All posts by Dana Smith

Author and Entertainer

Leaver Fever

Road to Troy, Oregon

Eastern Oregon wants to secede from the government in Salem and throw in with Idaho. Eligible voters in favor of secession voted in the majority even if the total number of Eastern Oregon voters does not add up to more than 20,000 of these quitters.  

Snowballs in hell have a better chance of becoming Idahoans than those nut ball socially conservative anti-problem solvers.

Same things happening in Colorado where folk in Greeley want to go steady with Wyoming. Rural Americans are in a tizzy and a doozy. Diversity is regarded as the near kin to perversity. Seems like the closer you live to a functioning tractor, blacksmith or feed and tack shop the more likely you are to have gone plumb loco over what’s going on in America’s traffic choked big cities.

You drill down and what you find is that rural folk hate playing by the rules. You want to divert water and depending upon the science and available resources they might say maybe or maybe not. You’re standing on the banks of the Colorado River and there’s plenty of water, you can see the flowing river with your own naked eyes, what in hell is going on? The story out west is mostly the same, everybody is dirt rich and water poor.

Cooking up some grub and gossip

Fascist fighting Portlanders have this bonkers ecosystem mentality. Seems like some folk’ see a river that is hundreds of miles long and have the audacity to regard the waterway holistically. What is happening at the beginning and end is also part of all the activities happening every mile in between. Makes an East Oregonian want to make birth control retroactive, I hear some are reconsidering their opposition to abortion.

Fever dreams triggered by sagebrush and pinion pine nuts will land you in the cowboy poetry contest in Elko, Nevada. One thing for sure is rural westerners do enjoy saddling up their horses and slow walking out on things they can no longer stomach. It isn’t just a mental disability exclusive to American’s, rural folks in Alberta have not one kind word for politicians sorting out the nation’s problems in Ottawa. Quebec was hell bent on leaving but they can stay right where they are, no need to go anywhere Canada’s western provinces might walk out on them first.

What gets my gall is how hot heads can go blind when the fat lady has already sung, and the dance floor is disserted. I mean what if Boise, Idaho goes out of its ever-loving mind and ends up becoming a Pelosi sympathizer? What in God’s good name are a bunch of rifle toting rebels going to do then.

A bunch of lunatic libertarian Silicon Valley bitcoin con artists waxed about building barges they could place just offshore beyond our nations boundaries so that they could escape from the burdens of living under the rule of law. I’d recommend we take them up on that and appointed Zuckerberg to track their data and clog their feed with cheerful stories about well-adjusted happy people that love America.

You walk out on your girlfriend, hire a divorce attorney, no longer send out Christmas cards and don’t talk to anyone at the gym because you never go. You like barrel racing, rodeo clowns and busted up brahma bull riders. You wait five years to get a permit to hunt elk hike out into the backcountry and never even fire a shot. The elk are nowhere to be found and even the deer want nothing to do with you. You aren’t just onery you are miserable to even be around.

Happy farming in California

Driving south last week on Highway 101 from San Francisco to Los Angeles I spent a fair amount of my good time reflecting upon the agricultural splendor. From Salinas all the way to Paso Robles there are miles and miles of farms growing food that ends up on our table. I’m talking salad fixings, broccoli, cauliflower, string beans, artichokes and avocados. I didn’t see any disaffected Americans running their mouths off about how rotten things are. I saw hard working farmworkers driving good-looking cars, some were near good as new, whole scads of these men and women were scattered across vast tracts of farmland bringing in the harvest, getting the food Americans eat ready to ship out to supermarkets across our nation.

Further south I saw productive farming activity in San Luis Obispo County, Santa Barbara County and Ventura County, I counted blessings and abundance even in the teeth of a megadrought for over 250 miles.

I’m going out on a limb here and suggesting maybe all those rural East Oregonians might do the world a favor and trade in all that hay growing for vegetable crops. Get rid of that cowboy hat, horse and all those cattle that you’ve been fattening for slaughter. Cow killing might be what’s bothering you out there. I bet you’d be happier growing fava beans. I bet these little towns that you live in, you know the towns that keep getting smaller and smaller because everyone sooner or later leaves and never comes back, I bet you’d all be happier running a big crew of farmworkers on your land. I bet the path to a better place is learning how-to live-in balance with nature, welcome people to your community, especially people that look and think different than you and your kind. Turn off the television and put on some classical music. I don’t mind churchgoing but for heavens sake tell your preacher to stick to the good Lord’s word. You know things like being kind, helping others, caring for those less fortunate than yourself.

It is not so hard once you get the knack of it. You just learn to be nice to the deer and queer. Take a moment to appreciate all these sorts of differences and take pleasure in our diversity, how our all being different beats our all being pissed off and the same.

With the world about to blow through the 8 billion people on the planet we seem to be getting testy and acting like there’s still room to be a miserable loner, like doing your own thing is nobody’s business but your own and you are 100% certain you don’t have to do a single thing anyone tells you.

Oregon Rainbow

Sounds to me like you had best finish your supper, brush your teeth, go to bed and when I see you in the morning you might try finding that better self you are always bragging about. This experiment in self government begins right where you are standing, it is in that face looking back at you in the mirror, that’s what needs some tending and mending. Let’s face the truth of the matter, you don’t polish your own boots and you gave up square dancing for bingo night.

I never liked barbwire. It was part of our original sin against nature. Husbands don’t like feeling tied down, and cows and horses are smart enough to know where and when to come home. I know you have no idea how this is going to work without having something to be angry about, all this peace and quiet could bring on a wave of contentment like you’ve never known. That grouch in the mirror might just smirk and wink back at you. Try smiling, get rid of the chewing tobacco, reduce your total fat intake, and drink more water. I’ll see you back here in a month, I suspect I’ll find a whole new happier and healthier you.

white striped wayfaring

          

Sunshine Grocery Morro Bay

I departed the Bay Area midday for Morro Bay. Arriving late that afternoon at the seaside hamlet I shopped at Sunshine Grocery mingling with my kind, all of us in social isolation behind our masks. My tribe arrives by Volkswagen micro bus to shop here for organic vegetables and dry goods. Shoppers know each other by temperament, culinary tastes, and the cheerful scent of patchouli oil. Here is a place where the smell of time stands still.

Along the waterfront there are clustered a wide range of gin joints, eateries, and trinket shops. Seafood restaurants are popular with outdoor decks situated so patrons might admire the fishing fleet inbound with their fresh catch motoring up the entrance channel. Unloading mournful gulls quarreling with each other burdened with an unquenchable hunger for even a scrap, a tasty morsel, a fin would do fine, anything—- please, before I lose my seagull faith in mankind—- Right minded mariners know to share their bounty with the animals that they go to sea with. You can tell the gulls and fishermen are attached, the gulls want nets, and the men wish for wings to soar upon.

 Standup paddle boards are available by the hour, motels by the day, and a lifetime can be purchased at the local real estate offices. Most of the eternity in Morro Bay types hike up to Main Street where vows are sworn, escrow waits, and closing documents are signed. If foggy days are your pleasure this is your home.

Returning south by sailboat later this year I intend to rent a mooring ball off the waterfront. Discussing the notion of tethering hopes and dreams in Morro Bay’s lagoon this weak-willed sailor spoke with Tom Varley sailor-surfer-skateboarder friend and it was quick work to see that a month-to-month drift in the rising and falling tides would sate the thirst for the other piece of what wayfarers crave. In Morro Bay mortgages, marriages and drifting on mooring balls is an improbable right decision.

Plunging further south picking up my wife at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, my tempestuous life partner having escaped Colorado’s Front Range spring weather, the two of us made a quick dash on the interstate and shoehorned our lives into our friend’s Glassell Park bungalow. Dodger Stadium is nearby, the Los Angeles River closer yet. There was this odd certainty that we had entered the belly of the congested parking beast. Breaking free from our pandemic solitude, now choking on a humanity that numbers in the tens of millions, the big city hum audibly present not imaginary, we relished the inconvenience of the Southern Californian traffic choked quagmire.

Nina and Martin, mariners and mongers of dreams whipped of creams derived of long voyages would surrender their guest room. All of us, four pandemic weary survivors were intoxicated with the vaccinated companionship.

This is a meringue of four rascals that want vegetable gardens, unbound horizons and lives made of not having to think twice because it’s alright about their children’s lives. Martin continues to prepare his sailing vessel for drifting off La Paz. From spinnaker to water maker there is fitted onto his center cockpit sailing sloop all manner of apparatus, appliance and labor saving device.

 Nina wishes to be puttering about beneath her hat in her vegetable garden in Glassell Park and then on weekends dashing south by jet to toss away day upon day away aboard their sailing vessel Gratitude. Never mind the contradictory web of complications, I predict both will happen and to each end their hopes will find waiting the reward of a lazy Sea of Cortez cruising life mated to the bustle of a home in LA.

Holding two places in our imagination, being present in one while imagining the pleasures found waiting at this other is the essence of gypsy soul. This is what I term the penitentiary of wanderlust, a kind of intuitive boneheaded knowing that you are not suited to remaining still, and digging in, that you’ll need to cure restlessness and your walkabout craving, that you will be sentenced to a life of changing latitudes and longitudes all in the daffy search of dispelling the demon of sameness.      

Skating the wall- Tom Varley

Monday I was in Oxnard skateboarding, more properly termed, skating with the talented Tom Varley. Tommy is a great one, great skater, great sailor, great dog caregiver. Happy his Jack Russell howls at his Tommy Varley itch. There are more greats to Tom’s greatness. Most important to know is that Tommy loves his work, and he doesn’t have a job, at least no job in the conventional sense, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t work, he is likely the hardest worker among the whole fool bushel of us.

Tattoo artist, mother, wife, and roller skating lifelong Californian phenomenon Alma joined us at the skate park. Our meeting was a first encounter. I whittled away my non-skate time learning about Alma’s soul and inspiration. Latina, piercings plenty, tattooed with abandon evermore youthful in looks, all of 27 but could pass for 16, two boys, a husband, her spouse she has known since 7th grade, this is a kindred West Coast spirit. Twice she had tried leaving. First was a job in North Carolina, but racism was annoying so back she came. The second time she tried Klamath Falls but boredom and long winters finished that dream off. Skatepark patron Alma born in Oxnard has an inner bell that chimes to be center ring dancing with a thousand clowns.

With sunrise on Wednesday Waldo landed at Los Angeles International Airport from Hilo. We bivouacked along the edge of the San Gabriel Mountains; the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was a stone throw further east. Dinner, drinks and debriefing ensued.

In the morning we drove south to Compton. Wally’s car arriving by ship from Hawaii had been delivered to a logistics operator. A long drive north back up to the Bay Area would eat our day. Tomorrow’s itinerary was full and growing fuller.

Waldo playing with a top hat

Waldo because of the virus ended up stuck on the Big Island on a surprise extended stay package. Technically the retired juggler could have comeback to the mainland but to what end? His remote home carved into the heart of the island’s rainforest was an ideal place to wait out the pandemic. We should all be so miserable and lucky. As bad as island fever can be, how awful the trap of going incessantly in circles can irritate, there’s being stuck dodging the potentially infected living virus carriers here on the continent too, and this having to avoid the living is its own kind of annoying restrictiveness.

John Park once from California now living in Toronto was back in the Bay Area for work. Fred Anderson has lived his entire life on Nob Hill in San Francisco. Dan Holtzman another juggler and East Bay resident dropped everything to swing by. I am another juggler here too. All of us have circled the globe scuffing up a buck working gigs for our supper. Pro’ jugglers spare no moment with mindful silence, it isn’t possible. Worrisome signs of age are all about. There is hair loss and worse still there is this glacial sense that we are becoming better at listening.

Wally lingered another day before rolling east for Illinois. He tried Nevada’s Highway 50, that put the fear of solitude in his soul, and because of this terror of loneliness he has changed course and gone south through Kingman, Arizona where he is now east in Gallup, New Mexico.

I am back for the moment. I’ve chores to do, a van to wash, food to buy and a spring journey across the Great Basin to embark upon. The garden is planted, and I’ve news my spouse is weary of Denver’s turbulent spring. I’ve been tasked to buy a new umbrella for the patio, as if that might keep us home more, my wife and I both have our doubts, but we’ll try to be still, for as long as being still lasts, until the want of change overtakes our being present here. The penitentiary of travel has us hook and line, ball and chain. People can be like swallows, we are sheepherders, nomads. Horizons are for chasing, stillness is for towner’s, and as our instincts so often tell us, the long-long road is wanderlust’s surest destination.

Quarreling for a Water Fight

Irrigation water isn’t available in Southern Oregon this year. Klamath County’s farmers rolled the meteorological dice and won a drought. On the California side of the border on the easternmost edge of Siskiyou County matters are the same. Each state operates under a different set of rules, then you layer in the federal government and the mashup leads to farmers and ranchers using heads on pikes rhetoric.

The Klamath River flows west to Del Norte County where the last drops empty into the Pacific. As is true of every river along the west coast of North America migratory fish, (salmon and steelhead) enter and exit the rivers to reproduce and return to the ocean. Been here doing this thing for 5 million years, that’s all, what’s not to like, what’s the problem, “what in the hell do those fish have to do with my hayfield here in Klamath Falls?”

At the mouth of the river on the California coast the indigenous Yurok tribe and their ancestors have lived off salmon for many thousands of years. It is worth understanding that North American’s have been here 17,000 years before present, (in spite of Rick Santorum’s Christianity centric eruptions) and science suspects longer, many thousands of years, but science can’t prove it yet so they can’t say it until the facts are proven, but we can speculate because evidence is mounting that our first people have been on this continent for much longer than we know. May I tempt you with the possibility of 24 thousand year, likely even longer. So, yes the Yurok are important stakeholders and deserve recognition to what does and doesn’t happen on the Klamath. The courts agree.

Rural life along the Klamath’s easternmost region, on the east slope of the Siskiyou and Cascade Mountain’s was already drier and hotter in summers and colder and impossible to farm in winters, and now it’s only getting that much more difficult ground to work. Evaporation rates are up, and soil moisture is down. The drought only makes matters that much worse. Drought will beat the hope out of a tribal rug without using a broom. You want heartbreak? I’ll show you a roadhouse, two-steppers and beat up pickup trucks waiting to be repossessed in the hard times parking lot near the end of your best hopes for a better life.

I’ve been pouring over Klamath and Siskiyou County commodity reports. There are about 7000 acres of potatoes planted as compared to 75,000 acres of alfalfa and hay grass. There are another 8000 acres planted with vegetable crops as compared to another 75,000 acres used for livestock. All in with everything that is agriculture and ranching this two state region cultivates if there is enough water the land under production tally’s up to about 210,000 acres, and most of it goes for livestock production.

Monterey County by comparison farms 400,000 acres. Monterey’s commodities are almost all destined for your kitchen table and almost none for livestock. Think of the region between Salinas to King City as America’s salad bowl. Everywhere you look there are farmworkers hunched over in fields cultivating and harvesting what America eats. The mild climate means Monterey County has a longer more productive growing season. More important is that this is a diverse population not a bunch of angry entitled white Americans riding around on tractors with placards denouncing the government.

Problems, you want problems, I’ll give you problems, there was never enough water up in the Klamath Basin, not now, not ever, never mind all that, plenty before us pretended otherwise and here we are, a bunch of stinking quarreling for a fight farmer’s that can’t afford a used new tire, prom dress for their kid, or a billy goat to chew down the blackberry out back. You want hard times, I’ll give you hard times, “we got a mortgage to pay, kids to feed, and a goddamn health insurance premium to pay.” Did I tell you Hoss is in his late 50’s perhaps early 60’s and he is getting picked apart, spleen, kidney, and high blood pressure by all those so-called benefit providers.

Gavin and Nancy want nothing to do with all this remake of the famous Oklahoma Dust Bowl times waiting dead ahead.

Same as the local shoot and ask questions later police departments the Department of Agriculture is not constituted to unknot this challenge.

I want to say this out loud, as loud, and as clear as can be. Ready… here we go. There are 44 million people in Oregon and California and no more than 2 thousand farms and ranches facing tough times up here. Not none, but not many farm and ranch operations have even half a mind to switch up how they’ve been doing things, won’t do it, no thank you, next question, would someone please strap that questioner to a Brama bull and call a ambulance.

I get that hard sweat and fool youth has been busting ass and raising hogs out here but we are in the midst of climate change and stubborn fools are plenty and level headed pragmatists are too few.

There are some plenty pissed off men and women fishing off the coast near the Klamath River that own boats, pay insurance, and are licensed to commercially catch salmon in years when there are any to be found. Like folk out east near Klamath Falls they have mortgages to pay, mouths to feed and lives to live. In our cowboy culture centric world order salmon fishermen are not nearly as coddled a culture as the spur booted Marlboro wranglers of yesteryear.

More and more of what grows in Monterey County is on drip irrigation. Let’s take that to be a sign of enlightenment. Up in the Klamath Basin most farmers are going to need to receive subsidies to reconfigure their operations. Alfalfa and haying operations need to transition to growing crops destined for our kitchen tables. They’ll need many more people to help and those people will come from south of our border, and let’s call them out for who they are, they are human beings. Price supports from the Department of Agriculture will incentivize farmers to produce less water intensive commodities and will allow more land to remain in production. Obsolete equipment will be sold for a profit to growers in more water abundant regions of our nation.

Everywhere I stick my nose and poke around it takes all of two seconds to see how arcane and twisted up our agricultural system has become. Remembering that Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland are colossus and humongous tyrants and cause untold political misery in Washington and have a lot to do with why legislation never moves.

Now we know for certain that the once reliable snowpack in the Sierras is now a one night stand and she’s never going to take a call from you again. Now we know water intensive crops need to be relocated to wetter regions of our nation. Now we know we need to eat our nuts, fruits and vegetables if we want to not all look like some two legged version of the Goodyear blimp. Now we know that water scarcity is radicalizing rural farmers ready to throw democracy out with the bath water if they don’t get their way. We get it, we see it, we know it. Policy has got to catch up to these cowboys before we have to saddle up and send a posse out to bring them in back into a more sane and wholesome world.

Once more it needs to be said. We are in a climate emergency and that means change, and the change we need is the painful changes our farmers with our generous support need to make. Remember if this works out we will all be eating better, living longer, thinner and trimmer, sexier and happier, all of us dancing until all those happy cows we no longer have to slaughter greet us at sunrise as we make it home after a grand night on the town that we really don’t want to talk about.

down to the last drop

All of Borrego Springs water comes from rain that falls to the west on the San Ysidro Mountains. In an average year 5000-acre feet of water from Coyote and Indian Creek, water you will seldom if ever see sinks into the aquifer beneath the Borrego Valley. That’s it, try as the good people living in this desert try there is no economically feasible way to get more water to the 3500 people living in this community. And don’t think that a few of the frisky rascals in this isolated desert community haven’t spitballed this problem, one plan included piping water north from Mexico’s Sea of Cortez to a mythical desalinization plant built on the Salton Sea. That almost affordable plan priced out at about $690 million dollars. This piping plan promised to produce some of the most spectacularly expensive grapefruit and knuckleheads in the world.

In the 1980’s the United States Geologic Survey estimated Borrego Springs was using 20,000-acre feet of water per year, a full 15,000-acre feet more than they are getting off the San Ysidro watershed. Pumping resulted in water wells having to be drilled deeper, until you, the devil, or the Army Corp of Engineers can’t go any further. Taking the chance of this lone isolated aquifer getting pumped dry means the town, farms, golf courses, it means the whole ecosystem collapses. 

Up in Sacramento agriculture and industry have fought against legislation regulating the use of groundwater. The result of all this resistance is that for decades, the farms north of Borrego Springs pumped as much free unmetered water as they wanted and there wasn’t a thing anyone could do to stop them.

That little red blob at the bottom is the spot

Wading into water politics is known as a thankless career ending task. Better to kick trouble into the courts, look the other way, change the subject, nothing good will come of getting in the middle of a dispute over water.

Then in 2014 under the gutsy aquatic jujitsu of Governor Jerry Brown the California State Legislature passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The new legislation wouldn’t take effect until 2019, first so that political careers could clear the area prior to the— all hands-on deck— to the barricades moment this new law would foment. Then, so as not to shock the state’s water system the law only gradually goes into effect year by year incrementally until 2040. Any faster and they’ll be issuing a warrant for your water thieving arrest.

The Borrego Springs aquifer depending upon who you talk to has never been better or as others worry is freaking close to collapse. California’s State Water Resources Board is concerned, there are about 150 aquifers across the state and Borrego Springs ranks as the number one worry. We are code red by one assessment and hunky dory by another. Expert hydrologists put Borrego Springs problems at the top of not just the state, but it is at the top of the nation’s list of endangered aquifers. Here is the poster child for a community that has literally been unable to do anything about the farmers north of town pumping the whole kit and caboodle into oblivion.

After decades of fighting in court the various stakeholders have come together and created a Groundwater Sustainability Plan. That was the easiest part, coming up with a plan. Pointing fingers, blaming farmers, cursing golf courses, sharing your tender mercies for black tailed jack rabbits, demanding the miserable varmints from the local water board get there you know what over to the community hall hearing and without equivocation explain what in tarnation they plan to do about this hellacious mess.

What the plan does is spread the burden out among all the various water users. That spreading out and distribution ends up being a stiletto stabbed directly into the economic aspirations of the pumping happy farmers that have long had it going their way here.

Now the agriculture stakeholders are taking acreage out of production and investing in technologically enhanced irrigation equipment. This is the fig and the leaf, the head and fake, to a crisis of Noah’s Ark proportions.

Since the climate is getting warmer and dryer none of this is likely to make the golfers happy, the grass greener or water grabbing easier. Like a husband who has vowed, there is no alternative, at some point you must get by with less or come to the point where you can’t get by at all, because there is no more water and what remains of your love life depends upon a wife that imagines you to be strong as Hercules and as virtuous as Spartacus. If that doesn’t make any sense to you then you just haven’t been married enough.

Anza Borrego Springs State Park is California’s largest. Fully one fifth of San Diego County is comprised of this pristine place. As stakeholders go the park weighs in at 585,930 acres full of roadrunners and rattlesnakes. If the aquifer in Borrego Valley was to fail all bets are off. This is the nettlesome tangle to be found here. Nowhere does it make sense to give up on twenty percent of some of the most magnificent desertscape in the world. There are no pain free solutions for the biggest water users but there is certain agony for everyone if this doesn’t get fixed and fixed right.

At United Nation’s in 2018 the world’s leaders launched a Sustainable Development Plan. The Secretary General pointed to growing demands, poor management and climate change as having increased water stresses and scarcity of water. What our global leaders are saying is that over-pumping of the aquifer in Borrego Springs is a problem found across the world.

One of the peculiarities of the challenge’s modern-day civilization confronts is the sheer size, scale, and scope of our efforts to harmonize our use of the world’s natural resources. Our economic system exerts enormous pressure on people, politics, and nations. We fix one problem then find we’ve caused another one. I’m thinking about the hydropower systems on the Columbia River and the salmon runs that then were unable to make it back to their ancestral spawning grounds. Don’t even get me started on Fukushima.

For at least two centuries we relied upon fossil fuels to power our world only to learn we are now in a race against time to deploy a new energy system for a new century while there is still time, if there is still time at all, there’s a lot at stake, and everything to lose, like the whole planet.

Human beings are not wired up to dwell on what happens when a million-acre wildfire strikes, when a Rhode Island sized iceberg breaks off from Antarctica, or when a pristine piece of California desert is brought to the brink of collapse. What does that even mean? What can anyone do? Change the subject, gripe about the minimum wage, invade a country, fret about the stock market, become a vegan, or eat veal. Looking the other way only works so long, the time comes when action becomes necessary, and inaction would be suicidal. Borrego Springs is the poster child for a place where the time on the clock, the close shave, the near miss meets the last straw.

California is a mix of seashore and desertscape, a canvas where our doers and dreamers carve out their best lives. Our citizens imagine our world’s problems to be over there, someplace else, not here, how can the most prosperous state in the union even have so much difficulty?

We say this often but these two words bounce off, they glance but don’t penetrate, we can’t wrap our minds around what it means to be living through a climate emergency, we can’t imagine ourselves being caught up in a catastrophe that is forcing us to flee for our lives, to run from wildfires to move on from where we live because the wells have run dry. Then, one morning a volcano, Mount St. Helens ejects most of its mountaintop seven miles up into the atmosphere, a spectacular unimaginable event of outrageous scale.

Centuries long megadroughts seem inconceivable, massive climate change caused migrations are for someplace else, not here, they are for over there. This human caused climate crisis can’t be happening until we all get it through are thick skulls that anthropogenic climate change is the result of what human beings have been doing. That’s the hardest part of our journey, understanding that this is our world, this is our nature, this is what is happening, what the world is now going through, what we’re doing to the world, the world we don’t just walk on, but the world we are folded into.

Ultimately this is a head trip, all dreamed up by the turning wheels inside our minds. It is cognitive, born of imagination while failing to fully appreciate the implications, that our ability to accomplish certain things can result in blowback, that what we do isn’t just dangerous, it can be outright deadly. And once we know better, once we understand what we are doing to ourselves, and then being unable to stop because we don’t want to, it is inconvenient, we’ll lose money, go broke, our lives will have to change, even if our behavior triggers a massive extinction event, even then if we can’t stop the harm we are causing, when we’ve reached that fork in the road we have to reckon morally with the likely cognitive design flaws we’ve inherited as a species.

Borrego Springs is a mirror that’s forcing us to look fearlessly heart and soul into the abyss.   

cultivating delta karma

Sam’s Market on banks of Old River

Twenty years ago, I drove back through the Delta to Berkeley. Life was lush here, tempting, I pulled off the county two lane on Fabian Island. Wind was still, air warm, sun was behind Mount Diablo. I parked in a dirt lot to walk the dog up along the banks of Old River. Swallows darting about, the buzz of insects, life in the Delta is set at a low idle. Stockton was thirty miles east, San Francisco sixty-five miles west, Mongolia seemed just an ocean and continent further over the horizon.  

Sam’s Market, the local landmark was open. Fishermen grabbed their bait and tackle here. Ice cold beer was popular, bag of chips, bug spray.

Next building over a tavern was opening, the paintjob exhausted by sun and time. When I looked inside, I could see a room full of indolent men who had finished chores in the surrounding fields. It was quitting time.

Crop duster pilot bought two beers, “I’ll have whatever he’s having.” We were along a defunct meandering waterway, yesteryears San Joaquin River, bellying up to slake our many thirsts. Behind the joint were smaller shacks, cracker boxes. Farmworkers lived behind Sam’s and the tavern, reckoning they toiled in the nearby fields.

A pair of working women had arrived from Tracy ten miles south. Crop duster pilots once off duty swagger as dare devils all do. Working girls and duster dudes seem to fetch glances and seem familiar, each are persons of interest to the other.

Dike Road along Old River

Small talk next to a field planted with 100 acres of tomatoes needs some streamlining. Mister Fancy Pants showman-juggler could go along or be asked to move along. Thinking it best to coax conversation I nudged my airman, might get the flyer to tell me a piece of aeronautical truth.

Nonchalance is pilot poker face. By now I’m putting two and two together. I try buying my barstool Romeo dusting dare devil a round, but he wouldn’t have anything to do with my generosity, bought the next round.

Jukebox was shutoff. Entertainment would commence soon, what did I know, we are outside city limits, and the clientele and tavern were dead set on enjoying the coming exotic attraction. As unlikely as this worn-out old joint appeared to be, sited right off a two-lane country road sitting right on the famous Old River next to a field of ripening tomatoes.

I was the dandy out of towner in the crowd. I had played a pair of libraires in San Joaquin County, first show was in Manteca then the second in French Camp. I am certain E Vitus Clampus has graced this monument to places all but forgotten.

Houseboats in Delta Heaven

The two professional dancers worked on a platform against a wall in the tavern. Each took a turn. The exotic dancing and skimpy costuming I had not expected, but its unvarnished honesty I found ordinary yet endearing.

Two young women had skills, costumes, music, and courage. I had only been in fancy joints where out of this world strippers worked. This was the first encounter I had ever had with much less pretentious exotic dancers surrounded by farms in the middle of the countryside had come to practice whipping a working man’s tavern into a rural frenzy.

While one danced the other woman walked from customer to customer with a hat. After one dancer finished, they switched roles. The duster pilot was a regular. Each danced just for the pilot. After he explained he’d buy lap dances from both women, customarily he’d get one lap dance early on in the evening and a second toward the end of the night. When he was really feeling his oats, he’d get the pair to dance for him at the same time.

The whole idea of a lap dance is to decrease the range from which a paying customer may best enjoy the pleasure found in exotic dancing. My crop duster pilot acquaintance played along, the dancer tugged on his ears, mussed his hair, ran her finger across the tip of his nose, and dared to stroke his leg, all his while she kept on dancing or hopping up on top his lap for some unbound choreography.

Having no experience with any of this I decided to not look too serious, keep smiling, try not to turn beet red, applause seemed a good idea.

“What are you waiting for?” My duster pilot friend asked. “Ten for one, twenty will get you two.”

Delta plumbing

Imagining an exotic dancer sitting on my lap in a roadside tavern putting me into a moment where what would happen next had put me out of my depth. I was in over my head.

First off all I had wanted to do was buy one beer, and I hadn’t even been able to do that. Being cornered I felt forced to play along, act like I was having fun, be courteous, show the dancers respect, I was duty bound to hold up my end of the transaction.

I was too embarrassed, didn’t know what to do, negotiations were sorted out with help from the bartender, the duster pilot and gentleman in the room. Everybody seemed to be waiting on my decision. Best part of these kinds of entertainments has to do with how much hot water the so-called lady killer can find himself being boiled alive in.

The dancer put on a shirt and buttoned it up, ostensibly, at least there were a few strategically left unfastened. Next, she gets out from her bag of tricks a genuine extra long peacock feather. Her partner spins a tune, a familiar song to the dancer as she moved intricately to each beat while taking my measure. My role was to stop smiling and focus my attention on the dancer and the dance. Teasing and taunting commenced, once she’d finished with the feather, she gave me a pat on the cheek, patting a second time, third time I got slapped, that was popular with the crowd, she puckered her lips blew me a kiss, ran her fingers through my hair, then pawed on my leg with one hand while unfastening the buttons of her shirt with the other. My job during this part of the performance was to look at her hand on my leg, the fingers on her buttons, look up into her eyes while we waited for the moment when that shirt would fly open and who knows when the vice squad was going to fly through the doors and arrest us all. I could see the headlines now— library performer arrested in tavern charged with participating in lewd behavior with exotic dancer.

I had overcome feeling embarrassed, circumstances were considerably more dire. I wanted to be good at this new work I’d been enlisted into. I wanted the dancer to feel her performance pleased, that I appreciated the experience, I wasn’t supposed to indicate that any of this was too frightening, that my dancer wasn’t anything other than the most wanted woman in the world, and if I could dig a little deeper into my pocket that I’d likely bring my first lap dance to a dignified conclusion.

The likelihood of my throwing my life away to shack up for the rest of my days on this good earth with an exotic dancer from Tracy, California had been tested.

I’d already decided I’d tip the second dancer before I got caught then hogtied and dragged into having a second round in this low budget roadside unrequited romance game I’d stumbled upon.

Things you’d never have the nerve to do lineup with things that just happen sometimes. Pulling off along a country road on a late summer late dusky day and there a show business veteran finds himself trying to extend common courtesy to my kindred sisters out hustling much as I’d been doing, working in the small time, for the small crowds, you give a show, you get a show. I took my bows as the curtain fell and walked off out of the tavern into the budding night.

Dumb luck, the human condition and life in the Delta had a head on collision with the naked truth. Doing the one thing you’ve always put off doing so you may leave this mortal plain having completed your life’s purpose, so you are not called upon to return for yet another infinite round of reincarnations, until you put to rest all the curiosities, set down all the temptations, cast out all these yearnings and misbegotten cravings. Fate would not allow my coming to earth and then leaving without buying at least one lap dance. The night out in the Delta was preordained. People who know me best said the fact was that all of this wasn’t just inevitable, it was my karma coming to the present moment to teach my soul. As the saying goes— I learned my lesson.

fixing leaky faucets

Lake Shasta April 2020

A Wall Street hedge fund has sent a posse of potato farming water grabbers out to Winnemucca, Nevada. Water Asset Management was formed in 2005 and is in the business of using water as a for profit investment vehicle.

Access to drinking water is a universally recognized human right. Defending this right and winning this argument at the United Nations was the tenacious Canadian activist Maude Barlow. Drinking water should never be bought, sold, bartered, or privatized. Deeded water rights to underground water shouldn’t be pumped out from underneath one community then piped far off to another wealthier place.

We’re in for a real brawl out here in the American West. For starters we already don’t have enough water. Now we’ve got more people, a growing population and they all arrive at the negotiating table believing they have the best ideas for how to use what little water there is. Water Asset Management is buying up land explicitly for access to the water rights deeded to the purchased properties.

Commercial and Recreational Fishing

What does our water future look like? For starters financializing deeded water rights is turning our common resource into a privatized water grabbing for profit scam. After urban water users’ rates get jacked up you can bet the farm lobby will go seek new water subsidies to offset the higher cost of production. Once consumers start squealing about how much a half gallon of milk has gone up, how expensive a loaf of bread has become, why every politician beholden to Big Ag will be lining up to make water cheaper for farms and ranches while sticking the bill to the urban taxpayers.

From the BBC, Marsha Daughenbaugh, 68, of Steamboat Springs wedge issues agricultures priority access to water use, “Ranching is not only an economic base for us, it’s a way of life.”

What does that mean? In 1994 a telephone operator in New Jersey was practicing a way of life until AT&T cut 20,000 jobs. Telephone operators would have had a better shot at keeping their way of life if they’d been saddled up and sitting on a horse while they were doing their telecommunication’s work.

Look we already have all the dams we’ll ever need, but we can’t finesse our way around a drought and expect to fill old or new reservoirs with water that doesn’t exist. The solution to fixing this mess is not complicated, everyone is going to have to use less water. That’s the new way of life barreling down on every enterprise and individual living West of the Pecos.  

Swallows playing in the Delta breeze

Due to overallocations up and down and all along the Colorado River a hands-on realistic water use plan will be needed for California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. Utah is going to be a more petulant childlike player on account of their whole humankind’s dominion over earth delusions, but we’ll set their fundamentalism aside for the moment.

Alfalfa and cotton farming needs to be relocated east where there is sufficient supplies of water. More crops need to end up on our supper tables. Eggplant, squash, watermelon, pineapples, strawberries, onions, spinach, carrots, lettuce, and tomatoes all use less water and are not just suitable for human consumption these fresh vegetables are healthier for both people and the planet.  

Stanford Law School’s award-winning Environmental and Natural Resources Law & Policy Program is training lawyers in the byzantine area of water law. As it sits right now outlawing alfalfa farming is illegal. Allocations are based strictly on whether there is or isn’t any water. There are rules about how to use the water but there are no rules about what to grow with the water. Water law is a tangled-up snake pit of economically threatened special interests.

Even if I can tell you cotton and alfalfa need to be shutdown, it is one hell of a long way further to settling that hornet’s nest of a mess in court with an enforceable decision, but that day is coming, and it will be arriving sooner than the water grabbers might have imagined.

In California pumping water from aquifers is undergoing a thorough rethink. This is known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Passed in 2014, agencies had until 2020 to file their plans to make groundwater resources sustainable by 2040. Those plans are subject to review and by political career ending loophole to be reassessed every five years.

Right now, a Limited Liability Company in Napa County can pump scarce and ancient groundwater, grow grapes then export the wine to foreign markets while stashing their profits offshore at a post office box known as a Caribbean tax haven. In other words we are a long way from a glidepath to sustainability.

California Water Alliance wants more water diverted from the Delta then piped to their members further south in the San Joaquin Valley. They almost pulled it off, but the courts stopped the water heist before the former administration could do further harm. The Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley Delta “is the most valuable estuary and wetland ecosystem on the west coast of North and South America and is the hub of California’s water delivery system.” Without the Delta there is no such thing as California.

Fishermen dependent on the salmon that would no longer be able to find suitable spawning grounds, which is a polite term for going extinct. Farmers running short of water do not care one whit about what happens to salmon in Northern California, that is not their problem.

In dryer and warmer low rainfall years farms need to be fallowed then put back into production in years when there is sufficient water. A real greenwashed-Astroturfing lobby group the California Water Alliance won’t have it and if diverting Delta water means driving salmon to the brink that’s just somebody else’s radical environmental activism hurting the economy.

Whether a citizen fishes or farms for their living both laudable enterprises but diverting water and then driving fish and fishermen to extinction and bankruptcy because you want to grow more subsidized cotton is a tragedy wrapped in a self-inflicted existential disaster.

None of this is ours to keep, it is ours to pass along to future generations. If while we continue to grow our economy and we were to decide salmon are expendable, then we’ve in some toxicologically bizarre way just admitted that we are expendable nothing is worth saving, except for holding onto the power to choose. Extinction events are not reserved for the unlucky few, man’s rapacious nature contains the seeds of self-destruction.

Largest system of dikes in the United States

In 2019 a misguided Federal cabinet member unilaterally ordered scarce water to be diverted from the Delta to farmers further south. Courts in Fresno halted the illegal diversion.

“This water grab was led by Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist and counsel for the Westlands Water District, the largest water district in the Central Valley and a significant beneficiary of the weakened biological opinions.” The weakening was done under the cloak of anti-science activists in the former administration.

For now, there is an uneasy stalemate and with the inexorable increasing temperatures and ever decreasing moisture levels in the soils of the American West. Urban areas are about to fight tooth and nail, from one farm field to the next over ever more scarce water. The drought is on and our water wars are only going to get worse. As the announcer says, “let’s get ready to rumble…”

penny-pinching beasts

Sunrise somewhere over Seattle

Biden’s infrastructure bill, the American Jobs Bill has $16 billion designated for capping unproductive oil wells and for cleaning up abandoned mines, most of the money would end up being spent in rural America because that’s where most of the hole punching and mine digging occurred.

That’s fine and dandy but I’d go a mile or two further on this project. Since we’re already out here maybe this program could be designed to help stabilize the economies of so many of the rural communities that have for too long been ignored, neglected and are lurching from one crisis to the next.

Here’s what we do…

First if you are now or ever have been a communist sympathizer, you might want to reconsider. Are you an advocate for a leaner, meaner government? All this passion for penny pinching, beast starving bathtub drowning obsessions of the past four decades have left our government too small and the fossil fuel industry too damn big. This goes by another word, it’s called inequality.

Fair minded citizens trying to keep up with all the bankrupting wildcatting oil well abandoning shenanigans know the industry has painted our country into a tight spot. We’ve been left with a big mess with untold climate emergency consequences. In other words, central planning has screwed the pooch and the consequences are that the taxpayers got some land to restore and oil well capping to do.

If you haven’t noticed or maybe you have and just don’t give a flying sexual intercourse of two or three our nation has been growing. You can tell by sprawl, gridlock and the number of cranes hovering over our urban landscape. We’ve got a big mess that is even bigger than the previous mess, which happens to be the stinking mess I am talking about, and like it or not we are going to have to pick up the tab. Bellyachers can put a sock in it starting now.

Inequality is a Scourge on our democracy

I’d like to digress just for one moment. Senator Rand Paul opposes fixing our country’s infrastructure unless it is to do with a fence Mexico is never going to pay for. Doing nothing to fix our rotting infrastructure is notably deficient of sentience, or as the colloquial saying goes, doing nothing is just plain dumb. Thank you kindly.

Let’s continue…

So here is what I think might be useful to maintaining the peace and quiet in this trigger happy hopped up on Fox News Television nation. I propose we hire good men and women who want and can hold a job, bring people in that live nearest to these abandoned oil wells, pay them plenty good, the less education in their resume the more likely they are to be hired, hire more of them and one hell of a lot less of those with higher educations. If you have an advanced degree you are not qualified.

Now I don’t want them to eat crow or humble pie, but I do want every single solitary one of these employees to understand that this is good work, important work, and their generous salary will help hold the union of our nation together. Spending the $16 billion dollars will put hundreds of thousands of our finest on the front lines of the fight against the creeping climate change emergency we are facing. And remember this is just one small piece of a much bigger plan to build our country back better. You got a problem with that then you likely live in a gated community and are stinking mad about everything. Get over yourself.

I’ll want the employees to understand our tax dollars are replacing the oil companies’ royalty payments, lawyers’ fees, and insufficiently funded Bonds that were not up to the task of fixing the predictable mess this industry has made of our landscape.

I’d argue any worker that hates on our country while pocketing wages while employed in this program be confronted by their choice of television viewing habits. We should dream up some kind of oath of employment, you know something simple like: I promise to fix what the oil and gas industry has left broken and to the best of my ability appreciate the wages I am earning and the wisdom of the taxpayers of our great nation for having the integrity to step up and give me a job, help put a roof over my head and food on my table. I promise I will work on holding the private sector accountable in the future, and as we do hold these big fat liars to account, and when all our work is finished and built back better, we may resume seeking a more perfect smaller sized government and union.

I’m all too sure most of what I’m proposing makes plain old horse sense but likely wouldn’t pass muster with the local, regional, state, private or public entities that are hellbent on preserving a citizen’s right to gripe and grumble about near darn every damn thing under the sun.

Let me just take a moment to say that Senator Rick Scott is miserable at his job and before all that misery this rascal sucked $300 million taxpayers’ dollars out of Medicare and put what was fraudulently skimmed from the federal government into his own greedy pocket. Florida’s phosphate pond problems were on his watch too. Enough said.

Bridges are Infrastructure

This next issue is a serious as a heart attack. There are some dangerous unhappy unhinged young single men in the United States that need opportunity. Many are located near all these holes that need capping. Getting a bored unproductive young man stood up and doing something productive might help with all those other problems we all would prefer not to think about. We might try to get this buckaroo off fentanyl, might get him to dial back on his porno watching, videogame addiction and maybe take that big fat wallet he’s got full of fresh earned honest wages and ask some philly out for a romp around town seated next to him in that new electric powered Hummer he’s just purchased for cash. Forming relationships is healthy, walking through the world alone is harmful to a persons mental health.

Almost every single solitary plug nickel, dime and quarter has ended up going to the Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, Billy Gates, and Elon Musk. Time we shower the workers with half a chance to make a little something for themselves. I want more daycare and I want as many women hired in the oil field operation as is humanly possible. As a kid I hated going to an all-boys school and darn if working with a lot of different kinds of people isn’t just healthier for everyone concerned.

Saturday morning, I woke up in Seattle where I had been for a week visiting my daughter for the first time since February of 2020. I’m all over the American West these days. If you didn’t know the stinking gridlock you experience where you live is just as awful everywhere else. In Seattle I tried driving across Ballard back to Capitol Hill and it was no less a grind than trying to go east on Melrose when you are trying to get your sorry butt out of West Hollywood.

Let’s get a wiggle on we’ve a whole wide wonderful world to enjoy if we could just stop with all this nonsense about not ever fixing the stuff that needs fixing. Roads, bridges, water pipes, sewer lines, and could we get serious about upgrading our dilapidated airports. Passing through New York’s JFK shouldn’t be a virtual terrorizing Grand Theft Auto looking dystopian close encounter with a post-apocalyptic reality. We are so much better than all of this.

Meet you and yours at the water cooler and would you all talk about these urgent matters. We have a nation to rebuild.

Wagon Wheel Saloon Gossipmongers

Nothing Much Happens in Light of Day

Judging mind is what afflicts most of my waking day. As environmental activists go there appear to be various kinds and types. Good weather is a terrible thing when you need awful weather to help fill reservoirs, swell rivers and provoke useful flash floods.

To quell certainty and consult with higher authorities I swing south to the Mexican frontier and pull into Patagonia, Arizona where I will speak with the town’s grizzled survivors of past and present confrontations.

All five hundred citizens live in mesquite and cottonwood splendor up in the higher country. Sonoita Creek runs when it runs at all along Patagonia’s northern boundary. An Australian mining operation in the Patagonia Mountains is good news for jobs and not good news for contaminated waters that runoff into Harshaw Creek. The bone dry headwaters of the Santa Cruz River are to the west, further yonder is Nogales.

Santa Cruz County has been losing citizens for most of a century. Ranchers ran too many head of cattle until the rangeland collapsed. A century later recovery is slow and fat times and big herds are long gone.

Daylight comes pull on your pants best start with coffee at Gathering Grounds. If you want to know what is and isn’t going to happen in Patagonia word will spread from here reverberate off Santa Rita Rd to Roadrunner Lane then crash land by dusk at the Wagon Wheel Saloon.

Gossip and speculation arrive as the simple truth later that day all dressed up with exaggeration and outright falsehoods. All this speculative ruminating heals small town solitude. For some the hands of time crawls, for others clocks stand still, here in Patagonia all this slow aching wait will make a stash of whiskey go missing.

Dogs Ride Shotgun

There is no rush hour, no crowds, no lines, no waiting. If you suffer from an automotive breakdown the only reason it is not fixed this instant is to do with the mechanical philosophy employed by the talented souls that have dedicated their waking hours to fixing the problems you alone have caused. All these worn out used machines didn’t just get like this, something has caused all this wear and tear, all this put off maintenance and mindful neglect. You will need more time to be more ashamed of yourself.

You’ll be directed to get a room at the Stage Stop Inn. Supper is served early, don’t wait too long, because by then the cooks finished and steadying their culinary trials at the Wagon Wheel before walking back to their tin roofed adobe with its brightly painted green front door.

Younger souls arrive by mistake and a handful try to make a go of it and stay. At one time most had come by Volkswagen bus. All the full timers see the many who seek a life here and the few who find one to be part of Darwin’s great insight into survival. Patagonia is not the Galápagos Islands but by closing time at the Wagon Wheel people in the parking lot out front enjoy a few last cuss words while throwing stones to scatter pesky javalena.

The lithium mine up on Thacker Pass in Humboldt County, Nevada is about to break ground. I am in here in Patagonia to put the open pit mining troubles in the Great Basin up for discussion down here in the Sonoran.

Water contamination is always a concern when an open pit mine is involved. Once a mining company can see the first glimmer of the end they’ll belly up go bankrupt, defund the miners pension plan, look to stash their profits into untouchable accounts and leave as much of the mess for governments to cleanup, there is no profit in buckling under to authority.

Socialists, communists and libertarians are epithets, Chevy, Ford and Dodge pickup trucks reflect upon the vulgar purchasing decisions of the drivers. There is no such thing as elective surgery in Patagonia or Thacker Pass, there are no surgeons, no hospitals and no health care system at all. You drive to Nogales or Winnemucca if what you want to do is go on a date with a doctor.

From space looking down on Thacker Pass Lithium Mine

Still, here we are up on Thacker Pass, about to jump off the cliff and commit to a Canadian mining company’s proposal to bring lithium out of the ground, refine the ore and then ship this battery making compound to markets here in the United States.

A band of blockaders have set up camp on Thacker. Here told they say that no good can come from this project, that humankind needs to forget about the automobile and imagine a less mobile life that is more in line with how we’ve been doing it since we first arrived on this planet. Nike stocks are up and Goodyear Tires stocks are down in this groups solutions to our planetary problems.

Like Patagonia up on Thacker once the mine swings into production water will be pumped, refining process requires water, then the waste water will need remediation and a safe journey back into the ground. Lithium mining operators up here must get this right, have the know how to do just that, and all we need to do is hold them to it.

Looking out five decades to the mining operation exhausting the lithium up on this mountain, nobody knows for sure how many batteries will be built with this ore, but plenty guess, my best guess is near about one billion automobiles plus or minus one billion to be about right.

Here you see how far you’ll have to go to get away

I keep trying to wrap my judging mind around our effort to pull our world out of the carbon trap we’ve set. Outside the Wagon Wheel Saloon in Patagonia I propose that the best whiskey drinking solutions often tend to end by being read fairytales by frolicsome partners.

I’m seeking a proper solution here. For both operations, one near Patagonia the other up on Thacker Pass water treatment and filtration, we make damn sure we are running a wholistic system that doesn’t endanger our future since we are doing this because our future is already endangered. Screwing this up even more is as stupid as stupid gets, hope you wildcatters in the Permian are listening.

Second, we put more teeth in bonds mining company’s are legally required to post. Right now they can do some no good dirty double crossing and just as you near the time you start winding down the mining company and its assorted subsidiaries scatter like jackrabbits with the loot and vanishes without a trace. We’ll need to sharpen our contracts, make sure a promise made is a promise kept, put into a contract, put a royalty on the product, stuff that into an untouchable account and when time comes pensions, cleanup funds and other assorted closing costs are fully cared for.

Friends I’m afraid that’s about all the spleen, chewing tobacco and my favorite pet ring-tailed coatimundi stories I have time for. Slow walking across the field to Train Track Trail my rig is parked my bunk waiting where I’m going to rest my judging mind and allow for some night hour dreams to shelter me from life’s storms.

Buckets of Rain Buckets of Tears

Last summer’s monsoons in the Southwest last went missing . Last weeks Southern Colorado-Northern New Mexico snowfall in the headwaters to the Rio Grande while welcomed offered little relief. Most of New Mexico is in severe drought.

Reservoirs in Marin County, California are so low water agencies are within a week of enacting mandatory conservation orders similar to those caused by the drought in 2013-2017.

On March 23rd California State Water Resources Control Board mailed — “warning notices to agricultural water rights holders urging them to plan for potential shortages by reducing water use and adopting practical conservation measures.”

Utah’s governor is urging residential water users to begin conservation measures. From Ogden to St. George the region has been hit hard by a lack of rain and snow.

Lake Powell is less than 38% full with its water level down by 129 feet.

Napa Valley California’s premier winegrowing region rainfall totals are off for a second year. The last time the region was hit with a two year below normal rainfall season the Valley Fire of 2015 erupted and became one of the state’s most destructive wildfires in history.  

Our dry winter has impacted water wells too. The United States Geological Survey has released a study that warns of 200,000 water wells in California were tested and that scientists found increased levels of arsenic that exceed Federal safety standards. Arsenic increases risk of cancer.

Colorado’s Front Range got clobbered two weeks ago by an epic winter snowstorm that has moved the states drought status from severe to water customers now expecting that there will be no water restrictions.

There is no such luck for Colorado’s Western Slope where ranchers and farmers near Grand Junction remain in desperate straits.

Up and down the line circumstances are dire. An estimated 75% of the land in eleven states here in the American West, a vast geographic area encompassing almost half of the nation’s landmass is facing the driest spring in the last seven years. Electricity produced by hydropower is being cut back, vast tracts of agricultural lands will be forced out of production, fish populations will be damaged, and this year’s fire season has the potential to eclipse last years record setter.

California’s economy is diverse. Agriculture in the state accounts for 3% of the gross domestic product while using 50-70% of the states water. Agriculture dependent Modesto, Manteca, Merced, Fresno and Bakersfield will all take a huge hit to their local economies.

As the pandemic winds down, as the virus is brought to heel the damage caused by water scarcity will destabilize California’s economic, social and political outlook.

Arizona, Nevada and Utah continue to attract new residents just as a once in every 1000-year megadrought bares down on the region.

Water rights awarded a century ago in the midst of above average rainfall years have been over allocated. Governments at all levels have maintained a hands-off approach, the politics of the situation is fraught, worse still when there have been subsidies made available for water and crops those incentives have proven misguided.

Water interests in the seven states near the Colorado River are tangled in tense ongoing negotiations with a deadline of 2025. The drought, wildfires and climate emergency only complicate matters that much more.

Water regulators in Marin County have called for a halt to permitting new water hookups for residential housing. California already faced with a shortage of affordable real estate can ill afford to worsen the situation, but in Marin County reservoir capacity is limited and mandatory water rationing is expected to begin soon.

Water needed for a growing residential population continues to expand exponentially across the region. Las Vegas and Phoenix in the last three decades have increased threefold, each from one million to three million. Southern Utah is bursting with new residents. Colorado’s Front Range sprawling expansion has favorite Rocky Mountain destination resorts jammed to the hilt.

Because of the climate emergency the American West is at an inflection point. “Tucson Water Director Tim Thomure. He still oversees the utility as interim assistant city manager.” Addressing the loss of Colorado River water Thomure claims Tucson’s water resources remain sufficient. Assistant city managers have a job to do and elected official to keep in office. His assessment is an outlier.

Tucson and Las Vegas will be forced to seek funding to build desalination plants. This is my opinion, my informed guess, there is not enough water in the Southwest. Expensive purified desalinated water will force residents to put in place stringent water conservation measures. Water pipelines will route across the desert to tap sea water from the Sea of Cortez and Pacific Ocean.

High priced water will force rural grass crop growers out of business. Food crop planting will increase. To conserve water fields will be laser leveled and drip irrigated. Moisture sensors plugged into nut trees sending signals back to software enhanced computers will turn water on and off automatically based upon moisture content measured by remote instruments.

Scarcity will force agriculture to make hard choices, crops will be rationalized, there are sure to be other regions of the state or nation better suited for growing specific crops.

Another dryer warmer winter has come and gone, spring rains are deficient our water deficit is large and the water in our reservoirs is low. California is 50% of normal for rainfall, about 60% for snowpack. With no water to irrigate many crops will go unplanted. Other fields with grapevines or orchard crops will use what water that is allocated to keep their root stock alive until next year.

There is a agriculture lobby group, California Water Alliance that has been behind efforts to ship more water from the delta near Sacramento south into the San Joaquin Valley’s colossus Westland’s Water District. The more water diverted the more fish die, the more salt intrudes into the domestic drinking water reservoirs. The only constituents for these diversions are the enterprises that could use the water for their private profit. Big urban citizens, sizable majority’s don’t want the fish killed off or salty drinking water coming out of their faucets.

In California there are still twenty million acres that haven’t burned in over a century or more, they are dangerously dry and overgrown, one mistake, one lightning strike and the American West will burn on and on.

Groundwater will in the next few years start to be regulated and pumping is scheduled to be cut back. The Colorado River is flowing at a historically much lower rate while the needs of a growing population that depends on this resource continues to grow. Push has come to shove, bullet biting never popular is here and the unavoidable tight spot has arrived.

I can tick off a dozen moves our water managers are going to be forced into this year.

Hotter and drier conditions in Napa Valley are disadvantaging the famous Cabernet Sauvignon grape that is ripening too quick, concentrating sugars that are too high, making the wine too sweet to tame. Winegrowers are planting further north in the higher latitudes.

Interesting times are here. Putting things off won’t do, we are short of water and out of time, we meet the moment by making difficult decisions. The meek will not inherit this hotter and drier earth.

diagnosing art brain

Artists find fitting in to be littered with warning signs. Ordinary day to day life triggers the creative mind. Some events pull us closer while other experiences repel. There is always this foreground-background dynamic. Point to what is standing out, a particular detail is where the talented mind leaps.  

Often alienated by the mundane, trapped in the tedious practicality of chores, when frequent impulses send the talented misfit on a quest for a more ascetic interconnection with the world.

The art brain is full of tripwires, people who care about what trials we endure will try to breakthrough, “you’ll be alright, you’ll settle down, a lot of us were like you when we were young.”

The admonitions are not helpful.

Nonconformists with a creative bent appear to be intentionally uncooperative, unwilling to be realistic about what to expect from a world that is optimized for the benefit of so many other more fundamental activities. A piece of art gives flight to the human spirit but is nowhere near as vital as is our access to running water and flushing toilets.

Most emerging artists don’t even know what’s wrong. Life is weird, things non-art addled brains seem to be able to tolerate are unendurable to the art freaks. Worse still are the creatives who haven’t settled on how to use this cognitive muscle. Some flit from poem to play to oil painting, they are surprised to learn that everyone else isn’t compelled to have such a penetrating appetite for wanting to manifest this vision so clear in their minds.

If there is early trauma in an artist’s life too many choose to leave the wound open and create from this tormented location. Because wounds stick out, command so much of our attention, the temptation to live in these wounds can distract from the real journey of living beyond these injuries. Gatekeepers daring to get in our way often feel the artists vengeance. Retaliation is all too human. Artist’s breakaway from what has harmed and scarred, once they’ve broken free, they can go their own way.

Bernard Moitessier writes after a year sailing solo at sea, “I found a little temple from forgotten times, lost in the faraway forest… But how can I tell them? How can I tell them that the sounds of water and the flecks of foam on the sea are like the sounds of stone and wind, helped me find my way? How can I tell them all those nameless things…leading me to the real earth? Tell them and not frighten them, without their thinking I have lost my mind.”

In 1967 the mystic sailor would sail non-stop for 37,455 miles. Moitessier abandoned the solo circumnavigation race, slinging a rock with message to a passing ship that he would not finish but instead would sail on in hopes of saving his soul. The sailor’s sailor finally came in from the sea putting his anchor down in Tahiti.

The French-Vietnamese Moitessier imagined his sailing was an opportunity to merge his soul to the wonder of passagemaking. Like Mount Everest rounding Cape Horn is a serious undertaking and has a history of killing mariners who have tried.

Painters showing new work at galleries may or may not sell, if they do, they may not command a fair price, perhaps they find success one year then what they feel is new and better work falls flat the next.

Try as they might to conform, working as art instructor they are viewed as quirky and difficult, they may or may not be offered a permanent position.

Pursuit of a career in show business because an insistent nagging voice, because you have no other talent, you cannot manage to impress attempting anything else, you are hired and soon dismissed, you are desperate and barely show any interest in doing anything else. You suffer mood swings, remain silent for days on end, and male or female it doesn’t matter you have a vague sense of being pregnant and the due date seems certain and near.

Interview after interview, it is the same, this isn’t something the actor wanted to do, it is something they had to do, nothing else worked.

I had gone by sailboat to find Moitessier along the Richmond waterfront. Holed up in a warehouse he was building his new boat Tamata. Joshua had been dragged ashore in a freak storm in Cabo San Lucas.

Happy as ever, waving, lending a hand to secure my bow, Moitessier’s young American friend, the street performer had come looking for him. Sitting on a jumbo bollard smoking cigarettes, recounting how having lost everything standing on the beach the situation hopeless then selling Joshua to some Dutch sailors for salvage rights. Moitessier knew when to let go.

Moitessier thought my working along the waterfront in Fisherman’s Wharf where I could play my comedy show for tips from tourists was a worthy path. How I had managed to fashion a simple live show that was good for the soul of the common man. How I had conjured up some way to make ends meet, to keep the “hungry cows” away. Moitessier knew along my path were hidden rocks and hazardous seas, the great circumnavigator had extra courage to share. Two rascals living by the seat of their pants determined to bet their lives, hoping against all odds that with some luck charm and faith in self they’d live to tell.