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.

Books · Performances

Nevada Lithium Miner Days

A down on his luck husband from Winnemucca, Nevada had been drinking hard, there were words, he got into a quarrel with his wife took her outside and shot her and his son dead. An all-points bulletin went out for a man by the name of Ty Victor Albisu, the Highway Patrol believed the murderer to be armed and dangerous, the suspect was seen headed north on Highway 95 toward the border, the Paiute Shoshone town of McDermitt is there. A day later, it was on the Solstice this past June, longest day of the year, when the suspect was found ten miles off the main highway out a dirt two track road, the Winnemucca husband and father was dead in his car of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. 

Thacker Pass

There was nothing suspicious. Appears a defective propane heater caused the fire. Two Winnemucca men were pronounced dead at the scene. This was March of this year.

Last year Winnemucca City Council denied a license to a vendor that wanted to open both a dispensary and cannabis consumption lounge.  Dispensary was approved the lounge part of the permit was turned down. No problem, this is Nevada there are work arounds. 

In 2017 Nevada’s Tribal Marijuana Compact was passed by legislature in Carson City. There were some questions about what Nevada’s tribes could or could not do and this new law settled those concerned with keeping Nevada in the business of catering to whatever a human being might want, need or desire. Just so happens that right there in the heart of Winnemucca is located Indian land, the term of art is colony. With the expert guidance of Tribal Cannabis Consulting the tribe opened a drive-thru dispensary, cannabis café and consumption lounge. Quinn River Farms out of McDermitt was licensed and provides product for this Winnemucca dispensary. That’s how things get done in Nevada. You really do need to reconsider moving here. 

 The Winner’s Inn Casino and Hotel is a 2-minute walk from Winnemucca Convention Center, 7-minute walk to the Amtrak station and about a one-minute ride in a getaway car to the interstate. One time while passing through on the interstate I’d gone in for a late afternoon dinner, the Winner’s Inn was known for serving the best prime rib in Humboldt County, by coincidence we were treated to an official weigh-in for a prize fight scheduled to take place that evening at the convention center. The two game faced boxers removed their robes and stepped on the scales. The weight of each fighter was officially announced then recorded by prize fighting officials, these were a gallery of men all had the look of citizens with priors, they had the suspicious demeanor of a perpetrator that knew too much and were under the bosses orders to keep their mouths shut. One fighter seemed to have struggled to make the official weight, the boxer was whisked away, the trainer knew his kid needed a meal and fast before his legs went out from under him. 

Life is writ large in the 7th largest state in the Union. To get some idea of its size if you were to take off by car from a casino south in Laughlin and go north to a gas station in McDermitt that drive would be the equivalent of traveling from Atlanta to Washington DC. 

Civilization is tenuous in Nevada, the potential for weakness of appetite haunts Nevadans, it is too common to find yourself overcome by the solitude and Great Basin abyss, you’ll end up going feral, you’ll end up running with coyotes, roaming with mustang, bagging a bull elk out of season, it’s all too sure the tempting pull into lawlessness is endemic. 

Detective Matthew Morgan working with the Winnemucca Sheriff’s Department died on June 25, 2020— the cause of death— an overdose of fentanyl and methamphetamine. Everything is in play here in the Great Basin— the brothels, the crap tables, the mob bribes, booze and tobacco, these are self-indulgent Nevadan behaviors, a native son can’t see vice as a human flaw.

There are 17,000 living in Humboldt County, Nevada. Most live in Winnemucca. Up in McDermitt there are 400 Paiute Shoshone living on 19,000 acres. The tribal members live along the Quinn River. 

Quinn River Valley Irrigation Pivot

South of McDermitt is located the Quinn River Valley farmlands. Hay and alfalfa are irrigated. Paradise Valley to the east also is hay farming land. Then, over to the west is Kings River Valley where there is also hay farming. Humboldt County exports most of the hay to California and Idaho, tallied up all this hay is worth about $135 million. 

Paiute Shoshone tribal members find some work on the farms, most don’t find any work at all. You are an eighty-mile drive back to Winnemucca if you live in McDermitt. Gasoline for a roundtrip in a pickup truck, that’s got to take 10 gallons of fuel, figure $40 just to go to town for groceries. 

The Montana Mountains separate Quinn River Valley and the Kings River Valley. The road running east to west between the two valleys runs through Thacker Pass. Lithium has been discovered up on this mountain, science identifies the geology of this spot a caldera. To halt its development the Paiute Shoshone in McDermitt have claimed that in 1865 members of their tribe were massacred there by soldiers from the United States Army and that the mine would desecrate the land their ancestors died on. 

Humboldt County Hay Crop

There is no evidence the massacre was fought on this ground. There is just too little information. It is just as probable that the massacre took place on nearby hayfields, fields that have been plowed and harvested for most of a century. If you dig a little further into the issue what comes to light is that not all 400 tribal citizens in McDermitt are of the same opinion about the development of the lithium mine. Some portion of the tribe see the opportunity of finding a good paying job in a place where few if any have been available. To that end courses at the community college in Winnemucca that prepare a student for work in the mining industry are available and the new mining company has already promised to make a priority of employing the Paiute Shoshone. 

Hay farm operations will need to reckon with the changes the mine will bring to Northern Humboldt County. Maybe a century ago it made sense to allocate 90% of all the water up here to hay growers, but it is time to recalibrate, we don’t travel by horseback, more and more people don’t drink milk, and exporting the hay to markets in other states is essentially exporting all the available public water for the benefit of a handful of private growers. Anytime one industry is found to be using most of the water from one watershed it is going to turn out that one day that deal is going to need changing. The world’s climate emergency has arrived, and that time for a new bargain has come.

Environmental organizations have been opposed to the Thacker Pass lithium mine. They can’t be faulted entirely, the history of mining companies operating responsibly is not promising. The mining company out of Vancouver, British Columbia has submitted plans and its permit has been issued. Lithium America’s offices are in Reno. Trucks will take the lithium to Winnemucca where Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway will then ship the metal to nearby manufacturing facilities. Tesla, Ford and General Motors all have built or are building enormous battery manufacturing facilities, some are here in Nevada others as far away as Michigan and Tennessee.

The fight between forces for climate action and environmental justice will continue. Hay growers in Northern Humboldt County, Nevada will have to surrender some of the water they’ve been using. In a resource constrained world some compromise to what we grow and how we eat are going to be necessary if we are going to avoid incinerating humanity into extinction, we need to try something.

The Paiute Shoshone people have proven to be responsible stewards of the land they first settle on 15,000 years ago. Lithium America would do well and be wise to seek the tribes help. Our first people lived here and in balance with the natural world for all these many thousands of years, it is not by accident, it happened by a people that had the wisdom to listen to the earth, to understand her limits. In this crazy world you would be hard pressed to imagine that in this most remote unpopulated northernmost corner of Nevada that our first people would be called upon once again, after the Indian Wars of the 1860’s, after signing the peace treaty, after agreeing to surrender vast swaths of their land, that having done all of that, that now the climate emergency would come near two centuries later to ask for further sacrifice, and that it is the Paiute Shoshone, the hay growers, environmental organizations and the mining company that through cooperation, mutual assistance, that all of these various stakeholders are going to make this all work. 

Now this Bobby Garza character, back south down in Winnemucca last month ran into trouble when he was caught trying to use a stolen credit card, sheriff while attempting to arrest the 37-year-old suspect got into quite a scrap. Like so many Nevada men he has got some history with the courts and is likely to be put back into the gray rock hotel for a spell. By the time he gets out the lithium mine should be up and operating and with luck and sincere rehabilitation it is one of those 600 good paying jobs this ex-con might hope to land. 

Orovada, Nevada Gateway to Thacker Pass

Nothing about rural Nevada changes, it remains remote and empty, most what you’ll find is the truth of what you truly are, friend or foe, good or bad, often you’ll live by the pursuit of vice, a few odd characters take the riskier path and try their luck with virtue. That’s just less common out here, no man of appetite and excess is wired up to behave problem free, that is just not in the nature of the animal, and once you’re out in Nevada you need to understand yourself, look into that image in the mirror and see that you have limits and boundaries to all that goodness locked up inside that human heart you have been given. Plenty come here to whet their appetite and uncage their spirit, but most are satisfied after a lost weekend to return to where they make their home and fend off such feverish temptations. Most of us are wiser for this, Nevada can be tough as a stubborn burro, even the good souls have to fend off the demon temptation to go bad.

Books · Performances

Rehearsals with Jennifer Lawrence

Add bears that can open car doors to the good reasons you may have for being sure you keep your car locked. Consider yourself warned. Hardboiled type outdoorsman I am only casually acquainted with is prepping his Sprinter van for expeditionary holiday north to Alaska. Bears up near Lake Tahoe have been testing his preparations.

Here’s the dirt…

Too many expeditionary types pack rifles or large caliber handguns. My experience suggests its bug spray you’ll need. Mosquitos in Alaska, Yukon and Northwest Territories make for a memorable misadventure. Expert Arctic Circle types I know swear the best way to beat the bugs is get there before they hatch and leave before they are organized into a posse and come looking for your sorry carcass. Basically, by Memorial Day think of getting south— summers are overrated. 

Late in the day atop Rogers Pass in British Columbia I took a space in a provincial park campground. All in all, I had a terrific false sense of security. I was between dates for shows traveling from Edmonton to Whistler. Dinner was prepared and plates were cleaned and put away. There was a horrendous commotion in the hours before dawn. I heard horns honking, people yelling, I didn’t know what to do I was asleep on my bunk beneath my camper shell in the back of my pickup truck. At dawn I walked the campground and found the side of a huge self-contained camper had been attacked by a bear. It must have been corn fed, it was a whopping big animal. The bear clawed off the side of the camper like a sardine can. In its voracious search of food, the contents of the camper were strewn across most of British Columbia. The campers had fled, and it would be a few hours before they arrived with a ranger to assess the natural disaster. 

I have since heard it advised if you are traveling in bear country to mount a powerful air powered horn in your vehicle and to arm it with a motion detector that will trigger its blast should the vehicle begin to be broken into. Isn’t that a great idea— you want to play around grizzly bears you had best come prepared to play to win.

The world’s largest particle collider, the Hadron Collider, the very same device that had a decade ago discovered the famous— so called God Particle— is in France and is at it again— looking for things no particle research scientist has ever seen, only this time the beam they’re using is many times more powerful than the beam used in their last experiment. Which begs the question if indeed it was a God Particle that was discovered back then perhaps this next discovery would be the particle that created the God Particle’s Super-Duper Particle of All Particles right? The first most obvious question we’ll want an answer to the question nobody has yet thought to ask— is it theoretically possible that science will ever get to the bottom of this mystery— what if there is no master particle. What if it was a one off, you know entirely spontaneous, that somehow the Universe simply stumbled upon the singularity and for at least the next 30 billion years the cosmos will continue to expand until it reverses direction and the entire thing collapses back into and upon itself where it will wait in dormancy for another spontaneous spark that triggers the whole dance again and again— think an infinite number of universes that all happen one at a time— we are talking the largest feedback loop in the history of everything under this and all suns. Insurance coverage by State Farm is available— I’m sure.

For sure conspiratorial excess we need to shift our attention and quantum physical theory of dark matter to the East Coast of the United States. Something or someone blew up the Georgia Guidestones this week— I’m betting it was someone, others suspect it may have been spontaneous much like the creation of the universe— come on man, work with me. This theory goes it was spontaneous and the result of the tiny particles unleashed by the Hadron Collider that did it. Maybe the particles zipped through and around the globe entered the delicate tissue of an unsuspecting victim that then directed the suspect to go to the monument and detonate an improvised explosive device. I think I know a sports bar where such victims are currently well-oiled and long past the point of no return.

I’m just a plain talking ordinary California native really. I do not tend to allow my feet to leave the ground, flights of fancy are taken in rare instances but usually I remain tethered to something solid, something reliable, that I can count on, that will be there for me, and then I can show up and I can be there too. I like to agree with other people. If I see a car, and then say it’s a car and someone agrees with me I take that as a place to start from, we can agree on that much, from there we can proceed.

I’m chasing down a thermal gremlin aboard the boat. Turns out that my engine compartment came installed with ducting plumbed to both bring in and take out fresh air and that without this flow the engine compartment heats up and the engine then runs too hot setting off the alarm and then I must shut off the engine. None of this is visible, I like to see it so I may say I can believe it. In this case my weapon of choice is a thermal heat gun that I can use to take the engines temperature. 

If for example you have ever been in love, really fallen head over heels for someone, then you know as we all know that there is no surefire method of knowing if it is the real thing, will it last or will it go away, is it the real McCoy or some kind of mirage, an illusion, a little trick your heart is playing on you, and someone please tell me exactly how in the hell it is the heart and not the head or some other extraneous body part leading us around by love’s nose— 

One more example. What goes on behind closed doors stays behind those doors. I’m good with that, but I’m wondering how it is we all seem to know so little or way too much about such human behavior. I guess we all must be doing it much the same as others are doing it. What if you are an outlier, what if your way of doing isn’t remotely like the way you imagine the vast overwhelming others are doing it. I’d like to think we’re all doing basically the same thing within the margins of error. I’m not sure we can be sure. 

Still, I wonder if we can know. What if you are a true inventor, an originalist, a creator, a titan of imagination, a veritable carnal astronaut, the kind that is willing to journey to furthest reaches of the known explored physical boundaries of humankind. 

It is not knowable, you know that right— we think we might know but we don’t, do we— what we can pin down and know for certain is written down on a short list. Entering a darkened room with a heart filled with phantoms you can only see ghosts and shadows of, that cannot be proven to be true, or even know if they are mere mental fictions you’ve manufactured and then you go into this odd chamber one on one, and what can any of us truly know, when we unlock the fun lover and love seeker in our heart that has suddenly to be found not located in our instincts, I’d like to believe they are coded instructions from genes, and everything you need to know is quite suddenly located— and we know we’re where we are supposed to be because it feels right, consensual and fulfilling. 

Never mind that most of us don’t tape these affairs, there are no still photographs, no vocal recordings to consider erasing. We’ve spent our lives left to wonder. I suppose if you have a kid or two, you’ll take some satisfaction knowing some part of the project worked out. I’m happy most of what I’ve done for fun was in a dark room with my eyes closed. Imagine you were always on a movie set, there was always a crew there, your co-star is ready to shoot the scene, and you’ve got all this pressure on you, this new movie has got to be the best. If I’m thankful for anything this would be as a good a place to start as any. I’m thankful I don’t have to shoot a love scene, all these rehearsals have been hard enough.

Books · Performances

Jerry Hall Dumps Murdoch

Forces in the Universe seem to have come untethered. Every nook and cranny packed with fascists and their misguided sympathizers, our scrimmaging is misbegotten, discourse is unbearable, burdened with a despairing lack of civic imagination. 

San Francisco’s fireboat

California isn’t the same place The Mamas and the Papas sang about at the Monterey Pops Festival— 1967 is long gone— that loving feeling has been lost, civility has vanished into rear view mirror. Whatever phase our imperfect world was in then is not the world we face now.

There is no consensus, there’s no mainstream, there is no functionally productive counterculture, there are various factions, these different groups dismiss the legitimacy of all the other groups. Hell, Nancy Pelosi had to go to all the way to prove her point— she had to go to the Vatican to receive the sacrament from the Pope himself because all his disobedient bishops in America wouldn’t allow Madam Speaker to set foot in their churches because of her position on abortion. Disobedience by Bishops in the Catholic Church takes hypocrisy to everlasting heights of pure contradiction. 

Priceless Navajo Real Estate

My contacts in the Navajo Nation all point at the outrage-du-jour and remind non-indigenous citizens that stripping away rights, resources and property that Americans may be suffering now is nothing compared to what the government has done to the Navajo since the founding of the United States.

I’m in the narrative business, storytellers are always on the lookout for a crackin’ good yarn to spin. Journalists go to the assignment desk and are sent out to cover breaking news. Let’s keep it simple, you know they cover a plane crash, car wreck or a fire. A nice easy to understand honest to God tale of loss and tragedy. Guy smoking in bed falls asleep and is killed when he accidentally starts a fire. The LA Times reporter writes that item up then by 4 that same afternoon is across the street from the LA Times Building knocking the first one back at the legendary Redwood Bar and Grill. Journalists are nothing if not well-oiled dispassionate observers.

Dead Ender

Maybe that’s the best work for another writer, but that’s not my scene, that’s not the pig I want to roast. Take the lobbyists working for the fossil fuel industry, they went out found a bunch of unemployed lawyers that could no longer find work that can still pay the bills representing tobacco companies. These amoral disinformation operators go ahead and pick up this pack of hounds to run a climate change is in doubt operation on low information Americans. Fossil fuel companies run things not just here in America, Big Oil runs the world. You get in the carbon extraction industry’s way, and they’ll be happy to chop you into little pieces and dispose of your remains in a pizza oven. 

But even that very well understood fossil fuel disinformation operation doesn’t quite get at the unfathomable fucking story of story’s the world finds itself waiting for. The biggest story of them all is hard to put your finger on. You want to be invited to the rubber room, you want to get fit for a straitjacket, go ahead and start explaining how you think there’s something rotten in Denmark and that you have a big idea, that you alone know who is responsible,  where they are located, and how it is that nobody goes and gets those bastards and brings them in for all that is good and right and staving off the world from cataclysmic chaos and death. Where’s Batman when you need him?

Putin is a miserable dictator, his act is wearing thin, his insights and instincts have gone haywire, he’s still doing the same world domination crap he’s always done its just more tone deaf— he no longer has the touch, and the one time KGB spy now has another 800 miles of border to defend having driven Finland into the outstretched arms of NATO. The pariah that is Putin will live out his days trapped in a monochromatic banal kingdom that tried to reclaim its lost glory by reviving a century old narrative that is gone— the Soviet Union’s time is over. 

That Vladimir helped get Donny Two-Thumbs elected President over here has more to do with dumb luck than any master force he may or may not have unleashed in the run up to the 2016 election.

An unrepentant Zuckerberg can place no claim to being the big boss of bosses. Elon’s act is thin gruel, I’m losing patience with his juvenile tweets, takeovers and unending holes he is always digging. This guy Peter Thiel seems to come up on everyone’s list of potential mischief makers— his pungent flavor of gay does such dishonor to my favorite Edith Piaf fans.

Go figure it’s Jerry Hall dumping Rupert Murdoch that has finally kicked this miserable news baron of a man to the curb. Vicariously all of us have wanted to divorce this democracy menacing media mogul. As Mick bellowed between pouting lips decades now long gone— what a drag it is getting old— Murdoch’s old is the most wretched of all I’ve witnessed. King Lear’s doom was more cheerful.

Daybreak off Point Conception

Maybe the Federalist Society gets close to holding the key to unlocking the door to domination and unleashing the monster of all monster’s, their pursuit of being masters of the universe isn’t a done deal— but you know as nominees for the most powerful awful in the universe— Leo Leonard and his ilk are playing one hell of a game. Toxic evangelicalism does not look pretty in a gown worn by a justice on the court.

The year was 1939, it was a Broadway musical, Very Warm for May, Jerome Kern composed the music, Oscar Hammerstein’s wrote lyrics— the intro to All in Fun— (you can look them up on line… or better yet stream Tony Bennett’s version.(

Daybreak Tonopah, Nevada

Since the center doesn’t seem to be holding, perhaps it is time to remind friend and not friend alike that it is a livable world, peace, clean air and pure water that is in play and at risk. It is All in Fun that is hanging in the balance, those of us with a few miles on our odometers have a responsibility to pass along to our children and their children a better world. It’s all on the line now, come November vote for the truth, vote for democracy. I’m going all in with fun— I tell you it beats the rest—

Books · Performances

Vet Showmen Pay Lip Service

Trip to Kona has been a bit of a tale. A carrying cart failed just before coming over to the islands resulting in a propane tank landing square on my big toe. That kind of changed the last two weeks. An urgent care doctor glued the gash back together slapped me on the butt and told me to get back in the game.

Road Ready Low Miles

Then my buddy Waldo hobbled by a motorcycle accident comes to the Kona side of the island to visit. Hobbling together we got out and about the two showmen not accustomed to being on injured reserve. Gallows humor ensued well into the wee hours of the early morning.

Street show veteran get togethers are like comfort food for the soul. I can still do this but I can’t do that. There are the favorite shows to review, some performed together some solo. It goes on and on like this. There is the part where we brag about how few props we needed to do a show. Waldo made his living as a suave, dashing and lightening quick juggler that never dropped. I was every bit of Waldo’s equal (allow me to amuse myself) but for the drops— I am perhaps best known for my trouble with this minor detail— Try not to applaud when I make a mistake, you’re only reinforcing my bad habits—

Our careers were long. I like Wally to tell me his Perth, Australia stories. He likes our time together in Arizona and gets a kick talking about those adventures. Street performers are not sentimental, but we have lived privileged lives traveling both here and abroad and earning a pretty penny along the way. The present and future we imagine is framed as a life beyond our work as showmen.

A Space for Books

Two months ago I visited with Sean Laughlin and Lee Ross. Conversations between all of us track by topic to do with shows, love and a bite at life lived with no regrets. A performance happens in a particular time and place and after— like that— vanishes into the slipstream of time. We might improve the show, we might do better shows, there may be advances in our skills, better costumes, bigger paychecks and fancier stages. Of the many tens of thousands of shows all of us have under our belts most are now in the rear view mirror. Any of us might still do a show, but none of us are likely to do anywhere near as many as we have left behind to the sands of time.

One benefit of not having a demanding show schedule is that it gives your head the space to consider the less examined parts of your life. This is to the good. A bad show is like a losing game and after back in the locker room a showman can suffer pangs of regret. Climbing that hill day in and day out is in one sense about being ready to defend your emotional life. A good show pumps you up and lousy show lets you down. Without having to deal with that rollercoaster our offstage time isn’t ordinary time, it is human time, we are allowed the chance to be back in touch with our most ordinary day to day self. The more selfless we can live, the less stuck in our heads the better. This is our occupational hazard.

Waldo and a hat trick

Where we live and who we love is always a topic that hovers near our meetups. Some of us are in, some out, some up, some down. The funniest are on the ropes getting a pretty good pummeling by the object of their desire. Most interesting to my way of seeing things is my showmen friends have had a life full of love and it shows they have skills they know how to be in a relationship. Some of what causes so much trouble is our time away from our partners while we are on tour. Our finances are what they are, like any self-employed sole proprietor there’s a lot of ups and downs in a business famous for uncertainty. This isn’t a common circumstance and while the romance of loving a showman is second to none the practicality of such relationships requires a dash of courage with a twist of letting go—

Sore toe and all being here on Kona turns out to be a good thing. Waldo and I will see each other over on the mainland later this summer. We can continue to build on our extended conversation. There will by then be new information. Waldo is slated to speak with many of our peers in the weeks ahead. By the time I see him again he’ll have ten new next things to do. Sean’s still got his place in Silver City, Nevada to wrangle into shape, most of that work is done but not all of it, and then there’s the matter of what’s next to do that isn’t about a show or a house— I think he’s interested in finding a path for his heart. Lee has slated a shoot of a short feature he hopes to complete before September. Editing will consume his autumn. I know his family is coming out to Colorado for his birthday. He’s got a lot up in the air right now and how any of it sorts itself out remains wrapped up in the creative mystery.I’ve been stuck restructuring my office where I write and have had to clear my desk of the chaos I’ve allowed to place a gauzy haze on the clarity good writing demands.

Scratch Tomato Sauce Fixings

Right now as of this moment the project is to do with a pesto made with pistachios— highly recommended. Then, when I get back to California I’ve got raspberries, figs and a melon patch to work into our meals. That’s likely where my focus will be tied up. Eating good food, cooking interesting dishes, having fun playing in the kitchen with food grown from our garden is its own simple pleasure. Yesterday was the solstice and the long days are all to the good. Life isn’t that complicated if you don’t let this one visit to earth run you off into the intractable pieces beyond a showman’s ability to fix.

Books · Performances

No Service Might Be Best

Watched the Giants play the Dodgers Saturday. Hospitals are filling up— the virus is on the rise again. There was life before Covid-19, there was the life we lived waiting for a vaccine, and now we live some version of a safer yet not entirely safe inoculated life in the aftermath of this pathogenic crisis. 

Tonopah sunrise

What is clear is that whatever we had in the before times, before this fiasco is never going to return, there is no getting back to that way of life. I know people in show business that are trying their best to resume a full schedule. Some have been infected even though vaccinated. There haven’t been any fatalities I know of, but the work is not hazard free, there is no going back to the before times. I worry about my friends still in the business, like being a school teacher the work shouldn’t be this dangerous.

Best thing to happen here is watching the NBA playoffs. Scattered here and there among the players and fans are the few that mask up. I know of two that said they came down with Covid after going to the game at Chase in San Francisco last week. Watching the playoffs at home is on my list of safe activities. I’m still trying to pick a matinee to sneak in to see Maverick’s Top Gun on the big screen. Hopefully few will be there. And while we’re here, Steph Curry’s performance in Game 4 has been written up as this great player’s greatest performance in a playoff game ever. San Francisco is host to one of basketball’s best to ever play the game. That’s antidote to some inner malady we are all trying to get well from.

The Proud Boys showing up early on January 6th to scout potential entry points for that afternoon’s insurrection was something, full on seditious conspiracies are like that. Not that I’m into paramilitary maneuvers, but the Proud Boys forming stacks that would probe for weak points around the Capitol seems like there was some preplanning going on. Can’t we agree on that much—

Is there anywhere that’s safe

Giants play the Dodgers this afternoon. This morning I’ll do some maintenance on the drip irrigation system. Water here is tight— this little thing called a megadrought has been on a rampage. Manzanita is the answer to this problem. We’ve got a variety of different types, they are native plants that requires little to any water, deer pass them by, the manzanita are a perfect one-two punch to go along with the cork oak trees.

Since their extinction event we don’t have dinosaurs, that Yucatan asteroid took care of all those pesky critters, but the world seems to miss its monsters and has gone ahead and invented its own. Putin is the new most awful person in the world, and that’s saying something because he does have some stiff competition. I can’t help read the sick with cancer stories

Listening to the dry economic analysis of why inflation has taken off is a bit too perfect and flawless hindsight. Locking an entire world down and then trying to reopen has never been attempted before. This was all new and as it happens things have gone a bit haywire. Invading Ukraine has been no help, and you think gas is expensive try buying a bushel of wheat.

Locking down Shanghai for a month hasn’t helped. Turns out creating global supply chains that depend upon the policy swings of a totalitarian nation does have its drawbacks. Trading oil with the Russian dictator Putin has proven to be as stupid a thing to do as paying Stormy Daniels off after giving her a poke at a party and wanting to keep the random entry hush-hush.  

Civilization’s Ruins

Elon Musk has lost his patience with wealth and fame has traded in his burnished reputation for a more tarnished look. And no President Biden should not be arranging to go to Saudi Arabia, using a bone saw to dismember a journalist from the Washington Post has cemented MBS’s reputation as a royal punk and tyrant. 

Getting off fossil fuels has the potential of decentralizing our energy market. Instead of trading with tyrants each region of the world can deploy renewable energy systems. This is the old think global act local strategy.

The wheels feel like they are falling off this empire we’ve built. Favorite seditionist in the category of supporting nitwit wife goes to Ginni Thomas. Our Supreme Court’s Clarence Thomas’s main squeeze turns out to be a foe of democracy. If we had a calvary I’d order the soldiers to ride on her whereabouts and bring her in, but bring her in alive, we do want to have a few choice words with this deranged woman. 

March for our Lives was out in force on our streets this weekend. Turns out spreading 20 million military style assault weapons on our fruited plain has turned our nation into the world’s laughingstock. Death by gun shot is the number one cause of death for American children. That’s one hell of a way to welcome a new citizen into the new world. 

Sunset over Ely, Nevada

Weird times indeed. Watching the Giants-Dodgers this afternoon I’ll put all my troubles out of mind and enjoy a good long slow game that no longer really meets the moment. Like a long coastal sail the world is no longer set up for us to waste so much of our precious time.

I’m hoping the day the Supreme Court announces they are overturning our abortion laws that at least the Department of Justice can get into the swing of things and indict the former President for his leading role in the attempted coup. I mean if we are all going to be upset why not get the whole nation pissed off all at once, get it over with, we can get on with trying to preserve democracy or buying those one-way tickets to paradise. 

Lovely little pickle said Stormy to the Fat Man.

Books · Performances

The Garden Bench

At an art gallery in a courtyard entryway in Santa Fe we spotted a rustic garden bench. My other half, some say the best of the two halves, we were inspired, the bench a Southwest relic, was still providing useful service, the durable wooden bench was simplicity itself.

Brainstorming. I volunteered to build a bench something like this piece, once finished we could place next to our front door where we could take off or put on our shoes. 

A place to sit

We went to a salvage lumber distributor in Richmond. There we searched through stacks of planking and came upon two thick short redwood slabs we thought would be right for the project, they were the right size and for sale at a fair price. We struck a bargain.

Peroba is the name of the company, I’ve shopped here before. Two years back, I’d bought bay-laurel planks to rebuild a planter box around an abandoned California live oak. When we bought the property back in 2009 it was a small tree that had been temporarily set in the front yard by the previous owner, they’d been running a nursery operation out of the place, and this was one of their unsold trees we’d inherited by default. The immature live oak did what trees so often do it became a bigger tree. This evergreen live oak had by now outgrown the wooden and steel strap container it had been planted in. Building a larger planter box would solve an eyesore in the front yard and it would also help to maintain the proper soil height at the tree’s trunk. 

When I’d last visited Peroba they’d just received a huge trove of wood planking and beams from a two-hundred-year-old Brazilian barn. The barnwood had been weathered by time, it was hard and heavy, easily the heaviest boards in the store. Brazilian barnwood is expensive, I was out of my league, forget the cost, it would have been a waste to have such an inexperienced woodworker trying to build with such rare Amazonian treasure. I was at a museum, that the boards were fine works of art, and me I’m like a janitor, the guy who turns the lights off at closing time. The clerk at the store wasn’t sure what species of wood this barn was made of. It could literally have been any one of many thousands of different kinds of rainforest hardwood, the material had an otherworld quality— foreign, an object that spoke in its own tongue, it was mesmerizing, entrancing— all these many hundreds and hundreds of boards stacked into perfect rectangular piles, floor to ceiling 20 feet in height. 

Peroba is a dynamic marketplace, the South American barnwood now long gone. The shop also market salvaged logs. The warehouse is full of long and thick planks with live edges— there is walnut, mahogany, cherry, ash, oak, madrone— there is a vast trove of different species here. Much of the fresh sawn wood comes by way of woodsmen that bring trees purchased from private landowners. These are old trees that have fallen or are about to fall. Then, there are the grifters, the poachers— a mature western red cedar is so valuable many are cut down in the dead of night and by morning have been cut into sections and carried off. The fight to end illegal logging especially western red cedar has become impossible to stop.  

Bark of a cork oak tree

It turns out both my wife and I share a common element. At least based on work provided to us by our Feng Shui guide, our consultant listed the five elements— wood, fire, metal, water and earth. Both of us have an affinity for wood, and as it so happens of the five elements, we are both wood. Somehow, in some very tangible way my sawing, drilling, and sanding produces harmony and peace. We halfway believe our relationship is improved by our being around wood— maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, we seem to both want to believe there’s maybe something to all of this, something that exists on these other levels. Isn’t that human in some sense— there are so many ways our physical world influences our inner world.  

Cork oak trees come from the Iberian Peninsula (so does the loyal but obstinate donkey); it is estimated that there are perhaps as many as 5000 cork oaks in California. I’d never spent much time around cork oaks, once you know what they are they’ll get your attention, they’re quite stunning, the bark is unusual, it is the bark of the cork oak tree that is used to seal a bottle of wine. There are six cork oak in our yard. The three in the front have foot wide trunks, stand 20-30 feet tall, by my reckoning they’re 50 years old— that’s a fair guess, the trees have a lifespan of 250 years. In our backyard we lost one in a windstorm but there are two younger trees that are doing fine— they’re not more than teenagers now. They’ve a lot of growing up to do.

There are more cork oak trees in this neighborhood than I’ve found anywhere else here in the valley. I’ve printed a map out of the nearby streets and have been marking anywhere I find a cork oak growing. By my count I’d estimate there about 100 cork oak right around here where I live. This is an ongoing investigation and once I’ve a good tally I’ll post that number.

The largest cork oak trees in this neighborhood is one I look forward to seeing on my daily walk. Like the California live oak the cork are evergreens, come spring not all but some leaves turn yellow and fall. 

Why I don’t find cork oaks in the adjacent towns is odd. I keep thinking there must be more around. We hire a company to trim our trees, the foreman is a cork oak tree fan, considers them to be a prized tree. The foreman said there are plenty out there. 

I’m hoping to talk to the local municipal gardeners. Often, they’ll know the backstory. About a century ago this area was part of a ranch, the land was sold and subdivided. I’m guessing the original settlers may have introduced cork oak trees right here around this block. If so, it is likely squirrels would have spread the acorns. That’s one possible theory. 

50 year old cork oak tree

I pet the friendly dogs in the neighborhood, try to entice the cats to say hello. If I’m in the garden and around the trees I try to pat them too, I speak to the trees, keep on an eye on them. I like to be encouraging— you look great today, your shade that you cast is just glorious, hope your enjoying yourself, this is a fine garden you’ve found to live in. I’m happy for you, plan on keeping you happy and healthy— 

Consciousness isn’t just about what passes through a mind. I like to believe a tree knows something about how to set down roots in soil, how to transport water up through its trunk to give its branches a drink to go with the sunlight it is catching. Just because the tree isn’t talking out loud doesn’t mean it doesn’t speak. As far as I can tell my job is to put myself in a tree’s shoes and do my best to consider what kind of life they are having. They’re like offspring, I’m always hoping they’ll get a little bigger, hope their life turns out good, that they’re happy. 

I find I’ve family and friends that are doing much the same. This is good work and fun. It sure as heck beats having to trap out the gophers. Sometimes a man has got to do what a man has got to do— keeping the trees happy and giving hell to those pesky varmints. 

Building a bench, appreciating a tree and trapping a gopher. I’m two for three right now, that gopher is smarter than you, me, and that cork oak tree all put together—