hydrovane, or a wind powered self-steering device. Aligning the wind vane is precision work, the technician fashioned several mounting blocks from a special high strength epoxy resin laminate material. The nuts and bolts must seat perpendicular to the laminate blocks both on the inside and outside of the hull. Close isn’t good enough, right is right, literally each bolt and nut seats flush. The installation requires both patience and a fat purse as these hours add up and the expense is considerable. I watched the technician work two full days and there was still more to do. Fending off disaster at sea doesn’t come on the cheap.

The technician figured that I was trying to take care of my own boat and had bestowed his attention upon me as if by secret handshake, he made eye contact signaling I had permission to speak. Because boats are complicated, much as most marriages, therefore most owners have little time to give to their own boat or the sincere effort needed in keeping their marriage in top condition. I am one of the holdouts attempting to come out a champion of both.

Prop and seal installed

This is the way it was, the way it is and the way it always will be. My working on my own boat meant I was likely an odd and quirky man, that I knew little but tried my best. It doesn’t take a technician long to figure out I’m the rare bird trying to do as much of the work that needing doing and that can-do spirit had earned me a pass and pity depending upon the hour of the day and quality of the whiskey involved.

Think of a boatyard as mansplaining paradise. Here is located a sanctuary where being told how to do a thing right the first time is near divine guidance. A dedicated owner once identified as marginally capable and not some knotted up halfwit going off about a mechanical conundrum, he knows nothing about is for sport and conversational pleasure elevated to be a target of idle chatter. Do I have the will to persevere or will the task at hand bring me to my knees until I am defeated? In the world of advice, the most stubborn of us cannot ask and therefore will not receive.

Heat exchanger uses cool sea water to reduce heat of engine coolant… you don’t pump sea water through the motor

Upstairs in the chandlery is a vast floor of engine parts. An irritable bloke because of how Yanmar sells parts had to look over a schematic online and find part numbers for each individual item I will need to remove and replace the heat exchanger. There isn’t much cleaning a heat exchanger, but there are several steps to the task. This isn’t my first visit to this rodeo. By the last day in the yard the irritable gent upstairs opened the gate for me, he even smiled. I had passed muster as I whiled away day upon day undertaking all manner of tasks that I had showed some ability to complete.

A buzzer sounds over a public address system signaling that it is time for one of the two 15-minute breaks or the 30-minute lunch. Two men bring their dogs to work. Some of the most talented technicians tend to congregate with other most talented workers. The up and comers are men nearing 30. They’ve got plans to prepare their own boat for a future circumnavigation.

My sloop was put back in the water. Because I had opened the cooling system, I had to be careful on start up to be sure the coolant level was kept topped off. The propeller shaft seal technician hustled aboard to check the shaft seal was working as it should. Rather than takeoff immediately I remained at the docks overnight while checking and rechecking everything was as it should be, and my boat was seaworthy.

On her way back to where she belongs

At daybreak I prepared the boat for sailing. Prior to my departure to bookend my experience Bob rumbled again in soothing tones about how pleased he was to see my sailboat made whole and that I had come through the experience without earning the outright derision of his workers.

Ahead of Sweet Seas the racing boat Adjudicator

Slipping the lines, I motored south out of the channel to Potrero Reach then with fair winds on my beam I hoisted my sails shaping a course west out into the bay.

In the deal I’ve come to see fixing a boat as proxy for fixing some broken piece of our soul and out of the repairs, time and trouble invested there sails a spirit open to the wonder and the glory and how we’re all folded into the mystery.

Moitessier imagined his boats to be an alliance, each making the other all the better. That fits what I have come to know. I am back from the yard, I am shipshape, and ready to go with all my heart giving it everything I have. To all of us I wish for “fair winds and following seas.”

just your average week

Turns out Seldom Seen Smith is still with us. Hard to find but those that know claim Moab is an approximate location of this character. Hayduke hasn’t been heard from. His liver had to have given out by now. Doc Sarvis must be dead and gone, Bonnie Abbzug should still be here, he was old she was too young when the Monkey Wrench Gang was setting up shop with plans to destroy the dam at Lake Powell.

Resist!

On December 18, 2020, there must have been a celebration when the smokestacks were felled at the Navajo Generating Station. The coal stacks demolition was in the before-times, before the virus hit. The two-decade long record-breaking mega-drought has state and federal water management agencies bracing for trouble of a size and kind the modern world has not witnessed before.

For the longest time we’ve been expecting that an exchange of nuclear weapons between the former Soviet Union and the United States would bring this experiment in civilization to an end. Nuclear arsenals are only as safe as the men and women who oversee these weapons. Dr. Strangelove’s Jack Ripper the military officer in charge of Alaska’s Strategic Air Command loses his mind and well you know the story of how Slim Pickens slaps the butt end of an atomic weapon as he rides off into oblivion.

This next existential fix we find ourselves in is different. Like tobacco we’ve developed a nasty habit, corporations benefiting from keeping us addicted to their dangerous products are behaving exactly as the tobacco company’s did two decades ago and have once again been slow walking efforts to shut their industry down. This time it isn’t tobacco the attorneys are working for, in this case our talented legal guns are working for the fossil fuel industry. Side note is I was staying at the historic 5-star St. Paul, Hotel in Minnesota when there were gathered the states attorney generals in meetings with tobacco industry lawyers who were putting the final touches on a class action settlement that finally brought this cancer causing industry to heel. The bar reeked of no goods and double dealing.

The Soviet Union was long gone by then and in its place has been stood up a mobbed-up fossil fuel dependent economy run by a former KGB secret agent named Vladimir Putin and he has no intention of halting the business his country is in. Russia can be described as a gas station pretending to be a nation with an organized crime problem.

Dawn on the Alsea River

I went to bed with the Calder Fire threatening South Lake Tahoe. I woke up instead to a Supreme Court burning down a woman’s right to reproductive health care. Louisiana took a category four hurricane hit with electrical lines down and power not expected to return for a month. Then, the tri-state region on the East Coast gets hit with tornadoes and a once in every 500-year flood event, the second 500-year event in just the last couple of weeks. Five hundred years isn’t what it once was it seems.

Polls report Governor Gavin Newsom will not lose the recall. Still I’m kicking in a $100 to help. Peasants in Florida are awakening to the tyrant they sent to Tallahassee. His polls have been stinking and sinking. Not ready to declare the fever haven been broken, too much of the Southeast has been cult captured by the authoritarian end-times sect. It would be funny if I was making this up but sadly I am not.

Our waiting for the climate emergency to commence is officially over. Airnow.gov provides information on air quality. September 2-3 are forecast to be moderately unhealthful. Summers are like that in California. Air quality in the San Francisco Bay Area has been measured to have some of the world’s worst air to breathe. Denver beat out Mumbai for the world’s most polluted air basin last month. Fox Television has been declared a Murdochian cesspool in need of pumping and cleaning.

We installed a monster HEPA filter in our home. It is a beast of a filter. We keep our windows closed and run the filter all day every day. Long term exposure to wildfire smoke is a respiratory illness inducer. If I have any compassion, it is for asthma and emphysema patients flooding emergency rooms unable to function in such a polluted atmosphere.

Um… like smoke filled sky over Idaho

There was a time when your local weather forecaster on your favorite local television station didn’t include air quality predictions. Sports reporters now tell us how good or bad the air will be on game day. Anyone bellyaching about wearing a N-95 to slow the spread of the virus is now wearing their mask to fend off the harm caused by inhaling wildfire choked air.

Small time entertainer friend works a lot of events in private homes now carries a cancellation clause in the event of smoke from wildfire. While I am at it those cabin filters in your car should you get caught in a lot of smoke should be swapped out ASAP.

Surfing over to the Navajo Times you can find out a lot about one of our great indigenous people that live among us. I follow Arlyssa Becenti (@ABecenti) on twitter.  Diné journalist (this is the preferred name for the Pueblo people or Navajo). Ms. Becenti worked formerly at the Navajo Times and Gallup Independent, she’s back at Arizona State University studying investigative journalism. I’d say with her joining the fray to save America and I was a betting man I’d go all in on the moxie of this world class woman.

The Navajo Nation spans parts of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. The virus has not been kind to a people that tend to live in large family groups in small homes. The Diné have a total population of 380,000 with 32,650 having become infected with COVID-19 and of those 1,404 have been killed by this deceitful often asymptomatic contagious virus.

Teachings from the elders happens at home. Song, cooking, language and religion depend upon the elders living long enough. Each premature ending of an elder’s life means that their ancient wisdom is not transmitted to the next generation. The ancestral Diné first arrived in North America 20,000 years ago. Current occupants of this continent would be wise to take a lesson on how these first of first nation immigrants have survived here these many thousands of years.

It is not just the Diné, but it is most of the indigenous people across the Americas that teach living in harmony with the earth. A practical pathway of working with the problems we face because of the climate emergency are found in the Diné culture. Water is a living spirit. I’m smoking a big one tonight and rewatching Little Big Man.

A year ago, a young Diné political activist organized a get out the vote on the Navajo Nation. This is a vast geographical area with many of the Diné living in remote rural homes. For many their homes, sometimes a round building called a Hogan have no electricity or refrigeration. Water is hauled in by truck and trailer. To get out the vote the activist organized riders to go by horseback and bring voters to the closest polling places. Political analysts believe the Diné vote tipped the Arizona election to the Democrats.  

If there is good news much of the best headlines can be found in one of our nation’s most important indigenous people. It is our good fortune to have Deb Haaland a member of the Laguna Pueblo people to be appointed the United States Secretary of the Interior. The former House of Representative member is the first Native American to ever be appointed to lead a cabinet level agency. All I can say is we need more Native American women running this show and a hell of a lot less Chuck Grassley’s. Iowa needs to do better.

There is no magical way to put a cork in the bottle of trouble the world has unleashed. We’re burning too much fossil fuel and releasing too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The good news is we don’t have to invent any new technologies. We will continue to deploy more renewable energy systems across the globe. These are the cheapest carbon free technologies in the world. In Cornwall (try to keep up) a team of expert geothermal engineers are scaling up to filter lithium out of hot water used for two reasons, one to spin turbines to make electricity and the other for making batteries for cars.

Self Portrait

To do our part we must continue to support and help elect politicians that will pass meaningful climate emergency legislation. The biggest piece of our problem is all goobered up by just a handful of transnational corporations. We break their hold on our energy system and we are well on our way to fixing the existential crisis our civilization faces. This is good work.

Meaningful legislation is making its way through the House of Representatives today. There are many critical new initiatives that if passed will help us walk civilization back from the brink. Grid redesigns, battery storage, charging stations, basic research, methane gas mitigation, renewable energy subsidies, high speed trains… this list is long, and the circumstances could not be more urgent.

There is a rogues gallery of multinational corporations working to block this legislation, for many selfish reasons, they have oil they want to sell, tax breaks they wish to keep, environmental restrictions they don’t want passed. But here’s the rub the corporate interests are not in the people’s interest.

It all seems too bizarre, unimaginable, none of this can be true, how did we get here? We face our own odd Dr. Strangelove moment, where our world teetering on the brink, where our civilization having flirted with annihilation steps back from the brink and instead of walking past the graveyard seizes the moment and does the right thing for all of life.

Alarming as our climate and political crisis has proven to be this week, we still have time. Demand the politicians we elect act on our behalf for the sake of humanity. Time is of the essence. Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend.

The revenge of hubris

Coming now to the nickels, dimes, and the last dog days of what remains of this 69th August I’ve come to know— I leap like a gazelle, eat like a voracious crocodile as what to make of this corner of creation we find the capitalist system to have worked itself into.

Threshold landings taking shape

Threading the needle of my adulthood through the eye of my extended youth has been a work in progress. I delude myself imagining the unrequited love I’d found cavorting along the surfs edge with the throng of nubile bikini clad wanton darlings of times gone by. I the gallant gentleman volunteering to swab sunscreen onto their shoulders and backs. Trustable, useful and mesmerized. Infatuation needs to come with a better operator’s manual for the next visit should this reincarnation thing in fact be true.

The rules are the rules. Ignoring the rules will place at risk the chances of losing the whole game. Instead of that romp in the midnight sun along the shores edge you are left to eat alone at an open all-night Denny’s. Here is located the starting line in the race to win the purest love, a love like no other, the one that changes the solitude that has been eating away inside since being separated from my mom the first day of kindergarten .

Installation for fitting prior to staining

Landing decks have been fashioned. Ends of fresh cut lumber have been sanded, the planks screwed to the frames, rough edges sanded until they were as smooth as the shoulders in need of sunscreen, then coming back to the task at hand I stood the platform on end to stain the new exterior landing’s then let them dry while I drip with sweat in the late summer sun.

Maestro fully restored ready to sail

How I had steered the ship of my life into a boatyard to restore a wooden sailboat had to do with the hubris, this was the blunder I allowed to tyrannize any chance of my ever being less ambitious. I entertained a doozy, the one I nailed my future to, brash and confident that the restoration would take maybe 3 months tops when in fact it would turn into a 7-year task.

Journeyman pointing to the screw I had to extract

Right off the bat you need to know the odds of making it to the end was near zero. The project’s sole volunteer hadn’t much woodworking experience. The hull required 2500 screws to be fastened to fresh oak ribs that had been sistered into place alongside the existing worn ribs. Those laminated oak frames were steamed until bendable then buttered up with epoxy and slid quick into place before they stiffened. I’m exhausted just remembering how the project had trapped me, how there was no way out, that giving up when you are so close would be something I could not bare to carry in my heart, this the scar I knew would be a fatal wounding ending my best shot at living my best life. Quitting the project was not an option. It would be like giving up on everything I stood for, every ounce of character I’d earned, every bit of progress I had made, my phantom General’s had got me into a quagmire, and I would have to fight my way out against having underestimated the scale and scope entailed in the restoration of a wooden boat.

Every screw is bunged after sinking new fastener into fresh ribs

There were terrifying nights during the years while I was working on the sloop’s restoration. Tormented by my folly I’d awaken in a flop sweat. An all but impossible to remove rotted fastener on more than one occasion required the entire day to extract. The journeymen boatwrights in the yard knowing that they may not interfere, that if they did intercede and extract the screw that it would ruin any chance of my growing into a self-sufficient craftsman. The only way to learn how to stand on my own two feet would by being brought to my knees fighting tooth and nail against a screw. I prevailed only after failing in every other way I could devise. The shamanic confidence of the most able craftsmen in a boatyard is always the same, it is hard won, the success arrives only after all the failures have had their turn. A capable boatwright’s skills once earned are never lost.

I am still refining my talents. Being a husband welded by vowing then practiced each day not just by use of your best pieces but also by revision of your least workable parts is at least as stubborn a task as extracting a screw from the plank of a wooden boat.

Spring 2001-2007 from beginning to end

And then there is the ongoing pleasure of loving my daughter-now an adult-but always in my mind the kid. The unconditional nature of childrearing fuels the will to the lifelong task. Doing my best to improve the kid, the wife doing what she can to improve her husband, the journeymen boatwrights not interfering letting the wooden sloop work its will upon the novice craftsman… these are eternal frictions of nature at work. Endeavoring to unlock the mystery of how fixing a thing has the potential to make a well-lived life possible may not be so easy to explain, but it is true. The trial of restoring a wooden boat will render its verdict by etching to memory how you cannot quit a thing until it is complete, and finally when you arrive both boat and man have been forged by the challenge for the better.

Let the garden speak

August is aching over autumn’s scent. The vegetable patch has gone over to the other side. Sunflowers are on the edge of the dance floor. Romeo’s have all been thunderstruck, the only true optimists, the flitting lizards race from rock to rock. The squirrels only know love by lust of the feline skirt chasers. The neighborhood is haunted by brittle dry Monterey pines.

Hibiscus flowers are a powerful antioxidant

The Chinese mail carrier knows this misfit resident by first name. The Japanese maple in the front yard thinks me to be stingy, whereas in the backyard this red bark maple imagines I am a saint. Crows have been absent leaving me to wonder where they’ve taken off to. Acorn woodpeckers are beside themselves chattering away in the live oaks they are so fond of making home.

My neighbor no longer speaks to us without great discomfort, we planted photinia to remedy the view of his deferred maintenance. One day the photinia willing we will not peer into the disorganized cerebral cortex of our neighbor’s procrastinations. Nothing about his untidiness will change.

Voles are rampaging. Attempts to repel by castor oil have met with better than good results- but still they plunder the landscape like Robinhood’s, the rath of the king is soon. They have fallen all the corn stalks.

Heavy artillery is being brought in. Vegan paradox and Buddhist inspired directive to first do no harm, that it would be best if you do not execute the voles has by unanimous consent been voted down. We march on the voles at daylight.

Just One Fig

Then there is the solitary beauty of the one fig on the new tree. There are the hibiscus flower buds multiplying by the day. There is so much promise and such a paucity of tangible results. Gardens in my delusional blind date with fertilizer stir both feast and famine.

The two are concerned over my reincarnation

Chickens next door, in the back, the fence is wire, we can see each other, agreeing by eyesight there is much to recommend, we have a thing for one another, according to my gypsy king philosopher predictions the roost and will of the flock is on my side. There are lifecycles I hold in awe, this tormenting by egg laying is not on my list of things I would wish to try should I return reincarnated as a hen. Wish me luck. Karma because I’ve worked with chickens suggests my fate might well have already been sealed.

Ants made a dash for water at the kitchen sink. They have been removed. I sent a letter to their agent asking they not return we’re in the middle of a different scene from a different movie and it doesn’t include these rogue invaders.

Pole beans are coming up, the kale is not, the spinach hesitates. I’ve a whole furrow prepared for collard greens.

I’ve a pile of rocks I’ve promised to move on last time, after having moved them the last time on three previous occasions. Seems as if things change and the rocks mark the exact location of where the next changes are located.  I’m trying to imagine changing without having to move a pile of rocks. This appears to be harder to do than simply busting my butt moving a pile of rocks one more time. The house wren in my yard sees the futility in my actions and flitters about experiencing a deep knowing that this rock piler can’t possibly be a more intelligent species.

Our red Mandeville we hope will climb the new lattice work I’ve built. The ferns have been moved and are happy in their new neighborhood beneath the oaks. None of these preferences were known by this novice gardener. I’m getting the hang of understanding that under certain conditions each plant will thrive should their needs be met. Like the pile of rocks, I seem to have a knack for picking the perfect place for many of my plants to struggle.

Montara Manzanita

I have potted a manzanita that I will Banzai. Shears are sterilized. I’m waiting for this native bush to reveal itself further. This manzanita hales from the coastal hills of San Mateo County near Montara. I have taken a stinging bit of criticism for bringing this specimen 20 miles further inland than is native to this plant, but so far the glorious Montara manzanita likes what it sees.

On my short list of indigenous trees to plant are madrone and buckeye. Madrones are notorious for being difficult and this is believed to be a perfect fit since I am so difficult myself. Buckeye grow wild in the neighborhood, but I’ve had no luck sprouting one. This tree blossoms in early spring and loses its leaves by early July. I’ll put it near the Meyer lemon tree that tends to ripen its fruit in the last days of autumn. I think the two trees might appreciate one another for their being so out of sink with most all the other plants in the yard. This is the plant world theory of opposites attract.

I’ve revived much neglected roses that are now scaling new heights on posts and wires I’ve constructed. Raspberries are gaining height and putting on good size. I’ve a thornless marionberry I’m especially pleased with.

Grapevines require proper pruning. I’ve ordered more wire and stakes for the vines to use. Netting will likely be necessary to protect next years fruit.

Density seems to be something I have no knack for. I’d been warned to give my blueberry bushes plenty of space, so they don’t stress each other by being planted too close. The cantaloupe has wanted to do more. The yellow squash has overtaken one of the raised beds and will not concede an inch to its neighboring plants.

By late afternoon the patio umbrella is opened. I sit out of the sun where I’ll read. We’ve had lots of tomatoes, sunburst squash and basil to add to the pasta. I’d prefer whole wheat pasta but use chickpea pasta reasoning there is benefit in it providing my body with a good source of protein. I have no strength of character around whole wheat pasta and will finish off any amount I’ve cooked. I see this as a proxy battle where in my youth I would indulge in all manner of enticements, dancing until sunrise, sleeping until afternoon, kissing my loves until they were convinced, I’d imagined it was my kisses that had provoked their surrender.

Hard won wisdom like my pile of rocks I’m fated to move to make way for change is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Knowing better is not to be confused with authentic goodness. I take the chickpea pasta to be the proxy for knowing better and the authentic goodness to be the whole wheat pasta.

I mean to do good work in my garden but my strawberries know I am weak.

climate’s cosmic joyride

Air quality at my Google disclosed location in the San Francisco Bay Area is safe today. That’s one of the new not normal modes of the climate emergency. We had braced ourselves for our trip north knowing we’d be driving into bad air.

Near Red Bluff we entered wildfire smoke and traveled another 275 miles north beyond Roseburg in the thick of it. After just an hour into the experience smoke grew thicker, the veil of smoke impenetrable. The sky never was clear enough to see Mt. Shasta. Below the highway bridge we could just make out a drought ravaged Lake Shasta. If we’d not traveled the unsettling sights could have been kept out of mind. That’s the illusion of modern plumbing, we are detached from what makes our faucets flow. Who has time to think about reservoir levels?

That haze is smoke,

This summer’s triple digit temperatures have been too frequent. Unwelcomed blazing days and nights hit while traveling in Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California. Adjusting to heatwaves, coming to regard wildfires as commonplace, clinging to the hope the drought will break come early autumn, none of this is usual, none of this is how any of us grew up, nobody expected climate change to get this bad this soon. Too many tipping points have been breeched.

Smoke was so intense this last week, the further north our eyes began to burn, and our throats became scratchy. Windows were kept rolled up, we turned on the recirculating air function in our van.

Actors working in Ashland were scheduled to resume performing on July 31st. Forced to close because of the pandemic and now reopening in midst of such intense smoke must be one more unwelcome obstacle on a global scaled worrying mother of all obstacle courses. Actors trying to breathe the polluted air and speak for two hours on stage is futility fueled by air pollution. The circumstances are anything but business as usual.

Medford, Rogue River, Grants Pass were all covered in thick smoke. There was this bizarre-Apocalypse Now- sense of going upriver hunting for a Brando gone wildfire mad.  

Roadway ahead shouldn’t be so fuzzy-more smoke

We pumped fuel just north of Roseburg. Gas station attendant said the smoke was even worse last summer— that floored us— here was awful, last year was even worse. Checking the temperature, it was 107˚F late in the day. Our trip would take us west to the coast where it was forecast to be in the high 60’s. Air quality was good because there was a breeze pushing the smoke back from the ocean.

Winchester Bay morning walkabout

Our stay at Winchester Bay overnight was a relief. The following day we stayed in Newport, Oregon. Conditions were much the same.

We arrived in Seattle to more smoke and hotter near triple digit weather. Where we were staying, because until now hot weather is so infrequent, there has never been need for air conditioning. We tried but couldn’t sleep with the windows closed. Lucky for us air quality improved through the night so that when we woke in the morning monitoring stations indicated we had been breathing only moderately unhealthful air.

Saturday’s weather was improved from the day before. Smoke was present but in relative terms was tolerable for most of us. At risk populations with respiratory health issues were advised to remain indoors.

Every kind of emergency has been whipped together this summer. News broke arsonists appear to have had a hand in setting off the fires in Northern California. The Dixie Fire is now the largest wildfire ever in California state history.

We are still living behind the mask, racing to get more people vaccinated, trying to keep the economy open while setting up protocols so that customers may have the means of reliably proving they are vaccinated.

Lazy hazy smoke filled skies of summer

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but I might be telling you something you don’t want to think about. Our democracy is under assault from within our own borders by a political party that has lost faith in our government and is now obsessed with an autocratic fetish.

The Afghanistan withdrawal has revealed that our attempt to standup a military force in another country much as we tried in Iraq and Vietnam isn’t working and has never worked. This isn’t a rant about the Pentagon this is to point out that there are problems in the world that are unfixable.

Nothing is simple. Urging the hesitant to get vaccinated will help. Following strict guidelines to get our schools open is our best chance but remains risky. Large businesses demanding mandatory vaccinations for workers is a step in the right direction, but there are still too many millions that will remain unprotected.

Last week’s most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was unequivocal about the cause of the problem and what actions need to be taken to solve this crisis. All the world can see with their own eyes how conflicted and uncooperative various factions and interests can be. Action plans to solve the climate emergency requires consensus, this is the kind of international cooperation that has historically eluded humankind.

Returning south yesterday the smoke was gone in Roseburg but still set on Redding. Air quality has been hazardous in this region of Northern California since the still burning Dixie Fire started on July 14th.

It has come as no surprise on August 16th the Bureau of Reclamation has rung the alarm bell over the emergency drought conditions on the Colorado River. Tier 1 rationing will go into effect on January 1, 2022, and if it still hasn’t rained by next spring they expect Tier 2 rationing to go into effect soon after.

Central Arizona’s farmers will take the hardest hit first. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are desperate to help their rural constituents. But, rushing into the crisis trying to protect electoral prospects and not addressing the structural problems is no longer viable, the water shortages in the American West are here to stay.

Instead of thinking of this moment as a crisis we need to think of this as an opportunity to restructure our water system and that is a job that powerful special interests have had little reason to wish solved. Until now we have engineered our way around scarcity, moving water with pumps and aqueducts, building new reservoirs, diverting water from region to another, until there is no more water to use to put off the inevitability of the reality nature demands.

There is no more putting things off, crunch time is here, arriving with the pandemic, wildfires, biblically scaled downpours, melting polar caps and rising sea levels. The good news is that the warning lights on the dashboard have turned red and it is time to roll up our sleeves open that hood and get to work repairing the one world we’ve got to use for going on a civilization sized joy ride across a cosmos scaled by the eons.

You make the popcorn; I’ll bring the beer. Can’t wait to see how this thrill ride ends.

last stop everyone off

Superstition Mountains with Lacey and the Coyotes

For more than a decade every October I was the rarest of birds and traveled to Queen Creek, Arizona for work. Touring by truck and trailer I parked my rig in the field northeast of Rittenhouse and Cloud Road. Most years sheep were grazed adjacent to where I camped under the constant attention of a coyote hating sheepdog.

Mark and Carrie Schnepf run an entertainment farm in the easternmost corner of the Valley of the Sun. I would play my act on a lawn in the shade to family audiences seated on haybales presenting my juggling act and performing dog.

Back in 2000 Queen Creek was the end of the line, you couldn’t go further, Rittenhouse terminated here and all you could do was make a left and head toward the Arizona State Prison in Florence.

Audiences drove in from nearby Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler, Tempe, Phoenix, Scottsdale and even sometimes from Apache Junction. Locals referred to Apache Junction by its initials, and you want to elongate them, stretch them out— real’ good, you say, “A… J…”

Sunrise on Schnepf Farms

Mark Schnepf’s father settled this corner of the valley growing potatoes with groundwater. Other crops were grown too, but potato farming was the key commodity.

The water table began to sink lower, and the cost of electricity made it expensive to pump. Early settlers to this region could punch a well and hit water at 300 feet. By the 1950’s well drillers were having trouble finding water at a thousand feet.

It was 1993 when Queen Creek started getting some limited access to water from the just completed Arizona Central Canal Project. 

In 1990 the population of Queen Creek was 2500, in 2000 the town was twice that, and  is now home to over 51,000.

The explosive growth in this corner of Arizona has transformed a rural village into a traffic clogged suburb. At one point they were throwing up houses on this side of the valley at a clip of 10,000 per month. Then there are all the cars, schools, churches, and shopping centers. Occupants to the new homes arrived with children, if they happened to be members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints they arrived here with lots of children.  

San Tan Mountains for a Hike

By 2010 morning commutes were bumper to bumper, traffic signals were in such short supply they trailered in portable units to help unsnarl the busiest intersections.

Mark Schnepf and his family treated me as one of their very own. I had the run of the place. I could use the machine bays, fix my brakes, change sparkplugs, move around on the property as I needed. His most skilled farmworkers were housed on the land too and worked all year long, many have been with Mark since his childhood. The nanny that had raised Mark was the same nanny that helped raise Mark and Carrie’s children.

Big cotton growers were active just south of the farm. Acreage measured in the thousands. If you drove the area you’d see alfalfa fields, corn and citrus.

Schnepf Farms was a way to add value to what you could grow, and the entertainment programming was an enterprising device to drum up some buyers for what you had to offer that way you could sell for retail and cut that wholesaler out of the process altogether.

My Boss Carrie Schnepf with Lacey the Performing Dog

Most of what Mark Schnepf grows is in support of the entertainment programming. He planted pumpkins for Halloween, peaches for the spring festival, corn for a maze to walk around in, vegetable crops to serve at the farm café and bakery.

Schnepf Farm grows a lot of pumpkins for the October event. Pumpkins became so in demand he’d have extra shipped in from more water abundant farming districts.

Friday nights I’d drive north into Apache Junction to go two-stepping at the local country and western saloon. Dancing was fun, beer was cold, and conversation was colorful.

Monsoons arrived this summer, but the drought is still on. Unless you ranch, farm, or run a water dependent business the water shortage doesn’t occupy the front of your mind.

Just south of Queen Creek the San Tan Valley exploded onto the map going from a population of near zero to 96,000 in just 20 years. Two thirds are white, much of the rest are hispanic. New homebuyers moved here from other parts of the valley to get a newer bigger home for lower prices than are available as you get closer into the valley’s center.

San Tan Valley is inhabited by a people with no living memory of a place that until the new century was essentially an empty and desolate desert. San Tan Valley’s culture is in process, it is undergoing development, shaped by the new social media driven world. Your children may have gone to school here, but you didn’t, your parents didn’t, there was no here to grow up in.

Friction is building between the farms and the residents, the reasons are always the same, it’s because of the water. Some farmers saw the writing on the wall and sold their land off to developers. Get out while the getting was good.

The biggest impact of the climate shifting to being slightly dryer and hotter is that there is less water. Adapting to the shortage is uneven, some are hit harder than others. One farm because of their proximity to the Gila River continues to get their full allotment while another newer farm with subordinated water rights in a dry year is entitled to none.

Special Pyro Picture taken at Night at Schnepf Farms

Plenty of ink has been spilled on the unthinkable immediate impact of wildfire and drought. Much less attention has been given to what will come of the people here in the San Tan Valley should this drought persist. Is such a place able to survive such a crisis? Can the government function? If the drought grinds on access to residential water will become more expensive. If that doesn’t do the trick rationing will be mandated, if you use more than allowed, you’ll be fined, if you still flout the rules your water will be cut off.

If the drought persists water will be cut completely to agriculture. Herds will be auctioned off, farm equipment sold, farms and ranches foreclosed on with banks left to dispose of property certain to be worth much less, solvency issues would sure to take a bite out of the banks equity.  

Paramount to all of this is to do with the climate emergency and whether it could trigger the collapse of civilization. What keeps planners at the Pentagon awake nights has to do with cataclysmic events that trigger mass migrations, trigger skirmishes between factions in a community, the kinds of events not witnessed in North America ever before. Can our social and economic order be sustained by communities struggling through a water crisis? You start off with the given that Arizona’s politics runs hot as molten steel. I don’t know that we can know for sure if Arizona’s politics is configured to withstand such a jolt. Predictions are many, answers are few, your guess is as good as mine.

On the other side of the coin is that I know who these people are, I don’t know them by their political point of view. I know them as an audience, I have entertained these families not once or twice but for a decade. I know their hearts and minds. I know parents that love their children with everything they have. Still, for a place touched by such a crisis it will require truthful leaders, there won’t be any room for scapegoating, no finger pointing will get anyone one more drop of water, no blaming and complaining will fill a reservoir.

Scientists haven’t taken any pleasure in forecasting the impact climate change could make on civilization. Over the past half decade in California drought induced wildfires have erupted and the entire state has suffocated for days under a thick smokey haze. Firefighters struggle for months against these massive wildfires. Citizens have had to flee their homes. Whole towns have been lost. Greenville in the Dixie Fire is just yesterday. If the drought continues crunch time will arrive here in the San Tan Valley. Next year could give Arizona its first glimpse of the consequences of a changing climate. What will we do then?

Lacey retired after 5000 shows this was a good dog

What can we do now? Support climate mitigation efforts. Support expanding renewable energy technologies. Sell your gas-powered vehicle and buy an electric automobile or truck. Fly less. You don’t have to give up meat and dairy but use it wisely, be frugal, remember factory farmed animals are a gateway for zoonotic diseases that can cross over to humans and trigger worldwide pandemics. Urge your representatives to update water laws and land use policy. Perhaps the biggest problem is finding a way to keep the gas, oil and coal in the ground. Deploying regenerative farming practices, making steel with hydrogen powered furnaces, concrete too. The technology already exists, what is lacking is the sheer force of our political will to get the job done like right now, with no turning back. We can do this. The time has come.

quick takes-none fake’s

“My people will be in touch with your people.” I got my ear down to the ground, listening for footsteps.

Reporting from Ft. Collins, Colorado my source informs me that going outside sucks, that air quality from the western wildfire season has been unnerving, “apocalyptic is not too strong a word.” They are all but ready to begin taking antidepressants.

Garage Available

Covid-19 infections have gone back up on the Navajo Nation. My sources tell me they relaxed and let their guard down too soon. Our people of the first nation have been hit hard and too many have died.

Further south in Patagonia my sources report the monsoons have turned the high desert of Santa Cruz County a verdant green, that there is an upswing in hope, but this hamlet of a few thousand people feel that they are getting a little out over their rural anti-venom and ration of whiskey for such hope to be harvested, canned and setup in the pantry for future difficulties.

I note last weekend the annual Buena Vista, Colorado burro race was held. Happy burros trotting along a fourteen-mile course with their ever-faithful partners galloping alongside. Running a half marathon from 7800’ to 11,000’ is what fun looks like up here.

Needs some work

My sources from Amador City (smallest town in California by size-198 acres) reports the turtles down in the creek are getting along, the bocce ball court has been groomed and ready for a tournament to breakout at any moment. It has been hot, dry and that the wasps have been aggressive this summer.

Report from Napa came in triggered by a grassfire that had set off more post traumatic stress disorders in survivors of the numerous larger regional wine country wildfires of the last 5 years.

Hiking out of Afton, Wyoming has been a near religious experience. Recent monsoonal events have turned the Vista Prater Trail muddy but passable with rewarding views not a mile up into the watershed.

An Oregon horse breeder moving a stud on Interstate 5 had a tire on their trailer blow and reported cigarette butts, aluminum cans and improperly disposed facemasks littering the side of the highway where repairs were made. Especially the risk of fire induced by careless cigarette tossed from vehicles provoked breeder to wonder, “What are people thinking?”

Particularly curvaceous Edmonton, Alberta friend has set down into words what concerns her this summer. “You don’t know fear until you tried on a dress too small and thought you were stuck in it forever.”

All roses lead to Georgia O’Keefe

Harstine Island in the Puget Sound suffered from the heatwave until they didn’t. Brave souls are raising a second schipperke and reporting the dog is as disobedient as their former untrainable schipperke and that the cooler weather has been good for the blooming ranunculus. Wildfire smoke has not been too bad… yet.

Pot farming in British Columbia continues. From an undisclosed location somewhere in the interior my source reports a good crop will be ready for harvest by the end of August. No word yet on how morel hunting has gone or if chanterelles are ready just yet. Border between USA and Canada is due to open soon, or was, that may be put off due to the virus.

Call of the Wild with the Wildest of All

While in British Columbia reported all time high temperature of 92.7 degrees Fahrenheit was set on Saltspring Island in July. I am to understand that online poker games were played as scheduled and that the Saltspringers complained but that the grousing changed nothing.

Laurel Canyon, California contacts have moved back aboard their ketch rigged sailboat at Channel Island Harbor. Escaping San Fernando Valley summer heat to idle away the balmy August days along the coast has hopes on high.

Still, it is wildfire season, the summer has been hotter than average, and it appears the delta-variant has muted the luster of better days, that we’d turned the corner on the pandemic and a more normal life was soon in reach is now beyond our fingertips.

A piece of what we are living through has to do with resilience, to do with endurance, and piece to do with our vaccinated population coaxing our unvaccinated resistors to come to their senses and do the right thing and help us bring this pathogenic trail of sickness, hospitalization, and death to an end.

A low-pressure disturbance off the Cape Verde Islands in the Atlantic is being watched carefully as this potential hurricane begins tracking west across the Atlantic toward the Gulf of Mexico.

neptune as timekeeper

Sky full of clouds

Monsoonal weather swept up from the south passing over the San Francisco Bay Tuesday.  Warnings of the potential for lightening storms had been downgraded as the center of the weather system passed further offshore than had been forecast.

Just west of Benicia’s harbor we sailed off our anchorage at Dillion Point. No two days are the same on the water, expectations are traps, best to keep an open mind and ready for anything attitude.

Still after Monday’s return from the delta and then our rites of passage through the Suisun Bay we didn’t have the stomach for another dog’s life sail.

Callouses on our hands were raw from pulling the lines the day before. Our overnight had been a boisterous feast whipped up by the sailboat’s chef. We drank good wine. A quick anchor check to be sure we were holding. Bedtime came early, the anchoring light was switched on, the rest of the lights were turned off.

After coffee and mush we hoisted sails and tacked out of the channel beyond C&H Sugar on the Crocket side of the Carquinez Strait. For a spell we had enough breeze to keep the boat moving. By 10:00 AM the wind dropped then vanished altogether only the ebbing tide kept us headed to home port.

Factory for Sugar

By 1:00 PM we beat bow to wind toward the San Rafael Bridge, the ebb was at its end and the flooding incoming tide began to push against us. We might have used the motor but since Monday we’d been cursed with an odd rattle, thinking it might be the vessel zincs on the propeller shaft, whatever the problem, it had been making an awful racket. The skipper and his crew discussed our options, deciding together that it safer to sail. Even if we would only get what the light winds and strong counter currents would give us, we calculated the snails pace a better bet than becoming impatient.

When we first hoisted sails, we’d thought if we could find the prevailing winds that we would be arriving at home port by now, but the westerly’s never filled in and the mysterious rattle kept us on edge. We continued sailing in mere whisps of breeze. Light air sailing is a much finer circumstance. Over the course of an hour zigzagging southward, the boat clawed its way through the water taking every extra effort and attention to make our way past the bridge, Red Rock and to the approach of the channel into Richmond’s harbor.

Setting up a mark on the global positioning system (GPS) I’d entered the final waypoint, the mark that would take us to our destination, the last leg of our trip. We needed to make good on 8-9 more miles. In a full breeze the last piece of our journey might take a bit more than an hour. Sailing at 2-3 knots these last miles according to the GPS were predicted to take at our current course and speed to require another 4 hours.

I told my first mate that we were due home by the end of this century—that there was plenty of food and water—that for reasons difficult to know these two days have worked according to powers higher than our own—that we were fated to return from the delta to Emeryville by some other set of schedules and expectations—that our well laid plans were not what Neptune had wanted for us—that if there was even one more adverse force unleashed upon our sorry souls—that together we would need to seek the help of a shaman—to cast off the curse that seems to have devoured our luck—our good fortunes had run plum out.

Sailors look for any ripple of wind on the surface of a still body of water. You steer away from the mirror like surface toward these ruffling patterns. We got hold of a better wisp of wind, then set a favorable angle and shaped our course for the end of the Berkeley Pier.

We had no reason to get cocky, the winds had come and gone all day, teasing us for a few minutes then vanishing, that’s how it had been. Another hour had crept by, we were still making some progress, perhaps one mile further by zigzagging two miles back and forth against the current.

Islands in the Stream

By 3:00 PM changes were afoot. Ahead it was sure there was plenty of wind, more than enough, we could see the winds, there were whitecaps, if we could get there before this hope for a shot at getting off the water was gone, if we could get out of this hole, these doldrums, this rare monsoonal depression that had toyed with us for the last two days.

Then, as if by practical joke we found plenty of wind and more and went tearing south screaming along as fast as the boat will sail. I was on the low side steering, Richard my crewman on the high side grabbing hold to the boat while we rocketed toward the Bay Bridge on the east side of Yerba Buena Island. Winds were blowing from the west at 30 knots.

Laughing we hid in the lee of the island and lowered the main and would finish in this teasing maelstrom on headsail alone. Once at the dock we made quick work of putting the boat away. Down below we shared a bit of whiskey and split one can of beer. We laughed about our two days out on the water, the weather fit no pattern, being surprised had cost us, we might have gone about all of this another way, for one thing we might have waited in Owl Harbor, that might be the first thing to have tried before we opened the door to tempt all these flying monkeys to come into our lives.

Fixer of Demons

Postscript… The following day the diver that cleans the boats bottom went over the side and reported he had to use his knife to remove seaweed, netting and fishing line that had gotten tangled around the propeller—there was a stinking mess below we had sailed with for two days—hard to know how we’d even made it back—prevailing as we did against all the stubbornness and expectations.

Suisun Bay’s Flying Monkeys

Owl Harbor the day before

Owl Harbor curves like a crescent moon in the delta off of the San Joaquin River. The entrance to the slough is landmarked by the scuttled remains of a tug and dredging crane abandoned decades ago.

Boats vary in size and type. There are old motorboats, a newer 45’ ocean going catamaran. It wouldn’t be the delta if there were not variously configured houseboats, the most common are constructed with aluminum siding. One in particular featured four potted pomegranate trees, not large but well fruited.

All kinds of boats for all kinds of people. This is the time of year when the playful are jumping off watercraft into the water. Whole swarms of enthusiasts congregate in the water with a favorite floating device and beverage and for hours to idle away the afternoon together with their barking dogs.

Deverey is the harbor master. This is a skilled position. You’ll need to be able to spot a roustabout at first glance, former outlaws and a weak willed man that may soon become a lawbreaker. Since women can go bad too it takes some sixth sense to flush out the soul that may be in a corner of their own making and all too ready to entangle Owl Harbor in their drama.

This is just plain old everyday run of the mill way that the human condition and a boat harbor interact with one another.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Barry aboard a rather out of its place sports fisher, something you might see of Cabo San Lucas, in the Carolinas, maybe Key West. This is a the curviest vessel visiting Owl Harbor, the light green hull has been buffed out, two voracious CAT C18 diesels are resting below in the engine bays. Long of tooth, rascal and renegade, Barry appears to have wrapped his fate around his dreamboat, living the 60 gallons an hour at 20 knots all head full speed dream.

This is how it is here at Owl Harbor. Barry will move to Half Moon Bay in September then cruise south to Catalina Island by the middle of October. No right thinking mariner will linger this far north once the summers over and the first edge of autumn has been spent.

Up with first light and into a monster ebbing tide against a wee bit stronger blow than had been accounted on. This return to San Francisco Bay was harsh pounding against steep chop and a moody gray frothy and foaming sea. We feared the flying monkeys would soon attack, then a bolt of lightening, a refinery explosion could end our journey. We pounded against the Suisun Bay’s unkindness.

My second on this passage has sailed south to ports of call south of San Francisco. We have visited Monterey, Morro Bay and Ventura. Nothing was as belligerent and unwelcoming as yesterdays bashing into what Suisun Bay had on offer.

We redoubled our efforts. Every move, every effort was made to get the boat through and keep crew safe. A few days before sailing into Owl Harbor took all of 4.5 hours time. This return to Benicia extracted 10 hours.

We were concerned about being struck by asteroids, a train derailment and catastrophic crash off a trestle that might sink our boat and end our one chance at this thing called life. What other unanticipated horror might befall the fate of two chastened mariners?

We could be run down by a cargo ship, boarded by pirates, eaten by sharks, drenched head to toe by such a procession of waves as to leave us shivering our timber’s, and indeed the Suisun provided an infinite dousing of our desire for something slightly more gentle than what we were to receive.

With grit and grim dark humor we sailed on into the teeth of this beast of a mere ordinary Monday in late July. It was not hot as was the day before, it was overcast and the sky murky, gloom was hung into the heavens and there to see. Late afternoon we set our anchor in Dillion’s Point. Safe and sheltered now, thirsty and hungry, just another day of playing with boats.

Anchored safe at Dillion’s Point

We both spoke of flying monkeys because our trip out of the delta back to the San Francisco Bay could not have been more frightful. We took a good one yesterday and gave it all we had. You are sure you didn’t want to be there. I promise you the Suisun will give you all the hell you will ever care to take..

the scorching truth arrives

Enter reality on the boil as the consequences of hotter days become an irrefutable fact of a world facing peril. Distant and vague no longer hipsters on Capitol Hill in Seattle are having their own personal polar bear moment.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justine Trudeau facing a ticklish problem continues to voice his support of Alberta’s tar sands extraction. For now, puckish political raconteur can offer support for these life threatening fossil fuels, but there is a global campaign underway to make mass environmental destruction, known as ecocide an international crime similar to genocide and war crimes. The new law would in part make it illegal to commit a crime against nature, not just a crime against people.

The proposal states, “For the purpose of the Statute, “ecocide” means unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of sever and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts.”

Rude awakenings have been the hallmark of the Anthropocene epoch. Crafty political operatives give and receive orders verbally one on one, nothing on paper, no witnesses, leaving no legal trail, no fingerprints, no self-incriminating evidence. Incitement to riot can’t be charged without ironclad evidence of the speaker’s state of mind. Wink-wink-nod-nod…so it goes.

Three weeks ago, I was caught in a heatwave on Interstate 70 in Utah where it was 107˚F. Too exhausted to continue driving but still only 3:00 PM I parked beneath cottonwood trees at the Green River State Park waiting for sunset. It was near the same temperature at 8:00 PM. I’d used damp rags and a spray bottle to relieve myself of the heat. By 10:00 PM I could sleep. Hotels in town had all jacked their rates up above $200. Price gouging in a heatwave isn’t a good look for the national hotel chains.

When setting up our van we’d declined installing a rooftop air conditioner. Until this heatwave hit, we had been a bit high handed and dismissive of the potential for extended days of hot weather.

Then, a week later the heatwave hit the Pacific Northwest. On June 30th Lytton, British Columbia hit an all-time high temperature record of 49.6 °C (121.3 °F). On July 1st this little village north of Vancouver was destroyed by wildfire.

Oregon reported 116 people died from the heatwave, Washington reported 78. In British Columbia officials there estimated as many as 500 died. My liquid dance with a damp cloth and spray bottle in Green River served as a warning.

Then yesterday tropical storm Elsa dumped over New York City flooding portions of Manhattan’s subway system.

More deer in headlights and polar bears swimming in a sea searching for the missing ice their lives depend upon.

Lobbyists for Exxon were caught out boasting about their efforts to block climate change legislation. Keith McCoy, the oil giant’s senior director for federal relations described Senator Joe Manchin was their “kingmaker.” Apparently, the ecocide legislation can’t be put into effect quick enough.

In this digitized go-go ever hotter world, there is this sickening feeling that we simply do not have enough time or enough people willing to step up to the fight to save civilizations incessant march toward self-immolation.

Much of what appears to be the disintegration of the Republican Party is perhaps simply a tantrum thrown by the fossil fuel lobby. This is my theory. It makes some sense. Tax break fanatics and deregulatory addicts realize that the jig is up. Cornered, desperate, masks off and in fully revealed white nationalist mode it may just be that most of the Republican Party’s disenchantment with the two-party system has more to do with Caucasian constituents that would prefer to continue burning natural gas, oil, and coal. Civilization’s self-induced existential threat is a wee bit too thick a plot to interrupt the titans of big business and their marionette controlled double dealing politicians.

Hurricane season portends all manner of chaos, the Left Coast heatwaves have everyone on wildfire watch, the drought that effected half of the American West last year has now got a grip on 98% of this vital agricultural region.

Even Florida’s Surfside condo collapse appears rooted in the twin issues of deregulatory fervor and climate change induced high tides that may have helped undermine the buildings foundation.

I meet more and more millennials born between 1981-1996 forgoing having children. If like my daughter you grew up with a dot-com crash, non-existent weapons of mass destruction Iraq War, global financial crisis and finally a full-on as of now 4 million people killed global pandemic you can sort of see how things don’t seem to be working out quite like the millennials had been promised.

Reality keeps punching the earth in the nose. A pair of jacked-up billionaires are racing each other into suborbital space. More and more of us are learning to grow our own vegetables, we’re busy trying to master the art of permaculture and perfect regenerative farming methods.

Time does not appear to be our friend. The clocks nearly run out on our planet. We’re cutting this chance to do something to save the planet razor thin. Bringing my own grocery bags is quaint, recycling virtuous, while the 10 most carbon polluting multinationals remain defiant.

Everyone has basically run off in every direction seeking a piece of the action on the one hand or trying hard as all hell to put that hot sweet genie back in the bottle.  

I’d been warned by my doctor that if I didn’t straighten out, he’d order me put on statins and if I disobeyed his orders he’d quit me as a patient and go find a more cooperative clientele. I didn’t want to eat whole food plant-based diet but congestive heart failure, stroke and god knows what else might happen persuaded stubborn SOB to change. The first year was difficult learning to cook and prepare food I’d never prepared before. By the end of the second year, I was actually able to feel satiated after supper. Now at the end of 6 years I’m delighted to have escaped from eating factory farmed animals. That includes fish, dairy, and bee’s honey.

Eating lower down on the food chain spares the world so many stresses. Plant based diets use less water and land. By now science has warned that crowding animals into feedlots is a recipe for breeding pathogens that could cross over and trigger another pandemic.

I know, I know, so many of you are not ready, the idea of upending your eating habits is not welcomed.

Most of my career I’ve worked outdoors in the sun for audiences gathering in the fairer seasons of the year. In August of 2009 I worked at the Kentucky State Fair where it became so hot that animal control authorities suspended the exhibition of all performing animals. Humans could continue to perform but they described the hazards faced by performing animals to be so great as to be life risking.

If I were starting out again, I’m not sure a career as an outdoor entertainer would be the best choice. On average we had enough good days to make living with the hottest days a reasonable bet, you could probably get by and likely the weather wouldn’t be too hot, things were still workable.

Then Seattle on June 26-27-28 posts three days of triple digit record breaking high temperatures. The usually benign city along the Puget Sound hit 102°F on June 26th, 104°F on the 27th and a record setting 108°F on the 28th. This high temperature record is hotter than records for New York City, Washington DC, or Atlanta.

This whole doing thing has a nice ring to my ears. We’ll need to sweat the big stuff, saddle up a capable posse and corral some of the miserly miscreants in our midst. Then, all of us pipsqueaks we can do better too, but these Goliaths need a good punch in the kisser. You know everyone acts like they’re going to win a fight until they get socked in the face with a hard right hand.

You’re not alone, this sense of the world going off the rails isn’t your imagination, we’ve got us a pretty good pickle of a problem and we’re all about to find out if mankind can step up and meet the moment. Are you ready, or do you just want to play more pretend, like nothing bad happens here? What will it be?

Author-Entertainer