Colorado River Agreement

Much has been written this week about a new agreement over how California, Nevada and Arizona will divide their allotment of water from the Colorado River. After a big ballyhoo and a promise to cut water usage by 13% we learn they are just pausing negotiations now while preparing for the mother of all water fights coming in 2026.

A lot can happen in the next three years the most important perhaps is that if Biden wins reelection negotiations in 2026 can’t harm the career of a lame-duck President. Expect these negotiations to be all but impossible to follow. 

Agriculture Scaled Well Pump

Our climate emergency is the unfixable driver at the heart of the Colorado River’s problem. Worse still is how our meat-centric factory farming industry has squandered the waters of this river. It is best to remember that what goes into a human being’s stomach is hardwired into our brains, it is the superhighway of culinary want and desire.  The vast majority in our world eat meat, even as vegetarians and vegans expand their percentages, meat remains wildly popular. Then, there is the cultural impact of changes that switching away from the holy trinity of alfalfa, dairy and meat production will have on our rural population.

The global energy transition has interrupted some of our world’s most powerful industries. Fossil fuels, automobiles, solar panels, wind turbines and the scaling up of the production of lithium batteries are all big and important drivers to our economic life. There have been warnings by climate experts about the threat of drought and flooding in this climate altered world. Water scarcity has hit key regions of the world, other parts it has become too warm for some crops to propagate, sometimes too hot to grow at all. 

Dairy Operator

The Colorado River basin’s biggest problem is the legacy food production system started in the 1800’s is no longer feasible given our growing population in the Southwest. Gross domestic product isn’t everything, certainly there is more to life than how much our economy produces, but even still there are limits to what purposes we put to water and what we receive in return. Today in our current politically stalemated circumstances we use 80% of all the water coming down the Colorado River to produce a return on that water of somewhere around 4% of the region’s gross domestic product.  That lack of return on investment has remained unchallenged by the great power of Big Agriculture’s lobbying prowess and the cowardice of our political leaders.

Parker, Arizona along border with California

I leave you with this picture of the Colorado River near Parker, Arizona. Take a look, now imagine most all that water is dedicated to some thousands of farms and ranches while a very small sliver is left for the use of the regions 40 million citizens. There is a lot we have to do to insure our survival on this climate emergency fated planet, high on that list is reforming the nation’s water distribution system on the Colorado River. This is the real deal—


Sedona for Dinner

Dinner Scene

Arrived at home built on a rocky bluff overlooking Oak Creek in Sedona. Brock and Kate’s place was built by the two back in the 1980’s. Brock and I are the same age. He’s currently been getting three bulldozers back into running condition. That’s been mostly about fueling the machines up with fresh diesel, new batteries and then troubleshooting. Some people have all the fun, Brock has none but he does know how to get a D8 sized 40,000 lbs. “dozer” to come back to life.

Building on Bedrock

Since the pandemic hit Sedona has been overrun with visitors. With so many people working remote many decided to take advantage move here and mix business with pleasure. As far as destinations go Sedona is a terrific pick with one big drawback— it is crawling with visitors. Camp Verde is 35 minutes away on the other side of the valley, visitation by tourists is not the small towns problem.

Today like yesterday will be used for a long walk. A flatter, longer, quieter piece of terrain is in the cards. Put on sunscreen, wear a hat, take a walking stick to chase away unwanted troublesome barking dogs. We’ll walk through juniper, cedar, cottonwoods and ash. Water is up still so finding a place with a good crease with a creek is what might work best.

Last night included the company of five good dogs. That’s a lot of canine company. That’s a rural life for you.

We’re off after our long walk to get under the shade of some sycamores, we’ll barbecue tonight, most of us have our heart set on a salad but mesquite wood cooking too, maybe throw some potatoes into the fire. We’ll see.


Mercy Hot Springs—

The woman seated next to me up to her neck in hot water gathered her thoughts, “My husband passed two months ago—” smiling against the odds she continued. “Together we worked a piece of land— a section— 160 acres, raised our family there, he’d just retired, then like that he’s gone.” Soaking can be revelatory.

Dawn light at Mercy Hot Springs… the old owl roosting tree to left

Prime access to a good long soak at a mineral springs should be located near as is possible smack dab in the midst of— to hell and gone. For first timers you’ll want a place that welcomes the insincere curiosity seekers, dilatants, and accidental geothermal mineral waters uninitiated. A fraction of the newbie’s are convinced right off, now and forever they are in the know about the multifaceted powers of mineral hot spring waters. Welcome, come on in, the water is just fine. 

Veteran hot spring types see naturally occurring mineral springs to be one of earth’s most soothing natural occurring pleasures— and not just people— manatees in winter are attracted to such waters found rising from fissures in Florida’s Crystal River’s silted riverbeds. 

Grab your swimsuit, beach towel, sunscreen, favorite pool toy, love interest, and don’t forget to bring along a page turner. 

To find Mercy Hot Springs you’ll depart from San Francisco heading southeast toward Livermore on I-580 then further over Altamont Pass you’ll jog to the right until you merge with I-5 continuing toward Los Angeles, then take exit 379 and go west 14 miles on Little Panoche Road, the one-way trip if you avoid rush hour should take just over two hours. 

Hot Springs of the Panoche—

Mercy Hot Springs is found next to a paved county two-lane road that extends west of the San Joaquin Valley into the very heart of the Valle de Panoche Grande— or, as it is now known— Little Panoche Valley.

Sticking with this regions favorite name, the South Fork of Little Panoche Creek cuts along the easternmost side of the resort’s property. Infrequent rains fill the creek bed; salt cedar is the tell, this intermittent waterway is almost always dry as a bone. Full timers might see water running in the creek but overnight guests at the resort never will. 

Solar Array on Ridge

Mercy Hot Springs is an improved natural hot spring resort. You’ll find such creature comforts as electricity, and reverse osmosis filtered drinking water. There is a swimming pool, individual sized soaking tubs, showers, and restrooms. Should a day visit not be sufficient there are a wide assortment of options you may choose for your stayover. There are tiny cabins and Airstream trailers where you can arrange for a fee to spend the night. You can pull through with your RV where you will find electric power, water, and a wireless internet system to use. If you prefer a more spartan visit you can stay at the more rustic sites beneath the salt cedar where visitors may pitch a tent, car camp or enjoy the pleasures to be found in staying in a fully self-contained van. 

Wildflowers spring 2023— atmospheric river bounty

The First People— Yokuts and Costanoans were sure to have encamped from here in some past nomadic life to hunt and be hunted— next came the Spaniards who came grazing cattle, expanding empire, and as ever searching for gold. The Panoche and its surrounding hills are a parched hot ranching landscape, a place of rugged plateaus, steep hills, and flash flood cut washes.  

A specific breed of homo-hot-water-sapiens is drawn to thermally charged watering holes. Here at Mercy Hot Springs, the proprietors have solved the mystery of all great conundrums— to wear a bathing suit or not to wear a bathing suit. The solution is both elegant and old school. At one soaking pool location a bathing suit is required and at the other there is none. Strong feelings animate this debate and there are many enthusiasts that must take to the waters— just as the God’s have delivered them into the Universe— naked as the day they were born. Fair is fair, right is right, and hot spring soaking purists soak by a code etched into time memorial.

When you soak, you’ll want to stay hydrated. You’ll find pure filtered R/O water dispensers to fill your own drinking bottles near the pools. For your own sake and that of others smoking is not permitted anywhere on the property. Whispering is encouraged and if you can’t whisper your visit to the pools will be discouraged. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that a few carloads of amped up sugar fed children armed with water floating toys could turn the pool area into a fractious convivial scene that more resembles the concrete esplanade found poolside at their local plunge. Serenity is featured here at Mercy— mindfully the resort attempts to coax a slower rhythm to the metropolitan online bustle that fuels its guests’ contemporary lifestyles.

Encounters with other patrons on this trip included more men than women, more beards than not, more book readers, mostly curmudgeon types, all in all I found my neighbors towing the line and keeping up their part of solitudes bargain. Soaking by daylight or after dark while stargazing was equally pleasing. All this gosh darn peace and quiet is the resorts most environmentally protected resource. If getting away from it all is your thing, this is the place for you. Those hoping to shake their moneymaker might prefer rolling further on down the road to Bakersfield, perhaps a stopover at Buck Owen’s Crystal Palace for a night of honky-tonking might fix whatever it is still eating at you. 

Fill with water then hop on in—

Ritual is everything in the hot spring soaking world. You’ll rinse and clean your tub first off, as is often said cleanliness is next to hot spring godliness. With step one complete it takes twenty-minutes to get the tub full. 

We soaked in the afternoon, came back again after dinner, watched the stars, holding hands, whispering to one another all manner of idle fragments of details to our day, then after a good night’s sleep my wife and I soaked once more in the morning right after we fixed our coffee. 

Around the outdoor pool there are scattered a small fleet of Adirondack chairs where you may while away the lighted hours of your day. For those that still possess some small kernel of initiative you may hike up into the surrounding hills, whatever sloth, and toper you may have allowed to become habit can be remedied on the hot springs nearby footpaths. Wear a hat, put on sunscreen, you will want to anticipate contemplating contour lines, rounded shapes, and the interplay you’ll feel between yourself and the surrounding landscape. This is the world where the cottontail rabbit serves as a food source for coyote, bobcat, and Cooper’s hawk. By night Great horned owl sneak out by stealthy winged flight to feed on the delectable small nocturnal animals. Flitting among the trees are hummingbirds, mourning doves, and crows. 

Energy-efficient solar powered heat pumps have found a near ideal location here at Mercy Hot Springs. Along the ridge are various solar arrays, some stationary others on pedestals that track the sun across the sky. Whether you need to cool down or get warm the heat pumps will solve your problem off-grid with 100% carbon free electricity. If you are unfamiliar with this modern appliance here’s an opportunity to get acquainted with one of our climate emergencies high tech solutions.

Along the south fork of Little Panoche Creek on the easternmost side of the resort there is a grove of tamarisk that tracks along the creek’s watercourse way. The common name for tamarisk is salt cedar, it is an invasive water thirsty species that once established is impossible to remove. I’ve seen stands cut down to stumps with chainsaws, the remains bulldozed, the stumps regenerate, in a few years the salt cedar’s thriving, all the hard labor is for not. 

Rustic campsite—

Scattered all about the grounds at the resort your visit feel like you are living within an  oasis— you’ll see tall palms swaying in the sky, weeping willows, gnarled century old pepper trees and Monterey pines.  

 The receptionist’s name is Jersey, your guest services coordinator has come from Bonn, Germany to work at the resort. I asked about the short-eared owls that had been for decades migrating here to roost in a favorite tree for the winter. Jersey is something of a birder explained that the Great horned owls had moved into the area and that this largest of all owls dominates the habitat and had chased off the smaller owl birds. Owl change had come like it or not to the Little Panoche Valley. I miss the short-eared owls, this parliament had for as long as anyone could remember had every winter migrated south to roost in one of the oldest pine trees on the property. My last visit I counted more than twenty short-eared owls. At dusk the skilled fliers would alight and scatter off in every direction to hunt for prey to eat. You’ll see bats and nightjars in the night sky too.  

Little Panoche Valley is sited at the southernmost point of the Diablo Range. If you walk up top along the ridge where the solar arrays are mounted, you can see the nearby landmarks. Big Mountain is to the west, Panoche Hills are to the east. Las Agulias Mountain stands out towering over the smaller hills looking north. At an elevation of over 5200 feet the tallest of the 120 mile long Diablo Range peaks— the summit of San Benito Mountain dominates the horizon to the south. It is up there, at the higher altitudes where you will find forests of gray, coulter, knobcone, Jeffrey and ponderosa pines. Down here at these lower elevations you’ll find the occasional sycamore, black oak and bigleaf maple, these species are scattered here and there. 

Visits to Mercy Hot Spring ought to be planned factoring in the time of year and day of the week. That’s how I’d do it anyway. During the peak of summer daytime temperatures here soar, day after day it can sizzle here, thermometers go triple digit day in and day out. Nights of summer will remain warm, if you do stay rent a cabin turn on the air conditioning, you’ll need it to remain cool why you sleep. 

I’ve come out during spring and fall and always on days when it isn’t forecast to rain. A chilly night would make be ideal for a good long soak.  

Far from California’s maddening crowds—

Planning a visit to Mercy Hot Springs while the wildflowers are blooming is a must-see rare show of color. The Little Panoche valley is a remote off the beaten track location, bring everything you need for your meals, food and cooking equipment, everything, you won’t regret coming prepared. Because there is no glass allowed in and around the pools be sure you have plenty of unbreakable containers for your water and beverages. 

Not sure when and why the no pet policy has been put in place, but this is a pet-free resort. Jersey the receptionist at the front desk advised while I was checking in that someone had driven out here and dumped off a young full sized mixed shepherd breed. With nowhere to go the frightened dog has been sticking near to the resort grounds likely to fend off an attack at night by coyotes. This is not a small problem; the resort owners and staff are mindful of the dog’s predicament. One of the handymen had finally coaxed the animal to eat some dog food from a bowl, then he got near enough to scratch the terrified dog between his ears. The resort staff is working on helping find the abandoned dog a new home.

Nothing but Salt Cedar, hot water and good peaceful times—

Stopovers for a good long soak at hot springs has been a habit now in my life for a great many years. I’ve hiked into the Cascade wilderness to soak in naturally formed hot spring pools. In British Columbia I’ve soaked inside caves lighted with candles. Then again I’ve stayed overnight at a swank destination sited on the banks of the Columbia River, this resort is north of Nakusp— Halcyon Hot Springs. I’ve traveled near and far. The dusty semi-improved hot springs in Tonopah just west of Phoenix has been a frequent simple Southwest pleasure, I’ve had the pleasure to soak there countless nights while on my way to a next stop. 

Guest Cabin No. 2—

To my mind Mercy Hot Springs rates as one of the very best hot springs resorts to be found nearest to the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s not too long a drive, the facilities are all in good working order, the resort isn’t too improved, it remains rooted in a more rustic sensibility. The Panoche region hillsides echo the contours of the famous Palouse, a panoramic farming region in Eastern Washington. 

If you have bones that ache, muscles all in a knot, why now you know where to go to put a fix to that load of worries you’ve been carrying on your sore back all these many long days. Why a hot spring visit is just what you need and now you know where to come— I’m planning on heading back soon, I’ll see you out there, bathing suit or none, doesn’t matter to me, either way— folk who come to soak here will be more than happy to give you a how do you do— 

Books · Screenplay

Arizona’s Water Grabbers—

Cochise County is a chunk of Arizona where I have whiled away time. Hot springs, winemakers and bohemian high desert dwellers are all here. Then, there are the predators— every kind in every guise— coyote, puma and red tail hawks are here. Then there are the corporate dairy operators, they arrive with well drillers, these are the money is no object drill deeper well drilling dairy interests that have with heavy hands invaded this delicate region of Southern Arizona. 

Running on out to survey the land

Certain water user types like to pretend that the regions high desert vineyards require the same volume of water a dairy operator needs. Growing grapes in Arizona’s high desert is in fact not water intensive, it is an ideal crop to water by the method of a miserly drip irrigation system.  By contrast dairy operators require boundless amounts of water for their operations.

A region of Cochise County that is known as the Kentucky Settlements has been overrun by an out of state dairy conglomerate that landed here and began punching wells like there is no tomorrow— we’re talking over 600 wells. Nearby county small farmers act as a smokescreen, the idea is to throw the misinformed citizens off the scent, conflate an operator that uses almost no water to an operator that uses almost all the water. 

Big dairy operations will run multiple wells day in and day out at 35 gallons per minute all day long, twenty-four hours a day, all year long. You turn on 600 irrigation well pumps and run them all day every day year in and year out and we are talking about the collapse of the regions underground water resources.

Boastful but close enough for true

Cochise County seat is in Bisbee, Arizona. The town is located furtherest to the south along the Mexican frontier. Nearby Douglas is situated to the east in a valley below right on the border. If you are sick to death of sweltering in Tucson you come up into the mountains and visit Bisbee, some rent a place others buy a second home here.

While Douglas is predominately Mexican American it is Bisbee’s population that attracts misfits. Art and craft types that follow the festival circuit call Bisbee home. Talented baristas, bartenders, waitresses and tourist shop clerks scratch out their livelihoods here. Airbnb helps give folk here an extra way to make a buck. The types that come to Bisbee as a rule can’t cut it in Wilcox, it’s an emotional thing, and social, Wilcox is too straight, Bisbee is still running wild. The two types found most common here are the young and the offbeat older spirits still clinging to their youthful wild spirited ways.

The United States Army’s Intelligence school is west in nearby Sierra Vista and Huachuca City. The wild west’s Tombstone is here. Once you find Sunizona you are getting mighty close to where much of the misguided water grabbing is taking place. Further to the east are the Chiricahua’s, much is wilderness, most of the rest consists of small villages and settlements. Bird hunting in the Dragoons is popular. The region is a magnet for winter visitors coming here to explore during the cooler months of the year.

Water tanks gravity feed nearby ranch house and cowboy bunking quarters

Cochise County’s population sits at about 125,000. That’s not much. Their brand of politics tends to run hot, plenty here fashion themselves independents, tend to be in sympathy with libertarians, and want to be left alone. That doesn’t describe citizens in Bisbee, they’re all those other kinds and flavors of people. It’s down here where citizens gathered signatures and qualified an initiative to regulate groundwater in the county. The active water management area was passed fair and square down along the border and didn’t pass north in nearby Wilcox. 

There are at least two underground aquifers in this region. The aquifer to the south is now a protected active managed water area and is going to be regulate, groundwater and the citizens to the north voted down the initiative and there is every reason to worry about the aquifers complete collapse. Money poured in opposition to the initiative from across the United States and likely foreign interests illegally meddled in the election as well. 

Low tech last century energy saving water pump device— windmill

Cochise County was the sole holdout in Arizona’s November’s gubinatorial election and refused to certify the results until by court order they buckled under. Kari Lake sympathizers are cheek to jowl down here and probably not more than a few thousand tried stirring up trouble. Once threatened with jail election officials sobered up and performed their duties. 

Let’s say you move down to Cochise County and purchase some acreage. You’ll put in a water well, build out a septic system, put up a place to call home and you are set to live a life rife with rattlesnakes, scorpions and disaffected Kari Lake sympathizers. Residential water well users tend to use smaller sized well pipes and less powerful pumps. Commercial operations punch deeper wells, they punch more wells and use most of the water. Citizens on fixed incomes find they have to have their wells punched deeper to keep up with the draw down, where a commercial operator sees a deeper well as a line item on an operating statement, the residential user sees having to spend $10 to $30 thousand dollars as a deal breaker. Once you lose your access to water on your 5 acres of desert paradise your land is now worthless, you’ll have to haul water in while you figure out where in the hell you can go next.

Across the American West all the state water resource agencies are only now beginning to put into law regulations that control the use of groundwater. Five areas in Arizona have any groundwater restrictions at all, most of the rest remains unregulated. Any hope of getting the groundwater protected fall to the county initiative process, chances are zero that the state legislature could pass regulations, special interests whip the vote to see that won’t happen.

California’s solution has a certain political elegance to its method. Pass the legislation necessary to get a grip on the overuse of groundwater but then set a multiple decade’s timetable to the rollout of the new rules. By 2040 every commercial well in California will have a meter, the amount of water that can be pumped will be set based upon how much water there is in the aquifer. If regulators find a given aquifer is being drawn down the regions pumps will be forced to use less or none at all. Best of all the politicians that passed the legislation a decade ago will be out of office and escape the wrath of big agriculture. Word has it if you pump long and hard enough chances are you’ll pump up the remains of one of those no good water regulating politicians that ended your free lunch decades back.

The seven western states that use Colorado River water are trying to voluntarily find four-million-acre feet of water that instead of being used will be voluntarily given back to the river. No state has been able to find more than a few hundred-thousand-acre feet of water that they can afford to give back. Regulators trying to compel a voluntary solution trying to avoid having to issue mandatory cutbacks. 

Your looking at him— he’s in Bisbee where he belongs and fits in

The American West is short of the water needed to maintain business as usual. On one level there is the threat of having your allotment of river water cut. If you are a farm that means the jig is up, fold your tent and hand the keys to your farmhouse back to the bank. That’s what taking acreage out of production looks like, certainly not a happy ending. The more catastrophic scenarios hit home when an entire aquifer collapses and many thousands of farms and rural residential operations simply have no more water left in the ground to bring up and use to support their lives and livelihoods. When the northernmost section of Cochise County’s aquifer is pumped dry, some speculate it could happen anytime between now and 2070 the region will be rendered uninhabitable, and that’s not a problem politics can do anything about. Once we hit that marker, we’ve entered the lifeboat moment in the climate crisis. 

Where I sit in Northern California today there is a major Pacific storm about to clobber us with drenching rain and heavy snow. Water resource managers have already said that while we need this rain, and it will be a lot of rain, it will not in and of itself be enough to end the 23 year long drought this region has suffered. More rain helps but water resources remain tight and that’s now the permanent circumstance we face as our world’s climate shifts.  


Limantour Beach to Celebrate Life

Posting here at my website I comment about life in as large a sense as I can muster. I use WordPress and can change my website with little effort. What is harder to accomplish is writing high quality prose, polished paragraphs, well thought through, structured, and as ever in long fiction prose that is patient, is tied to the observational details of setting and character—

Footpath Across Creek to Limantour

The two paragraphs are of a fictional New Years Day at the beach at Pt Reyes National Seashore. I try to get over this time of year, if I can on the new day of the new year’s morning. I was a few days early in 2022. The setting was where I imagined it best to get a couple to talk. This is how the chapter opened and at the very very end the last bit as the characters depart a fragment of conversation—

Happy New Year

Limantour Beach looking north where Snowy Plovers nest

Dawn was pristine. The air crisp, clean, the sky empty, the sea was true, chasmal…blue. No chop on the water; no cloud in the sky. Limantour Beach was alone, still, breathless. Not another soul had set foot here this morning, but for Ry and Finn. It was the first day, the New Year. They walked barefoot in the sand at the surf’s edge, acquainting their thoughts to the booze-soaked resolutions they’d taken the night before. The least waves arrived.  The Pacific was in repose between storms. The surf’s soundtrack was a languid slow curling muffled splashing that reverberated up and down the beach. 

Opportunity comes by way of a makeshift bench

A flock of sanderlings scampered along the edge of the water, plunging their beaks into opportunities, then dashing away from the onrush of the ocean’s stunted spume. One gull laughed, another cried, a young one begged. It was not a special day for them. The coastline curved northward and west, scribing a five mile long crescent, forming a protected anchorage once used by Sir Francis Drake. Beyond a ship’s reach estuaries penetrated the plateaus, lagoons and bays cut into the lands. Beyond beach were pickleweed, meadow, chaparral, dunegrass, and the incidental gnarled wind-sculpted tree. Here was a blend of earthen tones, tans, tawny, chalk-white, this green and that green, every mood of blue, yellow mooned… the whole of what the eye could find had been drizzled upon, ceaseless mists of water, gnawed by wind.  Here the world flowed and answered to scouring of eons by leaving its evidence to boggle even a scavenging raven’s curiosity. In sight of man was geologic, newborn continent pressed against the pelagic, a place of grinding forces, quaking,  its shifting iterations restated in the wink of one century’s eye. 

Dunegrass volunteering at entrance to Limantour

Jackie put her arm around Sophia and turned to walk toward the parking lot.

Ry hollered, “Hey Finny, come on, were leaving,”

Finn turned. Ry put his arm around Kristine. “There’s a good man inside that friend of mine.”

“Might be good.  I want to believe you, but he’s just about the most impossible man I’ve ever tried to hook up with.”

Jackie, walking with Sophia, said. “Men can be like the back seat of a car— might not be perfect, but sometimes the back seat will just have to do.”

Books · Performances

Caesars Palace Water Follies

Western state water negotiators met in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace. Everyone was there and nothing got agreed to, slow motion natural disasters allow participants time to stall.

Tanks for the Memories

As far as stalling goes sending everyone to the Vegas Strip where the deadlocked, stalemated and going nowhere negotiations could play out was at least good for the gaming industry. You want to play games with the future of the American West why not come here—

Many of the most capable spokespersons all set down the same talking points. There was talk of the threat to dead pools, surface evaporation rates, lawn removal, and the demise of the Salton Sea. 

I like that the Metropolitan Water District in Southern California said that until they knew how much water they could get from the Sacramento River Delta they couldn’t predict how much water they could live without from the Colorado River. 

Honorable mention has to go to lettuce growers down in Yuma for being the poster child for all the water that agriculture needs and wants. In point of fact it is and always was and always will be the alfalfa growers that remain the most protected group of water users that are about to be removed from the endangered species list.

The most talented orators in the ongoing century long fiasco known as the Law of the River understand there ain’t no use talking about taking alfalfa growers water away. Alfalfa has become the most invisible and most invincible crop to ever curse the veins of our riparian habitat. They got most of the water, they definitely got the most fearsome lobby, you want your career to grind to sudden end try crossing this grass growing group.

Get it— We are the fixers to the fix we are in

Here’s my best guess as to what’s going on right now. First, calls have been made to survey teams in the Sierras, Wasatch and Rocky Mountains. Right now we are above normal in snowfall totals, but Debbie Downer from the Geologic Survey continues to warn of the new normal, drier and slightly warmer climate continues to reduce total runoff once the spring melt gets underway. Debbie is such the bummer.

I’m going to take a swing at what I think happens next. The Department of Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation will call for draconian cuts by February, you’ll want to wait to announce those cuts until after the President’s State of the Union but before Valentines Day. 

They keep talking about cutting between 2- and 4-million-acre feet of water— let’s say they decide on 3-million-acre feet, and most of those foot-acres of water will come out of the water allocated to alfalfa growers in California. Smaller cuts will fall on the bit players in Nevada, Arizona and Utah. 

Again, friends, climate skeptics and Luddites let me stress that there is enough water for residential use but there is not enough water for what agriculture special interests want to do and that is to grow more alfalfa. 

Good decent hard working urban Americans are going voluntarily send help to these hard hit rural regions. What we have to do is help the rural alfalfa producers of the American West through what will be a wrenching economic transition to a new rural way of life.

Favorite Forlorn Outpost

Or— we can just extend and pretend and hope against hope that it will finally rain enough to bail us all out of the fix this 23 year long drought has put us in.

I’ve crunched the numbers, counted bodies, estimated river flow percentages and had a fair number of Prickly pear cactus margaritas preparing highly accurate projections of the fix we are in and the way to climb out of the dang dusty waterless mess we find the Southwest American desert stuck in.

What makes this hard isn’t the science, it’s not coming up with the answers, it’s the politics. Water is something you either have or you don’t have, there isn’t more water that we can have Congress vote on and pass then deliver to customers out here, there isn’t any water, and that is different than other kinds of things we are short of. 

Decent God fearing folk get their knickers in a knot when you start talking about how the world’s population is playing a role in the resource constraints we are experiencing. People do not want to talk about Debbie Downer taking birth control pills or making her own plans to have or not have a family. 

Alfalfa growers are akin to the same thing. Taking alfalfa out of production represents a kind of extinction event to this industry and they are not ready to have their crop sacrificed on the altar of this climate emergency, hell this thing isn’t even real, it’s all some horrible mistake, let someone else take the cuts, I want my water and I want to do whatever it is I’ve been doing.

Refer to the Above Sign— You Can Do It—

Once you get the space in your head to start thinking like the space inside the head of a farmer that’s been growing alfalfa for the last three decades you can see they just don’t think it’s fair. Again, figure farmers use most of the water out here and then most of the water farmers use goes to growing alfalfa. It turns out that if you start looking for sacrifice you need to go to the users that have been using most of the water. 

Try this piece of reality on for size. All the farm products in Arizona, Nevada, Utah and California combined are almost a rounding error to the region’s total gross domestic product. Farms use most of the water and return the smallest of all economic benefits to the region. That worked so long as we weren’t in the midst of global climate emergency and no longer works because we have got our civilization backed up against the wall of reality. 

Figure to that bellyaching you hear coming sometime after Valentine’s Day will make Kari Lakes moaning about election fraud sound like a whimper. 

Hope you find yourself meeting your better half under the mistletoe this week. Happy— happy peeps—

Books · Performances

Proletariat’s Rejuvenation—

The global proletariat thrill meter is pegged at infinite— I told you so.  Tesla’s stock has fallen from $384 a share to a close of $156 per today. It turns out the richest man in the world is no longer the richest man in the world. Trolling is misunderstood. Behaving like a privileged, adolescent, juvenile, white supremacist isn’t exactly going to endear you to mainstream audiences.

If you want to be a dick best to have come from the trashy dumpster fueled fires out there on the margins of society. Wealthy trolls are mispositioned. Kicking down is so unseemly. 

My trolling based on my social status is 100% kicking the ball up through the goalposts. There is just so much more of an advantage to not having my own private jet waiting on the tarmac to whisk me away to my own private island. 

Cryptic Symbol in Arts District

Machiavelli was a skilled observer of Italian political power. Bombastic digital libertarians’ deceitful masking’s are hardly the glorious mischief made during the last renaissance. Centuries has not improved the grift or flim-flam.

I fathom little but I do dig down until I hit what I’m looking for. I’m a big fan of Slim Pickins, the great Hollywood western character actor. Slim happened to like Kingman, Arizona and hung his spurs up there after his long-heralded career. Sad, Slim didn’t hang long gone at 64. 

In Dr. Strangelove its Pickins who rides the nuclear weapon out of the bomb bay down to its destination— that’s what I’m talking about.

Tossing your future into the meatgrinder that is running a social media platform if you do the due diligence would certainly have come with some red flags. Don’t you just hate it when people tell you that you can’t do something. 

William Randolph Hearst could have done a lot of things, he chose to buy newspapers. Hearst was a wealthy man, but all his newspapers didn’t make him a popular one.

Musk has blundered into a boxed canyon and now surrounded by hostiles occupying the high ground. The transponder on his private jet gives away his location. Tweets giving away his location are targeted for takedown. Freedom is relative, a billionaire’s insecurity is absolute.

One of my favorite Sinatra moments is ole’ Blue Eyes  onstage call-out to Orson Welles seated in the audience at one of his Flamingo shows in Las Vegas.  Sinatra understood you don’t do gossip column behavior when you’re the greatest saloon singer in the world, you stick to the entertainment sections of the newspapers. Welles and Sinatra were gracious to each other not combatants.

There’s no business like show business

I caught Bette Midler spinning Sinatra discs on his Sirius XM channel. Bette had not given much attention to Sinatra, then listening carefully one day bought some of his albums and concluded that his work as a musician stood on its own, that his work was all high class even if his offstage hijinks was in another category. Fair enough— we can’t all blow every category in life away— 

Somehow, perhaps these past few years of unbridled civic awful behavior, the churlish nature how we go about gaining visibility, the way people who might be showing some compassion for Jews, Blacks, lesbians, transsexuals, or drag queen performers is criticized as evidence of these sympathizers being overly compassionate, too empathetic, too bleeding-heart liberal— that this form of understanding of other’s plight is evidences of being woke.

Man, the trick is to turn compassion into a pejorative. Take a strength, swift boat the living snot out of the thing and turn it into a weakness. 

That gambit hasn’t played out completely just yet, but this jig is up, the bait and switch ain’t got no appeal, the mouse ain’t going for this stinking cheese on the trap no more.

Jane Goodall evaluating the physical and facial characteristics of one private citizen in Florida remarked that the visual cues observed by this scientist were remarkably chimpanzee like. To keep at bay challengers the chimpanzee swells their chest. That it is all bluff obscuring the fact that there is no beef. 

Surveying the list of attention seekers, I’m reminded of such stalwart journalists as James Fallows, EJ Dionne and Margaret Sullivan. While the chaos clickbait circus parades down the avenues of Twitter, Facebook and TikTok a cohort of cooler heads continue to behave much as they always have. Sometimes a particular topic isn’t quite as sexy as another, but it is still important to get the word out, for readers to read and know, and for all of us to increase our understanding.

Our world’s climate crisis is a difficult issue to report. How a hurricane in Florida, wildfire in Washington or the lack of water on the Colorado River are all intertwined, all pieces of the same problem, and that these natural disasters when modeled to help convey the seriousness of the moment challenge a reader to stay with the problem, not look away, not be drawn off the scent on the trail of fact, to not just know but be moved to help act.

Launching rockets into space, inventing a mass market electric automobile are examples of actions that help the world take a constructive path in the right direction. Purchasing a social media company and elevating yourself to the role of world’s once richest man troll is perhaps the biggest most expensive blunder of 2022. By comparison GameStop is a mere rounding error, FTX is a little bump in the crypto road. Incinerating $44 billion dollars on a vanity project, now that takes some major league miscalculating. 

Getting into Hot Water

I made a lot of predictions last year, some were real dull doozies, but I didn’t predict the world’s richest man who now is no longer the world’s richest man having the bimbo eruption of all bimbo eruptions to close out 2022. Sometimes you just can’t make this level of hubris up— this is the rocket man coming back down to earth— parachutes— I don’t need no stinking parachutes—

Books · Performances

Emergency on the Wasatch

The Salt Lake City Tribune posted a water story (see it here) that straightened my back and got my attention. The story is well researched, we learn there are 10,000 family hay-growing operations in Utah, that the crop market value is $500 million, and one-third of the crop is sent overseas. 

Profits in Utah’s alfalfa production are on par with revenues generated by the state’s amusement parks. Water slides, aquariums, and entertainment farms bring in just as much. 

This is Northern Utah’s most precious renewable resource

Alfalfa is grown across Utah. (Full alfalfa story here) To the south Cedar City and Delta have sizable acreage planted. North of Salt Lake City and east of the Great Salt Lake it is Cache and Weber County where hay cultivation is the most intense, it is the crown jewel of alfalfa growing regions in the state. Even with that Utah supplies just 1% of all the alfalfa grown in the USA. 

The Bear, Jordan and Weber Rivers is the source of the water farmers have needed to grow alfalfa. Until the 1980’s irrigating fields of alfalfa was regarded as sustainable. Annual rain and snow patterns began shifting while population continued to expand, and the cultivation of alfalfa continued to increase. With domestic markets tight Utah’s agricultural interests searched abroad and developed foreign markets for their product. 

Logan, Utah is Cache County’s biggest city. There are about 50,000 in town, in a county of 156,000. Median income is set at about $30k, most of the population in this region are young, under 30-year old’s, most Mormon’s, many already started having children. Home prices here have not exploded like the southern region of Utah.

Whiskey for drinking, water is for war

To the east is the northernmost section of the Wasatch Mountains, it’s a sportsmen’s paradise— fishing, hunting and off-road vehicles are the preferred recreational activities of the region. Most of the population here was born after 1990, many were just grammar school students when the World Trade Center came down, the Global Financial Crisis hit while they were graduating from high school, and the scorched earth politics that went from slow burn to high heat triggered by the election of the first Black-American president is likely their coming-of-age memory.  Bill Clinton was before their time, they have no memory of what life was like before the free trade agreement era, it was in their youth when most of the factories in America were disassembled and sold off to bidders in China. 

You travel further south to Weber County, it is smaller in size but larger in population,  they earn a little more, the population is a bit older, but for the most part the voting block of these two county’s has only a scant memory of a world that existed before 1990. Ogden landmarks the northernmost portion of the greater Salt Lake City metropolitan corridor— a region known as the Wasatch Front. 

Courtesy of Google Maps

The Great Salt Lake, this ancient body of water west of the Wasatch Front is undergoing a climate induced transformation, the lake has been shrinking since the 1980’s, as of now the lake has lost two-thirds its size. This hotter drier climate and diversion of river water for alfalfa cultivation has proven a dire threat to the lake’s survival. The shorelines soils are thick with minerals that once dry go airborne fowling the air up and down the Wasatch Front. The unwanted contamination reads like a rogue’s gallery of the most awful heavy metals and toxic chemicals a human would never want to breathe. More than a million of Utah’s citizens face significant increases in cancer and respiratory diseases because of these pollutants. 

In 2022 it is estimated that Utah’s gross domestic product is $183 billion. Of that statewide about $500 million (that’s right not even a billion) are the profits from alfalfa. Still if you live north in a rural agricultural district like Cache County these are make or break profits. Then, there is the cultural impact as most for Mormon’s in this region rural farming and ranching is the foundation of their religious heritage. Add a dollop of cowboy culture and you’ve a significant chunk of the state that wants to protect its past way of life from this more complicated multicultural present.

Last Sunday on the editorial pages of the Salt Lake City Tribune, the state’s leading newspaper has called for the state of Utah to buyout the alfalfa growers and to put the water back into the tributaries that fill the Great Salt Lake. 

The transition away from grass crop agriculture will require careful planning.  It has been an unfortunate feature of our zeal for free market capitalism to let the market figure things out on its own. With the energy transition in full swing now, and the real-world impact of the climate emergency effecting every region of the American West it is going to be necessary for government agencies to partner with the private sector to create a new and more environmentally balanced economy. We simply do not have time to let one industry wither and die while another tries to rise from the ashes of yesteryear. 

One approach to fixing the crisis on the Great Salt Lake would be to put a small excise tax on Utah’s $183 billion gross domestic product, and keep that tax on for some years, paying the farmers to keep their fields free of alfalfa. Some will transition to crops that use less water, some will get out of farming, others might remain on their land and find work nearby. Private enterprise will find many opportunities as much of our manufacturing capacity returns from locations overseas. Utah already plays host to several major data server farms, the need for more in a world continuing to go online is a demand this region could meet. 

Few were born when this was made

The key to success is striking the right balance, this is going to require a private-public partnership in innovation. Opportunity is key and can help offset culture shock— and it is this modern climate changing way of life encroaching on this world of yesterday that is going to take some real finessing if this transition is to succeed. 

One of the features lacking in our present is the existence of a reliable narrator. If we can make sense of what’s happening, if the alfalfa growers can help keep the citizens of their state safe, if their sacrifice can benefit the many, then that story may be worth telling. Given the sacrifice necessary, the people may find their sacrifice uplifting, dare I say Christian. Opening this new frontier in a non-carbon fueled economy could be as vivid a modern-day tale as the explorers who entered this region by wagon train to settle nearly two centuries ago. If ever there were reasons for the public schools to restore funding for music, arts, drama and literature this may be that moment in our history. 

We’ll watch with interest to see if there are any takers to the proposal put forward by the Tribune’s editorial board. So far pulling acreage out of production has been forced by drought and bankruptcy. It needn’t be like that, rather than wait for the economy to tank, wait for the inevitable ill citizens to start filling up Salt Lake City’s hospitals, this time getting out ahead of the forces that have us in a bind, doing the right thing is a way for the state of Utah to build a bridge to a better future.

I know these people, I have traveled through this region, having presented my show to audiences up and down the small towns of this region. There’s a path forward, leaders need to show courage and light the way.


Johnson’s Johnson

The sideshow that sometimes appears in the form of a losing political campaign contesting the results of an election is pulling its stakes up and heading back to the clown car warehouse. If you haven’t got on the sore-loser express you are missing little to nothing.

Johnson Distortion Shadow Effects

If you appeal the results of an election in a courtroom you had best come with proof.  Just so you know a valid reason for a recount is because the margins are so slim that a more accurate tally could alter the result. Losing an election by 24,000 votes isn’t that.

This week’s rogue’s gallery of hack-doodles includes Edward Snowden, Matt Taibbi, Tulsi Gabbard, Kari Lake with a dash of Elmo sprinkled over the top.  Lake’s claims of election fraud were tossed out of court, then to add insult to false claims the judge ordered her to pay for the courts time.

Special mention goes to Southern Arizona’s Cochise County (Wilcox, Tombstone, Douglas, Sierra Vista) for foot dragging, belly aching and eventually being threatened by Arizona judge that demanded they certify their county’s results or expect to have to go through a few things.

The crowd that showed up in support of Lake’s broadside in Phoenix looked akin to a small handful waiting at a bus stop (that’s generous just about 10 total showed) with too much polyester and the worst taste in contrast color matched clothing. 

Apparently, the scrimmaging has to do with page turning more than fact finding. If we can please stop talking about all those Hitler loving diners down in Mar-a-lago and start talking about Chinese special effects photography. I mean what I really want to know is where someone stuck their Johnson. If you are still unclear on the concept the famous Johnson I’m referring to is an opportunity for all kinds of new adventures. It will take you places; a Johnson will be the cause of many funny postures, different people enjoy putting Johnson’s Johnson into different places, and if are really lucky you are one of the few that gets featured on the pages of a Johnson exploitation tabloid. 

That’s going to take a really wide Johnson

There are no serious people thinking about issues of the day. While all these bitty tempests are raging across the airwaves there is the very real problem of the drought that is still causing like existential civilization threatening trouble. The chances of hitting minimum power pool within the next two years is part of Reclamation’s minimum probable forecast, current height is 3528 feet above sea level, from this present starting point 40 million citizens will go into full climate emergency mode when the lake hits 3490 feet above sea level. That is just 138 feet separating those that are worried right now from all those other folks busy reading about Johnsons. 

Speaking truth to Johnson

In terms of how many Johnsons away from tragedy, and let’s be generous now, on average say there are two Johnson’s for every foot of water, we are just 276 Johnson’s away from a climate catastrophe of a kind the modern world has never experienced.

Maybe as Lake Powell continues dropping, we could get the tabloids to feature a really nice Johnson on its pages, and then sort of a montage of Johnsons as the lake falls. One benefit is that all these fool sized Johnsons would certainly begin to numb the publishers’ subscribers. Maybe we could hold a contest to see who gets to be the last Johnson, maybe it could be an exceptionally long Johnson, nothing world record breaking, something akin to Prairie Home Companion, something slightly above average I think would suffice.

Johnson outboards taking Johnsons fishing

The current state of affairs comes down to where this Johnson or that Johnson has been. We especially enjoy irresponsible Johnson stories, the famous cheating Johnson’s, the involuntarily sent by social media Johnson’s that end up uninvited into a complete strangers feed.  Those Johnson’s, the most unwelcomed, the most ridiculed, the Johnson that can blow back on the Johnson owner are the Johnson’s that have in hell a special place reserved for the idiot Johnson’s sending such pictures out online. 

That’s really all this weekend is about. Johnson is the subject changer. 

Biography · Books · Screenplay

Timeline of the Bagatelle

I posted my first blog here in 2011. I joined Twitter about the same time. I cross post whenever I put a new piece up, some I’ll put on the Face. The difference is that I view Twitter as a public/political forum whereas I view Facebook as a private/apolitical venue. Friends already know what I think, the public at large may find what I’m writing worth a look, it’s a choice. 

Coffee in Barcelona

Early on I was careful about what content I covered, I was still doing a lot of summer library programs and sexual innuendo and white-hot political spear throwing could blow back on the librarians that supported my act, so I held my fire.

I remember workshopping at a writer’s conference, there was a social media breakout session, the presenter was sure the best path forward was to build your platform. Building a platform had to do with gaining followers, you would find followers on Facebook, Twitter and so on and so forth. 

Lacey retired to Oregon

Nonfiction writers’ currency of value is stored in their subject matter, fiction’s value is stored in the emotional power of the story told. Search Engine Optimization’s (SEO’s) are made for facts, they do much less well conveying emotions.

Back in the early days of social media readers observational skills were in transition, having a cup of coffee while pouring over the pages of the New York Times produced a style of reader that took their time, those old school types would read from start to finish, then choose another item and then another. 

The blizzard of stories a reader encounters online overwhelms; fewer and fewer readers can aim and sustain their attention on this whirligig digital publishing platform.

This has happened over time, not for all of us, but many if not most hardly have the same reading habits. If you were born at the turn of the new millennium, you are a person born into this current mashup of digitized platforms. In some sense you are trained from the beginning in modern day digital literacy, you are fluent in this system, know how to work with it, many times it isn’t the written word you use, instead it is a picture, audio or short video. 

Road and Dog

While I may remember the fads and fashions of the decades of yesteryear, born in the 50’s, coming of age in the 60’s, owned the post adolescent world in the ‘70’s, then dove headlong into the ‘80’s as I misappropriated my adulthood by clinging to the hope of being forever young. 

Our daughter was born in the early ‘90’s, that put an end to my completely dodging my adulthood. I fumbled through the go-go-90’s as the prime street show years in San Francisco closed out and what might come next was still far from visible.

Once I’d moved to Oregon and struggled through the offseason, then figured out how to work festivals with the help of a local event producer— one of my life’s great alliances. In short order I created a circuit that was loosely based on my being in Arizona in winter and the Northwest in summer. I took that plan across half of the 90’s and most of the next two decades until the pandemic hit.

My father was a computer buff, in 1995 he taught me how to use a dial up modem and link to a server at Oregon State University. It was awkward, there was no browser, we figured out how to write down various addresses, one was to a portal supported by NASA. Netscape just weeks later was released and was soon loaded onto my personal computer.

Leaves are not forgotten

I had written a first novel in 1980 on a manual typewriter. By the turn of the new century, I was soon to be afforded the opportunity to revise and finish the book. There would be another three more produced, all told these four novels were completed between the years 2007 and 2020, this timeline tracks the release of the iPhone and then the development of all the myriad social media platforms that soon followed. Mobility was the key. 

Bookstores were closing right and left, Amazon shouldered most of the blame, but in fact it was more than just Amazon, reading habits were changing.

Once upon a time an author, and his publisher would work to get their book onto the shelves at a bookstore. In the before times, you would go into the biggest bookstore in the world and maybe you could choose between a thousand, perhaps as many as five thousand novels. Today you surf over to Amazon where you will find millions of titles to choose from.  

All of this has happened in less than two decades, the previous system has been supplanted by this new one, what is sometimes obliquely referred to as the attention economy. 

I’m making my way through a terrific novel by Susan Gee Rumsey, Why You Must that will eventually be seen by a few hundred, no more than a few thousand I would guess, and that has nothing to do with the novel’s quality. Gorilla marketing will only take a book so far, ultimately this inanimate object loses its momentum lands on a shelf and that is where it will ride out its days, years and decades.

Blogging I use for research, it is my public facing sketchpad, where I’m sharing the underlying facts that I will use to build my fiction. On my desk now is a screenplay, a comedy about climate change set in the American Southwest and loosely to do with the scarcity of water coming out of the Colorado River. 

In the months ahead I’ll complete a full-length screenplay. What I can make happen after I finish with all the probabilities that entails are a very steep climb. 

Hotel Majestic where I was holed up working on a blog

Into this cauldron of change is the bizarre turn that our digital landscape is undergoing. I’m especially grateful that I have maintained my own website, that I can post what I want as I want. If your business model depends on Elon Musk’s mood, Facebook’s tweaking their algorithms, or whether Google will continue supporting Google Plus well you have been taken on a ride you were never going to be in control of.

Keeping a public facing blog alive, pulling some readers along, bouncing about riding from topic to topic, doing work that won’t get you dragged into court, producing material that gives some pleasure to your readers, that’s something like what I’ve been doing over here.

Much of the very best sentences, paragraphs, pages and chapters of my writing have been captured in my long fiction. A short piece here on my blog is cranked out with a sensibility of being breezy, offhanded, of the moment, not too much care, kind of let it go and move on, life is short, and anything can be improved upon, but to what end and to what difference—

The madness of the new Twitter owner, Google’s downturn, Facebook’s fated decline is proving to be game changing, we’re on our way from one place to another and none of us are sure what that next digitized realm will be. What is certain is it won’t be this, the world is moving on, there is a better next set of platforms and formulas to experiment with.

I’ve tried to drive my engagement by earnest qualities, as best I can, as honest as I can, giving some of you a chance to see other more bohemian perspectives, sharing what I find and giving voice to all those likeminded misfits I’ve come to meet along the way over the course of time. You all do know I’m onto you right— and you have found me out too. Thanks for hanging around now and again­—